Monday, September 20, 2010

Pink Bicycle

<2010-09-20 Mon>

No. 110

Soo many people talk so highly of the Pink that I am surprised I haven't been here before.

As it opens on Monday, it already gets brownie points. It was early and i was one of the first persons to be there. It is an elegant and pleasant place, although a bit dark towards the back. The carnations light the tables.

Frequently is the nice touches that make the difference. As I sat a glass and a bottle of water were placed on my table. I appreciate that.

As its name implies, burgers are their speciality. And they have lots of options, for any palate.
I have been eating too much meat lately, thus I ordered the portabello burger.

It was a delicious burger and salad. There was certain nuttiness in the burger, and bun was delicious, the portabello nicely grilled. A tasty salad was adorned by roasted pecans. I wanted more.

The only blemish: please, don't ask me if I want change.

Verdict: The Pink is a great find. I am definitely a convert. Recommended.

Paid: 12.32 + tip.

For more information, including address, please visit:
The Pink Bicycle on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mirage at Government

<2010-09-18 Sat>

No. 109

Coffee Review

Mirage is one of those coffee shops that keeps opening branches. Its original one is located in Blanchard, between View and Fort.

One of their main claims to fame is that they roast their own coffee (you can buy it at their coffee shops). I like their espresso. It is good coffee.

This location, however, is a bit odd. It sits around 12 people, plus 6-8 outside. In a busy day, it is hard to find a place to sit.

I do like its window bench, even though is few inches too high and somehow uncomfortable to type on a laptop. It is a good place to observe the passing tourists.

It has strong competition: The Soda Shoppe, and 2 blocks south Artigiano (the best in the area), or Macchiato, my preferred destination in the area.

Verdict: Good coffee, and a nice, but small, place for people watching.

Update, Nov 24, 2010. I got today a delicious espresso.

For more information, please visit:
Mirage Coffee on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 16, 2010


No. 108

<2010-09-16 Thu>

Like it sibling Breve, Venetto is located inside the Rialto hotel. It is one of those places that I frequently pass in front, thinking I should try it, but always end somewhere else. In countries like China high end hotels tend to have excellent restaurants. Unfortunately, I am prejudiced to these type of restaurants in Canada: I often find them plain and boring (e.g. Magnolia's Prime Steakhouse).

It is a long and narrow restaurant. The front is dominated by the bar, the back by tables. I decided to sit at the bar, a bright and beautiful area.

The bartender offered me a menu. It was dirty. Here I stop for emphasis:

Restaurant: The menu is your presentation card. It tells a lot about your business, and your kitchen. When I get a dirty menu it means that the management is sloppy and pays little attention to the small details that make for a good lunch experience. If you can't have a clean menu how do I know you can have a clean kitchen?

As I perused the soiled list, my waiter served me water with a slice of cucumber. What a revelation! Such a simple addition made my water a different experience! It was delicious. This somehow balanced my mood. Although this really highlights the quality of the bartender, not necessarily the kitchen!

Their menu feels contrived at lunch time, with very few options I decided to order the "Sliders" (small hamburgers).

The first, blue cheese and ring onions was very good: moist inside, dominated by the flavour of the cheese.

The second was less interesting, and hence forgettable.

The third cooked differently than the other two and felt drier, but it had interesting flavours. I enjoyed it.

The buns felt fresh and had a good flavour too.

The sliders feel like an appettizer (and an expensive one). I think they can be raised a notch by adding a salad. Overall, a dish I would not mind eating again. In its current incarnation does not feel like I am eating lunch. And perhaps that is the biggest weakness of Veneto: it does not feel like a lunch destination, but a bar. I suspect that Veneto is a place that can elicit good and bad reviews, depending on what your expectations are.

Verdict: As a bar, my brief experience tells me it can be great. As a restaurant, it is one of those places that I would not mind coming back, but don't plan to do so.

For more information, including address, please visit:
Veneto on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wah Lai Yuen Restaurant and Bakery

<2010-09-15 Wed>

No. 107

Once in a while, I stop by at Wah Lai Yuen and buy 1/2 a duck for take out. Duck is one of their signature dishes--the other barbecued pork--something you can see from the window. This is one of storefronts that defines China Block.

Given the size of the storefront, it is a large restaurant inside. It sits approximately 60-70 people.

I ordered the duck wonton soup. It was a combination of duck meat and wontons. and it was very good. It was flavourful, full of wontons, with many pieces of duck, and vegetables (bok choy).

