Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cornerstone Cafe

<2010-06-30 Wed> Coffee shops in the old past used to be the focal
centers of the community. The bars were where people went to get
drunk, but coffee shops where people went to get the news and discuss

Cornerstone feels like those old places. It is a community gathering
place. Own and operated by the Fernwood Community Centre, it takes its
social goals seriously. And it shows. This feels like the friendliest
coffee shop in town. Its sitting is designed to socialize, even if you
are using your laptop pretending to be unaware of your surroundings.

There is frequent (free) music in the evenings, and it is also a
resource center for the community.

I wished more coffee shops were like this.

As if it wasn't enough, it has very good coffee and pastries from

Verdict: One of the best coffee destinations in town.

Internet: yes

For more information, including address:
Cornerstone Cafe on Urbanspoon

Legacy Art Gallery & Cafe

<2010-06-30 Wed> What can I say about a coffee shop that includes a
gallery inside it?

I came to see the work by Bob St Cyr. Bob is a great and humble
guy. He has a small exhibit of pinhole photographs that really
intrigue me. I like their blurriness, and sense of timelessness. I
liked his Cafe Conversations, perhaps because, as I write this, I live
daily what he portraits in them. It is worth a visit.

The coffee today gets a "good" ranking.

Overall one of the best: a beautiful place, with two interesting and
worthwhile exhibits (one the photos of Bob the other Inuit sculpture).

Verdict: The art in it makes it a must destination in every aspect;
the coffee can be better in other places, but it is good.

Cost: 2.75 for espresso.

For more information, including address:
Legacy Art Gallery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Baan Thai

<2010-06-30 Wed>

There are 7 Thai restaurants in town (2 with branches in Saanich). I
have tried the red curry of each of them. And the winner is Baan Thai

Of course it is really difficult to compare one against another when I
ate them on different days. I have to rely on my memory, on the
ordering of the quality of these restaurants that I am building day by

Baan Thai feels like a more up-scale restaurant than any of the others
(which probably is). It is a nice, bright environment, with quality
furniture, and good service. The restaurant was full when I arrived.

My opinion is that you won't be disappointed if you come here. I have
had most of the options in the menu, and they are all good (although
the pad thai is too large).

I have mentioned repeatedly that my main complain with this place is
its lack of options at lunch time (its menu hasn't changed in 9 years
I have lived in Victoria). I talked to a person who likes Baan Thai
and she said that she wants the menu to remain unchanged, so she can
always order the same. I think the solution is a "special of the

Now I am tempted to come back at dinner time (or at least order take

Unfortunately this visit is the last without GST. Starting tomorrow I
have a 7% inflation in the cost of my lunch :(

Verdict: The best Thai lunch in town, at one of the best prices. It is
worth a detour compared to any of the other options. It is also the
best restaurant in a this area. It will remain as one of my regular
lunch destinations, particularly the downtown branch.

Cost: 10.24 + tip

For more information, including address, visit:
Baan Thai on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sookjai Thai

<2010-06-29 Tue>

My first impression was: "wow, this place is full". I got the
last table available. I ordered the red curry
special (again). The soup was like many others I had had: almost
tasteless, but with a good portion of vegetables.

The rolls were well cooked: cripy not but not hard. The curry
looked good: thick, with a large proportion of vegetables and
chicken. The chicken was cooked well. Unfortunately it lacked

The food is not bad, and I got tempted to come back and have
something different. It competes head on with Baan Thai, which is
one block away. It wins in number of options at lunch time. I
would be tempted to ask people why they prefer to come here
instead of Baan Thai, given that both are so close to each

My pick? Baan Thai.

Verdict: Given its proximity to Baan Thai, I'd not pick it as my
first choice.

Paid: 10.45 + tip

Sookjai Thai on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 28, 2010

Little Thai

<2010-06-28 Mon>

Mondays are tricky. Many restaurants stay closed. I have been
disappointed countless times when I arrive to a place that is
closed. Do they forget people have to eat every day of the week?
Little Thai is a reliable destination: it opens every day of the week.

