My Big Day Downtown: Dinner at the Wooden Monkey

Some of you might remember that I participated in the Downtown Halifax Business Commission's "Big Day Downtown" last year – I wrote about spending a day shopping like my favorite TV stars in my hometown of Halifax, NS.

Well, the good news is that I was invited to participate again. The less good news is that I wasn't quite as creative with the whole "I'm going to connect this cool thing to television" thing this time around. But guess what? I did it anyway, so play along.

The theme for Big Day Downtown this year was to try something new, so I decided to treat myself and my boyfriend to a lovely meal out at a popular Halifax restaurant I'd never been to, The Wooden Monkey. The Wooden Monkey is a very cool place because the menu is based on organic and locally produced ingredients. And are you ready for my TV connection? It's the favorite restaurant of hometown hero, actress Ellen Page. Look, here she is on their website, talking about bikes and being generally adorable! What's that you say? That Ellen Page is a movie star (Juno, Whip It, Inception) and not a TV star, therefore rendering my grasping-at-straws connection moot? Well, let me direct you to her early work in the Canadian classic Pit Pony, where she is doing a very convincing job as a sad, rejected moppet who seems to hate Halifax. (Real life Ellen Page loves Halifax. I see her here all the time. OK, like four times. But she talks about it a lot.)

OK, so on to my Big Day Downtown! The restaurant was a little busy when we arrived, so we headed to the bar area upstairs for a couple of cocktails. I had a Waterfront Breeze and Rob had an Amaretto & Rootbeer.

My Big Day Downtown: Dinner at the Wooden Monkey

They were both delicious, but I liked his better. You just can't beat (local) Propeller Rootbeer.

Next I had the Sweet Apple Salad while Rob had the Tangy Fish Cakes.

My Big Day Downtown: Dinner at the Wooden Monkey
With apple, walnuts and goat cheese, this is my kind of salad.
My Big Day Downtown: Dinner at the Wooden Monkey
These little fish cakes were packed with a lot of flavour.

The salad was tasty, and I enjoyed my taste of the fish cakes as well. Next, it was time for our mains.

I ordered the Pork Tenderloin. Normally I might have gone for something a little simpler after already having starters – there were some great looking sandwiches on the menu, as well as a vegan donair made with something called seitan that I'd like to go back for sometime. But since it was a special day and I had a $100 Visa gift card to pick up the tab with, I splurged a little.

My Big Day Downtown: Dinner at the Wooden Monkey
Seasonal vegetables, pork with applesauce and cranberry chutney and sweet potato wedges.    

So, I had mixed feelings about my entree. It's not that it wasn't good – it was. But The Wooden Monkey has a really glowing reputation here in Halifax, so I think perhaps my expectations were too high. First of all, I really enjoyed my sides. That corn was freakin' amazing, and I loved the sweet potatoes so much that I've spent the last month perfecting my own version of them at home. (Dice sweet potatoes, mix with olive oil, rosemary, thyme, etc. and bake on about 400C for 30 minutes…divine.) But if I'm being completely honest, I was a little disappointed in the pork. It was fine, but not very flavorful.

Rob also considered getting the mysterious vegan donair, but ended up going for the Gingered Beef. Again, we were a little disappointed.

My Big Day Downtown: Dinner at the Wooden Monkey
Local beef marinated served over quinoa noodles and local veggies.

It's not that the food was bad – it just wasn't as flavorful as we would have liked. Of the two dishes I preferred mine (which is good, you know, since I ordered it) since I liked the sides it came with and I'm not a huge fan of noodles. Perhaps because they're known for making great vegetarian dishes, it seemed like The Wooden Monkey didn't do meat as well as some other local restaurants I frequent.

Our evening ended on a fantastic note, though, since we shared the Chocolate Tofu Pie for dessert. Yep, you read that right. Tofu. I'd actually had this before at a party once, so I knew it would be fantastic. In fact it was so good we ate half of it before I even remembered to take a picture for the blog.

My Big Day Downtown: Dinner at the Wooden Monkey
OK, maybe we ate more than half before taking the photo…

It's dairy and gluten free, so pretty much anyone and everyone can eat it. And trust me, it is divine. Decadent and rich, we couldn't even finish it after our large meals.

Despite not being as blown away by The Wooden Monkey as other people I know have been, I'd be happy to return another time to try something else on their menu. I enjoyed parts of my meal and I'm glad I chose the restaurant for my Big Day Downtown. The service was fantastic and I liked the ambiance of the restaurant, I dig local food, and I'm always happy to support local downtown Halifax businesses. Ellen Page and I are from a pretty awesome city, you know.

**Sidenote: As I write this, I have a rerun of The Big Bang Theory on and Raj is talking about Ellen Page. Look, more connections to television!

I was one of 30 Halifax bloggers who are participating in the Big Day Downtown! To see what others did with their $100, check out their posts on the Downtown Halifax Business Commission website.


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