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One boy, one passport, one million dreams. Gas & Gander is a blog capturing the essence of the brands and companies I love, the cities and cultures I embrace, the food and drinks I enjoy and most of all, the travel I experience. Most of all Gas & Gander is a super fun & informative guide with an abundance of information. Come and join me on my adventures at Gas & Gander. Currently based in Vancouver, British Columbia. 

EATING MY WAY THROUGH VICTORIA

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EATING MY WAY THROUGH VICTORIA

Sean Loughran

Eat, Sleep, Tweet, Repeat

I highly encourage you to read this with a fork in one hand and a plate of something delicious in the other because I guarantee by the end of this post that you'll be salivating at the mouth and absolutely starving.

As you may have read in my previous post (link here), I was hosted by the incredibly kind city of Victoria on my weekend getaway from Vancouver. As with any vacation, there tends to be an excessive amount of eating and drinking, not that that's ever a bad thing, having the opportunity to explore new tastes and to discover what the city has on offer. In Victoria, it's all about local produce, unique dishes, and experimenting in the kitchen. 

I'm lucky that my dining had been planned in advance, and that I had an amazing experience at all three eateries I'll be discussing in this post. 

Buckle up because you're about to join me in Victoria for one hell of a ride on the foodie train. 

Little Jumbo

Little Jumbo is a hidden gem in the heart of Downtown Victoria, located on Fort Street. The decor is low key and slightly industrial, with old brick walls, low lighting, and dark wooden furniture, Little Jumbo gives off the vibe of a secret den in New York City's Meatpacking district.

I was hosted at Little Jumbo on Friday evening by the lovely Holly from Tourism Victoria, an incredibly inspiring and well travelled woman with a love for dogs and delicious food, which in other words mean that we're a match made in heaven and spend the entire evening chatting non-stop. 

Our experienced bartender offers us a look at the extensive cocktail list, something they're known for here at Little Jumbo. I spot the word 'matcha' and without looking any further, I instantly decide on 'It's a match(a)'. The cocktail is a mix of Cachaca, Umé Plum Wine, Silk Road Matcha Syrup, Lime, and Nori Tincture. If you know me, you'll know I have a love for anything flavoured with matcha. 

Holly & I decide on some appetizers; the tasty truffle fries seasoned with fresh herbs, sea salt, and aioli as well as a portion of the incredibly appealing Albacore Tuna Tartare which is topped with sliced avocado, caramelized soy, and served with addictive togarashi spiced spring roll crisps. The truffle fries are just how I like them, slightly crispy on the outside and bursting with flavour. The tuna tartare is absolutely heavenly and gone in about 5 minutes. Enough said. 

Although the regular menu looks incredibly appetizing, I decide to try out Head Chef Gabriel Fayerman-Hansen's special of the day which is a hefty piece of locally sourced rock fish, served with perfectly grilled caramelized broccoli and baby potatoes sourced from Sun Wing Greenhouses in Victoria. The potatoes have been sautéed and cooked in duck fat, and they are absolutely delicious. Holly decides on the popular Miso-Sake Broiled Sablefish which is served with soba noodles in an umami broth with ginger-garlic greens, turnip, and shiitake mushrooms. I compliment my main course with a glass of Riesling, which with its sweetness starts to drive my mind to our next course. 

Again, I decide on Gabe's special, which is a creative play on a traditional dessert. It's Strawberry Panna Cotta with a twist. The dessert consists of a traditional panna cotta recipe, with the addition of strawberries that have been locally sourced at Goben Farms, chef Gabe believes in supporting local and he actually also owns and operates his own farm with his wife. I love Gabe's passion for locally sourced goods. For flavour, he adds rhubarb from his farm, chunks of a homemade coconut and lime sponge cake and a miniature meringue sprinkled with toasted pistachio and coconut flakes for added texture and flavour. Holly indulges in the decadent dark chocolate mousse and brownie across the table, which is served with maldon salt, orange, and hazelnut brittle. I politely wait for her to fill up before diving across the table with my fork for a bite of the divine brownie, mousse and a bite of hazelnut brittle... It's heavenly.

