Birthday dinner #3 – Locals Restaurant at the Old House

We spent the holidays over on Vancouver Island this year.  There didn’t seem to be too many fine dining choices in the Comox Valley area, but it was recommended we go to Locals Restaurant in Courtenay, so for my official birthday dinner celebration with Hitman that’s where we went.  They’re known for sourcing their food locally whenever they can (hence their name).

It had a very warm and inviting atmosphere.  There was even a fully decorated Christmas tree at the entrance with stools for you to take pictures on.

However, some parts of the service left much to be desired. Read on to find out!

Locals Restaurant: Bison Tartare on Asian Salad Amuse Bouche

We were promptly seated as we had already made reservations.  While we were looking through the menu we were offered an amuse bouche of Bison Tartare on Asian Salad.  It was a bit tart, and I thought that covered any hint of gaminess the bison might have. The salad portion was an interpretation of an “Asian” slaw.

Locals Restaurant: Grains bread with chickpea spread

For the complimentary bread, it was multigrain bread from the local bakery Grains.  Alongside was Locals Restaurant’s house-made chickpea spread.  I wasn’t too fond of the spread as it was too bland for my liking.  Hitman really enjoyed it though and he even tasted hints of cumin in it.

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Hot Chocolates & CakeBread Bakery

Hot Chocolates and CakeBread Bakery in Courtenay

Cold winter weather always calls for a nice, cozy cup of hot chocolate don’t you agree? We took a short trip to the island, and while it wasn’t exactly wintery weather, it was still mighty cold. So Hitman took me to a place in downtown Courtenay called Hot Chocolates for…wait for it….Hot Chocolate!!

Hot Chocolates and CakeBread Bakery in Courtenay

Now Hot Chocolates actually coexists with the artisan bakery Cakebread.  On one side, there’s handmade belgian chocolate treats of all sorts plus gelato.  On the other side, baked goodies that are sure to bring out your indecisive side.

Hot Chocolates and CakeBread Bakery in Courtenay

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Victoria Weekend Trip Part 3 – Hernande’z Cocina

For our last meal we went to another rather odd location, Hernande’z Cocina, for Central American food.  This is apparently as close as you’ll get to a traditional Salvadorean cocina here in BC, with two sides of a mall hallway doubling for a rustic village market stall.  Well, they didn’t quite deliver on the atmosphere, but it’s an interesting setup and it seems to be working for them.

Hernande'z Cocina

It is all very DIY and kind of confusing for a newcomer, however they have plenty of hand-written cardboard signage and if you’re feeling overwhelmed it pays off to start reading.  Or do what we did and browse the page after page of instructions and explanations on their website.  Many people have been complaining in various reviews about this style of service, or self-service to be more accurate, along with the various rules for dining there but after reading what the owners have to say about it I felt good about giving them our business and it all seemed to make sense to me.  Most of it has to do with keeping costs down and quality of food high, although it’s hard to understand the justification for a $4 side of rice or beans…I guess they must be HUGE.  Everything else was quite reasonably priced though.

They have a slow food and an express menu, the main difference seems to be that the slow food comes with their home-made tortillas and is served table-side via a strange (but cool) loteria card-based system that involves a bit of shouting and hand-waving.  Express food is picked up across the hall at the kitchen.  I think the only express item we ordered was the burrito, but everything seemed to come out of the kitchen at a good clip so maybe slow food is a bit of a misnomer.  Messier items come on a plate whereas finger-food is on butcher paper, however plates can be rented for $1.  Yes, things are done a little differently here, but read their website manifesto and then sample the food before you judge.

Hernande'z Cocina: Tacos de Carne

Tacos de Carne $6.00 – fresh, handmade corn tortillas with locally raised, naturally grown beef, salsa, chopped onions, cilantro and wedges of lime.

The Tacos de Carne were a bit less bang for buck at three for $6 than the other tacos which come with five for the same price, but the organic beef they use apparently isn’t always in stock so we had to try it.  And we were glad we did!  The beef was sooo tender and juicy, with a generous portion of cilantro folded in delectable home-made tortillas.

Hernande'z Cocina: Pork Enchilada

Pork Enchilada – $11.95

The Pork Enchilada came swimming in a very cinnamon-y sauce which reminded us of a mole.  Intriguing on first bite, but by the end we were getting sick of it due to the overwhelming sauce.  On the plus side the meat was juicy and there was lots of gooey cheese smothering it.

