April 25, 2010

Applebee's, Tuscany Village, Gordon Head

It's been a busy few weeks at Vic-In-Person Towers. Plenty of time for eating out, not enough time to write meaningful content. I've moved apartments, and have a whole heap of new places on my doorstep to try out as well. Lets try to get some sort of normal service.

Which brings me to Applebee's. My new room mate and I had just wandered up to the apartment to check a couple of things before moving in and needed breakfast/lunch/brunch. Not spotting anywhere, we drove up to Gordon Head when I remembered Applebee's had opened recently. So I thought it might be a passable place to grab something to eat.

In Office space there's the restaurant, where Jennifer Aniston gets into trouble for not wearing enough flair. That place must have been based on Applebee's. Green and Red colours swarm the walls and the carpets, there's faux sports memorabilia and 60's diner crud splashed across the wall, and the place looks like it;s been decorated by someone who understands contemporary, modern design, but just doesn't really do it well. A chirpy teenager sat us down and a less chirpy teenager brought us water and coffee.

Still, we got a window in the sun, and looked at the menu. No breakfast choices (okay, it doesn't do breakfast, I hadn't realised), but there seemed to be a few interesting items. I ordered an Ultimate Trio. The name is correct. It is the last trio I would buy there. Chicken bites, two sliders and dynamite shrimp. My house mate went for a BLT with a loaded Jacket Potato.

The shrimp was not dynamite, but poor breaded and deep fried little things with no flavour except for the grease. Waste of shrimp. The sliders were fatty, the meat tasted cheap (of course it probably is cheap but Maccy D's do a better job of hiding it) and the burger bun and condiments neither crisp, or fresh or interesting. I had been craving some nice hot sauce chicken or wings, and while the bites had a good coating of Frank's Hot sauce (or whatever house variety they used) the same fatty taste of the deep frier was there too.

My friend left half the BLT, which looked nicely toasted, but was apparently tough on bacon and tough on the cause of bacon. I tried some of the baked potato, but this too had been done a disservice and was over baked and stodgy... any flouriness had long ago left the building and taken a hike up the Malahat to see the Island.

Still, the coffee was strong and hadn't been deep fried, the service was fast and effective, but as a food location, it makes a great example of what not to do. What made it worse was the bill... if this was half the price, it's passably excusable, but at $40+ for two, three of people could have eaten very well at John's Place and four have a reasonable breakfast at Avalon.

Final Bill :BLT - $9.99
Fully loaded Jacket Potato - $1.99 to load, no idea price for the potato itself.
Ultimate Trio - $14.99
2 x Coffee $3.98
Total - $40 with tip and taxes.

Phone: (250) 590-9100
Location : 1654 McKenzie Avenue, Building E, Victoria
Website : www.applebees.com
Applebee's Neighbourhood Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon

April 11, 2010

Ebizo, Downtown Victoria

Most people suggest Ebizo as the best Sushi in Victoria. Having been here once before I mostly agreed, but wanted to give it a second swing just to be sure. Ebizo is a small restaurant with maybe 30 seats in an old hertiage build, complete with a bay window poking out into Broughton. It wouldn't go a miss as a cosy british pub, except for the corner of low tables, the obligatory Japanese door curtains (called Noren according to a quick search) and the bottles of soy sauce on every table.

Oh and the corner not being full of hand pumps, but full of a sushi chef, his fish and a large TV that seems to be always showing baseball. Regardless of the season.

We got settled into the old bay window, on full view of the street. I must be the beautiful people. My friend hadn't tried Sushi beyond Californian rolls (being born and raised in Toronto, the poor people of Ontario don't have good sushi it seems), so I was left in charge of the menu.

I tend order what I know, but decided to branch out a little in the Nigiri stakes to try a few different things. My only restriction was not to order Octopus testicles (they are in their head, apparently, and one of their eight arms has a reproductive organ on it, just so you know...). Sadly, nothing on the menu said octopus, so I couldn't even order some and lie.

We started with some Halibut, BBQ Eel and Snapper nigiri, spicy tuna roll and BC Roll. The BC roll is my favourite sushi roll... smoked salmon rolled with some cucumber and sweet sauce and a touch of avocado. Ebizo's is great, though I'd prefer it if they cut their rolls a little ticker and had less arty bits hanging out of the end rolls. It looks great but is slightly harder to fit in your mouth.