There are two Little Thai in the region, one in Saanich and the other
in Cook St. I visited the one at Cook St. The waiters are friendly,
and tend to recognize me, which is always a nice feeling when I enter
a restaurant.

The menu is large: their dinner menu plus lunch specials, which are
very nicely priced.

To be consistent, I ordered (again!) red curry plus a soup
(optional). The soup is a contradiction: the tastiest broth of all the
Thai restaurants I have tried, but with chicken that was badly

I think of all the curries I have tried this is one of my favourite. It
is dense, tasty, a touch sweet and I like the addition of eggplant,
but it is not traditional: no green pepper, no bamboo shoots. It comes
with some green vegetables and rice. The rice was perfect.

This is a very popular take out destination.

Verdict: A good Thai. Best place (by far) in its area.

Cost: 11.50 + tip

Little Thai Place (Cook St.) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Green Leaf Vietnamese Bistro

<2010-06-26 Sat> I visited again, with friends, and my view hasn't
changed. Good and tasty pho makes it the best Vietnamese of the area. It was our
final destination because they stay open the entire day (a big plus!)

Also, I'd rather go here than the Thai next door.

Verdict: A solid contender for best Vietnamese in town, and a good
choice in an area full of restaurants.

Cost: This visit was not representative.

For more information, including address, visit:
Green Leaf Bistro on Urbanspoon

Caffe Artigiano

<2010-06-26 Sat>
Buried in the Lobby of a hotel it is easy to miss. Besides, it has
strong competition from next door (Murchie's Tea & Coffee). I debated
on whether to go in, but my quest needs to be completed.

The place is very long and narrow. A lot of "bench" sits that look
uncomfortable. I order, as usual, a espresso.

What a surprise! A very, very, very good espresso, in fact, I place it
at the level of the best in town.

But the environment? I am not so sure. It feels dark and unwelcoming.

Verdict: Your decision should be based on what you want: the best
coffee? a table to sit for a long time? Then choose
Artigiano. Better environment and choices of food or pastries? Next

Cost: 2.50 for espresso

For more information, including address:
Caffe Artigiano on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 25, 2010

Baan Thai -- Oak Bay

<2010-06-25 Fri> Had to have a quick lunch. I ordered the L6 lunch
special and it was a good meal (it had been recommended in the past by
one of the waitresses as her favourite). Everything was nicely cooked.
Pleasant visit. What I expect from it.

I soo much wished they were running specials that showcased what the
chef/cook can do. But for the sake of uniformity (with its parent
downtown) they offer _exactly_ the same every day. Except for Wednesdays,
when they offer duck on noodles, which is quite good.

Verdict: I keep my recommendation: a solid place to eat, one of the
best Thai in Victoria (at lunch time), and one of the only two places
to eat in the area.

Cost: 10.24 + tip

For more information, including price, visit:
Baan Thai on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sen Zushi

Dinner review.

<2010-06-24 Thu>

Warning. This is a dinner review. I am a regular for dinner at Sen
Zushi, but perhaps I have been a regular for too long. I am getting a
bit tired of the menu.

That doesn't mean the restaurant is bad. On the contrary, the tuna and
salmon sashimi were delicious (as usual), the tempura perfect (I loved
the fish tempura). There were some downsides: the miso soup was way
too diluted (a frequent problem) and the some of the unagi had a
slight taste of chlorine.

The best demonstration of its popularity is how difficult it is to
get a table some evenings.

Verdict: A good option for Japanese at dinner time.

Cost: approx 40 per person + tip (we ate like pigs)

For more information, including address, visit:
Sen Zushi on Urbanspoon

Rosie's Diner

<2010-06-24 Thu>

I like Rosie's. It is feels like an honest place that serves simple
food during most of the day (I think they are open from 8 to 8, almost
every day). Their tacky painting of Marilyn, Dean, Elvis and Marlon
that includes the name of the Diner is one of its peculiarities (Dean
and Marilyn are hard to recognize), along with strong colour palette
that makes this place unique in its own way. I kind of like it.

