Pristine, scenic Vancouver can be forgiven for thinking that it offers the best of the Northwest—Seattle without the grunge and the caffeine buzz. The cuisine that has evolved there in recent decades is similar to Seattle's, with beautifully fresh fish, mushrooms, and berries as the stars, supported by Asian condiments and techniques.
For example, at his celebrated sushi bar and restaurant Hidekazu Tojo puts into the best sushi I've ever tasted ingredients closely associated with both the Northwest and Japan: say, chilled avocado, zucchini, and mango and a single hot tempura shrimp wrapped in a thin slice of cucumber. His other dishes are just as original.
On a recent visit to Vancouver, I procured a recipe that demonstrates Tojo's ability to transform a few northwestern ingredients into a strikingly Asian-themed dish. It starts with sablefish, also called black cod, which is as richly flavored as (and even oilier than) Pacific salmon (it is unrelated to cod, and is found only in the Pacific). Jews have long known the lush glories of smoked sablefish, the Beluga of the deli counter, whose presence at a buffet denotes a milestone event.
I got the recipe from Nathan Fong, an indefatigable food stylist and cooking teacher who patiently guided me around the markets and various Chinatown neighborhoods (there are four) of Vancouver. "I eat Japanese as often as Chinese," Fong, the third generation of his Cantonese family to be in the food business, told me, reflecting the city's free mixing of Asian influences. "And Tojo's presentations are some of the most brilliant I've ever seen."