Restaurant Review – Southside Breakfast

21 04 2012

One of the little pleasures of staying at the Point Pleasant Lodge is having a go at their American breakfasts: two eggs with meat (bacon, sausage or ham), coffee and juice. Eating this in a classy dining room with ceiling-to-floor windows while soft classical music plays is a peaceful way to start off a day of medical treatments.

It’s like an oasis of tranquility before a busy day. In addition to getting a few hours’ worth of antibiotics, we’ll be doing some laundry later at the Lodge while awaiting the arrival of my hero, my sister Isabelle, who will be staying at the Lodge for a week with her escort Geneviève.

For Erica and I, tonight will be our last at Point Pleasant until I am discharged in late May (if all goes well).

If you find yourself here at the Point Pleasant Lodge, you really have at least one meal in the Southside Dining Room. Its cafeteria-style counter belies the quality of its seemingly home-cooked food. At breakfast their scrambled eggs are moist and melt in the mouth, giving a delicious contrast to the salty meat. Their dinners are comparably yummy. We have had Salisbury steak and stuffed chicken breast so far and they were both reminiscing of my childhood plates.

The Southside also offers varied homemade desserts: pie, cheesecakes, puddings, tapiocas and tarts for all tastes.

It’s a shame that Sunday breakfast opens at 8 since it would be a good time to have breakfast with my sister. Still, I’m sure we will find another place.

A meal for two, including drinks and dessert, will set you back around $40. A bit pricy for cafeteria, but enough to justify the quality.


Restaurant Review – Return to Darrell’s

18 04 2012

Darrells Restaurant on Urbanspoon

On the day before chemotherapy started, loyal reader, I wanted to share my last meal as a free man by taking my wife out to check out Darrell’s Restaurant‘s famous Peanut Butter Burger.

You may remember this succulent sandwich from my first review of the Halifax landmark. I just knew I had to go back with my beloved.

The second time was even better than the first, given we had each other for good company. Erica ordered the Peanut Butter Burger with a side of house salad with honey dijon dressing. Since I already tasted the specialty, I tried the other gourmet burger called the Hen Den Burger. It’s a 6-ounce Angus patty with bacon, cheese, lettuce, chipotle mayo, guacamole, topped with a sunny-side up fried egg. And like its PB brethren, it comes on a seeded Kaiser bun.

My wife was won over with her burger, just as I was on my first time. The salad left her a bit underwhelmed. To be fair, one does not expect one of the top burger joints in town to excel at salad.

My Hen Den Burger was at least as good, perhaps even better than the PBB. The fried egg gives it a nice squishy texture towards the top and the yolk oozing and trickling down the burger is ooey-gooey good for egg lovers such as myself. The chipotle mayo and guacamole bring a nice freshness to the table.

One word of advice, however. If you tackle this burger, make sure you have a good, solid grip on it. The downside of the egg is that it makes the whole pile of food slippery. But get a good handle on it and you’re gonna be rewarded.

Of course, we washed our burgers down with Darrell’s famous milkshake, chocolate-flavoured. I could just drink 3 or 4 of those babies! Straws stick straight up in them and they bring you the leftover ice cream from making it.

Another reason why, of you’re in Halifax, seek out this gem, loyal reader!

Restaurant Review – Aqua Kitchen & Bar

16 03 2012

Aqua Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

To start off our last month in town before the big transplant, loyal reader, my beloved wife and I decided to have a little dinner date at a new restaurant. After going over the list of places still on our radar, we set out sights on Aqua, a Water Street casual fine dining restaurant, based on their menu, which had a few interesting items.

We arrived at quarter to seven and the dining room was about half full, mostly with couples at little tables. The decor was elegant, almost minimalist. Walls are painted white and, well, aqua with sparingly-used ornaments such as a large metal silhouette of a fish from behind which some soft lighting glowed, as well as a row of multicoloured squares along the longest wall. It’s a good design for the restaurant, one that makes it feel comfortably roomy.

