My Hallowe’en weekend in Victoria involved a lot of dining out, which is great, because the city has a great restaurant scene! It might not be quite as large as Vancouver, but I would argue that the quality of locations is just as high.
So in a city with a ton of dining options, how does one choose? Recommendations from friends? Reviews online? Something you read in a magazine? All of these work, but that wasn’t how we chose our dinner destination on Friday night. My friend Marty (remember him from my last trip?) had recently purchased the 2011 Entertainment Book, so we selected a restaurant from there. I mean, why not try something new and save a little money at the same time, right?
The chosen location? Salute Restaurant & Lounge
I had actually never heard of Salute. For those of you familiar with Victoria, it is actually located where the old Temple Restaurant used to be (525 Fort Street), in the historic Temple Building (built in 1893). It’s an interesting juxtaposition – the heritage building with a decidedly modern decor restaurant.
I did enjoy the ever changing lighting at the bar. I made sure to snap a shot while it was green (my favourite). We were sat in the corner near the fireplace. You’d think it would have been warm. Alas, old buildings tend to be drafty, and sitting on the banquet was rather chilly. Good thing I had a sweater.
Also notice how empty the place is in the first photo. When we walked in, there was one other couple at a table, and one person at the bar. Since it was after 7 pm on a Friday, we found that weird. Our server did say that it had been busy earlier in the evening, and as the night went on, more customers did arrive. They do have a DJ who starts at 9 pm, so I imagine it probably picks up then.
One of the good things about a non-busy restaurant is that you are pretty much assured good service. And if you don’t get it, well, that’s pretty bad. I’m glad to report our server was very attentive and enjoyable. Thumbs up!
We started off with drinks. While Marty enjoyed a beer (I have no clue what kind – I’m not into the whole beer thing), I ordered the Kama Sutra martini.
It was a festive shade of orange (appropriate for Hallowe’en weekend, no?). I don’t have a photo of the menu description sadly, but if I remember correctly it involved pineapple, mandarin, passion fruit liqueur, and most likely vodka? I enjoyed the tropical combination of flavours, but did find it a bit on the sweet side.
The menu was your typical west coast mix of dishes – from steak and prawns to sesame crusted tuna; from tandoori butter chicken to roasted vegetable penne; plus your usual mix of soups, salads, and appetizers. For some reason the lamb shank caught my eye. The description – slowly braised and finished with a red wine demi-glaze. Not something I would normally order, but I figured why not? I had the choice of some potato dish or spinach parmesan risotto as my side, so I went with the risotto. It also came with a variety of vegetables (cooking method unknown).
My dining partner went with the Shrimp Linguini – roasted mushrooms, broccoli, and sweet peas in a white wine sauce.
Both dishes were plentiful and plated nicely. I can’t comment much on the taste of the pasta, but Marty cleaned his plate, so I guess it was alright. I may have caught him licking it clean…kidding! Maybe 😉
I found my dish hit and miss. The lamb was tender and had great flavour, but with the exceedingly dim lighting in our corner of the restaurant, I found it really hard to cut off the bone. I enjoyed the flavour of the risotto, and it had a fair amount of spinach, but it was overly salty and a touch undercooked for my tastes. I was impressed to get a fair amount of vegetables (including zucchini, carrots, and beets), but I think the cook had a heavy hand with the butter when finishing them. So while it wasn’t horrible, there were enough little issues with the dish that I can’t give it a full on thumbs up.
Overall, I think Salute has potential to be great, but hasn’t quite hit the mark. It has a great location, interesting decor, and good service. I think they just need to perfect their menu to really step up to the next level. But then again, it could just be that what I ordered didn’t jive with my personal tastes. With the myriad of dining options in downtown Victoria, I probably wouldn’t choose to go there, but wouldn’t complain if invited by a friend to dine there. I would look at it as a opportunity to try something else on the menu.
But our night did not end there. After a nice stroll around the inner harbour, we were off to our next destination, as I had some unfinished business to attend to…stay tuned!