The spicy tuna rolls were also brilliant, little tight packets of tuna, spiced up with a creamy mayo sauce wrapped in nori and rice. My friend didn't like the texture, and I can kind of see why, but for me these have a pleasant punch. The Halibut Nigiri was a a nice cut of everyone's favourite flat fish, which soaks up the wasabi and soy sauce and taste of a distant see. The texture is slightly flaky, and is interesting, but isn't top of my nigiri list.

The Snapper is further down. Pleasant tasting, but slightly waxy mouth feel, I thing it's better cooked than raw. The BBQ eel (Unami) was top of the list though. Really meaty mouth feel, with a slightly sweet sauce flavour. Combined with the rice this makes for a filling and interesting nigiri.

At this point I had drunk most of the tea. I am not sure why, it doesn't have the great toasty flavour of Japanese Rice tea (genmaicha), and was a little sour. Still, was quenching my thirst. We then ordered mixed tempura, some dynamite roll and piece of soft clam and mackerel Nigiri. The tempura was excellent (though I am really not a fan of mushroom tempura, but they did avoid tempura onion which I have never had taste anything but a bad onion ring), with a light batter and not a grease fest. One stick of white cabbagey stuff was unidentifiable, but tasted okay. Tempura carrots and yams I could eat all day.

The dynamite rolls were perfect. Tempura prawn wrapped in avocado and cucumber. These had a crunch and salty goodness of the prawn, with a creamy smooth savouryness of the fruit and vegetables. Will be top of my list on the next visit.

The Mackerel Nigiri was a new one on me. I used to eat a lot of smnoked mackerel in the UK. It was cheap, easy to prepare and went well with a simple green salad. I'd never thought of having it fresh on rice. I should have... the oilyness of the mackerel was cut trhrough by the wasabi, leaving that great fresh seafood flavour combined with the sticky rice. If all Mackerel Nigiri is this good, I may stop order salmon and tuna every time. The soft clam wasn't as good for me, but again this is a taste preference rather than anything against the prep. Slight chewy, with no real texture. The red tips of the clams did have an interesting sweetness to them, but not one for the list.

Overall, Ebizo does deserve the praise it gets. Great sushi, good price, decent service and a intimate feel to the environments, allow plenty of chat over the tastes. I think my friend was sold on West Coast sushi... or at least knew what they liked, and that was also a fun to try a few new things with someone with no expectations.

Final Bill :
2 pieces of Nigiri : Mackerel, Soft Clam, Snapper, BBQ Eel and Halibut
Spicy Tuna Roll
Dynamite Roll
BC Roll
Assorted Vegetable Tempura
Green Tea

Total - $50 with tip

Location : 604, Broughton Street, Victoria
Telephone : (250)-383-3234
Website : N/A
Ebizo Sushi on Urbanspoon

March 26, 2010

The Superior Cafe, James Bay

After a less than stellar experience at Cafe Brio, a recommendations, and bad "small plates" at the Tapas Bar I was a little worried about another recommendation for a small plate/sharing concept place. Great sharing food with a good environment would exactly match the above tagline of 'social dining'.

Well, apart from one problem, the short version is the Superior is indeed superior, the food is excellent, the atmosphere conducive to a relaxed discussion and the beer list also meets my standards of being worthwhile.

We got there just around 7pm, and the place was already full, so we squeezed onto the end of the bar. Which isn't a problem for me, I like eating at the bar, as there's something going on there, and you can see whats on offer. Plus if the staff are friendly, you get quick service.

So we settled in, and ordered drinks while looking at the menu. Which is a single page divided into salads, snacks, plates, vegetables and flatbreads, with the dessert tucked into the bottom. A lot things are twists on bar standards, but which promised to show something quite difference. For instance, ox tail poutine, root chips and a grilled ceasar. I was particularly drawn to the battered oysters in a Salt Spring Heather Ale batter, but not knowing how great the food would be, I passed.. I've had oysters destroyed this way, but the thought of the botanical heather flavour of the beer batter is tempting.

