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Social house rules 

Nectar Social House caters to the recent influx of young, hip professionals living in downtown Dartmouth.

We step into Nectar Social House and I'm immediately taken by the decor. Rae Kraushar, related to the owners of Interlude Spa, has created a beautiful, contemporary space filled with the promise of good food and drink. A small bar area with a glossy black-grey floor, backlit bar and dark wood is in the front of the space; a set of steps leads to an elegant and stunning upper dining room.

We're seated downstairs, in comfortable white parson's style chairs at a cozy table in a corner. Luxurious touches such as the weighty flatware and chocolate-brown leather placemats prove to be harbingers of the culinary delights that lie ahead.

I peruse the menu while sipping the house drink, a "nectarini," which is a sweet mix of raspberry vodka, peach schnapps, orange and pineapple juice. Perhaps a little too summery for this brisk evening, but I'm certainly enjoying it. My partner's choice of Castello di Gabbiano ($8.00), a Tuscan merlot/sangiovese blend with spicy undertones and a fruity foretaste, is perfect for autumn.

Inventive and focusing on local ingredients with a twist, the menu makes it hard for us to choose. We settle on eggplant caprese ($9) and blackened lobster tail ($16) to start, followed by halibut ($25) and rabbit ($27).

The eggplant caprese, served on a rectangular, white platter, is two rounds of grilled eggplant on which sits boccancini cheese, all drizzled with tomato compote. The smokiness of the eggplant, the creaminess of the cheese and the acidity of the tomato blend into a lovely balance of flavour.

The blackened lobster tail is split down the middle for easy access to the meat. It's spicy and not too hot---which is OK because the accompanying Southeast Asian dipping sauce brings plenty of layered heat. I love the tenderness of the lobster. Too often, I've had rubbery, overcooked crustaceans. After making short work of our starters, we dip our baguette into the lobster sauce---it's that good.

It's a busy night at Nectar. A number of people wait at the bar for seats upstairs or dinner dates, yet the service is warm and unhurried, smooth and competent. Our server Matt is also the bartender, and he instantly wins us over with his charm and knowledge of the menu.

Our main courses prove this house is built on substance as well as style. The halibut is seared with a skilled hand. It retains its moisture and is delicious in its simplicity. Braised fennel lends a sweet licorice flavour, and the warm coriander seed vinaigrette complements the fish without being overwhelming.

Curried rabbit is tonight's special. I don't typically order the special, but Matt tells us this rabbit will be on the new menu slated for next week. Growing up eating wild rabbits for supper, I am used to a stronger, gamey flavour than rabbits sold for restaurant use. Having said that, the chef has done an incredible job of coaxing out the milder flavours. I thoroughly enjoy it, along with sides of roasted vegetables and potatoes.

For dessert, we share a creme brulee trio: vanilla ginger, chocolate hazelnut and pear thyme ($8.50). Executed perfectly, this dessert is a fitting end to an extraordinary meal.

Everything from floor to ceiling, in front and in back, comes together to provide guests with an exceptional dining experience.


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