Three people walk into a bar: a Canadian, a Malaysian and a Scot…Wait! It gets better. They have just come from a well-known northeastern university. It’s true!
This particular bar is fifteen minutes by taxi from SFP. Christine the Assistant Manager, looking a bit like Jeanine Garofalo with everything fixed, greets us with as sprightly and spunky a greeting as any high school prep squad-but with much greater sophistication, sense of humor and timing.
True to the legendary reputation of the Maritimes, the whole atmosphere is fun and friendly, with tongue in cheek charm and great food. “Out of the Ocean, Into Your Mouth!” heralds the Raw Bar.
Brian O’Leary, the mixologist behind the bar, makes excellent sapphire martinis while we wait at the bar leering at oysters on ice. Near the end of our first drink we are ushered to the Lava Lounge, a small room blocked off from the main dining area. One full wall is a bas-relief of some small Polynesian island curiously hosting a small fleet of Chinese junks. The volcanic plume and lava flows light up every 12 minutes, the plume looking a little worse for wear, somewhat like a random piece of road kill.
We shy away from the Polynesian drinks served in pineapples, but the Blackboard Specials are definitely worth a go. Our NYC wait-boy, with rings in both ears, brings us the “Black and Blue Grilled Sirloin” with aged soy, house pickled ginger, fresh wasabi and sesame carrot pickles. Some tasty I tells ya. $7.50
The Raw bar sampler (aka “Essential Raw Bar Platter”) is outstanding. Although you will find better stone crab in Florida, you will be pleased with the Cape Breton oysters, the dish being quite rightly weighted in favour of these. I hear the clams are good as well, but given they make this writer unwell at the best of times, you are hearing that recommendation third-hand, gentle readers. $25.50
The Canadian-he of the expanding waistline-vainly orders the Salade Ni‡oise, but partakes of all other items on the table. The actual handle for the dish is “Grilled Rare Tuna Ni‡oise Style”. It features fresh, crunchy vegetables with truly rare tuna slices that have just enough gentle charring on top to add more flavor to an already flavorful dish. $8.50
The Scot, longing for the homeland, orders the “Catch of the Day”, a coriander-encrusted Blackfish with a unique balance of texture and seasoning. It is a safe bet that this entr‚e will always be a good choice here. Market Price @ $22.50
For those of you averse/allergic to seafood, the joint offers a wide selection of finger lickin’ good BBQ and plenty of charred land animals. The Malaysian, hankering for a bit of red meat, orders the “Grilled 16 oz. New York Strip Steak”. Served medium rare, with a crispy black exterior, it is to die for, if you have not yet already killed yourself for the mouth-watering garlic mashed potatoes. $22.50.
We wash down all of the above with a fine bottle of 1998 Falchini “Vinea Doni” Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Tuscany. Grapes: Vernaccia Chardonnay. Scents and flavors: floral, spiced apples. Body and texture: Medium rich, complex finish. Elegant and lively. $39.00
As our three heroes leave the bar, they feel obligated to point out some minor typo on the menu. The very lovely Christine doesn’t miss a beat as she remarks, “We are known for our food, not our spelling!” And well they might be.