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Day 6 (Victoria/Vancouver): Mo:le, Butchart Garden, Octopus Garden

c
cvhound Jun 2, 2009 01:20 AM

We took the 6:50am flight to Victoria in order to maximize our time there. I requested the jump seat next to the pilot for hubby when I booked our trip and hubby got to sit next to the pilot both ways. The views from the air were SPECTACULAR and (we thought) well worth the $99/pp cost to fly to Victoria. Especially since Pacific Coach charges $43/pp for the same trip via bus and ferry which requires a 3-4 hour time commitment each way!

It worked out great for us since Harbour Air’s terminal in Coal Harbour was a 5 minute walk from our condo. Flying there allowed us to spend the entire day in Victoria, yet return in plenty of time to have a leisurely dinner in Vancouver.

Honestly, I sat in total awe throughout most of the flight to Victoria. Our round trip travel via seaplane was a pricey splurge, but the experience is one I will treasure for the rest of my life. We enjoyed the 30 minute flight so much we booked our return flight immediately upon landing in Victoria harbor.

FYI, we saw a young woman purchase a last-minute, stand-by ticket for one-way travel for $73 inclusive of tax. The walk-on fare for the helijet was $79, but we rode a helicopter to Hana in Maui (definitely worth doing as well, as it’s a super long way to travel by car both ways), whereas this was our first trip on a seaplane.

Afterwards, we headed to 811 Government Street to purchase our Cruise Victoria Butchart Garden tour which included both transportation and entrance to the garden for $49/pp. We found all the shops closed and the street fairly empty, so we continued on to Mo:Le which proved to be a longer walk than we expected. If you’re pressed for time, you might consider taking a cab from the harbor.

We arrived at Mo:Le at 7:55am and found the door locked. We saw three employees prepping in the kitchen, but no one came to let us in, even though the sign said they opened for breakfast at 8am. By 8:10am, I was getting quite anxious since we’d planned to to take the first Cruise Victoria bus at 9am and the next bus didn’t depart until 10:30.

I was tempted to knock on the door, but hubby asked me not to, as he thought that would be obnoxious, I kept hoping the staff would take pity on my longing face pressed against the door (I was reminded of the Mervyn's commercial where the woman keeps saying "open, open" in front of a locked door, lol). What was frustrating was they looked up every once in a while and looked at us, but then continued on with their chores. At 8:15, the hostess finally came and unlocked the door. She had forgotten to unlock the door and they were wondering why we weren’t coming in!

All was forgiven as soon as we tasted their food. Seriously, it was one of the BEST meals we had throughout our entire trip! I only wish we could have sampled more items. I ordered Mo’s biscuit (cream cheese scrambled eggs, house bacon, fresh basil, roasted red pepper, havarti cheese and house aioli on a savory herbed buttermilk biscuit served with pesto hash browns). My biscuit was good, but hubby’s huevos were the clear winner. It was all I could do to steal his plate of food and take it for myself!

Grayelf, will be curious to hear your thoughts on this dish, since it sounds like you had them today. I grew up in Texas so I’ve eaten my share of huevos. These were some mighty fine huevos!!! Two eggs, any style, organic spicy red beans and goat feta cheese set atop two house made corn tortillas with fresh lime, avocado and cilantro served with house made salsa and roasted apple. Half orders also available. Hubby chose fried eggs and ordered coffee for his meal. I’d already had several cups prior to our flight, so passed on ordering more coffee. Total after tax and tip was $33.

If I hadn’t tasted hubby’s dish, I would have been very happy with my dish. The biscuit and eggs were cooked well, the thick cut bacon was crisp. They were out of roasted red pepper, so she offered to sub avocado or tomatoes. I went with avocado and it was a good choice. I didn’t miss the pepper one bit and the creamy avocado went well with the other ingredients.
I wasn’t, however, enamored with the pesto potato. I was expecting crisp thinly grated seasoned potatoes, not the firm cubed potato pieces that came on my plate. I like my breakfast potatoes crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Next time, I‘d consider subbing fresh fruit or organic salad (add’l $2 charge) or ask for extra crispy potatoes.

