Bin 4

After months of repeatedly passing by Bin 4 in it’s beginning stages, I was extremely excited to give it a try once the doors opened to patrons! I informed my man that our visit to Bin 4 was a mandatory part of his visit (he lives on the mainland), and so Saturday night we went!

Atmosphere:(3.75)

The atmosphere is decent, if a bit sparse. They certainly have a strong brand they’ve established, but the ‘minimalism’ thing isn’t particularly intimate – not does it cater to the late night party crowd particularly well. Well, it could be worse.

Service:(4.5/5)

Despite the server taking a million+ years to serve us, she was top notch after that blip (which she apologized profusely for, and was seemingly a result of ‘ironing out the kinks’). Proficient, friendly, knowledgeable… she even initiated some polite conversation about our dining experience and how we came to know about the restaurant.

Food:(4/5)

Matthew had what I am assuming is the “Bin 4 Bistro” burger – chicken burger with brie, onion relish, and bacon. I had the vegetarian bean burger (unsure of what the official names are due to lack of photographic memory/internet menu). One thing I appreciated is the excellent bun quality, which naturally would be of great importance in a place that specializes in burgers. Both Matthew and I thoroughly enjoyed our burgers – they were full of flavour, creative, and delicious. My only beef (ha-ha) with my burger was perhaps a sense of overkill on flavour; the patty was intensely spiced with a curry flavour, which was tasty, but too much paired with feta cheese. Too many flavours – perhaps a milder cheese would be a better pairing. Regardless, it was definitely better than the majority of bland, cardboard veggie burgers out there – and was clearly hand made with some degree of care. Matthew mentioned that while his burger was good – it was just a good burger, which he would argue is not actually that hard to find/make. So, while it’s nice to go out to dinner and have a choice of a million burger types, you have to want a burger(duh, perhaps – but considering that I am not a huge burger person, it may deter me from being a regular). Oh, and fries/salad were pretty good too.

Value:(4/5)

Good. I did not feel totally ripped off. Meal justified price. Competitive for Victoria. Etc.

Overall:(4/5)

I would return to Bin 4, though probably after 9pm next time (burgers are half off with a drink!). It was quite good; though, as I mentioned, burgers are not high on my ‘must consume’ list. Plus, only having the choice of two burgers on the menu as a vegetarian is something of a deterring factor. My man felt similarly; that it was good, but not as a ‘must go’ kind of dining destination. Perhaps I am overly critical. Well, decide for yourselves, hungry internet surfers!
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Romeo’s

Having already been to Romeo’s in Broadmead for a work party, my Mum suggested we go for an impromptu weeknight dinner. I was a little hesitant at first, as I had a sense that Romeo’s was just another variation on Boston Pizza (which it is); but I am always game for trying something new. Besides, even shitty pizza isn’t that bad.

Atmosphere:(2.5/5)

Romeo’s is a family-style restaurant, complete with tacky decor. The booths are large, which may be nice for a group of people, but my mum and I felt unpleasantly far away from one another. I wouldn’t recommend it for an intimate date night, that’s for sure. Realistically, it is a good place for families, or groups of people who aren’t picky about having a generic dining experience.

Service:(3/5)

Wow; our server actually initially stunned me with his incompetence. Unreasonable time waiting to order, drinks mix up, walking past and semi-ignoring us, etc. However, he may simply have been having a bad day, and he did successfully deliver us the right food and get our bills right, so I can’t give him too bad of a score. Plus, once I got chatting to him as I paid my bills, I saw that he was actually a pretty nice guy who liked his job. I didn’t dare suggest that he might consider using this to his advantage through customer service, but regardless I left with a pretty decent impression.

Food:(3.75/5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got the individual Mediterreanean pizza, my mum got the Spinach Special. I tried both, and I must admit – their pizza is pretty damn decent. Crust was not too thin, not too doughy, lots of toppings, adequate cheese, tasty flavours… my only criticisms would be that the spinach pizza was too salty, and my pizza too greasy – but realistically, this didn’t deter me too much. Both my mum and I had a couple of slices to take home, even with the smallest-sized pizza (though I imagine this may not be the case for the average ravenous male), and was very delicious the next day, too.

