How green was my taqueria?

Photo: Kate Zimmerman

You need a whole new vocabulary to fully assess Red Fish, Blue Fish, the seafood taqueria that recently plunked itself onto a dock in Victoria, B.C.'s inner harbour. Moving on up The brainchild of Vancouver architectural designer Barbara Houston and three restaurant partners, it's as green as can be, a paragon of "upcycling." Upcycling is using an existing object for a new purpose, rather than wasting energy taking its components apart and putting them through a recycling process. Not only was RFBF upcycled -- by being constructed out of a used steel shipping container (or "sea bin"), painted with low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint, then set by crane onto the Broughton Street pier -- it has a green roof. Green decor That means wavy rows of spiky Dr. Seuss-like sedums were planted on top to keep the heat out in the summer and in during Victoria's rainy winter. Air circulates through the 10 x 20 x 9.5 feet high bin via portholes cut into its steel walls and the counters are made from an old fir beam salvaged from a 100-year-old house. A previously loved fishing net masks the bins behind the canteen. No waste Meanwhile, RFBF's waste, including plastic cutlery and paper plates, is recycled, with every bit of leftover food composted. The restaurant produces only one bag of actual garbage per week. "It feels pretty good not to be creating a lot of waste," said chef and co-owner Kunal Ghose. "It feels responsible." 100-mile diet RFBF's social conscience extends to its menu. It uses only sustainable local fish and gets almost all its produce from nearby organic farmers. One of its partners, Steve Johansen, is both a fisherman who catches all the restaurant's salmon and prawns and a fish broker who winkles its oysters and scallops from others. A local tuna boat, the Thetis Queen, ties up right next to the taqueria when it's in town so customers scattered around the dock on portable wooden seats can see the silvery giants being offloaded a few feet away. Delicious dish None of this would be more than quirkily virtuous if it weren't for RFBF's lip-smacking grub. Chef Ghose has a feather-light hand when he cooks the startlingly fresh seafood and a pointillist's dexterity with its spicing. Among his best dishes is the tuna tacone, a flour tortilla cone packed to the gills with grill-seared albacore tuna that's tossed in a memorable mix of cumin, coriander, pepper and ground pumpkin seeds, draped with spot prawn mayonnaise, and topped with daikon sprout slaw and lemon-pickled onions. Other stand-outs include crisp, tempura-battered halibut with hand cut, twice-sizzled fries, and roughly mashed and buttered soy beans called "mushy edamame," RFBF's take on England's classic mushy peas. Life cycles Sobolewski is philosophical about the take-out joint's prospects during its first winter, when staff will string up an awning to protect patrons from getting drenched. "It's sort-of like fishing -- there's a cycle to it," he said. "You have good times, you have bad times…. Anything else is unnatural."