Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pizzeria Prima Strada - 2960 Bridge Street & 230 Cook Street

I've been to Pizzeria Prima Strada quite a few times now and have wanted to write about it but just never got around to it. With the steal of a deal $20 Dine Around Town menu I figured it was the perfect time for another trip back.

I've been to the Cook St location twice before the new location opened and I always found it to be very busy. The first time I tried it as take out which I don't recommend. This pizza is best eaten straight out of the wood fire oven. By the time it got home the thin crust was getting cold and the benefits of the wood oven were lost.

Luckily we saw the potential and went back to try it again. The pizzas are a good size for gourment pizza, about 6 large slices so it can easily be shared leaving room for gelato!

They import the flour from Naples and use many local ingredients which is what makes them stand out from other wood oven or gourmet pizza restaurants. And since the Bridge St location is just a short drive from my house it's hard to not resist going there too often, this pizza is a special treat.

I really like their Bridge St location, though it is not similar to other places in Victoria and I can see the style not being everyones taste. First it's hard to find if you don't see the sign, it's in the first building when you turn off Gorge onto Bridge, set in the back of an industrial building. There is no big sign and most of the parking is reserved for other businesses. The bonus though is there's almost always street parking and it's free. Inside it's an open kitchen with a mix of long wood tables and smaller ones. Sometimes 3 different groups may be sharing the same table which seems strange at first but there's usually enough space that you don't feel invaded. Most times we've arrived before it got too busy and was able to get our own table for two, though the table beside is close enough that I'm sure it's not much different then sitting at the big table.

Our server arrived at our table promptly and I appreciated her asking first if we were interested in wine and then describing each of the features, I probably wouldn't have had a glass if it's wasn't her description of the white wine "a citrus start with a kiwi finish" it sounded interesting so I was intrigued to try it. I have no idea what it's called but I really enjoyed it. I don't know if I really picked up on the kiwi finish but I'll say it was nice and refreshing!

To start I had the "Melanzane & Tonno roasted eggplant caponatina, local tuna conserva". Don't worry I had no idea what it was either so I asked the server. It's cooked tuna soaked in olive oil with roasted vegetable tapanade and flat bread sticks. I still didn't really know what to expect and was a little nervous as I'm not a big eggplant fan but I was very happy with my choice once I tried it. The eggplant was barely noticeable among the other small diced and roasted veg that tasted amazing with the tuna and tasty flat bread. I've been trying to branch out and try fancier things and this was definitely one of those times where I was very happy that I did. Honestly I could have just had that and been happy. The only downside was that our pizza came while I was finishing the last few bites which was a little annoying as I would have liked time to sit between courses.

The pizza was the full size of the "Funghi" which I've had before and really enjoyed. It has porcini cream, roasted mushrooms, roasted onions, fresh thyme, mozzarella and pecorino and it is amazing! For a girl that used to despise mushrooms growing up I am very proud to say I enjoyed it. The cream mixed with the mushrooms and caramelized onions it just amazing. I've tried the Margherita pizza before which was good but I found a little too subtle in flavours. This pizza is a perfect mix, lots of flavour but I don't find it too overwhelming or rich. The crust is a perfect mix of thin crispy oven baked with a nice chewy crust. I was still pretty full from my appy so I was only able to finish about half knowing I still had dessert to go.

For the dessert they had 3 choices, for the pizza and dessert you also had a choice of their feature special which luckily for me was the "Tiramisu" tonight. Yum it was perfect! The coffee wasn't too strong, the cream was amazing and the cake/lady fingers weren't soggy. I also had a bite of James' "Tartufo" which was a change from the menu online. It was chocolate hazelnut gelato with a vanilla centre rolled in cocoa powder. It was really good as well, very smooth and creamy!

I highly recommend Pizzeria Prima Strada, they are doing something different in town and they are doing it well. Plus I enjoy it because it's almost like casual fine dining.

