Friday, 30 November 2012

Juice Truck- New Smoothie Alert!!!

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If you haven't been by the Juice Truck in a few days, you have been missing out!!!  I addition to the reintroduction of the Banana Bread smoothie, the Green Smoothie had made its debut.  And it is awesome! 


The Green Smoothie is perfect for those yearning for a yummy treat, and also looking to get a few servings of veggies in while you are at it.  Perfectly seasonal, it features winter greens (spinach and kale), avocado (for creaminess), banana, dates (my favourite part!) and ginger, all blended in a base of coconut water.  Nutritious and delicious!!!  I would have to herald it as one of my favourite JT smoothies so far, and that is heavy praise!


I was also fortunate enough to snag the last Culvercity salad. Today's version- spinach, mixed greens, yams (yummmmm), quinoa (amazing), black beans, carrots, beet, cauliflower and avocado, with a chipotle-ginger dressing. What more could you ask for in a salad???



Now on a somber note- Aviya, the friendly female face on the JT team, worked her last day on the JT today.  Although she will be missed by all, she is off to start another phase of her life, and I am sure that she will succeed at whatever she does:)  All the best Aviya!!!!


Monday, 26 November 2012

High Hopes Turn into "Yew-Ge" Letdown

Yew Restaurant and Bar

791 West Georgia Street  

Vancouver, BC V6C 2T4

(604) 692-4939

Tastiness Factor: 2.5/5 (based on my dish alone, I would have given a 1/5, mostly because the ketchup was good)

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 3/5

Locavore Approved? YES- have to give them the points for this category due to seasonal ingredients and sustainable, locally caught seafood

I am not usually one who gravitates towards hotel restaurants but after enjoying a nice brunch and then having a phenomenal tasting menu at Hawsworth, I decided that I should keep a more open mind.  

Yew Restaurant and Bar, on paper, has major appeal to me for several reasons.  First of all, they pride themselves in using local ingredients and only sustainable varieties of seafood which is their house specialty.  Secondly, they are one of the only fine dining establishments to offer completely vegan menus for both lunch and dinner.  Right up my alley.  Or so I thought...

Yew had been on my wishlist for quite some time so when my uncle called to let me know that he and his wife would be visiting from Oakville, ON for the weekend, I thought that it would be the perfect place to take them for Sunday brunch.

Let's start off with the positive.  The room itself is modern and stylish.  There is a lot of seating, both at tables and booths and a stately fireplace on the far wall.  The glass placemats were a nice touch, as were the fresh oysters on display at the front of the expansive open kitchen.  If only the rest of the experience had been as impressive...

The service was where it started to go downhill.  While the hostess that greeted us at the entrance was very welcoming, that is where the good service stopped.  Throughout the whole meal, I felt as though we were being rushed along by our server.  He seemed very insistent on taking our order within moments of us being seated, even though I thought we were making it quite evident that we wanted to chat for a few moments before delving into the menu.  The way that he was "helicoptering" around our table made me quite uncomfortable and detracted from the conversation that I was having with my relatives who I had not seen for quite some time.  After about 10 minutes, he had obviously had enough of trying to be polite and basically interrupted me in mid-sentence asking for our orders.  It was the same at the end of the meal- a few minutes after giving us the bill, he came again, almost demanding for our payment immediately.  And all of this rushing, despite the restaurant being only half full!  I really do not understand what the great urgency was.  This poor service left me with a bitter taste in my mouth even before tasting the food.

Speaking of the food... 

I was of course very intrigued by the vegan menu items on the menu.  Unlike at lunch and dinner, there is no seperate vegan menu, but there are at least 4-5 menu items on the brunch menu that are vegan.  There were many non-vegan menu items that sounded quite appealing on paper (Beet Benny, AlbacoreTuna Nicoise), but I figured that I should try one of their vegan dishes.  Anywhere that offers exclusively vegan menus must have pretty amazing vegan food, right?  Or so I thought...

I decided on the Scrambled Tofu, a popular brunch choice here in Vancouver.  I have had really goof version (the Naam) and really bad versions (Central Bistro), and went in with high hopes for Yew's version.  