Value:(4/5)

Not too shabby. I felt like I got good value from my eleven dollar pizza – obviously it wasn’t Prima Strada quality, but I had some left for the next day, and I was not paying Prima Strada prices.

Overall:(3.5/5)

Would I go back to Romeos? Possibly. It was pretty good pizza at pretty good prices. That said, I am on a quest to find EXCELLENT food at pretty good prices, so my pursuits may not bring me back there. If I lived near by, I might consider a take out pizza on the way home, as it certainly rivals many other take out places. Overall, pretty good if you’re in a group, want decent food without breaking the bank; or if you want a take out pizza that is a little less doughy, without being a thin crust.

 

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Ooh La La Cupcakes

I am a total sucker for cupcakes. I know, I know; they are overpriced and trendy and cutesy and totally targeted at my demographic. Do I care? Obviously not. Victoria is a city of cupcakes, with Ooh La La, Pink Sugar, and Crumsby’s leading the way – all of which have successfully satisfied my sweet tooth at one time or another. Upon the opening of the new Ooh La La location on Broughton St, a cake-loving friend and I knew we had to go. (Funnily enough, this is the same friend I went to Pink Sugar and Crumsby’s with… I see a recurring theme in our friendship.) Regardless, cupcakes were had and cupcakes were enjoyed.

Atmosphere(3.5/5):

Ooh La La has a vaguely parisienne feel, which is fairly effective. Cupcakes are nicely displayed, and the colourful chandeliers and quite charming.The only problem I have is that it is having a bit of an identity crisis between retail shop and cupcake cafe – as is the case with Pink Sugar. I get the sense they cater to people who want to take their cupcakes and leave; evidenced by the not-particularly-comfortable seating. I understand that this is their main clientele, but I would prefer a couple comfy armchairs to sit in. Maybe that’s me just being picky.

Service(5/5):

Service really was great – no complaints. The counter girl offered us her suggestions, and bumped us up in line as the folks in front were taking their sweet time.

Food(5/5):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So good. I got the “Monkey Business” cupcake (banana cake with cream cheese icing), and my cupcake accomplice went for the Twist and Shout (lemon with raspberry filling). I should mention that it took us a good 10 minutes to choose a cupcake, because they all looked divine. Mine was perfect – moist, rich icing, perfect cake to icing ratio… absolutely delicious. My cupcake pal seemed enthralled with hers as well.

Value(4/5):

3.61 with tax for something that made me that happy? I’m not really complaining. It’s a specialty item that you certainly wouldn’t buy every day, so paying a few extra cents doesn’t bother me.

Overall(4.25/5):

Yum yum yum! Go and visit Ooh La La on Broughton for a sweet treat, or at any of their other 3 locations. I highly recommend.

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The Reef

The Reef hold a special place in my heart, and it is probably the restaurant I have visited most during my time living in Victoria. In fact, it was one of the first meals out that I had when I moved here. As a big ethnic food/curry fan, I was thrilled to find a new type of cuisine to try – and Caribbean food certainly doesn’t disappoint! With a fun atmosphere, and a great menu selection, The Reef is great for a decently priced, satisfying meal.

Atmosphere(4/5):

The Reef is colourful, with lots of art and bits and bobs adorning, well, everything. It has a distinct Caribbean feel, with Rastafarian references and Reggae music. It’s good stuff, if perhaps verging on a teeny bit tacky (I’m not complaining). I will admit, however, that I miss the little fake fish tanks that used to adorn the tables. I said I don’t mind tacky, didn’t I?

Service(3.75/5):

I have been to The Reef more times than I can remember, though I would venture to say that I have never experienced terrible service. Mediocre, perhaps – but never bad. This particular visit was prompt (perhaps a little too prompt – our entrees came before we had finished our Johnnycakes) and friendly.