Hubby’s fried eggs (and I’d definitely recommend fried eggs with this dish) arrived with firm whites with crispy edges and gorgeous, orangey yolks which when mixed with the beans and cheese, took the dish to the next level. The corn tortillas were fairly thick and appeared to be lightly fried, so the taste was more akin to a gordita or fried chilaquiles than a regular griddled corn tortilla.

The house made salsa tasted very fresh and the smooth hot sauce that came in the yellow squeeze bottle was also delicious on top of the eggs. And who knew a roasted apple could taste so delicious for breakfast??? It was charred on top and was infused with a wonderfully smoky taste. There wasn’t a speck of food left on his plate when we were done. Coffee was piping hot and refilled constantly.

Victoria Chowhound Cassie recommended Mo:Le’s banana pancakes, Benny, and Chinese sausage egg scramble (we didn’t see this last item on the menu). Prices are very reasonable given the quality of their food and their generous portions. Would highly recommend and as I said, hubby and I agreed it was one of the eating highlights of our trip! Thanks again for the Mo:Le rec, Cassie!!!

Obviously, we missed the 9am bus, so we killed some time shopping for souvenirs at the 2-story Spirit of Victoria shop at 811 Government. We found their sale prices on shirts, jackets, etc. to be quite good and we purchased numerous items to take home. They held our purchase for us for pick-up later in the day and also offered a very good conversion rate when we wanted to pay with USD.

We took the 10:30am Cruise Victoria bus and hubby enjoyed the bus driver’s commentary. I slept both ways, but hubby learned a lot about Victoria and shared his learnings with me later that day, lol. By 1:30, we were ready to take a break for Afternoon Tea at the Dining Room Restaurant. We were seated at a window overlooking the rose garden with a view of Butchart Cove. Total after tax and tip was $65.

I chose the bachelor button tea (Chinese black and Sencha tea flavored with bergamot, rhubarb and blue cornflowers) and hubby chose teaberry blend (black Ceylon tea flavored with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and currants). Hubby and I both liked my tea better, especially after adding a touch of milk and sweetener. The pots were huge and my pot of tea was more than enough for the two of us to share.

I’ve had afternoon tea at various Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton hotels and the food we received that day was as good, and some items better, for a fraction of the cost of FS or RC. Hubby enjoyed the tea experience as well (his first time). He was definitely full after eating his share. My ample leftovers made for a tasty afternoon snack and were eaten on the steps down by the harbor while listening to a guy singing James Taylor and Van Morrison covers.

The full tea menu is available on their website, but basically it starts with a seasonal berry trifle (ordinary and nothing special), then a 3-tiered tower arrives with various savory items (we enjoyed the quiche and sausage roll), tea sandwiches (mango-curry chicken salad and cucumber with fresh ginger cream cheese were our favorites), numerous house-made sweets (favorites were lemon poppy seed loaf which was very lemony and dark chocolate barquette with fresh fruit including an incredibly sweet, tiny orange tomato half) and finally their signature candied ginger scone (bit dry and not much ginger taste) with strawberry jam and cream.

This was an instance where the overall experience exceeds the sum of the individual parts. Would definitely recommend doing at least once. Our table was nice, but I think we would have also enjoyed sitting in the conservatory or even sitting outside. Since it was quite a warm day, hubby appreciated sitting in an air-conditioned room with the pretty view. The neighboring table ordered grilled fish, burger and quiche (all huge portions). The fish and burger looked quite ordinary, but the quiche was obviously baked in a large spring form pan and looked quite delicious.

We took the 6:20pm flight back to Vancouver and made 8:15 reservations at Octopus Garden. We had difficulty finding parking, so hubby dropped me off while he went searching for parking. I was seated at 8:20 and given a menu to review, but our server didn’t arrive to take our order for a full 20 minutes! Although it’s a very small restaurant, every seat in the restaurant, including the bar, was filled. There appeared to be two men working behind the sushi bar and every so often, one or both would go into the kitchen. We wish we had known to request the one lone table in the bar area. It’s a really cute table.

We had a hard time figuring out the menu and the differences between the various omakases. Thankfully, we had a very patient speaker but we did encounter some language barriers which made for a less than ideal experience, since many times we weren’t sure what we were eating. I chose the $60 omakase and hubby chose the $55 sushi and sashimi omakase. I think the different prices are determined by the number of courses, but I couldn’t tell you that for sure. Hubby also ordered a bottle of Japanese beer.

