|Visited On:||March 1, 2014|
|Gluten Free Menu:||No (most items on regular menu can be made gluten-free)|
|Variety of Gluten-Free Options:||1/2|
|Overall Gluten-Friendly Rating:||1/2|
|Overall Dining Experience:|
|Price Range:||$15-$40 per person, plus drinks, tax, and tip|
Last weekend, Michael and I finally made it to the Agricola Street Brasserie, a new restaurant in Halifax’s North End that has been generating a lot of positive buzz. We got downtown earlier than planned and walked in just as the bar opened at 5 p.m. This actually worked out quite well, since it gave us the opportunity to make a reservation for 5:30 (when the dining room opens) and have a drink beforehand.
My first pick was The Orchard ($10), one of their signature cocktails. Michael had the Bridge Saison ($6.25) from the North Brewing Company (formerly Bridge Brewing), crafted just up the street from the restaurant. As we sat at the bar and enjoyed our drinks, we also had the opportunity to people watch, check out the amazing décor, and watch the chefs in the kitchen prepare for the night ahead.
Promptly at 5:30, a hostess came over to greet us and lead us to our table. Our server came by just a few minutes afterwards. My first question was about gluten-free options. Their current menu is almost all naturally gluten-free. The exceptions are the French fries and jojos (cross-contaminated in the fryer) and the barley salad. However, they can replace these items as needed to make a dish gluten-free. (Their menu changes based on the season and what’s available locally, so always make sure to ask about gluten-free options. However, they make almost everything in-house so the gluten-free selection should always be quite extensive.)
With the entire menu available to us, we asked our server what she would recommend. Based on her suggestions, we ordered the grilled octopus ($12) as a starter. Michael ordered the duck confit cassoulet ($16) for his main while I chose the scallops with celeriac purée ($18). We also ordered another round of drinks: a Hell Bay dark cream ale for Michael and a cocktail called the North Ender for me.
As we waited for our meals and sipped on our second round of drinks, we watched the dining room fill up and were glad that we had gotten there early. Our server also dropped off some freshly made bread (with fresh butter) for Michael and a generous plate of half a dozen buckwheat crackers (made in-house) for me. The crackers really surprised me; they were quite different than anything I have ever had, with a very earthy, hearty taste. (A gluten-free food runner who later came to our table also commented on how good the crackers were, and how he wishes they would sell him some!) It was very nice to have a bread alternative brought without even asking.
Our starter, the grilled octopus, arrived just as we had finished with our bread and crackers. It was a very large portion – you could certainly order some cheese or a vegetable dish on the side and have it as your meal. Neither of us have never eaten octopus before, and it’s not something that we would normally order, but we were both very happy with the dish. The octopus was grilled and sliced, presented with some roasted vegetables. It was very tender with a light dressing that was both tart and spicy. I could see why the server recommended it, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking to try something a little bit different.
After we finished the starter, our mains arrived. The food runner confirmed that my meal was gluten-free when he dropped it off. (I always appreciate when staff members do that, especially when the meal is brought by someone other than the server.) I loved the presentation of my dish: five perfectly grilled scallops on a smear of celeriac purée, with a delicious kale salad on one side and kimchi on the opposite side. Michael’s dish was more rustic: a huge leg of duck on a bed of bean cassoulet, with a small pile of greens to one side. We both enjoyed our dishes immensely, sharing bites with each other and cleaning our plates completely. I commented on how amazing everything had been so far. We also realized that almost two hours had passed since we arrived!
We debated for a long time over dessert. Their gluten-free dessert options are more limited than the regular menu, but do include homemade ice creams and sorbets (the salted caramel sounded especially tantalizing), a bitter chocolate pot de crème, and a cheese board. It’s quite rare for us to order three full courses, especially since we’d eaten every bite of everything that had been brought to us so far. However, I finally decided to go whole hog and ordered a glass of Benjamin Bridge traditional sparkling wine ($13) with the pot de crème ($7). Michael opted for some water and the carrot cake, which featured toasted pecans and a salted caramel cream cheese icing ($8).
When dessert arrived, we were extremely glad that we hadn’t skipped it. The pot de crème was incredible – silky and sweet, without being too overpowering. The pairing with a sparkling wine took it to an entirely new level. Michael wasn’t sure how to feel about his carrot cake, especially with the artistic dehydrated fruit pieces on the top. In the end, he concluded that it was well balanced and a perfect end to the meal.
As our night came to a close, we discussed how incredible the entire evening had been. The range of gluten-free options and the care that the server and food runners took was amazing. Every dish had been so delicious that we ate every bite of food that was brought to us. The service was friendly but not too casual, and we never felt rushed despite the fact that the restaurant was extremely busy and had a long lineup of customers waiting.
We talked about other dishes that we’d like to try, and family and friends that we would like to bring here. For me, that’s the ultimate sign of a great restaurant.
Agricola Street Brasserie
2540 Agricola Street (Downtown Halifax)
Web Site: http://www.agricolastreet.ca/