I ordered a bottle of Phillips Double Dragon, a great Imperial Red Ale from Victoria. The rest of the choices were mostly Phillips bottles or taps, with one or two from Beacon and some imports (nothing exciting if you ever drunk in any bar in Europe though). Imperial means they've mad it along the lines of Imperial Stouts (though not a stout at all)... extra hops, more fermentable grains, longer conditioning for a great, rich flavour.

My friend enjoyed the Twisted Tree Red, but I'm afraid what I know about wine is minimal, so I can't describe anything more than the colour was indeed red.

Food arrived. The chickpea fritters were probably the best thing I have ever tasted mad from Chickpeas. I've had awesome Hummus, and chickpea pakoras that made me seriously consider vegetarianism (the lamb biryani that followed cured that idea), but these were fluffy, yet substantial, with a warm earthy flavour, and lovely crispy outside that reminded me of the fairground-fresh donuts.

My friends had gone for the Spinach Salad, with proscuitto ham, feta cheese and balasmic reduction.  The Balsamic vinegar had gone sweet and this mixed well with the cheese, which was sharp AND creamy.  I'm not a fan of spinach on it's own, but whatever they'd done, the leaves had lost the slightly waxy feel I can't stand.

Then came the wings.  I ordered wings.  There wasn't a TV in the place, no sport was on, but I ordered the wings.  These were Korean sweet and spicy wings.  These were a king among wings.  The meat was succulent, the spice aggressive, yet not overpowering.  It did remind me a little of Kimchee.  But that might have been the name of the wings that recalled that memory.

Beer finished, I went for the Phillips IPA and waited for deserts.  Someone had mentioned that Phillips had changed their recipe for the IPA, so I wanted to try it.  And it has changed, there's a nasty aftertaste that catches the back of your throat.  Ugh.

So, dessert.  I went for the rice pudding. This came a 3 inch round pile with a pretty smear of raspberry 'gel' and a marscapone/white chocolate scoop.  Rich, but the raspberry clean the palate and it was the end to an excellent meal.  Except my friend let me try the ginger and stout cake.  With salted caramel ice cream.  The cake was moist, but not much stout in there. But tasty.  But hold on...the salted-caramel ice cream was fantastic.  Sweet, but creamy, but salty.  I couldn't eat much, but I was left with the desire to try and make my own.  Or get someone to make me some.  Please?

So the meal finished, there was still a beer and a glass of wine to finish.  The place was still busy... it's the inside of an old church (though looks like the inside of a mid-Oxfordshire barn conversion to me), and perfect for sitting around and catching up.  The acoustics don't make the other conversations drown yours out, and there's a relaxed efficancy about the staff.

Then the jazz band came on.  There's a comedy cliche about jazz, that it's smug and a-rhythmic and dissappears up it's own fundament.  This is possibly unfair, but given the right mood, I'll let some of the more blues-inspired jazz wash over me, or tap along to 'Kind of Blue'.   The trio on this night however were the cliche.  The music noodled on, occasionally promising to stop, but never actually doing so.  After 7.2 minutes of this, the conversation had lost it's rhythm, so we settled up to leave.

Still, I did get to admire outside the shoe tree... 400 pairs of trainers chucked over a dead tree in the patio garden.  It looked good in the fading evening sun.

Will go back, but will check what the entertainment is next time...

Final Bill :
Spinach Salad - $11
Korean Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings - $13
Chickpea Fritters - $6
Rice Pudding - $9
Stout and Candied Ginger Cake - $8
Phillips IPA - $5.50
Phillips Double Dragon - $9
2 glasses Twisted Tree - $8 each

Location : 106, Superior Street, Victoria, BC
Telephone : (250)-380-9515

Website : http://www.thesuperior.ca/

March 01, 2010

The Beagle, Cook Street Village

Last Friday was the men's ice hockey semi-final, and a plan had been hatched to go watch it. By my very calling it 'ice' hockey, you know can tell I am not from round here. But still, I like watching hockey, and have a passing familiarity with the sport, watching the Salmon Kings for most home series, and following the Red Wings... once the NFL season is over. So with a plan to watch the game, I joined three or four other real Canadians to get in to the Olympic spirit and feel the national pride (as seen down the pub). And see if it's different to the raving madness that is a England Football game.

