Posts tagged ‘fail’

August 19, 2011

ACMe Food Co. – Sean’s Review (aka “He said”)

by HeSaid

It was back in June, ACMe had a deal on Island Daily Deals. Buy a $40 voucher for $20. Since we’re in the business of eating and talking about food, and we’re not getting paid, it makes sense to find deals where we can.

I really wanted a win on this one. ACMe used to be the go-to place back in the day, back when I used to go out for fancy martinis on a semi-regular basis. Now that I drink fewer martinis and demand better food, I’ve not been near ACMe.

The menu wasn’t particularly inspiring. A lot of sushi, which I haven’t heard much good about, and the standard Nanaimoan frou-frou upscale nonsense. You know what I mean, things frazzled in goat’s cheese, wrapped in filo pastry, accompanied by aioli and a menu chock full of hipster haute cuisine. I opted for the ($17) ahi tuna salad, because I like tuna and I figured if they could get anything right, it’d be a salad.

Here’s where I’m gonna rock you with a little bit of knowledge. Good fish, fresh fish, doesn’t smell fishy. As a fish decomposes, nitrogen-containing chemicals called amines are released. Some of these are quite volatile, and the older a piece of fish gets, the more amines are released and stronger the fishy smell gets.

Supposed Ahi Tuna Salad

I think my salad might have looked like this before they made it and left it under a heat lamp for a week.

When our salad arrives, the first thing I notice is the fishy smell. Fresh tuna is bright, vibrant, like in this picture. What I’ve got is palid, greyed out tuna.  It makes me think of the before and after photos of fast food, like, you see a picture of a Big Mac and you think to yourself “that’s gonna be really good”, and then you go and get one and the reality is actually quite grim.

The dressing for the salad was nondescript at best, I still can’t recall the flavour profile (if there ever was one), and the beet tendrils winding through the entire thing made me feel like I was wrestling a Kraken.

Food or fail rating: Fail

Tags: , , ,
August 19, 2011

ACMe Food Co. – Alex’s review (aka “She said”)

by SheSaid

ACMe Food Co. enjoyed a wild ride back in the day: always busy and packed on weekends. Sadly, consecutive changes in ownership ran it into the ground but the most recent owners of ACMe Rib & Seafood House (or ACMe Rib & Steakhouse depending on where you look on the web site) seem to really care about the place and are working to turn things around with the bold proclamation, “the fun is back!”  Having spent years watching the roller coaster at the corner of Commercial and Terminal Avenue, I walked in to ACMe wanting to find “food”, desperately wanting “food”.

What I also wanted was a nice, cold dark beer. Our wait for drinks wasn’t long but managed to feel interminable because it was noisy to the point of distraction. Maybe it was the layout but the place was over half empty and the voices from the next table — the elbow-bumpingly close next table — overpowered our own conversation. It was even hard to talk about how distracted we were.

That pint of Hermanns Dark Lager helped things.

The menu wasn’t far off what it has always been: West Coast favourites and sushi. Lots of sushi. In its heyday it was some of the best sushi in town but I’d need a lot of encouraging to take that risk.  What did catch my eye was the word sesame in connection with a steak salad. Sold. China Steps Steak Salad it would be.

Sadly the claims of sesame-ishness didn’t pan out. What, you can’t toast a couple of seeds and toss them in my general direction? The quality of the meat was passable but barely so; the soba noodles, gummy; the grilled vegetables consisted of two slices each of grilled zucchini and red pepper, pathetic, bland, wilty things. Most pathetic were the asparagus spears: grilled into submission, like they had lost their will, been utterly beaten.

But the single most pathetic element of that plate was the overall flavour profile. Sesame soya dressing makes me think of bright flavours, of a flavour experience, but there was nothing bright or flavourful there.  I couldn’t help but imagine what Gordon Ramsey’s response would have been if confronted with that $17 plate. Profanity, I imagined, and throwing it to the ground.

At least we didn’t pay for parking.

Food or fail rating: Fail

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

June 8, 2011

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

by HeSaid

We stand outside of the doors to Real Food. It’s a choice location for a lunchtime eatery in the heart of Nanaimo’s Heritage Mews.

The interior is bright and spacious. Bold blues and greens adorn the walls with roomy booths lining the far wall. The art is a series of food paintings done in the style of post-modern tuscan vegetable market, which I quite like. The bright green menus are (criminally) fonted in comic sans, normally a cardinal sin for anything other than a preschool, but I’m hungry so we push on.

Real Food boasts “Real food for the same prices as fast food…”

Soup and a sandwich at Real Food will cost you $10.50. Tax, tip and a $3.00 cup of self-serve coffee and we’re over $30.00 for a deuce. I can go to Wendy’s (the most expensive of the fast food chains) and feed the entire family for about $20.00, so their “fast food prices” are off the mark.

