Friday, December 31, 2010

Passero's on Yates

I was looking for somewhere to eat last night and used to Urbanspoon to find a Greek restaurant.  I decided we should try Passero's on Yates as neither Sheila or I had been there before.   The reports on Urbanspoon sounded good.

I had always passed it by because the exterior decor looked tired, this does not mean the food would be bad but I find it is an indication of the relative effort put into the restaurant by the owners.  I have been surprised in the past by some places, but in Victoria I have found it is generally a good indication of the quality of the food.

We decided to go because of the good reviews on Urbanspoon, normally the site has been a good guide but this time it let us down.

The inside of the restaurant made the outside look new and spiffy.   The large unwieldy and dusty plants made it all look cramped and tired.   Sheila noticed a car pine freshener hanging on one of the plants.

The service was very good from the start and led us to have good hopes for the food.  What did concern me a bit was that the diners in the restaurant were almost all seniors, this is often the signs of a restaurant that is tired but works for a faithful crowd.

We ordered the kalamari to start.   I have to assume it was an error, that something went wrong that day with the kalamari.   The squid itself was clearly of a good quality and was not over cooked, I hate rubbery squid.   The problem was with the batter, it was mealy and under seasoned.  Along with this problem it was also clearly cooked in a deep fryer that was not quite hot enough.  

The presentation was heavy handed.   It was as if someone coarsely chopped an onion and just dumped it on top.   There was way too much of the onion.  The whole plate looked like a heap dumped on it.

This is some of the worst kalamari I have ever had.  I really have to assume it is because of a mistake with the coating but the onion heap is just wrong

I had the roast lamb as a main course.  It was decent but not stunning.   The vegetables were bland.   There was this piece of kale on the plate with a dusting of paprika on it I think, I do not like raw kale.

Sheila had the souvlaki wrap.   She found it to be just acceptable.  The Greek salad was bland as the ingredients were not freshly picked local seasonal tomatoes and cucumbers.

They redemed themselves with the desert.   I aksed first what they made on site and what they brought in.   They make it all expect for the cheesecake - frankly they should drop the cheesecake because there is no way it can be as good as what they make fresh in the kitchen.   Restaurants do themselves a huge disfavour bringing in deserts as this is the last food a diner will have in the restaurant and will strongly colour their experience.

They gave Max his ice cream on the house because he was a good boy.  Sheila enjoyed her baklava.   I had a bougatsa for the first time and it came to me straight from the oven piping hot.  I had never had bougatsa before and I was impressed with what I got.

Overall it was pricey for what we got especially considering the quality of the food.    I highly doubt that we will be going back even though the service was some of the best I have seen in this city.

Could I have done better at home?  Yes, but the reason I go to Greek restaurants is because many of the things they offer are things that are a pain in the ass for me to prepare at home.   I do not have the deep fryer for kalamari and rarely can afford to buy a large piece of lamb to roast.

Passero's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Taste for 2011

This came across my email today:
Kathy McAree is pleased to announce 2011 dates for the third annual Taste: July 21-24. The 2011 schedule of events will be spiced up with even more indulgence. Taste uncorks with The Main Event on July 21st abiding the tradition of fresh and local cuisine and wine in abundance! 

Stay tuned for a full listing of events in the new year. If you’d like to peruse the 2010 events, please visit

We’re always looking for food and wine lovers to join our team of enthusiastic Taste volunteers. Drop me a line if you’re interested:

Best wishes for the holiday season,


Keep up on what’s happening on the Victoria culinary scene. Listen to Kathy’s “In Good Taste” on CFAX 1070 Saturdays 1-2pm. Listen live

Monday, December 13, 2010


On Saturday night Bernard and I took his niece, Laurel, and her boyfriend, Thomas, out for a grown-up dinner. They are in their twenties and have been living with us since September and providing childcare for our 2 1/2 year old. As they are departing soon, we wanted to take them someplace we knew they, two students, would not take themselves.

