Sherman's Food Adventures: Lift Bar & Grill

Lift Bar & Grill

Believe it or not, I've never dined at Lift Bar & Grill before.  Yah shocking right?  I guess every time I've ever planned to go (and this is going way back), I ended up heading elsewhere.  In fact, I think I've been to every restaurant that has occupied the nearby location of the former Verde, but haven't sauntered over to Lift.  Well finally I got the chance armed with a certain amount to spend (In fact, I more than doubled that amount, so this is only a partially comped post).  Love the location of the place right in coal harbour and also the free underground parking is a real bonus.

Since we got there in time for Happy Hour (takes 20% off certain menu items),  we decided to go for a dozen Oysters on the half shell served with horseradish, lemon, mignonette, hot sauce and cocktail sauce.  These were Royal Miyagis which were fresh and well-shucked.  As you can tell from the picture, they were plump with quite a bit of oyster liquor.  As a result, these were sweet and briny on their own, but for me, I like a little horseradish and a squeeze of lemon.

Before we got to the other items we ordered, we were presented with an Amuse Bouche consisting of a scallop sashimi atop a slice of cucumber, masago, ponzu and yuzu.  Sometimes simplicity leads to the tastiest things and this was an example of that.  The fresh sweet scallop was highlighted and there was just enough yuzu and ponzu to provide brightness and saltiness.  Great little bite.

Now onto the other dishes from the Happy Hour menu...  I had my eye on the Humboldt Squid when I first checked out the menu online.  This featured large pieces of squid battered and fried until crispy.  It was tossed in Szechuan pepper salt and topped with jalapeno and green onion.  I thought the squid was super tender while retaining a bite.  There was definitely some spice, but some more salt would've added more punch.  With a squeeze of the lime wedge, things did liven up.  The tangy tzatziki also provided more brightness.

Even though it was one of the heaviest items on the HH menu, we didn't hesitate to order the Chorizo Mac & Cheese
featuring fresh spicy chorizo, mascarpone cheese sauce, elbow pasta and chives.  I enjoyed this as the pasta was al dente and there was plenty of cheesiness in terms of flavour and texture to go around.  This was rather creamy unlike some versions that are "floury".  I found the cheesy funkiness was apparent, which meant there was enough cheese used in the sauce.  As for the chorizo, it was indeed fresh being soft and juicy rather than dry.

Probably the best dish of the night was the Nova Scotia Scallops in a bacon butter sauce and topped by potato crisps.  As you can clearly see, the scallops were beautifully seared and caramelized.  Beyond that, the scallop itself was large, fresh and buttery soft.  It was just barely cooked through, which preserved its natural sweetness and texture.  The bacon butter sauce was subtle enough to not overshadow the wonderful scallops.

At first, I was wondering why the Red Crab Cakes were $29.00.  Well, it was very apparent that the cost was well worth it.  The 2 crab cakes were enormous and stuffed full of fluffy crab with little filler.  The outside was crunchy yet light and topped with crispy capers.  We felt that the red onion was not necessary as it took away from the delicate crab.  However, that was the only thing we could pick at as the crab cakes were delicious.

Next up, we were presented with a bonus dish of sorts.  The Crusted Pacific Octopus was from their Dine Out menu and I actually wanted to try it (I guess they read my mind).  The octopus was sesame and nori crusted and accompanied by braised zucchini, broad bean-avocado puree and roasted tomatoes.  The octopus was tender with a background chew while the batter was crispy.  The tomatoes were key to the dish as it provided pop and acidity.

The octopus was not the only Dine Out dish we sampled.  We were also served the Duck Confit Crispy Salad with fresh lettuce, crispy noodles poached jellyfish and plum dressing.  Even though this had a particularly Asian flair, it still had its own personality.  The duck practically melted in my mouth and featured fully rendered skin.  It was unlike Chinese-style duck, yet fit in seamlessly with the Asian flavours such as the sweet and tangy plum sauce, delicate jellyfish and crispy noodles.  This was really delicious and hope it stays on the main menu.

We ended up trying one more sample version of their Elk Escalope, also from the Dine Out menu.  It sported a cherry compote with foie-truffle jus served in halved vol-au-vent.  Normally, elk is so lean, it can be rather tough.  This was prepared medium-rare and was fairly tender.  It was only mildly gamy where it had a nice flavour on its own.  I found the cherry compote to provide a natural sweet compliment to the meat and the foie truffle jus was luxurious.

Back to the main dinner menu, we had the Sea Bass with salsa verde, red rice and winter vegetables.  First and foremost, the fish was prepared perfectly.  It featured a slightly puffed up crispy skin while underneath, the meat was flaky and super buttery.  It was well-seasoned and stood well on its own.  Therefore, the tangy salsa verde was probably unnecessary.  Maybe a lemon butter would've been sufficient.  As for the vegetables, they were cooked just enough that they retained their texture.

For our red meat dish, we selected the 12 oz Ribeye & Frites with brandy peppercorn sauce and winter vegetables.  We asked for it to be prepared medium-rare and it was perfect.  The meat was tender and meaty while well-seasoned.  The peppercorn sauce was lightly peppery and just salty enough.  We added a side of truffle mayo (with real black truffles in it) to go with the crispy frites.

We didn't get our fill of scallops, so we also had the Scallop & Prawn Linguine with Argentinean red prawns, scallops, candied salmon cream linguine and wild mushrooms.  Of course, the scallops were perfect just like the appie.  Delicate and sweet, the prawns were also good.  Underneath, the al dente pasta was bathed in a creamy sauce that had the background sweetness of candied salmon.  It was there, but not so much it took over the dish.  Really solid pasta.

For dessert, we had both the Toffee Creme Brulee and Lemon Brioche Bread Pudding.   Loved the creme brulee as it was creamy and rich with only enough sweetness with the rich essence of toffee.  That was good but the bread pudding was even better.  It was cake-like and moist while not being wet.  The lemon curd was a nice balance between tart and sweet.  It helped lighten up the heaviness of the pudding.  Overall, the meal at Lift was very good and I wondered why it took so long for me to try the place.  Considering its prime waterfront location and free underground parking, the prices are fair.  I would come back.

*Part of the meal was subsidized, but I paid for most of it including gratuities*

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Outstanding location
- Free underground parking

The Bad:
- Very minor things such as more salt with the squid and changing up the sauce for the fish


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