Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sips Artisan Bistro

As of January, 2012 Sips has closed.

Address: 425 Simcoe Street
Phone: 250-590-3519
Price: $10-14 (smallish plates)
Notes: Only open for dinner and weekend brunch, but open every night. Great fancyish food, fab flights of wine!

I've heard Sips called out by several people as one of the better places to eat in town (one persons said "the only good place in James Bay" but I disagree, the Heron Rock is pretty tasty! And if you would say the Superior is in James Bay that's def. on my list of the best restaurants in the city...). I didn't know much about it, in fact I've probably walked by a number of times and not even noticed it was there, as the signage blends in with the Spinnakers liquor store next to it. As I discovered, there is a reason why - Spinnakers runs the restaurant as a side project of sorts.

The place reminds me a lot of Ferris's Upstairs. Small plates, lots of awesome sounding drinks, reasonable prices, limited kitchen, long skinny room, small number of tables! I think their demographic might be a little different, just because of the area, but with a bit more time I could see drawing people out of down town. I just have a hard time opting for non-downtown places, they somehow slip off my radar.

March 1, 2011
It was a slow Tuesday night, even though it was Dine Around, but the service was excellent! I feel bad, because of a math Fail we nearly grossly under-tipped! We always split our bill up after the total, including tip. I always wonder if servers must to a quick mental calculation to figure out tip. She did look kind of devastated. Oops. Luckily, my partner-in-food-and-life noticed just in time! Phew.

March 1, 2011
We opted for the Dine Around menu, I for the $20 and my PIFAL for the $30. There was also a 2 oz wine pairing for $15 which was a pretty good deal. They have assorted flights (so same idea, but not paired) on for $12 on Thursdays which we will totally have to do.

Both of our starters were delicious. I opted for the beet carpaccio, a menu regular. It was beautifully presented (wish I'd had my impending iPhone 4 so I could take a picture of it for you!) and tasted even better. The sharp tastes of the pickled beet and fennel cut paper thin (hence the carpaccio) were nicely balanced out with salt spring island goat chèvres. So delicious! It was paired with a Riesling, which I'm usually not a big fan of but this one, the Mission Hill Reserve, was quite lovely. It had some of the qualities of Pinot Gris that I like... fruity but not too sweet. My P.I.F.A.L. had a white bean and duck proscuitto soup which was very savoury for a starter soup, but rich so the small portion was appropriate. This was apparently the whole reason for choosing the more expensive menu, and was deemed worthy of it! The wine pairing was a Pinot Noir which was quite rich to match.

My main was another fantastic regular menu item that I would have again in a heartbeat - mussels with a smoked paprika and chorizo broth. So delicious! I was wishing I had more bread to soak up all the liquid! It will definitely be on my list of 'to order again.' The wine pairing for both of our meals was a Chiraz which was nice and peppery. For my P.I.F.A.L. there was a wine braised beef brisket, which my taste of I found quite delicious - it had a really interesting under taste that reminded me of dessert somehow... perhaps in the spices. However, the review of the overall dish was that the value wasn't quite there. Shame!

Dessert we actually swapped, as I am a big creme brulee fan. Today's flavour was grand marnier and orange, which I wasn't sold on totally but was quite nice. The brulee part was a bit weak, I like it to be a thick "crack" but this was more of a "mush." Still, the custardy part was really beautiful and although when I had tried the wine pairing, another riesling, on it's own I wasn't fussy but together they were perfect. I think this is probably how all wine pairings are supposed to be... I clearly haven't done enough of them yet! My P.I.F.A.L. had the chocolate 'salami' and 'pate' both of which were quite nice, and again an amazing pairing of a vintage foch which I had never heard of before.