Food(4/5):

(Apologies for the blurry pictures – a restaurant isn’t the best place to learn how to use a new camera!)

I had the Jamaican Jerk with Tofu (11$), and my Mum had the Mission Tacos with chicken (9$). Portions were perfect (not overwhelmingly large, but enough to have some leftovers in my case), and the flavours were great. If you like a little kick, I would highly recommend ordering anything on the menu that has the Jerk sauce on it – it is delicious.

In the past, I have had the Chana, the Kingston Quesadilla, the Mo-Ca Burger, the Trini Roti, and the Tacos, and I was always satisfied with my meals. Most of the menu items have vegetarian options, in addition to a choice of meats if you are so inclined. Oh, and the Johnnycakes. Complimentary little dough balls of heaven +butter. Go for the Johnnycakes. They have a pretty interesting drinks menu, too.

Value(4.5/5):

The Reef is definitely good value, with most of the entrees coming in at under 15$. Portion sizes, as I mentioned previously, are good, and quality is there as well.

Overall(4/5):

Yum yum! Go to the Reef and have a Mojito and something Jerk-y. You will eat a tasty meal and not feel ripped off. Hooray!

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Cabin 12

Brunch in Victoria is scary. Hordes of hungry families and hungover students, all vying competitively for the next available table. Lines are long. The “hangries” are rampant. 45 minute waits are reasonable. John’s Place, Floyd’s, Blue Fox, Shine – all crazy, scary places when 10am rolls around on a Saturday or Sunday. However, I think I have found an alternative that doesn’t make me want to curl into the fetal position! Enter Cabin 12.

Atmosphere: (4.5/5)

Everything about Cabin 12 is quirky and charming – from the eclectic art collection to the slightly muffled music of the record player, to the chalk boards and the shelves of books to read. It is fairly large and open, so you don’t feel too crowded or claustrophobic the way you would in John’s or Blue Fox. I wasn’t totally sold on the shabby classroom-style chairs, but they did carry their own offbeat charm nevertheless. And although it should be made clear that we visited Cabin 12 on a Friday morning at around 10am, it was completely empty. Now, I am sure it gets busier on the weekends – but I can pretty much guarantee that we would have been waiting in line had we gone to one of the more popular brunch spots.

Service: (4.5/5)

Service was great – friendly, prompt, and personable. It is easy to receive good service when you are the only people in the restaurant, I will admit. But our server seemed genuinely happy to be working there, as did the other staff we briefly encountered.

Food:(4/5):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We thoroughly enjoyed our meals! Matthew got the special, which was an eggs benny with chicken strips and buffalo sauce, and I got the apple oatmeal. Matthew said it was one of the best breakfasts he has ever had, and that the hashbrowns were like little cubes of heaven. He loved the chicken, and found the eggs to be perfectly done. As for my oatmeal, it was extremely delicious as well! The consistency was spot on, and the apples were a great complement. My only complaint was that there was perhaps a little too much maple syrup on it, and I would have preferred to add it myself. It mostly pooled to the sides of the dish anyway, so it didn’t end up being cloyingly sweet. Meals were enjoyed by all!

Value(3.5/5):

Cabin 12 pretty much sits in at the same price point as most other brunch places. I would argue that the quality of the food is also comparable, with the added bonus of no line.

Overall(4/5):

I would definitely revisit Cabin 12. It has a great vibe, the food is yumtastic, and I saw no evidence of the hangry crowds.
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Zambri’s

Oh, Zambri’s. I so wanted to love you. I wanted my first visit to be the start of a beautiful and long lasting Italian food relationship. But, alas – you did not sweep me off my feet. Perhaps I ordered the wrong thing? Perhaps my expectations were too high? I may try with you again one day, but I have a feeling we may never be more than acquaintances.

