The Sandbar -
Today my wife, kids, and I took my mother-in-law for her obligatory trip to Granville Island. After getting there at around 10:30, we walked around, went into various shops, visited the public market, visited the kids market, and took a half-hour boat ride. I wasn’t keeping track of time but it felt like it was at least 3 or 4 PM by the time we were done with the boat ride. When I looked at my watch, I saw both hands pointing up. It was only twelve o’clock.
‘Time sure went by slowly’, I thought to myself. ‘At least I didn’t miss lunch!’
So I directly everyone in our group towards The Sandbar, the first restaurant that popped up on the search results when I plugged in the words ‘Granville Island’ on urbanspoon last night.
Looking in from outside the restaurant’s entrance, The Sandbar looked really small and empty. None of the tables were occupied and there wasn’t even a bartender at the bar. Walking in and immediately seeing the staircase leading up, I realized that the main room of the restaurant was probably located upstairs.
The main room was way bigger than any one of us expected. It featured an open kitchen with a winding counter for diners wishing to observe the action in the kitchen, double-high ceilings on one side that had a fishing boat hanging from the top, a wine cellar, and different-sized dining tables that accommodated parties large and small.
There was even a third floor, with a huge, heated patio outside for al fresco dining and 6 or 7 more tables inside just in case there weren’t already enough tables in the main dining room.
At the time we were there, almost all of the diners chose to dine outdoors. We were the only ones that chose to have our lunch indoors. They put us in one of the third floor indoor tables, separated from most of the action by a few clear-glass window panes.
Since we were the only (indoor) table there at the time, we received prompt and on-demand service from our server, who was solely responsible for the indoor section of the third floor. He quickly took down our orders and went about his business of folding napkins after entering our orders in the computer.
I noticed that all the tables outside had baskets of bread on them so I walked over to our busily-napkin-folding server and asked if we could have some.
The bread was not half bad. It was warm, flaky, and airy; it provided us with a bit a warmth from the sporadic cool breezes that blasted our table through the permanently opened doors.
I was also warmed by the cup of clam chowder that I ordered.
Apart from being warm, the clam chowder was also pretty tasty. The restaurant didn’t go the lazy route by offering up the traditional, available-everywhere creamy new England clam chowder. It instead offered up another take on the clam chowder that, although still cream-based, felted lighter and brighter while still retaining a pleasant richness. The clams were chopped up so that there were bits of clams in every spoonful of the soup, and the potatoes, carrots, and corn that were also present in every spoonful combined to add a sweetness as well as some hefty texture to the soup.
After everyone in my party watched hungrily as I slowly savored my soup (I’m not that cruel…I quickly devoured it), our server came with our main dishes while he simultaneously removed my soup cup.
First up was my son’s chicken tenders.
It looked like any other chicken tender and I’m guessing it tasted like every other chicken tender as well. It didn’t look like my son particularly liked this version but it also didn’t look like he disliked it. He just went about his business of eating and finishing his chicken tenders quietly and in a timely fashion. The fries that came with his chicken tenders were quite good. They were thin and crispy, just the way my wife, daughter, and I liked our fries to be. So even though there were too many fries included with my son’s chicken tenders for him to finish, my wife and daughter had no problem helping him finish them.
My daughter had the cheese pizza, which she ate in alternating bites with the fries.
She really liked the pizza. She said it was really tasty. I asked her why and she said it just was. I suggested to her that the fries might be tastier than the pizza because she was clearly eating more of the fries than her pizza, but she insisted that pizza was tastier. In the end, she ate more than half of my son’s fries and some of mine while barely finishing half of her pizza.
My wife also had the pizza, but it was the grown-up version topped with mushrooms, olives, and capicola.
Unlike my daughter’s professed love for her pizza, my wife hated hers. She disliked the olives, the weird pizza sauce, the bland cheese, and the lackluster crust. She thought it was so bad that, like my daughter, she could barely finish half of her pizza. She gave me a slice so I could see how bad it was…And it was bad indeed. The olives were bitter, the mushrooms had no texture, the capicola was missing-in-action, and the crust had a stale-cookie-like texture and a stale-bread-like taste. I almost wanted to apologize on the restaurant’s behalf for my wife being served such a lame pizza.
My mother-in-law had the linguine vongale.
The linguine tasted way the heck better than my wife’s pizza. I know because my mother-in-law gave both my wife and I a little plateful her pasta so that we could have a taste of it. The pasta was very flavourful. The clams added a sweet brininess while the huge amount of garlic gave the pasta huge amounts of flavours. The garlic was the star of the dish and it shined like few garlics could in a plate of pasta. I liked it, my mother-in-law liked it, and my wife wish she had ordered it instead of her pizza.
Our family friend who joined us for our trip today, ordered the salmon burger.
I asked her how her burger was and she said it was good. She said that the salmon was well-cooked. It was not too dry and was as moist as a good beef burger patty. She also said that she liked her salad.
I ordered the Island Club. It came with shrimp, dungeness crab, bacon, avocado, tomatoes, and lettuce.
I enjoyed the sandwich. It was pretty good. But to tell the truth, it tasted like a lobster roll. There’s nothing wrong with a lobster roll -and I like lobster rolls- but I somehow expected more. I thought that I would get a snappy shrimp texture, a fibery crab texture, smoky bacon flavours, and buttery smooth avocado. What I got was a lobster roll. Somehow, every other component was lost when they combined the crab and shrimp with mayonnaise (I’m probably oversimplifying). I shouldn’t complain about this because lobster rolls the size of this sandwich usually costs somewhere in the $23 – $30 range, considerably more expensive than the $18 Island Club I had today.
The meal we had today at The Sandbar was as enjoyable as a meal at local chains such as Cactus Club or Earls. The food was generally pretty good (apart from my wife’s pizza), and the environment comfortable. Although the service was not as ‘perky and upbeat’ as the local chains, it was in-line with the comfortable, subdued, and not in-you-face vibe of the restaurant. Would we visit the restuarant again? Probably. We’ll just know to not order the pizza…pizza in a seafood restaurant? To quote a quote (do I put two quotation marks each at the beginning and end of the quote???) in the comments to my post yesterday on Aki from Imonlyhereforthefood, “it is in the menu so it is fair game!”