Our experience at Little Jumbo is wonderful. I highly recommend this central spot to tourists visiting Victoria or even for locals headed out for a quiet evening on the town. Little Jumbo is also a great place for a first date with someone special. Chef Gabe is creative and extremely passionate, he switches up the menu regularly and you can expect good sized portions, hearty home cooking, and very reasonably priced food and wine at Little Jumbo. You also need to try that matcha cocktail and the truffle fries are a necessary addition to any meal.

Little Jumbo
506 Fort Street
Victoria, BC
+1 (778) 433-5535

VENUS SOPHIA

Next up on my food tour is Venus Sophia. Walking into the Venus Sophia Tea Room in Chinatown on Saturday afternoon, I almost feel as though I'm in an elevated Cath Kidston. The kitsch, vintage, and airy space, all complimented by the classical music playing in the background. This is a modern and incredibly charming tea joint and vegetarian eatery, designed for the younger millennium like myself but also enjoyable for people of all ages.  There's a welcoming and relaxed vibe at Venus Sophia.

On my server Miriam's recommendation I choose the Cream of Earl Grey tea, which is Venus Sophia's most popular tea. All teas are blended here on site at Venus Sophia after being imported from exotic places like India and beyond.

I'm here for the Signature Afternoon Tea, which consists of tea sandwiches and quiche, freshly baked scones with strawberry jam and Devon-style cream, organic cakes and pastries, and an organic tea of your choice. I'm more of a tea person than a wine person, so when someone hands me a list of teas the length of my arm I can't help but get a little excited. 

My classic afternoon tea tower of goodies arrives within minutes. It includes 4 different kinds of finger sandwiches; a wild mushroom and dill on a spongy freshly baked brown bread, a refreshing cucumber mint cream cheese on white, a unique strawberry mascarpone pinwheel sandwich which combines a sweet and salty taste, and finally a smoked cheddar and asparagus option. The lower tower also arrives with a few miniature nibbles of the handmade quiche of the day, which happened to be a delicious broccoli and cheddar. 

Each mouthful at Venus Sophia is a different experience, the combined tastes and unique flavors are well thought out and executed perfectly. Everything is handmade with organic flour and lots of love. 

I work my way up to the second tower, where sweetness awaits. This layer consists of a gluten free carrot cake topped with lemon infused icing, a freshly baked scone powdered with sugar and paired with Devon-style cream and strawberry jam. The first bite of the scone is absolutely divine. The gluten free carrot cake and sample of the Victoria cream and jam cake do not disappoint either.

I'm struggling as I get to the third layer, but with not much time before I leave for the art gallery, I decide to go full force and devour the entire thing. I did just finish a 3 hour bike ride around the city, so I totally deserve it. On the top tower, there's a decadent bite sized Swiss Dark Chocolate Cake, a light and fluffy Vancouver Island Cheesecake & a fresh chocolate covered strawberry.

I know those who come to Victoria tend to have afternoon tea at one place only, and I won't mention where that is because we all know, but I highly recommend Venus Sophia for a welcoming, modern, delightful and delicious afternoon tea with a twist. The atmosphere is unlike any other place that I've been for afternoon tea, it's very cozy and I feel as though I can actually relax here.

Venus Sophia is where the locals come, everything is fresh, this isn't a chain, it's locally owned and operated. My experience at Venus Sophia was five star. 

Venus Sophia
540 Fisgard Street
Victoria, BC
+1 (250) 590-3953

Saveur Restaurant

My third and final stop is at Saveur Restaurant where I dine on Saturday evening. Where do I even begin to describe the experience I had at Saveur restaurant? Saveur is French for flavour - and there's a reason that this restaurant is called what it is. Elevated fine dining in a relaxed, contemporary atmosphere, Saveur is an incredible experience where I had the opportunity to explore beyond my wildest food dreams.

