Firing on… some cylinders
We like to go out for dinner on Valentine’s Day. We’re not super into the consumerism of it all, but on special days like Valentine’s, chefs often put out special set menus. That’s a big draw for us. We love eating out this way as it’s a great way to see the best a kitchen can offer. We sure enjoyed our Valentine’s meal last year.
This year, we decided to give Minnoz Restaurant and Lounge a shot. We have a limited pool of almost-great hotel restaurants in town – namely, The Grand Cru, and The View. Being that Minnoz is located at the Coast Bastion hotel — the big one — we thought it might also have a chance of being the best one.
We had a reservation for dinner and upon arrival the host quickly greeted us and took us to our table. We were seated in a quiet corner, overlooking the harbour and the Bastion. Nice.
Even during a busy Valentine’s dinner service, every other table in the restaurant was empty. Some of this is probably because Minnoz wasn’t on the radar for plenty of diners that night, but we think it was really due to the fact that the place is huge. There’s a large bar area when you first walk in, and near it a comfy-looking lounge area for cocktails. Then the whole place kind of butterflies out to the different dining areas. Throughout the restaurant are sight-line blocking half walls, fireplaces, and other features and we felt like you would have privacy no matter where you were seated. It lends itself well to romantic occasions.
After choosing a pinot grigio from the solid selection of wines, we got to the task of determining our dinners. For him, a starter of butternut squash bisque, followed by pork tenderloin. For her the seared tuna starter and then the duck confit.
Sadly there were no breadsticks or other amuse-bouches, but to the restaurant’s credit the starters came out quite quickly. The seared tuna was pleasant. It was well-cooked and attractively arranged on greens. The wasabi and the avocado cream were creative touches. We thought four measly bites of tuna was not enough though.
The butternut bisque was a bit of a letdown, and not because the attempt at a crème fraiche face went somewhat awry (lol). While the flavour of the soup was nice, and the (unidentifiable) toasted seeds added some interest, the soup was served only just above room temperature, which sapped much of the enjoyment of it.
While the starters obviously didn’t knock our socks off, we were still having a pleasant time. Low lights, pleasant music playing, candles flickering – the restaurant did a good job setting the stage for Valentine’s. Our server was a bit robotic though. We always hope for service with an extra flourish on event nights like this. Our server certainly did nothing wrong, but was definitely reciting the impersonal “script” and wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about the menu nor seemingly interested in ensuring we had a particularly special night. For example, when our food came, she didn’t even remember who ordered what. Oh well.
Anyway, its at this point in the review that we must change tone. Our mains were next, and all of a sudden we were eating great food! The duck (pictured up top) was served confit (meaning slow-cooked in its own juice) and was presented on a bed of tomato farro with sprouts and fennel, and drizzled with duck jus. The meat was perfectly cooked and the farro was just great. Actually, side note here — we really love farro. Mark our words, in a couple of years you’re going to be sick of hearing about farro because it’s about to explode as a trendy superfood. It’s a grain that’s kind of like a cross between rice and barley. It’s sort of chewy like barley, but also kind of fluffy like rice. Great stuff.
The pork tenderloin was also a winner. This was a perfectly – and we mean perfectly – cooked piece of meat that was so tender it almost melted in one’s mouth. It was served atop a bed of soubise (a thick onion sauce) with roasted potatoes and grilled veg. All of the above were just delicious. Our mains were thus a far cry from our unremarkable starters.
We moved on to dessert, then, excited. For her, the profiteroles (cream puffs) with berries, fruit, and other goodies. For him, the sticky toffee pudding.
As you can see from the picture, the cream puffs were huge. (Don’t be misled by the blueberries – they were also big.) With the fruit and the cream and the pastry and the crumbly bits, this was a pleasant dessert with lots of variety.
The sticky toffee pudding was beautifully presented and tasted great. It was served at just the right temperature that the pudding was hot and the ice cream had just started to melt. Not exactly traditional, but certainly good. There was apparently a local whisky in the pudding recipe, but we couldn’t detect the flavour. Still, this was a good enough dessert that we had to ask if it was made on site from scratch or brought in. Our server didn’t know (and didn’t think to ask the kitchen).
The three course set menu was $55 per person. With the modest bottle of wine, a standard tip, and taxes, our bill came to $183. We consider this good value for a special night like Valentine’s.
Our experience at Minnoz Restaurant was a bit of mixed bag, though certainly the positives outweighed the negatives. The weak points were the service and the inconsistent dish quality. While our mains were great, our starters were not at the same level. The restaurant certainly impressed with the meat dishes and the overall dining experience was quite nice. The prices were fair too, so even though we weren’t blown away, we were still happy to have visited and would certainly consider going again. Check them out and let them know we sent you!