I'm sure it is not lost upon many that the former Sammy J Peppers was not famous for their food. And to be blunt, the main draw was the waitresses... end story. Yes, I did eat at the place a few times with unimpressive results. Hence, the closure of several locations didn't really surprise many people. Recently, I was contacted by the rebranded Sammy J's (no more peppers) to try out their revamped menu that features what they like to call "casual food with attitude". Instead of heading to the closest location to me in Coquitlam, I made the hike out to South Surrey to check out their flagship.
To help me try as many items as possible, I enlisted the help of Costanza and Elaine (and Viv actually decided to join me for once). We were seated in a comfortable table complete with sofa-like seating. With windows abound in the quasi-solarium, it felt like we were sitting outside. We were started off with a stack of Baby Back Dry Ribs served with house-made BBQ sauce. These were meaty and crispy on the outside (with ample salt & pepper) while the meat was falling-off-the-bone moist. The BBQ sauce was a good compliment as it was spicy, sweet and almost tamarind-like with a noticeable tang. Next was the Twisted Tails which were essentially panko-crusted Atlantic lobster tails. We liked the breading as it was crispy while the lobster meat was buttery and sweet (originally, we were concerned the lobster would be overwhelmed, but it was not). These were served with a habanero cream which was purposely spicy.
Arriving on a sizzling cast iron plate, we sampled the Teppanyaki Steak Skillet consisting of 8 ounces of Certified Angus Beef tossed with braised cabbage & teriyaki sauce topped with scallions and sesame seeds. We found the dish to be overly saucy, yet we did like the cubes of medium-rare steak as it was tender with a bit of chew. The teriyaki sauce was on the saltier side (and the evaporation didn't help matters) though. Onto somewhat lighter fare, we sampled the Cabo Wabo Tacos with grilled fresh tortillas, slow-roasted pulled short rib, corn, black beans, cabbage, avocado, salsa fresca, habanero cream, cilantro & cheddar. As much as the ingredients suggested a flavour explosion, it was more mild in reality. We liked the grilled tortillas as they had a nice chewy texture while the short rib was very tender. One thing that we would've liked to see was more acidity to liven up the flavours. Moreover, I wasn't convinced that cheddar was necessarily the right choice of cheese as it was heavy.
Moving onto the mains, we had the New Orleans Combo Skillet featuring a 5 oz certified Angus steak, scallops, jumbo prawns & veggies in Cajun cream atop white cheddar mash with a drizzle of hot sauce. This came in a super sizzling hot cast iron plate where the Cajun cream began to separate. Hence, it looked and ate quite greasy. With that being said, the sauce was very good. It had a nice balance of savoury and spicy elements that did not overwhelm. The creamy mash soaked up the sauce which made it extra rich and even more flavourful (as it had plenty from the cheddar already). It almost resembled spicy cheese grits. The steak itself was tender and a nicely prepared medium-rare while the prawns had a good cold-water snap. The small scallops became somewhat rubbery from the hot plate though. Prior to this, we got a sample of their Cheeseburger Caesar. Yup, you're not seeing things, look a the picture, nothing more needs to be said.
Our next dish was the Tequila Habanero Meatloaf made with Angus beef, bacon & aged cheddar topped with tequila BBQ habanero sauce. It was served with the aforementioned mash, veggies and crispy onions. I found the meatloaf to be moist with plenty of meatiness as it wasn't overprocessed. There was definitely spice with equal amount of sweetness accented by a tequila finish. We thought the meatloaf could've been a slightly larger portion though. Although it was sporting a beautiful golden crust, the Pan Seared Alaskan Halibut was on the drier side. However, the ample amount of chipotle lime butter sauce helped the cause in terms of moisture and overall impact. The spice was noticeable and lingered beyond each bite. It did finish with a sweetness to balance it out.
Sporting 7 humungous cold-water prawns, the Seafood Linguine also featured scallops, grape tomatoes and lemon pepper tossed in a white wine garlic cream sauce. This was a complete 180 from the previous dishes as the flavour profile was really mild with only small hints of garlic and wine. The sauce was definitely creamy, but there was a bit too much of it. The star of the dish was prawns, as they had a buttery snap. Off to dessert, we were presented with the Red Velvet Cake. We liked the thin layer of sweet icing as there was just enough of it without overwhelming the entire slice. The cake itself was really moist, yet it was mostly due to the addition of more oil which made it almost banana-bread like in texture. Finally, we tried Reese's Peanut Butter Pie and that was freakin' fantastic. It was smooth and creamy while not reliant on sugar for flavour. Rather, it was nutty and aromatic with a wonderful chocolate crunch crust. Overall, we found the food to be an improvement compared to the past. With that being said, some dishes could benefit from a few tweaks as their pricing is on par with its direct competitors.
*All food and drinks except for gratuities were comped*
- Appeals to a more diverse clientele as opposed to before
- Sauces are impactful and spicy
- Wonderful open-space seating
- On the pricier side of the chain restaurants continuum
- Skillets are neat, but may cause havoc with some of the sauces