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Most Overrated/Underrated Fine Dining in Halifax

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MexiCokeHead Jun 24, 2012 05:41 PM

Hey all!

Can anyone recommend a restaurant in Halifax that would actually impress a Torontonian? A New Yorker? An Angeleno?

Planning a trip to Halifax in August and I want to eat well. I'm a Haligonian who lives across the country now, and if there's one thing fellow transplants and I discuss a lot it's why is Halifax so bereft of fine food? With the abundance of farm-fresh produce so close by, great seafood walking distance away and a vibrant arts community attracting young talent, why can't I get a meal on the level of, maybe not Vancouver or New York, but somewhere like Cleveland, Tampa Bay or Portland?

Last time I was in town I checked out a few places that people gushed about and was shocked at the low quality of the food. However, there were a couple of spots that surprised me, that no one was talking about.

UNDERRATED -

Bistro Le Coq - French food near Neptune Theater - I had some super fresh mussels, wonderful Beausoleil oysters and overall the food quality was high. Good cocktails, friendly bartender. Just did lunch but looking forward to dinner on this next trip - can't wait to try their french onion soup. Service was great too.

Fries and Co - On Chebucto Rd - not much going on in the neighborhood but damn those fried clams were fantastic

OVERRATED -

A Mano - Italian by the waterfront - Bland, uninspired, even for the price point. Should I even bother doing The Bicycle Thief or is it more of the same?

Morris East - Pizza with an overly thick/tough crust that seemed out of a freezer, very little tomato sauce (that tasted like out of a can), vegetable toppings had a clear lack of freshness - not sure where they get their ingredients, but it ain't farm fresh or imported from Italy. Gotta give them points for that salted caramel tart which was BRILLIANT and definitely ranks up there with some of the best desserts I've had. But the pizza was a huge disappointment.

RATED JUST RIGHT -

Hamachi House - Usually fresh and high quality - it boggles the mind why so many sushi joints in Halifax just don't use fresh fish!

The Coastal Cafe - Lovely brunch, wish the menu was a little less meat-heavy - when I'm in the maritimes all I want is smoked fish.

What do y'all think - what are the most underrated/overrated joints in Halifax? Any places that stack up against Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver?

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  1. h
    HalifaxRetales RE: MexiCokeHead Jun 25, 2012 12:28 AM

    When were you last at Fries & Co since the ownership change 6 months ago it has not been nearly up to snuff

    1. c
      chilibeanpaste RE: MexiCokeHead Jul 1, 2012 09:21 PM

      When visitors ask me where to go for seafood in Halifax I'm at a total loss. I've lived here forever and have never had a recommendation. I would have to send them off tioFleur de Sel in Lunenburg, unless it was a busload of tourists that would do with the touristy Five Fisherman on Argyle.

      Over-rated - Saege, spiffy spot (plastic flowers out front!), poor service and mediocre food. Chives - good service, generous prtions, food cooked well but plates are a jumble of too many things & tastes, if only they could keep it simple they'd fare much better.

      Quite a few that have impressed New Yorker friends, mainly ethnic though Fid stands high on their ultimate list.

      Coastal Café meat heavy? You wouldn't gain weight on the amount of meat served in their great dishes.

      4 Replies
      1. re: chilibeanpaste
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        fryerlover RE: chilibeanpaste Jul 2, 2012 11:46 AM

        I was in Halifax a few weeks ago. I'd have to say the happy hour oysters are a greatdeals at Five Fisherman. We could not get those types for those prices in Toronto. So for that, I'd go back, although not for a meal. In Toronto, happy hour is usually only malpeques and $1.50, although only at odd places.

        1. re: fryerlover
          k
          kwy_li RE: fryerlover Jul 3, 2012 02:54 PM

          I couldn't find any mention of Happy Hour oysters in the FF website. Could you recall the price and which hour(s) and days of the week it applies to?

          1. re: kwy_li
            f
            fryerlover RE: kwy_li Jul 3, 2012 07:12 PM

            Happy hou is either 4:00-600 pm or 4:30-6:30 pm. Maybe call to be sure as a google search brings up diffetent answers. We saw a sign outside and thats why we went. They had three different types of oysters available at happy hour. Also drinks were on special, and other than cesars don't recall the drink specials. Service was friendly as well. We actually felt underdressed and they assured us we were not and we're very welcoming.

