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More favourite Victoria places for a not-all-that-expensive meal

Zambri's 110-911 Yates Street (Closed Sundays and Mondays) I had one of my best meals ever here. Maybe it was just a plain good day – everything going right and all. But I'm pretty convinced that the food was good too.


110-911 Yates Street

(Closed Sundays and Mondays)


I had one of my best meals ever here. Maybe it was just a plain good day – everything going right and all. But I'm pretty convinced that the food was good too. It was polenta and veal with a fried egg. I especially remember the egg, which was like no other egg I'd ever eaten before – with a runny yolk and full of flavour. (Arrived that morning from a local farm, I was told when I praised the egg to the chef on my way out.)


The menu varies, with offerings written on a chalk board. At lunch, which is the only time I've ever been, you can have a very nice meal for around $10. 


You pick from a list that typically includes pasta, hot sandwich, a fish or a meat. Things can be confusing when you enter. But, after watching other people, I think this is the routine:


1. You read the posted menu, and try not to bump into the small crowd of other people doing the same thing.


2. You try not to butt in, but ultimately you'd like to get to the front of the scraggly line and tell the person at the counter what you'd like.


3. You can supplement your meal, at extra cost, from a wide array of vegetables, which are on display. I really liked the eggplant they had one day.


4. You can ask for a drink, also extra.


5. You pay, with cash or credit card.


6. You get a number.


7. You hope a table is available. (One strategy – go with a friend and have him or her sit at an open table while you order. I think this is OK. No one yelled at us when we did it.)


8. You put the number on the table.


9. You go to a stand and pour yourself some water and pick up your utensils.


10. A staff member brings you the food when it's ready.


In the evening, there's full table service and the prices zoom up to above $20 per entree. 


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Korean Gardens

3945C Quadra Street


Our colleague Bill is very fond of the lunchtime rice bowls here – a bowl of rice topped with your choice of such things as stir-fried vegetables, pork, or chicken. Around $7.


My favourite is the soft tofu hot pot for $9.95. It's tofu, pork, mini-clams, mini-shrimp and a barely-cooked egg in slightly-spicy broth. You get a bowl of rice on the side. It comes to the table blazing hot, so you gingerly nibble at small pieces of tofu while things cool down. The egg is poached in the broth and is incredibly tasty; you need to eat it before it's cooked too much in the scorching broth.


Other things I've tried and enjoyed: bi bim bop (vegetables, meat, egg, hot sauce on rice), pajun (pancake with oyster, squid, shrimp and green onions cooked into it), vegetarian jap chae (sweet potato noodles stir fried with vegetables and mushrooms).


Prices go higher, towards $20, for some of the dishes. There's also sushi on offer.


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Red Fish Blue Fish

1006 Wharf Street


This place has attracted quite a bit of attention, not just because of its good food, but also because of its location and its building, which is a converted metal shipping container.


Red Fish Blue Fish is on the pier at the foot of Wharf Street, so, when you dine, you're right next to the Inner Harbour, with sea gulls eyeing you and seaplanes roaring at the nearby terminal. There's the faint aroma of aviation fuel sometimes.


You order from the "order here" window, tell them your name, wander away to admire the view, and return to the "pick up here" window when your name is called. 


(I get tense about the waiting part. What if I don't hear my name called over the plane noise? So, I make a pest of myself by hanging around the pick up window and staring into the kitchen and staring at other people's food. This is not endearing, but I haven't been yelled at yet, or punched.)


You eat outdoors, on stools at a rough-hewn wooden counter, or on back-less chairs that also serve as tables.


For $10, you get one piece of battered cod, french fries, tartar sauce, and coleslaw. Dave and I aren't professional tasters. But the coleslaw – it's a little different. Maybe a bit of a sesame flavour. I've heard fellow diners mutter about it, saying it's weird,  but I like it.


I've also read online complaints about the service — something about "attitude". But I've never had a problem. I try to smile when I order and not say too many inane things.


But I did get into a tangle once when I tried to go cheap by skipping the coleslaw and tartar. On their menu, one piece of cod is $5.50 and a small order of fries is $2.50. That's, um, $8, I said to myself as I stood in line, holding my money-saving bottle of tap water. At the window, I asked for an order of fish and an order of fries. That's $10, I was told. No, no, I said. That's one order of fish and chips $10, and an extra order of fish? No, no, I said. But I eventually got what I wanted. Something like this has happened all three times that I've tried it.


So, they're not used to dealing with people as cheap as me?


The fries, not incidentally, are really good – among the best in town. They are made from fresh potatoes, served crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, very hot, not too greasy, not over-salted. I think they might use the more labour-intensive double-fry method. Cook the potatoes until soft (par-fry is the term, I think), pull out of oil, then fry again at a higher temperature to achieve crispness.


(It's appalling, but some fish and chip places in town serve frozen fries.)


The Red Fish Blue Fish menu offers many other things, including seafood wraps, sandwiches, and salads. They also grill seafood, in addition to the deep frying.


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