A well-dressed gentleman brought us to our table and promptly our friendly server Holly brought us the wine list and menus.

A word about the service we received. Holly was a model server. Always smiling, welcoming, friendly but never unprofessionally so. She answered my wife’s questions about the wine and complimented our choice of dishes. We’ve had our fair share of great service but I think Holly was second only to Norman (from Asian Taste).

After consulting the menu, we chose our wines and selected a pear and rocket salad appetizer for Erica and a charcuterie board for myself. For our entrees my wife chose a seared sea scallops and king prawns dish and I went for the dish that attracted me to the place, the lobster poutine.

Along with our wines, Holly brought us a wooden board with four slices of their homemade focaccia bread and a little bowl of sun-dried tomato, vinegar and olive oil dip. What a treat that was! The bread was soft and fresh and the dip was nicely acidic. We were off to a good start.

After we were done with the bread, Holly cleared it from our table and came back with an amuse-bouche from the kitchen: a coconut-crusted fried mussel with some tomato and pea shot. That was also quite tasty, especially the fresh pea shoot. Again, we were being spoiled!


Very shortly after our amuse-bouche, our appetizers arrived, including probably the most beautiful plate I ever gazed upon: my charcuterie board! Feast your eyes on the picture above, loyal reader! That’s homemade rabbit terrine, rustic salami and cold smoked speckled ham, with fresh olives, tomato chutney, dill pickle, local peppercorn cheese and grainy mustard, all on a beautiful rustic wooden plate. I seriously wanted to take that dish and mount it on my wall. By far the most presentational plate that has ever been put in front of me!

And it wasn’t only my sense of sight that was aroused! The speckled ham had a nice smoky aroma. I had never had rabbit or terrine before so I started with that. It was delicious. There was an earthiness to it, not gamey but very old-timey in a comforting way. The salami was great (you can’t go wrong with salami!) but the star for me was the speckled ham. It had the smokey flavour and the texture of cold smoked salmon (or lox) but with a porky flavour. The rest of the elements were good, although I skipped the olives. The only disappointment was the cheese, which was way too peppery, so much so that you couldn’t taste the actual cheese. Still, the charcuterie board is still a meat lover’s delight! It made me feel like I was a old European farmer from decades ago, eating a rustic lunch from the land.


Erica’s pear and rocket salad was also excellent. It had red onion, candied walnuts, crumbled blue cheese and a honey curry sauce. I’m not a salad guy but the sample I took was very nice with the sweetness of the walnuts brightening up the dish.

After those great apps, we didn’t have to wait long for our entrees. Although I did go to the washroom to wash my hands. I like going to restaurant washrooms. Their quality says a lot about the staff’s pride in their establishment. Aqua‘s bathroom was lovely and clean with two cute elements: one was a large fish in a big fishbowl and the other was a lack of paper towels or air dryer. Instead, a basket of rolled-up washcloths sits next to the sink do you can dry your hands in soft fabric. You then drop your used cloth in another basket under the table. It’s different and makes you feel like you’re in a home.

When I returned to our table, we waited a few minutes for our entrees, which gave us time to enjoy the musical selection playing not-too-loudly, with songs from Leonard Cohen and Michael Buble among others. I learned later from Holly that the staff actually bring their iPods and hook them up to the sound system and their playlists dictate the ambience. That’s a neat personal touch and must really give employees a sense of ownership and pride in their restaurant. Another great idea.


Our entrees arrived and we were wowed once again. Erica’s scallops and prawns were sitting on a bed of handmade papardella pasta and tender pieces of veal in a light tomato sauce. From my taste, the veal melted in your mouth and the scallops were not grainy at all. Cooked to perfection, actually. Erica was in heaven.


As for the main event, my lobster poutine was colossal! In addition to fries, gravy, Quebec Bergeron cheese and of course, lobster, I was pleasantly surprised to find chunks of Italian sausage and two spears of asparagus. It was very rich, definitely not haute cuisine but oh so comforting! I believe it would be even better with some cheese curds, but it was still the best poutine I enjoyed in over 15 years. Just don’t plan any activity for a couple of hours after eating that bad boy. After that and the charcuterie board, I was absolutely stuffed!