If you are picky, you might dislike the duck bones. They come with the territory and I don't mind them (for instance, I was served a piece of neck, which is primarily bone).

The service was expedite: I ordered, and in less than 5 minutes my food was in front of me. My bill appeared as I was finishing without asking. Definitely a place where you can have lunch in a pinch.

It was a pleasant surprise, and definitely a place I will come back to.

I recommend the take-out too. Once in a while I get 1/2 a duck.

Verdict: Recommended (with reservations, see above)

Paid: I didn't write it down, but it was around 10 dollars + tip.

For more information, including address, please visit:
Wah Lai Yuen Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rising Star Deli

<2010-09-14 Tue>

(Coffee Review)

No. 106

Do you know where the Rising Star Deli is? I bet most people don't. There is a painted star on top of the entrance, and tables in the outside, but I could not see anywhere the name of the restaurant. It feels as if it wants to hide from unsuspecting customers.

I was surprised to see how large the place is inside. It is a funky place, with good music. The walls are covered with interesting art that is worth glancing at. Of course it can't compare with Legacy Gallery, but that is not the purpose. The art in the walls here is more of the type you would see hanging from the walls of the artsy folk in this side of the world. Many of the artifacts are worth a look. Except for one person, it was empty (and one more sitting outside).

The coffee is not bad. Their espresso feels similar to what I get at Starbucks.

The place was calm, and it was enjoyable to sit by the window.

To go to the washroom you have to pass the kitchen. And it is a huge kitchen. I suspect they do catering for other businesses, and that business is bigger than the coffee shop/deli. The kitchen was very busy.

Rising Star is in a tough area. It is just meters away from Wild and Legacy, and in the middle of a zone that has more than 7 coffee places within a 3 blocks radius. For a coffee I'd prefer Legacy or Breve.

Verdict: the coffee is average, but the place is pleasant.

Paid: 2.40

For more information, including address, visit:
Rising Star Cafe on Urbanspoon

Lotus Pond

<2010-09-14 Tue>

No. 105

Some restaurants have protocols that surprise me, but nothing like Lotus Pond. As I entered, I saw the buffet bar. I got a table, headed for the buffet, and went back to my table. Just to be stop on my tracks: I was supposed to weigh my plate!

Yes, this is a restaurant by weight, and I don't like it. It charges 16.50 per kilogram.

I arrived around 1:45, and the food felt cold and old. But the flavours were there. There were hints of good cooking. I haven't crammed my first plate with food, but didn't feel interested in getting another one.

Apparently there is the option of ordering from a menu. I might try it one day.

Lotus pond is a vegan restaurant, one of the few (only?) in town.

Verdict: I will avoid any by-the-weight restaurant.

Paid: 7.31

Lotus Pond on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 13, 2010


<2010-09-13 Mon>

No. 104

Mo:Lé is a favourite. I have eaten here a couple of times, but have not been wowed by it the way its placement in reviews would imply.

Their menu feels brunch-like, and perhaps one of the reasons it is so popular during the weekends, when you usually have to wait to get a table (Habit benefits with the overflow, for sure). As I write this I checked their website, and indeed, they open from 8 AM to 4 PM. Hence their menu.

I am not keen on eggs during lunch, and decided to order the curry.

As I wait for my food, I have to say that I like the restaurant. It has certain charm that is hard to describe.

My curry arrived in a very hot plate (extra points in my book) and had a wonderful and rich smell. It was a pasta on top of a bed of spinach, with yams cashews and onions. All the flavour were there.

My only complaint is that it felt soggy. I wonder if this dish would taste better on rice.

The service deserves two comments: please do not "dear" me, and please, please, do not ask me if I want change, ever.

Overall, a good visit. I'll consider it specially for a breakfast.

Paid 13.50 + tip

For more information, including address, please visit:
Mo:le on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 10, 2010

Honk Kong West, Revisited

I love this restaurant. It is my favourite Chinese restaurant.

This time I came with no Chinese translator. I tried to order the fish I had the last time by showing photos of it (the waitress was the woman who owns it, her husband runs the kitchen), but got beef instead. I didn't mind it.

The food was as delicious as the last time, but it was less spicy (which I recommend, Szechuan food can be very spicy). At the end of our meal I had a chance to talk to the owner. I expressed to her how much I appreciated her food, and we chat about the different offerings she has. She mentioned that a lot of her customers are not used to the spiciness of their food, but she is trying to introduce them to the flavours slowly. I, for one, want to continue to explore their food.

