Tag: Seafood

Notable Nosh: Squid Balls

Squid Balls 1

Well, I first have to a bit of an apology for this post, folks … I ordered three of the above pictured ‘balls’ at Hokkaido Sushi in Ottawa a while back and I scarfed down two before remembering to take a photograph. It is also a little difficult to get any sense of the size of these balls (Yes, yes… I get you didn’t know that squid have balls), but I can tell you that each of these little delicacies is about the size of a quail egg…

Anyway, I almost didn’t bother with doing a post, given my photographic lapse, but the fact is, these were really terrific and worth a mention. Each little sphere was coated in a very thin batter (or maybe just dusted with a starch of some sort), but it was the ‘innards’ that really shone.

The ‘filling’ (as it were) was definitely squid… Indeed, the flavor was so much more pronounced even than fresh, deep-fried squid rings. What made the dish (and possibly contributed to the strength of the flavor) was the texture. I don’t know exactly what they did here, but it seemed very much as they processed (‘whipped’ even) squid flesh to a fine paste and then (possibly) added a little cornstarch… The mouth-feel of biting into each ball was springy, and very toothsome indeed. I wish I could explain it better, and, even more, I hope I can figure out how they made this … I will be playing around in my own kitchen and will, of course, report any developments …

Notable Nosh: Uni

Uni - 2017-07 1

Uni is sometimes referred to as the roe of the Sea Urchin but is actually the gonads of the creature and can produce roe or milt (semen). It is a delicacy in Japanese cuisine but it is seasonal, and not always easy to obtain, so one frequently sees it on the menus of Japanese restaurants only to find, on ordering, that it is not currently available. I came across some recently at Wasabi in Ottawa’s Bytown market, where they were available as a sushi selection, or as a sashimi preparation served, as you see above, in little cucumber cups. Each cup held four or five individual gonads and you can see an individual piece in the inset.

The texture of uni is not for everybody. It is very soft, with a silky mouthfeel and is rather like the white of a soft-boiled egg, or, perhaps, a very firm custard. When tasted, without any sort of additions, it is very reminiscent of the tomalley, or liver, of a lobster. Some would say it has a fishy taste, but I rather think of it has having a generic ‘sea flavor’ coupled with a distinct sweetness. Tomalley can also have an underlying faintly musky pungency but, with uni, it is sweet all the way through except at the very end where a similar pungency comes across as an almost bitter aftertaste. It is brief however, and does not really affect the overall pleasure of the taste at all.

In this preparation, the uni was served with a wedge of lemon, a small mound of wasabi (hidden behind the inset in the above picture), and a little dish for soy sauce. I tried soy first and, while it was pleasant, I found that the sweetness of the soy masked the delicate sweetness of the uni, thus robbing it of some of its impact. The lemon was an even worse choice as, not only did the acid mask much of the good flavor, it also made the final bitter quality more pronounced and I am surprised that anybody thought that this would be a good accompaniment. As for the wasabi, however, this worked really well. Despite the sharp, intense power of the root, it didn’t mask any of the sweetness at all and really complimented it nicely. I should like to try the delicacy in a sushi preparation sometime, but the sashimi along with just a little wasabi is terrific.

Review: Oyster Express – Vancouver

296 Keefer Street – Website

Oyster Express 1

Date of Visit: July, 2017

Oyster Express sits on the corner of Gore and Keefer in Vancouver’s Chinatown. It is very small and easy to miss given the minimal signage. It has seats for about 30 but, maximum capacity, it would be rather close. It is quite plain and understated in décor, but is functional and comfortable. The staff is very enthusiastic and friendly and the whole atmosphere is welcoming. The menu matches the size of the place and, aside from the raw oysters, which are listed separately according to availability, there are only 12 items. You can get steamed or fried oysters, mussels, two types of clam chowder and, should you wish it, a grilled cheese sandwich, along with a good variety of cocktails and some 23 wines. On this occasion, I came just for the oysters… [ Continue reading “Review: Oyster Express – Vancouver”

Notable Nosh: Seafood Paella at Sabor

Seafood Paella

I wouldn’t call Paella my signature dish exactly, but it is certainly in my top ten favorite dishes and the number of times I have made it at home far outstrips the number of times I have eaten it in a restaurant by a huge margin. After I enjoying a lovely Tapas meal at Sabor in Edmonton back in July, I made a point of returning to try their Paella. I was a little disappointed with a couple of things but I generally found it very good and I thought I would share it with you here…

The menu describes the Seafood Paella as containing prawns, scallops, calamari, clams and mussels, but, as it happened, the shellfish delivery to the restaurant had been delayed so I was a bit vexed that the last two items were not available. I didn’t mind the lack of clams too much but I always add mussels to my own versions and missing them here was very disappointing. Fortunately, the restaurant compensated by increasing the remaining items.

