Today I had the good fortune to dine at Fiasco, on Brenton St. just off Spring Garden Road in Halifax. Fiasco is run by owners Mary Beth (front of house) and Martin (chef) Keyzlar, who work hard at ensuring a good experience.
The restaurant is fairly small, and is rather dark inside, with red walls, subdued lighting, and elegant settings. The chairs are upholstered in white fabric to match the high-quality linens used on the tables. The only jarring point in the decor is the original art on the walls (some of which appears to be for sale by the artist), which really wasn't to my taste, but that hardly matters.
Fiasco has a very good wine list and a fairly extensive menu. Today's food was, without exception, outstanding. Our party of six was unanimous in praising the quality of the dishes presented to us. My appetizer of cheese tortellini with prosciutto was supurb, with a sauce that demanded to be finished with the excellent bread served. Chef Martin seems to have a real knack with sauces, as several of our group had either appetizers or mains with sauces that were just fabulous. My main was a selection of seafood -- scallops (incredibly creamy and flavorful), mussels, and salmon presented simply with a light sauce, served with rice topped with mango salsa and brussels sprouts that I actually liked, possibly a first for me. It was really good, but I wished I had ordered what another in our group had, the seared bigeye tuna which looked fabulous. But no complaints -- every dish was enjoyed by all. Service was professional and friendly without being intrusive. All in all, a most enjoyable visit.
The only downside was the price. Fiasco is, not surprisingly, not inexpensive. Appetizers were $9 to $14, mains $22 to $34. That places it in the range of places like DaMaurizio, Gio, and Fid. Where would it rank in that group? I can't judge Fid until I pay a return visit, so I need to leave that off any list. Of the remaining 3, Fiasco is more like DaMaurizio than Gio. In both, the food is richer and more heavily sauced, and the atmosphere is more opulent in an Old-World kind of way, than Gio's modernist approach. Neither is better, just different. I find Fiasco a more easygoing and comfortable experience than DaM, with the food perhaps just a fraction below DaM if that place has Maurizio himself in the kitchen that night. Most of the time you will find Chef Martin at Fiasco, and on nights where Maurizio is not in the kitchen at DaM, I'll take Fiasco. But either way, you can't go wrong for an excellent high-end dining experience in Halifax.
My husband and I were in Halifax the first weekend of December for 3 nights. Bearing in mind that it was Christmas party season, we ate at Chives, Fiasco's and Da Maurizios respectively. Fiasco's was, by far, the most enjoyable of the three. (Chives was a close second-with our table of 8 getting lost in all of the large tables at Maurizio's-in fact it was one of the most dissapointing meals that I have ever had at DaMaurizios-even the service was sub par for there). Martin and MaryBeth made a point of ensuring that everything was to our liking. (we were a table of 6)
We all had three courses, the tuna, the filet topped with goat cheese and the calamari were the standouts of the evening.
I have to agree with Greg B that you can't go wrong at Fiasco's for excellent dining.
Well, it looks like my list of places to eat in Halifax has just had Fiasco move up to near the top. We ate there a couple of years ago, but it sounds like it is time again. Need to try Mezza (new med/Lebanese on Quinpool) but hard to imagine it being better than Kababji....(if you have not been, go). Oddd no-one mentions Bish or Press Gang... people keep raving to me about them, and my experiences at both have left me lighter in pocket, bored in palate.
I have dined twice at Fiasco this fall after not having been since just after it opened. While I was not overly impressed with my early visit, I must say it has improved immensely. I enjoyed both meals; the now-famous-in-Halifax calamari is deservedly so; the chili/lime sauce with a dollop of homemade aioli in the middle is very zesty, but it's the batter that makes the dish. Unimaginably crispy, yet dry, not greasy. Not sure how they do it. For main courses, on one occasion I tried the free-range chicken and on another the gemelli pasta with chorizo sausage, shrimp, and spinach in a rose sauce. I think the chicken dish was my favorite with a lovely blend of flavors, but the pasta was well-prepared also. Priced at 23/24$ respectively, I didn't agree with GregB that this restaurant ought to be grouped with Fid or Gio... there are rarely main course options at those restaurants that are under 25. It is comparable to Chives or the new Sebastien's Bistro (old Deco space on Spring Garden) in price. Although the calamari comes in pretty dear at 11$.
Speaking of Sebastien's I was blown away by my first visit here... the "poulet avec sauce aux deux raisins" to DIE FOR!!! If the rest of the food is as good as this, then Halifax will finally have a true French restaurant, that may last!
Chives and Fid are still cream of the crop in my opinion; have eaten at both a few times in 2007. GIO is also very good, although has shot up drastically in price since the reno's. They also went a bit overboard (think: a la Claudio Aprile, the foam and lacquer happy chef in Toronto) on the uber-modernism of their latest dishes; I'm waiting till January to give it another try since I was told they'd finally have a new menu coming out.
Last but not least: Charlotte Lane in Shelburne, still gets my vote as the best non-metro restaurant in NS (although to date, I've yet to try the 'new' Tempest in Wolfville). I really hope Roland Glauser opens a place in Halifax at some point. 2 1/2 hours is just too far to drive in the winter, although I make it a point to get down there a few times in the spring/summer/fall.