Dessert · Patio · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

River Cafe – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Karplop and I were texting each other after work. She was craving pate and beef tartare and I wanted to go out and celebrate nothing in particular. The only restaurant open on a Tuesday night serving up pate and tartare was River Cafe. For this post, let’s listen to “Fancy Shoes” by The Walters.

As the weather was nice, we sat on the patio and enjoyed the view of the trees along the lagoon, set against the city skyline. Our server – Leah B – is at the top of her game. Everything she said or did seemed so effortlessly professional and personable. Exceptional service makes the difference between between a nice meal and a truly enjoyable dining experience.

Karplop and I toasted each other with a glass of Blue Mountain Brut ($14). I thought this sparkling wine was mellow and dry, with very soft bubbles.

We shared four Leslie Hardy oysters ($14). The oyster flesh was cool and smooth, with a little crunch at the end. I didn’t find the saltiness overwhelming like other east coast oysters. Karplop enjoyed the homemade hot sauce and I preferred the mignonette.

Leah recommended a glass of Sangiovese ($11) to pair with our appetizers. I approve of her suggestion – my wine was smooth and dry. I would order this wine again.

The Borderland Bison Tartare ($21) is swoon worthy. Karplop oohed and aahed over the vibrant colours of the flowers. What made this tartare stand out was the summery flavour of the compressed cucumber and bright, creamy mustard. The tartare came with three different types of crackers, each with its own unique texture. Standout dish!

Photo Credit: Karplop

I’ve tried the Chicken Liver Parfait ($19) a few months ago and I noticed this time, the brioche was drier in texture, which I preferred because it stands up to the rich, buttery pate. The pate looked like it was whipped, piled high on the brioche. Karplop enjoyed the combination of the fruit paired with the pate.

I was full but I didn’t want to deny Karplop her dessert. We shared the Peach Pavlova ($12). My favourite element of the dessert was the sorbet, which was sweet and creamy.

If there are anymore sunny days remaining, I recommend checking out River Cafe’s patio. There’s nothing better than sitting back and enjoying the last of the autumn colours in Prince’s Island Park. Hitting the Sauce gives River Cafe two fat thumbs up.

Happy Hour · Restaurants · Seafood

Rodney’s Oyster House – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Out of an abundance of caution, L and I decided that this summer, we will not be visiting my family in British Columbia. So for our first dine-in restaurant experience since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, I picked Rodney’s Oyster House. For this post, let’s listen to “The Kids Aren’t Alright” by The Offspring.

I prefer Rodney’s in Calgary over the Yaletown and Gastown locations in Vancouver. The Calgary location has better ambience and service. Also, the shuckers at the Calgary location are more experienced. I’ve yet to eat an oyster with shell remnants.

Ambience

We noticed management implemented several safety measures. All the employees wore masks. The front door and washroom doors were propped open, enabling touchless entry. At each table, there was hand sanitizer and an option to download the menu onto your phone. The restaurant is spacious, so there was plenty of room in between tables.

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From Thursday to Saturday, between 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Rodney’s offers a wicked happy hour. On the day we visited, the shucker’s choice for Six Oysters and a Drink ($15) was Savage Blonde Oysters (PEI). We also ordered Beach Angels ($3.35, BC) and Marina Top Drawer ($3.35, BC).

Menu

I found all the ingredients at Rodney’s incredibly fresh, from the parsley and onions in the calamari to all the seafood we sampled. Right before we received our oysters, I saw an employee grating the horseradish.

East Coast

L and I liked that all the oysters were served cold. I don’t like eating raw oysters at room temperature, which seems to be the norm in Cabo. The Savage Blond oysters were salty, with a crunch that reminded me of celery.

The Beach Angels were creamy and robust in flavour. The Marina Top Drawer were sweet and briny but not as meaty as the Beach Angels. I would order the Beach Angels again.

Best wcoast

New on the menu are the Pan Fried Oysters ($12). The oysters were thin and flat, with a pleasant deep sea-like flavour.  The panko crust tasted like it was pan-fried in butter.

Fried Oysters

I enjoyed the delicate, crispy batter on the Rhode Island Calamari ($11). The squid was tender and silky. L preferred the tangy White Boy Ranch sauce over the tartar sauce that came with the fried oysters.

calamari

The best dish we tried was the Atlantic Haddock Tacos ($12). I’ve eaten a lot of fish tacos in my life, and Rodney’s is hands down the best. The haddock was generous in size, flaky and sweet. The batter was ultra light and the crispy shards melted on my tongue. The fish didn’t taste oily or greasy.

