Monday, 5 January 2015

Rustica- Corner Brook's New Family-Oriented Gastropub

As I mentioned in a previous post (see here), Wester Newfoundland is not known for its food scene in the way that the East Coast is but on my last visit, I did manage to try some new restaurants that have popped up there.

One of the new arrivals is Rustica, Corner Brook's first ever gastropub.  It is locally owned and operated by Sheldon and Erika Bessey who both have experience in the the restaurant industry.  As stated on their website, Rustica is intended to be a family-oriented restaurant with a relaxed vibe and "Old English style".   With its family-friendly claim, some may find it bizarre that it shares a bar and washroom facilities with a nightclub (Nightsounds) but, rest assured, Nightsounds does not get rolling until long after Rustica has closed its doors for the night.  The restaurant portion is a decent size and can seat about 40-50 people for its lunch and dinner services.

I would say that the most positive part of my experience at Rustica was the service.  Our server was very friendly yet professional and came at regular intervals to check in.  Our water glasses could have perhaps been refilled a bit more regularly but other than that, I could not find flaw with the service.  Dishes were delivered hot and within minutes of each other so that no one was kept waiting.  For a relatively new restaurant, I was impressed!

The menu concept is relaxed, approachable food to match the atmosphere.  There are quite a lot of items to choose from (about 15 each of appies and mains) plus some sides/extras and a few homemade desserts that change nightly.  Many of the dishes are comfort food favourites (prime rib, chicken and ribs, Yorkshire pudding) with a few unexpected outside-the-box dishes thrown in (escargot, quinoa and kale salads).  And for those visiting from out of town- cod tongues with scrunchions!

As per their website, they are willing to change their menu based on demand from customers and the changing seasons.  It is nice that they are keeping a locally-inspired menu in mind, which is a feat in Newfoundland, especially in the winter!

They offer small wine, beer and spirits lists, all at very reasonable prices.  Kudos for offering wines by the half bottle, which is a perfect amount for 2 people.  We chose the Lighthouse Reisling from Pelee Island, Ontario, and found it to be very pleasant (not overly sweet) at a very reasonable $20/half liter.

Here are the dishes that Hubby, my parents-in-law and I enjoyed when we dined there over the Xmas holidays:

Onion Bake- The name of this dish is a bit misleading.  After reading the menu description, I was pretty sure they were referring to french onion soup and that is precisely what this is.  The flavour of the broth was nice and it came out piping hot, but it could have done with more cheese.  Another tip- the two different sizes (cup and bowl) appeared almost identical in size so I would save the 2 bucks and stick with the cup. 

Quinoa Greek Salad-  I was excited to this healthy option on the menu but disheartened when the tiny little pile of quinoa on a single kale leaf was placed in front of me.  The flavours were all there with a nice garlic dressing and I enjoyed the fresh tomatoes and cucumbers mixed in, but the $13 price tag left me bewildered.

Cajun Lime Shrimp- I was still quite hungry after the petite quinoa salad and looking forward to a decent helping of juicy shrimp to fill the void.  Again, the food quality was good (nicely cooked shrimp with tasty seasoning) but the quantity was way off- 4 shrimp (not jumbo) for $14?  I am totally for quality over quantity but at these prices, diners at a place that calls itself a "family restaurant' will likely leave feeling ripped off.

Shrimp and Scallop Linguine- My in-laws quite enjoyed this pasta dish which was well balanced with a nice pasta-to-seafood ratio, including some notably large scallops.

Smoked Baby Back Ribs- These were available with either a BBQ sauce (strongly recommended by our server) or a dry rub with a choice of potato on the side.  This was yet again a case of decently tasty food, but simply not enough of it (4-5 ribs with some 3 overcooked coins of carrot and 1 lone asparagus spear for $20).  

Overall verdict?
I am pleased to see some new restaurants popping up in Corner Brook and I appreciate what Rustica endeavours to achieve- a relaxed atmosphere, friendly service and familiar comfort foods.  The food quality is quite good and is just as good or better than anywhere else in town.  I fear, though, that if Rustica does not either lower its prices or increase its portions substantially, diners will opt to go elsewhere.

It is still early days, and I have my fingers crossed that Rustica has a bright future ahead!

1 comment:

  1. We're glad you enjoyed the service you received and the flavors of your food. We did receive a couple of comments about portion sizes and we did remedy that.. However, the menu was made in such a way that a couple can come in, have a drink or two each, have 2 three course meals and spend about $100. Consequently, I am not surprised that you didn't feel full after the quinoa greek salad and shrimp as they are both appetizers. We would like to thank you for the review and wishes of success.