Birthday dinner #3 – Locals Restaurant at the Old House

We spent the holidays over on Vancouver Island this year.  There didn’t seem to be too many fine dining choices in the Comox Valley area, but it was recommended we go to Locals Restaurant in Courtenay, so for my official birthday dinner celebration with Hitman that’s where we went.  They’re known for sourcing their food locally whenever they can (hence their name).

It had a very warm and inviting atmosphere.  There was even a fully decorated Christmas tree at the entrance with stools for you to take pictures on.

However, some parts of the service left much to be desired. Read on to find out!

Locals Restaurant: Bison Tartare on Asian Salad Amuse Bouche

We were promptly seated as we had already made reservations.  While we were looking through the menu we were offered an amuse bouche of Bison Tartare on Asian Salad.  It was a bit tart, and I thought that covered any hint of gaminess the bison might have. The salad portion was an interpretation of an “Asian” slaw.

Locals Restaurant: Grains bread with chickpea spread

For the complimentary bread, it was multigrain bread from the local bakery Grains.  Alongside was Locals Restaurant’s house-made chickpea spread.  I wasn’t too fond of the spread as it was too bland for my liking.  Hitman really enjoyed it though and he even tasted hints of cumin in it.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Merchant’s Oyster Bar

A mutual friend of Fannypack’s and mine was visiting from out of town and Fannypack had the task of choosing a place for dinner.  She then of course passed it on to me even though lately she’s been eating out way more often than I =P.

Upon googling I came up with Merchant’s Oyster Bar which is located on “The Drive” (Commercial Drive).  What drawn me to this restaurant was its high rating on Urbanspoon plus the affordable $29 Prix Fixe menu.  I later learned that this establishment is from the same owner as Cork & Fin.

Merchant's Oyster Bar

Merchant’s Oyster Bar has a great nautical theme going on and I especially loved the rope embellishments right on top of the bar.  It’s also a very small restaurant and apparently the largest party size they can accommodate is 6.

Merchant's Oyster Bar: Freshly Shucked Oysters

Between the whole group we were able to try most of everything I would’ve wanted to try here.  I of course went with the prix fix menu.  For the first course I picked the Freshly Shucked Oysters served with a Champagne Mignonette and fresh grated horseradish.  Three different oysters were served but unfortunately, aside from the usual kusshi oysters, I couldn’t catch the name of the other two due to the high level of noisiness in the small restaurant, more on that later.

However it was no matter to my unrefined oyster tasting palette 😉  All three tasted great and fresh to me.  One in particular though (not the kusshi) had a more defined alkaline lingering on the tongue afterwards, and that was my favorite part.

Merchant's Oyster Bar: Roast Bone Marrow

Fannypack and I also ordered the two bone portion of the Roast Bone Marrow ($13) served with the usual baguette slices, parsley and tomato salad.

I must say the amount of marrow served was not enough to even cover the two slices of baguette each.  Not even to thinly coat, and to actually taste the marrow goodness you can’t really thinly coat the baguette or else all you’ll taste is baguette.  So in the end it was only enough to cover half of each slice or one slice total each.

But whatever I was able to taste, tasted divine.  It was buttery and satiating.  I’ve tried recreating this at home before, without having tried it at a restaurant.  Now that I have, I think I’ll attempt it again.

The subtle acidity of the parsley salad as a palette cleanser balanced out the fatty richness of the marrow.  I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed the parsley salad as parsley is probably one of my least favorite herbs.

Anyway Fannypack and I tried to quickly finish up this course as the others had to wait until we finished this extra helping until their second course arrived.

Continue reading

Raincity Grill

Raincity Grill

Groupon had a tasting menu deal for Raincity Grill, a place I had yet to visit, where 2 can dine for $95.  Wendy had taken her mother out for a previous Groupon tasting menu at Raincity and really enjoyed the meal, and since my mom was coming to visit I decided to do the same.  My mom has never been to a small plates restaurant so I’ll pass the review over to her for a fresh perspective on the evening:

Raincity Grill Buns

I was pretty excited when I found out what type of meal this would be. The first plate to arrive was of course the bread and butter, little buns that could have been warmer but were nonetheless very tasty. The dish of salt was a nice surprise but maybe a tiny spoon to scoop it with would be helpful. Could be my inexperience but I wasn’t sure how to get just enough.