After two visits, I can say with confidence that Honk Kong West is my favourite Chinese restaurant in town.

Verdict: Recommended, but watch for the spiciness

Thursday, September 9, 2010



<2010-09-09 Thu>

No. 103

Coffee Review

I still have memories of this not-so-memorable corner before the hotel was refurbished. The new hotel Rialto is a beautiful restoration of an old landmark of the city.

Breve sits exactly in its corner. Why it is so empty beats me. This is one of the most beautiful and classy coffee destinations in town. They serve Discovery Coffee and Bubby Roses pastries.

I was tempted by the chocolate croissant, and order one to accompany my espresso. I was pleasantly surprised when a complementary glass of soda water rounded my order. I enjoyed everything.

The place is bright and comfortable. It is small, but in two times I have been here, there are not that many others (after 2:00 in both cases).

The only downside is that it closes at 4 PM.

Verdict: I have placed Breve as one of my favourite coffee shops in town.

For more information, including address, please visit:
Breve on Urbanspoon

Geisha Tapa Bar

<2010-09-09 Thu>

No. 102

I have tried to come to this restaurant for a while, but either they were closed for lunch, or closed on Mondays.

The adverts they run in the Victoria News remind me of this restaurant. I guess they work.

I was sit by the window, a beautiful location next to the bright large window. I can't forget the great Herald Street Cafe, which I still miss. Its original floor space has been divided in two, and this restaurant sits on the left side (the bar side of the old Cafe).

My waiter brought me a menu. The outside boasted $1 ebi nigiri (one of my least favourite types of nigiri), the waiter explained that the nigiri special was complemented with a bento box special.

Here I pause to emphasize a point: voice-only specials are a no-no in my book. I want to read, at my own pace, what a special is, and avoid misunderstandings.

The menu was odd: too many small items (hence the "tapa" in the name of the restaurant).

I decided to order the bento special: brown rice with ikura and tako.

My bento came with another one of those no-nos in my book: the dressing of the salad was in the center compartment of the bento.

I objected to both the sushi chef and the waiter, asking how I was supposed to pour the dressing on my salad. The answer, they explained me, is to dip the vegetable into the dressing as if it was a sauce. I don't buy it. I asked for a spoon instead.

The rice and the ikura were very enjoyable, but the tako was a notch below. The salad was mostly iceberg, with two (very tasty) small tomatoes.

The bento is not very filling and needed more food. The salmon season had just ended with a record run of salmon sockeye and thought it would be a good option. It did not disappoint. Neither the unagi nigiri I also ordered. In fact, the unagi was beatifuly presented.

Putting into context, Geishas has hard competition. It sits one block from the China Block, and it is around the corner from Shizen. I don't think one is significantly better than the other, but Shizen has a more varied menu, hence I'll go there instead of Geisha.

Verdict: a contrived menu with decent options but nothing that wows. Small portions means you have to order several ones.

Paid: 14.85 + tip

For more information, including location, visit:
The Geisha Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


<2010-09-08 Wed>

No. 101

Located in Caledonia, this restaurant is outside the areas I am usually at, and hence, I haven't visited in perhaps 5-6 years. A visit to a service shop in the area brought me here.

The restaurant is small (might sit 20-30 people). Many of the dinners were referring to the staff by name, which shows that they is certain level of loyalty of the customers to this restaurant. This is not surprising. By being outside of the tourist core, Szechuan's core business are regulars.

The menu is large. As I have written before, I avoid ordering the specials, and go for things that sound interesting (in their translated name). I ordered Schezuan shrimp and rice.

The food was tasty, but lack the extra "hump" of good Chinese food. I would not mind eating hear again, but I would not go out of my way to come to this restaurant.

This area is relatively devoured of restaurants, and as such, Schezuan is a solid option.

The portion was large and I left 1/2 for my doggy bag (which became dinner).

Verdict: Not a bad option if you are in the area.

Paid: 15.04 + tax (but had 1/2 for leftovers)

For more information, including address, visit:
Szechuan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


<2010-09-07 Tue>

No. 100

Coffee Review

100, several hundreds more to go.

It still amazes me how many different food establishments Victoria has. As I keep walking its streets I keep thinking: I haven't been to that one, nor that one; that one, I don't really want to visit...

