Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tess says goodbye, Chi Bistro says hey

A switcheroo on Charles Street

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2015 at 2:49 PM

It's always sunny on Charles Street
  • It's always sunny on Charles Street

This Monday night, October 26, marks Tess’ final meal. The 5687 Charles Street restaurant announced a week ago that after over six years of serving north end Halifax it’d be changing hands and re-opening with a brand new concept.

With owner Kexuan Amy Gong at the helm, Chi Bistro will be a Chinese fusion restaurant and wine bar, with a focus on small plates. "Influences will be taken mostly from Sichuan and Shanghai as well as the Taiwan province, but our chef Christopher Spencer will continue to look for ideas and inspiration to keep the flavours true, but to take a more modern approach to Chinese cuisine," says Gong via email.

The new hangout will still serve lunch and brunch (part of the current Tess menu will remain), and will keep the current Tess staff onboard. It aims to make its debut in mid-November.

"Chi, to eat, is indispensable in our life. It means more than eating in China, the Chinese culture is based on the eating," says Gong. "There is a sentence 'Ni chi le me?' The literal meaning is 'Have you eaten?', but generally, we use this expression as a greeting to the friends who have close relationship with you. It's an intimate expression of greeting."

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

City council to look at making the donair Halifax’s official food

Downtown food staple might get municipal endorsement.

Posted By on Sat, Oct 17, 2015 at 7:59 PM

HRM has donairs in their crosshairs. - SAMSON LEARN
  • HRM has donairs in their crosshairs.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived here your whole life or are just visiting for the day; eating a donair is a painfully Haligonian experience. Now, one councillor wants to make the city’s relationship with the heavily-sauced snack official.

Tuesday at Regional Council, Halifax West Armdale councillor Linda Mosher will be requesting a staff report to consider approving donairs as “the Official Food of Halifax Regional Municipality.”

“The Donair was invented in Halifax Regional Municipality and we need to make this official,” she writes.

A staple in every local pizza shop throughout the Maritimes, the humble donair has apparently also conquered Alberta. This past summer Edmonton was caught in a firestorm of debate about whether the green onion cake or the donair should become that city’s official food. “Local woman” Salma Kaida started a petition in favour of the cakes, telling the Edmonton Examiner that Halifax had already claimed the donair. But we haven’t, hence this new motion.

It’s unclear what becoming a city’s official food would actually entail, but Tuesday’s item would at the very least stop some other prairie town from swooping in and stealing our thunder.

“I know probably better than anyone else the amount of publicity you get out of a donair,” says Norman Nahas, owner of King of Donair. “It’s really a big thing for Halifax to be able to say donairs were born here. You can’t really replicate the taste anywhere else.”

The donair is to this city what the banh mi is to Saigon, writes Simon Thibault in the Globe and Mail, one of several donair endorsements Mosher cites in her agenda item. The item has also been lauded (or at least acknowledged) by Anthony Bourdain, The Food Network, Classified and just about every local media outlet a couple dozen times over.

Mosher’s agenda item claims the donair was created at the original Quinpool Road location of King of Donair in 1973. Other reports have it originating from Peter Gamoulakos and brother John Kamoulakos (yes, they spell it differently) at their Bedford Highway Velos pizza restaurant a few years earlier, in 1967. Nahas, who claims he heard this story directly from Peter’s son, says Gamoulakos standardized what we now think of as a Halifax donair when he opened the first KOD.

“It was Quinpool Road where they finalized the recipe; where they made the donair the donair.”

The origin story isn’t helped by the entangled pizzeria history of Halifax’s Greek and Lebanese communities. See if you can follow along; Nick Garonis purchases King of Donair from Peter Gamoulakos in the 1980s. He eventually opens a second franchise at Grafton and Blowers Street in what soon becomes Pizza Corner. That KOD was bracketed by Sicilian Pizza on one corner (owned by Marwen Nahas), and The European Food Shop on the other (owned by John Kamoulakos, Peter’s brother).

Stay with me.

King of Donair as a corporate entity is then sold to Sam Nahas in the 1990s, who passes it down to his son, Norman. The European Food Shop closes this past April, soon replaced with Johnny K’s donairs. Johnny K’s is named for Kamoulakos, but owned and operated by Peter and Tony Nahas, who are a distinct third donair-making Nahas clan.

“Same last name, different family,” says Norman Nahas, about the three groups of first cousins.

It’s a remarkably intertwined, Haligonian history for a dish that’s now served up by every pizza restaurant in the Maritimes.

“Everyone around the coast can say they own the lobster,” says Norman Nahas, “but nobody else can say they own the donair.”

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Coming soon: Portland Street Creperie

Crepe expectations for downtown Dartmouth

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2015 at 12:56 PM

  • via Facebook

Lifelong Dartmouthians, and father-son business partners, Neil and Max Cook understand the beauty of a handheld snack. The pair are behind the Portland Street Creperie (55 Portland Street), a new cafe/restaurant that’s aiming to greet downtown Dartmouth by the end of October.

“When Max and I started talking about this in the early summer, about the idea of a business, I was focussed on having a meal in your hand—with the ferry and buses nearby—and this was kind of an evolution,” says Neil.

The small french-style bistro will sit around 15 people and serve locally-roasted coffee, but the Cooks say the crepes with be “queen of the shop”. The menu of 12 or so flavours will feature both sweet and savoury options, with a focus on local ingredients. Max—who’ll be running the kitchen—says he aims to keep crepes in the four-to-seven dollar range and the Portland Street Creperie will be open seven days a week.

