"Chain restaurant", those 2 words can often elicit facial responses that are akin to smelling SBD (silent but deadly). However, the chain restaurant scene in Vancouver is alive and well. In fact, there are many that I don't mind eating at since they have upped their game. Awhile back, I had visited the Cambie and Broadway location of Original Joe's after late night hockey. We came away satisfied and we put OJ's in our back pocket for another visit one day. Well, with an invite to their newly opened Robson location, I enlisted the help of Viv, Snake and Snake Charmer in our night of gluttony.
We ended up sampling at least one item from each section of the menu beginning with the Long Beach Fish Tacos comprised of blackened mahi mahi seared in a light chili lime sauce, avocado, lettuce, roma tomato, green onion, cilantro and chipotle sauce folded into lightly grilled flour tortillas. At first, we were concerned with the bits of fish rather than a whole piece. Our fears were abated since the fish was moist and flavourful with spice and acidity. The soft tortilla was on point with a gentle crispiness. Next up was the West Coast Chop with mixed greens, pea shoots, English cucumber, dried cranberries, candied almonds, avocado, chick peas and goat cheese; tossed in honey-dijon vinaigrette. This was a fairly straight-forward salad that was spiked with sweet and plump cranberries, crispy chick peas and creamy goat cheese. The dressing was really light with only a hint of sweetness and acidity. We added a skewer of prawns that were cooked just enough so that they were cold-water crunchy.
Onto our 3rd appie, we tried the Calamari with jalapenos, slivered onions and bell peppers served with house made tzatziki. Chewy while still tender, the squid was lightly battered and crispy. It was easy on the grease while spiked with dry spices. We felt there could've been a touch more salt in the batter though. As for the tzatziki, it was creamy, yet light with subtle tartness. Dressed with crumbled chorizo sausage, a blend of four cheeses, banana peppers, cracked pepper and drizzled with a roasted red pepper aioli, the Rustica Flat Bread was quite zesty. The tart and well-seasoned tomato sauce combined with the spicy chorizo and aioli to form an impactful base of flavours that were further exacerbated by the banana peppers. As for the crust, it was bready and soft.
For our first large dish, the Blackened Salmon was uniformly prepared and attractive on the plate. It consisted of seared wild Pacific Salmon rubbed with a blend of creole seasonings. As much as its appearance promised big flavours, it was actually quite mild and subtle. The fish itself was flaky and moist with a barely cooked centre. The squeeze of lemon did liven things up a bit, but a bit more salt would've gone a long way. For our sides, we chose the Quinoa Salad and Broccolini. With slivered almonds and mint strewn throughout, the quinoa salad was a nice balance of textures and flavours. As for the veg, it was vibrant and crunchy. Onto something on the heavier side, we tried their Grilled Cheese Burger. As much as I loathe the heaviness of grilled cheese incorporated into a burger, this one worked. Instead of 2 complete grilled cheese sandwiches acting as the "bun", this one featured 2 thick slices of French bread that was garlic buttered with cheddar and Swiss on only one side. Inside, there was a fresh ground chuck patty with peppered bacon, melted provolone, lettuce, tomato and crisp fried onions. With all of the ingredients surrounding a well-charred patty, there was a whole lot of textures and messiness going on. On the side, we had the Poutine and Coleslaw. Featuring crispy fresh-cut fries and a thick salty gravy, the poutine was decent, but we wished that the cheese curds were squeaky.
Onto something with more fries, we had the Fish & Chips sporting a blonde lager battered wild North Atlantic haddock, tartar sauce and dill dip. The fish was coated in a razor-thin batter that was intermittently crispy. Inside, the fish was flaky while a bit dry. We enjoyed both dips as the tartar sauce resembled a remoulade with spice and chunkiness. The dill dip was also quite good spiked with plenty of flavour. Again, the fresh cut fries were on point being crispy and fluffy at the same time. As if we weren't full by now, we also had the Certified Angus Beef Dip. This gigantic sandwich was blessed with a good amount of moist and tender beef aided by buttery sauteed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, caramelized onions and sharp horseradish mayo. Although the au jus was pretty salty, it had to be because of the enormity of the sandwich.
Ending things off, we had something much lighter in the Pacific Rim Bowl consisting of chicken, prawns and steamed vegetables in an aromatic broth served with rice noodles. I thought the broth had elements of different Asian soups including the tartness of a Tom Yum featuring the essence of lemongrass (but much more subtle). The proteins were on point with tender chicken and crunchy prawns. The veggies were quite overdone though while the noodles were al dente. For dessert, we ended with the Dirt Pie comprised of chocolate and mocha ice cream separated by a layer of fudge brownie chunks and a crumbled cookie crust. This was quite enjoyable with creamy ice cream intermittently interrupted rich gooey pieces of brownie. However, the caramel sauce was not really necessary as the whole thing was sweet enough. Once finished, it occurred to me that the food as whole was better than expected (and the last time too). Certainly does the job for a casual sports bar-type of chain restaurant.
*All food and beverages excluding gratuities were complimentary*
- Large portions
- Fairly consistent execution on proteins
- Almost everything is made in-house
- Some proteins could've been more aggressively seasoned