My occasional reports on favourite restaurant meals are mostly based on the food, but are also influenced by the experience — the service, the setting, the other diners. This is not a comprehensive overview of best restaurants in Victoria. I haven’t had the chance, or the money, to do a broad survey. These are places I’ve bumped into by chance, or have been introduced to by family. I’ve been to all of them at least three times, and have enjoyed the food every time.
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Masala Bites, 1015 Fort St.
When I discovered the Indian restaurant Masala Bites about a year ago, it was often empty-ish. But no more. It has been discovered. It’s often packed. There are often lineups, especially for the bargain-priced lunch buffet ($12.99 last time I looked). But despite the crush of customers, the service has still been good, if a little rushed.
The buffet dishes change, but the offerings usually include favourites such as butter chicken, tandoori chicken, pakoras and dahl. The buffet food disappears fast, so you’re usually just a few minutes from scooping a fresh batch of whatever you’re after. We took out-of-town visitors here in the fall for supper, where we ordered entrees off the menu. There was unanimous approval, though the spiciness of some of the dishes approached the top end of what was tolerable for some of us. I especially liked the eggplant bhartha, described on the menu as seasoned roasted mashed eggplant with peas, onion and tomato.
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John’s Noodle Village, 823 Bay St.
The highlight is their seafood noodle soup. It’s a large bowl of broth with skinny noodles topped by an amazing amount and variety of seafood. What that seafood is depends on what they have on hand, but it’s typically large shrimp, a piece of battered white fish, a crab leg, squid and scallops. There also seems to be a piece of every vegetable they have in their mise en place, such as choy, broccoli, mini corn, sweet pepper, and carrot. Hot pepper flakes are sprinkled on top. It arrives steaming hot, fogging my glasses if I get too close. I wait for a few minutes before digging in, or eat slightly cooler items from the edges. The soup is usually on the specials board for around $14.
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Sally Bun, 1030 Fort St.
A compact place dominated by a display case, with a few tables for eating at. They sell buns with a variety of fillings, such as Korean barbecue beef, curry chicken, and tuna. The fillings are very generous — there’s more filling than bun. Most of them are fully enclosed by bread that’s slightly hard on the outside and soft on the inside. The tuna version is longish and open on each end, sort of like a sausage roll. I’ve heard good things about their cinnamon buns, but have not tried them because I’m full by the time I finish one of the savoury buns. Around $3.50 to $4.50 per bun.
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Standard Pizza, 1515 Cook St.
They make thin-crust pizzas in a wood-fired oven. Many of the pizzas have just a few toppings, such as kale, cheese, garlic chili and lemon, and anchovy, tomato, garlic, caper and olive. So, this is not the place to go if you’re hankering for a pizza piled thick with cheese and meat. You can taste the ingredients with these pizzas, and the crust demands some chewing — unlike other pizzas that offer a generic salty mouthful of soft breadiness. (Though, I can also enjoy that experience.) Most of their business is takeout. The seating area is compact, fitting maybe a dozen people. It’s worth it to eat at one of the seats. The pizza will not have suffered in a cardboard box and, if you grab a seat at the counter, you can watch the pizza-making action. They are open Wednesday to Sunday, for supper only. One-person pizzas $10 to $14; two-to-three person pizzas $18 to $26. I discovered Standard Pizza when I was hunting for food between shows during last year's Victoria Fringe Festival.
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Part and Parcel, 2656 Quadra St.
I have eaten all sorts of things here that I’ve never eaten before in my life, and found enjoyment every time. My latest meal was an intriguing combination of very tender beef tongue slices, smoked nugget potato and collards. I’ve also enjoyed a pig head croquette, grilled endive, grilled brassica shoots, gnocchi and kohlrabi, falafel and hummus, farro and squash risotto, and a sandwich filled with roasted and raw pear, brie, walnuts, date puree and greens.
I am often unfamiliar with some of the words on the menu and was gratified to overhear a conversation where fellow diners were googling words such as farro, barberries, chermoula and labneh.
Eating here can be an adventure if you allow yourself to wander beyond the familiar. The menu changes constantly, adding to the fun, and to an extent, creating disappointment, because favourites will disappear.
I went there a few months ago with a friend, who had checked out the menu online the day before with his wife. “You won’t be able to order anything from this menu,” she told him. Armed with that research, he was feeling a little skeptical when we met at the restaurant. He rejected the beef tongue, didn’t like the sound of the rare tuna sandwich or the farro. He settled on the fried kamut chicken sandwich and said he liked it. We’ll see about beef tongue next time.
You order at a counter, pay, and find a seat. The food is brought to you.
I discovered Part and Parcel when I was standing in line for a Fringe Festival show across the street at the Roxy Theatre. When I got hungry between shows, I checked it out.
Disclosure: I’ve become a regular at Part and Parcel, visiting several times a month. The larger dishes are $13 to $15; sandwiches are $9 to $11.
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Burger King,1328 Douglas St.
This one is here mostly for what happened during my visit.
I was attracted by the $1.99 for 10 chicken nuggets promotion at a downtown Burger King. (I am not proud of this, but I am not apologetic either.) I placed my order for 10, along with a King Burger. As I waited, I spotted a table that was covered with chicken nuggets, chicken nugget bags and chicken nugget dips. Three young men were at the table, joyously plowing through the nuggets. I asked if I could take a photo of their feast. They happily gave permission. How many nuggets had they ordered? I asked. 150, 50 for each person. Why were they doing this? Because he wanted to, they said, pointing at one of their number. They liked the price. And they also like to eat chicken nuggets. Especially with honey mustard dipping sauce. Which would explain why there wasn’t any left for me. Did they think they’d eat all their nuggets? Probably. I wasn’t there long enough to find out if that proved to be true.
The Burger King chicken nuggets were decent if a little salty; crisp coating, meaty, not greasy.
Some days later, I noticed this sign at the Burger King: “$1.99 10pc nuggets,” it said. “Limit 2 orders per Customer.”
An order of 150 chicken nuggets at Burger King.
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