FOOD AND DRINK
Where to Dine Finely in Halifax
If you’re looking to splash out on dinner in Halifax, the options range from a hip bistro with reclaimed wood and no reservations to a hotel dining room with starched tablecloths and smart service. Here are four top spots for a memorable meal.
Since opening two years ago in the rapidly gentrifying North End, Jenna Mooers’ riotously fun restaurant remains one of the hottest tables in town. Sure, she doesn’t take reservations, but if you have to wait, terrific cocktails and hip bar food at Field Guide across the street make the transition much easier. The room is stunning, full of vintage barn boards, white subway tiles, and a huge, modern chandelier lighting up the communal table. Chef Robert Reynolds’s kitchen turns out contemporary bistro fare like a gorgeous halibut tartare in a creamy avocado dressing triggered with lime and chili, and deeply flavoured Blue Dot filet mignon from P.E.I. napped with chimichurri sauce and flanked by crisp, salty frites. On the superb wine list, pay special attention to the Blomidin Crémant, a local sparkling wine that pairs brilliantly with just about everything on the menu.
2053 Gottingen St., 902-431-5683
The Bicycle Thief
To see what Halifax’s young and eligible are up to on weekends book a dinner table – well in advance, mind you – at this lively trattoria in the Bishop’s Landing development on the waterfront. From the energy in the packed room, you know the drinks are flowing, whether it’s cocktails shaken up by handsome bartenders – try the spicy Gin-Gin Mule – or one of the premium wines by the glass from the Enomatic preservation system. On the epically long menu, scroll your eyes to the bottom and order the raviolini stuffed with lobster and mascarpone in a bright, cheesy rosé sauce. It’s one of the best dishes in town. The old-school chicken parmigiano served with creamy fettuccini Alfredo is also first rate. If you want to follow the crowd after, hit the bars on Argyle Street.
1475 Lower Water St., 902-425-7993
While hotel dining rooms tend to be melancholy places – “Table for one, please” – the premiere restaurant at the Prince George Hotel draws everyone from 20-somethings on a hot date to three generations of family celebrating a big birthday. Make sure to reserve one of the plush, U-shaped booths, where you can roll like Frank, Sammy and Dean. The food occasionally suffers from too many elements on one plate, but the execution is sharp and the portions would best a hungry stevedore. Crisp and tender fried calamari is piled higher than the Citadel Hill and is sauced beautifully with a punchy puttanesca. Vegetables get plenty of attention here, like a warm salad of cauliflower, rapini and red cabbage in a mustardy bacon dressing that supports perfectly seared scallops. Service is relaxed but efficient, and most wines are under $70.
1725 Market St., 902-425-1987
Chives Canadian Bistro
Aesthetically, this local landmark doesn’t make the best first impression. The grungy entrance to the building is more suited to a massage parlour, and the garish dining room looks likes like a DIY battle between the colour blind and a Phish fanatic. But try to block it out because there is some seriously delicious food coming out of Craig Flinn’s kitchen. Laid on a swoosh of spinach cream, the hefty fishcake is deservedly famous, cut with the bite of mustard pickle and a lemony fennel salad. Barely grilled and intensely sweet Digby scallops have a huge supporting cast that includes Parmesan-jacked gnocchi, sweet peas, blistered cherry tomatoes, and a superb red pepper sauce. If you have room for dessert, the superlative Pavlova is a must. The selection of wines by the glass offers a great introductory course on the oenological delights of Nova Scotia.
1537 Barrington St., 902-420-9626
Eric Vellend was a professional cook for more than a decade before trading in his knives for a laptop. Since then he's been a restaurant critic at Toronto Life, the wine columnist at The Grid, and the food editor at Canadian House & Home. You can follow his eating and drinking exploits @ericvellend.
This article was originally published on October 30, 2015