After clearing our empty plates (both Erica and I polished off our meals), Holly suggested we had a look at the dessert menu. It did look inviting (especially the banana split), but we were both just too full and had to pass.

Finally, we were happy to see that the whole evening only set us back $117. That’s good for two generous apps, two filling entrees and two glasses of wine, especially considering the freshness of the ingredients and the uniqueness of the dishes. Because she had been so outstanding, a $25 tip to Holly brought us to a total of $142. Money very well spent!

Overall, Aqua Kitchen & Bar catapulted itself to be among the top restaurants we have discovered in our fair city. For a great evening out, I definitely recommend that you do not miss this jewel in our culinary crown!

Restaurant Review – Darrell’s Restaurant

12 03 2012

Darrells Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Being in a strange city is no obstacle to my culinary curiosity, loyal reader. As a matter of fact, it only enhances it. Thanks to my trusty Urbanspoon app, I was able to check out all the places to eat within walking distance of the Point Pleasant Lodge. One eatery in particular drew my attention: Darrell’s Restaurant.

Only a 5 minute walk up the street from the Lodge, Darrell’s has great reviews and a unique specialty: their Peanut Butter Burger, which has been voted best burger in Halifax for nine straight years!

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I do not generally enjoy the taste of peanuts or peanut butter in dishes. I like it on toast, and it’s ok in desserts, but in a savory entree? I never was a fan. Still, there was something about the PB Burger that intrigued me, especially considering its popularity.

After a short stroll on this bright spring day, I was standing in front of Darrell’s Restaurant, a small and unassuming place on Fenwick Street across from the medical centre. The friendly waitress told me to sit wherever I wanted so I took a small table by the window.

The decor is very simple but with a good use of colour. There are about a dozen booths with red and green banquettes to match the green of the lower half of the walls. The kitchen is right behind the wall with the pass separating it from the diners. It’s small but not cramped. It reminds me of an old-fashioned diner.

The menu had interesting choices. One of them, which I’ll have to try next time, was the Hen’s Den Burger, which has a sirloin patty, a fried egg, bacon, chipotle, mozzarella and a few other ingredients. It sounds delicious, but I was there for the famous Peanut Butter Burger with a side of Darrell’s fries and a vanilla milkshake (another famous specialty of the place) to wash it down with.


The burger came open-faced but I assembled it for the picture above. The fries were more like taters and were very tasty. They were also a tad spicy, which delighted me but might be worth keeping in mind for interested diners.

And the burger itself? I was afraid that the peanut butter taste would overwhelm the other flavours, and the whole thing would end up being a burger-flavoured peanut butter sandwich. I could not have been more wrong! There isn’t a whole lot of peanut butter and amazingly, it’s at times barely noticeable. The peanutty flavour kind of stays in the background and there lays the genius of the dish. Because the peanut butter acts as a background taste, all the other ingredients (including cheese and bacon) contrast it and their flavours are amplified by it. Seriously, it makes the rest of the burger pop in a great rock anthem of flavours!

The vanilla milkshake is as tasty as they claimed, and I like the fact that even though it comes in a nice glass with a straw, they also bring you the metal shaker they used to make it so that you can enjoy the leftover milk and ice cream. What a great idea!

All in all, I’d say that no visit to Halifax should be considered complete without a stop at Darrell’s Restaurant! It’s a special place with a humble but cool setting and some great creativity and love of burgers!

Restaurant Review – Bacalao

21 01 2012

Bacalao - Nouvelle Newfoundland Cuisine on Urbanspoon

The bar has officially been raised, loyal reader! To celebrate four years together, my beautiful wife and I made some reservations at Bacalao on Lemarchant Road. It’s a restaurant that had intrigued us for a while with its promise of a modern twist on traditional Newfoundland fare. And boy did it deliver an extraordinary experience!

