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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Redcoats British Pub: dependable food, evening club!

Lunch date #9, March 16, 2012

After all of our exotic dining, it was time to get some dependable food. Mom had wanted to try Redcoats (Redcoats British Pub and Restaurant, 336 St. Mary Street, www.redcoatspub.com)—she knew I had been there several times and had given it a good report. I thought she would appreciate a place where she could comprehend the menu items and recognize the food she was eating! Note: to set the mood, it will be important for the reader to imagine my fake British-isle accent for the remainder of the post. I’ll “give it a go” to “pop” in the appropriate phrase so you might “fancy a bit” of the Brit style here!

It was a cool, drizzly London-sort of day. Pity, since one of the grandish features about Redcoats would be their outside dining. Don’t think I’ve been sat indoors before. The patio is a brilliant lunch spot on a sunny afternoon, or dinner on a balmy evening. On weekend nights, the Pub transforms into a dance club, complete with DJ and special lighting. Steph and her friends have been there on many a visit home for a proper good time!

Critique #1 location: 5 points. While just a bit off Main Street, similar to India Garden, it is just a stone’s throw from the heart of downtown, so we awarded the full score here.

Critique #2 ambiance: 3.5 points. I must admit, I prefer the outside dining better than the Pub itself. The bar area is nice and very Pub-authentic looking with the tiffany-style glass. The exposed beam ceiling is a good touch, but otherwise, it doesn’t have that cozy-traditional English Pub feel. We asked for a first hand description about what to expect in an English Pub from our server. While her accent is actually Scottish, she was able to give us a very good account of what a traditional pub, and pub food, is like in the UK. Although it has been over 20 years since I’ve ventured “over the pond” myself, I didn’t feel that the internal ambiance of Redcoats was spot-on Pub-like, but it certainly heads in that direction, so we give it a “B+” for effort. Otherwise, the seating area is rather ordinary.

Critique #3 menu selection: 4 points. Quite an adequate offerin’. Good selection of traditional pup fare: fish ‘n chips, bangers and mash, Shepherd’s pie, Steak Pie, and that all time British delight: Bubble and Squeak(!)—which is some sort of cabbage and potato dish. They also have a fair bit of American-style items as well: burgers, sliders, sandwiches and salads. For some inexplicable reason, I was in a mood to eat light and sort of healthy, so went with the salmon and avocado sandwich.  Mum, on the other hand pursuing her quest to eat something in the spirit of the locale, went for fish & chips—and confessed, not bein' much of a fish-eater in general, that it was her first time ever to order this British staple! She chose the traditional style over the Goujon’s of cod—as the latter was described to be big on batter, lighter on the fish. Since we also had a coupon for a free appetizer (or “Tasty Start”), we thought we’d give the tri-tip Bruschetta a go as well!

Critique #4 service: 5 points. What can I say—I know the server! Still, she was completely brilliant…seated us quickly, explained the Pub-style items on the menu, brought our food quickly and nice and hot. In all honesty, I don’t think she gave us “special” service at all…I’m quite positive she does the same for all of her patrons! I did let on that we were reviewing her and told her about the project. Just the same, the service has been spot on in the past.

Critique #5 Food: 4 points. I was thrilled to have real British tea in a nice warm pot, and drank it black (rather than “white”). Mum liked her big cup of coffee, and was happy they offered it and she didn't have to depend on tea. The tri-tip bruschetta was an interesting combination of thinly sliced tender beef, carmelized onions and melted cheese on the toasted bruschetta. We both enjoyed it rather well. I went for the lentil soup to accompany my sandwich—good flavor. The sandwich was pretty good as well—the baguette was soft and tasty and the cucumbers were a good added touch. Mum was fairly pleased with her fish, but thought the chips were just fair. There was plenty for both of us to “take away” and save for later.

Critique #6 value: 4.5 points. Mum did well by ordering her meal from the “special value menu”—so the price was excellent at $6.50, especially when compared to the regular menu price of about $11.00. My sandwich, $11, was priced as is pretty typical of downtown. Since we got the appetizer for free, the overall value of our meal was excellent.

Overall score for Redcoats British Pub: 4.3 points. We had a jolly good time on our lunch date. Beastly weather out, but we were cozy and well fed. This is a great place for lunch—especially when the weather improves and one can utilize the outdoor seating. Or, you can enjoy a pint at the bar and a good chat with a chum! ‘Til next time, cheer-io!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

India Garden: Oh, what a bargain!