When my plate arrived, the first thing I noticed was everything on my plate, including the scramble and a few panfries, were sitting on a bed of liquid.  At first, giving them the benefit of the doubt, I thought that perhaps this was some kind of broth to add flavour?  For the first few bites, I tried my hardest to like it but could not.  The scrambled tofu itself was bland (the only flavourful element was the sundried tomatoes) and the fact that it was swimming in a pile of water (yes, that's all it was, water) was downright repulsive.  To make matters worse, I then stumbled across a hair mixed in amongst my panfries that was much too short and too dark to be mine. Because I was having such an enjoyable conversation with my relatives that I did not want to spoil, I choked most of it down, but in any other situation I would have (and should have) returned this straight back to the kitchen.  If they were doing quality control back there (which they should be when they are charging upwards of $20 each/dish for brunch), they definately missed mine. Very dissapointing.  



I like to think of myself as an optimist so I will end on a more positive note.  I did appreciate the gift of a plate of fresh mini-doughnuts that were brought to the table (2/person) prior to our meal. They were warm, with a fluffy texture, and served with a nice guava dipping sauce.  They were enjoyed by all.  Also, my husband ordered the Southern Benny, made with pulled pork, topped with chili hollandaise and served on cornbread, and he quite enjoyed his dish.  My aunt ordered the Egg White Frittata and my uncle, the Huevos Rancheros, which looked decent enough but nothing to write home about.  


So could this be a case of me ordering the wrong thing and/or someone in the kitchen had a bad day?  Perhaps, but it was not that my dish was just "not good", it was actually terrible and it should never have been allowed out of the kitchen that way.  For a place who is trying to set itself apart by offering vegan menus, their vegan food should be and not like many other places where the vegan dish is an afterthought.  

After the dust settles a bit (and my tastebuds recover), I am willing to give this place one more try, perhaps for dinner this time.  

Great company in a nice atmosphere, but with rude service and unpalatable food- I expected more from Yew.

YEW Restaurant + Bar (Four Seasons Hotel) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Vancouver's Fine Coffee Explosion- Last But Not Least!


1399 West 7th Avenue  Vancouver, BC

V6H 1B8

(604) 733-9425


After yesterday's blog post highlighting two new additions to the Vancouver specialty coffee scene, and my recent review of Matchstick, I realized that I have never blogged about Wicked.  Wicked has been around much longer than the others, and even after sampling the java of the new kids on the block, Wicked still remains my all-time favorite.  

Fortunately, Wicked is also the closest to where I live, nestled on a quiet corner of South Granville. Unlike the newer coffee joints above, Wicked offers free Wi-Fi all day long, making it a great place to settle down with your laptop for work or pleasure.  



The baristas here are all extremely friendly and pleasant to chat with while you wait for your beverage.  It is easy to tell that the have many regular customers, whom they are on a first name basis with.  Loyal customers are always a good sign, both of good product and good service.  

Speaking of product, I can confidently say that Wicked has my favorite Americano in the whole city. They put 4 shots in their large expresso drinks, so not only are they terrifically smooth, but they also put a nice bit of "pep in your step".  My first sip of this Americano never fails to make all of my woes temporarily melt away.

Wicked also offers an impressive selection of food.  Not only do they have a great selection of backed goods, including a decent gluten free and vegan assortment, but they also sell lunch items including soups, wraps, sandwiches and an amazing-looking vegetable tortialla pie which I have yet to try (its on the to-do list!).  For breakfast, I recommend their version of oatmeal, topped with dried fruits and brown sugar.  

So, although it is always good to go discover new things, please don't forget about the those that have survived the test of time because of their great customer rapport and yummy food and drink. Wicked has it down to a tee!

Wicked Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Vancouver Fine Coffee Explosion

There was one time when Vancouver was known for only one thing when it came to coffee- Starbucks.  On a trip to visit my parents in Florida last May, I was quite taken aback by the what several people that I met there said when I mentioned I was from Vancouver- "Oh ya, Vancouver-that is where they have a few Starbucks on the same street corner isn't it?".  Not one mention of Stanley Park, Vancouver Island, nearby Whistler.  All they could associate us with was Starbucks.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not knocking Starbucks by any means.  I get a cup of java (short Pike in a tall cup) from there almost every morning and love it.

But Starbucks beware- there are some new kids on the block that are ready to give you a run for your money.

