Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dine Around 2012 - The Bengal Lounge

this is part of a series of guest posts covering Dine Around 2012

March 2, 2012 
About the guest author: 
An Island girl for the majority of her life, Jaime enjoys eating her way through Victoria and beyond. She enjoys cupcakes and cheeseburgers, as well as salads and workouts and blogs about all of it over at Embracing Balance.

Every month my girlfriends and I try to arrange a group dinner to catch up on each other lives and try out different eateries around Victoria. Dine Around was a good excuse for this month’s get together. Since The Fairmont Empress is an iconic Victoria landmark, dinner at The Bengal Lounge seemed like a must-do.

The Food:
While waiting for all of my dining companions to arrive I decided the time would be well spent with a cocktail in my hand. The restaurant boasts an extensive drink list with fine spirits and local ingredients. It was easy to decide on the Empress 1908 – a mix of Empress Blend 1908 Tea-infused vodka, fresh lemon juice, lightly sweetened and frothy egg whites.

Delivered to the table with a cute little homemade scone (the Empress has the BEST scones anywhere) this cocktail was exactly as described. Tea was the main flavour with a hint of sour lemon and the egg whites gave it real depth. My favourite touch was that they only sugared half of the rim so I didn’t have to have a sugary blast with every sip.

There was one $30 Dine Around menu with three options for each course. With six girls in our party we managed to try everything on the menu and everyone was quite pleased with their meal.
I opted for the Seafood Chowder as my appetizer. A warm, thick, rich creamy base full of fresh hearty vegetables, shrimp, scallops and clams. So buttery and delicious! This is how I love my chowder…I would have gladly eaten a larger bowl as my meal.

They brought us a variety of fresh rolls along with our first course and the only thing we had to say other than ‘om nom nom’ was we wished they had been warmed. The main reason I voted for the Bengal was because they were offering Braised Duck Confit as one of their entrees. I learned just a few years ago that I love duck confit but it is rare to find it on a menu so I knew I had to have it.

Served with white bean cassoulet it did not disappoint. The meat was so flavourful and tender, just falling off the bone. Each bite I took with a scoop of beans and a dab of the cranberry jelly made this feel like a special comfort food meal. I paired my main with Hester Creek Merlot, which was a nice wine but didn’t suit my palette unfortunately. I probably should have opted for a light white wine instead (or the Rose they recommended, duh).

My dessert choice was obvious from the start. Any creme brulee listed on a menu doesn’t stand a chance around me…even if it does include bananas in it’s description…which I wasn’t entirely excited about.
As far as brulees go this one was good, but it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had. The custard was thick and creamy, and the caramel was perfectly crunchy (although I still think these should always be served in dishes with more surface area!) and while I liked the addition of milky chocolate I have to admit that the banana side didn’t work for me. It tasted a bit like artificial banana…how odd.
Probably for the best as I didn’t need a whole dessert anyway!

Overall it was a lovely meal. It was a good amount of food for a great value and the first two courses were absolutely delicious.

We found it odd that the Lounge does not take reservations on Friday and Saturday night, even during an event like Dine Around. Having a group of six we were a bit worried we wouldn’t get a table, but a few of us arrived early around 6:45 and were lucky to be seated right away. The restaurant was busy but our timing was good. 
Our server was very friendly and took great care of us. He noted the bouquet of flowers one of my girlfriends arrived with and questioned us about it. We told him it was a birthday gift and thought that was the end of the conversation.
But as we were finishing up the jazz trio began playing Happy Birthday and he arrived at our table with a special dessert for our birthday girl!

How lovely is that?!

Being a part of The Fairmont Empress the service at The Bengal Lounge is always warm and professional, but this little touch truly left our night on a high note (and a sugar high). Our whole party of six loves to visit the lounge with it’s colonial style, comfy arm chairs and glowing fire place for a special evening out on the town. Now we all want to go back for the famous curry buffet as soon as possible.