The "honour" of being 100 landed in "Wild Coffee and Bistro", located in what used to be a Serious Coffee (which had to move half a block south on Broad).

The first thing one notices when entering Wild is the decor and furniture. It wants to appear West Coast, hippie. The furniture is made of drift-wood: ugly, bulky and more important, uncomfortable.

Wild also has the distinction to be the most expensive coffee I have paid for so far: 3.08 for a double espresso. The coffee was average.

Not everything was negative. I absolutely enjoyed the music while I was there, and I enjoyed sitting by the window (floor to ceiling).

This is, however, a very competitive area area for any coffee shop. My personal preference is to go across the street to the Legacy Art Gallery (unfortunately it does not open Monday or Tuesdays, nor late).

Verdict: The coffee is not worth what they charge for.

Paid: 3.08.

For more information, including address, visit:
Wild Coffee & Bistro on Urbanspoon

JR's India Curry House

<2010-09-09 Thu>

No. 99

JR's India Curry House is a small, windowless restaurant tucked in the back of a building. It recently changed hands, and it makes all the difference.

I visited JR's few weeks ago on a Saturday. Their menu at lunch time was their dinner menu, and it felt expensive. The food, though, was excellent. I was told that they now offered a buffet during the weekdays.

I thought about it and decided to review the buffet. As I have written in the past, I am not a fan of buffets, but felt that their food was good enough to deserve it a try.

As it is becoming common, I arrived after 1:00 PM. The options were not very numerous, but were clearly divided on those that were vegetarian and those with meat.

The salad and deserts areas were almost empty.

Overall, I was satisfied with the food. Unfortunately, the food left a heavy feeling for the rest of the day (combination of the amount I ate, and the oil in the food and its spiciness).

On the other hand, when I visited on a Saturday, I was very satisfied with my food. I ordered one of the combination plates. While the lunch was expensive, the food was good, the flavours subtle and very enjoyable.

Verdict: If you like buffets, then give it a try, the food is good, and worth the money.

Paid: 13.44 + tip

For more information, including location, please visit:
India Curry House on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 6, 2010

Brown's Social House

<2010-09-06 Mon>

No. 98

Like many, I have preconceptions when I see a restaurant from the outside. And these types of hip sport-bar-restaurant makes me very cautious. Furthermore, this is a franchise. Its web site seems to be more interested with convincing you to become a franchiser than getting you into the restaurant.

Brown's opened few months ago. I am not quire sure who its clientele is. Some of it is likely to be tourists, but I suspect some of Victoria's young crowd might also e regular by now.

It was a rainy day and it was late. The restaurant was almost empty, except for another table. One thing I dislike in a restaurant is TVs everywhere. A restaurant that has TVs tells me that their main customer is a group of men. Lord forbids they talk to each other about their own lives. Instead, they prefer to watch "something" and center their discussions on what is on TV. Sorry, but for me a TV is a distraction. It is like having rotating ads in front of my table the whole time I am there, and I don't like it.

The waitress was dressed in a tight dress and high heels. It is probably a job requirement, but it must be very tiring. Do some customers feel more inclined to visit a place with such dress code? I wonder.

The menu leans towards the expensive, and tries to have a west cost influence, rather than being "pub" food. I ordered the reddened halibut. I was surprised: it was very good. The fish was properly cooked, and the salad was delicious. I particularly enjoyed the salad; it liked the walnuts and feta, and its overall freshness.

The food is good but expensive. If you like eating at bars, and don't mind the price, I would recommend it.

I really liked the lightboxes with photographs distributed around the restaurant. They remind me of Jeff Wall's photographs, but of course, at a significantly smaller scale.

Verdict: Surprisingly good food, but expensive.

Paid: 19.04 + tip

For more information, including location, please visit:
Brown's Social House on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dolce Vita Douglas

(Coffee Review)

<2010-09-04 Sat>

No. 97

Between its sibling at the London Drugs plaza on Yates, they share the baristas and other staff. That day Anthony was behind the espresso machine. He is, in my opinion, one of the best baristas in town. He explained me that he spends some days in one and some in the other. I mentioned to him that the quality of the coffee was not the same without him. The coffee he prepared for me was excellent.

This Dolce Vita is huge compared to the other one. I like it, although some of the tables are not very comfortable. Even though it has good coffee, it is rarely more than 1/2 full (at least at the times I go). This surprises me and I wonder why. I suspect the reason is that it is located in the wrong side of the street. Perhaps this area is starting to suffer "coffee" saturation (Mirage and Starbucks are just meters away, and there are 4 more coffee places just one block and a half away).

