Archive for ‘Mediterranean’

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.

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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

May 21, 2011

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

by HeSaid

I’m not particularly fond of Greek and Mediterranean food, but I figure any restaurant that’s been there as long as Zougla deserves my attention. When we arrive, we’re seated by a soft-spoken hostess at a nice, private booth.  Moments later, our attentive server drops off a stack of 4 (count ’em, 4) menus. Drinks, features, lunch and a dedicated burger menu.

When the server comes for our drink order I fail to capitalize, as I’m still trying to figure out why I have 4 menus. By the time I can think of anything, she’s vanished and I’m forced to settle with water.

A look at the menu shows a selection of greek, oh, wait, there’s a taco, a selection of greexican, oh, wait, there’s a curry, greexicindian, oh wait, there’s western fare, oh wait there’s Kung Pow [sic] stirfry.

3 things. First, I can’t make a better word than greexicindian, and I won’t try. Second, never order Kung Pao from a place that spells it like the 2002 Steve Oedekerk parody. Third, since Zougla can’t seem to make up their mind about what type of food they have, I don’t feel guilty about ordering a hamburger.  Not yet, anyway.

I decide on the ultimate double burger, because I’m an ultimate kind of guy. Two patties on a rustic bun, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and Zougla’s “ultimate sauce”.

The meal arrives and I immediately dive into the fries (for which there isn’t enough ketchup), they’re hot, crispy and perfectly cooked. I devour the entire portion without going anywhere near my main.

It’s then that I turn my attention to the ultimate double. It looks so nice I want to frame it and hang it on my wall. Turns out I probably should have. As I bite into it, I can only imagine the look of disappointment that came over my face. I think, maybe it’s just the first bite, but each mouthful is equally as bland as the first. By the end of it, I’ve little left to do but soak up the drippings on my plate with the tattered remnants of my rustic bun in a sad attempt to find the lost flavour profile I had been so desperately seeking.

As a burger joint, Zougla falls fatally flat. As for their Greek menu, well, there’s other Mediterranean restaurants in town and I don’t like souvlaki enough to risk another disappointment.

Food or Fail rating: Fail.

May 21, 2011

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

by SheSaid

I felt a little underdressed at Zougla as we were led to our seats, passing business people and ladies lunching, to a great little booth at the back, spacious for two and inordinately comfortable. To our side the wall of windows offered panoramic views of Departure Bay and the Coast Mountains beyond, sparkling in the brilliant sunshine we were all so desperately craving.

Pulling my gaze from the view and back to the menu I fail to see any of the Ultimate *Lunch* Specials advertised on the placard outside. There are however an entire sheet of burgers and another of specials (regular specials, less ultimate perhaps). Wading through it all I couldn’t help but feel like I was in the It’s A Small World of menus: mediterranean, western, mexican, chinese, and french cuisine together in perfect harmony. Maybe not so perfect though; my gut feeling is that it’s safest to stick with the greek classics.

I was disappointed to find that the souvlaki plates–my greek staple–were in the $16.95-19.95 range which is just way too high for lunch. I settled on the Greek Platter, overpriced at $13.95 and served without pita bread (for shame).  The waitress is, for what it’s worth, very friendly when she advises me of this.  Throughout our visit the staff are genuinely likeable, which is a pleasant change from some other recent experiences.

Back to the food… granted, what arrived was a decent sized plate of food. The average greek salad was made better by really nice quality feta cheese. The calamari was nice and crisp, well cooked, but the batter lacked flavour and demanded liberal dunking in tzatziki (well flavoured, thinner yogurt style). The spanakopita had a nice flavour but was unfortunately compressed and lacking flake where flake should be. (Full disclosure: I had been served a heavenly spanakopita–made by that restaurant owner’s father, an actual greek–just a couple of days before. This one was at a distinct disadvantage). Oh yeah, then there was rice. Whatever. Greek rice is just filler.

So yes, I happily cleaned the plate and didn’t come away feeling overly bathed in garlic. The flavours were good but I could have done with a little less rice, a little more salad, and maybe some complimentary pita bread. I mean, come on. It’s bread! Bread! Isn’t it the least you can do in this world to offer a girl some free bread?

Food or Fail rating: Food