Sherman's Food Adventures

Pagliacci's

Originally, we had other plans for dinner on our last night in Victoria.  However, I was open to suggestions and that was certainly the case.  When we were in Nanaimo, our friend suggested we try out Pagliacci's.  In fact, someone else gave the same recommendation via IG as well. That sounded good since we love pasta and the place is kid-friendly.  Furthermore, it was only a short 3 block walk from our hotel too.  Now the place is generally busy, so we were prepared for a wait.  I guess it was our lucky day as it was only 10 minutes.

We decided to share some pastas including the Linguine Vongole that was prepared with fresh clams in the shell.  This turned out to be quite light and mild-tasting.  There definitely was minor hints of garlic, beurre blanc and herbs, but the dominant flavours were the clams and tart cherry tomatoes.  With that in mind, if we got all of the ingredients in one bite, there was enough there for impact.  With a somewhat similar flavour profile, the Salmon Sing in the Street featured spinach, basil, wild Sockeye salmon, red onions, cherry tomatoes, lemon, white wine and olive oil.  This one was more tart due to the lemon and sweeter because of the onions.  It was also light-tasting except when eaten with the tart tomatoes and fairly moist salmon.  In both cases, the pasta was fairly al dente, but not firm.

My son decided to try the Cabinet of Dr. Cappelletti sporting tortellini stuffed with beef, ricotta and Romano & Parmesan cheeses in a marinara sauce with mushrooms, onions, red wine and topped with baked mozzarella and Parmesan.  We found this to be quite tart with the Earthiness of mushrooms and sharpness of the fairly raw onions.  The tortellini was al dente with a fairly flavourful filling.  There was no shortage of baked cheese on top, but we felt this was our least favourite pasta.  Our last dish was the Old Man & the Sea 1lb. of Vancouver Island Clams.  The sauce consisted of pesto & shrimp beurre blanc which was sweet and shrimpy, but totally too salty.  So much so, the herbs were a bit obscured.  Despite that, the clams were plump and perfectly prepared.  Overall, we were indifferent with the food at Pagliacci's.  It did the job, but was hardly memorable either.

The Good:
- Attentive service
- Reasonable pricing
- Lots of choice

The Bad:
- Cramped and not completely comfortable seating
- Food was okay, but not memorable

Red Fish Blue Fish

You've heard the phrase, "location, location, location" and how it can make or break a business.  For me, I think location can be super important for specific restaurants.  I didn't say this as an absolute because there are outliers and also special cases.  Now when it comes to a seafood restaurant, being located right next to the water seems to suddenly give it credibility despite it not meaning a thing.  Now when you combine location and legitimacy, you have not only a formula for success, but it just completes the overall theme.  This would be the case for Red Fish Blue Fish right located right on the water in Victoria Harbour.

We stopped by for lunch during their busy hours and proceeded to wait over 45 minutes for our food.  Yes, they are successful.  Right after ordering, we did get our bowl of Chowder consisting of chipotle coconut and sweet corn with Pacific white fish confit.  This was lit as the advertised flavours came on strong with hits of aromatic coconut spiked with a lingering heat.  The sweet pops of corn provided a nice compliment to the spice while the ample amount of fish made the chowder robust and hearty.  Next up was a small order of Crispy Fried Oysters atop cilantro slaw served with tartar sauce.  This was also very good with only a thin layer of tempura batter.  The oysters were barely cooked through meaning they were plump, buttery and creamy.

Onto the fish & chips, we had a 2 piece order of the Pacific Cod & Chips.  This sported 2 large fillets of ling cod that were prepared properly where they were flaky and moist.  On the outside, the light tempura batter was crunchy and stayed adhered to each piece until the last bite.  The accompanying tartar sauce was creamy while spiked with dill and only a mild amount of tang.  Crispy and light, the Kennebec twice-cooked fries were on point and the perfect partner to the fish.  To get some variety, we also had one piece of Wild Salmon and BC Halibut & Chips.  Predictably, the halibut was more firm and dense due to the it being a leaner fish.  As for the salmon, it was actually quite moist despite being Chum.

Lastly, I added 2 Tacones including the Albacore Tuna and the Tempura Cod. Personally, I preferred the cod more as it was light and crispy.  It was accompanied by cilantro slaw, pea shoots, lemon-pickled onions, million-island dressing and sweet smoked chili adobo.  Hence there was enough acidity, crunch and creaminess.  Also, the slight amount of spice was welcomed too.  The tuna was rare, but a little dense for some reason.  It was also accompanied by the same veggies, yet with a different sauce being spicy spot prawn mayo.  This meant it was sweet and slightly briny.  As you can see, we tried almost everything on the menu and most of it was very good.  Sure, RFBF has got the touristy by-the-water vibe, but that doesn't take away from it being a good place for F&C.