        2. re: chilibeanpaste
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          burge RE: chilibeanpaste Jul 3, 2012 02:55 PM

          Wharf Wraps in the eastern passage is amazing

        3. b
          burge RE: MexiCokeHead Jul 3, 2012 02:53 PM

          Wharf Wraps best clams in the city and best fish n chips

          1. prima RE: MexiCokeHead Jul 3, 2012 02:57 PM

            I thought the brunch at Fid was as good as most upscale, hipster market-driven restaurant brunches in TO or NYC at the same price point.

            I liked The Battered Fish's fish & chips better than any fish & chips I've ordered in TO.

            1 Reply
            1. re: prima
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              burge RE: prima Jul 4, 2012 05:58 AM

              Any fish n chips in the maritimes is better than Toronto

            2. b
              burge RE: MexiCokeHead Jul 4, 2012 06:05 AM

              Wharf Wraps out in eastern passage reposting not sure if it was to the original its the whole haddock fillet crispy and not greasy Take a walk on the boardwalk after dinner good experience Something quick but have not ate but heard is really good is the little food truck just before the auto port

              1. c
                CanadaGirl RE: MexiCokeHead Jul 5, 2012 10:12 AM

                I don't think you and I would agree in where to eat, so I won't offer any suggestions, but none of the spots on your list claim to be fine dining. Is this perhaps part of the issue?

                2 Replies
                1. re: CanadaGirl
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                  burge RE: CanadaGirl Jul 5, 2012 04:46 PM

                  Well i have eaten at the Halifax club quite a few times So the main thing is to define fine dinning. Wharf wraps is casual fine Unless you wan tto go to the Upper Deck Wharf Wraps is not french service however it is and does cater to the upscale crowd where dinner for 4 will be around 30 bucks a head

                  1. re: burge
                    c
                    CanadaGirl RE: burge Jul 5, 2012 06:17 PM

                    I was replying to the OP :)

                2. maryannns RE: MexiCokeHead Aug 10, 2012 07:04 AM

                  The Bicycle Thief is loud and bustling. The food is competent, but I did not feel it was anything special.

                  Very underrated (at least here) is The Press Gang. We were there in July to celebrate our anniversary and had the chef's drill. This turned out to be four plates, each with four wonderful things, the best of everything on the menu but some of them specially done.

                  I cannot remember everything, but we had a scallop, oyster, haddock and mussel chowder, seared tuna, lobster (on beef filet), duck, pork, etc. Everything was interesting and delicious. They have an oyster bar which when we were there in July had six different oysters.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: maryannns
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                    sakeandgin RE: maryannns Aug 20, 2012 10:29 AM

                    Just returned to the States from Halifax

                    Indochine Bahn Mi...did not live up to reviews I had read. Out of Korean Tacos....Bahn Mi...bread tasted like a Subway roll and inners lacked taste. Pho quite small and very average...overpriced.

                    Morris East average pizza and 1 oz Martini's is the pour government regulated? I seem to have seen sub par pours at every bar.
                    Estia.......Drinks and apps. Excellent!! Grilled Octopus, Grape Leaves and Saganaki.

                    I have mentioned this before....my favorite 30 minute drive to Indian Harbor...Ryer Lobster for the couple that own the place. They are gems. The oysters on the half shell and a pound of raw scallops. The picnic benches out front, just fantastic.

                    1. re: sakeandgin
                      j
                      jhalifax RE: sakeandgin Aug 21, 2012 09:19 AM

                      I would recommend Wasabi House on the corner of Quinpool and Oxford Street. It's in the old Spartan Restaurant location. My boyfriend and I have been there a number of times. It is small and the food isn't made until you order it. Absolutely everything is ultra fresh, delicious, and it isn't very expensive.

                      If you can get to Lunenburg I would definitely try out Fleur de Sel, as was already mentioned. Their food is simply outstanding.

                      Was surprised to hear your concern about Coastal Coffee on Robie Street - my favourite item on the menu is Huevos Rancheros. You might like to give it another try.

                      For best cup of coffee, try The Trident . They roast their own beans. My favourite is the Trident blend. It is on Hollis Street, fairly close to the new market.

                      For a great dessert, you could try either the Hazelnut Cheesecake - light and exquisite, not dense and heavy, or the Creme Brulee, at Chez Tess. I wasn't wowed by their crepes, but it's been a while since I've been there, but both of these dessert items were top notch.

                      Also, Two If By Sea, either in Dartmouth, or on the Halifax waterfront, has good coffee and the best croissants I've ever had, including ones in France. The prosciutto and cheese are particularly good.

                      Hope you find something you enjoy. Let us know!

