If you’ve ever eaten at The Mahle House Restaurant, you probably know how this is going to go. This place has been serving inventive and delicious food in a pleasing country setting for almost as long as we’ve been alive. It’s a shame it’s taken us this long to actually review it.
The Mahle House is way the heck out in Cedar, but just like The Crow and Gate Pub or Coco Café, it’s typically worthwhile to make the drive (even with the dump in the way). Of particular interest to us is the restaurant’s “Adventurous Wednesdays,” on which they stow the a la carte menu and make the choices for you – with no substitutions (except for allergies). We dig it.
Our visit this time was on one such Wednesday. On arrival at the restaurant, we were immediately greeted by the hostess and ushered to our seats.
Just like The Milton Street Pub, Mahle House is literally a house, and is quite cozy. You’re seated in a dining room with creaky hardwood floors and flickering lights, but it all works and is in fact rather elegant.
Anyway, after being seated we had a few minutes to review the wine and drinks list and get our orders in – an Old Fashioned for him and a pint of dunkel for her. Since it was Wednesday, we didn’t need to (nor could we) order food. We would each be getting a five course meal, and each of our courses would be a total surprise.
It didn’t take long at all for the dishes to start arriving. First up was the hors d’oeuvres round. For him , Mahle House’s famous porcupine prawns and for her, smoked salmon and crostini. Any initial disappointment about receiving the prawns – a regular menu item – faded away immediately upon actually eating them because they are so dang good. They’re wrapped in kataifi pastry and fried. Kataifi is that stringy stuff you might know from eating ekmek or baklava. When fried, it pops into little quills, hence the name of this dish. The prawns were served in wasabi aioli (or was it mayo?) which was also great.
The smoked salmon was served with greens, pickled onion, crostini, fried capers, and a dill sauce. It was delicious and extremely beautifully presented.
Next up were the appetizers. We received a lovely beef carpaccio (an on-again, off-again menu item) and a shortrib tortellini. The carpaccio, like the salmon, was served with greens, crostini, and fried capers and was so good. (Though be warned, this is a raw meat dish.) The tortellini was served with mushrooms and parmesan cheese, and even a pickled cauliflower. Very delicious.
Shortly after our dishes were cleared came the salad round (and another Old Fashioned – whee!) You might think, meh – rabbit food, but a good restaurant can do amazing things with greens. In fact, one of the salads – a grilled caesar, is one of the best we’ve had in recent memory. (Salad pictured above.) It was two grilled lettuce wedges, with caesar dressing, asiago cheese, those amazing fried capers, tomato dressing, and fried polenta croutons. Every bit of that thing was awesome. We’d go back just for the salad – and luckily it’s a regular menu item.
The other salad was a blue cheese romaine with pecans and bacon. This was also a great salad, though had slightly too much blue cheese for our taste and it overpowered the other flavours. A blue cheese lover would have been in heaven with this one though.
Lastly came the mains. Strangely, unlike Minnoz, at which we found the first courses to be mediocre but the mains to be a slam dunk, here we found our mains not up to the same inventiveness or taste as in the preceding rounds. That is not to say these were poor dishes, but just that they were a bit mundane next to the creativeness and variety on display so far.
For her, there was a fried arctic char and for him a sirloin steak with veg. The fish was well cooked and was served with some veg and a pleasant bacon and cucumber salsa topping. It also came with fried and crusted polenta, which was great.
The sirloin was cooked medium-rare and served with veg and potatoes, pleasantly presented with a smoked onion relish. Sirloin is not a cut we would normally order, but the Mahle House knew how to get something out of it. The dish was good and the meat was pre-sliced for a nice touch, but we thought it could have been a bit hotter.
Lastly, came the dessert course. We received a slice of peanut butter pie and a slice of “pumpkin pie” cheesecake. Both of these were great, but it was the peanut butter pie that was really something special. It was cool and unexpectedly creamy and topped with delicious bits of brittle. This is another regular menu item at the restaurant so we’d encourage you to try it.
Service during our meal was not only pleasant and attentive, but also highly professional. Mahle House is an upscale eatery and the service and attention to detail are there to prove it. The plates are spotless, the servers know their wines, and everything flows smoothly as far as the customer can see. Food is delivered promptly, there are no errors, and so on. It’s a great experience. All that said, it’s a surprisingly casual atmosphere at the same time. This is a great location to dress up and take a date to, but it’s also a spot you can comfortably visit in jeans and a t-shirt. They’ve managed the strike a balance.
All this great food and service comes with a price. A price in ~money~. Our meals were each $58, but with drinks, tax, and a modest tip, our bill came to $191. We think this is good value for the quality of the food, service, and restaurant experience but obviously this won’t be a fit for all budgets.
The Mahle House is one of Nanaimo’s best restaurants and fine dining experiences and we think of it in the same company as Mélange and The Nest for those times when you want to zhuzh up your eating. This is a spot you’ll want to consider for romantic dinners, family celebrations, or even when you just want to impress someone with your developed dining sense. We’ll certainly be back again. Maybe we’ll see you there!