So, this review of the Beagle might be a little tainted as I was headed on a very busy night. But, I've been there before on quieter nights (watching the Phoenix Suns, and homeboy hero Steve Nash, or after a long walk in Beacon Hill Park), and there's not much difference.

Except the place was packed. We were asked to wait in the lobby while other's finished up drinking through the curling finals. Being 3rd in line, this wasn't a big deal, and after a bit of a wait at the bar, we got a seat. Though we couldn't get served at the bar as it was blocked off by patrons sitting down. Not a big deal over here, as table service is standard, and standing around isn't. But one of my biggest peeves in a British pub is it being filled up with people drinking and not people buying booze, so I can have my turn.

Still we found half a table, then got a full table and squeezed ourselves in. The Beagle has several screens, but none that big, so viewing across the bar was a bit of pain. Could see the game, but not as well as it would have been at home, or on a large projection screen or decent sized flat screen.

But there was a buzz. Red and white, face paint everywhere, maple leaves on shirts, faces and tied into people's hair. O Canada was sung at least three times (I can't imagine a full pub in London breaking into to Good Save the Queen). Beer was served quickly enough, and I missed pints of Lighthouse being $5.25 on Friday and opted for Molson Canadian. What? They didn't have any Slovak beer. And, I find Canadian drinkable, unlike most light lagers. Cold, fresh, good sports-watching beer. I did switch the the Beacon IPA, which was okay, but seemed slightly less hoppy than normal. Whether it was the batch or the service, hard to tell.
They serve a full slate of local beer on draft, including Driftwood, Phillips and Lighthouse, and more than just a token effort from each, which is supporting the side nicely. There's also your standard Okangan Spring, Sleeman's and the Molson range. So thats the beer. Unadventurous, but that's not the point. There's one for your taste there.

The food is standard pub grub. I ordered chicken and yam fries. These were nasty, with the yam fried under cooked, the dipping sauces cloying and manufactured (and plum sauce is not good), and the chicken strips over crisped in batter. The Halibut burger looked a lot better, being not, as I imagined, a deep fried organge battered traingle, but a seasoned, extra-lightly battered wedge of nice white flaky fish. But with underdone fries.
But, dammit, there was a hockey game on. The canned music was turned off (nothing worse than music being forced instead of sports when the sports is the point... I'm looking at the Podium downtown there as an offender), the commentary just discernible and the noise in the room amped up. Each hit was cheered, each chance clapped and each save by Bobby Luongo causing the audience to break out in a chorus of 'Loooouuu'. Not Boo. The place, of course, erupted when Patrick Marleau's goal was given after a second look. Tip to the Slovak goalie... probably best to concentrate on stopping the goal first, and protesting a high stick after making the save, not as it whizzes past you.

Not dissimiliar to watching England take a 1-0 lead in a football match. But less swearing. In fact, even after Canada gave up a 3-0 lead to have it 302 in the dying minutes of the third period, there was no abuse, just a subdued hush and a vague sense of panic. People half hid their eyes, shoulders dropped and exhortations to 'skate hard' punctured the air more than 'Go Canada Go'.

Still, after 2 minutes of something less like hockey, and more like scrambling on ice by both teams, the right team one, the fever pitch came back on and another chorus of Canada was sung. My friends checked I knew the words (I do, from it being played before every game of ECHL hockey), and beers were finished, and the bill settled.

So, as a venue to watch a major sporting event where everyone's on the same side... good plan. As a venue for casual sporting events... not so sure. And for food... erm, no. Overpriced, and badly cooked. Still the service IS good, so full marks to our server.

Final Bill :
2 pints Beacon IPA - $5.25 each
1 pint Molson Canadian - $5.75
Chicken Strips and Yam Fries -$11.95

Location : 301, Cook Street
Telephone : (250) - 382 - 3301
Website : http://www.beaglepub.com

(I watched the final from the safety of my own home...  excellent match, and downtown was crazy till at least 9pm...)

February 26, 2010

Cafe Brio

Dine Around Victoria is an annual event in town where a selection of restaurants offer up cheaper tasting menus, I guess to showcase themselves and to fill up tables in a the quiet time before the tourist season sets in. Word of mouth is always a good advertisement. The old maxim goes that it's better to be talked about than not talked about, but I'm pretty sure in the restaurant industry, being talked about badly is worse.

