A recent arrival in Halifax is Saege, located on Spring Garden Rd and Summer St in a new development adjacent to the Public Gardens. It is a large, bright space divided into a sidewalk-level "sunroom" with an equal sized room more inside. Decor is beautiful, with tones of lime and tan very artfully done. On a sunny day it is hard to think of a more pleassant spot to watch the city go by.
The menu is ambitious with a large number of choices. Saege is run by the Simensen family, who have been a Halifax restaurant presence for years (Scanway, Sweet Basil) and who certainly know how to cook. Appetizers for our group included all 3 of the soups offered, all excellent. Mains included the special of the day, a chicken penne pasta in a tomato cream sauce, deemed outstanding; beef striploin, which was very good; and a selection of things off the lighter fare menu -- grilled shrimp tacos (disappointing), crab cakes (good) and latkas with smoked salmon, judged excellent.
It was extremely busy and I understand that is usually the case. Perhaps that, combined with the large and ambitious menu, explains the service, which was excruciatingly slow and somewhat confused, albeit pleasant. Prices were about what you would expect for an upscale place in this part of town, but not outrageously expensive. I would go back, because it was enjoyable in spite of the service problems they faced. Sitting in that sunroom on a nice day it's hard to be too cranky.
I have eaten there quite a few times for business luncheons - not my idea. I could never quite understand the fascination with this place. Is it simply the fashionable location, the neighborhood or the trappings which bespeak of a good restaurant? Agreed service is slow and abysmal most of the time, the servers have a haughty attitude which I might understand if this were a restaurant atop the heap, the food doesn't indicate anything of the sort. Double thumbs down - for service, food and pretense.
I confess to never having been to Saege personally But my duaghter has and it was her experience that made me avoid it.
She is celiac and MUST eat gluten-free. The server did not take her request seriously at a recent dinner event and she ended up having to leave all the food she had ordered...even after explaining her dietery dilemna, he still served a bread- crumb-covered item that had contaminated the plate. The restaurant was the choice of her husband's elderly relative (who played hostess and paid) so she didn't want to make an unpleasant fuss.
Offputting, though...and, as has been mentioned, such a shame with that location...
During my first visit the food was delicious & the service was average, but my second visit (and last visit ever) during brunch was awful:
- the server abruptly answered “no” when I asked if I could order off the lunch menu
- the table hadn't been well cleaned after the previous patron
- my water was never refilled & he never checked how my meal was. The omelette was BAD...it was a catch-all for leftovers (roast beef, broccoli, bocconcini).
- I know he hadn’t forgotten about me because he cleared my plates and brought my bill very quickly when I'd finished eating
- ignoring me freed up extra time for him to chat with his coworkers
- when he brought the payment machine to my table and I didn't leave a tip, he plunked down my receipt on the table and just walked away without saying a word
Halfway back to my car I decided to return and let someone know my concerns directly. I saw the server and calmly told him why I was unhappy with my experience. He said, "I profusely apologize." I was willing to leave it at that, but as I was walking out of the restaurant, he loudly said "WOW" in a drawn-out, mocking tone.
I e-mailed the business owner & chef the very next day, and he hasn’t responded after a month.
I eat out a lot, tip well even for average service, rarely complain and have never before written a restaurant review. But in this case, I feel the server’s rudeness and owner/chef’s indifference justifies it.
Spend your money elsewhere, folks!
I ate there a few nights ago with a few friends for the Pizza Pasta Special. It was a real disappointment because the menu had been severely scaled back and all the high ticket items removed and replaced with some mediocre stuff. The food tasted alright except the Pizza had a bit too much sauce and was very bruscetta-like, in that raw uncooked sauce way. The Macaroni and Cheese with applewood smoked cheddar and chipotle ketchup was more like a tubini swimming in a pool of alfredo sauce but tasted alright. I was expecting a baked dish. The dessert was nothing special but the berries were fresh and delicious. It wasn't until that evening and the next day that we all got painful stomach cramps! I threw my left-overs out. I think they served us their kitchen leftovers. Don't think we'll risk their 'special' menu again.
The wines we had were fine, although if you asked me whether I'd order them again, I'd probably say no. It's a bit of a strange argument in any case -- I'm glad that they have such a list with such variety; it sure beats a choice of Sawmill Creek or Fortant as by the glass selections. I just think that if I'm going to spend $75 on a bottle I better know something about it, and most of the choices are not household words.
