Review of Epicurious Morsels

November 6, 2006 § Leave a comment

5529 Young Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Epicurious Morsels seldom disappoints. In a city filled with more than its fair share of inconsistent dining rooms, Epicurious is always dependable, and always good.

The restaurant sits in the middle of the historical Hydrostone Market, and it’s a rainy, grey day when we stop in for lunch. Our waitress greets us warmly, and she proves very well-informed. I order the Soup of the Day— Curried Carrot with Mango Chutney— and the vegetarian sandwich. My partner orders the Szechewan Spiced Noodles and Smoked Salmon with Potato Pancakes.

The starters arrive quickly. After I add a bit of salt to make the flavors bloom, the carrot soup is deep and rich, much deeper than expected. The Szechewan Noodles are indeed spicy and fun to eat, but ultimately simple.

My sandwich is well-constructed and well-seasoned; a prerequisite that too many restaurants ignore. Smooth avocado, sweet dijon and mild Swiss cheese, but the tomato has more flavor than I expect; it must be hydroponic. The accompanying salad of mixed greens is dressed in the house vinaigrette, which is a good one.
My partner’s Smoked Salmon with Latkes are most enjoyable. Smoked salmon is a house specialty here, and it’s always excellent, with a deep oily, smoky flavor. The potato pancake’s crust is thick and caramelized, a nice contrast to the creamy interior.

Jim Hanusiak, the owner-chef, smokes salmon himself in his tiny restaurant kitchen and the fresh fish— they offer flounder and Atlantic Salmon, as well as shellfish in varied forms and dishes— is as consistently good as the smoked. It’s a shame that in a harbour town like Halifax we’re so often served fish that’s dry and overcooked.

We came back for brunch a few Saturdays later, and it’s another delightful experience with the same server. This time we order the Stuffed French Toast and the Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon. The French Toast is the best I’ve ever had. The filling is a mixture of strawberry, banana and cream cheese, and it’s just barely sweet, and together with the syrup there’s a nice savory-sweet character… though I would prefer real maple syrup. The Eggs Benedict is held to a high standard, too. It’s a delicious variation on a breakfast classic, lifted by Hanusiak’s zingy, rich hollandaise.

The service is discreet and friendly, with welcoming smiles that feel genuine. Our water glasses and coffee mugs are never empty. Our server’s description of our dessert, Shaker Lemon Pie, is refreshingly accurate. It might be an acquired taste, but we loved the large, bitter chunks of lemon peel throughout, for the tart complexity they add. It’s much more than just a sweet dessert.

The menu here is small and it doesn’t vary much, aside from the specials. We might like a little more choice, perhaps, but we always do well here, and plan to return again. It’s a fine value.

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