                  2. h
                    hany RE: MexiCokeHead Mar 16, 2013 05:22 PM

                    I supposed you've come and gone but being an old Haligonian, you may be back. I agree with your assessments (Hamachi good, A Mano and Morris east don't live up to hype. Saege is really hit and miss -- more miss than hit lately). My favourite place in Halifax these days is Brooklyn Warehouse. It's not fancy (nor is it very casual) but they do really good food -- from burgers to fish to vegetarian. Jane's on the Common moved and I haven't been since then, but I assume the food is still good. Last weekend I discovered Ace burger in Gus' Pub. It was definitely a great burger. Fid is great but is closing in May.

                    Finally, a word on the 5 Fisherman. I used to work there in the early 90s and even then we knew that a lot of the fish dishes simply weren't any good. That said, the simpler the menu item, the more likely they are to get it right: mussels, oysters, seared scallops, grilled fish... Just avoid anything with goopy sauces and don't expect sophisticated side dishes.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: hany
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                      CanadaGirl RE: hany Mar 17, 2013 05:54 AM

                      Actually, Janes on the Common closed. She originally intended to move, but decided she didn't have another restaurant in her. The spot she was going to move to is being run by her daughter. You can still purchase some of the frozen takeout items at Pete's, and they cater, but the sit down is no more :(

                      http://janesonthecommon.com/

                    2. l
                      LJS RE: MexiCokeHead Mar 18, 2013 04:50 PM

                      Bonehead's deserves a mention. At the far end of Barrington (past the Atlantic Superstore) is a little BBQ place, that tunes into a great blues satellite radio station, has a simple but happy atmosphere and serves really good food.

                      I had the ribs, with sides of corn bread, salad, and dirty rice-the ribs were smokey, spicey good with extra sauce if you needed it. The salad was crisp and served the way I asked for it (which showed staff was paying attention.) I am not a fan of corn bread but my husband liked it. And the dirty rice was terrific, with chorizo sausage and without greasiness!

                      DH had the brisket sandwich and one taste confirmed that it would be on my list for a future trip.

                      Counter staff are friendly, competent, and know their food: managed an allergy issue with no problem or second-guessing. Yes, it is pricey ( $35 for lunch for two...but we took food home and had soup for dinner as we were still feeling well-fed.)

                      Let me add again for returning Haligonean's, get thee down to Lunenburg for truly fine dining...Fleur de Sel.

                      Also, keep an eye on (tired old) Cafe Chianti...Terry Vasallo of Trattoria della Nonna in Lunenburg (sadly, over now) has gone there and a re-think is apparently in process.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: LJS
                        h
                        HalifaxRetales RE: LJS Mar 18, 2013 05:45 PM

                        Boneheads has now opened in Fairview as well

                        but most reviews say downtown is better

                      2. e
                        eveee RE: MexiCokeHead Mar 22, 2013 10:34 AM

                        I would try Gio at the Prince George Hotel and Stories at the Halliburton Inn.

                        1. e
                          existential_crisis RE: MexiCokeHead Jun 25, 2013 09:19 AM

                          It looks like you missed the mark on your last trip here! Although, I was quite unimpressed by Bistro le Coq and Hamachi House is just ok.

                          Morris East is known for using fresh local produce and making everything in-house. So your evaluation makes me raise my eyebrows. They could very well be over-rated, but your rating seems out in left-field somewhere.

                          Gio at the Prince George Hotel is one of the only fine dining restaurants in Halifax that has impressed me.

                          The Bicycle Thief is definitely more upscale than A Mano.

                          Salvatore's is the only pizza I would even attempt to get a New Yorker to eat.

                          I hear good things about Elements, at the Westin. They get all their ingredients from local producers and the market.

                          Stories at the Halliburton Inn is another well kept secret.

                          I hear so much good, but also mixed things, about Brooklyn Warehouse. It is worth a try though.

                          Cafe Chianti is something to look out for, as they recently acquired a high profile chef.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: existential_crisis
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                            Greg B. RE: existential_crisis Jul 1, 2013 08:08 AM

                            I'll chime in - I liked Bistro le Coq well enough that I would go back. I would not return to Hamachi House, as every meal I have had there has been both disappointing and overpriced.

                            I have long felt that Gio is the best restaurant in the city and they seem to be maintaining that standard despite having some people in the back come and go. Nobody seems to talk much about Fiasco but I have never had a bad meal there over the years. I have been to the Press Gang several times and I just do not like it. I cannot put my finger on why exactly other than to say that neither the food quality nor the service particularly impresses me. I has been a few years since I was last at Da Maurizio but I never had a bad experience there.