Cafe Brio has had several people praise it to me, so I decided to try it out with their $30 Dine Around menu. The Cafe was purpose built on the location, according to the blurb on the website, and the restaurant itself is a fine building. Set back from the road it has a small court yard, before the yellow frontage, which I am sure is meant to remind you of Tuscany. In side there's a large space with a mix of booth, cost tables andlarger areas for groups. A nice high ceiling seems to soak up the noise, so while there's a buzz, you can talk and hear yourself.

Drinks were offered, the menu considered and the starters came out in reasonable time. We both had the Sweet Parnsip soup, which was indeed sweet, with large bits of black pepper in. Slightly too sweet for me, and the raw earthiness of the parsnip wasn't there.

For main course I had Sooke trout, with spinach, a brown butter foam and "pancetta-scallion arancini".   The trout was nicely crisped, with a nice flaky-yet-moist white meat.  The foam okay, and spinach is well, spinach.  I had never heard of arancini before, but they are fried rice balls coated in breadcrumbs, here flavoured with pancetta and scallion (of course) which made for a great delicate flavour.  

My friend had the beef short-rib, served with a stout-jus and seasonal vegetables (tatties and neeps, I think).  The short rib was lovely and tender, but the stout jus overwhelmed the beef flavour, making it a bit of a muddy mix of flavours.

For desert, the lemon tart was tart and light, with wafer thin-crust of sugar.  Probably the best thing I had.  And as not-a-dessert-person, one of the best desserts eating out in a long time.  The poached pear was served cold, which surprised me, expecting it to be a steaming juicy fruit with a light mousse topping.  

A couple of coffee's and we weren't hurried  out the door, even if the drinks server was a little over zealous on coming over to fuss during the meal. Nice relaxed atmosphere, good, but not great food.  Wasn't the super high mark I had expected from recommendations.  Plenty of other places to try, several of which I know won't be as good as here, but I know there's also better in town.

Final Bill :
Parsnip Soup, Sooke Trout and Lemon Tart - $30
Parsnip Soup, Beef Shortrib and Baked Pear - $30
Coffee x2 - $4.50
Vodka Cranberry - $4.75

Location : 944 Fort Street
Telephone : (250) - 383 - 0009
Website : http://www.cafebrio.com

February 21, 2010

Tibetan Kitchen

Sorry Victoria, it's been a month. A long month which involved birthdays (mine), confusion (mostly mine) and immigration (mine). Attempt have been made to post more often. And take advantage of Dine Around Victoria.

So, I was out and about and the normal conversation came up... "where do we fancy eating?". With just two people, that's always a slightly easier task, and wander down Fort Street reminded me the the old Hand-made Noodle place had closed and been replaced by the Tibetan Kitchen.

I know nothing about Tibetan Cuisine. Nor did my friend. Time to investigate.

The inside has been nicely redecorated, with lots of browns and wood tones. A simple menu was given to us, but it left me none the wiser as to what to expect. It seemed to various curries, on rice or noodles. Brown rice was an option, which is a good thing.

A couple of portion of momo's were ordered for starter. These a doughy balls filled with meat or veg, and served with a salsa-like sauce and a heap of coleslaw. Much like a gyoza, but with a thicker wall of pastry. These had been steamed and then fried off. The contents were a little bland (the pork just tasted meaty and the veg was a melange of winter vegetable flavours), but filled a gap.

I ordered a Chicken Shepka (I think that was the name), while my friend ordered Butter Chicken. The Butter Chicken came with an unknown soup/sauce in a seperate bowl, a big mound of brown rice and a smallish bowl of butter chicken and a couple of fried flat breads. The mystery sauce was also a little bland, but the butter chicken, I am told, was okay. I can take or leave butter chicken myself, but I know other people love it.

The Shepka was more interesting. A pile of rice was topped with cooked mushrooms, friend chicken and fresh bean sprouts, all mixed with a subtly spicy and savoury sauce. The chicken was all small pieces each nicely cooked and tender. The rice was nutty, which is why I love brown rice, and worked well with the chicken.

