Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House on Robson and Thurlow, Vancouver


I just gotta get a few more old posts out of the way before I start on the Spain series.  Suanne reminded to do it because she knows that if I don’t blog about it now, I will never get down to doing it.

This is a follow-on post from the Lets Go For Dinner post I made previously.  With the $50 dinner certificate, I invited chowtimes readers to join Suanne and I to share the famed Seafood Tower on Ice in Joe Fortes.  The plan was to get the $150 THREE-TIER Seafood Tower on Ice and have nothing else but that.


Joe Fortes is located at the busy intersection of Robson and Thurlow.  Suanne and I decided to park all the way on Granville St (free street parking!) and walk all the way.


That got us there a bit late.  We should have taken the Joe Fortes taxi.  LOL!  There was this bright yellow taxi parked in front of the restaurant.  I was wondering if it is just for show or if it is an actually running taxi operated by the restaurant.

There were five of us who went to Joe Fortes.  Jenny (My Secret Eden), Ricky and Anita joined us.

Joe Fortes

Some of you who are well versed with Vancouver’s history would have heard of  Joe Fortes and his contribution to the city (see above).  There is a Joe Fortes drinking fountain memorial at the West End’s Alexandra Park.

Now, lets get this clear … Joe Fortes did NOT open nor owned this restaurant.  The restaurant just adopted his name.  Now you know.

To me, Joe Fortes is a touristy restaurant.  I can see lots of tourists eating here.


I had always heard that there are two levels in Joe Fortes.  Rumour has it that if you dressed nicely and formally, you get seated upstairs.  If you dress in jeans, you are banished to the busy ground floor.  To my dismay when we got there, our guests were already seated at the ground floor … not just any table at the ground floor but the WORST table.  It was located just at the entrance to the kitchen.

So I had to tell our waiter that I simply cannot enjoy my meal with people rushing behind me every five minutes.  They promptly moved us … UPSTAIRS and the best table upstairs too!  We had nice bright spot at the corner with a sweeping view of the restaurant.  We were quite pleased.

Anyway, the rumour about Joe Fortes seating customers based on how they dressed is not true because we were casually dressed in jeans and Ts.  Many customers upstairs are similarly attired.


Service was top notch … very polite and cheerful.  The waiters were all decked in short white jacket.  Table setting was nice and formal.  Things were looking up and I was eagerly anticipating the seafood feast.


Then they gave us warm wet towels.  I can’t remember now if they gave this to us at the start or at the end of the dinner.  But anyway, I like it.

However, one thing I want to ask all of you for your opinion.  You see, when I get this in a dinner with the family, I would take it and wipe my FACE.  Ohhhh … it’s so refreshing doing that.  However, with friends I just used that to wipe my hands, lest people think I am a hobo (not that I am not one … LOL!).

Is it bad etiquette to wipe the face?  Would you use it to wipe your face … have you?


I did not even bother to look at the menu.  I just told them we’re there for the Joe’s Seafood Tower on Ice … and emphasizing on THREE TIER!

Our waiter jokingly told us that if we order this he will refuse to allow us to order anything else.  The way he said it was convincing us that we had made the right order.

Joe’s Seafood Tower on Ice are available in 1-tier ($49), 2-tiers ($99) and 3-tiers ($145).


Bread was served with soft butter.  No complains … good bread.


And there it is … the Joe’s Seafood Tower on Ice.  At a glance, it was a sight to behold.  It looked so busy with so many goodies in it all at once that you don’t know what you are looking at.  Needless to say, everyone was delighted to see it.


We took lots of pictures … standing up.  That’s the only way to take the pictures of this towering presentation.

However to my dismay, …


… as soon as the pictures were taken, they took down the three tier!  Awwww … do they have to?

Apparently they have to because the tiers are so flimsy that a careless push will send everything tumbling over.  It does not look as exciting in three separate platters, if you ask me: 🙁

So here are some of the stuff we had.  They are all cold seafood items just so that you know.


The scallop was sweet tasting but felt kind of firmer than I expected.


The Alaska King Crab legs were huge.  Wished they had melted butter to dip this in.


The tuna was coated with some sweet sauce.  Texture is kind of mushy.  Having had good quality sashimis, this pales in comparison.


The prawns was springy enough.  Nothing spectacular but nice with the cocktail sauce provided.

With this dish, they also had two other dipping sauces … tartar and get this … soya sauce!


The oysters were fresh (they better be!) but smallish.  Joe Fortes has an oyster bar serving all kinds of oysters.  The ones they serve here are not one of those gournmety types … BC-types is what they are.


The squid was kind of too rubbery and bland.


There was also clams and mussels.  There were too little … and …


… too small.  Way too small.


Of course the star of this platter is the lobster.  This is only available with the Three Tier version.


It is meaty.  Frankly, I find lobsters over-rated for the price one pays for it.


I noticed that everyone eat their way up.  I guess most people do that … i.e. eat the common stuff first and leave the best for last.

All in, I must say I was underwhelmed after all the hyped up expectations.  The seafood was not fresh as one would expect.  The freshness is in no way comparison with a normal sushi joint.  Quality generally is lacking.

The other thing is that it is also lacking in the quantity department.  Our waiter gave us the impression that it’s a lot of food for the five of us saying he will not allow us to order other items.  But truth be told, Suanne and I went out for supper again that night.

At least it looked pretty and exciting!


The bill came up to $152.23 but with the $50 dinner certificate (courtesy of it was just over $100 before tips and taxes.

Other than the food, everything else was great.  It is so unfortunate.  However, the company was awesome.  We had a great time getting to know each other.  In particular, I was intrigued by Ricky who told us his experiences with molecular gastronomy.  So, thanks a lot Jenny, Ricky and Anita for taking the time out and joining Suanne and I for this dinner.

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House on Urbanspoon

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  1. Jessica

    My favorite table at Joes is the booth on the first level in the top right corner (I believe it’s table 26?). It’s perfect for scoping people out and it’s super private. My ex would always reserve that one.

  2. koji

    with oysters, it’s never about size, it’s always about the quality and flavour. in TW, for some reason, they love to eat the large oysters raw.

    BC oysters are awesome, if you want to really appreciate oysters, go to lobster man at granville island, pick out a few of each type of oyster, make sure you keep track of what you buy, then ask the staff at lobster man teach you how to shuck an oyster, then bring them home, mix a bit of red wine vinegar with chopped shallots, prep some lemon wedges and try each type of oyster and notice the flavour.

    you’ll really realize that eating raw oysters is never about size.

    1. shokutsu


      Completely agree with your take on oysters. Too many people are preoccupied with the size, and don’t realize that doesn’t necessary equate to full flavour.

  3. Jonnek

    I always wonder whether we the diner should tell the waiter/waitress that the food they served was a disappointment. I was at Chop a few weeks ago and my expensive steak dinner was overly salty for my taste. Everything was salty from the steak to the mashed potato. The waitress came around and ask me how was my dinner, I meekly answered everything was fine. I don’t know what’s you and other bloggers’ opinion on that since you guys eat out a lot.

    1. Ben

      Oh me, I mostly would just say “it’s alright”. Sometimes (not often) I would verbalize it but mostly I am like you, Jonnek. And then … I go home and write about it! LOL!

  4. lululu

    i’m never a fan of oysters. but joe fortes’ sweet tiny oysters are the ones i’m always craving for.

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