In past issues of Monday Magazine, I have visited some of Victoria’s more understated restaurant jewels. I’ve focused on places that people might not find if they do not happen to live, work or shop nearby. There was the unapologetically authentic La Tortilla Mexicana, the inventive Sült, the Indo-West Coast flavours of Fishhook, and the nostalgic Saltchuck Pie Company, for examples. These are tiny, intensely personal places that focus on serving something unexpected at very reasonable prices and in comfortable but downscale settings. This month I opted for somewhere very different.
In my humble opinion, at this moment, Saveur is the premier fine dining restaurant in Victoria. It serves a French-style gourmet cuisine with all the flair and sophistication one would expect from a Michelin Star restaurant in Paris. Some may call it pretentious. It is certainly expensive by Victoria standards (though it is still quite cheap by international standards). And yet it exudes the relaxed joie de vivre that is a hallmark of Victoria’s restaurant scene.
I visited Saveur with three friends who all agreed to partake of the Chef’s Tasting Menu. An à la carte menu is available, but the prix fixe, five-course service with wine pairings called to our sense of adventure. Our first course was a salad of carpaccio-thin slices of smoked Sun Wing Farm tomatoes served with watercress, little cubes of goat cheese polenta, and a basil sauce, paired with a citrusy Marqués de Cãceres “Deusa Nai” Albariño. It was followed with a medallion of halibut supported by black sesame cakes and a kiwi gel, and an off-dry German Riesling by St. Urbans-Hof. The third course was soft braised lamb served beneath a nettle filled Arancini (stuffed rice ball) next to a swish of wild elderflower jus dotted with a smoked crème frâiche. A light, fruity red Beaujolais from Château Bonnet accompanied this course. Course four was Cowichan raised chicken breast served with a foie gras marshmallow and a chicken skin crisp all sitting on a black garlic sauce, and paired with a bolder, deeper French Syrah Grenache by Bastide Miraflors. Desert was a small square of dehydrated chocolate cake served under an apple hazelnut puree and surrounded by five balls of compressed apple with carrot and caramel. A delectable, complex, and not too sweet Château Dereszia Tokaji from Hungary drew our adventure to a close.
Relaxed pacing allowed plenty of time to sit back, savour and discuss the previous course until the next arrived. The flavours and textures of each dish complimented and contrasted spectacularly, each was artfully presented, and the wine pairings seemed the perfect fit to the courses they accompanied. Portions were small, and yet we all departed satisfied, though sorry to have reached the end of our meal.
Fine dining is about lingering. It is as much about sharing a remarkable experience as it is about enjoying a meal. Slow down, chew well, let the flavours evolve in the mouth, wash them down with a fine wine, and then discuss it all with friends. Don’t forget to compliment the chef. Ah… that’s the life.