We were, as often we are, somewhat last minute about the whole thing and not wanting to eat late we took advantage of the 'no reservations for parties under 8' policy at Stage Small Plates Wine Bar to eat around six. The weather was appalling which meant that we easily got seats - and more miraculously, given this is Fernwood (1307 Gladstone), we are talking about, got parking right across the street. The first thing I noted as different from my last visit was the addition of a small curtained off area around the door. This was a great addition as it preventsthe frigid breeze every time the door opens (one of the low points of my previous visit). Constructed out of a wrought iron frame and some heavy felt-ish fabric curtains that appeared removable, it was a simple solution to a problem that plagues many a small restaurant. They may want to consider a light over the area though as it is a bit dim within the curtain.

On to the actual food! Stage, for me, offers one of my favorite ways to eat - small plates of wonderful, flavourful food. The menu changes over time, though some things seem quite eternal - including the only pate I have ever eaten - their "chicken liver parfait". I was lucky enough to get all the fun of picking our food.

I could go on in great detail about each dish but I am going to try to be more efficient. First, a list: two orders of fried langoes (potato bread) with garlic, seared tuna salad, haloumi and tomato salad, gnocchi with butternut squash and boar pancetta, pomme frites with lemon aioli, pork sausage with mashed potato and a roast garlic reduction and an oso buccho with risotto Milanese. Those were are mains courses. Though we had nary a bad things for me some of the highlights were the light, melt-in-your mouth gnocchi, the langoes ('cuz deep-fried dough is unbeatable!),the lemon aioli that came with the frites, and the incredibly rich and tender meat of the oso bucho (which came with a big bone full of roast marrow).

We then had dessert. We got two orders of the dessert langoes (these with cinnamon sugar, creme fraiche and caramel sauce), a creme brulee and a chocolate pate with raspberry coulee and creme fraiche. On this course I we had some division of opinion. For me the creme fraiche with both the chocolate and the langoes provided a lovely acidic punch cut throught the delicious richness of the dishes. For Laurel and Thomas the caramel sauce was the langoes accompaniment of choice, Laurel also could have passed on the raspberry with the chocolate but the rest of us thought it was divine. Laurel and Thomas had never had creme brulee though so I suppose the winner with all spoons in was that creamy pudding with the perfectly golden crust that gave a thoroughly satisfying crack when broken.

In line with the general yea/nay rule for Bernard and I - Could we have done this at home? NOPE. Some of it we could have, some I know we couldn't (we still can't get our aioli to the right thickness, and our gnocchi, while improving, don't even come close!)and overall trying to produce the variety and scope of what we had would have been impossible. That is always one of the draws for me with Stage and similarly styled places - I get to have many wonderful all at once and not work for hours and then go crazy trying to get them all out hot, or cold, in order, looking beautiful. The co-ordination factor should always be part of a restaurants charm but the small plate/Tapas style places bring that benefit to new heights.

I get to go back later this week for drinks with my sister - I might just have to try something new too. There were many choices I turned from that had appeal.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Futaba Sushi

Not a pic of Futaba sushi, but a pic from Wikipedia
We have been looking for a good source from which to order sushi here in Victoria and have had mixed results from different restaurants and often having an annoying problem with people finding our house.  We live on a moderately busy street that is not hard to find, our address can be seen clearly from the street but from some reason there has been regular problems getting the food to our house on time.

We have ordered from Futaba a couple of times and the last time they were also late but they not only reduced the price of the late sushi, the offered us a credit on our next order.  Last night we ordered from them again for Daniel's 16th birthday dinner and they made good on the credit and arrived on time.

My oldest son Daniel has been a fan of sushi since he was six years old and we ate at sushi restaurant on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.   Catherine and I were in Vancouver and met up for dinner with Daniel's name sake Daniel Gawthrop.   The restaurant was basically empty and while the three adults sat our table, Daniel sat an the counter and watched the sushi being made.   That seems to he the moment he fell in love with sushi and became a true west coaster.

Daniel has since learned how to make sushi and we always have a supply of sushi rice, nori and rice wine vinegar on hand.   His rolls are decent for flavour but he has trouble rolling them.