Tacos

I loved the composition of the taco. Instead of putting the toppings on the top, the chili lime and chipotle slaw was on the bottom.  This helped to retain the integrity of the batter and the heat from the fish. The contrast between the chilled coleslaw and hot fish was tantalizing. I liked how the flour tortilla was thin yet proportionally large enough to wrap around the sizeable piece of fish.

taco close up

Dining out takes a noticeable chunk of our budget but eating at Rodney’s reminds me why for us it’s worth it. After taking into consideration the effort to buy oysters and then having to clean, shuck and dress it, the savings isn’t worth it.

Food

When we dine out, I get to choose a little bit of this and some of that. I don’t know about you, but at my house, there isn’t a wide selection of dishes that I can eat at a moment’s notice. I also don’t own a deep fryer. I’m a decent home cook, but I can’t cook seafood nearly as perfectly as Rodney’s chefs. Of course, there’s the obvious. We don’t need to cook or clean up after our meal, which takes away from the experience.

close up fried oyster

The restaurant was full, but considering the food, service and ambience, there should be a lineup to get inside. We enjoyed our tacos so much I wanted to return the following week. However, that will have to wait. I have a date with L at Sukiyaki House and after that, I want to support Black-owned restaurants in Calgary. I was also given a generous gift certificate to Beirut Street Food, my favourite place for Lebanese food, that I want to share with L’s parents.

plate oysters

I’ll miss traveling for the foreseeable future, but Rodney’s makes travel restrictions tolerable. For seafood, you can’t go wrong here. Rodney’s Oyster House gets two fat thumbs up and it makes it on my list of best restaurants in #YYC.

Rodney's Oyster House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Happy Hour · Restaurants · Seafood · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Fanny Bay & Oyster Bar

L asked me what I wanted to do on our free afternoon. Walk along the seawall! As we strolled over to English Bay, he complained that I walk too fast and said that I was going to blow out my hip. You don’t have to worry about me L, I have strong child bearing hips.

seawall

When we arrived at our destination, he wanted to rest on the bench. L mentioned he felt like oysters and if we left now, we could make it in time for happy hour. I could tell Old Man L was tired, so I sat and admired the water for a moment more before we turned around and headed over to Fanny Bay Oyster Bar & Shellfish Market . For this post, let’s listen to “Sweet About Me by Gabriella Cilmi.

Happy hour is daily from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Select wines are $7, house beer is $5, and featured oysters are $1.50 or $2.25. The west coast oyster was the Sun Seeker (Floating Bag – 18 months old, Okeover, BC) and the east coast oyster was Totten Virginia (Beach Grown – 3 years old, Totten Inlet, WA).

menu 2

I wish I got the name of our server – a young man that spun our plate of oysters around in a circle and said it reminded him of the Game of Thrones introduction. His energy and attentive service, paired with the sublimely fresh oysters, made this visit exceptional.

bubbles

I tried a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc (Open Estates, Okanagan) and for $7 it was fine. However, I preferred the sparkling Pinot Grigio ($10, Most Wanted, Hungary) as it was simple, light and refreshing.

plate 1

Each oyster was perfectly shucked – there was no grit or shell in it. When you pulled the oyster out of the shell, it made the sound a cork makes when you pull it out of a wine bottle. 

shell

L and I prefer west coast oysters, but we enjoyed the Totten Virginia ($2.25). The oyster tasted a bit like celery. Compared to the Summit Seeker, the east coast oyster was cleaner with a crunchier texture.

shell 2

The Sun Seeker ($1.50) was firm and sweet, with a salty finish. The center of the oyster was cool on my tongue. These were chubby, creamy oysters. I was ecstatic.

beauty

The oyster was so big, I had to use my oyster fork to pull it out of the shell. Holding the oyster on the fork reminded me of a poached egg. The flavor was so good, I didn’t feel the need for anything but a little lemon and horseradish. The fresh horseradish was feathery soft – it added a bit of heat and chew to the oyster. I ate as slowly as possibly to enjoy the flavor as long as possible.

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The oysters were so enjoyable, I would be happy to return for non-happy hour prices ($3.50 each, Shuckers’ Dozen $39). I plan on visiting my parents again in November. I’ll definitely come by again to get my oyster fix. Hitting the Sauce gives Fanny Bay Oyster Bar two fat thumbs up.

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Fanny Bay Oyster Bar & Shellfish Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · New York · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

New York – Cookshop

After our meal at Tim Ho Wan, we shopped in Chelsea. We were still stuffed but Beep Beep had reservations at Cookshop. She wanted to go because Sandra Bernhard took Taste Makers here to eat tacos. Beep Beep was also impressed that Cookshop prints off a new menu every day based on what’s seasonal. What I love about about this restaurant is the superb service and how welcome we felt. For this post, let’s listen to Beauty and the Beast – “Be Our Guest”.

