ES: Tasty morsels can be found at Saveur Restaurant, located not too far from the cosmopolitan Victoria Chinatown. The location is not really off the beaten path, but is tucked within the same block where Brasserie L’Ecole is also located. My guess is that the city blocks around this former Asian area may well be our city’s answer to an “International District.”
DK: The extent to which Saveur fits into a real or imagined “International District” is seen in some of their menu items over the years. A menu from 2017 showcases “Pakora Battered Broccoli” with Ponzu. A previous version of the house chicken wings was served with “Louisiana Style Remoulade.” The house wings are now “Korean BBQ Wings.”
Viewing the menu as a marketing tool, what remains constant from the earlier years of Saveur to now is “local” items sitting next to “international” flavours (would you like “Chilled Soba Noodles” with miso for lunch? Or perhaps just a salad made with “Mason Street Greens”). What has changed is tourist-pleaser type fare (fish tacos, a burger and a pork belly sandwich) replacing multi-course tasting menus.
No matter where you go to eat sushi, the basics will more or less taste the same. The taste found in tuna and salmon rolls are distinguished by the freshness of the fish (I have yet to find a place to beat what I had in Sidney, BC ages ago), rice to meat ratio used and where the fish came from. Where the rice is harvested from matters, but ultimately, it is the temperature of this grain that makes the difference. Over at Rock n’ Rolls Modern Sushi at the Fisherman’s Wharf in Victoria, BC, they pride themselves on using locally sourced ingredients.
This operation is all about 100% sustainability and it shows in the Polynesian Roll. Made using local crab, bell peppers and sweet squash, this delectable maki roll is a taste for the senses! Rockfish was used, and this is a topping I do not usually see in menus. Sometimes, whitefish is listed, and the last time I really appreciated its taste was over at Southern Lake Tahoe, where a buddy and I went to The Naked Fish — I have fond memories of my sushi experience there.
I often wonder if Japanese food can be elevated to new heights. Fusion-style sushi rolls are the nouveau thing where ingredients typical from another region (or for particular tastes) are blended. I just can not get used to cream cheese in rolls because I’ve found chefs use too much, and maybe one day I’ll find the person who knows how to use it sparingly to bring out the taste of the other ingredients.
But just how far can innovation go? What about other common street food? One of the staples of this ethnic nation is about how much folks love their ramen. There’s a quintessence needed to make the noodle special. Without the proper delicate balance between the four basic ingredients used, the noodle can fall apart. There won’t be a firmness that’s savoured and unless it is done right, I can’t quite be willing to return to an operation in the quest for eating more.
Sure, James swears by one operation, Kuma. I give him props for sticking to what he likes but I’ll keep teasing him because he’s faithful to this operation as much as how he’s dedicated to Sushi Plus. He lives in a small world. I’m always broadening my world in my search to find that one special place that recreates what I adored from decades ago. A Japanese operation used to occupy Yates where they made the most colourfully presented ramen that I enjoyed. The Next comes close. Their portion sliced BBQ pork in the dish I had was huge. Missing was the wakame, but in what’s used in their place, some pickled radish, crispy kale and thinly sliced carrot made up for what I call ramen with a West Coast twist. The soy broth was delicate and I did not want to come up for air because I really enjoyed the mix of textures offered. I can easily start to love this western style twist to a traditional staple.
Sansei 815 Pine St. Seattle, WA 98101 (206) 402-4414
I figure Seattle, Washington has more truly upscale Japanese restaurants than Victoria, British Columbia. If that says something about finding a place to enjoy my meals and sample the unique, perhaps I should live in this State instead of the province to get my fusion-style cuisine on. I noticed this operation while here for my annual nerdvana. Emerald City Comicon (ECCC) and Star Trek Ultimate Voyage took place on the same weekend.
When I arrived at the historic Paramount Theatre, I was more than gobsmacked. I was licking my lips at seeing Sansei, a seafood restaurant and sushi bar across the street. I seem to have a knack for wanting to visit well-established operations when in the States without knowing a lot about their reputation beforehand. Hitting Portland, Oregon blind years ago demonstrated that. I had little knowledge about Jakes Famous Crawfish and only heard a few stories about Voodoo Doughnuts. I rode through this city with my road trip buddy, and we lucked out in getting into two of this city’s most well-known operations.
I was not too sure about what to expect when I visited Sansei the next day to get a bite, a simple dinner — or so I hoped. I had no idea about this establishment’s excellent reputation in Hawaii until I read the literature. A quick chat with the waitress and search via Google revealed them as “one of America’s Best Sushi Bars” to which I could have spent my entire convention food allowance on or I could sit at the table for a ramen dish only to tease James from afar later. His only words over the phone were, “You’re despicable.”
Osaka Sushi 1951 Oak Bay Ave. Oak Bay, B.C. 250-590-6650 J: It was a day revisiting old haunts like the Penny Farthing Pub. It was just an indecisive day as Ed and I traveled to Oak Bay, then to downtown Victoria only to turn around and make our return. During our journeys via B.C. Transit bus, to learn we had the same driver twice and the same bus 3 times that day was a little weird. It was the bus I now dub Phantom 8035.
1580 Cook St Victoria, B.C. (836) 737-2623 Fall/Winter hours:
Tues to Sat 11:30am to 4pm ¡Ay, caramba! Fusion cuisine is nearly all the rage these days, and at Taco Justice League (TJL), they’re reinventing the tortilla in a food truck. This place serves soft tacos with a variety of fillings. From deep-fried tempura avocados to brined pulled pork, each food offering sounds delicious.
This operation is a block away from ‘The Pandora Strip.’ It’s located right between Wellburns Market and the art gallery. I’d make the trek to the fringes of town just for another burrito, or maybe a taco, especially when the Fringe Festival kicks up.