Archive for July, 2011

July 20, 2011

Alexandra’s – Sean’s review (aka “He said”)

by HeSaid

With all the enthusiasm of a yawning sloth, I open Google and type “Nanaimo restaurants” into the search box. It’s not that I’m bitter, it’s just that I fully expect everything to suck.

I’m eyeing up the map listings in front of me. and it looks like a lot more of the same. Fail. Fail. Fail. F… wait a minute – what’s this? Alexandra’s? I jump to the website, and like most restaurants it’s nothing to look at – but the menu is there. It’s close, the price is right and the food is just what we’re after. (No joke, Alex had been talking about wanting some lasagna with g-toast not five minutes before – and they HAVE IT ON THE MENU!).

If I have a single criticism, it’s that “someone” should order a hit on the flower-peddling clown that stands on the corner. I know I usually keep driving just so I don’t have to look at him, so I can only imagine I’m not alone.

Alexandra’s is as dead center as a restaurant could get. Everything from the menu, to the decor to the mural on the wall screams “We’re average, and that’s ok!”. While it’s quite big, the owners make a smart move of closing off half the restaurant behind a heavy curtain, which creates a much cozier atmosphere for the smaller lunch crowds.

Our waitress serves us with amazing efficiency. Never too close to be a bother but never too far when we need something at the table. It’s apparent that she’s been waiting tables for a long time and knows her stuff, a real lifer.

The baked spaghetti arrives within moments of ordering and tastes like most restaurant baked spaghettis taste. Noodles. Meat sauce and cheese. Nothing to write to mama italiana about, but for $10 I feel like I definitely got my money’s worth. I couldn’t have made better in less time for less money, and that’s what really sticks out with Alexandra’s; price and product in perfect balance.

These folks have lunch nailed. Fast, affordable, tasty, meaty, cheesy lunch for a sawbuck. One dollar more and they might have lost me, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better meal for $10 in this town.

Food or fail rating: Food.

July 20, 2011

Alexandra’s – Alex’s review (aka “She said”)

by SheSaid

I can’t count the number of times I’ve driven by the Bowen & Northfield location of Alexandra’s.  The sign always catches my eye but I’ve never actually gone in, probably because there’s something I find totally repugnant about the particular mini-mall it’s in. Maybe it’s the proximity to one of the gnarliest intersections in town; turning in and out of the parking lot is an exercise in squeeze-your-eyes-shut-and-hope-for-the-best driving.  So that’s why I’ve never visited Alexandra’s but when I was seized by a powerful craving for pasta, well, go we did.

The storefront is large but we arrived to a space that was quite intimate. This wasn’t a cavernous room but a welcoming bistro-style space with a large curtain along one wall.  A peek behind that curtain revealed another, much larger room that I imagine opens for dinner.

Scanning the menu made me feel warm and happy: all the usual suspects were there but not an overwhelming array and prices were perfectly reasonable for lunchtime with entrees in the $10 range. What I wanted, what I absolutely craved, was standard-order lasagna with meat sauce and garlic bread. It’s a comfort-food classic with memories of childhood pizzeria visits with my dad. The garlic bread should be soft and squishy, made with a fresh traditional french loaf, and if they offered it as an entree you’d gladly take it. But of course they don’t because that would be nuts.

What I got, after only a brief wait, was pretty much just what I’d hoped for. The lasagna was warm and gooey and delicious and flavourful.  There was no skimping on the cheese. I will say that the day’s batch was a little on the salty side (fine for my palette but maybe not everyone’s). The portion size seemed a bit small to the eye but I was perfectly, comfortably full by the end of it. Sure, I could have inhaled an entire loaf of the garlic bread but that’s neither here nor there.

I plan to head back to Alexandra’s in the evening some time to suss out the vibe of the full-sized room.  And that keyboard in the corner?  I bet they roll out some great Manilow covers on that baby.

Food or fail rating: Food

July 4, 2011

Lighthouse Bistro – Sean’s review (aka “He said”)

by HeSaid

Friday afternoon, I’m about to take Alex to Troller’s (who I think has the best fish & chips in Nanaimo). If past experience has told me anything though, it’s that you have to get there early if you want their deep fried goodies. By the time we arrive there’s a lineup about ½ hour long.

This leaves me with two choices. Stand in line and potentially starve to death, leaving the seagulls to peck at my eyes or pick somewhere else to go. Alex tells me that she likes my eyes, so I half-heartedly suggest the Lighthouse.

When we open the menu I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. (one that will stay with me for days). It’s the first time in a long time I’ve paid tourist prices for seafood, and boy do they make you pay.

This is a family show, so I’ll spare any euphemisms about how it felt to pay $20 for a 2 piece halibut and chips, except to say that when my thoughts turned to fish it had less to do with my lunch and more to do with what they call the fresh meat at Sing-Sing.

I wish I could say it was worth it. I wish I could say it was just the halibut and that the battered salmon we split was better. I wish I could say the pesto coleslaw changed my life.

But I can’t say any of those things. The oil they cooked the fish in was old and dirty. The batter, uninteresting. The fish didn’t seem fresh, and neither did my french fries. The pesto slaw was just kind of odd. At the risk of sounding unsophisticated, I just don’t think slaw is a thing to be messed with.

Next time, I think I’ll let my eyes get pecked out. It’s bound to be less painful.

Food or Fail rating: Fail

July 4, 2011

Lighthouse Bistro – Alex’s review (aka “She said”)

by SheSaid

Let’s start off by admitting that we set out with a hankerin’ for some fish & chips.  Destination: Trollers.  Half hour wait there so we walked over to Penny’s Palapa which was also busy.  Having coughed up $1.50 for parking, we were resigned to lunch downtown so the Lighthouse Bistro & Pub it was.

The upstairs section was pretty deserted but the views were glorious, overpowering the vague bar-smell that lingered in the air.  (What is that?  Years-old tobacco smoke ground into the carpet with spilled beer?)

The menu was pretty unremarkable.  Except for the high price on the fish & chips.  That was remarkable.  $20 for two pieces.  Elsewhere the menu offered the usual suspects of West Coast Cuisine with sandwiches, pastas, and seafood mains.  But we were not to be deterred: bound and determined to chow down on some fried fish we decided to do sharesies on one order of salmon and another of halibut fish & chips.

The plates looked fine enough when they arrived.  What was billed as Pesto Coleslaw (a cool idea) was more like Pesto cabbage salad: each bite lifted to my mouth elicited cheek squirts, anticipating the tang of slaw, sadly finding none.  Then the fries were soft.  (In my world there is little that inspires more sadness than soggy fried foodstuffs.)  The batter may have been okay but it was hard to tell because both of the fish portions were greasy and required copious application of malt vinegar.  The tartar sauce was pretty good though; it appeared to be homemade, with texture but not too much chunk, so I’ll give ’em that.

Yes it was an unfortunate choice.  Would the Lighthouse have fared better if we’d gone without an agenda?  I don’t know that it would have.  And besides, if you can’t deep fry fish what are you doing on the waterfront?

Food or Fail rating: Fail