I spent several days in Corner Brook recently and was able to visit several restaurants that were new to me — well, “new” in terms of owners, chefs and menus.
One was a café on Corner Brook’s Broadway and the other was a long established venue on West Street.
Tuck In can be found in a small shopping mall on Broadway, next to Alteen’s Jewellers. Double French doors open into a bright café with green and white tile flooring, apple green walls, white wainscoting and colonial style chairs. The casual, laid-back atmosphere of the place is influenced by a very friendly wait staff who encourage you to sit where you want and to stay as long as you want.
Tuck In’s food is prepared by co-owner Brian Barrett. Barrett and his wife Irene started the business recently. Corner Brook is where they have settled in an effort to get out of life’s fast lane in favour of a lifestyle with quality and less stress.
There is no doubt that Corner Brook is a beautiful city in which to enjoy a quality lifestyle; and Tuck In and one or two other new Corner Brook eateries are helping make a healthy lifestyle more possible.
Two Tuck In salads provided lots of interest and good taste. The Cobb salad was presented on a black plate which provided lots of contrast for slices of white chicken meat, avocado slices and white and bright yellow hard-cooked egg quarters that leaned against a tangle of lettuce, celery dice, julienned carrot, tomato and vinaigrette dressing. Everything was the freshest of fresh.
The Mediterranean quinoa salad cost a dollar less ($10) but was no less filling. Listed on the Tuck In menu as a “healthy choice,” this salad contained no meat. It was simply that fabulously textured seed called quinoa, grape tomatoes, sun dried tomato, olives, peppers, lettuce and balsamic vinegar. The salad was colourfully appealing and satisfying.
Another “healthy choice” on Tuck In’s menu is the Middle East sampler. The centrepiece of this plate was delicious, freshly made hummus. Extremely fresh small pieces of flatbread were arranged next to the ramekin of hummus. The plate was balanced out by a generous helping of traditional Lebanese salad containing lettuce, olives, avocado, peppers and citrus.
The Kung Pao chicken wrap will fill the spot if you’re really famished. The whole grain wrap was not only stuffed with chicken, but it also contained rice noodles, sprouts, peanuts and sweet chili dressing. Biting into the rice noodles was fun. I get a kick out of eating dishes with interesting and contrasting textures. The wrap was accompanied by a simple but very fresh green salad.
Tuck In is a delightful spot for lunch, and as long as the current high standard of service and food is maintained, I predict it will be around for a long time to come.
13 West St.
The first time I visited the location where Shez West is now situated, it was home to a restaurant called Thirteen West. Shez West looks the same. In fact, although it’s small, it has one of the most attractive interiors of all Corner Brook restaurants.
The look is that of a small but sophisticated French restaurant. Tones of green and beige help create a calming atmosphere that’s noticeable as soon as you walk into the room. Above French provincial chairs and decorative flourishes, an elaborate chandelier provides a warm glow to the space. Full-length light beige curtains carry imprints of various styles of lettering and script. In its totality the room conveys quiet elegance.
Our meal began with tomato and basil soup. While the hot mixture revealed plenty of robust flavours from main ingredients and seasonings, it contained too much salt. Otherwise this soup would have been perfect.
Shez West’s seafood appetizer looked mouth-wateringly good. A square white bowl was filled with blue mussels on the shell — all nicely opened with their mouths upturned like yapping duck beaks. Laid on top of the yapping shells were ocean scallops with bronzed edges and red-tinged jumbo shrimps. It looked like, any second, one of the scallops or shrimps would be devoured whole by the yapping beaks below. There was one main problem with this appetizer, and that is that virtually every piece of seafood (mussels, shrimps and scallops) was overcooked.
A main of stuffed pork chops was unusually impressive in that the very thin pork chops had been cut to make a pocket, in which bread stuffing was placed. Despite being flimsy thin, the meat remained tender and reasonably moist. I was also impressed by the fresh vegetables on my plate. The brilliant broccoli and orange carrots were properly cooked and I also enjoyed the ample serving of sweet potato fries. Sadly, I could not enjoy the pork chops thoroughly because they were far too salty.
The service at Shez West was competent and delivered with warm words and smiles. There is much to like about Shez West, but it does need to place more emphasis on improving the preparation of its food.
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For regular updates on “One Chef One Critic,” my Telegram Dining Out column and the latest developments on the local culinary scene please follow me on Twitter @karl_wells.
Karl Wells is an accredited personal chef and recipient of awards from the national body of the Canadian Culinary Federation and the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. He is also a restaurant panellist with enRoute Magazine. Contact him through his website, www.karlwells.com.