I have already blogged about Matchstick here in East Van (see previous review)- amazing custom-made coffee made by expert baristas, sampler plates and sandwiches made with local ingredients, delicious baked goods, all served in a relaxed atmosphere.  

After posting my Matchstick review, I received some welcome tips on other such specialty coffee that had recently popped up all over the city.  Here are two more of my recent finds:

49th Parallel

2909 Main St.

Vancouver BC

V5T 0C1


My jaw dropped when I walked into this Main Street coffee shop last weekend.  I feel bad calling it a "coffee shop".  It looks more like the lobby of a nice hotel, with black leather couches and a toasty fireplace at the back.  It is a huge space, packed to the rafters with customers enjoying both the custom-made 49th Parallel coffee (well renowned for its fine quality) as well as their other house-made specialty doughnuts.  Called Lucky's Doughnuts, it is the brainchild of the owners of 49th Parallel, according to the website, who were always searching out good doughnuts to eat with their coffee while they were on business trips.  They took a few doughnut making courses and then voila- their business dream of a "coffee and doughnut only" shop was born.  All of their toppings, fillings and jams are homeade in the store daily- you can see the doughnut preparatio in realtime through a big window at the back of the store.  I am not a huge doughnut fan myself, but my husband is, and he really enjoyed his glazed doughnut.  Other more exotic options include orange honey pistacio, apple bacon fritter and pumpkin.  



Now onto the main priority- the coffee.  My husband and both ordered Americanos (our usual Saturday treat).  The Americano was extremely smooth- one of the best I have had in Vancouver so far (second only to Wicked, still my all-time favorite).  I went back another day and had a latte which was also amazing.  Sitting right next to the fireplace also added to the experience, especially on a rainy, damp day!  Service is very professional and attentive- not the hippy, non-chalant vibe that you usually find on Main St.  This is certainly a place to check out, both for its atmosphere and its coffee.




325 Cambie Street  

Vancouver, BC V6B 1H7

(604) 558-4444

Now moving to another of Vancouver's up and coming areas of the city, we arrive at Revolver, located just outside of Gastown.  Toursists beware- this locale is very close to the city's notorious "Downtown East Side", known for its reputation of being one of the most drug-infested parts of Canada.  Although the area around Revolver is quite safe during its working hours (it closes at 6pm), one misturn could lead you into a part of town where you may have heroin and cocaine shoved right in your face for purchase.  

That being said, the above should not dissuade you from checking out Revolver (just make you you have Google maps on hand!).  It is about a quarter of the size of 49th Parallel on Main, with a much more minimalist decor.  It is a very cozy and inviting environment which, if you are lucky enough to snag one of the prized booths, is a ery pleasant place to sit and meet with a friend or read for an hour (I could not get WiFi, don't think they have it).  Service is very friendly- no "snootiness" here!


I had a latte on my visit- very smooth, perfect temperature, with just the right amount of foam. Yum.  For those who want a little bite to eat with their beverage, they also offer a small selection of baked goods (cookies, muffins, squares) which seemed to be popular (I resisted the temptation this time!).  

A highly recommended stop for all those working or shopping near Gastown!

***A note to 49th Parallel and Revolver- for appease those of us who prefer non-dairy lattes, the addition of Almond Milk to your repertoire would be much appreciated!  Soy is good, but Almond if better (Matchstick does it really well!!!).

49th Parallel Roasters Café on Urbanspoon


Revolver on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Victoria Highlights

My month in Victoria has drawn to a close and I am home again in Vanny!  Although Victoria is a very nice place to visit, it is great to be home:)

Here are some of my faves from Victoria:


Cafe Bliss:  This small cafe caters to every level of vegetarian, from the more "mainstream" vegetarian, to the strict vegan and even to those who consume only raw foods.  They have a very original lineup of smoothies which include some very unique ingredients.  I was recommended the "Creamy Green" which, among other healthy ingredients, included LOCAL pollen grown on Vancouver Island, and Vitamineral Green, a supplement made of herbs, chia and flax.  Its flavour was suprosingly very pleasant, with just the perfect amount of natural sweetness from the fruit. I also tried a couple of their cooked menu items, the Black Bean Soup (spicy and filling) and the Autumn Macro Bowl (squash, kale and beet served on a bed of quinoa in a curry sauce), both of which I enjoyed very much.