When you walk in the restaurant, you actually find yourself in the front door of a century-old house. We were greeted with a big smile by our hostess Tracy and directed to a table in one of the dining rooms.

Bacalao is cleverly laid out symmetrically into four dining room, each a repurposed room from the old house and each the size of a medium modern living room. The rooms are lovingly decorated with things that emphasize the Newfoundland settings: warm colours, original art from local artists on the walls, a fish copper ornament on the fireplace, bottles of local wine and Screech on the mantle, it all combines in a very cozy and warm atmosphere. I was delighted that the menus and the wine list had been laid out in advance at our table.

After a few moments, our hostess came back and introduced herself and asked how we were doing and if it was our first time. Upon hearing that it was our fourth first date anniversary she sincerely congratulated us. Tracy, and from what I saw of them the same applies to her colleagues, was extremely genuine, friendly and yet professional. She was hands-down the best server we ever had. Her attention to our comfort and pleasure was fantastic without being overbearing. She was also very knowledgeable and helped us select our wine.

As I was perusing the menu, I was pleasantly surprised to find very unique offerings. The dishes, as their reputation affirmed, are really taken from Newfoundland tradition and then elevated. For example, a popular appetizer is a Jiggs Dinner Cabbage Roll: salt meat and veggies wrapped up in a beautiful bright green cabbage leaf and served on a spoonful of pease pudding. It comes with a little cup of mustard pickles and a shooter glass of pot liquor. For the mainlanders among you, that’s the water in which the salt meat and veggies have been boiled. Yum!

The same goes for the main courses. Where else will you find a caribou medallions in partridgeberry reduction sauce?

In addition to the menu, Tracey informed us of the specials. Among them was an appetizer of pan-fried scallops and a main course of braised goat leg. I had heard on the Internet that the restaurant had some recent goat specials and I was hoping they still did!

My better half ordered the scallops for her appetizers while I just had to try the Jiggs dinner cabbage roll. Of course I went for the goat dish for my main while Erica opted for a seafood risotto.

A few minutes after taking our orders, we were presented with a complimentary amuse-bouche of crostinis with cheese-stuffed smoked salmon. The crostini was nice and crunchy and the cold smoked salmon was very aromatic and with a refreshing smoky flavour. It was a great start that left us looking even more forward to our meal.

Tracy also came back with two glasses of the wine she helped us select, a red wine called Barrens by a local vineyard. That was just about the most unique and tasty wine I ever had. It was made with various Newfoundland berries rather than grapes. As a result, there was absolutely no acid aftertaste and just a hint of alcohol. It went down so smoothly it was almost like drinking fruit juice! I recommend it even if you’re not usually a wine person.

Our apps arrived soon and what a treat they were! I wanted to take some pictures but the room was too dark for it.

Erica’s scallops were cooked perfectly and were the smokiest I ever tasted. They were sieved on a turnip purée and finished with a mushroom sauce. They were to die for.

As a big fan of a good cooked supper, my mouth was watering at the thought of the cabbage roll. I was not disappointed! I had never seen a cooked cabbage leaf look do deliciously green and fresh. Slicing into it revealed a mix of salt meat (a good portion of it) and vegetables. Underneath, the pease pudding was very flavourful and had a spot-on consistency. I had never had mustard pickles before and I enjoyed it. And washing it down with a shot of pot liquor was both a great traditional touch and a good palate cleanser. It’s a brilliant dish you won’t find anywhere. It was very cool to experience a dish that was specifically created and designed!

Shortly after, or so it seemed, our main courses arrived. The presentation on them was very elegant and inviting.

Erica’s risotto came accompanied by about 10 to 12 smoked mussels in the shell. The consistency was a little crunchier than I personally like in my risotto, but that’s how my honey likes her and she was happy indeed. The fish had bay scallops, shrimp, asparagus and was served with roasted vegetables and more scallops.

