This was the latest destination for our seasonal, girls night steak night. We have already hit the major steakhouses and were now exploring the lesser known ones to see how they stack up. It wasn’t until I read to the taxi driver the address of my destination did I realize the restaurant was named after the building’s number. Originally I thought it referred to the period in time which they took their influences from.
Located kitty corner to the intersection of Comox and Denman you may miss it your first time around the block. Finding parking is a hard task, with no designated lots or many street side meters, a hike to your destination is often required in this area. Hence my decision to taxi, which also supported my wanting to drink.
They are a recent addition to the neighbourhood. I couldn’t make out much detail in the darken room. A space purposefully kept dim for a more romantic ambience. An iconic space was brought back to it’s original grandeur with plush red mohair booths, large leather chairs, curtained off private rooms, and a well stocked bar. Most impressive was the art above us. A fresco painted ceiling of cherubs intertwined with ribbons and vines.
Decorations consisted of oversized vases fitted with elaborate floral arrangements, a mirror etched in pattern, and black and white photography. The bar only sat five on red velvet cushioned stools. And not only did it serve premium top shelf liquor it also hosted an oyster bar and their “ship to shore” feature. An advertisement drawn in chalk on a black board. A doodle of cartoon fish and a palm trees. Cute, but it didn’t really match the more formal theme of the place.
Every little detail that surrounded us added to the preconceived air of opulence. Miniature lamps in yellow or red topped each table clothed in black. They stood along side the slender salt and pepper shakers and the carefully positioned cutlery and side plates. Like the layout everything was landed to best exemplify the stage and your relative position to it. Tables were stacked tip to tip. With two chairs a piece everyone got a view of the stage, towards the back of the room. Sitting in one of the deep back chairs with its upholstered cushions and wooden armrests, you are given the feeling of regality. Though due to the bulkiness of the chair and the precision angling it was in, there wasn’t really any possibility of shifting when I wanted. The music was loud and the ability to hold a conversation practically non existent; more so when we were unable to remove the gap between us to talk in loud whispers.
Live jazz and blues performances happen regularly, every Tuesday and Friday to Sunday; a rotation of performers. This Friday was such a night, an event we did not expect. Despite the menu we were not charged the mentioned $10 cover fee, nor forced the $20 minimum spend. Though with a menu this rich there wasn’t much under $10. Just as well, we had come to eat and had come to chat, and truthfully found the loud music a hinderance to both. But a couple glasses of wine in I started appreciating the artists and their excitement for their own music. I didn’t dance as the lead singer requested but did sing along when I could, much to my guest’s chagrin. It was a nice treat, something not common. And it was clear that majority of the mature crowd that held seats tonight were here for the live music.
As a whole the setting felt classic and aged. The restaurant had a homey feel, quaint despite the attempt at being fancy with furniture. A good place to name as your regular hang out, if you can afford it. With friendly staff and professional service they would certainly make an effort to get to know you and to welcome you like a friend. Our server was observant enough to notice a gift/card that my guest had with her and inquired about the occasion that brought us here. And when I sat down she made the effort to wish me a belated birthday. Later the chef and owner came out to introduce himself and his restaurant to us towards the end of their service. It was a nice touch, putting a face behind the place. He spoke about the music, the food, and was genuinely proud of what he had achieved here. He then ended the conversation with his business card.
The menu was two pages of seafood and red meat, with prices comparable to those at other steakhouses. Seeing them I expected the quality to be on par as well. But unfortunately left disappointed. There was no bread to start, and our appetizers and entrees came all at once. Therefore there was a need for us to rush through it all to ensure our steak was still warm when we got to it.
Each of our appetizers came in threes. Knowing that we would be sharing, it would have been nice to have been given the option of adding another portion so that we each had two a piece. Instead we were forced to half a crab cake that fell apart and split a shrimp down the middle to be fair.
“Baked Dungeness crab cakes” with sweet pea shoots and pineapple salsa. This was my favourite of the night. You could tell each cake was moulded with real flaky crab meat. Given with the amount of crab and the lack of fillers, a whole crab and then some probably went in to making these. The other ingredients mentioned either came on top or were laid on the bottom. The pea shoots gave the creamy crab some freshness and the pineapple a nice tangy zing. Though I felt it was still a little bland, but didn’t want to risk adding anything to take away from the lightness in the crab.
“Grilled jumbo shrimp cocktail”. I don’t know how many I expected for $17 but I feel a little under $6 per shrimp is steep. Having said that these were delicious sweet shrimp. As some of the largest I have ever had, they earned their “jumbo” moniker. The iceberg lettuce was more for show and went unbeaten. The cocktail sauce I found no different from that which you can find prepackaged in jars. It had a nice sweet tomato flavour, like a toned down and more organic tasting ketchup.
Their three options for steaks were all from the same place and were prepared the same way, you just got to choose your cuts. This was Spring Creek Ranch’s 40 day aged beef charbroiled. Raised with no antibiotics, no hormones, and no steroids. Each cow is only fed a wholesome diet of forages and rolled barley. And each prepared steak is served with market select potatoes and vegetables. We got the biggest and fattest of cuts, the “12oz. Ribeye steak”. Our options for sauces were between the traditional peppercorn, my preference the garlic butter, or a béarnaise. Our waitress strongly recommended the latter and that was what we got. We did so only to find it just tangy and buttery, believing we would have preferred the garlic butter instead. The plating felt random and the steak was not as tasty as I had hoped or would expect at $45 a plate. It was two cuts joined together by tendon. Though what made for a lack lustre presentation made for easy sharing. We had requested medium rare and instead got a medium if not well done slab. My guest didn’t want to trouble the staff, so refused to send it back. We were left chewing through dry ends and paying too much for it. The vegetables were flavoured in the same peppery sauce as the steak. Baby bok choy, baby bell peppers, zucchini, garlic cloves, turnips, and a potato cake.
Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I am torn with this one. The service was inspiring, the theme well thought out, but for what was charged I did not feel the food lived up to the expectations and the evaluations. Though I was curious about their $3.50 a piece miniature desserts. It was a good way to have a taste of the seven small bites offered. For those who like live music especially jazz and blues this would be a good dinner-ing spot for you. To enjoy good music with a glass of wine in hand. Just be warned there may be those like me who only come in to eat and to drink, that may serve as a distraction. And for those here for classic cuisine in a quiet setting, they have recently added a porch out front. It offers the same experience as indoor, only steps from English Bay. Don’t deny your cravings.