Halifax is small enough that gems don't tend to stay hidden for long, but there's been surprisingly little chatter about Beaver Sailor Diner in the past six months. The name alone deserves both a chit and a chat.
While I have no clue where the inspiration for the name Beaver Sailor came from, whether it's Canadiana or kawaii, the logo is, indeed, adorable and the branding is so on point that I wouldn't be surprised to one day find out that this is a local pop-up of an overseas chain restaurant I had no idea existed.
There is absolutely nothing complicated about the restaurant. The dining room is small and spare: you can count the tables on one hand, and the stools that line the bar that runs along the window on your other. The menu focuses on Chinese noodles—all handmade in-house—and soups, a few Thai and Japanese-inspired snacks and salads and desserts like puddings and gelatins.
There seem to be common threads that run through many of the options—stewed pork, braised beef, bean paste. Between my first visit and second, a seaweed salad was replaced with a cucumber and water chestnut salad and some additional soups and a beef and potato stew with rice were added to the menu.
A part of the nice branding and marketing efforts the restaurant has made are beautifully composed photos of the dishes that are posted on a wall, just inside the door, making it easy to get a sense of the options, and hard to actually decide which of the lovely dishes to order. The reality lives up to the images, too, which is extra nice.
Pop hits quietly play on the radio in the background in the dining room, but most of the noise in the small restaurant is from friendly chatter and gossip at other tables. When the server pops out of the kitchen with our neighbours' order, his tray is crowded with deep bowls, wisps of steam rising from the starchy mountains, noodles switchbacking against one another until they peek over the lip of the bowls.
We are sipping our smooth, bittersweet bubble tea ($6.50)—made with India black leaf tea brewed earlier in the day, and huge, chewy tapioca pearls—when we get our deep-fried snack of Japanese-inspired popcorn chicken ($6.50), tender, juicy bites with crisp, crumbly coating. The mayo-based dip they are served with doesn't do them justice; they need some sweetness or heat to cut into the fattiness. A spoonful of chili oil and a dollop of sambal oelek our server helpfully offers does the trick.
The Thai cucumber and water chestnut salad ($4.50) is a great counterpoint to the fried chicken—and the chili oil and sauce—light and bright, tossed in a slightly sweet vinaigrette. We've just tucked in when our noodles arrive.
The hot and sour soup ($8.99) is a tangle of long, slender noodles winding their way through the phosphorescent orange broth. A pile of stewed pork, bits of black fungus, and springy pops of green onion make it a pretty dish. The seafood oil-sprinkled noodles ($7.99) have a mixture of pork, green onion, dried shrimp and chilis sitting on a bed of pappardelle-thick noodles, a bed of wilting bean sprouts tucked into the bottom of the bowl, giving a sweet, nutty edge to the dish. Neither noodle dish has huge hints of spice; the flavours in all of the dishes we try tend towards delicate rather than dynamic.
We finish our meal with a sweet and creamy, glutinously chewy, porridge-y dessert of black sticky rice with mango in a frothy vanilla sauce ($6.75), a great final note. Definitely one worth talking about.
Beaver Sailor Diner
1820 Hollis Street
Mon-Fri 11:30am-8:30pm Sat 12:30pm-8:30pm