Chef Craig Flinn’s philosophy is simple – well sourced, local ingredients, prepared simply with respect for their quality, equals a brilliant product. And there’s something to be said about developing a product that is consistently successful and well-respected in its own right – especially 10 years on.
Speaking with Chef Flinn makes it evident that he has tremendous respect for the producers of the province and the Maritimes more broadly. He’s become a bit of a local celebrity, and his reputation for supporting local and sustainable food options is well-known regionally and internationally.
The decade that Chives Canadian Bistro has been around in Halifax has seen many really great restaurants come and go, but Chives has maintained a loyal following, and continues to attract new diners.
There’s something about dining in a place that has a ‘feeling’ about it – the staff are comfortably confident in their knowledge of food and they work the wine list into your experience. At Chives, the food is an aesthetic joy and is sophisticated without pretension; and the room is elegantly comfortable. Who wouldn’t want to indulge in something elegant yet still simple?
My husband and I thought we’d try Chives on a Monday night – Monday isn’t necessarily recognized as one of Halifax’s most popular dining nights, so we anticipated a relatively solitary dining experience. We were pretty much wrong on that one. Mid-way through our dinner I realized that the dining room was close to full.
The restaurant environment is one of the many things that Chives has done well – there’s a beautiful stained-glass restaurant logo as a focal point of the dining room, there’s plush and comfy seating areas, and beautiful pine that adorns the dining room.
The staff at Chives are another gold-star highlight. Our server, Steve, was beyond approachable and knowledgeable about the menu and the wine list. This menu is wonderfully presented and has recently been launched for the summer season. The philosophy of how Chives operates comes through in the menu – it’s full of wonderful, vibrant, and locally-sourced foods.
We thought we’d start with an ‘easier’ task and tackle the wine list first. This was easier said than done; the list is exceptionally well put together, and making a selection to compliment the menu is certainly an enjoyable task.
With our server’s help, we both decided on a much enjoyed favorite – Gaspereau Vineyard’s Muscat. Once our glasses arrived, we got down to tackling our menu. We knew that not being able to order one of everything would be the real challenge.
The Chive’s menu has an exceptional amount of variety, but is compact and accessible at the same time (a small menu apparently being the sign of an exceptional restaurant).
Once we begin to graze through the menu, a few things popped out – the pan roasted sea scallops, an amazing Taste of Nova Scotia Chowder, a trio of bruschetta and a farmers’ market salad. After careful consideration (I’ll admit the wine helped us to make our choices a bit easier!), my husband set his sights on the Sea Scallops. Joining the scallops on his plate was potato gnocchi and cherry tomatoes – all settled nicely in a smoked bacon alfredo.
I decided to try my luck with the bruschetta trio which included: grilled asparagus with Gouda and balsamic; smoked salmon with an almost sweet lemon ricotta; antipasto misto.
Our normal dinner conversation was limited – both of us were absorbed in our dishes. We almost forgot to share. Almost.
We knew that since our appetizers were so good, we were under a lot of pressure to make some good choices for the mains. I was struggling to decide.
Steve must have sensed I was having some challenges in making a decision – and he came to my rescue. “Get the Halibut,” he said with just the right amount of supportive authority, “I promise you’ll love it.” Well alright then; fire me up one halibut. It was wrapped in Westphalian ham and partnered with a lobster risotto cake and sweet pea puree, in case you were interested.
My husband had his mind made up for a while to go with the Roast Pork Tenderloin, so he was all set.
This time around we remembered to share (although I did so with my halibut reluctantly), and I was beyond happy with Steve’s recommendation. The pea puree was refreshing and it cut through the salty crispiness of the ham. The pork tenderloin was beyond tender, and the pulled pork that joined it on the plate was wonderful.
So I’ll say up front that I certainly was planning on dessert.
Let’s be honest, there are some gems on the Chives menu. I was immediately sold on the Maple Crème Brûlée, but my husband took a little bit longer with his choice. He was not disappointed with the Strawberry and Rhubarb Shortcake – the angel food cake made it incredibly light.
All the high points of Chives are too numerous to list, but there really isn’t an occasion or event where a dinner there wouldn’t be ideal. There’s even a private dining room for those extra special occasions!
Chef Flinn keeps pushing the boundaries of the Nova Scotia food experience and he’s got some exciting new dining ideas up his sleeve. Keep your eyes and ears open and you’ll be sure to hear more about Chives and their passion for locally-inspired culinary experiences in the near future.