“He’s always heard me talking about these ideas and the opportunity presented itself, my dad wanted to follow a dream of getting to know the community you’re in,” says Max of the good timing that pushed him to team up with his dad to open a restaurant.

“Downtown Dartmouth is going through a transformation, we want to support the overall change happening here,” says Neil. “It’s more than just the business itself. we looked at the environment and what was out there and felt we could fill a niche here.”

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sneak Peek: Studio East (opening tonight!)

The new bar and restaurant on Cunard Street serves up rich Asian-inspired dishes

Posted By on Tue, Oct 13, 2015 at 10:53 AM

Steam Buns with braised pork and Asian slaw, a totally rich and amazing flavour - ADRIA YOUNG
  • Steam Buns with braised pork and Asian slaw, a totally rich and amazing flavour
  • Adria Young

On Saturday, Studio East served up a tapas of Asian-inspired dishes as chefs Saronn Pov and Ray Bear offered a tapas-style sneak peek of the rich and flavourful menu in the rustic but modern space on Cunard Street. With her Cambodian roots, Pov was a longtime vendor at the Keith's Brewery Market, but she is delighted to open her first restaurant. Tonight, all of Halifax is welcome to try it out. And based on what I tasted, you'll be back. I know I will. 

The menu features a complementary palette of Asian-inspired but locally produced meat and vegetarian dishes. The decor is inviting and cozy but contemporary and crisp. Fine art (including a portrait of Bill Murray) adorns the walls. The bar and kitchen is exposed, and the bright dining area features benches with low dining tables, while a community-style table centres the room. 

For drinks, Studio East has well-priced local craft beers, ciders, cocktails and a wine selection from Valley wineries. The menu features dishes like Char Sui BBQ Pork Ramen, Cambodian banh mi, Korean beef bulgogi, raw oysters, warm sushi and more. The dishes are flavoured in fusion while maintaining an East Asian taste with fresh, local ingredients. Truly delicious. 

For more information and hours, visit their Facebook site. Yum. 

Studio East, when pigs fly - ADRIA YOUNG
  • Studio East, when pigs fly
  • Adria Young

The resto mixes the building's original features with a modern flair - ADRIA YOUNG
  • The resto mixes the building's original features with a modern flair
  • Adria Young

Fine art, clean lines - ADRIA YOUNG
  • Fine art, clean lines
  • Adria Young

Chef Ray Bear returns - ADRIA YOUNG
  • Chef Ray Bear returns
  • Adria Young

Char Sui BBQ Pork Ramen Bowl (poached egg, veggies, herbs, crispy pork bits) - ADRIA YOUNG
  • Char Sui BBQ Pork Ramen Bowl (poached egg, veggies, herbs, crispy pork bits)
  • Adria Young

Warm Sushi (smoked salmon, spicy mayo, egg crepe) - ADRIA YOUNG
  • Warm Sushi (smoked salmon, spicy mayo, egg crepe)
  • Adria Young

Saronn Pov cooks each dish with love - ADRIA YOUNG
  • Saronn Pov cooks each dish with love
  • Adria Young

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Friday, October 9, 2015

The Carrot co-op to close next week

Gottingen Street's community grocery store not "financially viable"

Posted By on Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 11:24 AM

  • Photo by Samson Learn

Gottingen Street's The Carrot (2063 Gottingen Street)—a community grocer that opened about a year ago, after winning an Aviva Community Fund grant—is closing at the end of next week.

The co-op announced the sudden closure in a members' email sent out this morning, stating:

"Unfortunately, we simply do not have sufficient capital to continue operating with our current monthly losses. This decision has been an incredibly difficult one. We believe closing now will allow us to take time over the winter to explore the possibility of an alternative business model that may be viable. As always, we are committed to making any such alternative business model align with the Carrot’s vision, mission, and values."

The Carrot will host a members meeting next Saturday, October 17 at 10am, to discuss the decision, the next steps and the potential alternatives for evolving the grocery's model.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Nine Locks Brewery to open in Dartmouth

Expanding on Rockbottom Brewpub's well-known craft beers in a big way

Posted By on Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 3:28 PM

The surge of Nova Scotian craft beer continues with Nine Locks Brewery; the joint venture between Shaun O'Hearn (owner of Rockbottom Brewpub and Your Father's Moustache) and business partner Danny O'Hearn aims to be brewing at 219 Waverley Road (same building as the beloved Mic Mac Bar & Grill) by late November.

The microbrewery, named for the nine locks of Dartmouth's Shubenacadie Canal, is something the O'Hearns (distant cousins) have been dreaming up for some time. "I'm a big lover of craft beer, I mean obviously I have a brew pub already," says Shaun. Danny has a background with Moosehead. "But we’re at maximum capacity already with Rockbottom, we can’t make anymore and I don’t have any room to expand."

The next logical step was Nine Locks, where Rockbottom brewmaster Jake Saunders along with Chris Downey (a longtime brewer at Montreal's Brutopia) will work to make a line of beers that'll be available by the growler as well as in tall cans at a brewery retail shop, NSLC locations, restaurants and private liquor stores. For starters, they'll be brewing six styles—an IPA, extra special bitter, white, American pale ale, porter and an India session ale.

“The more breweries that open the better it is for everyone," says Shaun. “It really adds to the recognition for local craft breweries. And it opens everyone’s eyes to different types of beer. Someone who’s drinking just mainstream beer, like Labatt, Molson, Keith’s, they might come in, buy a couple single cans, and see if they like it.”

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Vol 27, No 17
September 19, 2019

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