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Evedar's Bistro on the right track with dinner menu

Tucked away in the bottom of a condo complex in a residential Langford neighbourhood, Evedar's is easy to miss, but that would be a mistake if you're hungry.

Tucked away in the bottom of a condo complex in a residential Langford neighbourhood, Evedar's is easy to miss, but that would be a mistake if you're hungry.

In the day, the kitchen is the domain of Marnie Anderson, whose efforts helped to establish a solid reputation for this spot long before owners Fran and Marc Jinnouchi took possession last summer.

Breakfast includes freshly baked muffins and cinnamon buns along with substantial selections such as omelettes or pancakes -- with or without berries and whipped cream. Lunch offers ample salads and sandwiches packed with everything from pastrami and hot mustard to a summery blend of barbecued salmon and cream cheese with hints of lime and cilantro, loaded with fresh vegetables. Hot features include two daily soups, chili and cornbread, or a hot turkey sandwich served with stuffing, vegetables and mashed potatoes, oozing with rich gravy.

Hoping to develop an evening trade that would match the success of the daytime operation, the Jinnouchis were fortunate to retain chef Tom Corless a couple of months ago. Raised in Prince George, Corless is in the third decade of a culinary career begun in high school, which he continued at the College of New Caledonia. He arrived here 21 years ago, earning his papers and his stripes.

Evening visitors to Evedar's now benefit from Corless's "flavour in is flavour out" philosophy, namely work with quality ingredients -- local where possible -- for a quality product. A small but carefully considered menu offers quality dishes you might expect to find at venues such as the Blue Crab Bar and Grill, where he worked as sous chef to Andrew Dickinson and Shawn Morrison -- for surprisingly friendly prices.

On my first evening visit, a friend and I shared a couple of dishes with a glass of wine. A rustic tomato and basil tart ($8) accented with roasted garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, its earthy tones enhanced by balsamic dressed greens; we agreed this was one of the few times this truly overused acid was an appropriate element.

Karen was surprised at the succulence of the dry-cured salmon. Fragrant with citrus, it was perfectly matched by saffron risotto, and a steal at $22. In fact, the most expensive item on the menu is a 12-ounce AAA Canadian ribeye steak, offered with roasted garlic whipped potato, onion conserve and port infused demi-glace for $28.

Recently returning on my own, I considered grilled calamari, which Corless pairs with Catalan Romesco sauce and lemon garlic crème fraîche, but this will have to wait for a future visit, as seared crab cakes won out. These were paired with a cooling avocado sauce enhanced with grapefruit which produced surprising depth, and smoked paprika aioli.

Next up was a spectacular dish that alone is worth the drive to Langford -- grilled lamb sirloin à la Niçise, served in thick slices, drizzled with a red wine sauce enriched with briny black olives, basil, roast garlic and tomatoes, with a melange of crisp vegetables and rosti.

I ended with a made-to-order hot chocolate truffle cake, paired with a little scoop of vanilla bean ice cream set on a house-made ginger snap. The price for three courses and a glass of wine, including tax and tip? A very reasonable $65.

In anticipation of cooler months, Corless plans to tweak the menu soon. Expect the likes of angel-hair pasta loaded with shellfish, hearty bouillabaisse, slow braised lamb shanks and beef short ribs paired with king scallops.

Though service is attentive and the food is well on track here, there is still some work to be done. I have never seen a bathroom with two toilets but no stalls before, and the decor is fussy and inconsistent with the kind of food now available in the evenings.

Anyone over 40 should be advised that the lighting is dim in the back room and although live music might be welcomed by some people, we found it distracting. If they continue, it might be better to start this a little later in the evening. The price is right for food, but Karen and I both found the wine list limiting and somewhat overpriced; the option of a half-litre wouldn't go amiss. But look for more good things to come from this spot.

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