I've discovered something interesting about the subject of this week's column, namely no one seems to know where it is. "What? There's a Sheraton in Langford?" "Yes, behind Costco." "What? I didn't know there was anything behind Costco."
Yet the West Coast Tap House is tucked away in this hotel, which looks like a miniature version of a misplaced Whistler ski lodge. It's a large room with a surfeit of dark wood given its location in the lower level, dominated by a bar in the middle and far too many televisions -- sort of like Cheers meets George Orwell. But the menu is definitely intriguing.
When my friend Rob visited, we chose the recently opened -- and one presumes seasonal -- Cedar Ultra Patio, just a few steps off the lobby. Seating ranges from high top tables and raised platforms with couches to regular tables with umbrellas, all dressed with a remarkable amount of gauzy white fabric.
Our server appeared immediately with menus in hand. There's a lot of information to take in and it was Friday, so we decided to share a pitcher while we pondered food choices, but this inadvertently exposed a couple of major flaws for a rooftop patio aligned with a tap house. Our beer was barely cool and arrived in a plastic pitcher without the benefit of chilled glasses -- though the latter were provided on request.
Drinks sorted, we chose appetizers ($7-$13) knowing we would be there for a while if we wanted to avoid the inevitable late afternoon traffic jam. Our server suggested nachos, which they do in one layer to prevent that pile of chips at the end with nothing on them. I saw some on a nearby table and they're definitely on the to-do list, but we were more curious about a couple of other dishes.
In the end, we shared a massive bowl of coconut rice topped with fried wontons and boneless pork bound with sweet Thai chili sauce, and some credible chicken and prawn tamales served in corn husks with rice and a side of slightly smoky red sauce.
Portions are generous, so we refrained from finishing and waited before choosing main courses ($14-$26). This was especially prescient, as when Rob's meal arrived, we had what is apparently the usual reaction of taking pictures and laughing nervously. Burgers here feature eight-ounce patties crafted from a mix of sirloin, veal and brisket, served naked or topped with one of a number of creative ensembles.
Passing on the likes of grape tomatoes with bocconcini, avocado and fresh basil, Rob had an extra patty, slathered with cheddar, mozzarella and Monterey jack, hickory smoked bacon, sautÃ©ed onions, jalapenos, mushrooms, and chipotle barbecue sauce. He didn't finish it but I think he will attempt it again.
Even though I was intrigued by jambalaya with sweet bell peppers, prawns, loose chorizo, free run chicken and tiger prawns with a Creole inspired tomato sauce and coconut scented rice, I chose a steak sandwich served on caramelized onion blue-cheese grilled flat bread with sautÃ©ed button mushrooms, which I couldn't quite finish, either. We were equally impressed with the food, the service and the product knowledge here.
It occurred to me that an early dinner here before a visit to Costco would save me money, so I dropped by the downstairs room a couple of weeks later.
Chicken wings were on special so that was an easy decision. They were juicy and piping hot and went well with the excellent Caesar loaded with fresh citrus and horseradish, also on special for $5.
After some consideration, I chose steak again, mainly because they use hanger steaks here -- a rarely used but flavourful cut that is a personal favourite. Perfectly seared and drizzled with a sherry laden Szechuan inspired sauce, it arrived with fresh asparagus nestled with a selection of freshly grilled vegetables including red peppers and green and yellow zucchini, confirming that the kitchen cares about what they send out.
My only gripe is that once one of the owners arrived, it was as though I was suddenly invisible. I was literally waving my arms in vain trying to get someone's attention, while they had the sort of conversation that you reserve for when the doors are closed.
That said, service on the whole is way above average here and so is the food, so it wouldn't keep me away.
Ratings 1 Below bad
Ratings 2 Below average
Ratings 3 Average
Ratings 4 Above average
Ratings 5 Excellent