Their pics don’t lie and we’re starting to feel it’s right
Nestled in the park-like neighbourhood of Hawthorne Corner at Wakesiah and Jingle Pot in Nanaimo, you’ll find The Plate. This corner eatery appears to be a simple trattoria, serving pasta and rice dishes. There’s more than meets the eye here though, and The Plate surpassed our expectations for it, bigly.
The restaurant caught our attention back in June when it opened with its slick website and cool photos of its menu items. The presentation looked to us to be almost too good for what we assumed was just another corner takeout shop, replacing the retired Hot Chai. This was sus (as the kids would say) and we weren’t about to be suckered by their professional photos, interesting Korean-Italian fusion, and delicious-sounding food! In hindsight, this was dumb and we regret it took us until now to check The Plate out.
Our visit was for dinner on a crisp fall evening. Immediate impressions were the only weak point of our visit. We noted there was limited street parking available close to the restaurant. This didn’t affect us, but could cause an issue for some. The restaurant’s exterior was pleasant and modern, (albeit with a distractingly-bright “open” sign) but we found the interior décor to be at odds with our expectations. Instead of a cozy trattoria setting (we were thinking candles and wine glasses), there were instead supply boxes stacked to the ceiling, a drinks fridge with blinding LED lights, and a wall-mounted TV showing (silently) K-pop videos from Youtube. It appeared at first that the Plate was geared to takeout first, with in-house dining to be secondary.
We were warmly greeted and invited to sit where we pleased. A server provided menus promptly. The Plate is licensed and had a handful of wines, beers, and other options available. While the selection was somewhat limited, we liked getting our ciders with frosty glasses. A nice touch.
For mains, we both felt like maximizing the Korean part of the Korean-Italian fusion the restaurant offers. So for her it was the kimchi pilaf, and for him it was the chicken katsu. We enjoyed some picked radish while we waited.
For the unaware, pilaf is basically a type of fried rice made with broth and served loose (less like risotto and more like fried rice). Kimchi is of course spicy fermented cabbage (or other veg) used as an ingredient, garnish, and side in tons of Korean dishes. Chicken katsu is a fried breaded chicken cutlet.
The Plate’s pilaf was dreamy. While not particularly spicy (despite a chili icon in the menu), there was still tons of flavour. This was mushroom-forward and loaded with umami. We thought we detected a hint of smokiness and wondered if it was roasted or smoked kimchi being used. The rice was perfectly cooked, and the addition of an egg to top the dish was awesome, although we would have liked that egg to have been a touch softer. The whole plate was drizzled with (we think) mayo and some cheddar cheese. It was a delicious and hearty dish, and totally unique in Nanaimo.
The other main was the chicken katsu, pictured above. This came served with rice, some seasoned mayo, and a side salad. The chicken was juicy and tender and hot. The breading was different than the usual panko crumbs you might get. Instead it was more like a batter you’d get on good fried chicken, but was not overly greasy like the fast food stuff. The cutlet had katsu sauce (similar to Worstershire) and cheese on it and was super good.
Despite how delicious the main was, the side salad is what really got our attention. Yeah that’s right, the side salad. While the components of the salad weren’t anything unusual (mixed greens, tomato) the garlic oil dressing the restaurant makes is a knockout. It looks just like balsamic vinaigrette, but nope. This is a black, garlicy oil dressing that has potent garlic power but that somehow doesn’t overstay its welcome (like garlic can). We haven’t figured out the secret (is it fermented garlic? pickled?) but we’re sure to have another taste pretty soon.
Service throughout our visit was friendly and down to earth. Being welcomed to return as we were on our way out was appreciated.
The total for our dinner, including drinks, tax, and a modest tip was $65. We consider this to be good value.
The Plate serves food that is at least as good as its menu pictures suggest. While we had some small niggles with comfort and tone in the dining room, taste, service, and price are the elements that matter most. The Plate nails it where it counts. We think there’s something for everybody at this unassuming little shop and suggest you do not sleep on it! We can’t wait to go back and hope to see you there!