Sitka Specialty Shop: I stumbled across this neat little shop on Yates St. by chance one evening when I was on the way to my car from the gym.  The name sounded familiar to me but I could not place it.  Inside, not only did I find some amazing locally made and environmentally-concious clothes but, at the front of the store, I also found a lovely little cafe offering light meals (Quinoa and Pear Salad, Breakfast Quesadilla, etc.) and treats, many of which are made at other local bakeries such as Devour (see my previous review).  The menu changes up frequently based on seasonality of ingredients.  In addition, they offer a lively quiet space to chill out while you enjoy your food (they have wireless internet too), made even better by the complimentary water infused with lemon and cucumber.  


When I looked it up after the fact to figure out why the name sounded so familiar, I realized that there is actually a Sitka here in Vancouver on West 4th that I have been in several times. Unfortunately, no little cafe in the Vanny store:(  Why not?  Just replicate exactly what Victoria has going on- it is awesome and would totally fly at the Kits!

Wildfire Bakery:  I LOVE this place and, after going once, I could not stop going back.  You will find quite a line outside of Wildfire when it opens on weedays at 7:30, with customers just hankering for one of their deliciously healthy muffins (Carrot Millet was my favorite!) or a small loaf of their bread.  They offer something for every taste and diet, including whites, ryes, whole grains (including sprouted varieties) and multiple types of wheat-free loaves. I was also fortunate enough one day to get the very last Vegan Pizza in the store, made of spelt crust and topped with seasonal veggies (squash, brocolli, greens) and their houseade Vegan Pate.  Not suprisingly, these heavenly pies are in hot commodity and usually sell out by 1:00pm.  Their soup is also well worth a try- the mushroom parley with kale and tomato quinoa were delicious!  


Pure Vanilla Bakery:  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately as far as my wallet is concerned!), I only discovered this great little bakery on my last day in Victoria.  It is away from downtown, in the Oak Bay area, and tucked away in a little neighbourhood, so it is not a place you are likely to stumble across.  They offer a vast selection of baked goods (there is a whole wall of cookies to choose from!) as well a nice lunch menu.  There is a good amount of seating here which was pretty much full around early afternoon as people sat eating their lunch.  I tried their Morning Glory Muffin which was superb- moist, packed with dried fruit and flax seed such that you did not have to feel guilty about eating it first thing in the morning.  I also purchased Chocolcate Chunk Cookies for my husband, which he very much enjoyed.  



Coffee shops:

Habit (see previous post)

Discovery coffee- Discovery Coffee has 3 locations in Victoria- 2 near downtown and one on Oak Bay.  I visited the Oak Bay location a couple of times and absolutely loved it.  The atmosphere is super chill ad relaxed,  and they play music from old vinyl records.  They make amazing coffee, americanos and lattes (I have tried them all!).  The baristas know their stuff.  What a great place to spend a rainy afternoon cozied up with a book.

Ferwood Coffee (Personage Coffee)- This coffee joint, located away from downtown, tucked away on a little lane just near Cook St, has quite a loyal following.  Even in mid-afternoon on a weekday the place was packed.  One of the customers, hearing me tell the barista I was from Vancouver, eagerly told me that I had come to the very best coffee house in Victoria, and even i the country in his opinion. Those are heavy praise!  The service is very friendly.  My latte was very good, although not quite as good in my mind as those at Habit or Discovery  They also have a more extended menu, including sandwiches, yummy salads and nice baked good (the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie I had was yummy!).




Yates Market: This was my Whole Foods stand-in while in Victoria.  Lots of local produce, with a big focus on organic items.  They also have a great bakery section- their homeade Flax Bars are a very yummy and filling treat!


Not Just Pretty:  This is honestly one of my favorite places to shop for clothes.  After discovering it last year, I couldn't wait to go back on this visit.  They specialize in clthing made by local designers.  The prices are a bit on the steeper side but in my mind it is well worth it for their original and well-made garments.



