Howdy, it’s Hitman here to start off this first post of a series 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.
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.
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.
For a main dish I ordered the Spicy Noodle Soup with Prawns-$9.25 plus $4 for six prawns. As soon as our waitress set it down I could tell I was going to be blown away…I took a minute to inhale the warm lemongrass coconut aroma of the broth and dug in. I’m a big fan of Asian soups be it pho, ramen, homemade Chinese, any type of Thai etc. And this beat everything I’ve ever tasted…although I suppose it’s nothing traditional since it’s a blend of Japanese-Udon and a Thai-style broth with peanuts on top and some mixed veggies so I’ll call it Asian-style. Just the right amount of chilies, noodles a perfect texture, everything bursting with flavour. I couldn’t stop gushing through the whole meal! When I told the waitress how much I liked it she said it’s her favourite menu item too so MUST TRY! Portion was in the equivalent of a small-size pho bowl but filled an inch or so below the top. So not huge but well worth it anyway.
Wendy had the Ginger Cilantro Sticky Rice ($14.95). This came with coconut rice and some veg with a nice-sized peanut-crusted tofu cutlet alongside. Veggies were all cooked just right and again we were both impressed with the flavours. I’m not a huge fan of tofu but they did a good job of making it as edible as possible. Sauce was kind of like Dan Dan but with the added ginger/cilantro bonus. Wendy managed to fill up on it and I ended up polishing it off. As far as a vegetarian dish goes this had tons of flavor and was incredibly enjoyable.
Wendy ordered two drinks during the course of the meal I’ll let her take over for that part…
Wendy: My first drink of the night was on their specials menu. It was a Cardamom Mojito ($6) and I was extremely excited to try it as I am a big fan of Indian flavors and this sounded like a really interesting combination of aromas. It’s described as “Spiced rum, house made cardamom syrup, mint, lime and soda“.
Alas, I must say this was sort of a disappointment. I can certainly taste the spiced rum and mint but there just wasn’t enough cardamom flavor to satisfy me. But mind you they could be trying to find the right balance between the flavors to serve the general crowd but in my opinion, if you’re going to name a drink with a specific flavor, that flavor should really stand out.
But I didn’t give up on them. I ordered the Mint Royale ($5.75) next and it didn’t disappoint. This was a cocktail of “Raspberry Vodka, Raspberry Liqueur, club soda, cranberry juice, lime & mint.” and boy was it pretty~ The raspberry flavors were a clear standout and I was especially impressed with the amount of mint they actually include in the drinks, both in this one and the one before. The Mint Royale was very refreshing and was a good end to a night of an extremely good meal.