Let’s dig right in, shall we? Two new food trucks have hit the streets of Victoria. First, fans of chef Naotatsu Ito’s Japanese cooking are thrilled that he is back at the stove, this time cooking out of a shiny new kitchen on wheels.
Daidoco appears at the Saturday-only Moss St. Market, with a menu similar to his former bricks and mortar location of the same name. Expect organic, creative, delicate dishes with clean flavours and excellent value.
Seven dollars buys you a selection of salads – and for $3.00 more, tuna, some days tataki, and other days poke, one of my favourites of Ito’s, lightly dressed in sesame oil, and served in a folded bamboo leaf. He sure packs a lot of flavour and variation in a take-out container.
And as usual, he sells out before the 2 PM close.
The organic fare he uses is sourced from Metchosin’s Umi Nami Farm, where Ito apprenticed for the last year, and his market outlet is a great way for folks to introduce themselves to the flavours of the farm’s outlay. The farm also has a stand at the market, where you can buy direct from farmer, Yoshiko Unno.
Who said location is everything? Completely off the beaten track, in a parking lot behind Save on Foods Memorial Centre, Tacofino, with outlets in Tofino and Vancouver, have brought their version of tacos, burritos and chocolate diablo cookies to Victoria.
A few balloons marked the spot on opening day, with picnic tables set up for lounging.
Within an hour, they garnered a line up, from people walking over from work, young moms with strollers, the foodie crowd, to the curious.
It proves that Victoria is hungry for more food trucks and we’ll hunt you down no matter where you’re parked.
In the bricks and mortar category, we find Catalano Restaurant and Cicchetti Bar housed in the restaurant side of the boutique Magnolia Hotel and Spa. The space has seen various culinary incarnations in the past that have never quite gelled. It’s a beautiful space with a great looking bar, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a doomed location it’s just that we haven’t seen the right combination of owners and concept. The latest brave souls to take it on are the owners of Ferris’, a long established Victoria institution on Lower Yates.
Together, chef Aaron Lawrence, Dave Craggs and Tom Ferris, have put together a Mediterranean-inspired menu – big emphasis on Italy and Spain -with an affordable price range similar to Ferris’ and Ferris’ Upstairs. The cicchetti (Italian for snacks) range from $6 to $12, and some standouts include, crispy fried octopus with preserved lemon aioli, meatballs with braised peppers and tomato jam,
and the crispy chickpea salad with arugula, fresh mint, basil and lemon with fried garlic and chiles.
The restaurant is open lunch and dinner, seven days a week, and I plan on returning to explore the rest of the menu soon.
Kudos go to their strong bar program, overseen by Victoria’s favorite Solomon Siegel, with Ryan Malcolm (co-creator of New Theatre Tonic) and Cyle Serra
whose background in herbology is finding its way into some refreshing inventions such as the Coastal Gin Tonic with spirulina and Beefeater 24,
or the Sicilian, a dandelion and burdock Sazerac.
I hope Catalano’s is here to stay.
And in case you’ve been living under a rock, bartender extraordinarie Shawn Soole, who shook up Victoria’s cocktail scene, garnered numerous awards and accolades for himself and Clive’s Classic Lounge, where he worked for the last four years, is gearing up to open his own space. Little Jumbo, a 50-seat hideaway is in the works, and according to Soole, who is realizing his lifelong dream, promises, “this will be the most epic.” The goal is to “ have the biggest spirits bar in BC,” he says. “Everything from the water – which will be filtered, with sparkling water on tap – to the tea and the cocktails, everything has been thought about.”
This includes bespoke ice machines, imported from Europe, that create perfect ice globes and 1 ¼ “ squares, an exclusive beer menu and 50 wines offered by the glass. Soole can be seen around town already sporting the Little Jumbo logo, in tattoo form.
The cozy 1800-square foot restaurant primary space at 506 Fort Street, will feature brick, pressed tin tiles and a repurposed wood bar top, with further décor provided by Soole’s vintage barware and books he’s collected over the years. “Everything,” he says, “has a bit of age to it.” (I’m sure to fit right in!)
Soole hopes to be open by the end of July, evenings only, which leaves the daytime for seminars, something he is good at organizing. The food, overseen by chef Justin Hardiman, was still in the works as of this writing but Soole bandied about words such as bone marrow, duck fat fries and house gnocchi. I’ll take one of each.
Like the macarons and cupcakes before them, donuts are also spreading their sugary lovin’ in Victoria’s marketplace. The Doughboys Donuts, a creation by Luke Roberts and Noah Warder recently launched at the Moss St. Market.
The boys are playing with a wide variety of yeasted and cake ‘nuts, at $3.00 a pop, with such flavours as Phillip’s root beer, caramel, Denman Island chocolate, salted caramel and a square brioche version. They’ve been introducing new flavours every week, and are already making custom creations, like the versions I sampled at a recent coffee and donut pairing at Graham Bouvier’s Heist coffee.
Mortiscycle Donuts, is an outdoor café, a division of the Superior Restaurant, carved out of the front and formerly ivy-covered corner of the building. Owner Lisa Boehme adds her usual creative flair to her donut concept with a menu inspired by bike culture and her husband, bike aficionado, artist and pastry chef Kevin Hernandez, an alumnus of Seattle’s Macrina Bakery.
The setting is wonderfully playful with vintage wooden ironing boards as counters, painted branches, and giant painted wooden donuts hanging down from the top of the building.
The donuts are amply portioned and sport names such as Hell’s Angels (strawberry glaze),
Vespa (coconut and chocolate), and True Grit (roasted peanut and chocolate).
The namesake ‘nut, the Mortis, is a riff on the jam buster or bismark, with a banana cream filling and superb chocolate glaze.
Customers are encouraged to enjoy their treats in the front garden or perch at one of the vintage wooden ironing boards.
Extra vroom is provided by locally roasted 2 percent Jazz coffee. The menu also offers biscuits, bacon jam and soon to be announced, sausage gravy! Morticycle is open Tuesday to Sunday from 8 AM, unless it’s raining, and discounts are offered when you pull in on wheels.
Yonni’s, is another hole-in-one contender, sharing space with Discovery Coffee on Menzies Street, also in James Bay. I hear bacon and sprinkles are involved and I promise I’ll visit soon, once I get a workout regime under way!
~ Shelora Sheldan