Branching out to neighbourhood Bistro 28
The subtle twist of antique Gary Oak boughs and aisle upon aisle of blossoms make walking through Fairfield to Oak Bay more than pleasant, especially as the weather warms. Tucked alongside the BC Wine Guys and Slater’s Meats on Cadboro Bay Road, Bistro 28 offers a thoughtful sophistication and gourmet end to a good wander.
Sam Chalmers, Chef and Owner of Bistro 28, arrived on the shores of Vancouver Island in 2003 after training at the Art Institute of Vancouver DuBrulle and the Northwest Culinary Academy. Bistro 28 has been on my radar since it opened and time proves it’s a restaurant to keep on the radar.
With an evolving wine and food menu, the creation of a ‘chef’s table’ at the bar where a minimum party of six people can book a 5-6 course meal paired with your choice of wine, beer or cocktails for a minimum of $100 per head, and ongoing visitations from the holy vineyards of BC and beyond organized by wine and spirit distributor, Christopher Stewart, Bistro 28 is spring-time all year round when it comes to new growth.
With all these fancy events, you would think arriving in anything less than a dinner jacket and tie would be gauche. On the contrary, the intimate and relaxed atmosphere, though very polished, would certainly accommodate a low-heeled shoe and belted trench coat as much as it would a pair of your mother’s diamonds and a designer pair of shoes.
Everything about Bistro 28 shows the restaurant has been conceptualized as a neighbourhood place, offering a quiet solitude to enjoy food, drink, community and art. Opening the menu, it’s apparent all present will enjoy a starter of gratitude for these.
The four part canvas series, “Elements”, by Laura Harris and Rob Gentleman’s recycled Douglas Fir flooring from the original Hudson Bay building are two of the notable acknowledgements from the proprietor that it takes the support of a village to raise a good restaurant (and a community of artists) right from the very start.
With the last of the Sun shining in through the etched glass (coincidently with black tree boughs), we ordered our first cocktail: a classic gin and tonic. All cocktails (gin or vodka) are listed by date and place of origin (single $10, doubles $13).
The gin and tonic breezed in with a side of Fentiman’s tonic in the petite bottle, much to the aesthetically divine delight of our so inclined table (we’ve had tonic water ‘taste offs’ over the past few months, and Fentiman’s rates highly for both flavour and aesthetic appeal).
The wine list was grounded and earthy with good BC and European selections, many of which are available by the 3oz. and 5oz. if you want to try several.
Our knowledgeable server recommended the Kettle Valley Pinot Gris ($7/$9/$40) for starters, a 2010 that has just recovered from bottle shock. Left in the skins for an extended period of time, the colour and flavour blooms on the tongue, leaving Kettle Valley in my Top 3 for BC wineries.
Along with the spiced potato crisps and starters of Duck, Blueberry Terrine ($13) with house pickled carrot and cauliflower, dijon mustard and grilled baguette and Beet Salad ($11) with arugula and fruity vinaigrette, we’re off to an elegant start.
The terrine was chunky and flavourful, country-style, and the combination with the arugula and gold and red beet salad brought back memories of a French lunch on market day.
For the main, I chose the Pan Roasted Halibut ($23) with sautéd fennel and cabbage and new potatoes in tomato-based broth. I attribute the saltiness of the halibut and comfort of the fennel-infused broth for curing a headache the size of Manchester, interfering none-too-subtly with my delightful company and culinary appetite.
My companions feasted on Metchosin Lamb Sausages ($19) with white bean and bacon mash ($19) and Duck Breast Sous Vide ($26) with pan roasted grilled baguette and duck confit.
Across the way, elderly grandparents wined and dined with a grandson and his new girlfriend with a tattooed wrist. Beside them, a woman sat contently alone with a horizontal plate holding a small bowl of mussels and artfully placed carmelized onion, fennel and chipotle.
I did think at this point that Sam Chalmers’ idea of ‘restaurant as neighbourhood canvas’ was definitely working.
For dessert, a small selection of beautifully crafted options.
We ordered the perfect trio of dark chocolate pate with creamy Greek yogurt drizzled with port syrup and fennel seed brittle ($9). After seeing foie gras throughout the starter and main menu and resisting, we could not ignore a scoop of foie gras ice-cream ($3) which is definitely worth leaving as a last earthy sweet taste in the mouth with a cup of French press coffee.
If you’re in the neighbourhood, Bistro 28 is definitely worth a visit for brunch, lunch or dinner. If you’re not, Bistro 28 is worth the wander. M
2583 Cadboro Bay RdLunch – Mon-Sat 11am-2pmDinner – Mon-Sat 5pm-CloseBrunch – Sunday 10am to 1pmPh: 250.598.2828www.bistro28.ca