But the star of the evening for me was my dish of goat. I really had no idea what to expect, but for some reason I imagined goat to be stringy. I could not have been more wrong! It turns out that goat has a very tender flesh, very much similar to lamb, but with a much more intense, woody flavour. The cut was boneless and without any sinew, very easy to it. It also had a partridgeberry and goat jus and was accompanied by Duchess potatoes (yummy mashed potatoes shaped into spoon-sized balls and then baked) and roasted vegetables.

A word to the roasted veggies: they were perfectly executed, with just a hint of sear, crunchy texture and full flavour. Well done!

After such a fantastic meal, we just had to ask for the dessert menu. Like their main dishes and appetizers, Bacalao‘s dessers are a a mix of classics and special creations. Dessert chef Andrea Maunder keeps experimenting and coming up with new recipes and designs. We chose to go with two Banana Maunders, the restaurant’s take on the Banana Foster. It’s four banana pieces flambeed with local rum and served with vanilla ice cream, walnuts, a hint of coconut and a brown sugar sauce. I tell you, loyal reader, even if the rest of the meal had been bad, I would still return for the Banana Maunder alone! Dessert lovers, you owe it to yourself to try it. I’m not generally fond of the taste of liquor. When I took a bite of the dessert, I felt a hint of strong alcohol flavour that I anticipated would turn into an unpleasant full-blown taste. But instead, just as a was bracing for the strong taste, a wave of smooth banana flavour hit my taste buds and restored balance. Wow! It’s truly amazing when you encounter this sort of layering of flavours that give your mouth an actual multiple taste experiences!

I accompanied my dessert with a small glass of Lady of the Woods birch sap wine, mostly out of curiosity about how a wine made from birch would taste. To be honest, I found it fairly watery and lacking in flavour, so it’s not really my cup of tea. But I’m glad I tried it.

After our hostess took the time to check how we enjoyed our first visit, and was genuine grateful for our praises, we were brought the check, which worried me a bit since the menu we had seen on the website did not mention prices. But I had a very pleasant surprise when the whole meal (two apps, two mains, two desserts and three glasses of wine) came to $150.01. For the quality of the food, the fact that the dishes are lovingly crafted, the amazing service and the cozy decor, it’s a good deal indeed. Of course you wouldn’t eat there every day, but for special occasions you can definitely pay more elsewhere and not get anywhere near the same level experience. It was worth every penny!

As a very sweet touch, our hostess brought with the check two elegant invitation-style cards that could be redeemed for free desserts in a subsequent visit. She said it was a small anniversary gift on the house. This little gesture made us feel very valued as guests, especially that Tracy actually paid attention to our talks and made a note to highlight our anniversary. That just made us loyal customers for life!

If there is one small thing to criticize, it is the noise level. The concept of four small dining rooms of four tables makes the place intimate and cozy, but it also means that you end up with a dozen people in a room the size of an average living room. If a group is seated in your dining room, their voices will resonate in the enclosed space.

To be fair, however, I see no way of solving that problem without redesigning the place, and I feel that it would lose something if the look and layout was different. I think of it as an unavoidable consequence and a small price to pay for everything else about Bacalao. Until they invent Get Smart‘s Cone of Silence, I can’t fault Bacalao too much for the noise.

Overall, what we take away from our experience at Bacalao is that it’s a restaurant run by people who truly have a passion for food and for Newfoundland. The fact that they create their own original dishes and desserts by experimenting, and the fact they put such a great emphasis on local products gives you something you won’t find in many places.

So save up some scratch and make it a resolution to try Bacalao this year, loyal reader!

Addendum, September 2nd, 2012:
Read about our extraordinary second visit to Bacalao and why you should go as soon as possible!

Restaurant Review – Pi

8 01 2012

Pi on Urbanspoon

After a disappointing shopping adventure this evening, loyal reader, Erica and I decided to treat ourselves to a restaurant supper at the last minute. Since we weren’t dressed up, had no reservations and didn’t feel like going too far, we decided to try Pi, a little artisanal pizza joint a few streets over from our place.

