606 Trounce Alley
Sadly this operation closed February 06, 2015 due to “family emergency.” Based on their last Facebook message, they have no plans to continue after their situation has resolved.
E: Trounce Alley is one of those places that I can expect to find some interesting hidey-ho places to dine in. At one end is a tapa bar and at another a Japanese diner where they treat serving fast food with a lot of class. Walking in there was like venturing to Tokyo’s high fashion district.
J: I wondered why they had a chandelier above a table in all this pro-Japanese decor. Perhaps a large lantern would suffice. But I wasn’t here to nitpick the designer. So-Ya is what I have been waiting for all this time. At least a restaurant in sleepy Victoria that is open until midnight on weekdays! So if you’re just walking out after seeing a movie at Vic Theatre in Nootka Court, you know you can get something good to eat at So-Ya.
E: To find them open on a Monday was a surprise. Traditionally, no self-respecting Japanese restaurant is open on Sunday or Monday; fishmongers don’t work on these days and any supply the restaurants use can be a day old. Thankfully, I wasn’t quite after fish this day.
I just wanted a crispy snack and OD’d on deep fried panko breaded seafood quickly deep fried, a yakisoba and a delicious ‘secret’ cheesecake.
J: I had the secret cheesecake for dessert too but my main was a seafood stone bowl. The bowl is rice mixed with prawns, squid and oysters that are still cooking as it is brought to your table. The server mixes it up for you and then reminds you that the meal is still hot. And he wasn’t kidding. I slipped up and shoved a spoonful into my mouth before dousing my furnace face with liquid.
E: I could feel the heat from where I sat and I did warn James. But did he listen? At least my meal was cooler and simpler to manage, even though it was less filling. I didn’t find anything special in the oysters used. I’m fairly sure they were Fanny Bay and that didn’t make for a great intro to this style of Japanese cuisine.
At least the Tako Wasabi is this restaurant’s saving grace. It’s glazed texture and simple crunchiness was very savoury. The wasabi kicked in seconds later and it lingered before I washed the meal down with a simple ginger ale. I think SO-YA does have a few interesting gems, and it’ll require revisits to find them.
J: I have to concur. It was like a crisp cool summer salad. There was nothing critical I could say about this dish. But critical is what was on my mind for the seafood stone bowl. The sauce that the rice was cooking in was made up of chicken broth, soy sauce and oyster sauce.
In It was too rich and too large of a portion. I could understand there being only one small oyster in the dish, seafood is expensive after all but I was scratching my head at why big slices of onion were plentiful and there was a single slice of bok choy. The overabundance of onions ruined any flavour of the dish thus completely putting me off from my meal. With the seafood stone bowl, some experimentation is in order.
E: I think that goes back to my previous argument about why some restaurants are closed Sunday and Mondays. The stocks are low and fishes are not being pulled out of the sea. Perhaps, on a different day, this place can get the proper amount of ingredients right. I had nothing to complain about in what I ate that night, but if I’m to touch a noodle or congee style dish, it better be filled with all the fixings I’m hoping for.
J: In anything I ordered, the gem was the mystery cheesecake. So creamy with just the right amount of sweetness. Their dessert menu was adequate but here’s hoping they will add or experiment with desserts that have red bean as an ingredient. It is very popular in Japan. It would be a bold statement to introduce to our locals. Perhaps it may pull in customers from Japan who are currently going to school here.
E: In subsequent visits, I grew fond of their ramen noodle dishes. This place was great for that!
Until I find some place in town that offers cute confectionaries that look like a bunny, there’s no denying that going to Japan to experience the most exotic tastes is a must. The menu was varied enough to sate the tastes of the curious, but I’m beyond that. Where’s the grilled eel?
J: Probably the same place as the grilled squid, in Japan.
Ed and I have tossed around many ideas in past articles. We’ll both admit that running a food establishment is always a high risk but there is no more risk with trying new ideas if you don’t go overboard with it. Maybe one day we’ll see a local Japanese restaurant celebrating the seasons in a fitting manner. Who’s up for catching their own goldfish?
4 Blokes out of 5