I am actually amazed at how many sushi restaurants there in Vancouver now.   Back when I was growing up in the Lower Mainland there were a few but not like one on every block.   Sushi seems to almost have become Vancouver's primary cuisine,  but I digress.

View Larger Map
Futaba has their whole menu available online and it is easy to read.   It is amazing how many restaurants do not have a good online menu especially ones offering take away food.   The one thing they could do to improve their online menu would be to have a picture link for each menu item, I knew what I ordered but when it came I was not 100% certain what was what.

I ordered 8 pieces of nigiri and and 10 rolls.   This, along with the gyoza we cooked at home, were more than enough for the six of us.   Thesushi came nicely arranged on a large tray and not in small styrofoam containers.   I was impressed with how it looked when it arrived because I could just put the tray out on the table.   They gave us a very generous portion of wasabi and pickled ginger.   I meant to ask the boys to save the extra after dinner, but I was not paying attention and it ended up in the garbage, 'ton pis'.

The nigri was salmon and shrimp, it was good but not excellent, the salmon was a bit thick for my liking.  I did not order a lot of it because it is something that I am the only one that really eats.  Certainly no one else touched the shrimp nigiri.  

I ordered beef teriyaki, California, tempura, dynamite and salmon skin rolls.   I meant to order some negitoro rolls as well, but I forgot.  They were all well formed and tight with decent flavour.  There is nothing I can say against them but on the other hand they were not so brilliant that I was stunned by their amazing nature.    If I were to raise an issue of complaint, and complaint is the wrong word, it is that I would have liked a little bit more vinegar in the sushi.  I think that is what it would have taken to move it from decent day to day to something extraordinary.

Futuba is very good value for money.   Having all this sushi delivered and handsomely displayed on the tray came to only $66 before tip.   We will be ordering from Futaba in future when we want sushi delivered.

Can I make sushi better at home?  No I can not, I can make sushi that is of the quality you buy in a super market but nothing like what I can get from a sushi restaurant.

Futaba on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 9, 2010

End of the line for the chickens?

My generic brown layers have reached the end of their egg laying life.   Shortly they will meet their maker.

My plan is to rebuild the coop and chicken run for the spring.  Having done this for several years now, I have a much better idea of what I would want in a chicken enclosure.

I want it a little bit larger though it does need to be quite as tall.  I want to build a better laying box that one could access from the outside.  I also want a place that the food could be stored.  A bigger door would help as well in being able to muck out the enclosure.  

My plan is to have this new enclosure built for early May and then bring in eight or nine chickens this time.  I would get point of lay hens again but it would be nice to get a mix of some different breeds.  I suspect the brown layers I got through Borden Mercantile will be the least hassle.  I found out the other day that Borden brings in hens more often than I had known, hens are available almost all year round.

This not having our own eggs and having to buy them at the store is an odd situation after several years of having our own.  I had no idea how many eggs we go through every week but it came home to me lately since I have had to buy eggs.  
We recently lost our pizza stone because someone left in on a stove burner and it cracked.   I was initially not enthused with the idea of a pizza stone and thought it would be an under used unitasker in the kitchen.

Turns out it has been much more useful than we ever expected.   Sheila tried making biscuits on it and it baked them faster and gave them a crisper bottom.   Sheila makes biscuits for breakfast about once a week.  Free form rustic tarts work on it very well as does anything with puff pastry.   So it turns out to have been much more useful that I had ever thought and we needed to replace the broken one.

 I was not thrilled by the price, pizza stones cost significantly more than a basic unglazed tile and that is really all they are.   And since that is what they are, so I thought we would go buy some and try them out.   I ordered them through Tile Town and they were very reasonably priced

The picture to the left is the results of the first set of biscuits.   Quite a reasonable result, but I noticed some small cracks in the tile.    The tile did not deal with the heating and cooling well.   Sheila tried making some pizzas on the other two and they suffered much worse, they slowly shattered in the oven.

So it was an interesting experiment but ultimately failed.   We have ordered three regular pizza stones.

I know that there are tiles out there that should be able to endure this, it is just a question of ones that have been fired to a high enough cone  - I am thinking stoneware should be the right level.   I think I will try to make some at the pottery studio.