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Victoria Weekend Trip Part 2 – Caffe D’Amore & AYOeat

Executive House Hotel in Victoria

We were fortunate to come across a pretty good deal on LivingSocial for our hotel stay for this Victoria trip.  Hitman and I got a pretty nice room at the Executive House Hotel in downtown Victoria.  It was within walking distance to pretty much everything (unless you’re in heels like I was…then it was excruciating =P) and we got a room on the 14th floor with a pretty side view of the harbour.  The nightview was pretty awesome, so we were happy.

Included with the voucher was full breakies for 2 people at the onsite Caffe d’Amore.  Hitman chose the Corned Beef & Hash ($9.99) with a tea and I had the Blackstone Benedict ($10.99) which was an eggs benedict with grilled tomatoes and bacon.

Both breakfasts were solid.  Hitman’s was a decent portion with lots of onions, green peppers and mushrooms mixed in.  Mine was also pretty good.  The hollandaise sauce was not the best though and the eggs could be poached a tad softer and runnier but really not too much to complain about.  Both were served with mediocre hash browns.

Now, we got up especially early so that we could fit in both breakfast AND lunch before we headed to the wedding ceremony at 2pm.  This is because as stated in the previous post, prior to the trip, we had already researched where we wanted to eat.  Our next destination was to AYOeat.

 Market Square in Victoria, BC

It took us a little bit to find AYOeat as google maps on my phone did not give the correct location.  I should’ve read AYOeat’s website clearly because it clearly tells you that it’s inside the courtyard of Market Square.  By the way it’s a very nice courtyard.  If we weren’t in a hurry and it wasn’t that cold out and I wasn’t in a skirt and heels, totally would’ve sat there to feast.

It’s a little food stand if you will along the shops of the courtyard.  Vibrant red, can’t miss it.  Plus the directory of the square is pretty clear too.

AYOeat

And it’s literally a hole in the wall.  It’s just the kitchen plus a fridge that’s it.  The menu’s on the door.  Chef Bana is very friendly, even offering us water while we waited.  But that’s probably because it does take him a little while to make the food.  I wouldn’t call it fast food.

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Victoria Weekend Trip Part 1 – The Mint

Howdy, it’s Hitman here to start off this post where we’re going to review several restaurants we dined at during a recent trip to Victoria for my sister’s wedding.  Victoria is notoriously hit and miss for the food scene, and I’ve had my share of misses there but thankfully this trip we lucked out and would highly recommend any of the following eateries.

The Mint Dining Lounge in Victoria

While we were deciding whether to have Thai or Indian food for our first meal in the city, which was a Friday night dinner, I rang up a local friend to see what they recommended.  He was eating at a place called The Mint dining lounge which was just a short walk from our hotel and after a quick google search (I’ve been steered wrong by the locals before….seems in Victoria sometimes places get popular just by virtue of being “hip” regardless of the food so we weren’t taking any chances), we decided to join them for some crazy Indian/Thai/Greek/Italian/Tibetan/Japanese/whatever fusion.

We could hear music playing as we descended the dimly lit, glitter covered concrete steps which was a sign of the funky, cool atmosphere to come.  Once inside we could see the place was packed, but thankfully no lineup–everywhere we went in the downtown core we saw some pretty crazy lineups for clubs, pubs, restaurants etc.  Even a lineup for a pho place!!  We will be hitting that one up next time as we could smell the broth half a block away and it was intoxicating, even though we had just ate!  Back to Mint, the lighting was quite impressive in the opening dining area, with small Xmas-style light bulbs strung along the ceilings which cast the perfect illumination to set a romantic mood, even though the place was batshit noisy.  Part of this noise was coming from a live DJ spinning on a converted stovetop setup complete with kettle!  Some nice electro beats on this particular night, nothing too overwhelming but a nice compliment to the hipster ambiance.  The decor was quite a mixed bag, dropping hints of the eclectic menu: Thai and Indian masks, elephant statues, modern wildlife artwork including some with the wildlife engaged in sex acts…daily specials written on a giant circular saw hanging on the wall behind the bar.

The Mint Dining Lounge in Victoria: Water Buffalo Momos

There wasn’t room at the table the friend was at as they had a big party going on so we didn’t join them until some guests left later, so we settled in to our own table and ordered Water Buffalo Momos to start which were a special for $8.95.  They were practically thumbnail size so we didn’t feel like we got anywhere near our money’s worth.  They appeared to be deep fried instead of the steamed style we were used to…not as good in our opinion.  It came with an achar that tasted like a salsa with a slight pickled flavour.  Maybe they can find a better use for it than the momos because it was kind of interesting.

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