Raincity Grill: West Coast Oyster with raspberry & shallot mignonette

West Coast Oyster with raspberry & shallot mignonette

This is a little embarrassing to admit but I had never tasted a raw oyster before. I wasn’t about to get squeamish so I quickly slurped it up and it was amazing, so fresh with a hint of tartness from the raspberry. Alas there was only one but I could become a devotee of the oyster.

Continue reading

Maenam

I’ve been wanting to try Maenam for a while now since I’m a big fan of all things Thai and was curious about trying Thai food with a gourmet twist, which is exactly what Maenam offers.  The first thing I noticed was the warm, inviting atmosphere, made apparent through use of light and colour.  I really dug their tabletops as well 😛 (see pics).  We had made reservations for the Chef’s Royal Thai Dinner ($47.50/person) in advance, a 3-course, 9-dish tasting menu of on- and off-menu selections which changes occasionally.  I’m not sure how often, but this one had started just that week.

satay gai, pork rinds, tempura fern, nahm jim, and crispy fried oysters at Maenam

First up was an appetizer platter featuring free range chicken satays (satay gai), tempura made with some thin type of fern, crispy fried oysters (hoi tort), prawn cakes and a couple pork rinds and cucumber wedges.  The sauces included standard homemade peanut, a red chili one, some watery cucumber relish and my personal favourite: the house sauce, nahm jim.  It embodied all of the Thai taste senses: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter (spicy).  Each bite made me forget my surroundings a little at a time, daydreaming of bustling Bangkok streets teeming with the pungent aromas of various mobile food carts.

The oysters were the highlight for me, and the nahm jim worked perfectly with them.  The fern dish was very bland although an interesting idea, and the chicken was just your usual Thai streetfood variety, but were on the dry side.  The pork rinds seemed out of place and had some inedible-y chewy hard bits in them.  But everything tasted good enough when dipped in the nahm jim I suppose.

Maenam: Thai and Ginger

For drinks Wendy ordered a virgin Thai and Ginger which consisted of passionfruit and cassia bark topped with gingerbeer.  She was expecting a bit more kick from the gingerbeer than what was delivered but still enjoyed the drink.  I ordered a pot of lemon ginger tea.  I found it a bit mild as well, but pleasant enough.

Maenam: Mussels

The next course consisted of soup, salad and mussels.  Wendy regrettably forgot to take photos of the soup which is unfortunate since for me it was one of the high points.  It was a hot and sour (tom yum) ling cod soup w/ Thai basil and oyster mushroom.  Needless to say it was tom yummy!  I think I enjoyed it a bit more than Wendy since she didn’t finish hers.  I did notice the absence of any big chunks of ginger or lemongrass which I normally like in this type of soup though. But I guess that’s kind of the point here, this ain’t your traditional Thai food.

Continue reading

Oyster eXpress

Oyster eXpress Vancouver

Fannypack recently informed me of this little place in Chinatown that has Buck-a-Shuck happy hour…and get this…it REALLY is a buck for a shuck!!!  Not $1.75, not $1.50, just $1!!!  When I heard of this, I quickly scurried Hitman to the magical Oyster eXpress with me.

Oyster eXpress Vancouver

This corner restaurant has a very rustic log house interior…the birch color scheme a la Ikea is very pleasing to the eyes and brings a warmth…especially on a night like tonight when it was a huge downpour.

Their Buck-a-Shuck deal is only during Happy Hour Tuesdays to Fridays from 3pm-6pm.  We arrived at around 5:15pm and were the only ones here on a Tuesday night.  A few more patrons came in afterwards though.

Continue reading