Sausage medallions and one perfectly poached egg.
Who knew that’s what brunch with George Szasz (of Roast in the Victoria Public Market) would come down to.
Szasz is already settled at a sun-drenched table by the window at Relish Food and Coffee, sipping a cappuccino.
Victoria’s known to be a bit of a breakfast town. The best eggs Benny or homemade hash can come with a side of long waits on a weekend.
“Victoria has a huge breakfast dining focus,” he says, listing popular eateries: Jam, Blue Fox, Smile Café. “To stand in a lineup, that’s not me.”
As we chat, a steady stream of customers trickle in for coffee and a treat.
“He’s created somewhat of a gentrification here,” he says with a gesture that takes in Our Place across the street.
Relish owner Jamie Cummins is “not only a great chef but a good friend” who used to work for him, Szasz easily admits.
They push each other in charcuterie, particularly the sausage-making for which Szasz is known.
I’m about to get my first taste of Cummins’ charcuterie as two popular Relish mainstays are set on the table – Kimchee Udon and Crispy Chicken Bowl.
Szasz points out the perfectly poached egg atop the kimchee udon with a bit of a grin. There’s breakfast.
A row of chicken sausage medallions punctuate one third, crispy kale chips and a generous dollop of fine green onions accentuate the rest.
“Even the way the green onions are sliced so thinly, Jamie’s really good at the Asian take,” Szasz says eyeing the bowl.
“The deep earthiness of the udon stock looks tremendous,” he adds, slipping a fork under hunks of Hubbard squash for a peek. Shitake mushrooms simmer with the thick juiced udon noodles.
Here I admit to the sausage-maker my fear of those standout tidbits in meat (ground and otherwise) that aren’t, for me, edible. But the grind is fine, and chicken so perfectly seasoned, I’m willing to battle for the final piece (fortunately my lunch mate concedes easily).
We get so ensconced, we nearly forget about the egg. But broken and divided, oozing good yellow into the broth it makes for an amazing mouthful.
If the first dish was breakfast, we head for lunch. Crispy chicken slices atop sushi rice punctuated with cucumber slices, cilantro and shreds of carrot make for a fresh look – and taste.
I blame society for the tendency to pull skin from chicken prior to eating. But that skin creates a critical piece of the chicken puzzle, Szasz says.
“When you have a bit of crunch it resonates and creates a feeling … an audio take. It’s a little hard to describe,” he adds, encouraging me to eat the skin.
I crunch. The chicken is well flavoured and moist, but in this bowl the standout is the gilt-edged “blasted cauliflower”.
“You don’t have to boil it anymore. Step away from that,” Szasz says. “When the cauliflower is caramelized like that it’s out of this world.”
If poached egg nestled next to divine sausage – or cauliflower for that matter – isn’t the morning food you seek, never fear, Relish does brunch on the weekend – it’s worth the wait.
DINE out FOR LIFE
Helping others is as easy as raising your fork! On April 24, 25% of food sales from participating restaurants will be donated to AIDS VI’s HIV/AIDS food programs. More info at avi.org.
Colour Your Palate
Victoria’s version of the Iron Chef is a fundraising event for the artsREACH program, pitting local chefs against one another to create the best tasting, most colourful canapés. artsreach.ca.
Tribute to Nashville
Be a part of the dream. Enjoy a carefully prepared and themed three-course dinner in the elegance of the David Foster Foundation Theatre followed by talented performers. oakbaybeachhotel.com.