Rapscallion Rogue Eatery- Review

Rapscallion

61 Young Street, Hamilton
http://www.rapscallionrestaurant.com
Parking: Street, Green P
Reservations: Recommended
Good for: Date night


Rapscallion has been on my list since they opened. I kept putting it off until I could get a large enough group to go that I could try everything possible on the menu. Now that we are getting closer to our move date though, I knew we needed to get there regardless of whether anyone could join us. Rapscallion is part of The Other Bird family. They also own Two Black Sheep, Black Sheep Snack Bar, The Mule and Burro. We got to take a quick look at their boutique hotel in Paris when we were there this weekend.

Let’s start with the vibe. It’s small plates and great for couples or a meet up with friends. It is pricey and the quality of the food reflects this. For two glasses of wine, 4 plates and dessert we came to around $100 before tip. It is also often booked up so if you want a more casual after dinner/after work drinks vibe then I would check out Two Black Sheep across the street. If you’re adventurous and have exceedingly well behaved children, you could bring them, but I would say leave them at home and book a babysitter.


In terms of atmosphere and decor, it’s a cozy place and you don’t realize you are right by a busy road. Decor is one area I did feel they could put a little work into. It doesn’t look like they have painted or updated the decor at all since they opened and I think cleaning up a couple of things would add a LOT to the atmosphere. That being said, later in the evening when it’s darker and their peak time of service that wear and tear may not be as visible. I LOVED their bathroom decor though, very cute.


On to the food! To start, I knew going in that this was rich European style gourmet food. That is not my favourite kind of food, I am more “let’s try the new Ethiopian place” or “OMG new vegan cafe!”. I can appreciate when a place does good food however and this visit was purely for my kind and patient husband who LOVES rich meats, cheeses and pastas. He quietly puts up with far too many visits to raw vegan cafes with me in the summer.

We both started with two glasses of red wine. They have a great wine selection and although they don’t have a cocktail menu, they will make you any classic cocktail. We ordered 4 plates and dessert with the first to come out being the kimchi shrimp.

Kimchi Shrimp

This was my least favourite dish and we didn’t finish it. The shrimp was OK, kind of chewy and there was far too much kimchi. I can’t believe I am saying that since I love kimchi, but I don’t want to eat an entire bowl of it. It did have an interesting black bean sauce in it which I enjoyed, but I would give this dish a miss in the future.

Rabbit Gnocchi

Next was our absolute favourite, the rabbit gnocchi. This was so creamy with pillows of cloudy goodness. The sauce was perfectly balanced with sweetness and a savoury mustard. Everything was cooked to perfection. I normally don’t get gnocchi when we go out since it’s often chewy or tastes bland. This was exactly how gnocchi should taste. Definitely a hit. We couldn’t stop ourselves from eating the sauce dredges after we finished the gnocchi!

We finished up with the lemon asparagus and lamb dish. Both amazing. The asparagus was crisp, perfectly cooked and well seasoned. The lamb was served with potatoes, cheese and bacon bits in a creamy sauce.

Lamb Tartiflette & Lemon Tarragon Asparagus

We finished with their housemade chocolate bar which was topped with caramel and mango puree as well as bacon bits. I could have done without the mango puree and bacon bits, but this was also really wonderful. Rich and sweet without being overpowering or sickly sweet.


Overall, this was a great meal. The food was well cooked, the menu is clearly well thought out and the service was excellent. They were so patient with us as we decided on our menu and answered every silly question I had. I also really appreciated how attentive they were in terms of picking up plates, timing the dishes and ensuring we had enough water, wine, etc. I was really impressed. Plus they were playing great 90s-00s music while we there. Much booth dancing ensued. So if you (like me) have not yet checked out the Rapscallion you should definitely try it out.

Overall: Overall rating: 4.5/5
Service: 5/5
Food: 5/5
Ambience: 3.5/5

Ancaster Mill- Sunday Brunch Review

Ancaster Mill

ancastermill.ca
584 Old Dundas Road

Parking- Yes
Reservations- Yes

Last weekend I got the opportunity to finally have one of my favourite annual traditions- the Sunday brunch at Ancaster Mill. Technically, I usually go to Spencer’s, but ever since we had my Dad’s 60th during the Mill’s brunch it has become my new go to. Spencer’s and Ancaster Mill are owned by the same group so their brunches are both stellar.

