Thirty minutes outside St. John’s, N.L., comfort foods meet Asian flavour
In 1900, the French tire manufacturer Michelin created a series of guidebooks to encourage car rides around France (hence getting drivers to wear out their tires faster) and transformed the international dining scene with their incognito critics and star-rating system. Since then, the leading principle has remained the same: Is the restaurant worth the drive? I tested out the theory by driving 30 minutes to Fork in Mobile, N.L. for dinner with my husband and another couple.
As we pulled up that Friday night, we could see a candlelit room through the large bay windows filled with happy-looking diners. Fork started as a popup restaurant in 2017 before graduating to a full-fledged restaurant in 2019 in a renovated home overlooking the ocean. While the decor is minimal in that hip sort of way (white walls adorned with local photography by Kara O’Keefe, bare wood tables and black gingham napkins), the vibe is cozy with lots of candles and a groovy playlist running the gamut of genres.
To start, both gentlemen in our party inquired about the Fork and Landwash Brewery collaboration beer, but the taps had run dry, so they went with a pint of Quidi Vidi ($9). I opted for the Mobile 75 ($10) with gin, grapefruit and Benjamin Bridge Nova 7; a quirky spin on a classic cocktail that went down smoothly.
Nan’s Bread ($3) came to the table first, a small warm loaf for each couple. It’s rare to get more butter than bread—usually one is looking for more, but when the server took away the mini cutting board I wept for the mound of whipped molasses butter that remained.
No one could decide on an appetizer so we split four. Why not? One of the changes at Fork’s new location is the addition of a deep fryer but there’s no beige food here, no fish and chips to be found. The four perfectly-round Croquettes ($14) that arrived were deep brown and crispy on the outside, gooey with potato, ham and cheddar on the inside, while the Korean BBQ Wings ($16) had great breading, tossed in a sticky-sweet sauce with peanuts.
The rice-to-Kimchi ratio in the Fried Rice ($14) was perfect, as were the spicy to sweet hits on my tongue, but my favourite appetizer was the Brussels Sprouts ($16). Prepared like a Caesar salad, the buttery crispy sprouts were doused in a balanced dressing with heaps of bacon and croutons under a layer of finely grated Parmesan. This dish would make anyone love brussels sprouts.
I was a big fan of Fork when it was a popup. I’m happy to say the appetizers delivered the same ode to Asian flavours, but sadly the mains were lacklustre by comparison. While the portions were huge—one dining companion’s Cod ($30) had two huge pieces of fish along with potatoes, mustard pickles, salt beef and wilted greens—some fell short in the flavour department. The other’s Chicken ($28) with roasted root veg was just that: Chicken.
My Striploin ($38), however, was expertly cooked with crispy hand-cut fries and the most delicious rosemary gravy. Husband went with Pasta ($28) made in-house with green peas, pancetta, truffle cream and tons of parm which brought it all together. He loved it. Overall, the mains were big portion-wise but didn’t showcase the full potential of the chef.
By dessert, we were back on track. The perfectly plated chocolate cake ($9) was pretty as a picture and the Bailey’s crème brûlée ($9) had the ideal crack when I dove into it with my spoon. I’m no Michelin inspector, but Fork is well worth the drive.
52 Cod Seine Cove Road, Mobile N.L.
Wed-Fri 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Sat-Sun 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The Bite House | Baddeck, N.S.
This Cape Breton farmhouse restaurant has become one of the most well-known restaurants in Atlantic Canada with a recent rave in Bon Appetit magazine. Open from May through December, chef Bryan Picard serves nine-course menus—with dishes like salted tuna with hakurei turnip, sunflower sauce and salad burnet or lobster with soft boiled egg, black cumin and sunchoke—three nights a week in the 16-seat dining room.
Rossmount Inn | St. Andrews, N.B.
The 87-acre Rossmount estate is a culinary destination in its own right with an 18-room manor inn, swimming pool and sprawling meadows. Dishes like halibut cheek “schnitzel” with cider vinegar, napa slaw and nasturtium-herb mayonnaise or Bantry Bay Farm organic mixed leaves with cherry tomatoes, beets and maple mustard dressing are made from ingredients in their farm, foraged in the nearby Chamcook Mountain or acquired from local fishermen.
FireWorks | Fortune Bridge, P.E.I.
The gardens of The Inn at Bay Fortune, owned by celebrity chef Michael Smith, set the stage for the FireWorks Feast. This immersive culinary experience starts with cocktails and a farm tour parading diners through the property, followed by an oyster hour by the fire and a long-table communal dinner replete with fresh bread from the wood-burning oven, seafood chowder and myriad sumptuous surprises.
Scoff | Fogo Island, N.L.
Situated on the biggest island off Newfoundland and Labrador, the journey to Scoff requires a ferry. But their dishes, made using local ingredients and foodways with a modern twist, would satisfy any traveller’s hunger. Plates of Split Pea Panisse with root veg, turnip puree, kale pistou and shaved fennel and Salt Cod Pierogies with fried onions, scrunchions and sour cream fill the tables of this intimate dining room.
With the success of Broadway’s Come From Away, Gander, N.L. is seeing more tourists than ever, and will soon have another experience to offer them. Since the advent of trans-atlantic flight, Gander has been a stopping place between the United States and Europe with visits from the likes of everyone from Amelia Earhart to Charles Lindbergh. In 1959 Queen Elizabeth II opened the shiny new International Departures Lounge at Gander International Airport. The sleek avant-garde design was praised by modernist designers the world over. But in the 1960s, as planes could fly further and longer without having to refuel, international stops dwindled and the airport became a ghost town. The lounge was sealed off to the public in the ‘70s, turning it into a time capsule for mid-century modern design. An example of the faded glamour of early air travel, it’s now considered one of the best-preserved examples of modernist architecture in Canada, though few people can see it. For now. In January 2020, Reg Wright, president and CEO of the airport, announced that it will soon reopen the iconic lounge for tourists and events. With funding announcements last year for $1.5 million for restoration, the airport hopes to open the lounge in June, attracting design fanatics and Come From Away tourists alike. •