Hope you get the chance to visit Victoria for yourself and check out some of my faves, and discover some of your own:)


Cafe Bliss on Urbanspoon


SItka Cafe on Urbanspoon


Wildfire Bakery on Urbanspoon


Pure Vanilla on Urbanspoon


Discovery Coffee (Oak Bay) on Urbanspoon


Parsonage Cafe on Urbanspoon


Saturday, 17 November 2012

A bit of a let down at Cafe Brio

Cafe Brio

944 Fort Street  Victoria, BC V8V 3K2
(250) 383-0009

Tastiness factor: 3/5

Service: 2/5

Atmosphere: 3.5/5

Locavore approved? YES- even with the disappointing experience, I must admit that they made good use of seasonal ingredients and change the menu often.  They have several locally-made charcuterie options and a offer a good selection of BC wines. 


For our last dinner during our month-long rotation in Victoria, I made reservations at Café Brio, a very well reputed Italian/West Coast restaurant.  After reading mostly glowing reviews, both about food and service, I was very excited to try it.

The exterior of Café Brio, found a bit out of downtown near Cook and Fort St., looks very appealing.  It is covered in green vines, which, on the background of the yellow stone wall, give it a very European look.  The interior is quite large and inviting, with booths along one wall and a bar along the other.  The decor however, was quite dated and in need of a little refresher.  Because we had a bit of a larger group (5 people and a baby), we were seated in a little alcove at the front of the restaurant, separated from the main room by a couple of stairs, with a nice big window that looked out onto the street.  The owner said that it was where he eats when he dines there with his family so that he can have a nice quiet meal away from the hustle and bustle.  We were very happy with the seating arrangement at first, but as the meal progressed, we realized that it had its drawbacks…



Café Brio has been repeatedly applauded for its friendly service and I cannot deny them this.  Both the owner and his partner were “working the room” for most of the night and came over several times to check on us.  His wife was especially chatty, especially when it came to the baby and raving about how cute he was.  For some, it may have been maybe a little too “in-your-face” but I admire their dedication to their restaurant and the pride that they take in it.

Unfortunately, that is pretty much very the good service ended.  We waited a good 45 minutes before having our order taken.  Although the owners came back several times to “check on us” and ensure us that our server would be there soon, it really was not soon enough.  After seeing us 

wait so long and request to order several times, could the owners not have just taken out order?  The other thing that confused me was the fact that the place was not at all busy (at 9pm on a Thursday night, not many places in Victoria are).  So exactly what were all of the servers doing?  When we finally did order, our server seemed stressed out and rushed and did not provide us with any explanation of the menu. When we finally got our food after waiting quite another long interval of time (at least 25 minutes), one of my fellow diners received octopus instead of tuna and the server basically told her it was her mistake, although I clearly heard her order the tuna.  At a restaurant at this price point, I expect far better.

So how about the most important part, the food?   One of their redeeming qualities is that all items on their menu (excluding dessert)  are available in both half and full plates, giving diners the choice of trying a few different options or ordering one entrée.  It is divided into vegetarian, fish/shellfish and meat options, with about 6 items in each section.  There is no appetizers as such, but many of the small plates could easily serve as an appetizer.  Their wine list boasts many BC options.

I chose two of the half portions dishes, expecting that this would constitute a full meal.  Unfortunately, the portions were pretty small and I was still pretty hungry after totally cleaning off both plates.  This is where a nice menu explanation and ordering recommendations from our server at the beginning of the meal would have been helpful. 

My first dish was the Contourni, an ensemble of 4 seasonal vegetables, which change up often depending on availability (kudos to them for this).  On that particular night, the offerings included roasted fennel with pesto, beet with a cream sauce, assorted mushrooms on crosini, and grilled celery root.  While the beet and the fennel with their accompaniments were quite lovely, the other two were a bit of a miss for me.  I expected to love the mushrooms (among my favorite winter vegetables), but it was a shame that they had been cooked in a rather repulsive sauce (a wine reduction perhaps?) that made that was much too strong and gave them an unpleasant aftertaste.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, the celery root was pretty “blah”, without hardly any flavor.  The dish had great potential, but the beautiful vegetables were done an injustice by not being allowed to live up to their true potential.