Beep Beep was enchanted by the enthusiasm of the male host – he practically sung his greeting. Our male server – also of Asian heritage – was quietly charming. The quality of his service didn’t suffer when we told him we were too full from our last meal and just wanted drinks. He smiled, nodded and told us to enjoy our evening. He didn’t try to push any extra food or drinks or rush us out. Now I get why Americans tip so generously. When the service is that exceptional, I’m happy to tip well.

menu

Beep Beep and I ordered six oysters ($4 each) and two glasses of white wine ($11) – Alvarimmo Nortico, Portugal 2017. The wine paired well with the seafood. There wasn’t much meat to the oysters. I wasn’t impressed and I’m from landlocked Calgary.

oysters

Beep Beep and I shared the Steamed Bouchot Mussels ($15). At first, I thought bouchot was a type of broth. Nope – it’s a method of growing mussels. This was one of the best things I ate on the trip. The sauce of Dijon mustard, white wine, chile and garlic was delicious. The combination of the crispy, buttered bread and that sauce was downright decadent.

mussels

Look how full and fleshy the mussels are! I’ve never eaten better tasting shellfish in my life. Each morsel was super fat and bursting with juice. When I told our server how much I loved the mussels, he brought over extra bread.

mussel one

Beep Beep said if she lived here, she would dine here at least once a week. She raved about the quality of the food, the value, and the taste. Beep Beep and I both agreed that when we return to New York, we’d come here for a full dinner and brunch.

After we left, we went to a subway to get a 7 day unlimited week pass. There was a man who offered to help and show us which button we had to press. He took three dollars from Beep Beep’s change and told her it was for a sub sandwich. When it was my turn, I blocked him while I bought my transit pass. As the change came out, he reached in before I could and said he would take three dollars as well. He was so pleasant about it, Beep Beep said to let him have it. I guess this is part of New York’s charm? Got to give that guy credit for hustling so politely.

Cookshop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurants · Seafood

Gibsons – Smitty’s Oyster House

In August, my friend N rented a house in Gibsons. We arrived on a sunny Friday to acres of private waterfront property, a six-bedroom house with spacious entertainment areas and a hot tub looking out into the ocean.

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N and her entourage brought groceries with the intent of cooking, but everyone was too preoccupied with partying to actually prepare any meals. When I stepped in, I was micro-managed by RHWONJ. RHWONJ forgot to tell me her cooking instructions and then later complained to me that I was didn’t do something she never told me to do. By Sunday morning, L and I wanted to get out and explore the town. For this post, let’s listen to Charles Barkley – Crazy.

N drove L and I into the waterfront shopping district. The three of us
walked into Beachcomber Coffee Company and enjoyed expertly made americanos. N and I stocked up at Sunshine Coast Olive Oil while L stood patiently outside. We strolled around the main shopping streets and enjoyed a live music performance. I peeked inside The Healing Hut because I wanted to see what a cannabis dispensary looked like inside. I know these places are common in Vancouver, but they are not in Calgary (pre- October 17, 2018). The store is bare bones. There’s a display by the till and other foreign objects.

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By noon, we decided to have lunch at Smitty’s Oyster House. The restaurant doesn’t fill up the tables inside the restaurant. Instead, most customers wait in line to sit in a large communal table on the pier.

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We ordered fresh oysters on the half shell ($3 each), salmon cakes
($12), Smitty’s salad ($9), Pan Fried Oysters ($18) and Fish Fritters Cod ($16). The food and wine was reasonably priced. Most glasses of wine ranged from $8-$13.

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The highlight of the meal were the raw oysters from New Zealand. Creamy, bright and sweet, I couldn’t believe these oysters were flown in from somewhere so far away. If I had known the oysters would be that good, I would have skipped my entrée and just consumed oysters. L agreed. I’ve never enjoyed an oyster more than I did here.

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The fish fritters were tender and the batter was puffy and light. I personally prefer a harder, more brittle batter.  The malt balsamic drizzled on top of the fritters was too strong for my liking. The portion was too big for L to eat on his own.

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The fried oysters had a hard, thin batter. There was a layer of wet batter against the fried exterior. The oyster itself was smallish and cooked so the meat was still tender.

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N had to leave to go back to her other guests. L and I lingered and ordered more drinks. L even chatted up the older couple sitting next to us, a social rarity.

