Dinner at Gio: Halifax
Some people think that if you love going to expensive places to eat then you are a food snob, a [insert derogatory foodie insult here], or worse, a foodie. Sometimes, I think food bloggers in particular get a bad rap for constantly talking about what they ate for dinner and where they ate it. What most people don’t understand is that it’s not just about eating lavish food or telling people you spent a full paycheck on one meal. Those who go out and eat at an award-winning restaurant aren’t there just for the food, they are there for the experience: To be wined and dined, treated like queen for a day, and be presented with beautiful plating is all about the experience. Every meal is different. An adventure. It is a night out and an occasion in itself, and I relish it.
Although I do eat out a lot (and love telling people about it), there are not many times that I get to dress up real nice and luxuriate in a night at a fancy-pants restaurant. So, when Adam and I decided to go to Gio for our anniversary, I was really excited to dust off my high heels, pop a bottle of bubbly, and hit the town in style.
Just look at our excited we were!
Gio Restaurant is located in the Prince George Hotel, a fancy schmancy hotel in downtown Halifax. As soon as you walk into the restaurant, you know you are in for a treat. The decor is metropolitan and luxe. The lighting is low and romantic, and the large semi circle booths are upholstered in an eclectic modern print. I was delighted that Adam and I were seated in a booth, despite the fact that they could have fit six people. The walls of Gio are covered in stunning original artwork that rotates through Gallery Page and Strange on Granville Street. The works are stunning and were one of my favourite things about the decor. Their rich colours and textures added a very polished look to the dining room.
As usual, Adam and I started with a cocktail. I chose the Gio, the signature martini of the restaurant. It was made with vodka, lychee, Chambord, and champagne. I am a sucker for a champagne cocktail and it did not disappoint, it was delish!
Adam chose the Gio Old Fashion, which was a twist on the classic cocktail. The drink consisted of 12-year-old Canadian Classic, maple syrup, and peach bitters. The Old Fashion also had a massive ice cube in it, which I thought was super cool and old school, and obviously kept the drink chilly and delicious!
After the server took our order, the amuse-bouche was promptly presented to us. The scarce plating showcased the delicious bite of food: a Lobster Salad with Potato chip. And, boy, it was delicious. The salad was creamy and rich, but not sickeningly so, with a hint of curry. The crispy potato chip was the perfect vessel for the lobster.
After the amuse-bouche, the server brought over some bread. The fresh focaccia was baked with rosemary, and served with oil and balsamic. It was warm, soft, and I barely had time to take a photo before Adam demolished his piece. The bread was served on a beautiful dish produced by Kiln Art, another local artisan who produces fused glass dinnerware. I love how Gio showcases not only local food, but local art as well. Bravo!
Soon after, our appetizers arrived.
Predictably, I chose the Foie Gras. I just couldn’t help myself! It was served two different ways: seared and terrine. This was the first time that I tried seared foie gras, and it definitely won’t be the last. It was freaking delicious. The foie was served on an apple phyllo tart, with sweet onions to garnish that complimented it perfectly. The terrine foie gras was also delicious, decorating the main event and adding texture to the dish. Perfection.
Adam chose the Lobster Bisque to start. The bisque was kicked up a notch with hints of Thai chili and smoothed out with creme fraiche to garnish. This is one of Adam’s favourites and the large bowl of creaminess was good to the very last drop.
Before our mains arrived, we ordered more drinks, of course! I was delighted to see Moet by the glass and obviously ordered champagne, while Adam went with a glass of Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon to pair with his main course.
And then, the palate cleanser arrived. The dainty Granita was topped with a fresh raspberry and served in a large spoon. The cool fruity flavours were the perfect intermediary to stimulate our tongues and tummies.
Adam’s main course was Elk. The elk tenderloin was wrapped in an elk mousse and caul fat, served with potato pavee, fresh veggies, and topped with a chocolate jus. The presentation was just beautiful: the plate was garnished with cocoa soil and looked simply elegant. What’s even better? It tasted delicious. Adam was worried that the chocolate jus would be overpowering but it was the perfect compliment to the dish.
For my main, I chose the Parppadelle. Normally, I don’t choose the pasta option at a restaurant like Gio, but after reading the description, I just had to get it. The handmade noodles were served with duck confit, roasted tomatoes, and lobster tail! This may sound like too much going on, but the flavours were great together! I was a little disappointed that the parppadelle were a little too al dente for my taste, but overall the dish was great.
I love the sense of ceremony of going out for a fancy meal. The sophistication of the linen napkins, the attention to detail, the plating, and the change in courses all add to the overall experience of the meal. I really enjoyed the way the courses were presented at Gio with the amuse-bouche and the palate cleanser. I thought they were executed perfectly and they added to the experience and atmosphere of the evening, plus they were delicious!
One thing that was weird about Gio that was detrimental to the atmosphere of the restaurant was the casual hotel guests. Because Gio is located in a hotel, many guests of the Prince George come down to eat something and end up uncomfortably eating a very expensive meal in their cargo shorts. At the same time, it takes away from the experience of the patrons who are dressed to the nines trying to celebrate a special occasion. It is unfortunate that there isn’t a separate bar or lounge for weary travellers to enjoy a meal without the fancy pretence.
In regards to the service, it was okay. I know that I can be a bit picky at times, but when a restaurant boasts about its high level of food and atmosphere, you need to have the service to match. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect (or want) snobby and pretentious serving, and in fact our server was lovely and friendly, but the table service was just not as prompt as I would have expected it to be at such a swanky place. Enough said.
Overall, our anniversary dinner at Gio was delightful. Adam and I always have a great time together, and this night was no exception. We ate, we drank, we laughed, and the food was simply elegant. Gio’s attention to detail and sophisticated plating make this place a great restaurant for a special occasion, or for a night where you want to make an occasion of eating out. I encourage everyone to go and eat at a fancy-pants restaurant at least once in order to enjoy the experience and the delicious food. Bon Apetit!
Things Worth Mentioning…
Cost: Around 200$ plus tip for dinner for two including two apps, two mains, and drinks.
Things I liked: The local artwork adorning the walls, and Moet by the glass.
Things I didn’t: The weird mix of clientele. There needs a be a more casual dining area for hotel guests who don’t want a fancy-pants meal.
Best Place to Sit: In the beautiful and cozy booths.
What To Order Next Time: Lunch! The prices on the lunch menu are much more conservative, and I am anxious to try lots more of Chef Vince Scigliano’s dishes in the near future!