Some of the items we received were very good, but some were downright awful (spicy tuna roll with sliced mango, strawberries and avocado???). Also, the pacing was really off-putting as we often waited 30 minutes between courses. Not what we wanted after starting our day at 5:30am!!! Remember, we’re not “morning people,” lol.

The couple next to us (we think) ordered the $60 omakase because they received almost the exact same items we did minus the spicy tuna roll. We started our meal with two perfect oysters served on chipped ice topped with a few kernels of fish row. Next came mussels steamed in sake? Not sure, since the descriptions weren’t on the menu and our server put down the dish and quickly murmored, “mussels” before running away not to be seen again for what felt like eons.

After another long pause, we were served two perfectly cooked tiny lamb chops with spicy seasoning (cumin perhaps?). I took a small bite and then hubby ate the remainder which he ate down to the bone.

Next came a large platter of sushi, sashimi and the infamous tuna roll. We were served spot prawn, squid, scallop, yellow tail, salmon, tuna, BBQ eel, etc. Nothing we thought very “special” or unique. Although the quality was obviously very good and the sushi rice kernals cooked and seasoned perfectly, we thought everything on the platter was very “ordinary.” Also, when you’re spending over $60/pp, I think you have a right to expect something other than a spicy tuna roll topped with assorted fruit!!!

Our neighbors finished their meal first and were served fried banana tempura with ice cream and chocolate sauce for dessert. I asked for something other than the regular dessert and they ended up bringing both of us sliced strawberries, mango and a savory Madeline which neither of us enjoyed. I felt bad for hubby because he would have preferred the banana sundae and I didn’t intend for him to not receive his dessert.

All in all, we were very disappointed with our omakase at OG. Although we’d consider returning to try other items at the sushi bar, their omakase was sadly not to our taste. For what we spent at OG, we could have had a fabulous meal (with drinks) at Chambar and gone home much much happier.

Well that concludes my final report. Thanks again to the many Western Canada hounds who helped me plan such a memorable week in Vancouver. Your tips, advice, suggestions, etc. were extremely helpful. Thank you so much!!! I have no doubt we’ll be back for a return visit. :-)

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  1. fmed RE: cvhound Jun 2, 2009 07:08 AM

    Thanks for all the play-by-play reports.

    Too bad about the omakase experience at OG. I have to admit that it has been a while since I have been there. I have a new favourite sushi place within walking distance from where I live - Lime - and they just started doing omakase. I do think that some of the rolls at OG are too modern for me. I definitely would not have enjoyed that fruity spicy tuna roll either!

    I almost never eat in Victoria so I ate vicariously through your posts. We regularly visit non-foodie relatives with very young children...so we never eat out whenever we visit the city. I will definitely have to sneak away one day to try out Mo:le and the other regularly recommended spots.

    1. c
      cassie RE: cvhound Jun 2, 2009 08:36 AM

      I also, have been reading and thoroughly enjoying the posts (but I'll admit to holding my breath waiting for your review on my recommendation of Mo:Le - lest you catch an off-meal that can happen anywhere) - whew, now I'll exhale and relax. So glad you enjoyed it there (once you finally were allowed in). fmed, if it helps any - I believe Mo:Le is very happy to serve families - they have high chairs, crayons and the two tables at the windows are nice and cozy for bigger groups....if you can swing it one day ;-)

      1 Reply
      1. re: cassie
        Sam Salmon RE: cassie Jun 2, 2009 10:45 AM

        Sadly the 'fruity roll' is becoming commonplace in Vancouver-much to the chagrin of traditional Sushi fans like myself.

        As to Omakase never seen the value in it anywhere, preferring as I do to sit @ the Sushi Bar and see/ask what's on offer.

        BTW- $60/person is quite good value for this town (!)

      2. b
        bdachow RE: cvhound Jun 3, 2009 07:18 AM

        That's a real shame about OG. I did their omakase back in Jan and was impressed by the quality and inventiveness. To this day I still have fantastic memories of the uni shooter with purple mountain potatoes. It was divine.

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