But this is a quality joint and I don’t mind paying a bit more for good food. The pulled pork sandwich seems like it would go real well with the tomato soup. Due to an earlier mishap, there’s only enough left for one of us. I make the chivalrous gesture and opt for a side of slaw.

While we sip on our $3.00 coffee the music cycles through classical, reggae and Frank Sinatra. The owner is pacing nervously around the space and I wonder if she’s onto us. When the food arrives, there are two words that immediately come to mind – portion control. Taste-wise, it’s not bad, not really, but it’s not memorable. The texture reminded me of canned salmon, the taste didn’t remind me of anything.

I spend the rest of our lunch wishing I had another sandwich, but I’m not willing to cough up another $7.50 to get one so I absently pick spelling errors out of the menu.

For a lunchtime eatery, Real Food wasn’t bad, but I just don’t think it warrants the $15+ price tag. Not when there are other delicious choices with bigger portions and/or lower prices.

Food or Fail rating: Fail

June 8, 2011

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

by SheSaid

I was unfamiliar with the popular Parksville lunch spot, Real Food, until they opened a second location in the Heritage Mews in Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter.  On the recommendation of a friend we decided to check it out.

The web site www.realfoodfast.ca (under construction) shares a vision that includes simple food and unprocessed, chemical-free ingredients.  The menu has a narrow focus with soup, sandwiches, light entrees, and salads.  I’m good with that: do one thing and do it well.  There are too many restaurants trying to be all things to all people.

The menu selection of soups was impressive.  The soups actually available that day?  Not so much.  Apparently there was something about an accident and spillage involving soup meeting floor.  Bummer.

Fortunately there was one serving of tomato-based vegetable soup left.  It was filled with a selection of beautifully tender, nicely uniform vegetables.  What I didn’t expect was the level of spice, which leaned more heavily on the heat than I expected.  (To me, a vegetable soup should be mild enough to feed a toddler.  But that’s just me.)

Sticking to the theme I went for the mixed vegetable sandwich and was a little perplexed when I wasn’t quizzed on bread choice.  The bun it arrived on was delicious and fresh but felt a little small for a carb-glutton like me.  It was, however, stuffed to bursting with fresh toppings.  They were tasty. They were particularly tasty when taken together in one bite.  The unfortunate reality was that things slid around and about and most of the toppings wound up on my fingers and plate.  It was a three-napkin sandwich.

I am a fan of quality ingredients and I do love to eat local where I can but it felt like an expensive lunch, and not in a good way.  Local food is, unfortunately, expensive.  Go figure.

This was real food, it was fast food served in what felt like a fast-paced lunch joint, but the price-point on the meal just didn’t scream “value” to me.  In this economic climate it’s pretty dodgy ground to open your doors on.

Food or fail rating: Fail

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 10, 2011

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

by HeSaid

We arrive at the Modern Cafe on the busiest night Nanaimo has seen in a year. Cruise ships, concerts and prom night have collided in a perfect storm of hippies, hipsters and boisterous wannabe bar-stars.

After a period of waiting in the entryway (perhaps they want to let us absorb the ambiance) we’re seated at small booth near the entrance.

It’s my wont to refer to front-of-house staff as servers instead of waitresses. Not tonight. Tonight, the term “waitress” takes on a whole new meaning for me while “server” loses any it had.

I leaf through a menu of standard west coast surf & turf. Pasta, prawns, steak, haddock…

Wait a sec… haddock? Isn’t haddock the crap they use in Captain Highliner’s fish sticks? (it is). I figure that the world must be out of halibut and cod and move on.

When our waitress (who I will call “Shannon”) shows up, it’s to tell me that they don’t have the pale ale I’ve selected. Good news though, they just got back from a sweet kegger and have some leftovers that I might enjoy.

I pick the lesser of two evils. From then on, it’s a long night of watching and waiting while Shannon performs a ballet of avoidance, going out of her way to ignore us at every opportunity. I remark that I may not be cool enough and suggest throat-punching a hipster and stealing their scarf to see if it helps.

Shannon finds time to bring us a single pint and glass of water to share. We remind her that we’re both thirsty and send her back for the remainder of our order. She returns (eventually) and with a twinge I order the $15 hamburger.

You should assume at this point that there was a lot of waiting in between when we ordered and when the food arrives. When it does arrive it’s impressively huge. A voice across the table remarks, “How am I gonna fit my mouth around that?” Insert obvious punchline.

The burger is good. Really good. $15 good. The beef is well flavoured, evenly cooked, and appropriately saucy with healthy portions of fresh veg and stringy mozza. The fries are just how I like ’em.