I frequently stop by, get a coffee, and sit by the window, looking at the hectic pace of this part of town.

Verdict: Good coffee and a pleasant environment. I am a regular.

For more information, including address, visit:
Dolce Vita Coffee Art (Douglas) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Old Time Deli

(Coffee Review)

<2010-09-02 Thu>

No. 96

In the middle of tourist strip (Government St), Old Time Deli is a coffee shop and deli with Internet workstations in the back. The artwork on the walls brings me back memories of a defunct favourite---the Herald Street Cafe---where they use to hang. I wonder what the relationship is.

The place is large, but lacks "soul". It feels cold, uninviting, in a way that is hard to explain. That they play the radio on loudspeakers does not help. On the other hand, their tables are very comfortable. I sat by the window, and enjoyed watching the tourists.

They are a deli with lots of pastries, but, as I usual, I only ordered a espresso.

Surprisingly, the coffee was good. Significantly better than Starbucks, and similar to Murchie's, but I still prefer Macchiato, around the corner.

Verdict: Good coffee

For more information, including address, visit:
Old Time Deli on Urbanspoon


<2010-09-02 Thu>

No. 95

In online-reviews, Pagliacci's is a well-liked restaurant, but I don't understand why (at least at lunch time).

In the positive side, the place is one of the most interesting to visit. Every cranny is filled with a photograph or art work that is worth looking at. No matter where you sit, you cannot stop looking around.

This is also one of the densest restaurants in town. Your table is right next to another two or three. I don't mind it, and actually, I sort of like it. It makes it feel alive. Not only it has lots of tables, the place is packed all the time. It is not uncommon to have to wait for a table. I was there at 1:30 and it was still full.

I ordered their Chicken Chickadee. This dish is chicken breast served
on pasta, with a soup.

The soup was lentils, and it was ok. It had the acidity common in canned tomatoes; the parmesan garnishing was a very good accent to an otherwise forgettable soup. It was accompanied with slices of focaccia; unfortunately it was oily and very salty and I didn't enjoy it.

The chicken was served with a sauce made with shrimp and artichokes. It looked very good. As I usually do, I smelled it. And smelled it again. Something was wrong: I had to get very close to the dish to really feel any significant smell. This was odd. My brain was telling me that this had to smell, yet it barely did. Was my nose loosing it?

I started eating it and discovered that it not only lacked smell, but it lacked flavour. How in Earth, could they create a dish so rich in ingredients, and make it taste so plain? The only words I have to describe its flavour is frozen food. The chicken chickadee tasted like a frozen dinner.

The food was abundant. In terms of amount it sounded like a good deal, but it was flavourless. Why is Pagliacci's so popular beats me.

Verdict: Lunch that tastes like frozen dinner. Avoid.

Paid: 14 dollars + tip

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

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Discovery Coffee Oak Bay Avenue

Coffee Review

No. 94

<2010-09-01 Wed>

Discovery has become one of my favourite coffee destinations. There are many reasons why.

First, it has excellent coffee, prepared by baristas that care for their trade. They usually ask me how the coffee was, something that, sadly, is not very common.

Second, I love the place. I like the reused sawing tables, and the planters made from recycled objects.

Third: I like their vinyl music collection and the request for donations.

Forth: the place is large, bright and comfy.

Verdict: I have become a regular. Too bad they don't stay open too late. Highly recommended.

For more information, including address, visit:
Discovery Coffee (Oak Bay) on Urbanspoon

Osaka Revisited

<2010-09-01 Wed>

I had great hope for Osaka. It is located in a restaurant that is in my way to work, its prices were good, and its food looked good.

I have come here several times (5 I think) and this restaurant suffers of one problem that plagues restaurants in Victoria: inconsistency. One day it can be great, the next it does not.

They also vary the dishes (perhaps this is experimentation) but it is annoying from the consumer point of view. For example, once a dish was served in a sizzling plate, the next time it didn't. If you want to make those changes, call it something else, to avoid a disappointing your customers. Even the flavour of soy sauce changes from one time to the next.

The other problem it faces is slow service. I have been there when there is only one server on duty, and he is clearly overworked. Even though I see he is working hard, there is no way he can cover properly all the tables in the restaurant.

Sadly, I no longer recommend it.