Friday, August 30, 2013

Making Waves At Sandbar

The unassuming entrance to the Sandbar Waterfront Grill in Puce belies the tasty food on offer.

Enjoying over 30 years of success, local business owners, Robert and Ken Troup, have created a nautical paradise for those who visit the beautiful Puce Harbour River Marina. Boaters, and anyone else, can stop in to dine at the Sandbar Waterfront Grill, located at 930 Old Tecumseh Rd, in Lakeshore.

I’ve been craving seafood for a while now, and after seeing some great reviews online at Trip Advisor, and looking at the plentiful menu available online, the Sandbar Waterfront Grill seemed like a place worth trying out. I must have gone through a half hour’s worth of other places, only to find no website or even online menu. As a consumer, that is really frustrating. So, I was very happy to have not only an accessible menu, but an easily navigated website to go to find directions.

Keeping up with the ‘buy local’ mantra, the owners have created a menu that is filled with as much local ingredients as possible. You can enjoy fresh perch, salmon, or beer-battered fish and chips, and of course the fresh catch of the day, and know that it comes from a good source. Hold on though, not everyone has a palette geared for fish. Even if you’re not a big fish lover, you have nothing to worry about because the Sandbar also offers steak, a unique feature of ‘build-your-own’ flatbread pizzas, salads, and much more.

The restaurant has a welcoming atmosphere and you can choose to either dine inside or on the patio deck. Unfortunately, the patio was filled up, but we did see tons of gorgeous boats docked, a live band playing, and a number of boaters and cyclists.

As for service, thank goodness I phoned ahead to make a reservation. It was packed with people; from your regular boating crowd, to ordinary folk looking for a family meal, to groups of thirsty friends. Side note: they do have a great spirits list from which to choose. Our waitress was really upbeat and hospitable, so no complaints there. The manager also came around to check to see if everything was satisfactory, which seems to be a growing trend in restaurants, especially at dinner time.

I will also mention that everything was very reasonably-priced, so you won’t be breaking the bank for a good quality meal.

Who doesn’t love a good appetizer? The classic chilli bowl jumped out as the perfect starter for my partner, Bill. The presentation was inviting, having a simple but elegant look. Although a little on the spicy side for me, the aromatic flavours were steaming from the bowl right to my nose. The toppings of cheddar cheese, sour cream, and chives were delicious, and you could swirl them into the thick consistency of chilli for that cooling factor. Then there was the pretzel stick on the side…oh my…super soft and garlicy. Absolutely wonderful to just dip in the bowl and soak up all the flavours together.

The Sandbar’s chilli was a taste smorgasboard. 

The entrees were served next. It seemed strange for Bill to order such an ordinary dish that we could easily make at home, but this version of Grill House Meat Loaf, had a mixture of ground pork, beef, and veal that was so tasty. The meat was perfectly cooked with a nice savoury flavour combination. Tie in the home-style gravy, fresh vegetables, and garlic red skin mashed potatoes, and you have a real winner.

The down-home comfort food that is the Sandbar’s meatloaf dinner. 

I decided to go the seafood route and try the ‘fresh catch of the day’ which was Monk fish. Many cooking shows seem to use this fish on a regular basis, so I had a fair amount of knowledge about it. I’ve personally never tasted it before, so it was a good time to try.

The Sandbar’s monk fish and rice pilaf.

I really enjoyed the preparation of the fish and how it was wrapped in bacon. Monk fish is known for having a very pronounced meaty texture, almost like a scallop, so you can really butcher this delicate fish by overcooking it. My portion was cooked very well, so kudos to the chef. And although it looked like a small piece, it was very filling. My one complaint, I felt that the fish was just too plain. I would have enjoyed a sauce or even some additional herbs and spices. Improvising, I just used the gravy dipping sauce from the meat loaf to enhance the fish and rice pilaf. Regardless, I did eat every last bite.

For dessert it was chocolate bliss when a brownie, topped with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream, came to the table. The brownie was heated nicely, so it made a delicious contrast with the cold ice cream and side of whipped cream. The chocolate also had a delicious sweetness and the whole brownie was airy and moist.

The signature dessert at the Sandbar is a warmed-through brownie with vanilla ice cream

Overall, the Sandbar Waterfront Grill was a great dining experience and we can’t wait to go back and share what has been coined “the hidden gem of Puce.”

As Virginia Woolf once said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

For more information, visit their website, or visit them on Facebook