The Good:
- Waterfront location
- Solid F&C
- Fair portions

The Bad:
- Can run out of seating quick
- Often long lineups (45 min+) during peak Summer season

Ferris' Grill & Garden Patio

When Viv and I visited Victoria for the first time together a long time ago, we had visited a few spots including the Sticky Wicket and Ferris' Oyster Bar.  This time around, I wanted to reminisce, so we had to do a return visit to one of the aforementioned restaurants.  Since the kiddies were with us this time around (they didn't exist the last time...), we chose Ferris' Grill & Garden Patio for obvious reasons (Sticky Wicket more known as a watering hole...).  Of course, eating at the grill & garden patio was a bit brighter and kid-friendly than the actual oyster bar.

Viv and I started out with a 1/2 dozen of Oysters on the half shell served with shallot mignonette, ponzu, cocktail sauce, Tabasco and lemon.  We weren't told what type of oysters were on the plate, but my best guess the small ones were Royal Miyagi.  Not sure about the other 4 but according to the menu, they could've been Cecil's Whaletown Bay and Hollie's Holliewood.  Regardless of that, they were supremely fresh, briny and sweet.  The bigger ones were very creamy and sweet.  We did get a couple of shell fragments in a few of them unfortunately.  I decided to try their West Coast Chowder with smoked wild salmon, cherrywood smoked oysters, clams and bacon.  This was a seriously rich and smoky chowder that was creamy with the meatiness from the bacon and big chunks of potato.  This was full-flavoured and full-bodied.

For my entree, I went for the Bouillabaisse featuring wild salmon, local shellfish and prawns.  I thought the spicy tomato broth was tart, yet fairly one note.  It could've used some fennel rather than just onions.  The seafood was expertly prepared though with flaky moist salmon, buttery clams & mussels and meaty shrimp.  The best part was the large plump oyster which was buttery and creamy with a sweet brininess.  Just as good was the perfectly fried oyster that had the same qualities, except with a crispy breading.  Viv decided on the White Miso and Honey Glazed Salmon on Jasmine rice with yau choy and a ginger, sesame & soy sauce.  The salmon was also prepared properly here being moist and flaky.  The rice was chewy while the veggies were still vibrant.  I really enjoyed the ginger sesame sauce as it was impactful and paired well with the salmon.  However, it was far too salty.

My son, inexplicably had the Smoked Tuna Sandwich featuring albacore tuna, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo on a brioche bun.  Suddenly, he is enjoying rare or raw fish (or in this case, raw textured fish)...  Well, it was a great choice as the tuna was buttery soft while exhibiting a balanced smokiness, yet not salty.  Hence, it was nicely complimented by the bacon.  The use of brioche bun was the proper choice as it didn't take way from the soft texture of the tuna.  On the side, the house-cut fries were crispy and appealing.  My daughter wasn't very adventurous this time around and merely went for the Kid's Pasta with tomato sauce.  Nothing much to write home about here, but the penne was al dente, but there needed to be more sauce.  Overall, we were able to be nostalgic while dining on above-average food.  Now, when is the next time we will be back?

The Good:
- Decent eats
- Loved the garden patio
- Decent service

The Bad:
- A little pricey for what you get
- Food took forever to arrive

The Market Restaurant (Goats on the Roof)

I'm sure better choices for eats were available to us as we were driving away from Little Qualicum Falls on Highway 4, but it was an hour past lunch and we weren't too fussy.  So we ended up at a touristy spot of sorts in The Market Restaurant at Old Country Market.  Located in Coombs, the market is really a little village consisting of a grocery store, souvenir shop, deli, bakery, restaurant, pizzeria, donut shop and ice cream parlour.  But the real draw is the goats on the roof.  Yes, there are goats living on the grass roof!

Beyond that, we were hungry, so I decided on the Rueben with brisket, sauerkraut, cheese and dressing.  Sandwiched in between crunchy toasted marbled rye, there was a decent amount of ingredients in between.  I found the brisket to be tender and not overly fatty, but it was too sour and musty tasting due to the sauerkraut.  It was tangy and provided a nice crunch while the cheese was sharp and nicely melted.  The side of mustard was great as it added more tang and a touch of spice.  My son decided on the OCM Classic Burger with aged cheddar, bacon, tomato, lettuce and sauce.  This was actually pretty good despite the patty looking like a pack of ground beef.  It was nicely seasoned, well-charred and juicy.  The aged cheddar added a nice sharpness while the burger sauce had a bit of a kick.  The fries were pretty crunchy, yet dry at the same time.

