Victoria and Luis Gaspar sought to introduce Atlantic Canada to new types of world cuisine by filling the menu at Pipa Restaurant + Bar with iconic Brazilian and Portuguese dishes. This distinctiveness helped earn it a spot on Where magazine's 2009 list of Canada's best new restaurants, as well as praise from Halifax Magazine, which has lauded the restaurant for being "something different on the downtown dining scene."
The menu items' names may seem unfamiliar at first, but the flavours evoke a certain homey quality. The mains include hearty Brazilian stews such as feijoada, a blend of smoked meats and black beans that bears the honor of being Brazil's national dish. Appetizers incorporate Portuguese staples such as chouri?o sausage and salt cod. The wine list complements these robust flavors with its selection of Portuguese wines, including crisp vinho verdes and bold reds from the Douro region's subterranean reservoirs of grape juice.
Located within the historic Carleton building, which dates as far back as 1759, the restaurant combines modern and Old-World ambience, garnering the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia's award for Best Design & Decor in 2010. Fireplaces and floorboards from reclaimed timber add a rustic vibe to the two dining rooms, but the atrium gets a bright, airy feel from its glass pyramid ceiling. Throughout the week, Pipa Restaurant + Bar hosts live Latin jazz or bossa nova bands, and salsa-dancing events help attendees pick up the dance's basic steps and competition-level hair tosses.
Comprising an upscale restaurant, several casual kitchens, and a catering team, Mezza wears a few different faces, but all of them are distinctly Lebanese. That is to say, they celebrate fresh seafood, vibrant veggies, and juicy meats, seasoned with olive oil, garlic, lemon, and herbs. At the Quinpool location, chefs craft hot and cold mezzet—small plates—such as baba ghanouj and Lebanese sausages, warming up appetites for lamb and beef kabobs served on plates piled with rice, potatoes, and seasonal produce. Servers help quell the spiciness of the accompanying chili sauce by pouring local beers, Lebanese wines, and colorfully potent cocktails directly into guests' mouths. On some nights, live music from the strings of a traditional oud wafts through the sleek but earthy space.
As for Mezza's other locations, chicken shawarma and all-beef donair can be savored as late as 4 a.m. at the Barrington Street location. It can be sure of drawing a crowd even into the wee hours—Mezza perennially tops The Coast’s readers’ poll for Best Middle Eastern/Persian restaurant. Explaining its streak of wins in 2012, The Coast wrote: “It’s simple—the food is fresh, high quality and tasty.”
The chefs at Caribbean Twist import near-meridian flavours all the way up the globe to Halifax with their spicy jerk chicken, stewed oxtail, and vegetarian curry potato roti wraps. The staff expects some confusion from those who are new to Caribbean food, but have taken measures to preemptively stave off any anxiety. They included a short FAQ section to the menu to answer such important basic questions as "What's ackee?," "Is everything hot and spicy?," and "What animal does oxtail come from?" Their insistence that every bite and sip be true to its Jamaican roots extends all the way to the dessert menu, which is drawn up by resident baker Fatima Adam. Fatima crafts all desserts in-house, including mango cheesecake, coconut cream pie, and basbousa, a sweet cornbread-like cake soaked in syrup.
This commitment to crafting exotic dishes and fresh jamaican patties has earned Caribbean Twist an army of avid fans and awards, including Best Desserts Category for Eastlink Magazine's "Nova Scotia's Best" and their jerk chicken winning the 2011 North-End Community Cook-Off. When a zoning issue threatened to permanently close the café in 2010, these loyal patrons rose up and helped save the modest eatery.
As Seasons by Atlantica's sous chef Brenan Madill says, "You are only as good as your last performance." Luckily he and Executive Chef Luis Clavel have put on plenty of award-winning productions. Madill's commendations include the 2012 title of Apex Junior Chef of the Year, whereas Clavel's countless awards earned him the opportunity to cook at the James Beard House on behalf of Atlantic Canada.
The duo keep its performances great by updating classic dishes with unexpected twists. Instead of beef stew, their stew is studded with scallops, mussels, chorizo, and lobster, and their pan-seared strip loin is paired with a "chili" made from king mushrooms and potatoes. The meals are hearty, for sure, but guests would do well to save room for equally surprising desserts, such as a "lollipop" that's actually a brownie chunk dipped in chocolate. Atlantica has breakfast and lunch service as well, which is great considering that some people get hungry before sundown.
Within a former fish-processing plant now incorporated into the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, The Old Fish Factory Restaurant & Ice House Bar slings seafood culled from the fresh catches of top local suppliers. As guests peer out onto the harbour from the dining room or inhale salty ocean air on the wharf-side patio, they can feast upon homemade seafood chowders or ale-battered fish 'n' chips as well as Canadian rib-eye steaks and vegetarian pastas.
In addition to scenic views and succulent shellfish, a variety of events keeps regulars coming back for seconds. Thursday-night meetings of the Rum Club spark lively conversations about the beloved seafaring libation, and occasional live music enchants guests with toe-tapping rhythms and fiddlers that play with swordfish instead of bows.
For more than 18 years, Waves Seafood and Grill has used only the finest ocean specimens to fill its menu. Blending seafood and casual dining fare, its appetizers include such dishes as flash-fried calamari and potato skins. Main courses include seafood combos that pair haddock with clams, scallops, or shrimp, as well as clam platters that feature whole Digby clams hand dipped in Waves’ special batter. Waves encourages everyone to indulge in its Spoil Yourself menu, which showcases seafood delights such as the Fishermen’s Platter—a combination of haddock, scallops, shrimp, and clams deep fried in Waves’ batter.
For diners who prefer land-dwelling fare, a robust burger menu offers 6-ounce handmade patties paired with savoury toppings. Charlotte, Waves’ resident baker, also hand makes the eatery’s desserts, which include offerings such as lemon meringue pie, apple pie à la mode, and key-lime cheesecake.