J: Ed was fortunate enough to be given a pair of gift certificates (GC) courtesy of our our benefactor, the event organizer Bill Code. Bill was responsible for the 2009 Victoria Comic Book Convention and is currently working rebooting it as the Victoria Comic, Movie & Steampunk Convention for 2013.
So it was only fitting that Pablo’s was a mere fat fanboy’s jog (to the end of the block) from the Harbour Towers Hotel, site of the previous con.
E: I think these GC’s were the only way that’d convince me to consider entering Pablo’s. It’s a cozy restaurant that I think not a lot of people pay attention to. At a glance, the menu prices for the main entrees are not for the faint-hearted.
It’s hard to justify a steak at $45, even if its an Albertan raised Angus Tenderloin, and most of their menu greens is hand-picked from local farms. For nearly 2/3rds the price, I could get a different cut and different breed. I’ve been loving New Zealand a lot but to find it here will require a lot of advance phonecalls and speaking the language. But am I supposed to know French or Spanish?
J: I will chime in with Ed. It was very cozy and I had a fair view (but not magnificent) of distant Victoria at sundown. But what bothered me was the tired look of the dining room. With chipped paint and an odd choice in paintings, I mentioned to Ed how Pablo’s was in need of a touch-up.
Their wine list was extensive but expensive. I asked for orange juice ($3, refillable) but I was told freshly squeezed was not one of their offerings. At least the OJ was brought in a chilled glass with a slice of lemon and a straw.
E: Our server, John, was very attentive and was able to accomodate all our queries, includiing my asking if this place was haunted. He was the high point of the evening, along with the frog legs, cooked cajun style ($15). This meal was simply delicious. They were distinctly fresh and I could slurp it all off in one go. I thought the high price was very reasonable when considering the amount of dry roasted tomatoes that were spread out for the tiny amphibians to rest their crispy roasted legs on.
I’m well aware this delight can come in all sizes for conneiseurs to enjoy, and if they were any more bigger, I’d be singing to the ragtime melody of “Hello, My Baby.”
That reference would also account for the miniscule size of those Quadra Island Oysters I had. As small as they were ($2.50 each), size matters in terms of which ones are more delectable than others. They had a crispy clear finish to them. I found I liked the tiny morsels over the one that almost measured “medium-size” on the oyster scale.
J: The presentation of dishes for both Ed and myself were eye-catching. And I’m aware that pretty wrapping does not substitute for a poor gift. But my present from Pablo’s in the form of local Dungeness crab cakes ($15) meant Christmas came early. Two pieces were sandwiched together with a very delectable sauce in between. The cakes made for a rich meal but oh what a meal. I spent more time than I allowed myself for on the first bite. The different flavours I was tantalized with, one after the other, made for a well performed opera. At one point, I almost shed a tear at the beautiful performance I was witness to.
E: Of course, I had to steal a bite to find out. The flakiness and stringiness of the crab meat only verified the fact that this is real dungeness. We were lucky, since October is the last month this crab can be harvested in B.C. waters.
J: And of course you offered some of the diced tomatoes from your frog legs dish. I couldn’t help but notice how the basil and oregano brought out more flavour in the tomatoes.
E: Even though they were very tart, I couldn’t stop myself from shovelling it all into my mouth. I did the same thing to the mushroom pasta ($17). For the basics, I liked it. And it was the cheapest thing in the entree category that could be ordered, GC notwithstanding. As much as I would’ve liked to try their steaks, even I felt Scottish.
J: You have a natural affinity for being cheap Ed. I welcome you to the clan my penny pinching brother. Let us scrutinize prices at the local supermarket together!
Maybe it was my earlier decision of ordering the rich crab cakes but I found the pasta to be overwhelmingly rich. It was too much sauce and parmesan. I also had this underlying suspicion that the pasta was overcooked.
E: Och no, I thought my plate was fine. I could nibble on the fine green garnish like a rabbit and go for more. It was a decor that complimented my three dishes. As for the main course, I could taste the freshness of the shiitakes and portobellos. I think the chef did not include enough oyster mushrooms though. They have a distinct shape and flavour which I like if they’re cooked right.
While I enjoyed the meal, I couldn’t help but wonder what this plate would be like if they went all B.C. Wild, using lobsters, morels, chanterelles and the like? Now that is a dish I’d be willing to fork out big dollars for. I know some species are expensive, but it’s worth paying for in the end.
J: We quibbled over the cooked (or overcooked) noodles. But without a doubt we can both agree that Pablo’s is a fairly pricey experience. There are other fine dining alternatives that are more affordable but if you don’t care about the meal’s price, and you want the ambience, then Pablo’s wouldn’t be at the top of my list.
3½ blokes out of 5