Overall the price was good for an average meal, that was a little different but Tibetan here seemed to be a cross between Japanese and Indian styles. This is possibly due to a lack of understanding of what I was eating, style wise, but with a slightly off normal cuisine, I think it does help that the menu explains it's self more.

Final Bill:
Pork Momo's : $4
Vegetable Momo's : $4
Chicken Shepka : $10
Butter Chicken : $9

Location : 680 Broughton Street
Telephone : (250) - 383 - 5564

January 18, 2010


Spinnakers is a bit of a Victoria legend. A gastro-pub before there was such a word in the trendy parts of London and a local craft brewer before local, micro-breweries were the rage in the CAMRA world. Every foodie tourist tells me about it. I went there in my first weeks in the city. As this combination has been going since about 1984, they must be doing something right.

Or something safe.

I last headed up there after a hockey game before Christmas to try out the Winter Ale and have a bite or two to eat. First the beer. I've had a wonderful pint in Spinnakers of there occasional brew, Doc Hadfield's Pale Ale. A light, refreshing, sessionable beer, with a wonderful clearness to it, served at cellar temperature (or "warm" as I'm constantly told English beer is). Non-chilled beer is great if it's designed to be drunk that way. BUT it's not always on the menu, and the last time I tried it, they had over hopped it, and screwed with it.

Which is unusual, as most Spinnakers beers are rather subtle, and don't have big flavours. They are eminently drinkable, but don't impose themselves on you. And that's the story with the Winter Ale. Promising "big ginger" and "cinnamon", it's certainly there. But it's not big. It's not a hugely warming pint. It's just... "not got any balls" as my erstwhile drinking companion says. It's safe.

The food... now the food is not safe. Not unsafe as in unhygienic or undercooked. The chef's at Spinnakers tend to push the edges a bit. This does mean occasionally the food is odd (the inside-out Cornish Pasty I had two years ago was the biggest failure, but I could see what the chef was trying), but mostly it's good-to-exceptional.

On this last trip I ordered the Pork Schnitzel, which came served on a bed of noodles with a side of greens. Perfectly cooked with a nice crisp covering. The noodles were perfectly al dente, and the creamy sauce was neither heavy or an after thought. Greens are greens. Until you get them wrong. Spinnakers didn't. There was also a plate of Albacore Tuna Salad ordered. Tuna was nicely seared on the outside, but still pink and most on the inside, with a good heaping of local greens and shoots.

A jumbo plate of nachos was also ordered for the table, with a good generous portion of Pulled Pork. Now, I don't like nachos. They are often too oily and cheesey for me. Or the tortilla chips are tasteless. Or justbadly prepared with only half of them having any toppings. This was good nachos. Plenty of toppings, lovely pulled pork, and easily enough for two or three or four to share. There was four, but two of us had had full dinners, so easily stretched.

The upstairs is always pretty laid back, and always great for a good long conversation and catch up, with, if your lucky, a view over the harbour during the summer. Downstairs is more restaurant driven, and the service is faster. Upstairs, they take there time... not that they don't know your there, but allow you to enjoy the beer, the company and the food and not trying to rush you out.

Location : 308 Catherine Street
Telephone : (250) - 386 - 2739
Website : http://www.spinnakers.com/

January 13, 2010

The Tapa Bar

The Tapa Bar website tells me that "Tapas are small, flavourful dishes that can be served as an appetizer or together as a meal." Tapas should be small plates of great food. Tapas comes from a Spanish tradition of having a small dish placed on top of your beer or wine glass with a slice of meat or bread on it. The saltiness of the food would of course encourage people to drink more. And bar owners competed to have the best tapas to get patrons in the door.

The Tapa Bar doesn't sell small plates. The chicken wings "Pollo Chipotle" were a full portion size, and the chick pea salad I had was enough for two. It's a shame, as I've had Spanish Tapas, and it's awesome to have an array of very small dishes, and the ability to get a couple more 'little things' as you want them, to pick out over a coffee and conversation. The menu doesn't have to be large, just interesting.