Atmosphere:(5/5)

One thing Zambri’s does well is their beautiful location in the Atrium. I never went to the restaurant before it moved, but the ambience in this new location is fabulous. The floor to ceiling windows and opulently decorated bar had me at hello. If you want a beautiful place to eat, this is it.

Service:(4.5/5)

Service was very good – prompt, chatty, and genuinely friendly. It was a fairly quiet Thursday evening, and the food and bill came quickly. The server was even willing to take pictures of my mother and I without a trace of eye-rolling.

Food:(3/5)

We started with bread and some mixed olives/picked vegetables. The bread was extremely mediocre, and not particularly worth eating – rather bland and tough. However, the olives were a pleasant pre-meal nibbling experience. Zambri’s, why don’t you offer bread that is delicious? Do we not deserve delicious bread?

Both my mum and I got pizza. Me the goat cheesy Alpina, she the creamy mushroom pizza. They were good. But not great. Not like Prima Strada. I know I shouldn’t compare, but if I’m paying top dollar for a pizza, I am going to get the best pie money can buy. Now, this is my only experience of Zambri’s, so I hate to paint their cuisine as mediocre when I have only tried their pizza. If someone can prove to me that the pastas are THAT GOOD, I would consider a second run at it. But realistically, the bread at Pag’s is a whole lot better, the pastas at Pag’s are cheaper and delicious, and the pizzas at Prima are better. Hm.

Value:(3/5)

At the higher end of the dinner spectrum, I wouldn’t say the value was quite there for me. This place is not cheap, and I expected the food to reflect that. Not so much, unfortunately. I was not inspired to return, despite the good service and lovely atmosphere.

Overall:(3.5/5)

I visited Zambri’s for my birthday dinner, and it was not particularly memorable. Not bad, but also not great. Perhaps I can be convinced to return to gain a wider perspective on the quality of their menu, but first impressions do stick.

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Lotus Pond

Lotus Pond makes both vegetarian and meat-lovers’ tummies happy. I have visited this little gem on Johnson on many an occasion, and found that it rarely disappoints.

Atmosphere (3/5):

The decor at Lotus Pond is plain, and the setting is definitely not that of fine dining. Water is served in plastic cups, the lighting isn’t great… the setting is not unpleasant, it is just simple and plain. They have nice tinkling music playing, and I find that I usually feel quite serene after I leave the restaurant.

Service (4.5/5):

I swear, I am served by the same girl every time I visit Lotus Pond. She is a little shy, but attentive – and does a great job despite her English not being the greatest. I have had a little bit of difficulty getting recommendations/explanations of the menu from her, but other than that service has been spot on.

Food (4.5/5):

Of course, there is the lunch buffet. I will mention that briefly, only to say that it is delicious but A. be careful of how much you load on your plate and B. as with any buffet, it can be a little lukewarm at times. I do eat and enjoy the buffet, but the true quality of Lotus Pond food is found on their menu. Specifically, the back page which has very reasonably priced dinner combos. (Apologies for crappy yellow pictures).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We started with spring rolls (which are yumtastic), hot and sour soup for Matthew and Wonton for me. Both are decently good – though the wonton is fairly plain, and the hot and sour is a little crazy for my liking (though the more I eat it, the more I get used to the taste).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the left is the lemon mock chicken combo, and to the right is the pineapple mock chicken balls. Matthew and I shared these, and thoroughly enjoyed both! These two items are apparently the most popular on the dinner combo menu. The veggies that are served with them are delicious, not overcooked, and pleasantly sauced without being heavy. I think one of my favourite things about Lotus Pond is that the food has the appeal of a greasy Chinese meal without the heavy, gross feeling you get afterwards.

Value (4/5):

The dinner combo is amazing value. Everything else on the menu is below regular Victoria pricing for a typical Asian dish (think 10-15$ at Lotus Pond where it might be 13-17$ elsewhere). Good value.

Overall (4/5):

Eat at Lotus Pond. It is not fine dining, but it redeems itself in all other ways!

