April 17, 2016

Saveur, Downtown Victoria

Saveur has a website that looks like Save Ur Restaurant (http://saveurrestaurant.ca/).  This might be a service like Bar Rescue, to come in to turn around failing food joints.  Maybe complete with a fake Gordon Ramsay to tell someone to F--- Off.  Perhaps it's really cheap, fast-food diner that offers quick Mesopotamian cuisine, served for the modern palate?

Instead, it offers modern French-inspired food.  According to the website, at least.  The space is starkly modern.  Matt-black walls.  Hardwood floors. A bar and cash register that wouldn't be out of place in a fancy hair salon. The kitchen eschews the little window you can peak into, instead, the range and prep stations open on to the dining floor.  Concrete flooring marks the edge of the chef's domain, and the start of the maitre'd's empire.

The restaurant is just one block up from Jam on Herald Street, and the long narrow space has suddenly reminded me of 'Solomon's', my ideal bar that's long been closed.  Space is going to be limited here, with maybe 30 covers.  The menu is concise, with the Chef's tasting menu looking like a fine array of good things, like Pork Belly with Fiddle head ferns, and Halibut with cheese grits.

BUT, this was brunch. And for brunch, there's the traditional breakfast; a hangover cure breakfast of  all the meats for $23, and my old favourite - Huevos Rancheros.  Plus a variety of Eggs Benny and a couscous porridge served with apricots and dates.

A photo posted by Chris (@thecesspit) on

I went for the Huevos. Before they arrived we got ultra tiny scones.  Served with a house-made blackcurrant jam, these bite sized scones were warm and buttery.  The jam was sweet and tangy.  As my friend said... we could do with a bag of these to take home.

We also got coffee. It wasn't bad coffee, though I'd like to have had a teaspoon to stir my cream in with, and not to have to use the end of a butter knife.  And then use the thick, paper napkin to dry it on.  Just saying.

The Huevos were excellent.  A well toasted tortilla, topped with refried beans that had been cut with peppers and (I think) cilantro.  This lifted the flavour up a notch, and combined with the cheese and eggs and tortilla to make a great mouthful.  The eggs were served sunny-side up - no option was given on when I ordered, but I'm guessing they could have been done another style.  I don't mind my eggs that way, but I know some people -hate- it when the eggs white doesn't cook all the way through.

The guacamole was fresh, the pico de gallo tangy, and the cumin creme fraiche and great twist on serving it.  A good scattering of friend potato cubes added to the dish to make a sizable (though not super large meal).  A really good Huevos, and the price ($15) matched that... this is not a cheap and plenty type place.

For the price and vibe, I'd like to have seen the settings one step up.  The things I've not liked would get a pass at other places which weren't going for a fine dining vibe.  The food is excellent.  The service staff friendly.  They were doing plenty of trade, and feel there's plenty more people coming there to discuss their latest business projects and deals.  There's a seriousness about it all.  And good for them, it's a good addition to the scene in Victoria.

658 Herald Street, Victoria BC - info@saveurrestaurant.ca - 250.590.9251

April 03, 2016

La Taqueria Pinche, Downtown Victoria

La Taqueria is the fourth shop in a Taco chain stretching from North Vancouver to Victoria, by way of central Vancouver.  Okay, so it's not Taco Bell, but it is a mainland import, snuggling into the crowded taco/burrito market, with La Taquisa, Tacofino, Hernande'z, Taco Justice and all the other places that sell you filling wrapped in a thin corn dough shell.

Seriously, there's a LOT of it about, and it seems every version possible is for sale, and every odd, gourmet version is out there to be tried.  Not that having good tacos is a bad thing, given the jokes about the poor quality of Mexican food in Canada I've heard.  I'm just saying it's time to start a new fad, a new cheap-street-food-done-to-the-extreme to take over.

I went to La Taqueria with Andrea for a catch up.  I have proof.  She took a selfie of us.

Yes, I can look like a swivel-eyed loon.  Why do you ask?

We went in, with a very skeptical Andrea, who a bit later told me her reticent was that it looked like the interior of a very clean public bathroom.  The white walls and tiled floors do, I guess, look a bit like the communal bathroom on a very clean hospital ward.  I thought it was her concern that the queue was not long enough... as long queues are always a sign of great food.  You only have to see the line up at a MacDonald's after 11pm to know that.

We walked up to the cash desk and ordered from the wall menu. I went for a pair of veggie tacos (Kale and Mushroom) and a pair of chicken tacos (La Tinga).  Her Andreaness went for the fish tacos she was craving.  One Tuna, one beer battered white fish.

The Hongos Con Kale had a great name.  This is the best thing about them if you love kale.  If you love the taste of stewed mushroom, where the mushroom produce that rich, liquid juice that mingles with the rest of the sauce, you'll like them too.  Personally, I though it was all mushroom juice and nothing much else going on. Certainly no brassica savoury bite I was expecting from my favourite green leafy plant.

The Tinga Del Pollo also have a good name to say. Not as great as anything names 'Hongos', but pretty good.  They tasted fantastic, with the pulled chicken merged in with slightly sweet tomato-ey sauce, but with a bite of the chipotle in there too.  The sauce is not a runny goopy mess, but just a bit to mix up in the meat.  The topping of cheese and sour cream doesn't over load the main flavours, but just compliments it nicely.

Andrea said the white fish beer battered tacos were great, much to her surprise.  I won't describe exactly how she talked about the consistency of them, as it doesn't sound like a good metaphor.  Though it was meant to be, I think.  I was a bit confused on this point.  I'm pretty sure she said she'd go back.

All the tacos were double shelled, with two small, soft corn tortillas per taco. As there are no utensils provided, this allows you to mop up any spillage when eating. Worth it, as the fillings are generous; though not over flowing.  I was pleasantly full after the four tacos, and also felt well nourished.  This was not heavy, greasy food.  It was fast, but fresh.

I'd go back for more.  It's another good addition to the food scene in Victoria.