622 Fisgard St
Phone: (250) 590-7687
E: Who would have thought Victoria, BC’s Chinatown is fully multi-cultural? By the Gate of Harmony, I can find French, Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese dining options, and I’d be hard pressed to say which is better. In a warm summer night around the town, and both James and my hunger were unabated, I let my buddy choose where to go dine.
Enter Pho Vuong, a nice cozy little operation located at the basement floor of a building and it was right next to a Pokéstop! Yes, I’m still playing the mobile game Pokémon GO, but I’m not as hardcore. If there’s opportunities to eat and spin, why not?
J: I was entranced by the traditional Chinese music being played out of speakers attached to the Friendship Gate. It was my first time hearing it and it somehow added to the atmosphere of its location. But for fine dining, there wasn’t much in the way of choice late night. What was comforting to see was families who owned the restaurants or families and their employees sitting down for a good meal. This night had some magic in the air.
#100-1619 Store St.,
For over a year, Grace Sushi has occupied the space on Store St. that was once The Kaz. I’m not sure what the full story is behind the previous establishment’s departure, but in the past, they offered the space for Sen Zushi to occupy when their Fort Street location was devastated by a fire. Until it was all rebuilt, this other establishment fulfilled some sushi diner’s needs. Now they have moved back, and I’m the type to try all the places in town … just where I like to go lays with what is in the vicinity, before going to a play.
I had to see what kind of divine intervention could occur by walking into a location that’s now changed hands.
La Tana Italian Bakery
101-3 Fan-Tan Alley
La Tana is a bakery located a few doors away from Fan Tan Alley‘s south side entrance and when I was crossing the street from Market Square to head to Triple Spiral, I was detoured away by the luxurious smells that emerged out of here. The lunch time crowd was fairly sizable, and when the sandwiches are made out of fresh ciabatta bread, I can understand why this place is popular.
Not only is the owner raised on traditional values when he was growing up in Italy but also he gave up a more brilliant career (he was to be a computer programmer) to focus on his love for bread. I can see why with the scents that drew me in like a mouse to cheese, and with plenty of baked snacks lining the displays, I was tempted to get more than just a sandwich on this visit. Each day presents a different variety of baked sweets and I thought about grabbing some Lingues and Pizza Blancas.
509 Fisgard St.
There are weeks where I go solo because James is broke, and OLO moves to the top of my hit list since a certain buddy prefers to eat on a budget and I’ve been moving towards the sky’s the limit. At least we agree on one thing: hitting operations who prefer to source all their ingredients locally. And they love sustainability! This establishment used to be known as Ulla (with a similar mandate) and just following what they offered made me wish I was making more money to afford eating here. The offerings are delectable and reasonably well-priced, but I rarely haunt Chinatown (real spirits notwithstanding). When I heard they (as OLO) were one of the six establishments working in concert with bringing Bugs on the Menu, I knew this was a restaurant to finally hit.
I was visiting to specifically try their caramel cricket crunch sorbet. But that’s a dessert item, and since I was here, I pondered hard over what I could have that would classify as a light lunch instead of a dinner-sized meal.
For sheer comfort and relaxation, this place is excellent! I loved the decor, food and ambience (and hopefully they will still have the Squid Ink Chitarra when I decide to return). The menu varies every few months, and I’ve been waiting long until they offered something I was after. Just when I want to visit requires me to keep tabs. I love restaurants that offer dishes to challenge the taste buds.
568 Fisgard St
It’s not often that I’d swim with the fishes at Ocean Garden in Chinatown. If I want authentic Chinese, I’d go to China or ask my family elders to cook for me. But for tourists and many a local in this area, this establishment is a mainstay of the Victoria scene. Between this and four other places on this side of the road, just where I really like to go depends.
After watching the lion dance and kung fu demonstration to really kick Chinese New Year off to start in the “first” weekend of the lunar year, I was feeling a bit peckish. My friends and I thought a visit to the Ocean was required and while I pondered what I should grab from the sea, the choice ultimately boiled down to Deep Fried Prawns ($10.50), Beef and Broccoli Chow Mein (10.50) and a Seafood and Vegetable platter (8.95).
In my youth, Chinese New Year meant going to Victoria, BC’s Chinatown with my parents and watching the lion dances held at this special time of the year. I recall fond memories when firecrackers were handed out to my dad, and he would let me hold the incense stick to light the firecrackers. He tossed them close to where the dancers were and they exploded. When nobody was looking, he even let me light and throw a few myself. That excitement gave life to those dances from decades ago. These days, due to fire regulations and safety, what’s done is a tamer comparison of what I fondly recall. At least the purpose remained the same: the noise is meant to scare the evil away so prosperity can enter the businesses.
On a variable cloudy day, the sun came out to shine on today’s celebrations. That’s a good sign for what’s to come. And I got to hang out with very good friends while we enjoyed watching the lions dance around the block that cumulated to a martial arts demonstration by the Hung Fut Kung Fu club, which has been around since 1974. I’ll let the pictures I took speak for itself: