Address: 820 Yates st.
Phone: (250) 360-1171
Price: $15-30 for a dinner entree
Notes: Classy, classic Italian in a gorgeous setting.
Zambri's has taken me a long time to get to in my documentation of Victoria's food scene. I can remember visiting their former location, an unexpected hole-in-the-wall between London Drugs and the Market just down the street from their present location, but admittedly I really adore cooking Italian (specifically pasta) at home and so rarely seek it out when I eat out. It's also neatly just over the line and into the 'fine dining' category of restaurant that has been sadly mostly neglected on this blog (for purely budgetary reasons!).
The new location Zambri's is occupying is absolutely stunning! The Atrium building has gorgeous wrap-around windows for diners in the main part of the restaurant, as well as a large, semi-private indoor/outdoor space in the atrium (of The Atrium). In some ways, I think this has been an interesting transition for Zambri's. As a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, they were the darlings of many Victoria foodies but now that they have the full-out glitzy location, the expectations are high from the start.
The menu is packed with classic and modern takes on Italian dishes. The dinner menu is divided evenly into four sections: appetizers (antipasti), pizza (pizze), pasta (primi) and other mains (secondi). A large wine selection and a well stocked bar add the necessary fancy drinks to accompany your meal. They also have a delicious brunch menu on the weekends.
May 25, 2012
Salice Salentino 2008 Reserva
We were seated at the bar, as we arrived at peak dinner time on a Friday night without a reservation, but to be honest we really enjoy bar seating (it's the spot with the best inside scoop!). This also meant we got to sample several different wines before deciding on a 1/4 litre of the Salice Salentino. It was quite bright to start with, but had more depth and vibrancy than the other one we sampled. It paired pretty well with our tomat-based dishes.
This was our appetizer. It was a cool and refreshing start to the meal. There was a very slight 'seafoodness' that permeated the marinade, but that only makes sense. The texture of the octopus was interesting - less meaty than grilled octopus, but still firm and not too chewy.
I recently had an acquaintance make me gnocchi at home, and they were these amazingly soft, fluffy pillows that didn't quite melt in your mouth, but certainly came close. It totally reversed my previous dislike for the dish, and I was really excited to try the gnocchi here. It was good - but it didn't quite live up to my high expectations. The flavours of the base of the sauce were really subtle, almost too subtle. I am not well fed or well read enough to know is intentional for the style or if it was simply an off night. The texture, too, was not as light and fluffy as I had been hoping for. Again - I haven't had enough proper gnocchi to know what the benchmark is for 'good gnocchi' but I certainly enjoyed the pillow-like texture more than the slightly dense texture these ones had. The one part I really loved, and will totally steal for a future pasta dish, was that despite the subtlety of the sauce, it had some extras sprinkled throughout the dish - a few pieces of basil, some melted slices of bocconcini, big slices of garlic - that ended up being delicious sensory surprises.
My partner-in-food-and-life opted for this tonight. It was pretty good value for a crab dish, and very, very simple. Much like my dish, we weren't wowed, but it was well presented and certainly tasty. I think part of it is that spaghetti as a pasta feels inherently cheap (because you make it at home, and it's not made fresh). So it's more perception of value than anything, I think. But, when you're going out for a nice meal in a fancy place I think you do have an expectation of being blown away with every dish, and the pleasure of simplicity wasn't quite what we were looking for that evening.
March 25, 2012
Meatballs and Polenta
So this amazing dish is on the weekend brunch menu. My coworker has been raving about it for months, but also made me promise not to blog about it... (insert evil laugh here). Having had it, I can understand why. In fact, I'm craving it right now! The texture of the meatballs and the polenta went perfectly together, and once I cut into the poached eggs and the yolk ran out it became extra savoury. It really was the perfect savoury brunch dish (although the french toast also looked amazing!) - sort of half way between lunch and breakfast in terms of composition.
May 25, 2012
Sitting at the bar never results in bad service - and this was no exception! The bartender was helpful, friendly and made some great suggestions about wine pairings and food choices.
Zambri's also has a properly-trained sommelier on staff, and she stepped in when a party in the 'VIP room' tried to order a bottle of wine that was super fancy, but didn't match their meal and hadn't properly had time to breathe. I really like that she intervened in order to help ensure they had an excellent food experience, even if that might not be intuitive in terms of a purely sales/bottom line perspective. I am also thankful in moments like those that my p.i.f.a.l. can read lips, so we got a good insight into the conversation despite subdued, professional side conversation between the staff. It was handled very well, and the fact that the conversation happened at all speaks to their dedication to service and quality... as well as respect for good food!
March 25, 2012
I was pretty impressed with the service for the tweet up - they reserved us a semi-private room, had a dedicated staff person to serve our (complimentary!) coffee, top up our water and take our orders. It was handled very efficiently and I remember having this sense of constant service without interrupting us at all. Top marks!