The place also feels homey. It is clear that there are relationships
made between the frequent customers and the staff.

I ordered a halibut burger with the soup of the day (seafood

When my burger arrived the fish was battered, while I expected
grilled. The menu gives the option of one or the other. And this is
one of those small details that separates good servers: I wasn't asked
which one I wanted, and presented the battered one. Ok, fine. Perhaps
my mistake. The fish felt frozen, nothing to write home about, and the
chowder was inedible. Perhaps burgers and eggs are more their speciality.

There are very few options in this area that are open the whole day,
that gives Rosie's Diner an edge. But the food leaves to be
desired. Too bad, I really wanted to like it.

Verdict: Only if you eating outside regular lunch hours, and only if
in the area.

Cost: 10.45 + tip

For more information, including address, visit:
Rosie's Diner on Urbanspoon

Moka House--Cook St

No. 26.

<2010-06-24 Thu>

Their espresso sucks, but the view from the window is always a
treat. The "patio" is a good way to enjoy a not-very cold day.

Moka has many food options, but nothing worthwhile though, and offers
ice cream cones.

The bench along the windows is nice to work on a laptop, but the
tables not as much. The outside chairs are plastic and not very
comfortable. Table-vs-table the coffee shop across the street wins.

But in terms of "cool" factor, Moka is where the hip meet.

Verdict: if you are interested in the coffee skip it. If you want the
view or the ambiance, it is better than Starbucks. In terms of tables
and comfort I give the edge to Starbucks. Internet here is unlimited,
while it is 2 hrs (login required) across the street. Starbucks
provides much better bandwidth, though.

Internet: Yes

Cost: 1.75 for a single espresso

For more information, including address, visit:
Moka House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Siam Thai

No. 25

<2010-06-23 Wed>

It is hard to take the restaurants in the downtown core seriously. Are
they catering to the tourist, who might never come back, or to the
loyal customers who will fill tables days after day?

I have come to Siam many times, never really paying attention to its
food. Having visited several Thai restaurants in a row, I can say that
this is one of the best in Victoria (at least at Lunch time).

To be methodological I ordered what I have been ordering: lunch
special of red curry. The soup was tasty, but had a Chinese influence,
and was by no means Thai. The entree showed the same: a bunch of
stir-fried vegetables (quite good, indeed, and healthier and more
filling than a fried roll). The rice was sticky, again, showing
Chinese influence. The chef, I reckon, must be Chinese.

The curry, however, was the best I have been served so far. Full of
flavour and thick, and nicely presented.

This place offers the full menu at lunch time (I wonder if that affects
the quality of those dishes that are not specials).

Verdict: The Chinese influence would spoil the Thai experience, but
otherwise, a good choice for lunch.

Cost: 10.45 + tip.

For more information, including address, visit:
Siam Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sod-Sai Thai

No. 24

<2010-06-22 Tue>This is my first time in this place. It is a large and it most of its
tables are full. Sod-Sai has a very large lunch menu, with many
possibilities, but it is a tad pricier than the rest of the Thai

The food was ok. The soup was chicken stock with a lot of fresh
mushrooms thrown on top, but few vegetables otherwise. The meat
(beef) was not very good, and the curry was a bit watery, but
tasty. The best part were the rolls: nicely fried and crispy.

This visit reinforces what I have mentioned in the past: Victoria does
not have a restaurant that showcases what Thai food can be about.

I think I'll visit it again, and order something more unique to this

Verdict: Neutral towards avoid. At this
point I'd prefer the Green Leaf next door.

Cost: 12.50 (included the soup and apetizer) + tip. Lunch pricing.

For more information, including address, visit:
Sod-Sai Thai on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 21, 2010

Baan Thai -- Oak Bay

No. 23

<2010-06-21 Mon> Not technically in Victoria, it is just across the border, in Oak Bay.

