I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
Thanks again to Andrew Kurjata for granting me a few moments to show the world (or rather Central BC) how incredibly awkward I am when a microphone is placed so uncomfortably close to my mouth, I assume I’m about to have my molar cored out. Pregnant pauses and monotone throat emissions aside, I did the best I could and cannot thank Andrew and the staff at CBC Radio Prince George enough for this opportunity to talk about one of my many passions. Unlike the last interview, this one was done live in studio, so in that I’m thankful I didn’t shout “penis” fifteen times and run out of the room, waving my arms hysterically.
I’m not sure if the interview will be replayed or posted. I’ll let you know. Again, Andrew is one of the more generous humans on this little globe for giving me these few moments of grandstanding.
The Twisted Cork
The Copper Pig
I really admire the décor choices of these winners; I respect what they did to their respective establishments, but in the end, North 54’s reserved and classic display proved why they’re so well regarded in town. I often said and will repeat again that North 54 is the place you take a date to when you are in the mood to get lucky. I’ts okay to raise your pinky when you drink your wine there. The Twisted Cork comes up second with one of the most exicting decors this town has to offer. I’m also giving a shout out to Copper Pig for just being flat out ballsy.
College Heights Pub
What constitutes a pub? Hell, I’ve been doing this for three years—I’m still not sure. It can’t be just about the televisions or the alcohol adverts. So in order to make this arbitrary, I am eliminating places that balance the knife-edge, like Kelly O’Bryans, which still claims itself a restaurant. This leaves an honestly rather sad sort of places which often enough proved to be the depressiong low points in my reviews. Thankfully, there were highlights, and one which truly impressed. Yes, I speak of College Heights. I just hope they fixed that door. However, I must take a moment and praise Cowboy Ranch, a huge step up from the pub they replaced, proving along with CHP that a pub can be a source of food as well as drink.
On February 15th (a Saturday) I put on an event called the Samsara Carousal, revolving around (get it!) the film Samsara, a Ron Fricke non-narrative documentary. The gathering was intended to challenge culinary expectations—people were asked to each bring at least one dish from a different country from the other guests. In total, we had eight dishes from four different countries. A good start. Dishes included…
Beer & Sauerkraut Sausage Home-style stew
Mussels in Saffron / Pimento White Whine Broth
Drunken Potatoes & Chorizo in red wine sauce
Portuguese Codfish Cakes
Haggis with Neeps & Tatties
A great first attempt and I hope to follow up the same theme with Fricke’s other film, Baraka. Guests have already tied themselves to Moroccan, Korean, and Jamaican while I’ll be tackling French. Thanks to everyone who attended…and now I have to go pass a small waiter.
Basically, I reserved this for places that are either not open in the evening or are not known for their evening scene. Cafes fall into this category as well. Basically, outside of a simple coffee and / or donut locations, best brunch is for those places where you want a good meal and are not looking to be sucking coffee through a straw for three hours. Best brunch refers to great places you should go to for a bite when you have an hour to spare from work…and for that, Sassafras Savouries wins by a nose. Honestly, this was difficult…there are many places to recommend and none of them truly suck. Sims Lunchbox was above average when I first visited and later meals there have only shown improvement after improvement. And I will always have a soft spot for Voltaire as they are inside of a bookstore that is not a Chapters.
The Twisted Cork
The term bistro has expanded from its humble origins to encompass any restaurant without a buffet and lacking any specific ethnic identity. Of course, hints of ethnicity are permissible, very often touching on Spanish, French, and Italian influences. Like brasserie, the term has evolved from its roots and I have no issue utilizing it to categorize all the restaurants in Prince George NOT falling into any specific regional cuisine. This also covers any restaurant claiming itself a “steakhouse” or any place which elects to list its food under its sign (steak, seafood, pasta, etc). It’s my favorite category and one I am proud to award to White Goose Bistro. Although it may not be as haute (it’s a word) as others, it exists for the love of food first and foremost over all other concerns. Don’t get me wrong, North 54 and Twisted Cork are amazing locations and all three are worth multiple visits, but White Goose is the one I mention first in foremost when asked. It’s the restaurant I am most proud of being in Prince George. In truth, all three could make a play for a Michelin star, and in honesty, knowing what I know about how the guide evaluates potentials, chances are…well…none of them would get it; I have to be honest. BUT…these restaurants are probably the only ones that truly understand what it takes to earn one.
Hi! So want to come on CBC again this week to discuss your awards?akurjata
Of course. I work at staples now, and my lunches are now only 30 minutes. However I am off at 400 now. My only day off this week is Saturday. I would love to find an opening which works for you.
Indian: Spicy Greens
Thai: Mai Tha
Unlike other awards, this one needs to expansion. I elected to offer one award for all of them because there simply aren’t enough restaurants to label the best of each foreign cuisine. That being said, a lot of people might require a specific recommendation for specific cuisines. For that, I have broken up the Red Ribbon awards for the best of specific regions. For Vietnamese, of the two we have, U&Me wins out by a country mile. For Indian (or related regional cuisines), Spicy Greens with their new location wins out. And as for Thai…well, we only have one of those but thankfully, it’s actually pretty good. However, of all of them, I enjoy going to Shiraz most of all. For those looking for hard numbers, Shiraz edges out U&Me, and I often mention both of them in the same breath. It helps that they are both within walking distance of each other. But Shiraz simply brings a level of service, showmanship, flavor few places in town can measure up to.