                            The Bicycle Thief is a hot restaurant at the moment and it is good but not great. Go on a nice day, sit on the patio, eat some OK food. The atmosphere is the best thing they serve.

                            Elements is trying hard and they are a big supporter of local producers. I have had some good food there. The "hotel restaurant" atmosphere unfortunately sometimes lets them down. Brooklyn Warehouse is OK and I would go back, but for me something is missing. It would be great if you lived in the neighborhood but may not be a destination place.

                            EDNA is the reincarnation of Jane's on the Common, run by Jane's daughter, and is on Gottingen in a somewhat seedy but improving part of town. I have heard great things but have not yet been myself.

                            I have never had a bad meal at Morris East.

                            The best burger in town is Ace though your need a strong stomach to handle the atmosphere sometimes in Gus' Pub.

                            There is no great seafood restaurant in Halifax, remarkably. Some places have a dish or two that is really good but no place that specializes in seafood stands out. I have never understood why that is.

                            1. re: Greg B.
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                              existential_crisis RE: Greg B. Jul 1, 2013 09:15 AM

                              I agree with everything you just said. Pretty much sums it up.

                              1. re: Greg B.
                                prima RE: Greg B. Jul 1, 2013 09:35 AM

                                I like the seafood at Chives. While Chives bills itself as a Canadian bistro, several mains (2 seafood mains on the regular menu, as well as a daily special) were seafood the night I was there. I suppose it's more upscale casual than fine dining, but I'd still include it as a good upscale option for seafood in Halifax. http://www.chives.ca/menu

                                As a seafood-loving tourist from out-of-town, I tend to focus on seafood during my stays in Halifax, preferably prepared Maritimes-style, rather than French or contemporary Italian fine dining, which I can find in any mid-sized or larger city in Canada. There probably isn't enough demand to support a fine dining seafood restaurant in Halifax, considering running a seafood restaurant would tend to be riskier than a restaurant with a more varied menu, since seafood is more expensive and more perishable than other ingredients. Halifax seems like a mostly casual pub dining type of city, apart from a handful of restaurants like Gio's and the Bicycle Thief.

                            2. nsxtasy RE: MexiCokeHead Jul 15, 2013 05:44 PM

                              We ate at the Press Gang tonight, and I've got to say, we thought it was absolutely OUTSTANDING in every respect. We ordered six dishes. Two - the crab cakes and warm beet salad appetizers - were very good albeit not all that unusual. The other four were amazing. The mussels steamed with dragon's breath blue cheese and leeks were wonderful, with an incredibly rich broth. The butter poached lobster was unusually wonderful, a dish that always sounds superb but elsewhere often misses the mark. The braised short rib was a unique treatment, in a red curry sauce (similar to panang seasoning in Thai cooking), and the delicious beef played off the Thai overtones in a culinary symphony. And for dessert, we loved the "chef's lemon pie", a combination plate of lemon panna cotta, Italian meringue, and the most wonderful sable cookies. What a wonderful dinner! What a wonderful restaurant! www.thepressgang.net

                              1. c
                                chilibeanpaste RE: MexiCokeHead Sep 1, 2013 07:44 AM

                                re: The Bicylce Thief

                                Five of us ate their in August, the place was completely full. The food? We were thoroughly underwhelmed.

                                1. j
                                  jhalifax RE: MexiCokeHead Sep 1, 2013 11:05 AM

                                  In the last month I have eaten twice at Edna's on Gottingen Street. Edna is the daughter of 'Jane' formerly at Jane's on the Common. I had simply lovely food both times. I would recommend, particularly, the appetizer which features avocado mousse as a base, with lobster and peaches on top, and pea shoots on top of that. It is just exquisite. The restaurant is on the south end of the street, diagonally across from Ratinaud's (a very good charcuterie place - also worth checking out).

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                                    timriley RE: MexiCokeHead Oct 11, 2013 04:20 PM

                                    Out of all of my fine/r dining experiences in Halifax over the last 6 years, I would have to say that Gio has been consistently the best food+service experience for us. It's definitely our favourite restaurant.

                                    1. Kittycatpizza RE: MexiCokeHead Mar 1, 2014 12:22 PM

                                      Fid was such an amazing restaurant. I so wish it hadn't closed :(

                                      1. maryannns RE: MexiCokeHead Mar 1, 2014 12:42 PM

                                        We recently ate at Edna and at Cafe Chianti. They have very different vibes - Edna more modern and lively, Cafe Chiant more classic and elegant. The food in both was outstanding.

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