Karl's Top 10 of 2008

Karl Wells
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The year 2008 was, without doubt, the best for restaurant dining I've experienced since the start of my career as The Telegram's food critic. Established restaurants continued to produce amazing food and many excellent new restaurants opened. In fact, six of those new restaurants made my 2008 list featuring the best restaurants I've reviewed during the past 12 months. Please bear in mind, however, that this list represents only restaurants I actually reviewed and rated during the past 12 months. It is not an all-time best list. And so, from numbers one to 10, here they are.

1. "S" at The Majestic

"S" is an impressive restaurant on many levels, which is why it makes top spot on the list for 2008. Chef Jason Bailey's food is delicious. He prepares dishes that range from the sophisticated, like lobster bisque with chunks of lobster meat and beautifully tender roasted caribou, to simpler fare like his mouth-watering prime rib burger. Service at "S" is superb. It's prompt, friendly and discreet. The dÉcor is modern and stylishly conservative. Comfortable black leather chairs dominate a room that's accented with modern art and a few unconventional decorative objects. "S" is located at 390 Duckworth S. Phone 722-8642.

The year 2008 was, without doubt, the best for restaurant dining I've experienced since the start of my career as The Telegram's food critic. Established restaurants continued to produce amazing food and many excellent new restaurants opened. In fact, six of those new restaurants made my 2008 list featuring the best restaurants I've reviewed during the past 12 months. Please bear in mind, however, that this list represents only restaurants I actually reviewed and rated during the past 12 months. It is not an all-time best list. And so, from numbers one to 10, here they are.

1. "S" at The Majestic

"S" is an impressive restaurant on many levels, which is why it makes top spot on the list for 2008. Chef Jason Bailey's food is delicious. He prepares dishes that range from the sophisticated, like lobster bisque with chunks of lobster meat and beautifully tender roasted caribou, to simpler fare like his mouth-watering prime rib burger. Service at "S" is superb. It's prompt, friendly and discreet. The dÉcor is modern and stylishly conservative. Comfortable black leather chairs dominate a room that's accented with modern art and a few unconventional decorative objects. "S" is located at 390 Duckworth S. Phone 722-8642.

2. Nicole's CafÉ

This restaurant is a bit off the beaten path - Joe Batt's Arm, Fogo - but it is preparing food as good as you'll find in most top restaurants in St. John's. Seafood at Nicole's is extraordinary, mainly because it's local. The cod, prepared by Chef Shaun Hussey, is heavenly. The fish is caught live in experimental cod pots just off Fogo Island and is delivered to Nicole's CafÉ in the freshest possible condition. I also enjoyed Nicole's beautiful scallops topped with local crabmeat. The atmosphere is warm and friendly. You'll find they sell many locally made craft items at Nicole's as well. Nicole's CafÉ is located in Joe Batt's Arm. Phone 658-3663.

3. YellowBelly Brewery and Public House

This multi-level dining establishment is situated in one of the handful of downtown structures that survived the Great Fire of 1892. The building, at the corner of Beck's Cove and Water Street, has been lovingly renovated. Inside, you'll find many areas where its stone walls are exposed, adding to the vintage atmosphere of the place. YellowBelly's food is delicious. Chef Eric Wood's Fighting Irish Red braised short ribs have flavours that are developed to the nth degree. The restaurant's wood-fired oven is used frequently and to great effect. YellowBelly's flatbreads, for example, are superb. The various beers brewed on the premises by brew master Liam McKenna display exceptional character and sophistication. YellowBelly Brewery and Public House is located at 288 Water St. Phone 757- 3784.

4. Bianca's

After all these years and several staff changes Bianca's is still producing some of the best food St. John's has to offer. Chef Kent Tilley (a Bianca's veteran) is in charge of the kitchen. His quail appetizer and Muskovy duck entree are excellent. Bianca's also has what many wine aficionados consider to be the best wine list in the city. It has depth and may require some interpretation by staff. Bianca's is located at 171 Water St.

Phone 726-9016.

5. Magnum and Steins

This restaurant has become a Duckworth Street fixture and appears to be one of the busiest restaurants on a street of busy eateries. Chef Antonio Esperanza continues to offer Magnum and Steins' popular signature Mediterranean fish stew. That dish would be enough to draw me, along with their Frenched double pork chop. Service at Magnum and Steins is, as ever, excellent. Magnum and Steins is located at 284 Duckworth St. Phone 576-6500.

6. Bona Vista

As always, the buffet at Bona Vista in Hotel Newfoundland is a wonderful treat. Supervised by talented, award winning Chef Roary MacPherson, it's a bountiful display of hot, cold, savoury and sweet. Favourites of mine are usually found in the chafing dishes to the side and amongst the stunning pastries display. Bona Vista is located in Hotel Newfoundland at Cavendish Square. Phone 726-4980.

7. Blue on Water

The food presented by Chef Chris Herritt continues to attract customers to this Water Street boutique hotel and restaurant. Blue on Water is a good place to dine anytime, but I particularly enjoy it at breakfast time. They serve a mean eggs Benedict and a pancake breakfast featuring walnuts soaked in Screech. Sounds like a winner to me. Blue on Water is located at 319 Water St.

Phone 754-2583.

8. CafÉ Wedgwood

Elizabeth Avenue is not known for its restaurants but here's one that's definitely worth trying. CafÉ Wedgwood reminds me of a big city cafeteria, one that serves fabulous comfort food. In fact, it does meatloaf with mashed potato that's simply incredible. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Chef Peter Wedgwood is also doing a fine dining menu in the evening for those who'd like a night out. CafÉ Wedgwood is located at 17 Elizabeth Ave.

Phone 726-1860.

9. Hungry Heart CafÉ

This is a gem of a bistro. For a delicious, moderately priced lunch I highly recommend it. The food, prepared under the expert supervision of Chef Kathy Jaeger couldn't be tastier. I've enjoyed a perfect Hungry Heart broccoli salad, crepe Lasagna (lean but luscious) and carrot cake that was also splendid. It's worth knowing that as part of the Stella Burry Centre, Hungry Heart CafÉ revenue is helping countless people in our community who need a hand up. Hungry Heart CafÉ is located at Rawlins Cross. Phone 738-6164.

10. Pi

You won't find a better pizza maker than Chef Megan O'Dea. Her Pi creations, despite having names that some may find difficult to pronounce, are glorious. O'Dea's pizzas have so much colour and visual appeal they look like paintings. Order her Veggie Life pizza and you'll see what I mean. Of course it tastes great, too! Pi is located at 10 Kings Rd. Phone 726-2000.

Organizations: Brewery and Public House, Stella Burry Centre

Geographic location: St. John's, Water Street, Bona Vista Fogo Island Newfoundland Duckworth Street Elizabeth Avenue

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  • Alan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    it appears that karl wells just likes to eat. He isnt a critique, not is he qualified! I am ashamed by CBC for letting a person with no qualifications be called a critique. He has never cooked so why should he judge

  • Alan
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    it appears that karl wells just likes to eat. He isnt a critique, not is he qualified! I am ashamed by CBC for letting a person with no qualifications be called a critique. He has never cooked so why should he judge