There is a certain pressure when a friend refers to you a restaurant that they love and then gift you a certificate to enjoy it. You almost feel obligated to love it by proxy, and enjoy it cause your meal is basically paid for. There is even more pressure when you are a blogger and know that they will be reading your work and what you write could affect your relationship in the future. Luckily I need not exaggerate or embellish, their love of this establishment was founded, and I enjoyed myself as much as they do each and every time they go. They visit at least once a month and by coincidence we found ourselves doing so together at the same time today.
Judging it by its exterior, it might not be a restaurant I regularly gravitate towards. First of all the location is out of the way for me; and second of all, the interior is a little out there. Looking through the window, it was like we were staring at a darkroom. Red bulbs shining red light over decor that looked like theatre propping, or goods for sale at an antique store. Each window framing a rich scene of drapery, crystal, and bobbles. As a result we drove past it not realizing what we had missed it. Their name wasn’t in lights and their awning was dark, it didn’t look like a restaurant. But I guess the red lights can be plenty eye catching driving by.
Not surprising it was slow on a Monday evening. We were the only other table of three seated during our stay. Not that we were complaining, it felt like we had the place to ourselves and we certainly had all the attention from the lone server. She only paused her time with us to receive my friends in and show them to “their” table. Regulars get treated like a visiting friend. A designated seat, a personalized greeting, and acknowledgment of conversations had in the past.
We were all served by one of the owners. A very friendly women who seemed genuinely happy to be doing what she was. She was welcoming when she received us and seemed to beam with pride when we asked her questions about her restaurant and took interest in her chef. She checked in often and was honest about her menu. She warned me when servings were small and suggested items that she thought I would like. She was attentive and caring. Truly I felt welcomed and comfortable in a larger, quieter, emptier restaurant because of her.
The setting can be best described as eclectic-cabert. Wall to ceiling of stuff. Paintings and frames ajared above the rafters, mirrors embellished in gold, white stone busts, velvet cloth drapes, curtains hung on rods, beaded chandeliers, and various works of art. There was no space left uncovered, an assortment of worldly objects gathered through travel. And here you existed, small within it, surrounded by smooth jazz and whispered conversation.
The menu was surprising. It all sounded great, but I hate to say I was apprehensive to order much of it. This was given their location and the traffic today, I was skeptical. However, I should have taken my benefactor’s recommendation of the place to heart, and ordered to my own heart’s content. Their menu covered it all from fresh salads to hearty pastas, rich appetizers, filing entrees, and decadent desserts.
A complimentary basket of white and brown baguette slices with butter. I am more partial to bread being served being warm and soft, so that the butter just melts when you spread it on.
I have been carbo-loading as of late and my body was telling me that I needed some vegetables. And after reading the description of their “Smoked bocconcini salad”, it seemed like the one to get. This tower was constructed out of marinated beets, vine ripened tomato, basil, and smoked bocconcini mozzarella. Coated in basil scented olive oil. It delivered on flavour as well as visual display. It was a stunning plate full of fresh ingredients paired with a quality oil. The diced beets were a little salty in its pickling, a heavy contrast to the the sweetest tomato.
Being more hungry, my partner went for the “New York (AAA)” and wasn’t disappointed. This was a herb rubbed and char grilled striploin, with a herb red wine demi. To our delight it came with a bevy of vegetables, all hidden under the slab of medium rare steak. They didn’t even asked us how we liked our steak prepared, it just came with the perfect centre of pink. The potatoes were artistically carved and well seasoned. There were beets chopped in half, baby carrots peeled, and broccolini in lengthy stems. This was a very satisfying well rounded plate.
“Slow roasted pork shank” in a spiced caramel glaze. They were generous in their portions.
“Prawn and Bay scallop” with angel hair pasta in a tomato and saffron sauce.
Overall we felt the decor took away from the food at times, as everything wore a tint of red, it soured my dining experience a little as a visual diner. I eat with eyes before I taste with my tongue. Photos with and without light.
Also, given the cuisine, the food would have been better paired with a more modern setting. In a place like this I would expect coffee and teas, cocktails and small plates. Something funky and fun to match the walls. As a result, it took away from the food and the food distracted from the setting. I wanted them as two different restaurants, and they certainly could have done it, given the space they possessed. A laid back lounge and a fine dining restaurant.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I didn’t know what to expect walking in. But looks can be deceiving, and as a result this was certainly can be classified as a hidden gem. The decor gives diners lots to converse over and the food much to remember. It is as great of a place to eat, as it is one to lounge within. I don’t do much dining in the Port Moody Area, but if they are all like this, I should start. Don’t deny your cravings.