Great service makes customers welcome
Sure, food matters. But the it‘s just as important to feed egos. Restaurateurs who don’t know this perhaps didn’t have mothers like Emad Yacoub’s who didn’t believe in doors. It was always open and tea was at the ready inside.
He just reopened Coast, having relocated from Yaletown to the dense downtown. The $4.8-million, 265-seat, two-level restaurant beauty got slammed on the first day, just from word of mouth. Three expediters stand at the open kitchen like air traffic controllers, routing dishes to the tables and averting pile-ups.
Yacoub could thank his mom, as I said. The door in her second-story walk-up apartment in Cairo was always open and tenants climbing stairs stopped and rested and had some tea before continuing their upward journey. “People were always welcome. When Mum passed away and I went back, the first thing I saw was the door closed,” says Yacoub, sadly.
I watched him make the rounds at Coast. He hit every table, not just ones with shiny-lipped, laughing young women but the old couples with spreading silhouettes and sensible shoes as well.
“I tell my guys, it’s our home, our living room, our friends have shown up. Walking on to the floor for me is like a holiday,” he says. He doesn’t stint on staff and at times, the room is a traffic jam of servers. Anyway, my long riff indicates how impressed I am with the service here. It helps when staff, including bussers, are invited to become shareholders in his restaurants — socialism with a profit motive.
Coast is a medium-priced seafood restaurant. Action eddies around a central circular island where steamers of shellfish and chowders are on the go, and where sushi is made and drinks are poured. Seats near the kitchen are extremely noisy so if you want a civil conversation, ask for a seat on the mezzanine where it’s quieter. I didn’t like the extra-large menu (awkward to hold) and cluttered format (confusing) but chef Josh Wolfe respects seafood. The quality’s there and he leaves well enough alone. The menu shows an Ocean Wise logo, meaning there are sustainable choices. Of dishes I tried, there were hits and some minor misses.
Dinner starts with an amuse bouche of delicious flatbread (crispy and made in a pizza oven) smeared with mascarpone, topped with smoked salmon, sprinkled with arugula. It amused us so much we ordered more flatbread but with sablefish, capers, olives, pinenuts and smoked mozarrella from the menu.
The crabcakes are the best I’ve had. Made in a ring collar, sides are perfectly straight; top and bottom are crisp and golden; inside, it’s very crabby. The New England Clam Chowder with double-smoked bacon, at $8, cost less than a bowl I’d had a few days earlier in Bellingham. This was delicious compared to the sludgey, clamless impersonator.
Steamer mussels and clams were in a hearty pale ale broth speckled with chorizo, tomatoes and corn. Arctic char and halibut were rustic dishes, simply grilled and served with lightly roasted tomato on the vine, another veg and lobster filled new potatoes. Fish and chips featured lovely fish; the batter wasn’t oily but too doughy for my liking and the chips were middling.
The crab gnocchi, a side dish for $14, threw me. It was smothered and lost in a bechamel-like sauce like a baked mac and cheese and honestly, if I had my druthers, I’d choose mac and cheese. I didn’t try the seafood tower ($58 for two) but it’s a good deal with beautiful King crab legs, lobster, Dungeness crab, shucked oysters, manila clams, jumbo tiger prawns (definitely not sustainable), sushi, and mussels. It would, however, look more appealing in a glass bowl rather than the double-layered metal woks.
The wine list “100 Under $100″ and a reserve list offers a great range of products and prices. The restaurant’s O Lounge, next door, is like pheromone city with servers in teensy outfits, sexy lighting, and Austin Powers meets Phillipe Starck visuals.
No shag carpeting, though.
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