I forgot my phone so my attempt to start taking pictures of my meals out was foiled again. Usually though I am too excited to start eating it and forget to take a picture before I finish it! Plus you don't want to look like the weirdo in the restaurant taking pictures of their food. I wonder if the other food bloggers try and keep it discreet or just go full out and have a photo shoot?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Veneto Restaurant Review - 1450 douglas st

I figured I am past due for another restaurant review and since it's Dine Around time in Victoria now feels like a good time to start telling you all about my dining adventures!

Why I chose Veneto...

I used to work downtown and everyday I passed by the Rialto... I've seen it transform from a crack shack to a beautiful hotel. Being the foodie that I am I was curious about Veneto but never got around to checking it out so when I saw it on the Dine Around list I thought here's the perfect chance. But then I read the menu and saw "Chocolate and Peanut Butter Crème Brûlée" and I was sold!! Creme Brulee plus chocolate and peanut butter? That sounded like my dream dessert! They also have a tasty sounding soup "Creole Onion and Sharp White Cheddar Soup" and a prawn main "Grilled Smoked Chili Shrimp with smoked chili butter and creamy polenta cake".

So I invited my downtown coworkers to join James and I on Friday night. The inside of the restaurant is very nice, marble bar and sleek wood panel walls. It feels like a classy joint that I don't belong in which I hate about a lot of restaurants in Victoria but I've learned to not care and remember I am a paying customer too.

When I arrived my friends immediately notified me that the menu had changed and a moment of panic set in that there wouldn't be a pesco-veg friendly main anymore. Luckily the soup and prawn dish remained the same.... but it was my chocolate and peanut butter creme brulee that was missing. It was replaced with a chocolate and peanut butter brownie with bananas and toffee sauce or a Kahlua creme brulee with a mini donut. I relaxed, I could live with one of those choices but I was disappointed that they decided to change their menu.

Veneto is know for it's bartenders and I was intrigued by the idea of a fancy cocktail, but looking at the drink menu honestly it was all a little too confusing for me. We ended up sticking with some white Mission Hill wine which was nice and light and refreshing with the sweetness I enjoy.

I checked out their regular menu and it was a little confusing as well. It seems like they want to be a tapa bar, and maybe I just don't know because I haven't been to many, but I didn't feel like the menu was presenting that theme. They had a starter section, a main section and then their tapas section. What I didn't like with the tapas section was that it is broken down into different proteins and then you got a trio of them. There didn't seem to be any mixing and matching and they all sounded like a meal on their own. Maybe I'd have to come back to try it to understand but it didn't appeal to me.

The soup came out first in a small bowl and my first thought was, that's it? I then remembered this is a three course meal so it's nice to not get an over sized portion. The soup was pretty good, not amazing or mindblowing, but pretty good. I'm not sure what I thought of the croutons they were half soggy from sitting in the soup and there wasn't anything special to them. I did feel satisfied when I finished though and the size was just right.

After waiting just the right amount of time between courses our main arrived. The prawns were big and cooked perfectly. I really like the chili sauce on it that paired well with the polenta. The veg that came with it wasn't too exciting just some small squash pieces but they were more there for balance and presentation then anything.

The dessert though was probably the biggest let down. Considering what a brownie/chocolate/peanut butter fan I was my exceptions were high. It came with two triangles of brownie on top of sliced banana, ice cream and toffee sauce. The toffee sauce was probably the best part, but I thought the bananas were going to be cooked so I didn't really understand what the raw ones were supposed to add. I would have just left them if James hadn't eaten them. The brownie wasn't great... it was ok... a little dry, nothing exciting. I could taste the peanut butter but it was very subtle. I would take a Moxie's brownie any day over this. I tried James' creme brulee, again it was ok, I did like the Kahlua flavor but the custard seemed a little different, maybe thinner, and the donut was dry.

But full of wine and good laughs with friends I left Veneto on a high and I remembered the taste of the prawn dish throughout the night so I can't say it was a bad experience. The service was very good as well, quick to refill glasses and take orders without being too in your face. Will I be back there anytime soon? Probably not, but I'm glad I tried it.

I hope to get to a few more restaurants before Dine Around ends and there's a few places I've been to recently that I feel deserve to be highlighted so hopefully I will get to blogging some more!!