One other thing about the food I forgot first time around: they don't seem to have a handle on seasoning in the kitchen. Aside from the salads, which were good in that regard, much of the rest of the food seemed oddly bland. My plate came garnished with a large rosemary sprig, but none of that flavor was to be found in the food.
Wow, Greg, 90 mintutes is way too long for anywhere, let alone a lunch place. It sounds like there may be a disconnect between the kitchen and the front house - I posted earlier on this - at lunch they have so many menu items it makes a turnaround time long. This is a chef owned place, and the problems may very well lie in that person's desire to show all of their food items, and not admit to actually having made a mistake in trying to do too much at lunch.
When the boss is the chef, the age old competition between front house and kitchen staff can become unbalanced in favour of the kitchen - this can result in a perceived lack of care to the actual customer. Meanwhile a server has to face the customer.
And unless a kitchen can adjust to the needs of the customers, as intrepreted by the servers, and change the menu to be able to provide good food in a timely manner, ultimately they will lose customers.
Though I hear they are still swamped - they may get into that Yogi Berra thing of being so popular, nobody goes there anymore.
And as for the wines - I pretty well know them all. Familiarity is a relative thing, and that list is designed to force you to relax any label based reliance you might have and enjoy good wine. It is one way to discover new wines, chosen by someone with a pretty good palate and experience in what people like.
The wine list here is great, and rewards the knowledgeable patron. It changes a lot, so don't expect that great wine you had two months ago to still be available. I especially appreciate the "by the glass" selection. The menu is too big for the size of the place I think, and contributes to the long wait one can experience. Especially the lunch menu, which is unchanged from the dinner menu.
I was there again today and had yet another long, drawn-out experience. The slowness is a real problem. The server we had was wonderful, but the kitchen seemed to run on its own schedule. It was extremely busy as one might expect on a Friday lunchtime before Christmas, but after 90 minutes we still had no main courses presented.
The by the glass wine selctions were appreciated, although the list carried mostly unfamiliar brands, so I wouldn't call it great for that reason. The quality of the food was variable, generally good but not great for what we ordered, though the presentations were good. I'm not sure about Saege -- it is maddening that it could be so much better with what seems like a little bit of change. I'm not sure what the problem is. Still, it seems that many people like it judging from how busy it is.
I am afraid Greg B. that I am going to have to post our experience at Saege to give a bit more of a balanced view. Five of us ate there on a Saturday evening. It was not busy, maybe half full. The service was just downright poor. The menu certainly is adventuresome but unfortunately it appeared to be beyond the kitchen's capabilities. Our appetizers arrived aftger an agonizing wait. We then began our ordeal that lasted over an hour of waiting for our main course. We ordered nothing complex, there was no apology or explanation. We did not appreciate the view through the window into the kitchen so that we could see that the kitchen staff were not busy and seemed in no rush to give us our meal in a reasonable time. The food was nothing special and we found the whole experience quite disappointing. We have not repeated our visit to this restaurant.
Agreed Greg, Saege does have an ambitious menu.
Nice wine list. Not sure what vintage of the Osoyoos-Larose they are selling but at $68 I can understand why it is or was only available for a limited time. It is $41 to $45 retail locally [AB].
I am trying to picture the intersection of Spring Garden Rd. and Summer.
re: Bob Mac
Bob, I had the Osoyoos-Larose at one of my Bish visits (see other post) and they offered it for around the same price. It is a fantastic wine, the best Canadian red I have ever had. Nova Scotia only received about 50 cases province-wide, so it is scarce stuff.
Spring Garden and Summer is at the west end of the Public Gardens, up towards Robie St. Summer St. is the divided boulevard that runs along one side of the Gardens and connects the 2 hospital sites. There used to be 2 big Victorian residences at that corner that had businesses in their lower level, They were knocked down for this new commercial/residential development, which includes the old Garden Crest apartments on Summer (with their outside verandahs). The Garden Crest has been recreated on the same site and is very nicely done BTW (I'd love to live there!).
re: Greg B.
Thanks Greg. Can picture the location perfectly now. When I used to wander back up to my digs on Vernon Street...usually with a donair in one hand...after a nite downtown I would walk..ok, stagger...right past it.
Had lunch earlier today at an Earls which is a western Canadian [with a few American locations as well] chain. Had a bottle of the '03 Vintage Osoyoos-Larose for $43 which is less than some spots are selling it retail.
This label has come in for a lot of criticism out here but I have enjoyed the three vintages I have tasted and I think that this is the best of the lot. Less "green" and more ageing potential.