Saege Bistro: Appreciating Nova Scotia’s Terroir
Walking past Saege Bistro constitutes one of the favourite parts of my day. Going to work, I always check out the fresh-cut flowers on the tables by the window. On my way home, I always stop to read the daily special board, which is always met with a reaction of “Ooooh…” much to the amusement of other pedestrians.
Saege is also home to some of my favourite food people in Halifax. Like he did back in November when I visited the Scanway catering kitchen, Geir Simensen sat down with me at Saege to talk about our mutual favourite thing: good food.
I was introduced to Geir’s approach to local food as part of the overall Scanway food philosophy. Geir wants his guests to have a quintessentially Nova Scotian experience, where their time in the restaurant lets them savour the full range of excellent Nova Scotian food. He wants diners to come to appreciate our terroir – our complimentary flavour palate across food and wine.
Geir also wants diners to enjoy the pleasure of simple, beautifully-prepared meals that use fewer ingredients and focus on the flavours. This focus on simplicity, plus the cozy atmosphere of the Saege dining room meant I was in for a special treat.
On this particular occasion, I recruited an eating-partner-in-crime. Not only did I have great company to partake in joking around with the fun and friendly servers, but I got to sample twice as many menu items. After much deliberation and several rounds of questions with our infinitely patient server, Mark, we finally settled on our dinner.
As our starters were being prepared, we enjoyed some lovely fresh herbed bread and an amuse-bouche featuring a seared scallop with caramelized onion and asparagus, served with a balsamic vinegar reduction. The crisp asparagus inside – yes, inside – of the tender scallop was a delicious surprise.
I started with the evening’s featured soup – roasted garlic and parmesan, topped with chive oil. I’m a huge fan of garlic soup, frequently subjecting guests in my own home to a lesser version of what Saege offered up. It was creamy and pleasantly garlicky, not overpowering or remotely vampire-strength, and took the edge off of the wintry evening. It paired beautifully with the Jost Vineyards L’Acadie Blanc/Pinot Grigio Mark suggested to accompany my meal.
For what it’s worth – if you are inclined to follow my grandfather’s health tips – I felt my immune system tangibly improving as I scraped the last remained drops of the soup from the bowl. I also took advantage of my friend’s gracious offer of one of her tasty, crunchy spring rolls, which I gobbled up with a healthy dip in the nutty sauce accompanying them.
As a South Shore-raised scallop-a-holic, I had the seared Digby scallops presented on top of a sweet, smoky layer of Oulton’s bacon, tomatoes, spinach, and for an extra tasty treat, butternut squash and pumpkin purée. It was heavenly, each mouthful a combination of pleasant, well-balanced flavours.
Though I barely had a fraction of spare space left in my stomach, I managed to save some room for a taste of my friend’s lobster ravioli. The firm pasta held little pockets of rich, tasty lobster in a creamy sauce with hints of lemon, dill, and a little parmesan.
We were almost ready to roll out of the place, even though I was strongly tempted by the presence of Scanway’s famous Princess Marte cake on the menu, but instead, I was presented with one of my new favourite Halifax things: a Lost Mexican.
For those of us that don’t go South in the winter, the Lost Mexican is a little bit of southern sunshine in a Halifax glass: muddled lime and tequila, topped up with our very own Propeller Ginger Beer. The ginger was hot and sharp with a hint of laid-back fun from the tequila. It will be as perfect on a summer day as it is sitting by the fire counting the minutes until the first day of spring. As an extra treat, we had a couple of Unni’s famous Florentines, which were the perfect end to another great meal at Saege.
There is no doubt that I’ll return to Saege soon – in fact, one of the things I’m determined to do before the end of the month is return for the $10 pizza and pasta special on Wednesday nights. The idea came from Geir’s experience during his apprenticeship on the West Coast. Finer dining establishments offer a discounted menu, one night a week, to give new patrons a taste of what the wider menu offers.
Saege has embraced that idea wholeheartedly by offering fresh takes on their regular pizza and pasta menu items, but in unique combinations that are only offered on Wednesdays. A dining adventure for new patrons and an opportunity for a weekly surprise for regulars!
Like I said, I’ll be back to Saege soon for pizza and pasta, and maybe to do a little more … research… about the Lost Mexican.