 
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Veneto

The man and I recently visited Veneto two times: once for dinner, and once for dessert. It was a place I never really thought about going to (probably because I’m not much of a fancy schmanzy “cocktail” girl), but it was recommended to me by a few people so I decided it was worth a try.

Atmosphere: (5/5)

I loved the atmosphere at Veneto – it’s swanky, but not pretentiously so. We saw a diverse crowd: hipsters, seniors, as well as a guy that my boyfriend swears was Chris Martin (don’t get your hopes up, ladies. I think Coldplay is on tour in Japan.). My point is that it is a place where anyone can go to have a nice night out and not feel out of place. The music is a surprising and eclectic mix of ambient, indie, lite techno, and even a little folk. The decor is simple but classy, and you can sit at the bar, in the lounge area, or in the dining room.

Service: (3.75/5)

It took us AGES to get any service on our first visit. Granted, it was a Friday night, but it wasn’t that busy. However, our server was friendly enough and once we ordered our food it came quickly. On the second visit, our server was almost too prompt in her service, and revisited the table a number of times before we had decided on our orders. Overall, the service seems well-meaning, but my experiences were a little sketchy.

Food: (3.75/5)

I should begin by mentioning how impressed both Matt and I were with the drinks menu. It is extensive, detailed, and fascinating. However, we stuck to wine and beer. As for food, we both ordered tapas-style entrees. I got the vegetarian (pictured above), and he got the lamb (photo at beginning of post). We found that unlike many tapas places, these dishes were perfectly portioned, and satisfied a hungry appetite. The quality of the food was good, though I had a few bones to pick with the veggie plates. I was disappointed in the tameness of the curry portion of my dish – it should have been spicier (a definite case of dumbing-down for “western” tastebuds). Also,  the flatbread served with the chickpea salsa should have been served warm. However, the eggplant was divine, and I don’t even like eggplant. Veneto have a little bit of work to do on their vegetarian options, but they’re definitely on the right track. On the omnivore side of things, Matt was thoroughly pleased with his three dishes.

Dessert! You choose 3 off on the menu for 9$ – not bad! Definitely a great place for dessert in a city where the options are arguably few and far between. We chose the sticky date pudding, the kahlua creme brulee, and the chocolate pate. They were all delicious, and a perfect portion for sharing.

Value: (3.75/5)

At 15-20$ for an entree, Veneto isn’t exactly cheap. But let’s be real –  that is the competitive price range for a nice dinner in Victoria. The drinks prices are in the regular range of  “I’m just not going to think about the price of this and enjoy it anyway”.

Overall: (4/5)

I would return to Veneto just for the atmosphere, the drinks menu (maybe I’ll be brave enough to try a fancy cocktail next time), and for the desserts. Although I wasn’t blown away by the vegetarian option, it seems that they have great meat dishes which are well worth trying, as well as a delicious range of desserts. Veneto is funky and swanky and yummy – enough said.
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Nar

When you’re in Oak Bay, there are only a handful of places to eat at. Obviously Ottavio is a great option, but if you venture ten or so minutes further down Newport you will stumble upon a gem that is definitely worth a visit for lunch or dinner. Nar nestled in a little house on the corner of Windsor and Newport, and serves traditional Turkish food. I didn’t visit Nar having any preconceptions of what Turkish cuisine should offer, but was definitely impressed with all aspects of my lunch experience!

Atmosphere:(5/5)

Nar definitely feels a little bit like fine dining, with its pristine tablecloths and cosy dining rooms. I particularly enjoyed the slightly quirky Turkish artifacts dotted around (think little figures of Turkish men lined up on the mantle). Nar also has a cafe side, which is more casual, as well as outside seating (though no table service is provided outside – you have to order your food at the cafe counter). Also, I should note that they play lovely authentic Turkish music.