I eagerly devour my meal with the grace of a komodo dragon, put my napkin down on my plate and push it off to the side. Shannon walks by the table, deftly ignoring my empty plate and pint glass. She does this 15 more times, and would have again if another staffer hadn’t taken it away.

The Modern continues to morph into a 20 something martini bar while the upscale eatery I wanted disappears disappointingly into the rising volume of a bad iPod playlist. Does that make me old? Maybe. What it doesn’t make me is a returning customer.

Food or Fail rating: Fail

May 10, 2011

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

by SheSaid

Wow. That’s pretty much the start and the end of it for me: wow. And not in a good way either.

I’ve never been blown away by the Modern Cafe but it was a new day, I liked what the new owner was doing with social media, and my heart was open. “We want you to have an unforgettable experience,” owner Scott Cooper says on the web site. Mission accomplished.

When we arrived on Saturday night the restaurant was still recovering from an earlier event; the staff, bar, and kitchen seemed visibly shattered before dinner service even began. The place was humming with no shortage of bodies on the floor, yet none seemed interested in what was happening at the door. Where we stood. And stood (a trend I noticed that evening.) When we were finally seated the hostess (?) dropped (yes dropped) our menus on the table and showed us her back.

It would be another ten minutes before we saw our waitress. We tried to order beers from the menu but they weren’t available so we waited some more and then received only one pint of what they did have. I did manage to get a glass of water though.

The menu–which we had no shortage of time to study–was standard West Coast fare. Already my confidence was shaken, and I didn’t want to chance a $20+ plate, so I opted for the burger. It came with french fries and fried potato products seldom disappoint.

We waited some more.

Now let’s get this out of the way: it was a very good burger with visible garlic, stringy mozzarella and bacon (not too crisp) with fresh vegetables and a nice thick patty, cooked evenly all the way through. “How am I going to get my mouth around this?”, I wondered aloud (yes, the joke writes itself). Our meal was tasty, the fries hand-cut and crispy. I managed to finish the whole thing but just barely.

Oh, the things we witnessed: hostess with back to customers at the door, waitress chatting at the bar (instead of taking our order), other customers’ expectant gazes, craving service. Our waitress would reveal herself to be a master of intentional-gaze-avoidance, striding past empty plates and glasses with nary a look. It was truly something to behold, this exercise in negligence.

After almost two hours we couldn’t wait to get out: the music was loud, the chatter overpowering, and our irritation palpable. As good as that burger was I won’t be forgetting not to go back. There are other good burgers in this town. And if I want crappy service I can get on the phone with Telus.

Food or Fail rating: Fail

April 21, 2011

Nori Japanese Restaurant – Sean’s Review (aka “He said”)

by HeSaid

We walk through the doors of Nori to a chorus of cheers from the sushi bar. I get the feeling that they’re excited to cook for us, one I’m about to realize was probably delirium caused by mild hypoglycemia.

The first thing I notice at our table is the metal chopsticks. The second thing I notice is a bit of mung on one of them. I’m not sure if it’s food or a booger. I ponder it before wiping it off.

The green tea they bring is tasty. It’s also, sadly, lukewarm. I find their inability to heat water disconcerting but decide to chalk it up to apathy rather than incompetence.

Nori has a great selection of bento boxes priced between $9 and $12. I put in an order of gyoza and a beef teriyaki box.

The miso arrives. It’s tasty enough, but it lacks the complexity of flavour I’ve found in other miso. The giant metal spoon is a definite turn-off; something I’d expect from a greasy diner, not a traditional Japanese eatery.

The gyoza come with an unfamiliar dipping sauce. They’re small, and stale, and I’m starting to wonder if maybe I’m getting somebody’s leftovers. Just as I’ve choked back a couple of dumplings, the boxes arrive tableside.

The bento boxes at Nori are huge, awkwardly so. I hate feeling crowded when I eat so I quickly force down the rest of the gyoza to make room on the table. I scoop up the meager portion of wasabe and dump it into my soya dish. It’s at this point that I really regret the metal chopsticks. As I mix the wasabe paste, it sounds like Freddy Krueger is dragging his claws down a chalkboard.

The teriyaki beef tastes of shame and dishonour. I drown it in soya sauce and cram it in my maw with a lack of enthusiasm I usually reserve for breakfast cereal and cheezy puffs. The California roll is less like sushi and more like Elmer’s glue rolled in papiermâché. The tempura is greasy and hard to eat. Each bite of my bento box is another step down the road of disappointment.

Nori does very well on Urban Spoon, but I think those people probably haven’t eaten at other Japanese restaurants. Unless they threaten sepuku, I won’t be going back anytime soon.

Food or Fail rating: Fail