It is pouring rain when I walk into the Five Fishermen Grill, which opened in June in the space once occupied by the Little Fish Restaurant & Oyster Bar. The host leads us to our choice of table; we sit by the bright window overlooking the rain-whipped Grand Parade. The dull chill outside is a stark contrast to the glossy dining room. Earthy browns and rough-hewn stone combine with glass for time-worn yet modern warmth.
I visited the Grill a few months ago to work on a video about local oysters, and as tempting as the oyster bar was, this was my first chance to try the food. The menu has a nice variety of surf and turf, which is great since I am lunching with one person who loves seafood and another who loathes it.
Our server is friendly and attentive. I quiz him about what fish is local (all of it!) and what is sustainable (none of it!). Understanding my hopes to hit both checkboxes he heads off to double-check with the chef, who confirms that while there is a "rod and reel" striped bass in the upstairs restaurant, there is nothing sustainable on the Grill's menu.
In the midst of our exchange, a basket of toothsome rosemary olive bread from Julien's Bakery is set on the table. After asking if we are from Halifax, our server sings the praises of the bakery, suggesting to my out-of-town guests that they head to the Hydrostone to try pastries he describes as "incredible; even better than the bread."
I order the grilled halibut as a part of one of the choose-your-own-adventure "Five Fishermen Grill Create" dishes ($18). I choose a lemon and herb beurre blanc and mashed potatoes to go with it.
The plate is lovely, the fish beautifully grilled, seductively leaning against a buttery yellow mash. The beurre blanc has broken, oil separating into a golden slick atop the light sauce, but still makes for a rich foil for the mild, dense fish. Baby carrots and shamefully overcooked asparagus are tucked alongside the velvety potatoes.
Five Fishermen is known for its sprawling list of local wines, and the gleaming, so I also order a glass of Jost Prost sparkling wine ($7.50) to pair with my halibut. It is bright and lovely, an effervescent counterpoint to my buttery meal.
The seafood chowder ($8) is also wonderful. The white wine velouté is delicate and creamy. And while there are no red herrings---there are nuggets of salmon, halibut, shrimp and scallop. And, oh, the scallop. Plump and silky, it's perfection. The soup, our server informed us, was cooked to order ---broth added to a pan of freshly cooked seafood, to ensure each cut of fish stayed firm and succulent. It's truly great chowder.
We are equally impressed by the chef's daily soup. When our server told us that he was blown away by the simple cream of mushroom soup, we knew we had to try it, ordering it with the rosemary ham and Swiss panini ($12). It's woodsy and homey, the mushrooms pureed to give the soup a meaty weight. It's better than the sandwich, which is drippy from the watery tomato.
It's disappointing that none of the Grill's desserts are made in-house, but we decide to share a slice of an ultra rich brownie chocolate cake ($10) with a scoop of vanilla ice cream ($1.95) suggested by our server. We thoroughly trust him by this point. It's billed as colossal. It is. It's also delicious, especially with the ice cream.
I pay the bill and turn to head back into the rain. Our server stops and asks if he can call us a cab so we can avoid the wet. It's an exclamation point on what has been a great meal made exceptional by the service.