The other problem I had with the Tapa Bar was that what was served really wasn't very good. The Pollo Chipotle was supposed to be marinated chicken wings and finished with white wine and chipotle. They tasted more of burnt garlic and chilli paste. None of the smokiness I'd expected from chipotle was in there. The (basmati) rice and (pinto) beans tasted old or reheated. In fact they tasted a lot like my own attempts at cooking rice where I've caught the bottom of the pan. The chickpea and chorizo salad was pretty good, once it had been liberally sprinkled with lemon juice, but it was a bit too big portion for one (yeah I guess I was supposed to share), and the artichoke strands mixed in tasted limp.

My companion had the Chicken Breast pizza, where the tapa bar donates $2 of each pizza to the Our Place society. The toppings were good, but the thin crust base was not nearly crisp enough to support the weight of the pizza. Nothing I could complain about as being wrong. Just all executed badly.

Still, there was one bright mark. The waitress, Kirsten, was fantastic. Bright, efficient and fast, coming around with the food, chatting away to all the customers and really made the meal better than it was. Plus she did bring around very good coffee to finish the meal out.

The atmosphere would be perfect for a nice date, or a more cosy gathering of a few friends. Except I'm not sure I'd want my friends to be recommended to eat there. It's just not tapas, and it's just not good. Half the portion sizes, improve the cooking and it could be there.

Final Bill :
Rice and Beans - $3.50
Pollo Chipotle - $9.00
Chick Pea Salad - $5.00
Smoked Chicken Pizza - $14.50
2 Coffees - $4.00

Location : 620 Trounce Alley
Telephone : (250) - 383 - 0013
Website : http://www.tapabar.ca

January 10, 2010

The Fireside Grill

It was the end of a long year, so I suggested that my team at work go out for a beer and bite to eat to celebrate Christmas, New Year and finishing projects. The closest food place is the Fireside Grill, so we headed up there for a sit in the bar and sample their menu.

The building itself reminds me of an old English farmhouse, complete with tudor beams, white washed panels and narrow windows. I'm not sure the history of the building, but both inside and outside I could have been in one of a number of country pubs just of the A-roads of Britain. The inside is wood panelled, old wood beams and I'm sure I saw a row of horse brasses next to the bar. That might have been a residual memory though. It's a relaxed atmosphere, but still feels refined. I understand it's popular with the executive level at work, and this seems to be the sort of customer they cater for.

We elected to sit in the bar area. The restaurant was pretty quiet, but it was only 4pm, and also looked a bit more formal than we really needed. Service was prompt after we sat ourselves down, and the waitress quickly provided menus and took our drink order. I was served a Beacon IPA, which must have been kept well, perfect temperature and still crisp and clean. It's only what you should expect, but I've been too many places that just screw it up. My colleagues drinks include a Malibu Pineapple which they said was good as well.

We examined the Lunch menu, and I ordered a beer-battered cod and chips, while my colleagues ordered a BBQ'd chicken sandwich and the chopped salad. The last of my group just reminiscenced over the pizza he'd just eaten at the Irish Times downtown, so we got him another beer. The dinner menu looks to be more adventurous, while the lunch menu seems to be variation of bar standards.  And nothing wrong with that.

Food was served quickly. The chicken burger was good, as was the salad, with plenty there to eat on. Nothing spectacular, but good bar-style food. My fish and chips was a bit of a disappointment. The chips (well fries, not thick cut enough to be real chips) were well cooked, fluffy and light. The coleslaw was crisp and tasty. However the battered cod was over cooked and dry. There's only so much of this fish around and it seemed a waste to fry it to the point of losing all the flavour and softness I'd expect.

I did mention this later to the manager, and I believe this was conferred back to the kitchen. I didn't mention it at the time, which I realise is probably just my British reserve, but also doesn't give the staff a chance to rectify the problem. Lesson learnt after discussion with other people in the industry.

I can see being in here again once or twice for a beer when the management may want an off-site 'fireside' chat with me. There's few places to eat around the area that aim at this level of eating out.

Final Bill :

Beer Battered Cod and Chips - $16.99
BBQ Grilled Chicken Sandwich - $13.99
Chopped Green Salad - $8.99
Pint of Beacon IPA - $5.50

Location : 4509, West Saanich Road
Telephone : (250) - 479 - 1222
Website : http://www.firesidegrill.com/