Dark chocolate is something I have a love-hate relationship with, and to me that's the same case with my birthday. Some of my most memorable ones haven't always been the best ones, but I can safely say that as I grow older, there's something about each birthday that gets better and better.
Last year I really 'did it up big' in Montreal, and this year I opted for a more low-key but classy experience at The Chase Fish & Oyster in my own city with a beautiful friend of mine and one of my all-time favourites: seafood.
The Chase Fish & Oyster is the casual branch of its fancy sister The Chase on the fifth floor, and conveniently located near the heart of the Financial District. It has a gorgeous nautical room that is romantically lit at night. The menu is generously priced with a focus on raw and seafood, and offers day-long options specializing in oysters, lobster, po' boys and even non-pescetarian items such as fried chicken and steak. But we all know what I came here for.
The staff was extremely friendly in every way possible and the service was excellent. I was spoiled with warm birthday wishes from start to end, and we each received a glass of champagne on the house. We started off with oysters from the West and East coast as well as raw shrimp. All were accompanied by hot sauce, cocktail sauce and mignonette.
The sirloin tartare is exactly how I imagined a perfect tartare to be. It's cold and raw with top-quality beef that's flavoured with oysters, pickled mushrooms, crunchy mustard and comes with a side of grilled sourdough bread.
As for a 'hot' appetizer, we opted for the lobster pie with roasted roots, chestnut béchamel, generous pieces of lobster and dill pollen sitting atop a light puff pastry crust. It's small portioned for a pie, and you can easily gulp it down within two bites if you're splitting halfsies with your partner.
My préféré de la nuit has to go to the steamed mussels. Contrary to what the name suggests, these aren't your ordinary shellfish. They come served in a covered bowl that unleashes a delightful scent of buttery, wine and fish stock as soon as you open the lid. In the centre is an entire head of garlic as big as a tomato and as soft as bone marrow, which has been roasting away with the delicate mussels in a broth so rich and comforting.
And not to mention, the mussels came with a generous portion of grilled sourdough bread topped with roasted pear butter that was good enough to be a snack on their own.
Every day The Chase Fish & Oyster features a daily catch on the menu where you can get the most bang for your buck. For Monday's daily catch, we had the Sea Bream stuffed with confit pork shoulder and wrapped in savoy cabbage leaves with a jerusalem artichoke purée. It was paired with a salad of apple and dill-pickled celery root drizzled in horseradish vinaigrette. All of these ingredients are beautifully combined in a seamless dish that left me wanting to take home a lifetime supply of that purée.
When we thought we couldn't possibly eat any more, we ended the night off with a Hazelnut Bombe. And what a treat it was! What looks like a monstrous Ferrero Roche the size of a baseball actually comes with hazelnut whipped ganache, dark chocolate cream, chocolate cake and candied hazelnuts.
The Chase Fish & Oyster makes for an intimate dining experience and I really owe it to the staff for making my birthday that much more memorable and special. I can't wait to go back.