Silvern Voices extra: Aquarius Menu


Here’s the menu, as the picture is not that clear:

Small Plates & Bowls

Snow Crab Bisque 12
Curried Split Pea Soup with Coconut Milk 9
Breads & Spreads: Smoked Capelin Pate/Seal Rillettes/Rabbit Compote 15
Beet Carpaccio 10
Warm Mushroom Dandelion Salad 9
Marinated Mussel Salad 12

Large Plates & Bowls

Asian Tea-Smoked Cod 22
Mediterranean Braised Cod Tongues 24
Olive Oil Poached Ouannaniche 26
North Atlantic Bouillabaisse 24
Moroccan Rabbit Tagine 27
Buttermilk Grouse with Bacon Stuffing 26
Tandoori Barbecued Leg of Lamb 32
Barolo Braised Moose 31

Our Sommelier would be pleased to suggest the perfect wine match for your meal from our extensive cellar, featuring our award-winning reserve list

The Constellation Hotel
The Battery ~ St. John’s

Reservations about No Reservations?

Flocking to a new restaurant?

Flocking to a new restaurant?

I was on CBC Halifax’s Mainstreet today, chatting about restaurants with “no reservation” policies. This is a new trend, sweeping in from larger American centres like New York and Washington DC.

Like any story, there are two sides to this, and it’s been quite the divisive issue. Having been on both the kitchen side and the patron side, I’m sitting on the fence for this one.
New York restaurateur Ken Friedman (the Spotted Pig) has become the standard bearer for no reservations. He’s on record as saying he wants his restaurant to feel busy, more like a bar. That people come and wait in the bar, have a drink, and create a buzz. “Quiet is death”.
Now, that buzz business is great in big markets, with rock-star chefs and restaurants that are viewed as places to be seen if you’re somebody, where you have the clientele who feed into and off of that buzz, but it’s a different situation in smaller markets.

Aside from the hype generation, it can make fiscal sense. Not taking reservations means you don’t have to worry about no-shows and last-minute cancellations, the sort of things that lead to lost revenue and wasted labour. You don’t have to worry about guests leaving in time for the next seating, thereby ticking off the next party that’s supposed to be seated there. And I would wager it’s in smaller cities, like Halifax, St John’s, Victoria, where revenue as opposed to buzz is the driving force behind these decisions.

And then there’s the downside. Who do you risk alienating by having a no reservations policy?
Older patrons who may not want to or be able to wait for long periods
Parents with babysitters, who don’t want to be later than they promise, or add to their restaurant bill with more money tabbed for a sitter.
People coming from outside the area
Special occasion diners
The business dinner crowd

Ultimately, it’s up for the restaurant to decide if their target demographic is going to be affected by the policy, and if alienating certain diners is worth it. The savvy restaurant owner will reverse a decision quickly if it’s not making sense for them.

So, what if the restaurant you’ve been dying to try doesn’t take reservations, and you don’t want to wait in line? Well, unless you’re in one of those big markets where the restaurant is packed every night, it shouldn’t be a problem if you keep these things in mind:

• Don’t go during prime time; that’s typically 7pm. Go for the 5.30pm or 6.00pm seating; remember, your table hasn’t been booked for later diners, so take your time, enjoy a drink, and you can still wait to eat.
• Avoid weekends or holidays like Valentine’s day
• If the restaurant is close to a venue like a theatre or stadium, check to see if any big shows are playing as the restaurants will likely be very busy before and after the show.

Standing in line is not something that appeals to me, but nor would it deter me from going.
I would love to hear your thoughts on it–would you stand in line for a restaurant?

Give Peas a Chance


Chatting with a woman in the grocery store line-up today, and she mentioned that she picked up a ham hock to make split pea soup. Instantly, I was transported back in time, across the country, and to the split pea soup of my childhood. That soup was salty with ham, thick enough to float bricks on, and could line a stomach for days upon days.
This version is a lot lighter, with more flavours than just salt, and not quite the digestive system staying power. And, it’s featured on the menu of the Constellation’s fine dining restaurant, Aquarius.

Curried Split Pea Soup

Serves 4

1 1/ 2 cups of uncooked yellow split peas
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium yellow onions, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
4 cups of vegetable stock

3 tablespoons mild Indian curry paste
1 (14oz) can light coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 /2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 /2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 /2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Fill a large pot with water, add peas and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until peas are very soft, about one hour. Top up the pot with water as required during the cooking process. Drain peas and set aside.

In the pot, heat canola oil. Add onions, garlic and carrots, and cook over medium heat until vegetables are softened but not browned. Return peas to pot, and add stock and curry paste.
Using an immersion blender or food processer, puree the soup until smooth. This one doesn’t have to be super smooth, a little coarseness will add texture.

Bring the pureed soup back to the boil and add coconut milk, salt, pepper, cumin, and turmeric. Let simmer another ten minutes, then stir in cilantro. Let simmer another 10 minutes before serving with papadum or naan bread.

This soup is one of those that lends itself well to experimentation–don’t like curry? Don’t use it! Replace the coconut milk with vegetable stock, and add a teaspoon or two of a good quality pesto, or chopped fresh herbs of your choice.
For a zingy hot version, substitute the mild curry paste for a fiery Thai red or green curry, garnish with a cooling dollop of plain yogurt or kefir.
Turn it into a meal by adding cooked chicken, or pour the hot soup over very thinly sliced salmon pre-placed in the bottom of the bowl. The heat will cook the salmon.

