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