Vis-a-Vis Wine and Chacuterie Bar
2232 Oak Bay Road, Victoria BC
Tastiness Factor: 4.75/5
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.