My second dish was the Grilled Local Octopus.  This is not something that I order often, but the accompaniments of cauliflower, raisins and pine nuts really caught my eye.  To my surprise, the octopus ended up being the star of my whole meal.  It was beautifully charred, with great texture (not too rubbery) and lots of flavor.  Unfortunately, the accompaniments ended up being a bit of a letdown.  The cauliflower was bland and I think there may have been a total of 3 raisins and 3 pine nuts total on the plate.  Aside from the octopus, another disappointment.


My friend, who was wanting a bit of a lighter meal, ordered the Mixed Green Salad and asked that she get a fillet of salmon on top to make it a complete meal.  The salad, quite a generous size, was served with seasonal bosc bears, blue cheese and a tangy mustard dressing that nicely balanced the sweetness of the pears. She initially enjoyed her meal very much, but the story changed a bit when she got her bill.  Her $12 full size salad had skyrocketted in price to 29$ with the addition of the salmon- a 17$ piece of salmon, served plain on the size of her salad?  That seemed a bit over the top to us, but when she questionned it, she was told that the chef was unwilling to go down in price.  Although she enjoyed the salad's flavours, this whole debacle left a bitter taste in her mouth...


Another of my fellow diners ordered the Pan Roasted Spring Salmon.  The salmon was cooked nicely (medium rare) and was served on a bed of potato gnocci and topped with a cabbage slaw. He enjoyed the dish.


When my friend finally got her Grilled Rare Albacore Tuna (after the octopus mix-up), served with lentils, mushrooms and a few greens, she enjoyed it overall, but was not near as impressed with this version near as much as the tuna dish that we had been served at "Vis-a-Vis the week before (see my previous review).  

With it being our last night in Victoria, two of those in our group decided to splurge on dessert. The first dessert was the Dark Chocolate Tart served with Earl Grey ice cream. Although she enjoyed the first few bites, this is a VERY rich dessert and she recruited us to help finish what she could not herself.  I did think that the Earl Grey ice cream helped to balance it out somewhat, but if you are not a true chocolate addict, this may be a bit much for you.


The second dessert, recommended by our waiter was the Caramel and Marscapone Cheesecake..  Although the cheesecake itself was not bad (not great but not bad) we were all quite perplexed by the fact that it was served with a deep fried apple ring on the side (called a doughnut).  The two were in no way interconected, and just seemed like two desserts on one plate.  They should have left out the "doughnut" entirely- it was chewy, bland and unattractive. 


So, although I really wanted to enjoy Cafe Brio after hearing such great things, I really could not. I was quite underwhelmed by the whole experience, from the service to the food.  In my mind, this whole place needs an overhaul, from the dated decor to the subpar service to the hit-or-miss food. If this place wishes to compete with the the new spots poping up all around Victoria (Devour, Vis-a-Vis, etc., etc.), it had better get its act together if it wants to survive.


Cafe Brio on Urbanspoon




Saturday, 10 November 2012

Victoria at its best at Vis-A-Vis

Vis-a-Vis Wine and Chacuterie Bar

2232 Oak Bay Road, Victoria BC



Tastiness Factor: 4.75/5

Service: 4.75/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Locavore Approved: Enthusiastically YES!!!- major focus on local, sustainable ingredients.  A large proportion of the chacuterie items made in-house.  Staff VERY knowledgeable about origin of ingredients.  


During my month here in Victoria for work, some of my Vancouver friends and I have been going out for a weekly dinner to sample the Victoria food scene.  Week 1 was Tapa (see previous post) and week 2 was Rebar (post to follow, want to eat there again before doing final post).  For our week 3 dinner this past week, one of my dining friends suggested Vis-a-Vis, which she had been already since her arrival in Victoria.  It had been a huge hit on her first visit so she was eager to go again. Now I totally understand why.  

Vis-A-Vis is located away from the downtown core in the quaint yet sophisticated Oak Bay Village district.  In the area, you will find many nice shops and a growing number of bistros and delicatessans.  It is much more quiet than downtown, and much easier to find parking.  

The restaurant has a small store face leading into a decent sized floor space.  It has a low-key feeling to it, certainly very unpretentious.  There is nice booth-style seating along the while, as well as a god amount of bar seating.  


