The Stardust Motel is an unlikely home to a steak and chop house; the Bedford Highway motel has seen many restaurants come and go, but it's never hosted anything quite as elegant as Bedford Prime.
The dining room is decorated with understated elegance, with pale lemon walls and dark wood flooring, wooden blinds and a beautiful new bar. The service is fairly formal, but the atmosphere is as comfortable and relaxed as befits a restaurant attached to lodgings.
The menu has a surprisingly wide variety of fish and seafood for a steak house; meat is heavily represented with pork, lamb and beef. Steaks are priced by ounce per cut, and all the tender cuts are here: tenderloin, striploin, rib eye and so on.
The first time I eat here, just a few weeks after opening, the seafood dishes are wonderful but the meat is not so great. Like good beef, a restaurant needs time to mature, so I've come back a couple of months later.
It's a busy night, and service suffers a little; forks arrive after dessert, there's no entr>e quality check, and there's a long wait between courses. Our server seems a little overwhelmed (perhaps it's inexperience) but she certainly gets points for trying.
Over several visits we sample a broad range of dishes. Appetizers include calamari habanera ($8), lettuce wraps ($10), crab crakes ($10), seafood chowder ($8) and jumbo "shrimptini" ($10). The calamari are flash-fried in a light batter and coated in a hot pepper arrabiatta sauce, leading to a tender texture and spicy flavour which we all really love. The lettuce wraps are a meal in themselves: grilled chicken, bean sprouts, carrots, cucumbers and noodles are artfully arranged on platter with three dipping sauces. The crab cakes are a little crumbly and misshapen, but the grainy mustard remoulade complements the mild crab and elevates this dish way past its looks.
The seafood chowder is listed as being a "creamy broth filled with scallops, shrimp, clams and haddock." Tonight I only find tiny shrimp and large pieces of haddock, but the broth is outstanding and I enjoy the chowder despite the missing ingredients.
The only true disappointment is the jumbo shrimp cocktail. The shrimp are devoid of any flavour at all, and the mango sauce is almost as dull.
There are no such disappointments in our entrees. The beef tenderloin ($3.50/oz) is cooked just right and sports beautiful grill marks. The halibut is great, and the citrus salsa makes for the perfect garnish.
The chicken-rib combo ($22) is a tasty deal—tender ribs and juicy chicken in a thick, tangy barbecue sauce—fabulous. The snow crab (market price) comes to the table cracked and ready to eat, steamed so that the succulent sweetness remains in the shell. Salmon ($18) is also handled deftly, grilled and set atop a roasted tomato sauce, topped with pesto. Aside from the service, and the shrimp, the only other misstep is the use of bagged "baby" carrots as the vegetable, when there is so much fresh, seasonal produce available.
I also question the wine list. There are over 60 types of wine available, but only two are from Canada, and only one is from Nova Scotia. Why not make room for a few local vintages?
Overall, I really do like Bedford Prime, and I do think that a niche has been filled quite nicely in the Bedford dining scene.
Bedford Prime Steak and Chop House1067 Bedford Highway831-5259Daily 7am-10pm
Liz Feltham has a resto review for you, whatever your niche, at www.foodcritic.ca