I got tired of the Lunch specials at Baan Thai (they are all made with
chicken, and haven't changed in years). But after having visited many
of the Thai restaurants in town I realice that they are not bad at

I would say that if you want Thai food this is a reliable destination. Be warned, the place gets

Verdict: There are only two places I'd recommend in the area, and
this is one of them. Price is reasonable, food good. A solid place to
eat, but I would not go out of my way to eat here.

Cost: 10 + tip. Lunch pricing.

For more information, including address, visit:
Baan Thai on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Subway--1964 Fort St

No. 22

<2010-06-08 Tue> I needed a quick sandwich and I find subway to be
reliable. I am also starting to understand that I only need 6" for a
lunch. Not more.

Verdict: In this area, one of the few choices for take out.

Price: 8.05 for a foot-long.

For more information, including its address, please visit:
Subway on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 7, 2010

Kadalima's Bakery

<2010-06-07 Mon> I had to get take out and decided to try its lasagna. I don't really like take out but had no option. The lasagna was not bad nor memorable, but I liked the croissant. It was not the butter-loaded Daniel's but more crumbly and dense. I sort of liked the balance. for a change. I'll like to try them again with a coffee.

Verdict (takeout): Recommended with reservations. For take out nothing like their pastries. Their food? A bit pricey for what you get.

Price: 10.00

Note. Kadalima is in Oak Bay, just outside Victoria's border.

For more information, including its address, visit:
Kadalima's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Santiago's Cafe

<2010-06-06 Sun> I haven't been there for a long time, but for some
reason the last time was also a rainy day. Sitting by the large
windows, makes these days particularly comfortable. And there are the
crayons. A full basket of them, and an paper that covers the table to
write in. You can let your imagination fly.

I decided to order Chipotle Prawns, to which you have to add the side
dish. After a bit I discovered I was missing bread, so I asked for
some (even if I had to pay for it--which I did) and was asked if I
preferred tortillas, to which I immediately agreed. Hence this was
more like: build-your-own lunch kind of thing.

The dish was good, but had an acetic flavour (I think it was sundried
tomatoes marinated in vinegar, but I might be wrong), and the basmati
rice was slightly overcooked (but very edible). Certainly one lunch
that I'd be happy to make at home, but not one that woes me. The
tortillas were nicely grilled (but too many, 4 huge tortillas!). I
enjoyed my lunch.

The main downside is that the cumulative cost of all the "extras"
amounted to the largest bill I have paid so far, and puts in the
territory of the expensive restaurants. This actually shows how good
deals some restaurants are: for 17 dollars I get a great lunch at some
of the top restaurants of the city (where these extras are included,
bread and side dish).

But to be fair, the tortillas were not really needed, in such case the
bill would have been only 15.65, still in the same price category.
Given that the food was not perfect, its makes the restaurant too
expensive for what it offers. On the other hand, the food is good
enough that I don't mind visiting, if I have to.

Update: It finally settled in. Restaurants are roughly divided into two
categories based upon if they charge a different price at lunch or
not. Santiago's is one of those that charges the same price
nonetheless. Hence, for a lunch destination feels pricey, but for a
dinner destination is a good deal. On the other hand, it is also
explains why they serve soo much food at these places. From now on I'll
classify them based on that.

Verdict: Expensive. _Only_ if you are in the area (and subject to more research of
such area), or if you want a very late lunch.

Update (July 20, 2010): In my opinion Aura is a significantly better destination.

Price: 18.74 + tip (15.65 without the extra tortillas). Full day pricing.

For more information, including address, visit:
Santiago's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thai Bistro

<2010-06-05 Sat> Having visited My Thai the day before, I felt it was a good way to compare them. I had the same meal (red curry), and it was clear that Thai Bistro is superior. Their red curry is tasty. Overall a significantly better product, at a cheaper price (I paid 8.75 +tip).