Here’s the gist of it: $49/person and you MUST make reservations. This is not the time to be spontaneous. Plan the event a few weeks ahead, book your table and dress nice. Both Spencer’s and Ancaster Mill are fine dining restaurants and a good excuse to change out of your yoga pants. The service is great at both, although I have to say Ancaster Mill is more consistent and attentive. Probably because it is smaller as well and easier for the servers to keep track of you.

There is a layout through the main dining rooms of a cold charcuterie section, fresh fruit and salads and cold seafood bar with FRESHLY SHUCKED OYSTERS! You can bet I stood in front of the oyster dude for an uncomfortable amount of time. There is also a section of fresh juices and hot chocolate although there are unlimited champagne cocktails, tea and coffee including in the price. I am very partial to their Kir Royales mostly because I feel very fancy drinking them. In the same large dining room as the cold foods there are various breads, baked goods and preserves.

 

In the smaller dining room there is the hot bar with a carving station and various different warm options including made to order omelettes, crepes and waffles. My personal favourite from this area are the pierogies. They have all the makings of the perfect food: fresh soft dough, butter, potatoes, cheese and sour cream.

Finally you arrive at the real reason you came in the first place, the dessert table. So there are a lot of delicious options including various cakes, pies, cookies and tarts. They always seem to have warm bread pudding and apple crumble. You MUST TRY THEIR HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOWS! I know it seems weird and you will wonder, “why did I pay $50 to eat marshmallows?”. Well because homemade marshmallows do not taste like anything you have ever eaten before. Those dipped in their chocolate fountain are like a heavenly opera in your mouth. You’re welcome.

Everyone has different taste, but below I have compiled a list of consistent hits and missed in the buffet based on a consensus from family and friends.

Greatest Hits:
Cold seafood table: I already mentioned the oysters, but they also have crab legs, shrimp, sushi, smoked salmon and pickled herring as well as a seafood salad. Normally I would feel a bit grossed out by the idea of a seafood salad and would be thinking it is a quick ticket to food poisoning. If you are ever going to have this dish done well in a landlocked place like Ontario, it is here. Favourite from this station: smoked salmon and pickled herring.

Hot bar: Broccoli with pine nuts. Even if you don’t like broccoli, try this, it is deliciously done. I have already sang my praises of the pirogies, but let me take this time to emphasize the need to take the sour cream to it with it. SOMEONE (cough cough husband) did not take sour cream and stole the last of MY sour cream to eat his pierogies with. The sour cream is right there people, use it. Things that I personally don’t enjoy but have been told by others are amazing: shepherd’s pie, honey glazed ham and bacon.

Crepe station: The crepes are awesome, but I do think you have to get a little creative. They only serve nutella or mixed berry and don’t have a lot of toppings other than whipped cream. However, if you take your crepe a few steps down to the ice cream bar area, you can go nuts (literally) with the topping bar for the ice cream. Pro tip- ask the crepe maker for extra nutella- you can never have enough nutella.

Whomp Whomp- Misses:

Waffle station: They make these in advance and they are a bit soggy. Don’t hold a candle to the crepes.

Salad bar: I am actually a salad fan, but this salad bar didn’t do it for me. Largely frequented by a small group of terrified “I’m gluten-dairy-soy-fat-and-calorie-sensitive” females who seem to have accidentally found themselves at this buffet, this area is best minimally sampled.

Bread bar: OK I am torn on this. Their breads and baked goods are actually pretty amazing. But ask yourself, do you really want to fill up on bread in this situation. Again if you are a certain SOMEONE who accompanied me last time, you will fill up on bread and then judge others who saved room for bread. Don’t be that someone.

This review is specifically for their Sunday brunch, stay tuned for a dinner review!

Overall rating: 5/5

Service: 5/5

Food: 5/5

Ambience: 5/5

Review: Aberdeen Tavern

Aberdeen Tavern
432 Aberdeen Avenue
theaberdeen.ca
Parking: Street
Reservations: Yes

Ah, Aberdeen Tavern. I remember when they first opened and I couldn’t get reservations for a table for 2 on a Wednesday evening having called several days in advance. Even now, with more upscale dining options available in Hamilton, you will still see a decent crowd there any night of the week. There is a reason for that since this place is AMAZING. I do not use all caps lightly (bold faced lie), this place deserves it.

I have been to Aberdeen Tavern many times. They have a weekend brunch, lunch and dinner menu. One of my favourite things is that they have a separate vegetarian menu. I have a ton of veg family members and friends and I like knowing they have more than one measly option to choose from. Also, the vegetarian menu is actually good. It is not just one token entree, they have clearly put a lot of thought and effort into it. This review is for dinner mainly because that is my preferred meal here. Their brunch and lunch menu is very good, but I have found the service, timing (more on this later) and drinks to be inconsistent at those times. They seem to be the best with regards to service, quality and timing on Fri-Sun evenings.

