Dine Around Victoria is one of the most anticipated foodie events of the year. During late January to mid-February, restaurants across the city are on their A-game, showcasing their best dishes for us hungry customers. This year, a total of 57 restaurants took part in this event, and offered set-price, three course menus at various price points ranging from $20-$50. While I wish I could have gone to many more restaurants this Dine Around season, I managed to get out to two fabulous local restaurants. With the festival all wrapped up for 2019, I thought I would tell you about the great experience I had and to hopefully inspire you to get out and enjoy this event next year!
Disclaimer: I am not interested in writing restaurant reviews, and by no means is this one. I just want to share my experiences (that both happened to be fantastic) during Dine Around Victoria.
Little Jumbo is Victoria’s best kept secret. This restaurant serves up some of the best local West Coast/Canadian casual cuisine that I’ve ever had. Not to mention their drinks are some of the best in town!
If you want to enjoy their food and drinks, you have to first find the restaurant. If you are walking down the street, look for a bright purple neon elephant mounted onto the building. Then walk down the long corridor to the big black door at the end. This location description my sound a bit ominous, but once you open that door, you will be greeted by wonderful people, cool and casual music, and the smell of delicious food!
Head down the long hallway and you will find a hidden restaurant; a great hangout spot for local Victorians and tourists alike!
Once you are seated, you must order a cocktail. Little Jumbo always offers new and innovative cocktails, and you can get great staples like Old Fashions and Negronis year-round. While I love a good negroni, I opted to try their “Feeling 23” cocktail- made with local Empress 1908 gin, St. Germaine, grapefruit, lemon, bitters, a sprig of thyme…and get this… collagen peptides. I know, right? After a few sips of this delicious purple cocktail, I felt young, youthful and radiant! What a great way to start off dinner!
The Feeling 23 cocktail and Drink Menu cover
For Dine Around Victoria 2019, Little Jumbo offered a $40 tasting menu comprised of three courses. For the appetizer, I enjoyed a beautiful plate of Cured Albacore Tuna Crudo. The tuna was just seared on the outside and was raw in the middle and was garnished with grilled asparagus spears, dill fronds, gribiche (a mayonnaise-like egg dressing), and grapefruit segments. The combination of these flavours and textures were divine!
For the second course, I dug into a big bowl of Steamed Clams. Of course, the clams were local and were stewed in a herbal, buttery, chartreuse broth. It was garnished with chives and croutons that were tossed in brown butter. The portion of clams was absolutely perfect and each clam had clam meat in it. I hate when you go to some restaurants and the portion is small and it’s all clam shells! By the end of the main course you felt perfectly full, but there was just enough room for dessert!
Cured Albacore Tuna Crudo & Steamed Clams in Chartreuse Broth
For the final course, I opted to try the Sticky Toffee Pudding. The pudding was perfectly moist and I particularly enjoyed the date puree that was served with it along with a scoop of vanilla gelato! The warm Sticky Toffee Pudding and cold gelato was the perfect way to end our delicious meal.
Overall, I highly recommend popping into Little Jumbo for dinner (or even just drinks) if you have never been. And if you have, you know to just keep going back over and over again. Their food and drinks can be a bit pricey, but in my opinion, it is well worth the money! Plus, not only are their food and drinks off-the-charts amazing, their wait staff, hosts and bartenders make you feel so comfortable and right at home. Just the way it should be! I will definitely be coming back for years and years to come! Thank you, Little Jumbo <3
Location: Down the Hall, 506 Fort Street, Victoria, BC
Reservations: (778) 433-5535 or online through OpenTable.ca
Sticky Toffee Pudding with Date Puree and Vanilla Gelato; the neon elephant marks the spot
E:Ne Raw Food and Sake Bar
Dine Around Victoria is all about getting out and exploring new foods and restaurants that you have never been to before. I actually work right across the street from E:Ne Raw Food and Sake Bar and I had never been to it since it opened back in 2018. I knew that Dine Around Victoria was my chance to experience this new restaurant- and at a great price!
As the name suggests, E:Ne serves raw food (i.e. sushi, sashimi) and sake. They actually have the largest selection of sake in Canada! They have other cooked dishes too such as yakitori, donburi and ramen for those of you that aren’t a fan of raw fish. The restaurant is easy to find as it is directly on Pandora Street and right next to it’s sister restaurant, Nubo Japanese Tapas (that I have to also try one day!). There are normally groups of people huddled around the restaurants waiting to get a table (a tell-tale sign of a good restaurant), so I highly recommend making a reservation in advance!
E:Ne offered three different menus at three different price points: $30, $40 and $50. I decided to go big or go home, so I went for the $50 menu.
As I have probably alluded to above, I love any drink with gin in it. This cocktail is called the Gin-jitsu. Isn’t that name just perfect? This cocktail contains local Ampersand gin, plum wine, angel water tea and a slice of cucumber. It was perfectly balanced between herbal, sweet and fresh- a great way to start the evening!
A sake bar so big you could get lost & the Gin-Jitsu Cocktail
For the first course, I enjoyed a beautiful plate of Seared Salmon with a Yuzu Cream Sauce. The salmon was cooked aburi-style, with a slight cooked/charred edge, but was raw for the most part. The salmon was garnished with salmon roe (eggs), some thinly sliced red onion, and some microgreens. The sweet yuzu cream sauce, salty eggs, and slightly charred salmon was a fantastic flavour combination Plus, that presentation was absolutely gorgeous!
If I wasn’t floored enough by the appetizer, the Omakase basically had me in tears of joy. I mean, just look at this beautiful presentation! So many beautiful colours, textures, and flavours! The Omakase was was comprised on nine dishes selected by the chef- so if you are adventurous, this is perfect for you! There was a variety of raw foods included in the Omakase, including local raw oysters, sockeye salmon sashimi, and kampachi (amberjack) sashimi, as well as cooked foods like shrimp tempura, fried pork, and soup dumplings. This Omakase was so good I didn’t want it to end! Luckily, it’s on their regular menu so I can always go back and try even more dishes!
Seared Salmon with Yuzu Cream Sauce & Omakase plate
To finish off the meal, I had Panna Cotta. Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert made of sweetened cream and gelatin, but this recipe got a Japanese twist with a dusting of matcha powder. I fawn over anything with matcha in it, so this dessert was perfect for me! Plus it was not too sweet, which I particularly enjoy.
If you are looking for authentic Japanese food, delicious drinks, and a chill atmosphere you must check out E:Ne Raw Food and Sake Bar. The menu is a bit pricey, but again, for the quality and amount of food you get, it is 100% worth it. I am excited to also try out their sister restaurant, Nubo to see what their Japanese tapas are like! Luckily I’m close by and can pop in when I may *conveniently* forget my lunch at home. Arigato gozaimasu, E:Ne!
Location: 737 Pandora Avenue, Victoria BC
Reservations: (778) 433-0363; phone only
Panna Cotta with Matcha & tranquil tables during a snow storm
If all these photos are making your mouth water, head out and try these two fantastic local restaurants! A big thank you to Tourism Victoria and all of the sponsors for hosting Dine Around Victoria 2019! I can’t wait until next year!