Service: (4.5/5)

We felt welcomed by the staff at Nar. It seemed that they were genuinely invested in making our visit to the restaurant enjoyable as evidenced by giving us a choice of where we would like to sit, and getting us the name of the music playing even though it was basically unpronounceable by Western standards! Our server was attentive and seemed to put genuine effort into an understanding of Turkish food. Clearly, the owners do good work in keeping things up to standard.

Food: (4.5/5)

 I got the Spinach and Feta Borek with lentil soup. As a huge spanakopita fan, I couldn’t pass this option up. However, the pastry of the Borek was a lot thicker and gummier than a traditional spanakopita. It was definitely tasty, but I wasn’t sold on the pastry. This may be more about my personal preference and lack of experience with Turkish cuisine than about the quality of the food. Anyway, the soup was FANTASTIC. Flavourful, delicate, well-spiced, and perfect in all ways that soup should be perfect.

My partner in swimming and food got the Kofte – meatballs in a tomato-basil sauce with rice and a side salad. All I will say is that every. single. bite. was consumed. Feedback was nothing but good. The salad was fresh and deliciously dressed, and the meatballs definitely seemed to fulfill all expectations of what meatballs should be.

Value: (4/5)

Aaaah value. Well, given the setting , service, and quality of food, I would say that it is great value for lunch. Eleven dollars is extremely doable. However, their dinner prices are considerably higher (as is to be expected, I suppose), and I don’t know whether I could pay upward of twenty dollars for an entree unless it was a very special occasion. Perhaps that’s just me being a cheap student, though. Realistically, Nar is all things good and your twenty bucks would go towards a worthwhile dining experience.

Overall: (4.5/5)

Go to Nar, eat their food, and you will be happy that you did.

 

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Foo

The quest for a reasonably priced and delicious lunch in Victoria can be a painstaking and drawn-out affair. Matthew and I have learned this a number of times while wandering hungrily around the streets of downtown, looking for a place that feels “lunch”-y. While there are many places that are great for breakfast/brunch, and many places that are great for dinner; a legitimate lunch can be a little more difficult – especially on weekends. When Matthew and I happened upon Foo for a late weekend lunch, we felt a little bit like we had struck lunch gold.

Atmosphere:(3/5)

Foo markets itself as a “street food” place, so a fine dining experience is not its aim. There are a few tables and chairs outside, with the inside ordering area more about grabbing food and leaving. However, the walls/windows are lined with tables and stools where you can look out the window as you eat. This was what we did, and it was just fine. Foo is nothing fancy, but they aren’t trying to be fancy anyway.

Service:(4.5/5)

The staff seem passionate about the menu, and were great at making recommendations and delivering the food promptly. I would be interested to see how they cope when things get busy, as it was extremely quiet when we visited.

Food:(4.75/5)

With a small but diverse menu, Foo offers unique Asian fusion items with something to please a variety of tastes. And please the tastes it will!

Matthew got the Beef and Broccoli Chow Mein, and finished every last bite! He was impressed with the amount and quality of meat and veggies, and even insinuated that the quality of food was superior to Noodle Box. Given his deep love and dedication to Noodle Box, this is saying something.

I was impressed with the quality of vegetarian options, and found it difficult to choose what I wanted! I settled on the Saag Paneer, as I am always interested to see variations on Indian cuisine; and Foo definitely met my expectations! This dish was spicy, flavourful, and unique. The dumplings were delicious, and served piping hot. The bread was fluffy, oily, and dense. I thoroughly enjoyed everything, and I kind of felt like Foo is in a class of its own. It provides Asian food that appeals to Westerners without compromising the true flavours of the dish. This is becoming more of a rarity – especially in Victoria.

Value:(4.5/5)

The meals at Foo hover around the ten dollar mark. Considering the quality of the food, I would consider this a great deal. The portions are not quite as large as say, Noodle Box, but for lunch I found it to be more than enough. Someone with a huge appetite may not be satisfied at a dinnertime visit, but that comes down to individual preference.

Overall:(4.5/5)

Without a doubt, I will be back to Foo again. It was delicious and well-priced and I would be interested to try some of their other menu items.

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