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.

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Dine Out Vancouver 2014: Ask for Luigi

Ask for Luigi Vancouver

For my third DOVF event this year, Hitman and I were invited by Sharon of Eat, Drink, Travel to join her at Ask for Luigi. Theirs is the $28 menu. I was especially excited to try their homemade pasta.

Ask for Luigi: Interior

It was very very small in there, and only had one bathroom. Good thing we made reservations (even though Dine Out’s website says Ask for Luigi doesn’t take them, this seems to be a mix-up) because when we arrived as they opened at 5:30pm, we overheard the staff telling the people who didn’t have reservations that it would be a 1.5-2 hour wait.  Here’s the official word from Ask for Luigi’s website: RESERVATIONS ARE AVAILABLE AND WALK-INS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

Ask for Luigi: Buffalo Mozzarella

Hitman is still recovering from gum graft surgery, so he picked the softly textured Buffalo Mozzarella with Castelvetrano olives (Hitman loved these), fresh basil, and house-made bread. He says there was just the right amount of cheese for the homemade bread, and that it was well seasoned with just olive oil, salt and pepper. I tried a bite too; it was soft and mild. We both especially liked the sprigs of baby basil…Super cute!!

Ask for Luigi: Carpaccio

I got the Carpaccio with Salsa Verde, Piave Vecchio and crispy shallots. I thought there were too much going on as you can see… The combination of Salsa Verde and copious amounts of capers made the dish quite salty and tart, and overwhelmed the thin slices of beef so much that they couldn’t be tasted. The texture of the beef was retained though.

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Dine Out Vancouver 2014: The Observatory – Grouse Mountain

Near the end of a grey, cloudy day Wendy and I ascended to The Observatory for our first Dine Out Vancouver meal of 2014 on the Skyride from the base of Grouse Mountain. To our wonderment when the tram broke through the clouds we were treated to an absolutely stunning sunset of epic proportions, with the beautiful mountains surrounding our fair city as the backdrop.

Grouse Mountain

The slopes were busy with skiers enjoying the sun. Neither of us has much skiing experience but maybe next time we will give it a go.

Sunset viewed from Grouse Mountain, Vancouver, BC

We headed to the observation decks to capture this beautiful moment together.  I was glad I took the advice of the restaurant and arrived at the base of the mountain half an hour early so that we had time to enjoy the scenery.

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Birthday dinner #2 – forage

Forage was a restaurant I’ve always wanted to try so I took the opportunity of my birthday to ‘gently suggest’ to Fannypack to take me there on a separate occasion to celebrate (as that is our thing), so that brings us to birthday dinner #2!

As we were quickly told by the extremely attentive server, the plates here are meant to be shared (although you are welcome to hoard it all if you so choose to), so we (I) picked a few items to share.

On another note, Hitman lost these pictures too so the ones here are courtesy of Fannypack also! Lifesaver much??

forage: Kale and Apple Chips

First up the Kale and Apple Chips ($5).  There’s a mix of purple and green kale which created a very aesthetically pleasing presentation.  The chips were salted just right but I did find them a bit greasy as I suspected them to be deep-fried (I roast mine at home).  Found out from Mary’s blog post about Forage as I was writing this that they’re baked in a convection oven so that’s not so bad then.  I would be happier if there were more apple chips though.

forage: Marinated octopus

Next was one of my choices: Marinated octopus ($15) with roasted garlic crostini, gribiche, and pickled yellowfoot chanterelles.

The octopus was extremely tender and flavorful.  I liked to eat them by themselves as I found the gribiche (a sort of egg-based tartar sauce) too tart and overpowering when combined with the delicate octopus.  The gribiche presented itself like your usual egg salad.

Speaking of tart…the pickled chanterelles were quite up there!

forage: Foraged and cultivated mushrooms

I can eat mushrooms all day, so the Foraged and cultivated mushrooms ($12) was of course another one of my picks.  It had a mix of crimini button, chanterelle, shimiji and oyster mushrooms.  Topped with Happy Island goat’s cheese, it was served with caraway rye bread.

I much enjoyed the mushroom-y parts but I did think this was on the salty side.  It was also really rich.

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Irish Heather

Woohoo!!! Mr. ESL is getting married!!! To commemorate his last days as a bachelor Ms. Awkward Diner organized a fantastical and super fun stag for him. It all started with dinner at The Irish Heather. Or was it the Salty Tongue??  I say this because although we had reservations at The Irish Heather, we were seated in a communal table at the latter, and the restaurants were side-by-side.

Both restaurants are really just one long corridor each, but I guess that’s true with most Gastown establishments.

On to the food!

Irish Heather: Steak and Ale Pot Pie

I had the Steak & Ale Pot Pie ($16.75) which came with choice of fries, masoed (mashed?) potato or Kale Caesar salad.  I picked the kale caesar as it sounded interesting.

Their pot pies came in a vegan version also and they differentiate them with either a doggy or an acorn!!!  Aren’t they darling???

Both pot pies were huge.  The meat version came with au jus and there was a lot of filling.  Upon cutting into it gravy came pouring out to mix with the jus so it basically was one big delicious mess.  The steak pieces were tender enough and were mixed in with chunks of celery and carrots.  My only gripe was that the crust wasn’t cooked through: the top was cooked while the inner layer was pretty gummy and doughy.

Irish Heather: Kale Caesar

The Kale Caesar ($8 for a small) was absolutely delicious.  I always thought that kale would be too tough to eat raw in a salad, so I’ve always just made kale chips.  But the kale here was cut into a chiffonade so it was tender and easy to chew.  There was just enough dressing to cover everything without being overly rich and satiating.  I finished this over the pie.

After having this I was even inspired to make my own kale salad at home!

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