I am a sucker for good mood lighting at a restaurant.
I love romantically lit bistros, cozy and dark hole-in-the-walls, and bustling trendy hotspots with that perfect balance of sexy shadow and light. I am always excited when I walk into a restaurant and see a room lit with eclectic fixtures and a lighting scheme that sets the mood for an evening of good food and great wine.
I felt this very excitement when I first walked into Agricola Street Brasserie last week. I had been meaning to eat there since it opened in late fall (shameful really, considering it is located just around the corner from our place), and I was delighted to see a bustling, perfectly lit restaurant when I walked through the beautiful wooden doors.
**I will preface this review with an apology concerning the quality of the photos: Because of said lovely mood lighting, my poor little iPhone had to work hard to get the grainy pics that are presented in the post. (They don’t do the delicious food justice, you should go see for yourself!)**
Adam and I were seated by a friendly server at what seemed like the last open table in the restaurant; a wave of relief washed over me as I patted myself on the back for making a reservation! Even though it was a Thursday night the place was bopping!
The decor of the restaurant is harmoniously trendy: the classic brick walls mix with eclectic and varied light fixtures, and the intricate shelving behind the bar is just stunning. A brilliantly lit backdrop to dozens of coloured bottles, the bar is the centrepiece of the room and showcases the uber-high ceilings of this North End restaurant. It is electric, bustling with people, and I feel like I am being transported to a far off big city.
We ordered drinks (Champagne for me, Propeller IPA for Adam), and immediately decided to start the evening off with oysters. The Nova Scotia oysters were delicious, and at only 2 bucks a shuck, a steal of a deal at a restaurant of this caliber.
The oysters were served with a mignonette and a spicier sauce that complimented each other perfectly. The sauces were delicious, but to be honest, the oysters were so fresh, they barely needed anything at all other than a squeeze of lemon.
We were then served bread and the most deliciously salty whipped butter. It came out in a super cute little jar along with the warm white bread. I love the small touches like the jar, it really sets the tone of a new restaurant; it’s all in the details.
For the appetizers, Adam chose the Classic Beef Tartare. Nestled atop the generous portion was an egg-yolk in a half-shell that was to be poured over the tartare. Oh man it was good! The mustard spread complimented the flavourful tartare perfectly and the toasted bread was the ideal, if not obvious, vessel for a classic dish.
Originally, I had planned to go off the grid and not order the Foie Gras. I swear I wasn’t going to order it. In the name of a new year and in an attempt to expand my horizons, I triumphantly ordered the Goat Cheese Tarte with Field Greens and Smoked Lardons, but alas, they were sold out!
Instead, I went with the dish I always order when I see it on a menu, foie gras. The Foie Gras Terrine with Chutney and Gingerbread was delectable. When the two huge slabs of foie were laid before me, it took all my ladylikeness not to drool on the table. It was served with another cute jar, this time filled with a delicious fruit chutney, and a crispy piece of gingerbread. Turns out, gingerbread and foie gras go swimmingly together, who would have thunk? I was in heaven.
After a refill on drinks, we were on to the mains. Both were served in these huge heavy bowls made of beautiful handmade pottery that presented a rustic ere to the dishes. Another great detail.
Adam had the Lamb Shank with Curried Cauliflower, Yogurt, and Cilantro. The flavours were amazing! The shank was cooked perfectly, but the flavour of the curried cauliflower is what really made the dish pop. It was so freaking good, I instantly got plate envy. The mint yogurt, which was served in a little jug that you poured over the meal was also delicious, and made this dish the star of the evening.
I was less impressed with my main. I chose the Duck Confit Cassoulet with Pork Belly and Sausage. It sounded amazing, and I couldn’t wait to dig in when the server presented me with the steaming dish. However, it wasn’t very flavourful. While the duck leg was prepared impeccably (the meat was falling right off the bone) and I loved the small salad that was served on top of the meal, it just didn’t have that umpf that I was expecting.
For dessert, Adam and I decided to go easy and we ordered the Truffles and Macarons. They were simple, sweet, and the perfect ending to a delicious meal.
Overall, I really liked the interactive nature of the dishes; the act of pouring the egg yolk over the tartare and the yogurt over the lamb is sensuous, exciting, and adds to the overall experience of the meal. I loved the presentation of all the dishes, and though I was less than impressed about the flavours of my main, I would recommend this restaurant to anyone. It is a great place for date night, a meal with friends, and especially a place to bring those out-of-towners if you want to show them what the North End is all about! This restaurant represents all that is new and exciting in North End Halifax and I suggest, no demand, that you Explore. Eat. Repeat. your way up to Agricola Street Brasserie in the very near future.
How about right now?
THINGS WORTH MENTIONING…
Cost: For all that delicious food and numerous alcoholic beverages the total was $125 before tip. Mains range from $14-36 at dinner so there is something delicious for every budget here!
Things I liked: The lighting (duh), the service, the atmosphere, and the awesome open kitchen that you can’t help but stare at on your way to the bathroom:
Things I didn’t: The undercooked beans in my cassoulet and the semi-flat Champagne.
Best Place to Sit: Anywhere really, but especially along one of the banquets; they are leathery, so comfy, and feel like they have been around for 50 years.
What To Order Next Time: The Goat Cheese Tarte that I missed out on, and BRUNCH. They serve it until 4pm on weekends, crazy awesome!