No, this award, like all others, stipulates that the restaurant be currently in business by the time I issue this award (here am I hoping that these places remain open or didn’t suddenly close in the last few months. Even taking the BLATANTLY obvious bias, if I was taking the past into perspective, I would still gladly award the top prize to Suzuran. I already considered it the best sushi outside of Japan before I befriended the chef. Alas, I cannot do so, and the award goes to Sushi Star. Is it the best quality? Admittedly no, but the best in town is only a little better, is overpriced, and comes saddled with depressing service. So Good had been in the lead for so long but the presentation coupled with menu offerings send Sushi Star to the win. Thanks to their showmanship and teppanyaki tables, Shogun follows behind.
You know I had to, and because people ask me. In fact, it’s the most asked question I get. Well, here’s your answer…but it arrives with a huge condition: order from the Chinese menu. Although there are rumors other restaurants offer this, China Taste was the only restaurant in which it was confirmed. If you don’t have the grapes to brave such food from a foreign language menu, then the red ribbon awarded Fortune Palace is still worth your time.
This matters to some, not to others; and well, it matters to me. Presentation is vital with a dish. It shouldn’t look too extravagant as to confuse the patron but there is no harm is creating something to generate a double take—that feeling one gets where they stand before a work of art and simply take it in. For a moment, you don’t even want to touch the plate. Damn those that judge others for taking photos of their plates. Between North 54 and White Goose Bistro, the Goose takes the lead. It’s not just the presentation but the creative use of ingredients which win the day. The dishes are functional and perfectly edible. There is nothing on the plate that’s for show. Eating at White Goose or North 54 and not taking a moment to admire the plate’s presentation is like walking into a gallery to visit the bathroom.
U & Me
White Goose Bistro
This was difficult, probably the most challenging of all of them, involving both service and the general attitude of the floor manager. It was really close, really close. In the end, I had to go with the with North 54. Service is consistently high with a maitre de of a Michelin-star caliber. However, I must point out how close second is. Whenever I talk about Shiraz, I never fail to mention how classy the manager is—another refined example of showmanship and the only one I have seen in town that will actually open your menu and clarify the language of a beautiful menu. And further, I must praise the other honories. With U&Me, the owners truly make you feel welcome and with White Goose, Fallon is probably the only floor manager I would want to sit down with me WHILE I ate.
I think it’s due.
The time has come.
I have been holding back this pivotal moment, but truthfully to postpone it any longer would be a disservice to all those that read this blog.
Yes, I shall be giving out awards.
Nothing made of gold or gilded silver. I won’t be printing a 16-bit unicorn off a Roland-800 24-pin dot-matrix printer with a boilerplate header and felt-written title. I’ll be utilizing some artwork I have access to. Something like this:
Now all I need are awards.
BEST FRONT OF HOUSE
This basically encompasses the overall management of the floor. Service may vary between servers, but front-of-house ensures consistency. This is not about décor. That’s another award.
This involves the creative displays of dishes. The best food may not be the best looking. This is a guilty pleasure award for me, and one many people won’t care about.
Yes, with so many restaurants, Chinese cuisine gets its own award. And of all of them, this will be the one people will want to read. I am separating Chinese from other ethnic restaurants simply because they are more American than Chinese.
This includes everything not covered by the other categories, so it includes Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, and Persian. I predict this one will be the most difficult.
And apparently I have to separate this one as well.
What does this mean? Basically, it involves all non-ethnic restaurants. For the purposes of this award, I am including French, Italian, and British Cuisine along with all American variations. Basically if it’s not ethnic, it’s this. If PG had enough French or Italian restaurants, I would separate them, but I can’t.
This encompasses all cafes and restaurants with a fast-in/fast-out dedicated lunch menu. Basically this involves places that either put an effort into a lunch service or one where that’s basically all they do.
Since I don’t drink, this one will be especially tricky. Actually it won’t, given my low opinion of Pubs.
The best looking restaurant. Which one simply looks the best, ignoring how much it cost. If the décor works against the function of a restaurant, that will count against you.
The coveted best overall will have finalists and one grand poobah.
One thing you will not see however are worst restaurant awards. These are not awards to be proud of so despite my negative reviews of some, I will not single out the worst of town. I have never enjoyed worst-of lists and I won’t be picking up the habit now. They only serve to annoy people.
…I shall start this week.
Smokey and the Briquette
Chicken fajita night. Slice chicken breast, orange pepper, red onion. Add cumin, smoked paprika, granulated garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and some like zest. Let set for about 10 minutes. For the salsa put tomatoes, green pepper, a jalapeño pepper, red onion, salt, pepper and olive oil in the food processor.
Cook the chicken until done and serve with whatever you like. Hardly traditional fajitas but good when it’s freezing and blowing snow and you can’t use the grill.