It was however, a bit of a strange experience: I came at 12:30 (Saturday) and was the only customer. The business next door was blooming, though.

Cost: 8.75 + tip for a lunch special. Lunch pricing.

Verdict: Neutral. If you really want Thai, go for it. It is as good or better than most in town (that does not mean much though, see my review of the other Thai rest.). It is also a cheap destination.

For more information, including address, visit:
Planet Thai Bistro on Urbanspoon

Subway, Cook St Village

<2010-06-05 Sat> It is a Subway, what else can I say? Perhaps that
there are not that many options for a good cheap sandwich around. If
you are really hungry, get an 6" before getting into a coffee shop
around. They are much better.

Verdict: As good as it gets in the area.

Cost: 4.85

Legacy Art Gallery & Cafe

<2010-06-05 Sat> First, let me state my bias. This is a University of
Victoria cafe. Having said that, I believe this is the best secret in
town. The coffee is some of the best in the area (way above the three
coffee shops within one block), but it is also a great place to be

This place was created originally to showcase one of the collections
of art of the University, and the Cafe is a side effect (trying to
make some money at the same time, because the gallery is free). It
used to be run by Swan's, but the coffee was horrible.

For some reason the place continues to be relatively empty (although
some days it almost full). It does not open Monday or Tuesday, and
closes early (5 PM).

Other than that, the place is great: a clean, large, open space, with
art paintings on the walls to admire. Nice, comfortable chairs to
lounge (but not to ideal to work on, although not bad) and window
seats to look at people pass by. This is one of my favourite places in
town. I just wished they would open daily and close much later.

Cost: 2.75 for a double espresso.

Internet: Maybe. It "appears" to have free Internet, but I am not 100%

Verdict: A must visit, if not for the coffee, for the collection. In
fact, you don't have to pay anything to have a look.

For more information, including address:
Legacy Art Gallery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cafe Mela

<2010-06-04 Fri>

- Feels like a tea house,
- Small, some people might call it cozy, but lots of seating outside in a small "plaza"
- Good coffee
- Pastries from Daniel's
- Short opening ours Mon-Fri 8-4, Sat 10-

In a sunny day, it is an excellent destination. Otherwise you might not
find a place to sit (and you will feel bad for holding a table if
your objective is to stay for some time, as I'd expect). You can
also buy take-out wraps from Daniel's. The owner is always friendly and
willing to converse.

Verdict: Recommended if you are in the area, with reservations.

No Internet.

For more information, including address, visit:
Cafe Mela on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My Thai

<2010-06-03 Thu> Victoria lacks a good, signature Thai
restaurant. Although we have several ones, none of them raises. They
tend to attack the cheap section of the market rather than offer us
the greatness of that the Thai cuisine can be. My Thai Cafe sits
towards the bottom of the pile. The lunch special was nothing special,
in fact, it felt more like comfort food (without its own character,
both in presentation and flavour). Of the Thai restaurants in the
area, I think I prefer Sookjai Thai, but not by much. If you can, walk
to a bit farther and have lunch at Baan Thai, it is better, although
the prices are one or two dollars higher for the lunch specials.

Verdict: Avoid

Cost: Around 10 + tip. Lunch pricing.

My Thai Cafe on Urbanspoon

Starbucks Cook St Village

No. 14

<2010-06-03 Thu> Three large coffee shops in an 3 block area, and all
of them bland. Starbucks has average coffee, but at least it is
uniform. It is a large space, its tables are very comfortable, and
because it controls the Internet access via a username, it provides
the best public bandwidth in town, but only for 2 hrs every
24hrs. Regarding the tables/chairs: they are just the perfect high to
work with a laptop, and the size is just right if you don't have to
have open books and a computer, otherwise it might feel crowded.

Finally, one of the few coffee shops that opens late every day (in
fact, that is true for those in this area).

In other words: one of the best places to work in town, but at the
cost of average coffee.