When we entered Pi, it wasn’t very busy so getting a table was no issue. We were greeted by a friendly hostess then picked a corner table in the comfortably dim dining room.

The decor was eclectic, with funky art, colorful walls, a wall-mounted chalkboard indicating the specials. Cleverly, a frieze runs along the top of the walls featuring the numerical value of Pi: 3.1415 etc. It’s a cute idea and it wouldn’t be our first run-in with the restaurant’s geek chic theme.

Like Piatto , Pi specializes in artisanal pizzas with fancy ingredients. Also like Piatto, it had a unique menu design: it’s divided into three sections: constants (a list of pizzas you can order), variables (a list of various crusts, vegetables, proteins and other toppings you can combine to make a custom pizza) and chaos (a few pasta dishes). Several of the pizzas have clever names to reflect the mathematical/scientific theme of the place: the Einstein, the Pythagoras, etc. The layout confused me at first, especially that next to each pizza are numbers with multiplications next to them: “19 x 25 x 36”. I was momentarily puzzled (are those the sizes somehow?) and it took me a bit to realize those where the prices for a small, medium and large pizza, respectively.

Erica and I were divided on the menu. My wife liked it for its originality and for carrying on the theme. I personally found it a little gimmicky and too clever by half. It makes it hard to quickly identify what’s available until you’ve actually read every item in detail. For example, there is no indication that the “chaos” section is pastas. I had to read all the entries and their descriptions to piece it together. If it was labelled “pasta”, I could have skipped it since I knew I didn’t want any.

Menu issues aside, we ordered a yummy-sounding mushroom crostini for an appetizer and my wife and I went for small Pythagoras and Sicilian Salmon pizzas, respectively.

The appetizer arrived without much delay and smelled fantastic! It was a decent size with about 5 or 6 pieces for each of us. It had onions, mushrooms and an Italian blend of cheeses on a thin and crispy crust. It was absolutely delicious and I recommend it to all.

Likewise when our pizzas arrived I was impressed with the size of even those small pis. Each was as big as a large dinner plate.

Erica’s Pythagoras pizza was most excellent. It had sesame-ginger asparagus, sliced Brie cheese, bacon, red grapes and Italian cheeses on a thin crush with a creamy tomato sauce. The grapes contrasted really well with the rest of the pizza, a combination of salty and sweet that I know my bride loves. I tried a slice and I concur.

My Sicilian Salmon pizza was even better. I ordered it because I was quite curious about smoked salmon on a pizza. It could go either way, but fortunately it was a winner! I’m a big fan of smoked salmon and this pizza was almost a deconstructed lox bagel. It had deliciously aromatic salmon, Italian cheeses, capers and red onions. Definitely perfect, without so many capers that it was too salty. Great balance of tastes there!

We had initially intended to have dessert, but we were both full. That was quite a generous meal, portion-wise.

Before leaving, I had to use the restroom. Cleverly, an old physics textbook was casually left on top of the toilet tank. Again, a cute little touch to complement the theme and, unlike the menu, I actually appreciated that one!

Pricing at Pi is comparable to Piatto. The appetizer, two pizzas, a beer and a large soft drink set us back $66.00. Pricier than your average pizza joint, but about right for artisanal fare.

Overall, if you’re in the mood for a classier and unique pizza experience, you should give Pi a visit (or order in). You won’t be sorry!

Restaurant Review – Bamboo Garden

5 01 2012

Bamboo Garden on Urbanspoon

Continuing our culinary explorations of the City of Legends, loyal reader, my lovely wife and I went out last night to a little Chinese restaurant Erica had read good things about. Even better, it’s just down the street from us. Cold and wet from even a short walk, we entered Bamboo Garden.

Located immediately next door to Asian Taste, this Chinese restaurant is an unassuming hole in the wall. The decor is very minimalist. The walls are painted a pleasant peach colour, with some pictures hung here and there. The square tables have red checkered vinyl tablecloths. Overall, it’s very humble. Which is not necessarily a bad thing but it could use some freshening up: the walls have some scrapes and the paint job is pretty sloppy around windows and such. Overall, it’s a little bit hastily put-together and could use a bit of redesign. It could be argued, however, that it’s part of its charm, especially if it’s a place more geared towards the downtown lunch crowd rather than evening diners.