Lunch date #8, March 2, 2012

That week, we were so far from our comfort zone, so far out of the box; we were in the nethersphere of dining choices—we were having Indian food! Mom had Moroccan food once—and thought that perhaps since that was pretty exotic, that Indian would be similar. Wrong continent I pointed out. She was relieved to discover we would not be sitting on cushions and eating with our hands, alla Morrocan. She really had no idea what to expect. I had eaten some Indian food, here and there, and I do like some curry-a bit of curry-but I was also really out of my element here. What to do? Be honest, play the tourist, and ask lots of questions.

Part of my desire to try Indian cuisine that day stemmed from my curiosity about India Garden, 210 Rose Avenue, www.indiagardencuisine.com. One of my previous favs, Claude and Dominique’s Bistro, had sadly closed a few years ago. Who could miss the replacement: the bright orangish-terracotta exterior wall-trim leaps off the street with a sign that reads: “India Garden: Northern and Southern Indian Cuisine”. Wow I thought—India is a huge country. For one restaurant to cover specialties from both the Northern and Southern regions, unbelievable and clearly the place to go for our introductory experience. I’m still in shock over Mom’s continued eagerness to participate in our project when she agreed to live on the wild side and give India Garden a go. Remember, this is a woman whose prior lunch staples were cheeseburgers and Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches!

Critique #1 location: 5 points. Not on Main, but so close to the heart of downtown, it seemed appropriate to give a full score here.

Critique #2 ambiance: 3 points. It is tough to objectively critique a style we don’t typically prefer. The color scheme is definitely a bold statement, but not pleasing in our opinion. The interior carries through the idea of sharp color, with décor in the niches that seems to represent an Indian flare. Still not what we would consider tastefully appointed; what would Dominique think? Actually, a bit garish, we thought. I liked the Indian music playing in the background. Although not enticing me to leap up and try-out my Bollywood dancing (thank goodness for Mom’s sake), it did set the mood.

Critique #3 Menu selection: 4 points. As we arrived, a queue consisting of about 8 men formed at the cash register. We had caught the end of the lunch rush on a Friday afternoon. India Garden offers a lunch buffet daily and we thought that would give us the best exposure to all they had to offer. It appeared that all the other remaining patrons had the same idea. When we found out the price: $10 for everything including tea, we were in. I counted 17 total dishes in the buffet that day. The waiter explained that there are always at least 5 vegetarian and another 5 meat-based dishes. On Fridays, they also offer a large selection of grilled veggies and the meal always includes fresh baked Naan. To be accurate critics, we challenged ourselves try a little sampling of everything. Although each item was clearly labeled, I had to ask for an explanation of each dish, as I had no familiarity with the names. Quite honestly, even the descriptions left me a bit perplexed.

Critique #4 service: 4 points. The wait-staff was very friendly and helpful. We did have to get their attention several times as they were also trying to fit in a nibble of lunch. Still, they were kind and tried to help us understand what we were eating. If they thought it odd that I was writing the names and description of the dishes in my little notebook, they didn’t let on! When we pointed out that the Chai pot was empty, they were quick to refill it. As we were toward the end of the lunch period, some of the buffet items were getting a bit low, but there were still ample amounts for our sampling needs.

Critique #5 food: 3 points. Overall, everything was pretty OK, but nothing all that great. We liked most everything a bit, didn’t care for a few. The Tandoori chicken, tender and nicely spiced, was the only item actually still warm—it tied for the best dish with the fresh, warm Naan. We didn’t care for the Dahi Vada: very sour lentil ball in yoghurt sauce, but liked the Saag Aloo—a cooked spinach dish. Both the Chana Masala (chick peas) and the Sambar (a spicy soup) were fair. We didn’t care for the lamb curry—lamb was fairly gamey, but did like the cilantro chicken and chicken curry. After a while, too many spices overwhelmed our palates, and we didn’t think it was possible to critically taste much else.

Critique #6 value: 5 points. An amazing price for a huge assortment of dishes. No leftovers, however! If someone wants a lot of Indian food, this is clearly the place to go for lunch.

Overall score for India Garden: 4 points. At the end, I asked Mom for her overall opinion: “It was all right, but I wouldn’t write home about it”, she concluded. Also, considering the buffet style resulted in no leftovers to take home, I was wondering what she would do for dinner—she was quick to point out the same! She admitted, however, that she really wouldn’t want to eat it all over again…so the lack of leftovers worked out in her favor this time.