By the way, it is interesting to compare the clientele of the three
coffee shops. Quite dramatic.

Internet: Yes, limited to two hours, and requires registration.

Verdict: Recommended for the area (average coffee, but great place to

Starbucks - Cook Street Village on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cafe Ceylon

<2010-06-02 Wed> I haven't been here for a long time. Victoria does
not excel with its Indian restaurants, and Sri Lankan food is a good

The place has a relaxing feeling, and it is half full at lunch time

I asked for the House Special. It is a beautiful dish. It comes on top
of a section of a banana leaf and it contains bright yellow, orange
and red. The smell of the leaf combined with the curry fills your
nostrils and makes your mouth water.

Until you take the first byte. The chicken feels overcook, in fact, it
feels old. I know, curries have to be prepared in advance, but not the food.
The meat killed the amazing food experience that started at the eyes (perhaps
lamb would be a much better option, I have to wonder). The papadum is
slightly rancid and not totally crispy. The meal started in such a
high-note, but ends in disappointing. Was it worth it? I am not sure
yet. Like one Japanese food reviewer wrote, "we eat with our eyes
too". It is the second time that I order it, and I barely remember
that it was dry the first time too. I feel tempted to give this place
another chance.

With respect to price, most entrees at lunch time are between 12-16,
hence middle-towards-upper end of the spectrum at lunch time (for this

Verdict: Undecided

Cost: 16.60 + tip. Lunch pricing.

For more information, including address, visit:
Cafe Ceylon on Urbanspoon

Kadalima's Bakery

No. 13

<2010-06-02 Wed> Just outside Victoria, this bakery offers a large
collections of cookies and pastries to go with a coffee or tea. The
coffee is above average (a bit bitter for me, and lacks body, but
drinkable). The cookies, however, make up for it.

In this area this is the coffee shop I prefer, but they close too early.

Verdict: Recommended for the area.

Internet: No

For more information, including address, visit:
Kadalima's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Prime Steakhouse and Lounge

No. 11

<2010-06-01 Tue> I had passed by frequently, but never being tempted
to go inside. The only times I have visited this location was with
friends who wanted to dine here (in its previous
incarnations). Part of the reason is that it feels overpriced: entrees
are 15 or 16 dollars, a step up from similar destinations (Il
Terrazzo, Pescatore's, Bon Rouge--across the street) and at the level
of Zambri's (which is one of my favourite destinations). Furthermore, I
am not a meat eater, so take my words with a grain of salt. So I came
with reservations. I ordered their seared tuna, which is not a bad
dish. I like albacore tuna, and this was cooked the way I like it
(barely seared). Its crust was good, but the entire dish felt like a
diner meal: tuna on top of a bed of risotto (which was salty) with a
slab of wasabi on the side (is this sashimi? I didn't notice it until
I almost put it in my mount), and some vegetables (the carrots were a
bit hard) and the most striking of all: a section of corn in a
hub. This is, according to its prices, a high end restaurant, yet it
serves me finger food? It just felt wrong. The amount was large too,
just on the edge of what I consider an appropriate size. Having
discussed this with a chef, it seems that expensive restaurants feel
that they have to provide you with a lot of food so you feel that the
price was worth it.

Will I come back? That is ultimately the most important question. In
its price bracket and type, I would say is not doing well. Perhaps I'd
have to visit again to get a better perspective of the place.

Finally, my waiter seem to be a bit upset. She wasn't rude or
anything, but every time she stopped by my table she had an expression
as if she would have preferred to be doing something else. At other
places I feel comfortable, here that makes me feel unwanted. Furthermore,
the music! I am starting to go crazy! (they play a radio station from
Memphis). Those are small details that affect our dining experience
beyond what the food offers. The place is almost empty (only two more
tables have people).

Cost: 16.80 + tip. Lunch pricing.

Verdict: Avoid. Walk across the street to Bon Rouge instead.

For more information, including address, visit:
Prime Steakhouse on Urbanspoon