The Daily Sampler Abroad: Halifax – The Five Fisherman

The real reason we chose The Five Fisherman for our last meal together before my parents left was because I wasn’t quick enough in making reservations ahead of time, anywhere.  Four phone calls later, 8PM at FF was as close as we could get to a civilized dinner time.  It’s not that we didn’t want to go there, it’s that it easily could have cost me my first born child, and I felt a little guilty about it.  So a few lessons: as I’ve mentioned, make reservations, at least a day in advance for any of Halifax’s hottest dining spots.  Second, make sure your parents are willing to grant you visitation after you hand the baby over.

The Five Fisherman Restaurant and Grill is located in one of downtown Halifax’s most historic and beautiful buildings, at 1740 Argyle Street.  A few important tidbits about this locale:

  • It was once owned by Anna Leonowens.  That’s THEE Anna Leonowens of ‘The King and I’ fame.  I am not shitting you.  She opened the first Halifax School of Art there until it changed location.
  • Afterwards, it became the John Snow & Co. mortuary, the same mortuary where most of the bodies from the Titanic disaster were brought after recovery.  Hell-o!  John Snow + Titanic stuff = geek heaven.

We knew zero percent of this when we dined there, but I thought you should know about it.  We should have brought tarot cards.

So the building is exquisite, refined, and boasts decor that screams “you’re about to spend a lot of money!!!”  We walked in to a very pleasant and very patient hostess who was busy for quite a while informing walk-ins that it would be at least an hour wait.  I don’t get the lack of reservations, Haligonians?  Turns out, we saw many of those walk-ins seated not too long after us.  It’s a huge place!  I was thankful when we were seated not far from the salad and all-you-can-eat mussels bar.  You heard me right, all-you-can-eat, and included with every entree.  I found the salad bar to be pretty average.  I’m quite picky when it comes to buffet-style food, and for a restaurant of this magnitude, I’d expect someone to be on top of refills.  I scraped some mixed greens off the bottom of the bowl and managed to make something interesting with the help of an artichoke/pepper marinated salad.  Mom said the fruit was delicious.  The mussel bar is manned and includes your choice of 4 dipping sauces.  I tried the garlic butter, marina, and roasted red pepper; all delightful.  One thing I’d love to see with my pre-dinner snack is a bread basket.  Who doesn’t love to sop up all that mussel broth?  FF didn’t provide one, but maybe they will after seeing this sad face.  😦

You KNOW why I took this picture. What's the dorkiest reason you can imagine..?
You KNOW why I took this picture. What’s the dorkiest reason you can imagine..? (Sorry so blurry.)

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Next up, we had the tricky task of choosing drinks and entrees.  Just don’t look at the prices.  Maybe I’m old fashioned/still trying to build my post-graduate life, but it’s pretty up there.  Like $40+ up there, per dish.  Instead, choose based on the fact that it’s called The Five Fisherman and you should feel obligated to have seafood.  Three of us did, and we were the happiest diners (of 4- sorry, Dad.)  I chose the Shellfish Linguine, combining jumbo shrimp, scallops, 1/2 a lobster tail, littleneck clams and pasta in a saffron chardonnay cream sauce.  It was very rich, obviously.  But sweet Lord, those HUNKS of seafood lived up to their menu description, and really hit the spot for someone looking to sample a little of everything.  The husband had the same idea, and went for the title dish, the Five Fish, with a sampling of sautéed “colossal” scallops and shrimp, pan seared halibut, Atlantic salmon, with a lobster/champagne/asparagus risotto.  Again, complete winner.  There is nothing else to say about it except that it was fabulous and he ate every bite.  Okay, fine.  I had at least 3 bites myself.  Mom felt she was taking a chance with the Lobster Thermidor, because she’s traditionally a lobster tail lady.  She could not have been happier with her decision.  The Thermidor includes 1.5 lbs. of fresh Nova Scotia lobster meat tossed in a sherry cream sauce, placed back in the shell and finished with a bread crumb and parmesan crust.  When one hears the phrase, “sherry cream sauce,” it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that it will be very heavy, but this dish was anything but.  It was just plain fun to eat, and there was tons of it.  The flavor and texture was delectable.  There were also some sides, but who cares about those!!  It was all about the lobster.

Lobster Thermidor
Lobster Thermidor
Shellfish Linguine
Shellfish Linguine
The Five Fish (+blur, I didn't care that much, obvi.)
The Five Fish (+blur, I didn’t care that much, obvi.)

Then there was my Dad.  He should have probably went with the Swordfish, but instead he opted for the 10 oz Strip Loin accompanied by a peppercorn sauce and sautéed onions.  On an oopsie by the waiter, he was also presented with sautéed mushrooms, which I thought were pretty delish.  The outcome: not the best steak my Dad has ever had, and I’d consider him a bit of a connoisseur.  Was it bad?  No.  Did it provide him with $53 worth of wow?  Definitely not.

Ironically, my Dad is the only one who got a decent pic. Maybe he wasn't as excited as we were.
Ironically, my Dad is the only one who got a decent pic. Maybe he wasn’t as excited as we were.

So when all was said and done, did we walk away satisfied?  No, silly!  We ordered dessert!  One coffee, one Five Fish, and one B52 specialty coffee later, our server brought us a Sticky Toffee Pudding, and a Fresh Berry Tart.  The Sticky Toffee Pudding was very sweet, but I thought, very tasty.  It was more like a cake/brownie.  The tart was filled with incredibly fresh blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and gooseberries.  We fought over them.  The custard itself tasted good but hadn’t really set in the shell.  It was more of a custard soup.

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The service at FF was very pleasant, but maybe not very thorough.  We were somewhat “warned” at the beginning of the meal that it was “quite busy” and that our waiter appreciated our patience in advance.  We definitely don’t have a problem with patience, but it was seeing our waiter chat with a table of buddies most of the night that we had a small problem with.  Only when our glasses sat empty for a significant period of time.  Should this be a major problem?  At an Applebees?  No.  At a place like this?  Yeah, maybe another spin or two past our table would have been nice.

+ The Five Fisherman is thee destination for a special occasion.  Apparently the downstairs is a wine bar and oyster grill, so I’m sure you could hang down there without spending $40 per plate.  The food was mostly excellent.  Great wine and drink pairing suggestions on the menu (and come to think of it, a friendly waitress passing by also helped Mom pick the appropriate wine for her lobster dish.)  The decor is stately and gold trimmed.  I’d recommend it.  It’s pretty special.

I hate to be such a stick in the mud, but daYum.  It’s expensive!  Really must have a reservation (in my opinion.)  Service from the door to your table rocks, after that, I guess it depends on your waiter.  For this magnitude of dining, your service should be just as important as your food!  Get some bread baskets out there!

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2 thoughts on “The Daily Sampler Abroad: Halifax – The Five Fisherman

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