We started off the meal with the breads and dips appetizer. They grill the bread and drizzle it with olive oil. Who would have thought simple grilled bread could be so delicious? All of us carb lovers out there that’s who. I pity you low carbers out there. You are starving your brain, but also your body of so much amazingness! It’s served with a trio of dips including smoked hummus, olive tapenade and an herb ricotta. The olive tapenade was a favourite, but that could also be because there were three Punjabis at the table and we enjoy some flavour. The (oh so not Punjabi) husband liked the whipped ricotta the best. It was fine, but it didn’t hold a candle to the tapenade. Needless to say, the bread was demolished fairly quickly.

The husband got two cocktails; the Purple Rain and West End Spritz. They were…fine. We (as I was sneaking sips when he wasn’t looking) were pretty disappointed with the cocktails mainly because of the very high expectations we had from previous visits. This visit was on a Thursday night and they did not have a staffed bartender making cocktails. It was just our very sweet, very young and very inexperienced in cocktail making, server who was making the cocktails. Later on in the night we caught a glimpse of him fighting with the espresso machine. Bless his heart. It almost drove the husband to tears, he cannot stand to see espresso machines misused and abused. He did an OK job, but they just did not have the complex test profile you get from Aberdeen cocktails on a weekend dinner service.

After this, things got a bit messy timing wise. We were having a pretty good time talking and didn’t realize it initially, but eventually saw it had been about an hour since we ordered our mains. The manager came over to each table and apologized personally, which I very much appreciated. Apparently the kitchen had stopped receiving orders due to a technical glitch so they had not made anything for the last 45 minutes. That seems highly unusual to me, but I haven’t worked at a restaurant and will refrain from making a judgement. I do think though, that they should have done something to make up for the fact that it was such a significant wait. Previously when I had been to Aberdeen for brunch, the exact same situation happened where our meals did not arrive for about 1.5 hours. That time they sent out some free scones, pastries and coffee. This time, nothing. By the time the food came, I was starving- my pre dinner snack and the appetizer were a distant memory.

As I am a shortsighted fool, I ate a snack right before we went to Aberdeen Tavern. This turned out to be a great thing though at the time the husband made all sorts of faces and comments about my inability to be hungry for 10 minutes. Since I wasn’t feeling too hungry when I ordered (how I would regret this later), I got the tuna tartare app as my main. The rest of the table got: the veal meatball marinara, braised beef and roasted chicken supreme. I had a taste (OK several tastes) from everyone’s mains and I think my favourite was the braised beef. It was unbelievably tender and melt-in-your-mouth perfect. The potato rosti it is served on is absolutely divine, crispy, but not overly greasy. My least favourite meal was my own. I usually love their tuna tartare, but this time I felt they were a bit skimpy on the tuna and my avocado was pretty bruised underneath it. It wasn’t the prettiest, but it was still delicious. I would have appreciated a bit more tuna though! Honestly though, it is possible it is always served with that much tuna, but I was just starving by the time they finally brought out our mains. They serve the tartare with these wonton chips which I love. They are a very unique and cool twist on the dish and really enhance the flavour and texture profile of the dish.

We were pretty full at this point, but could not resist the siren call of the dessert menu.

Sticky toffee pudding and triple chocolate cake, both with ice cream made in house!

Overall, despite some timing mishaps, still a good dinner at Aberdeen Tavern. Also, I should note that I have been here for dinner many times and this is the first time I have ever had an issue. Even with the timing issue, the food was still phenomenal.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Service 4/5

Food 5/5

Ambience/Decor: 5/5

Review: FSH & CHP Hamilton

FSH & CHP
47 King William Street
fshandchp.ca
Parking: Street
Takes Reservations: No

Having always lived in urban parts of Ontario, I never spent much time thinking about fish and chips. I have always loved trying new restaurants and different cuisines, but being so far from water means the seafood is just not as good as it is on our East and West coasts. I always envisioned fish and chips as being more appropriate in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland than Toronto. That is until FSH & CHP came to town. I have been to their restaurant about a half dozen times now so this review is long overdue.