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We walked around some more and L suggested we eat again, this time at Smoke on the Water BBQ Shack. I wasn’t hungry but I was eager to kill more time. We shared the Smoked Port Back Ribs ($19) – a half rack of ribs, with slaw, beans and fries. The ribs were hard, perhaps because they weren’t that warm. I thought the BBQ sauce was a tad simple. Maybe I’m just spoiled with the great BBQ I get back in Alberta. In any case, if you happen to make a stop off in Gibsons, I’d recommend Smitty’s for their oysters and island eats.

Smitty's Oyster House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Happy Hour · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Rodney’s Oyster House – Happy Hour

restaurant

Barbie and I checked out Rodney’s Oyster House for happy hour. The Calgary location is more upscale than Rodney’s locations in Vancouver. Judging from the exterior, I was surprised to find the restaurant was so spacious. I liked the use of white in the decor, the high ceilings and the ‘catch’ of netted lights in the middle of the room. For this post, let’s listen to I was Made for Lovin’ You by Kiss, a song I overheard while dining here.

Happy hour runs from Monday to Friday, 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For $15 bucks, you get half a dozen oysters and an alcoholic beverage. You can choose from a select vodka cocktail, draft beer, prosecco, red, rosé or white wine. Drink specials include the above drinks for $5 and breaded scallop sliders ($15), fish tacos ($12) and calamari ($10).

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I could hear our server pop a fresh bottle of bubbly (NV Vaporetto – DOC Brut Prosecco) for us. Yay! A pet peeve of mine is getting the tail end of a bottle. Our flute was filled to the top. Another yay! It really irks me when I order bubbly and my flute arrives half empty.

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The tray of condiments ranged from sweet to heat. The best of the bunch was the Seawitch, a tangy, sweet tomato sauce. I’m not normally a fan of cocktail sauce but Rodney’s version was so good it converted me.

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The oyster featured for happy hour was Sex on the Bay (New Brunswick). This little oyster was smooth and silky, a little briny with a clean finish. Cold and delicious. The horseradish was fresh.

close up oyster

We ended up leaving early in order to beat the snow fall warning in effect. I instantly regretted our decision when I saw another table order the sliders, tacos and calamari. From what I can see, Rodney does not cheap out for happy hour.  Oh well, that just means we have to return soon. Hitting the Sauce gives Rodney’s happy hour oysters and prosecco two fat thumbs up.

Rodney's Oyster House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Seafood · Vancouver/Richmond

Rodney’s Oyster House – Yaletown v. Gastown Location

beer

My sister and her family was back in town, so L and I decided to visit. The first thing we did when we landed in Vancouver was to head to Rodney’s Oyster House for the “low-tide” specials, $1.50 oysters. My family can wait till after happy hour for us to visit. I had oysters to devour.

caesar

We sat by the door, which emitted an occasional cool breeze. I ordered a Caesar ($10.25) while L ordered an IPA ($7.00). The caesar was pint size, filled with crushed ice, freshly grated horseradish, pepper and decorated with a large chilled shrimp. There is only one place that makes a better caesar than Rodney’s, and that’s the Lazy S in Calgary.

wine

I also ordered a glass of Burrowing Owl pinot gris ($10.50) which was poured to the brim. I giddily bent over to slurp the first sip of wine, as lifting it up to my mouth would mean spillage of this precious liquid.

oysters

We started off with a dozen of the oysters on special. Each was shucked perfectly – there wasn’t any shell fragments. The oysters were sweet and creamy, so good that I only needed a squeeze of lemon. L made good use of the half dozen condiments on our table.

fried oysters

I wanted to try the fried oysters, which was on special for only $12.99. We received six large oysters. The thin crispy coating of batter was dark and a tad burnt tasting, but the oysters themselves were perfectly cooked, soft and silky.

sparkling

The next day we headed to Rodney’s second location in Gastown. We sat upstairs in the loft section. While the ambience is newer and nicer than the Yaletown location, I prefer the original spot. The service and oyster shucking was superior at the Yaletown location.

second oysters

This time around, I ordered a glass of prosecco ($11) while L ordered an IPA for only $5.00. We ordered two dozen oysters. While the oysters tasted the same as the previous day, each one was filled with shell fragments. We saw other customers order the garlic prawns, clams, mussels and scallops. Of the bunch, the garlic prawns and scallops looked appetizing.

The service at the Gastown location was fine but it doesn’t compare to the charm that exudes from the servers at the Yaletown location. When we return in August, we plan to visit Rodney’s in Yaletown for oysters, garlic prawns and scallops.

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