Viv ended up with the Crispy Chicken Burger with asiago and bacon on a pretzel bun.  This was the best of the bunch with a crispy piece of chicken where the meat was succulent and well-seasoned.  The asiago added a nice pungency while the crispy bacon added both texture and smokiness.  Loved how the pretzel bun held up while not being too dense.  We subbed a Loaded Poutine for the fries and it was good.  The gravy was flavouful and puposefully salty and there was enough bacon, sour cream and onions to give it a baked potato effect.  My daughter kept it simple with the kid's Chicken Tenders with a bowl of Clam Chowder.  Creamy with plenty of dill and brininess, the chowder was actually quite good.  In the end, the food did what it was supposed to do (as in feed us).  However, the place isn't cheap, but it is cute especially with goats on the roof.

The Good:
- Nice novelty
- Food was serviceable
- Lots of other stuff to eat and see there

The Bad:
- On the pricier side
- Food is okay, but not memorable

Bistro Taiyo

Honestly, my visit to Nanaimo had more to do with visiting friends than anything else.  Hence, my hopes for good eats in Nanaimo were as low as sugar-free cola.  However, after a search of the best places to eat, there were actually a few interesting choices.  Just my luck, we were here on a Monday and the majority of them were closed for dinner.  So with limited options, we picked one of the top-rated spots in Astera's Greek Taverna.  Again, just my luck, they were completely booked!  So we took a stroll up the block and stumbled upon Bistro Yaiyo.  No, Japanese was not the first thing we thought of, but we were hangry!

Viv wanted the Takoyaki and hoped the kiddies would try them.  Well, they did, but I guess it wasn't their thing.  Not sure why since I thought they were prepared properly.  They were served on a plate that held them perfectly in place.  Soft and fluffy, these had a nice mouth-feel and featured a piece of chewy, yet tender octopus in the middle.  There was just enough sauce and bonito flakes on top.  One dish we could've done without was the Ebi Mayo as the batter was too thick and gummy.  Hence, it wasn't crispy enough and once we got to the last piece, it was texturally off-putting.  In terms of the spicy mayo, it was a tad too spicy where it was too dominant.

My daughter wanted to try the Salmon Belly for some reason.  This was the first time she ever suggested that we order it, but it wasn't out-of-the-ordinary since she does love salmon.  Well, this certainly passed the litmus test with her since it was crispy on the outside and buttery soft on the inside.  It was fresh-tasting and only lightly salted.  It was cooked just enough were it was still fatty and tender.  Instead of the usual rice dishes for the kiddies, we wanted them to try something new in the Katsu Curry.  This was a large portion of rice, sauce and a pork cutlet.  The pork was rather lean which meant it wasn't exactly juicy.  Yet at the same time, it wasn't chewy.  We thought the panko coating was appealingly crispy.  As for the curry, it was rich and lightly sweet while packing noticeable heat.

For our sushi roll, we got the Taiyo House Roll which was rather large.  It featured a tonne of tobiko on top while the rice was nicely chewy.  We thought the roll was pretty good with plenty of ingredients.  As usual, my son wanted his fill of Nigiri including tamago, unagi and smoked salmon.  This featured the same chewy mildly-seasoned rice, but we thought that the topping was rather meager for the amount of rice.  Lastly, we had the Chirashi Don which was topped with fairly thin slices of fish.  Most were quite good except the albacore tuna was a bit too soft.  We loved the inclusion of red tuna and were shocked that our son ate 3 pieces!!!  Woohoo!  Overall, the food at Bistro Taiyo was decent and ultimately did the job, especially in Nanaimo.

The Good:
- Respectable Japanese, especially in a place not known for it
- Friendly service

The Bad:
- Prices can get up there
- Small place, can get pretty cramped

Falconetti's

Wow, it's been awhile since I've visited Falconetti's.  I think the last time was 4 years ago for the Parallel 49 Cask Dinner.  That was with Miss Y and ironically, it was once again with her that we visited the place for my last stop for the Burger Challenge.  Generally, Falconetti's is famous for their house-made sausages paired with their beers on tap, but they threw their hat into the ring for the burger challenge.  However, we weren't there to eat one burger and call it a meal either.  Yes, we ordered a few more dishes to supplement the required dish.

We started with the Smokin' Wings with honey garlic sauce (served on the side as requested).  With the sauce not directly on the wings, we were able to see that the exterior was fried beautifully with fully rendered skin.  It was crispy while the meat was still juicy.  The wings didn't have a lot of inherent seasoning which was no problem since they were house-smoked.  We could really taste the depth-of-flavour.  Next up, we had the Maui Zaui consisting of short ribs marinated in spices and then grilled.  On the surface, they looked like grilled Korean short ribs, but they weren't.  Rather, they were much meatier (as in less tenderizers used) and the flavours were not as sweet.  They were on the chewier side, but for me at least, I didn't mind the natural texture.