The restaurant is on a fairly busy road with other gems like The French, The Mule and FSH & CHP’s sister restaurant, HAMBRGR. You can usually find street parking in front of the restaurant or not far down the road. The restaurant is small with window and wall bar seating and tables which they will reorganize depending on the size of the groups. There is usually a wait in the evenings, but the line tends to move quickly. One downside of the small space is there isn’t anywhere to wait which can be hard in the winter months.

The atmosphere is quaint, pretty and feels spacious even though it is a fairly small dining room. They have really embraced the nautical theme, but it doesn’t come across as cheesy or overdone. It is a great design and has a cozy and familiar, but still modern feel to it. The clientele is so diverse as well. It seems to be a hit with everyone from the university crowd to young professionals, middle aged couples and even parents with young kids. Personally, I would be wary of going with very young children because the space issue makes it hard to navigate a carseat, stroller and the other million things that you have to carry when you travel with kids. They also don’t have much space to wriggle around and explore if they get bored or frustrated.

Photo credit: FSH & CHP Google Images

They revamped their menu shortly after my first visit there which had been during their soft opening. We had already tried their salmon burger, beer battered cod, lobster mac & cheese and chowders. The beer battered cod is our favourite, but I have never had a bad or even just average meal here. This time we decided to try the Fry box for two. We did not think this decision through very well. It was simultaneously great, but also a very bad, no good, terrible idea. It was great because the food is fresh, well made and delicious. It was terrible because once our order arrived, we realized we had just ordered an entire wooden crate of fried food.

Disclaimer: I have nothing against fried food, how could I when so many of the best things in life are fried. However, I never grew up eating fast food or having fried food served to me at home so my tolerance is low for the quantity I can eat of it. Thank you immigrant parents for offering us mushy black bananas and dented oranges from your bag when we said we were hungry near a McDonald’s. The Fry Box is not for the faint of heart. We did not come close to finishing (although we tried!) and I left fairly certain that my body was now at least 40% oil.

Before we faced the fry box, we ordered the kale chop salad to share. This was also revamped and they have done a great job with it. When I first tried it months ago, it was a bit bland and uninteresting. This salad was bomb though. Perfectly massaged kale with dates, pecorino, nuts, fried chickpeas and apples. Soooo good. I liked that they didn’t overwhelm it with dressing either, all the individual flavours from the ingredients came through and complemented each other.

The husband tried the Bavarian Wheat beer and loved it. We have tried their cocktails before, but honestly we can be a bit picky about how our cocktails are made and they weren’t that great last time. Anyway, fish and chips are begging to be served with beer.

After the salad we got our fry box. The picture does not do justice. They usually serve it with corn, but were out that night so we got more delicious fried goodness. There was the fried beer battered haddock, fried shrimp in batter, hush puppies and chips (fries for us simple non British folk) served with coleslaw, tartar sauce and curry mayo.

We usually get the beer battered cod and this was our first time trying the haddock. Although the batter was just as perfectly spiced, airy but still crispy as it always is, I was not a fan of the haddock. It was chewy and fell a bit flat for me. That did not stop me from peeling all the batter off and eating it….then eating my husband’s batter off his piece as well. The shrimp was delicious as were the fries. Their fries are a perfect example of how fries should be done. Thick cut, crispy, hot and salty outside, but a rich and soft potato inside. My only criticism would be that I find the fries a tad bit on the salty side, but the husband disagrees and finds them perfect. The only disappointing item for both of us were the hushpuppies. I just find them bland, even with the sauce options. Neither of us particularly liked them and we found them boring. Still, there was so much food that it didn’t matter if you weren’t a fan of one part because there were so many other things. I would have liked to have tried their corn, but it will have to be next time.

Overall, FSH&CHP is a great and unique addition to the restaurant scene. It provides an upscale version of a classic dish. Service was friendly, helpful and attentive. If you haven’t been there, definitely go give it a try.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Service 5/5

Ambience/Decor: 4/5

Review: Durand Coffee

Review: Durand Coffee

Durand Coffee
142 Charlton Avenue W
Wifi: Yes

Photo credit: Durand Coffee Google Images

I love coffee. Since the day I picked up my first cup as a bleary sleep deprived second year medical student, I knew it was meant to be. We have had a rocky past, like the month I spent on Ob/Gyn drinking 8 cups a day to stay awake for deliveries. I like to think things are more settled now with just one morning cup and the occasional midday latte (or two). Lucky for me, Hamilton’s coffee scene has exploded in the last few years and there have been so many new places to try.

