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Stöne is rock solid 

Long home to the legendary La Cave, the subterranean space under Blowers Street has been revamped and reborn in yet another incarnation: Stönehäven Dining Experience. The dining room reno was long overdue, and while one of the “caves” was kept, much of the space has been opened up. In the front part of the restaurant there’s a very cozy seating area with a fireplace, and it’s here we sit on this unseasonably chilly evening.

Our amiable server starts us off with taramasalada (a Mediterranean spread of fish roe and garlic) and toasted French bread. I like it when a restaurant offers a little more than just par-baked frozen product, and this is a nice combination of bread and spread.

It appears the kitchen has a penchant for serving appetizers in small cast-iron skillets, and both of ours are presented this way. Our sizzling skillets hold stuffed mushroom caps ($6.50) in one and baked clams ($8) in the other. The mushrooms are stuffed with cream cheese and bacon, topped with a little more cheese, and are delicious—smoky, smooth and earthy. Clams are on the half shell, broiled under a roof of browned bread crumbs, and are as good as the mushrooms.

There’s a long wait for the main courses, but the restaurant is fairly busy and we’re content to sip drinks and watch the electric “flames” of the fireplace. When the entrees do arrive, everything is fresh and hot and the wait is quickly forgotten.

The Scallops Francaise ($19.50) is scallops sauteed and served in a large shell, with a white wine cream sauce, covered with cheese. There’s something very dated about this dish that just doesn’t fit with the rest of the menu—perhaps it’s the overly heavy taste created by both the cream sauce and the cheese. With nothing acidic to balance the flavours, combined with the natural richness of the scallops, it’s just too much in one serving. It’s not that anything is particularly bad but it just doesn’t work as a combination.

Lamb chops ($24.50) are thick and juicy, cooked as ordered, and charred just right. With a brandy jus reduction glazing each chop, the flavour profile is exceptional. I would be happy to wander the streets with these chops, licking away in “lambsicle” fashion to make the experience last as long as I could, that’s how good these chops are.

Interestingly, each plate has both rice and potato on the side. We’ve picked the duchesse potatoes (a potato puree piped into a swirl and browned), which are very good, as is the rice, a fluffy pilaf-style grain. Delicate asparagus and nicely cooked baby carrots are in an unnecessary butter sauce—the sauce threatens to overwhelm the vegetables’ fresh flavours.

While the portions have been large and we are bordering on full, we have to view the dessert menu. There are some enticing choices, including warm gingerbread and raspberry creme brulee, but the former La Cave’s cheesecakes are back on the menu and that’s the big draw here.

And while I’ve never been a fan of La Cave cheesecakes (I know, a minority opinion, but I found them dense and dry), they are the signature offering here, so when in Rome. We order mango and Triple Chocolate ($7 each). The generous slices are not quite as I remember—they are light, moist and fantastic, and I’m happy to eat my words, or in this case, my cheesecake.

Stönehäven Dining Experience5244 Blowers 423-5565Sun-Wed 5pm-11pmThu-Sat 5pm-12am

Feast on more of Liz Feltham’s words at: www.foodcritic.ca.

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