The seafood was complimented by onion, red pepper, peas and green beans. I generally use all these except for the green beans and I was pleasantly surprised by how nice they were here as I am not usually much of a fan. The rice was well infused with saffron, as it should be, and there was also a faint hint of cayenne or other peppery heat.

My only other disappointment was that the dish was not cooked and served in an individual Paella pan, especially since, in consequence, the Soccarat, or bottom-of-the-pan rice crust, was minimal. The seafood had been grilled first then added over the rice, which was actually a nice touch, so I can’t complain about the socarrat too much as I rarely achieve this when I cook Paella in my own, slightly offbeat, method. In short, this was a lovely meal and I enjoyed it very much…

Experiment: Scallion Pesto Grilled Scallops

Scallion Pesto Scallops 1 I put together this little dish to try out another use for some of the Scallion-Garlic Pesto I posted about recently. The pesto is actually quite flavorful and can be used at full strength with very bland ingredients (such as pasta), or else ingredients that are very strong tasting themselves, but for more delicately flavored items, especially white fish or shellfish, it is probably wise to tone down the scallion effect a little. For these scallops, I used a little the pesto as just the base for a creamy sauce. First, I melted a little butter in a small pan and then added the extra liquor from the scallops and a small splash of white wine. When the liquid was reduced I added couple of tablespoons of the pesto (the variety without cheese added) and then enough cream to make a nice sauce. As soon as the sauce was ready, I quickly grilled a couple of scallops (large ones cut into two pieces horizontally). I needed no seasonings here and as soon as the outside were seared with grill marks (leaving the center still slightly rare), I poured a little of the sauce into a dish, plated the scallops, and spooned some more sauce over the top. I garnished with a couple of strips of lemon zest and ate them right away. They were good J

Review: McKelvies, Halifax

1680 Lower Water St. – 902.421.6161 – Website

McKelvies 01

Date of Visit: July 9, 2014


My most recent visit to Halifax was my first time in Nova Scotia in over 7 years and, accordingly, a good, Maritime Provinces lobster dinner was very much a priority for the trip. I had been told that McKelvies down the near the water-front was good albeit very expensive but, in fact, I found it to be quite reasonably priced and I enjoyed a very decent meal… [READ MORE]

Ambience and Service

McKelvies 02

I arrived at McKelvies at a little after 6:30pm during the early dinner seating. The restaurant can manage about 100 guests or so and it was half-full when I was seated. It is quite comfortable, and not too crowded, and is of a generally plain décor except for a somewhat garish aquarium mural taking up the whole of one wall. A series of huge windows make it quite bright and airy inside but, as with the cozy little outdoor patio at the back, there is not much of a view.

The service during my entire meal was very satisfactory. I was seated immediately and a waitress came to take my drink order within a very few minutes. She was helpful with menu suggestions and managed to be attentive without hovering or being too pushy.

The Meal

McKelvies 03

Oysters Rockefeller – These were described in the menu as being served with spinach and bacon but I could detect neither in the final dish. There were a few flecks of green here and there but not so much as a hint of bacon, save for a faint smoky taste somewhere in the blend. In the end, these turned out to be oysters grilled with cheese and something I took to be parsley. In actual fact, the dish was pretty good but it was definitely not Oysters Rockefeller, as far as I am concerned, nor, for that matter, was it even really as advertised. Rating: 3 out of 5.

McKelvies 04

Steamed Lobster – McKelvies has its own live lobster tank and I selected a 2lb specimen. This is about my favorite size as lobster can start to get a bit coarse above the three pound size and are fiddly to eat when less than two unless one consumes only the tail and claws and wastes the rest. Generally, I only eat boiled lobster with a bit of bread and maybe some coleslaw but here at McKelvies I was offered the daily vegetable and garlic mashed potato or fries. The idea of potato, especially mashed, really didn’t appeal to me for this sort of supper but I did ask to try the veggies along with some baguette slices and butter.

