Restaurants like The Walrus and the Carpenter are the reason I dine out. It’s easy to miss the small sign at the entrance to this lively restaurant that’s tucked away at the back of a former ship-parts factory, at the end of a long, narrow hallway. As you near the restaurant though, you hear the din of happy chatter. Walking into the Walrus and the Carpenter is like a breath of fresh air. The space is bright, cheerful, and inviting.
If you’re into seafood, you will adore the menu. First of all, it’s an oyster bar, so there are oysters galore for you to choose from, nicely showcased in buckets of ice behind the bar. There is a bevy of fish and shellfish dishes on the menu (sardines, trout, mackerel, herring, scallops, you name it). At this point, you might be wondering if I simply observed at this dinner, since I don’t eat much seafood. Have no fear – there are enough meat and veggie options to choose from as well if you prefer land-based foods. In fact, I ate an entire meal without consuming anything from the sea…
We passed on cocktails and shared a pichet of lovely wine called Thivin – I believe it was the 2011 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly. It was recommended by our server, and it paired nicely with both the seafood and the read meat – not an easy feat.
My friend enjoyed 3 raw oysters, followed by the smoked trout (lentil, walnut, onion, crème fraiche). I tried the stuff underneath the trout and it was delicious – I loved the walnuts.
My friend also had the halibut special. The cooked scallions were very tasty. The dish was very much Asian inspired. The halibut was nicely cooked and very tender. And the sauce was a hit as well.
The menu changes often, and the one currently online as of this writing is pretty much obsolete, but it does give you an idea of the type of dishes that they offer. When I was there, they had 4 meat plates to choose from.
I had the lamb gelatine pictured at the top of this review (curried apricots, prosciutto, pickled chanterelles, pistachio). It was thinly wrapped in prosciutto (which I peeled off since I don’t eat pork). The server said there was no other pork in the dish, but I remain slightly skeptical. The lamb had a very mild taste – I wish it was a little stronger. But I loved the creativity of pairing it with curried apricots. And the pickled chanterelles were a nice, unexpected twist.
The steak tartare was one of the best I’ve had (farm egg yolk, rye toast). I loved all the chives which lightened up the dish instead of overpowering it. I also liked the quenelle-like shape it was served in. And perhaps my favourite part was the regular sized egg yolk which oozed all over the tartare when I broke it – perfect egg to meat ratio! The chopping of the meat could’ve been slightly larger, but overall, I thought it worked well. Meanwhile, my friend was obsessed with the super thinly sliced rye toasts, which were apparently very crispy and buttery.
When dinner’s going so well, good luck passing on dessert, especially when it all sounds so good. We shared the honey panna cotta (poached rhubarb, lemon oil). It was divine. The texture was perfect, the rhubarb was delicious and the lemon nicely punctuated the dessert with a bit of acidity.
Service was great. The hostess was very nice and professional, which is especially critical when one is being told it’ll be an hour long wait (luckily she managed to squeeze us in faster). The server was very chill – helpful, friendly and unobtrusive. Food was served family-style and came quickly. And I’ve already gushed about the warm, vibrant vibe. I love this place! And I’m looking forward to giving the newer sister restaurant a try – it’s also got a cute name, The Whale Always Wins.