Saturday, January 1, 2011

Nautical Nellies

Address: 1001 Wharf Street, Victoria, BC Canada V8W 1T6
Tel: 250 380 2260
Price: $25-40 for a main
Notes: social-media saavy diners might use their groupon or check-in for a mayor deal with Foursquare

 Victoria - Nautical Nellies

I remember eating here with my Grandparents many moons ago. I was probably not more than 10, It must have been near when they opened, in 1997 - so I was in my early teens, and compared to the cookie-cutter, low-end chain restaurants I usually ate at with my parents we were going somewhere really fancy. I had thin-crust pizza, and I remember that it was the best pizza I had ever eaten. For the longest time, Nautical Nellies was the place I named as my favourite. An early sign of my foodie tendencies, perhaps?

Nellies is a tricky place to go as a local. It's downtown, deep in the heart of tourist trap heaven - and it's a seafood place, which can translate to $$$$$$$ for most other seafood places in the area. It also advertises steak, which must be tricky since the Keg is just a street over. To be honest, if we hadn't bought a Groupon I probably couldn't have convinced my significant other to go.

I was never much of a seafood person until I met my partner-in-food-and-life. Contrary to all logic, we had the most fantastic, cheap, delicious seafood feast at Bubba Gump Shrimp in Anaheim while on holiday. We've been seeking the same in Victoria ever since. I was hopeful "Naughty" Nellies would be a contender.

Personally I can't quite fall in love with the decor, although it's not a kitsch as you would expect from the name. It's nice, and it's fancy and there's decent art and the touch of nautical to keep it real. Still, if you're sitting with a view of the harbour, you're not really looking inside.  Tonight it was gorgeous with all the Christmas lights reflecting off the water.

There's a lot of menu to deal with. You've got your specials, your sushi menu, your extensive wine menu and then the regular menu... plus a dessert menu for later.

The sushi menu looks pretty fancy - I think this is new, and one of the ways they're trying to get themselves to stand out from the crowd and draw more locals. It's not simple or traditional sushi, for sure, but it's comparably priced with other places which is refreshing. 

The wine menu is absolutely massive and looks decent - nothing spectacular but not too much of the standard crap. We didn't try anything this time. Given the recent changes to liquor laws, I think they'd do well to add 1/2 litre options instead of just a small selection of glass options and then a huge selection of bottle only. I guess this is the tourist influence. Also - no beer menu without asking, which is a bit odd!

We were kind of surprised that there isn't more of a selection or variety of seafood on the main menu. We're perpetually disappointed by this, so nothing new here, but you'd think in a place that identifies itself as a seafood restaurant would have some diversity. There were a few good things, but most of it was pretty standard and paired with steak.

January 1, 2011

Our waitress was fantastic. Friendly, funny, and helpful. Clearly had been with the company a while. Probably some of the best service I've had in a while, actually. 

January 1, 2011
We opted for hot tea instead of alcohol to start with - the wine menu looked good, but wine just adds so much to the total bill and it wasn't the night for it. The tea itself wasn't as lovely as it could have been (Numi brand is pretty average), but the cups were pre-heated and that was lovely for cold hands. Nice touch!

Our starter was a fancy sushi roll. Foursquare recommended a dragon volcano roll, but we opted instead for the lobster roll instead - Atlantic lobster, baby shrimp, tobiko, scallions mixed with California lime
sauce and topped with warm unagi & avocado. It was lovely and creamy - apparently similar to a lobster roll sandwich. The sauce wasn't over powering, and the flavours went well together. It was even accented by a touch of wasabi, which I don't usually like. I liked starting with sushi - it's refreshing. It's rare that we do that, because in most places it's either all sushi or no sushi... score one for fusion!

My partner-in-food-and-life had a rare steak with scallops. It came with mashed potatoes and veggies on the side. The steak was topped with a nice apple & sage infused gorgonzola sauce, and was cooked very nicely. The nibbles I tried melted in my mouth in a lovely way. I didn't try a scallop but I heard no complaints. The Keg is so close, but I would opt for Nellies steaks instead any day. Yum!

I had the Porcini Dusted Sablefish. The fish was perfectly cooked, crusted in a thin, crunchy coating and practically flaked apart on its own. The barley risotto had mushrooms and corn in it, as well as wilted arugula & bacon. The risotto itself is quite sweet, actually, but incredibly savoury and when taken with a bite of the coated fish it's quite, quite lovely. It was certainly right up there with some of the best meals I've had.

Dessert wasn't in the cards today - it's so hard to know if things are made in house or the horrid pre-made stuff. This looked like it might have been a bit of both, which is always tricky. We opted out, mostly due to not wanting to ruin the lovely taste in our mouths.


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