The quality of a boiled lobster meal depends quite heavily on the quality of the live lobster and it is quite hard to go wrong boiling them unless one is exceptionally careless. Here, I was served a plump, female lobster (generally regarded as better than males) that was cooked as well as I would wish it to be. The vegetable turned out to be carrots and green beans sautéed in butter and these were fine if not very interesting. My only complaint about the whole meal was that the drawn butter for dipping the lobster meat had a rather unpleasant taste that may have been a hint of rancidity or was, perhaps, just an inherent characteristic of the source dairy. In any event, aside from the butter issue, I really enjoyed my lobster dinner. Rating: 4 out of 5.

McKelvies 05

McKelvies Signature Ovation Pie – I don’t usually eat desert when dining out but this, described on the menu as ‘French mint ice cream, Oreo Cookie crust, and Chocolate Ganache’, was more than I could resist. The menu description actually sounded very much like a frozen supermarket desert my wife and I enjoy from time to time but, while that product is indeed similar, McKelvies version is a good deal more decadent with a whopping thick layer of mint ice cream, and, instead of a mere drizzle of chocolate, a solid layer like armor-plating across the top. It was sinfully delicious and well worth the guilt. Rating: 5 out of 5.


There is nothing wildly spectacular about McKelvies by any means but, for all that, it is a very nice restaurant with decent food at a decent price. Though I went for the seafood, it has a generally eclectic menu with something to appeal to almost anyone. It is, I would say, a very good place for a family-outing and, during my visit at least, the service was excellent. I would be happy to return. Rating: 4 out of 5.

McKelvie's on Urbanspoon


Salty’s, Halifax

1869 Upper Water St., Halifax – (902) 423-6818 – Website

Salty's 01

Date of Visit: July 6, 2014

 My wife and I visited Salty’s on a hot afternoon some 6 or 8 years ago and had drinks on the outdoor deck. We didn’t as far as I can recall, have anything to eat on that particular occasion and so, on my most recent trip to Halifax, I decided to stop in and see what the food was like…  Continue reading “Salty’s, Halifax”

Review: The Press Gang Restaurant

5218 Prince Street – 902-423-8816 – Website

The Press Gang 01

Date of Visit: July 4, 2014


I was doing a general reconnaissance of the restaurants near to my hotel in downtown Halifax when I spied this place. The sign on the front advertised it as being an oyster bar as well as a restaurant and, fully intent on having fresh oysters at least once during my trip, I had to investigate further. Unfortunately, the place was not yet open but I was met just inside the door by a person I took to be an owner who advised me, almost apologetically, that service did not start until 5pm. He told me the selection of fresh oysters available that day and I promised to return. I did, that very same evening, and ended up having a terrific meal… Continue reading “Review: The Press Gang Restaurant”

Review: Oyster Shack Restaurant – Montreal

1242 Rue Bishop, Montreal – 514-395-1888 – Website

Oyster Shack 1

Date of Visit: January 16, 2014

I came across the website for this place a couple of years ago and made a note of it as somewhere I would like to try. In past trips to Montreal, I never managed to make it for one reason or another and I ended up forgetting about it. Just recently however, during a brief visit to the city, I happened to stumble across it while strolling in the area around my hotel and I stopped by for a leisurely lunch…  Continue reading “Review: Oyster Shack Restaurant – Montreal”

Notable Nosh: Crab cakes

Nosh - Crabcake

For most of my life, I have always been a little ambivalent when it comes to either fishcakes or crab cakes. Mostly, my disinterest stems from the fact that I find fish, and especially shellfish, to lose its richer tastes and sweetness when it is chopped or minced to finely before cooking. In the Northeastern US, they take their crab cakes very seriously and I have recently seen quite a few television cooking shows discussing the various types in loving and graphic detail. Many looked really good and I decided that maybe I should give the dish another try.

I recently sampled the ones you see pictured above at Vineyards Restaurant in Ottawa and, while I wasn’t exactly blown away by the experience, I did find them better than I expected.

The menu described the cakes as being herbed, but, while I could see green flecks in the center, I couldn’t actually pin-point any particular flavor other than, perhaps, parsley. The Garlic-Lemon Aioli that came on the side was actually quite tasty but it was bit too robust for the dish and tended to mask the delicate taste of the cakes. Just plain lemon juice might have been better. As for the cakes themselves, while somewhat tasty, the meat was ground much too finely which not only gave them a rather textureless, paste-like consistency, it also robbed them, as I have often found, of the natural sweetness. Many of the ones I saw on the aforementioned cooking shoes used much chunkier pieces of crab and I am sure this is the way to go…

Anyway, I should like to try making these myself sometime but before that I would be very interested to hear from my readers as to what particular qualities and techniques they think are essential for a top-quality crab cake…