What better way to start sampling Nova Scotia than with a restaurant that dubs itself a “Canadian Bistro?” A quick heads up that my first few restaurant indulgences are just that, indulgences, because only in my dreamland would we be able to eat at not one, but two $$$$ restaurants in a week. Dreamland in this scenario = my parents are in town and love to dine fabulously. So back to it….
Chives Canadian Bistro pulled in a #3 rating on TripAdvisor (my new bestie,) and is located at 1537 Barrington Street in downtown Halifax. When we were looking for a spot, we were thinking somewhere casual with superb food, because we were feeling a little lazy in jeans and didn’t feel like doing anything about it. Chives pretty accurately fit this need, but I should note that the ambience, though comfortable, still definitely has a quirky flair, and a finer dining feel. There’s even an extra layer of fun; the space was once inhabited by the Bank of Nova Scotia, and the Chives wine room is where the bank vault used to be. Great use of space, eh? Had to.
I was happy that we were able to book a table for 4 last minute and noticed that the place was pretty full the whole time. From what I’ve seen in just a few days in this town, I’d ALWAYS make a reservation ahead of time, for just about anywhere I went. I was surprised by how many people I saw wander into another fine dining restaurant we visited this week who seemed to be okay waiting an hour and a half for a table. OpenTable!! Get a free account!!
From the moment we sat down, we were taken care of by not one, but 2 very friendly waitresses who were on top of things the entire time. I ordered my standard dirty martini with Grey Goose, which I was pleased to see was accompanied with garlic stuffed olives and was quite well-balanced. My Mom raved about her Negroni as well.
There were no decisions to be made once we saw that one of the “hot pot” specials (it’s soup, but that title makes it more exciting) was a roasted cauliflower and cheese. Oh man. If I could include roasted cauliflower in all dishes, I would, and believe me, I’ve tried. 2 of those hot pots, fresh baked rolls drizzled in a balsamic reduction, plus an heirloom tomato salad with mixed greens and slivers of buffalo mozzarella? That’s a pretty good start in my book.
Our main courses went a little something like this. Already satisfied with her hotpot and bread, Mom chose the appetizer portion of Atlantic Lobster Risotto. It was just as we’d hoped for- giant chunks of fresh lobster meat, asparagus tips, leeks and fennel broth (which was not remotely overpowering, as it can be at times,) and the creamiest boursin cheese holding it all together. It was yummy then, and just as great the next day as a leftover! I had a hard time choosing, but eventually went all out with Bacon and Scallops. It was as indulgent and rich as you’re imagining. The sea scallops were cooked nicely, medium in size, and everywhere. Nothing gets me more annoyed than a scallop dish without any scallops. The rest of the plate was a great idea and a myriad of flavors that went well together, however I did think the pork belly was a little on the under-seasoned/undercooked side and the fried spinach and ricotta ravioli were kind of greasy. The filling was absolutely delicious, so I still managed to eat most of it!
The gentlemen went with meat. Dad ordered the Steak Diane, a strip steak with veggies and a loaded potato mash. Despite being cooked well done as he prefers, I still found the steak to be tender and juicy with the perfect crusted outside. Well done, chef! The husband ordered what probably ended up being my favorite meal of the night, the Double Smoked Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin, or “meat-wrapped-in-meat,” as he lovingly refers to it. The pork was exquisitely cooked , the bacon provided the perfect salty balance to the surrounding barbeque-style bourbon jus, and the polenta cakes simply melted in my mouth. That’s a well balanced flavor combination, my friends. There was also a sweet little corn and edamame succotash.
+ Chives was a fun, contemporary, delicious, comfortable experience. Great service. Tough choices for seafood or meat lovers. Well-made drinks. Supportive menu for vegetarians and celiacs.
– On the moderately high priced entree side, with most dishes over $25 per plate. Still, totally doable for apps and drinks/ not burning the bank (pun intended, it used to be a bank!)