Our smiling hostess took our drink orders while we went over the menu. Bamboo Garden‘s menu focuses on simple fare such as soups, noodles, rice and fried vegetables and meats. It’s casual, affordable fare, the kind where your soft drink comes in a can.

For an appetizer, Erica chose a plate of steamed shrimp dumplings with lemon and herbs. I went with the hot sweet and sour soup (a specialty of the place that came highly recommended). For our entrees I selected a plate of fried noodles with vegetables and sliced pork, while my better half chose sliced BBQ beef and vegetables with some steamed rice. While taking my order, the hostess asked me if I wanted the pork mild, medium or spicy. Of course, I chose the latter option, as I love me some spicy food!

The appetizers took a bit of time ti arrive, about 15 or 20 minutes, which seemed a bit long since we were the only customers. Still, it wasn’t that long of a wait, but it did give me plenty of time to look around and that’s when I noticed the sloppy paint job in more detail.

I was a tad disappointed that my appetizer soup only arrived after we had finished Erica’s shrimp dumplings. Similarly, my wife didn’t receive her entree until a few minutes after mine. I wouldn’t go so far as saying the service was bad (the hostess was always smiling and checked on us to make sure it was good), but it could be tightened so that both diners get their food together.

That being said, the food we ate was absolutely fantastic and completely made up for whatever else Bamboo Garden could improve!

Erica’s shrimp dumpling appetizer was a pleasure for the palate. The dumplings were tender, the shrimp fresh and, best of all, there was this cool flavour layering going on: you ate a dumpling and it tasted like a delicious shrimp dumpling, and it’s only after you’d swallowed that you were treated to a refreshing lemony aftertaste! I love it when you get different sensations like that from the same bite.

The sweet and sour soup I had confirmed why Bamboo Garden is famous for it. It had a spicy broth, four or five shrimps and some shredded vegetables. It was hot, temperature-wise, and like the lemony aftertaste of the dumplings, the spiciness came after you swallowed as a hot but not burning sensation in the back of your mouth. It was well-balanced. I think next time I may end up simply ordering a meal-sized bowl!

Our entrees, despite not arriving together, were equally excellent. One word of advice though, if you order your meat spicy, make you can handle the spice. I’m a huge spicy food freak and my pork definitely ranked among one of the hottest things I have eaten in my life. I loved every bite, but it isn’t for everyone. Let me put it to you this way: it was spicy enough to give me a bit of a runny nose.

Erica’s dish, of course, wasn’t spicy and she loved it! I tasted it as well and I agree. The meat was tender, the vegetables well-cooked without any sliminess. And her bowl of steamed rice had a wonderful texture. I’m not quite sure was kind of rice it was, but I want more of it.

One great thing about Bamboo Garden, in addition to the smashing food, is that portions are very generous. Even a big eater like yours truly left sated. Our dishes were served in large bowls similar to pasta bowls and they were full to the brim!

Finally, another great surprise came with the bill. Two (very full) entrees, two appetizers and three canned drinks came to a whopping… $36.60! There was no mistake. For the quantity and quality of the food, it was a steal!

All in all, when I compare it to its neighbour Asian Taste, Bamboo Garden comes across not as competition but as an alternative. Taste remains my favourite Asian restaurant but it’s more of a dinner place, with sushi and more substantial fare. Plus it wins hands down for service and ambiance.

But Bamboo Garden is a different experience. It’s ideal if you want very affordable (I hesitate to say “cheap”) food that tastes delicious and you don’t care too much about the surroundings. And honestly, if they could tighten up the service and give the paint job a touch-up, they would be a presence to be reckoned with on the Asian scene.

I strongly recommend you give Bamboo Garden a try and see for yourself, loyal reader!