Their entry into the Burger Challenge was the Smokehouse Steakburger sporting house sirloin beef with smoky gouda cheese, house cherry-wood smoked bacon, sweet pickled red onion and chopped romaine slathered with Tennessee whiskey tomato jam and grainy mustard on a Cabernet bun.  As simple as this burger seemed, it was really good.  The thick meat patty was moist and juicy while the ingredients created a smoky, sweet and tangy combination of flavours.  Of course we couldn't have a meal at Falconetti's without one of their house-made sausages in the Honey Bratwurst.  It was a sweet concoction as the name suggested with honey mustard and caramelized onions.  The brat itself had a nice exterior snap while bursting with juiciness.  Compared to my previous 2 visits here (spaced apart by years), this one was the strongest.  Food was on point and prices didn't hurt the wallet either.

*Burger and some items were complimentary*

The Good:
- Well-prepared eats, especially for a pub restaurant
- Reasonably-priced
- Music on the weekends

The Bad:
- Fairly small space and get packed easily on the weekends

The Ellis

Not since the days of chomping down on cheap wings at The King's Head and Malones have I really ventured out into Kits for eats.  Yes, those days have long passed and neither can I tackle 4 dozen wings at one sitting.  However, the recent Burger Challenge brought me back and to a gastropub no less in The Ellis.  Located on York, The Ellis is not far from the cluster of restaurants along Yew.  Spacious, but still pub-like, the interior was not too dark and there was a combination of a long table and smaller ones.

We came here for the burger, but we also ordered a bunch of other things including a pub favourite in the Togarashi Wings.  Just by the name itself, one would realize that they put an Asian spin on them.  I thought they did a really good job with the deep fry as the wings were crispy with rendered skin.  Underneath, the meat was moist and tender while a bit lacking in flavour.  However, the ample togarashi helped alleviate that with a spiciness.  Next up, we tried the Grilled Octopus with crispy potatoes, chorizo buttermilk sauce, confit onions and Swiss chard.  Beautifully plated, the veggies were nicely charred and tasty.  As for the octopus, it was tender, but too tender where it was lacking any resistance or chew.  It did taste good with enough seasoning as well as a background tanginess and spice from the sauce.

Surprisingly, one of the best small dishes was the Vegetables! which consisted of Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and mushrooms with roasted garlic, chili and lemon.  These were on point with a vibrant crunch while still cooked all-the-way-through.  Masterful job on the Brussels sprouts as they can be tricky.  The saute was definitely subjected to enough heat as there was very little moisture at the bottom while the flavours were intense.  After this we moved onto the Pound O' Mussels in a broth sporting double smoked bacon, Talisman ale, butter & winter herbs.  I thought the mussels were fairly well-prepared being buttery and soft.  As much as I enjoyed the ample bacon and strong ale flavour, the broth could've been cooked down just a tad more.

Of course we eventually had the Burger Challenge entry in the Mediterranean Burger consisting of one pork and one beef patty, roasted peppers and onions, ricotta and provolone cheeses, pickled chillies and dried tomatoes.  This was a nice-looking creation which had great mouth-feel mostly due to the soft poppy seed bun.  It was still able to hold everything in without disintegrating.  The peppers and pickled chilies along with the dried tomatoes added an appealing tang and spice.  We actually preferred the beef patty alone without the pork patty as it was a bit dry.  However, the combination of ingredients provided enough moisture to help alleviate that.

Our last item, the Hickory Smoked Side Ribs, was our absolute favourite.  We didn't expect such a great dish from a gastropub.  The long whole side rib (not cut in half) was house-smoked, grilled and finished off with a spicy BBQ sauce.  The smokiness was strong, yet not overpowering while the rib was meaty and tender.  I loved the slight chewiness of the meat where it wasn't too soft.  What brought the whole thing together was the awesome BBQ sauce as it had depth and was notably spicy while not overly sweet.  The side of fries were money too being house-cut, crispy and potatoey.  For dessert, we had 4 Mini-Beignets atop lemon curd, chocolate, raspberry and peanut butter.  These were more like soft and light egg puffs (similar to the Chinese ones) rather than the chewy and denser New Orleans-style.  We liked these more since they were so airy and lightly crispy.  The sauces were quite good too.  Overall, the Ellis offered up some pretty good eats and really lived up to the gastropub moniker.

*Burger and dessert were complimentary*

The Good:
- Generally solid food
- Relaxed open space

The Bad:
- Some minor execution issues
- Parking in the area is a challenge