I have been coffee shop hopping the last few months as I study for my Royal College exams. When are the exams you ask? Not until May, but that doesn’t mean we all haven’t been studying* since August. It simultaneously feels like an infinite amount of time but at the same time not nearly enough time. The only thing that makes it slightly more bearable is having a delicious caffeinated beverage and sitting in the sunshine with people whose lives have not been blighted by choosing a career in medicine.
*Studying = carting around a million textbooks and binders and staring at them bleakly for 10 minutes before opening Facebook. You will then browse Facebook for 45 minutes looking at all your high school friends who have real lives, houses and children instead of an MD and unspeakable amounts of debt.

A fellow prisoner…resident… mentioned she had been studying at Durand, so I thought I would give it a try. I am very particular about where I spend my study time, so the first time I went with my husband to scope the place out. I have been there twice again since, so I feel pretty set about my feelings on the place now.

Located on a mostly residential street, Durand Coffee is easy to miss. Looks are deceiving though because once you walk in, you are greeted by a large space with plenty of seating. The lighting is perfect and there is a good mix of customers. If you are studying, just be aware it is pretty busy and they get a good number of parents with young children coming in. Regardless of what time I have gone it has always been busy, but you can usually still snag a table or comfy chair in the back area.

On my first two visits, I tried their almond milk latte. The next time I tried the matcha tea latte also with almond milk. I appreciate it’s hard to work with almond milk. It’s watery and can be annoying to work with, but such are the options for the lactose intolerant. It can be hard to find a good almond milk latte, but these were great. Creamy and beautiful to look at. The matcha tea latte which is a new feature was a definite highlight.

As much as I would like to give Durand Coffee a wholehearted 5 stars, there is something that holds me back. Although the service was ‘fine’ all three times I went, I did find the staff (same people working each time) a bit stand offish and not particularly friendly. They seemed much warmer with regulars, but this could just be the particular staff I encountered on my visits.

Overall: 4/5

Drinks: 5/5

Service: 3/5

Review: The French: Sunday Brunch

The French
37 King William St, Hamilton
http://www.thefrench.ca

Takes Reservations: Yes
Parking: Street
As a big fan of Aberdeen Tavern, I was excited to hear about the new addition to their restaurant family. The French opened back in December and I finally got the chance to try it out last week. We headed over on a very chilly Sunday morning to have brunch.

Brunch is one of my favourite weekend (or weekday!) activities, but I was a bit apprehensive going in. Aberdeen Tavern has a killer dinner service with perfectly constructed dishes, but I have always found their brunch a bit disappointing. I know that opinion leaves me in the minority, but the service, coffee and food at brunch just can’t compete with their lunch and dinner service. All that said, I was unsure of how The French would compare.

Let’s start with the atmosphere because if you have not been there yet, this space is gorgeous. They have exposed stone walls including a separating wall for two dining areas. Although very striking, the stone walls are a bit of a liability in the winter. We were seated at the window right by the wall and the wall was very cold. Even the husband, who in his entire life has never felt cold, remarked it was chilly.

We started with lattes, regular milk for him and almond milk for me. They were both decent, not great. Next up was an Elderflower Kir which I absolutely loved, but I am a sucker for elderflower cocktails.

We ordered a fresh scone which we had intended to have with our lattes and then the Englishman and Croque Madame for our mains. Within less than 10 minutes of ordering we received our scone, both lattes, the cocktail and both meals all at the same time. On the one hand, timely service and hot food are great. On the other hand, the disappointing one, brunch is a leisurely meal and I felt rushed. We ended up only spending 35 minutes total from seating to exit which does not make for a relaxed Sunday brunch feel.

The timing of the food was unfortunate, but the food itself definitely made up for it. The Englishman included 2 eggs, sausage, bacon, crispy potatoes, braised beans, tomato and braised beans. Can we please talk about those crispy potatoes? I am still thinking about them. My husband ate his and then helped himself to some of mine. The bacon was the perfect level of crispy and this is from someone who does not like bacon (I know, I know). I loved my meal, but the star of the show was the Croque Madame. With ham and Handeck cheese, it was topped with a perfectly fried egg which met #yolkporngoals. I missed a picture of the scone in the flurry of plates arriving, but it was raspberry served with butter and preserves. Warm and fresh, it was a nice addition to the meal.

Overall, I thought it was a great meal. Service was friendly and attentive although timing from the kitchen was off and it ended up feeling rushed. That’s something that I think can easily be worked out with time. I will definitely be returning to try out their dinner menu!

Overall rating: 4/5

Service: 3.5/5

Ambience/Decor: 4/5 (only because of the cold)