Mailbox Mystery

My NaNoWriMo work, Silvern Voices, is going well–as well as it can be for someone with the attention span of a gnat. I’m easily distracted, and today the horror at the Constellation has been replaced by the Mystery in the Mailbox.

Moving meant we replaced a daily trek to a suburban community superbox with the quickly vanishing postal home delivery. There’s something delightfully old-fashioned about peering down the lane and seeing the little red flag jauntily promising something within. It’s part of our afternoon routine, the dogs and I stroll out to the mailbox before our walk.
Of course, in this digital age, there’s usually not anything of consequence: flyers, a couple of bills, a card maybe, and those magical days when a royalty cheque arrives.

So when I checked it out yesterday, I wasn’t expecting anything other than the usual. That’s not what I found, though. First off, it was earlier in the day than the usual mail delivery, and I was on my way out without the dogs when I noticed the flag up. I stopped the car to check.


What was this? You know how a bunch of random thoughts flit through your mind when faced with an odd situation? I wondered of it was an unwrapped sample, or if the neighbour dropped something off, or if it belonged to my husband and he’d forgotten to mention it.
Then the smell hit–the stench of urine. I took my hand off the material, quickly. Well, that wasn’t good.

We contacted the authorities (for various reasons, it was important that this not be necessarily seen as a bad practical joke); pictures and statements were taken and reports filed.

The young officer told me it was a pair of men’s pants and a dress shirt, and assured me that there was nothing to worry about, and that it was probably a mentally unstable person or some such. Apparently, being on a secluded dead end road with only two houses, our area is a magnet for drug users. Now, in the four months or so that we’ve lived here, I’ve never seen any activity like this; the occasional empty flask against the fence across the road on a Saturday morning maybe. After the initial shock and creep factor at finding pissy clothes in one’s mailbox wore off, then I started to think about why and what.

Were we targeted personally? No, I don’t think so. Random then. But why? Did someone wet their pants? If so, why the shirt? And did he bring the dirty clothes with him? Or was he wearing them? And if so, what did he wear home? Did he put them in the mailbox for safekeeping, thinking nobody uses a mailbox anyway? Was it someone so drunk or stoned they didn’t know why? Well, the clothes were folded pretty neatly, so he was a tidy offender. Is there some naked drunk guy roaming the woods near our house, wondering where he left his clothes?

What do you think happened?

A Little Review of Little Tokyo

Seafood Udon

Seafood Udon

Little Tokyo is an unassuming little spot holding down the corner of a strip mall on Admiral’s Road, the sort of place you’d likely not notice if you were just passing through. We were stopping in the nearby grocery store one night, and not wanting to make the mistake of food shopping on an empty stomach (ever do that? And end up carting out seven bags when you went in for bread?), we decided to try it out. The small space is spotless, the service superb.
Over several visits, we’ve tried several dishes, although not any sushi yet.

Tempura Prawns

Tempura Prawns

Beef Teriyaki (l) Gyoza (r)

Beef Teriyaki (l) Gyoza (r)

Tempura prawns are battered with a light hand and expertly fried, crispy and not at all greasy.
Gyoza dumplings have a smidge thicker wrapper than I prefer, but the pork filling has plenty of flavour and the accompanying dipping sauce is strong, salty, and a great complement in small amounts.
Beef teriyaki is tender and very good, although each time I have it the amount of ginger varies so there’s a consistency issue; it comes on steamed rice and the portion size is generous.
Our menu favourite so far is the udon soup. Laden with thick, chewy udon noodles, these soups are a meal unto themselves.
I prefer the chicken or beef to the seafood, mainly because of the crab flavoured pollock–I never liked that.
Little Tokyo is not fine Japanese dining by any means, but it’s not meant to be. But Little Tokyo scores big for service, and the food is good, plentiful, and cheap.
I look forward to working my way through the rest of the menu, and not just to curb my impulse grocery shopping.

NANOWRIMO Update: I am singing the mid-month, tired of writing, halfway there blues. But the Silvern Voices at the Constellation have begun to speak to me, and she’s telling me she wants to be heard.

Quartet of Links

One of THOSE days

One of THOSE days

Sometimes, the day just gets away from me and I’m left trying to shift into food writing gear from horror mode, and it’s not working. And I don’t have another excerpt fit to share just yet, so I present to you some of my favourite food links.

Back in April, Flavorwire featured Lawrie Brown’s colourful food photos. They’re delightful, and you should check them out here.

Looking for something food-related to read? Goodreads has amazing food book lists, grouped into categories like “Best Traveling Vicariously” and “Foodie Romances” (really!)

For those with adventurous tastes, check out the (UK) Telegraph’s 20 Strange Foods to Try Before You Die ; aside from the more common Rocky Mountain Oysters, the slideshow is filled with things not for the faint of stomach.

Expensive tastes more your thing? This Eater piece from last year spotlights “18 of the Most Outrageously Expensive Dishes and Drinks” Yeah, I could throw 750.00 for a cupcake.