Posts tagged ‘hesaid’

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

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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 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

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

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 19, 2011

Cucina di Casa – Sean’s review (aka “He Said)

by HeSaid

Until recently, I figured the only place in Nanaimo to get anything close to traditional Italian was Little George’s, so I was excited to discover an Italian eatery so close to home.

Cucina di Casa, previously the Grapevine Trattoria on Wesley street, is a (relatively) new Nanaimo restaurant specializing in Italian cuisine. The name, promisingly, means “home cooking” in Italian and I’m a BIG fan of traditional home cooked Italian cuisine so I was really looking forward to rockin’ a little lunch at il ristorante.

It was lunchtime when we arrived, and the Casa was casa-non-grata save for a single family seated across the room from us. The first thing that stood out for me (aside from the wrinkled tablecloth) were the menus. They offered a nice selection of dishes priced between $10 and $13 with a nice variety of pasta dishes, panini and other Italian classics. I opted for the polpetta (meatball) sandwich with a side of… fries? Not really traditional, but I do like a good fried potato so what the heck.

Food came quickly and didn’t disappoint. The meatballs were well spiced and cooked perfectly. Juicy, fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic and Italian spice adorned my sandwich along with a smattering of savoury red sauce. Not so much as to drown the meatballs, but just enough to add a bit of extra flavour.

Fries were quite tasty, crispy and seasoned to perfection, though I feel they could have used another minute in the fryer.

After thoroughly demolishing my sammich, I found myself desperately wanting for an espresso. Sadly, I managed to pick the day that the machine would explode. It’s like the song says, you can’t always get what you want – but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.

And that I did. While Cucina di Casa isn’t a traditional Italian diner as much as it’s a restaurant that serves Italian food – the service was adequate, the food was fantastico, and I’ll definitely be going back to try more. You should too, it’s totally buona.

Food or Fail rating: Food

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

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