Upon finalizing my trip to Victoria for my birthday weekend, my friend I was staying with suggested we check out this new wine & charcuterie bar called Vis à Vis, located in Oak Bay. Although part of me wanted to hit up some of my favourite local eateries, I’m always up for checking out new places, so I said let’s go!
The restaurant had a small patio, with a long dining space – bar along one side, where you can watch the sommelier and bartenders at work, as well as those preparing the cheese and charcuterie plates, with a row of tables along the other wall if you want a little more privacy (although they are quite closely spaced, so you don’t really get that much privacy). I enjoyed the dark wood and exposed brick decor – rustic yet sophisticated.
Although I was facing the wall, I was able to keep tabs on all the action behind the bar, as they had long mirrors along the wall. Perfect!
The concept behind Vis à Vis is small plates, local & in season foods, wine pairings, and (mostly) house made charcuterie. The menu was extensive, with their list of small plates, and a whole other page of cheeses and meats you could mix and match to suit your tastes. The great thing about the food menu was that after each item, they let you know what type of wine it would best pair with. Perfect for people who are a little clueless when it comes to such things – aka me!
Of course there was an extensive wine list, grouped by type. I was impressed with the heavy emphasis on local BC wines. You could get your wines in 1 oz tasters, as well as 5 oz and 8 oz pours. Specially crafted flights were also available. Of course, if wine isn’t your thing, they also had a nice list of locally crafted beers and interesting cocktails.
I’ll be honest – although I love the idea of small plates and customizing your tasting experience, the cost can definitely add up quickly. Probably not an every day dining experience, but a fun idea for a special occasion like a birthday.
That being said, I didn’t go wild and crazy and order everything that caught my fancy off the menu. I chose one cold and one hot small plate, and asked my server which wines she would pair with them. Since my dishes didn’t really pair well with the same type of wine, and I wasn’t really looking for large pours of two wines, my server offered to give me two 3 oz pours, which was perfect.
My first dish was the Green Vegetable Salad.
Green Vegetable Salad – with sheep’s milk feta; pairs with aromatics.
Please excuse the less than stellar photos. I could not get my camera to figure out the lighting at all.
What you can’t see is all the hidden treasures in this salad. Underneath the baby spinach and arugula you’ll find creamy avocado, and crisp, lightly blanched green beans and broccoli, all dressed in a light, refreshing dressing. The sheep’s milk feta (my favourite kind) added a nice salty contrast to the fresh greens.
The wine I chose to pair with my salad was the Howling Bluff Sauvignon-Semillon (‘10 Okanagan, BC).
Love how they put these little cards on the bottom of your glass so you know what you ordered. If you enjoyed it, you can take it next door to the wine store and pick up a bottle!
The wine was light, refreshing, a little sweet, and oh so sippable. I would definitely pick up a bottle if I wanted something to sip on the patio on a summer evening. I wish I could tell you what “flavours” are in the wine, but my wine palate is just not that sophisticated.
My second dish was the Pulled Duck Confit.
Pulled Duck Confit – chive crêpe, ricotta, raspberry, cracklin; pairs with soft & fruity.
Loved everything about this – except the raspberry. I get why it is there – pop of colour, acidity, etc. But for me, it didn’t really do anything for the duck, ricotta, and crêpe. I would have been just as happy with some sort of savoury sauce or without any sauce. I still enjoyed the dish, don’t get me wrong – the duck was tender and flavourful, with the creamy ricotta, and those crispy cracklins. I would just scrap the raspberry (and that’s saying something, because I love raspberries).
My duck was paired with Stoneboat Pinotage (‘08 Okanagan, BC).
I liked the wine with the food, but could take it or leave it as a drink on its own. Not bad, but not amazing enough that I would purchase a bottle.
My dining partner enjoyed some cheese along with the beautiful artisan bread basket (I may have nabbed a slice or two).
And he also ordered the Seared Scallop.
Seared Scallop – salted liquorice glaze, fennel pureé; pairs with aromatics.
Such a beautifully plated dish.
I had considered the scallops, until I saw the liquorice/fennel flavourings. But I hear they were cooked perfectly, and the liquorice flavour was subtle.
To go with his scallops, my friend had a glass of Brokenwood Semillon (‘09 Hunter Valley, Aus).
“Tastes like wine” was the official report. He’s not a wine drinker, but a beer connoisseur.
Since it was my birthday, I thought I might indulge in a wee bit of dessert.
My first ever macaron. The macaron of the week was cherry cola flavour – how fun! It was very sweet, but tasty. The perfect little bite to end our meal.
I would say that Vis à Vis isn’t for everyone – it’s a little pretentious, not because of the staff, but just the way the menu is structured. If you are looking for a hearty meal for a good price, it’s not the place for you. But if you want to have a fun evening tasting some fresh, seasonal, sophisticated eats paired with carefully selected wines, it’s great. A perfect location to impress a date, or for an indulgent girl’s night. I would love to go back to order a selection of meats and selection of cheeses, basket of bread, a few condiments, and a flight of wines like the people at the table beside us did. I think it would make for a great splurge evening out.