I've lived in Victoria for a few months now, and, in my experience, the reviews of eateries on Yelp and Urban Spoon are too positive for what I'm tasting, here. I'm hoping for some help, as I have a special guest joining me in a few weeks' time. I guess it is important to note that we are both from Toronto, and eat all over the world.
What I have liked:
What I have not been impressed with:
What I am looking for:
2 places to brunch (embracing food culture, local ingredients, licensed, please nothing dated)
2 dinners (one trendy, one higher end, local fish if possible)
What I am not looking for:
From my experience, this isn't an easy request. I do appreciate any help.
Sen Zushi is consistently one of my favourites. I always go for their udon (the noodles are brought in from Sanuki).
940 Fort Street (250-385-4320)
Hey There: If you want brunch places, I can think of no better option than Relish on Pandora Ave. Local ingredients, good variety, nice bright atmosphere. They are mainly a breakfast and lunch spot but are open for brunch on Saturdays from 9-1. The only drawback is that they are not licensed.
I have not yet tried Jam Cafe for brunch but it seems wildly popular judging by the lineups.
For brunch, Mo:Le has *some* good menu items and is definitely licensed. One thing I like there is the spot prawn eggs benny. Avoid the undercooked "pesto potatoes," though:)
For dinners, and trendy, I recommend Shawn Soole's new restaurant Little Jumbo. They do not take reservations, so I would go early and avoid Friday/Saturday if possible (although my wife and I were seated promptly at about 5:45 on a Friday a few weeks ago). I have eaten there only once, and everything we tried was great. It is an a la carte menu, so your protein does not come with sides generally (you have to order the sides). Tremendous whiskey list if you're interested in that sort of thing (not only from Scotland, US, and Canada but also numerous whiskeys from Japan, Australia, India, etc....) Also good wine program, cocktails.
Ulla is modern and the menu is mostly good. This is a place where you could order local fish, although it is not a fish restaurant. You might find it "too composed" however.
Another new fav of mine for a plate of pasta is Padella Bistro on Estevan. The pasta is all made in house and is excellent.
My wife and I always like Restaurant Matisse for a special night out. Granted, it is "dated" in the sense that it is mostly traditional French cooking. But the service is excellent, and I have enjoyed most of what I have eaten there (though the one thing I did not like during one meal was a piece of overcooked halibut).
We've had some good meals at Cafe Brio over the years. I like how they fix proteins. I do not like their pasta dishes (can say this unequivocally). They have good desserts, too.
That's too bad about Brasserie. Generally they've been consistent over the years, but they are too busy now and not worth an hour and a half wait. Plus they desperately need to ditch the truffle oil as an option for their fries. Stinks up the whole restaurant and is a passe ingredient.
I'm thinking of checking out Lure sometime soon. They are a seafood restaurant in the Delta Hotel in Vic West. I'll let you know how it is.
Good luck, and don't give up. There are some good places here and there (i.e. Primastrada on Bridge Street for pizza and salads, pasta specials, etc...)
These recs are much appreciated.
For now, I'm thinking Relish and Mo:Le for brunch, and Little Jumbo for Saturday night dinner. Is there a cocktail bar close to Little Jumbo, while we wait?
I'm sure there are some fantastic restaurants, here in Victoria. It just seems that my taste is unlike that of the Yelpers and Spooners. I'm also spoiled with the 40 threads per day that are posted on the Ontario board, and it seems like Victoria is lacking much of a presence on this board.
Yes, it is disappointing that so few people from Victoria post on this board. For all intents and purposes, it is a Greater Vancouver board (and more accurately a Vancouver/Richmond/Burnaby board as there is virtually no info on the Fraser Valley even though Surrey is the second most populated city in BC).
Cocktail bars are on thing that Victoria has. You could have a cocktail at Catalano, which is close to Little Jumbo. Or you could have a cocktail at Clive's Classic Lounge or Veneto, both which are within a 10 minute walk of Little Jumbo. Or you could have a delicious cocktail at Little Jumbo while waiting for a table if they have bar seating that night. Shawn, the proprietor, recently published a book on cocktails with employee Nate Caudle. They both worked together at Clive's Classic Lounge before Shawn opened Little Jumbo.
Okay...here's the lineup for an out-of-towner weekend
day drinks at Vista 18
casual dinner at Canoe
casual fun at Big Bad John's
brunch at Relish
drinks at Clive
trendy dinner at Little Jumbo
drinks at Whiskey Bar
brunch at The Village in Oak Bay
dinner at Stage
drinks at Fernwood Inn
lunch at Uchida
How's the list looking?
On Friday, I'm really not certain about the dinner at Canoe. I have not been there in quite a few years but the food has never impressed me all that much, and it is not cheap for what you get. How about a casual but good dinner at Sen Zushi instead (over on Fort Street)? I've always found that restaurant to be fun and buzzy on a Friday night (reservations would be helpful).
Another place where a casual dinner can be enjoyed on a Friday night at a reasonable price is Devour on Broughton. It is tiny, however. If it is full, you can go around the corner to the Clay Pigeon. I find the food at Clay Pigeon is good value and reasonably good quality.
Re: Relish, awesome choice, but be aware that it is open only from 9 AM-1 pm on Saturdays. And there might be a wait.
Not sure what Whiskey Bar is. Never heard of it. Little Jumbo has an unparalleled whiskey selection in town, however.
Let me know what you think of the Village in Oak Bay. I have not yet been.
Uchida is a great choice for Monday lunch. Just be sure that you get there early enough as it sells out quickly.
Village is a great choice for brunch. It gets pretty packed, so get there close to opening, if you don't want to wait (but the street it's on is fun to stroll up/down). Second location is in Royal Oak - just past The Fireside Grill. Also getting busier, but a little easier to get a seat (plus they tweet their waits/availability).