Although service was a little slow at first (it took about 10 minutes until we first saw any wait staff, even with our reservation), it is impossible to hold this against them because the overall service of the meal was fantastic.  Our waiter began by introducing the philosophy of the restaurant (fresh, local, sustainable, quality ingredients) and then took plenty of time to explain the menu.  He knew all of the dishes like the back of his hand and offered very good wine suggestions.  He certainly seemed very passionate about his role in serving us, and made us feel very welcome.  The service was superior to most fine dining restaurants I have been too, yet was always maintained a relaxed and friendly quality.

We were very fortunate to have chosen to go to Vis-a-Vis on a Wednesday.  Not only do they offer $20 off each bottle of wine purchased, but they also offer three small plates for the price of two.  What a deal!  

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The selection of wine at Vis-à-Vis includes 24 table wines and 4 sparklings, with a sommelier who is more than happy to offer wine suggestions.  We chose a bottle for the table, but wines are also available in 1oz, 5oz and 8oz glasses so that guests can sample and contrast different wines and how they pair with the food.

The menu at Vis-à-Vis is divided into 2 distinct parts: Charcuterie and small plates.  Although you can certainly eat individually (our server was very helpful in suggesting ways to do both), I highly suggest that you go here with friends and share the meal.  We had four people and shared dishes from both parts of the menu. 

The Charcuterie part of the menu is broken down to cheeses on one side and proteins on the other.  Each item is $5 and can come together on a Charcuterie board with a side of French bread.  As a pescatarian, I was VERY excited to see fish as options!  We chose four items, including a chevre from Salt Spring Island (my favorite of all cheeses!), a firmer cows milk cheese from Quebec (the feature cheese of the evening), the maple smoked salmon (to die for!) and a prosciutto.  What a lovely way to start the meal.

The small plates part of the menu is divided into fish, vegetable and meat.  Because there were two non-meat eaters at the table, we chose three fish, two veg and one meat dish to share.  There are about 5-6 choices in each section, and they change frequently depending on availability of ingredients (the online menu has the same base ingredients but the accompaniments are different, obviously reflecting the transition to November harvest).  The dishes we chose were as follows:



Albacore Tuna Tataki- Although this had the potential to be a bit tired (it is found on so many menus now), this particular tuna was a cut above any I have had.  I was so glad that they left the beautiful tuna speak for itself without assaulting it with heavy spice and sauce.  The lemon reduction artfully scattered around the plate was a nice accompaniment, as was the little pile of radish and fennel slaw on the side.



Grilled Octopus- This was one of my favorite of all the dishes.  The octopus was beautifully charred and served atop a flavourful bed of white beans.  To brighten up the plate was my favorite winter green, kale, fried crispy.  It was a very hearty dish, just perfect for a nippy fall night. 




Hot Smoked Trout- This was a very creative dish, made with in-house smoked trout. Very generous chunks of trout were topped with pear.  Overtop the pear was a vibrant green piece of seaweed to add texture and curb appeal.  Although some of us secretly wished we could have the whole plate to ourselves, it was divided into 4 piles, which made it perfect for sharing.




Tempura brocollini- Although this was my least favorite of the dishes (I am not a huge tempura fan), it was enjoyed by my fellow diners and I certainly ate my share without difficultyJ.  It is rare to see broccolini done as a tempura so they got points for this for sure.  I would have preferred a bit of a lighter batter so that I could taste the vegetable underneath.  It was served with a robust gouda dip which stood up nicely to the tempura.



Pan-Fried Gnocchi- This was also a favorite of mine.  I would go as far as to saying that this was the best gnocchi I have ever had. I loved the texture of the pan-fried gnocci and though that this method of preparation helped them stand up very well to the meaty chanterelles in the dish.  It was topped with a generous amount of fennel slaw overtop which gave it another dimension of flavour and texture.  Again, a perfect fall dish, perfect to comfort you on a cold night.




Beef Short-Ribs- Although I did not partake in this one, those at the table who did raved about the tenderness of the ribs.  It was served with parsnips and potato puree.  It was a mini roast beef dinner elevated to the next level. 



Vis-à-Vis has the whole package.  It is the perfect place to go with friends for an evening complete with great food and drink, impressive service and a classy atmosphere free of pretention.  They have only been open a year and a half, and I predict that once diners in Victoria discover this hidden gem, it will become one of the hottest spots in town.  


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