Sherman's Food Adventures: Free Bird Table and Bar

Free Bird Table and Bar

Normally, when a new restaurant opens up shop, there is some form of media coverage, whether it be by traditional means (newspaper, TV, radio) or social media.  But one place opened up quietly during these Covid times and hence, I had no idea about it.  Free Bird Table and Bar, replacing the Irish-themed Ceili's in the Richmond Executive Inn, was not something I had on my radar when I first began my quest to find the best fried chicken sandwich.  In fact, when I finally heard about it, I thought it was related to the other Freebird in town.  Alas it isn't and in fact, joins a growing selection of elevated restaurants in the Executive Inn brand of hotels (such as Seaside Provisions and Hydra).  I recently stopped by to try their fried chicken sandwich as well as some other Southern-themed dishes.

Before we got to the meat of the meal, we went vegetarian with the Crispy Veggies featuring brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, lemon, parmesan, feta and pumpkin seeds.  What better way to make veggies sexier by deep-frying and then roasting them with cheese?  This dish closely resembled some of the other deep fried brussels sprouts offered in town except with the addition of other veggies to the mix.  There was a variety of textures and flavours including the tang from the lemon and saltiness from the cheeses.

We didn't get too creative with the next item as we got a half-dozen of Effinghams.  However, sometime simplicity yields the best results.  It was the case here as the oysters were fresh and properly shucked.  No shell fragments to speak of.  These had a subtle sweetness to them with plenty of brininess.  Background brightness and frankly, they could've been eaten without the supplied mignonette or cocktail sauce.  Maybe a squeeze of lemon and you are good to go.

Getting right to the dish we really wanted to try, the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich was fantastic.  I would call this the "sleeper chicken sandwich" because it is so under-the-radar, that most people would never even know about it.  I hope they do now since it just looked the part even before we took a bite.  With that jaw-stretching bite, we were greeted to a crunchy chicken breast that was well-spiced and tender.  Lots of heat and spices from the batter itself and combined with the chipotle mayo, we had layers of flavour.  The coleslaw was thick-cut and firmly crunchy.  Completing the sandwich was a sturdy, yet soft toasted brioche bun.  Really good and should be talked about more often.

We couldn't just try the sandwich and not also go for the Fried Chicken sporting buttermilk-braised chicken with waffles, pickled mustard seed, coleslaw and truffled honey.  This type of fried chicken is unlike what we usually see up here in Vancouver.  This featured a hard thick batter that was nicely seasoned.  The chicken underneath was a little dry since it had been cooked prior to the deep-fry.  I did enjoy the truffled honey as it added a pleasant sweetness to the chicken and soft waffles.   This was a lot of food though as this was essentially half a chicken on the plate.

So I've been to New Orleans before and so my expectations for Shrimp & Grits maybe a bit different than what we are familiar with locally.  Therefore, when the dish hit the table, I was confused at its appearance.  Thankfully, this ate well despite its "neat" plating.  Normally, it would be more rustically set upon the plate with the residual juices and oils from the blackening the shrimp and sausage.  With this version, the cheesy and creamy grits were good.  So was the spiced andouille sausage and the perfectly cooked shrimp (it could've been more aggressively blackened though).  The runny sunny-side egg did help provide moisture to the plate though.

Lastly, we tried the Mini-Shrimp Po'Boys that once again, didn't resemble the ones I had in New Orleans, but were go in their own way.  Instead of a French roll, these mini-sandwiches were served on a buttered and toasted split brioche bread.  I personally love this type of vessel especially with lobster rolls, so that didn't bother me at all.  Inside, we found golden and crispy fried shrimp with a bit of honey mustard.  A few cucumber ribbons on top for colour and crunch.  Non-traditional po'boy, but tasty nonetheless.  Overall, Free Bird offers up Southern cuisine which is not commonly found in Vancouver.   Something a bit different and the chicken sandwich is the dish to have here.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Something different
- Loved the renovated space, nice and bright
- That chicken sammie

The Bad:
- Fried chicken could've been more moist and flavourful


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