Wednesday, July 31, 2013

10 Acres

Address: 611 Courtney St.
Phone: (250) 220-8008
Price: Around $15 for a main
Notes: Casual service, fancy farm-to-table food. Stellar patio.

The owners of Bon Rouge (the 3rd in the Pescatores/Oyster trio of restaurants) recently renovated and rebranded to become 10 Acres. I was initially sad because I had really enjoyed Bon Rouge on my last visit and hadn't had a chance to make it back yet. However I have been hearing consistently good things about 10 Acres, and the concept behind the rebranding is something I inherently love - using the ingredients from their own 10 Acres farm on the Peninsula in their kitchen. Apparently they have owned the farm for some time, but were wanting to make clearer the connection between the ingredients used in the kitchen and the farm's local source.

I really love that eating locally is becoming more and more common. 10 Acres shifts things just a little bit closer to normal by featuring their vegetables front and centre. You can visit their website to see gorgeous photos of what is in season and being served on the table, and regular blog posts from the farm help connect what's being served on the plate to where it came from. That being said, there was a subtlety to how things were presented on the menu that I am having a hard time ignoring after my eye-opening year on the board of our local Slow Food convivium. They are hardly the only farm-to-table place I have called out for this, but it always kind of makes me wonder if you're proudly stating salt spring island mussels, but being vague about your oysters on the next column over I can only assume they are not local? It's one thing for a restaurant that makes no claim to farm-to-table to be intentionally vague... I feel like this new wave of places featuring local should be up front about when they have had to compromise so there isn't a false sense of local consumerism happening.

What I have to say about the space hasn't changed much from when I visited Bon Rouge. Instead of arts & crafts design things are more modern and casual, with greys and browns and butcher block tables. The patio is now fully covered and heated by a gorgeous gas fireplace down the middle. The service is still a nice blend of non-pretentious casual, with servers dressed in jeans and casual tops and branded aprons. The side rooms and nooks of the inside are still appealing to me, lending itself to an overall quieter space and more intimate feeling to your experience.

The menus are double sided on boards, with the beer and wine lists on one side and the daily menu on the other. The wine list was pretty reasonable, with 3/5 oz choices coming in at pretty reasonable prices with plenty of reasonably priced local wineries reflected. The cocktail menu on the table was kind of a strange collection of beer-infused cocktails, 'girly' martinis and classic champagne cocktails. It's easy to write off restaurants in that area as tourist traps, but the tide seems to be slowly turning. Instead of the prix-fixe menu where Bon Rouge had its great value, 10 Acres has opted for really reasonably priced mains (15 or under) and appetizers with a few "tourist friendly" (seafood & steak) specials at closer to $30. This is a wicked smart decision! All the benefit to locals and the budget conscious traveller, but equal benefit to the spendy tourist (or local, for that matter) who wants king salmon or steak and fries. For us, the reasonable prices and sizes on the mains meant we could splurge on a few appetizers to share without breaking the bank.

July 29, 2013
We started off by sharing several appetizers at the table, as we'd opted for a late dinner and were quite hungry. It ended up being a good move, as we must have hit just the wrong time to get our orders in ahead of the rest of the packed restaurant, meaning dinner was a ways off.

Artisan Bread & Tapenade
Artisan Bread & Tapenade
The artisan bread came with an extremely green (tasting and looking!) olive tapenade. I suspect the olives used in the tapenade are not the kind we typically think of (that come stuffed with pimento) but instead are the bright green, large kind that have a bit of a denser texture. The assortment of bread was a nice touch.

My langos (hungarian fried bread) arrived not flat, as I imagined them from my langos at the fair, but in little bread sticks. They had a pretzel-like texture, and the little bit of cheese and green onion on top added a nice texture and flavour contrast.

10 Acres Pate
My partner-in-food-and-life ordered the house pate. However when it arrived it was more like a terrine than a pate. This turned out to be a good thing, because regular pate would have had no way of staying on the holey crostini that accompanied it!

I ordered the gnocchi for my main both because I love it and because it's so hard to find gnocchi done well that I am forever searching for somewhere to suggest to people! This was pretty darn close to perfect with soft, pillowy potato bites that had just a little bit of give and a nice crust from being pan fried. The toppings - golden beet, pecorino, mustard seed, shallots and green onion were pretty unconventional but overall worked well, although the onion flavour was pretty strong and might not be to all tastes (although I adore that flavour!). I'm am hopeful that gnocchi will stay on the menu, but with seasonally appropriate 'toppings.'

The others at the table expressed enjoying their meals as well. The birthday boy ordered the "open faced burger" (a burger on a slice of bread, not a burger on a two sided bun) and commented on the delicious fries. The mussels were massive and meaty looking, and the thai curry sauce looked packed with delicious basil. The game hen also had positive reviews, especially at the $15 price point. The scallop risotto was pretty to look at and a generous portion but I forgot to ask the diner what their feedback was, although the scallops looked well prepared.

July 29, 2013
The service still has a nicely casual feel with zero pretentiousness but total attention to detail, which is what I loved from when it was Bon Rouge. For example, we got fresh ground black pepper in a massive grinder with our meal, but it was placed on the table for our convenience, not formally offered up. You could see, both from the way our server interacted and the way the floor manager helped to keep the flow going and anticipated issues (who I assume is the part owner who operated Bon and now 10 Acres) that service is a high priority to keep customers happy when the space is full.

Although the place was packed and you could see our server was multi-tasking like crazy, she kept everything in her head fantastically we never felt neglected. For example, we were slow in eating our langos (in typical family fashion we had failed to communicate that we would share our appetizers) and a fresh bowl arrived at our table with the server explaining that the first bowl looked overcooked. I don't know if they were trying to anticipate our reason for not devouring them, or if someone else had sent the same batch back, or there was simply that high level of an attention to detail, but it was a gesture that sent a strong message about quality and service. (For the record - I don't think there was a huge issue with the first batch, but there was a slightly more light and fluffy texture to the second batch.)

The reason for our visit was to celebrate a family birthday, and it was interesting because they assumed that the reason for the attentive service was that my secret identity as a food blogger was blown. I suspect not... in fact I hope not, because if they can claim this kind of service for all visitors at those prices then then should have no problems securing a regular, local and loyal clientele!

10 Acres Bistro , Bar & Farm on Urbanspoon


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