Award winning chef Robert Cassels has the mind of an artist when it comes to creating his impeccably curated and uniquely flavoured dishes. Cassels works closely with the local farmers, foragers, and fisheries of Vancouver Island to create a truly unforgettable dining experience. I'm still thinking about every bite of pure delight that I experienced at Saveur. 

I'm here at Saveur for the Chef's Tasting Menu. A dining experience that starts out with a small bitesize portion of noodles seasoned with soy miso and sesame seeds, wrapped around a set of chopsticks. Also brought to my table is a plate of appetizing bread with homemade butter topped with fleur de sel.

It's not long before my first dish comes out, it consists mostly of a variation of Sun Wing sourced tomatoes, a decadent fried polenta, tasty basil granita, and watercress, dressed in a goats cheese vinaigrette. I'm in awe already, and I'm still only on the first course. The flavours are magnificent, showing how Robert can take such a simple dish and transform it into something incredible. 

I mentioned that Robert is a chef with an artist's mind, which you may be able to tell by the pictures in this post, but the pictures really do no justice to his food. How does one capture the taste in a photo?

It's not long before my next course arrives, which is freshly grilled and seasoned halibut, also locally sourced. It arrives with black sesame sponge cake, coconut leaks, Yuzu Kiwi Gel, and is sprinkled with matcha green tea powder. An interesting and unique flavour combination. Having never heard of black sesame sponge cake and never experiencing a savory dish seasoned with matcha powder, this was exciting. The dish was incredible, and probably my favourite that night.

The third dish to arrive is tender pork belly, which is lightly salted, and served with smoked pea purée, mushroom ragout, buttermilk, and pickled mustard seed spruce vinaigrette. The mixture of texture and flavour in this dish is indescribable.  The pork belly is perfectly cooked, the mustard seeds add a little crunch, and the buttermilk and purée add to that perfect combination of textures.

Next to arrive is a Brome Lake duck breast served with grilled carrots, granola, asparagus sauce (which is amazing), and is topped with a carrot vinaigrette. The duck is slightly crispy on top, as it should be, and is lightly salted. I notice salt is a main seasoning ingredient in all of my dishes, however it's the perfect amount, and never overpowers the other flavours. The granola in this dish adds an additional crunch and a slight sweetness while the asparagus sauce and carrot vinaigrette subtly add flavour throughout. I savour the last bite before dessert. 

Finally, time for dessert, although honestly I could sit here all night eating plate after plate of the creative and unique dishes at Saveur. Robert, if you're reading this, feel free to fly to Vancouver and cook for me everyday, thank you. For dessert, I dive into a refreshing rhubarb sorbet served with light and fluffy white chocolate mousse complimented by a piece of dehydrated crispy rhubarb. Each bite transports me somewhere new, and I'm really Saveuring the taste of Saveur.

What shocks me the most at Saveur is the reasonably priced tasting menu. Enjoy this stunning five course meal for $70, a meal that would likely cost close you closer to $200 in another city. It's incredibly affordable for a special night out. Saveur also offers a vegetarian tasting menu which consists of smoked carrot risotto, beets served with pickled walnuts, quinoa, espresso butter, and orange, a grilled Saanich asparagus with confit egg yolk, potato gnocchi and asparagus slaw, and finished with Saanich strawberries with wild rose pastry cream and pink peppercorn meringue.

Saveur Restaurant
658 Herald Street
Victoria, BC
+1 (250) 590-9251

Huge thank you to Little Jumbo, Venus Sophia, Saveur Restaurant, and to Tourism Victoria.  

Join me again on Friday for my third installment of #ExploreVictoria where I'll be cycling my way to various sights with my passionate guide Matt from Bike Tours Victoria.

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