Seasons by Atlantica
I’ve been looking forward to dining at Seasons by Atlantica for some time. It was a beautiful summer evening, and the curved dining room was bustling. Greeted and seated promptly, I managed to score the last window seat on the corner of Robie and Quinpool Streets, essentially hanging over the Willow Tree interchange and in front of the North Commons, the very definition of Central Halifax.
I had eaten at Seasons before Chef Luis Clavel arrived, and had the benefit of trying his inventive offerings on a few different occasions. This was my first time in the restaurant since renovations in January 2011, and can report the dining room is completely transformed. Bright and spacious, it’s a lovely complement to the menu.
My server Ashley was friendly and eager to help with the menu. She discussed Chef Clavel’s vision for the restaurant with enthusiasm – fresh, local, seasonal, high quality ingredients presented in inventive ways. As you would hope from the name, Seasons changes its menu with the season, the current one was launched four weeks before my visit. I had reviewed it online in advance and could not wait to dig into it.
But what to get? How could I eat the three appetizers, six entrees, and one dessert I had pre-selected? Ashley stepped to help. She made sure I understood they’re very proud of the whole menu, but helped narrow down the options to a meal suitable for one human adult.
Ashley also asked if I was familiar with Nova Scotia wine varieties and offered to recommend some pairings. Since I’ve been known to enjoy the occasional glass of Nova Scotia’s finest, I gladly accepted her suggestion of the Jost Muscat to accompany my meal.
While my feast was being prepared, I nibbled away at some pretzel rolls from 24 Carrots bakery in Halifax.
Just look at those rolls. They were still warm, a delicious balance of salty and sweet. Just a perfect amount of bread to take the edge off while I awaited my appetizer, or “Beginning.”
It was a tough choice, but I went with the seafood chowder for my Beginning. Like loving the scent of salt water and the inability to use the turn indicator while driving, there is something quintessentially Nova Scotian about seafood chowder. Ashley assured me Seasons’ seafood chowder was beyond reproach – and she was right. Smooth, buttery, creamy, yet light enough for a hot June evening. Scallops the size of a silver dollar (remember those?), shrimp, salmon, and haddock, it was chowder heaven. A chowder that your grandmother would plunk down in front of you and say, “This is the best chowder ever. Don’t even think about arguing with me.” Needless to say, I made short work of the chowder. As an aside, be sure to check out the new Adventures in Taste Chowder Trail – 39 chowder stops across the province!
During the debate about entrees, or “Middles,” I discovered that Chef Clavel and I may share a portion of brain. I apologize if this is an insult to Chef Clavel, particularly because I require a timer to make a hard-boiled egg.
Allow me to explain. I live in the same neighbourhood as Seasons. Quinpool Road, the heart of this neighbourhood, is home to every possible genre of restaurant, from fast food to family style to cultural cuisines of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. With the sheer diversity of eating options, I call this area Little United Nations. Seemingly like-minded, Seasons offers a dish called “Quinpool Chicken” which brings together everything I love about living near Little United Nations. In the end, I didn’t get it, but only because I wanted a reason to go back with friends so I can prove my cleverness.
Instead, I chose this amazing Braised Short Rib and Scallop dish.
The short rib is prepared sous vide, resulting in a dish that is incredibly tender and tasty. It’s served with a set of complex flavours and textures. House-made sweet potato gnocchi and wild mushroom ragoût were set between the two boneless short ribs, with young carrots that were sweet and crunchy. In the middle of the plate, brussel sprout leaves on pommery mustard cream which paved the way to velvety scallops set on sweet corn and red peppers. This is no simple plate, it is a full-on eating experience and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. I had such a difficult time choosing a Middle because each dish was this intriguing – inventive and colourful, packed with flavours. They are certainly adventurous, but there is something for everyone. Just take a look at Seasons’ fun take on “Meat and Potatoes” and you will see what I mean.
At this point in the meal, I really didn’t think I had left room for a dessert, or “Ending,” but Ashley changed my mind when she told me the “Frozen” of the day was house-made banana ice cream. As a legendary ice cream lover, I was powerless to resist. When it arrived, I knew I was in for a special treat.
No simple bowl of ice cream. Topped with lightly fried bananas, fresh blueberries and a gooseberry, it was a banana split from your fancy dreams. Since eating at Seasons, I’ve looked at this picture several times and thought about how to repeat the experience. Unfortunately for me, it may be like trying to capture lightning in a bottle because the Frozen dessert changes daily.
With heavy heart, my meal had to end. While Ashley and I were wrapping up, we talked about the hotel’s location within a restaurant. While there is a built-in target audience with the hotel’s guests, I was pleased to learn Seasons has plenty to offer locals like myself, including RQ Rewards, a program that includes special treats for repeat visitors. Which will definitely include me.