It is almost religious that every pilgrimage I make to Vancouver Island is marked by a visit, whether it be quick or adventurous, to one of Sam’s Restaurants. Sam Chalmers has Bistro 28 in Cadboro Bay and The Black Hat in downtown Victoria. Some people try to frame his style around west coast cuisine, or local. I call it creative and well executed, he sources products that mean something to him so he can transform it into items his guests will really enjoy.
Your experience starts with some home made potato chips scented with truffles. In fact your visit could end right there and I think you would be impressed. Grab a glass of vino and nibble away on these and the world is truly a happier place.
My apologies for not taking more pictures, I am normally diligent about snapping a few photos. This night, I was too busy diving into the next dish that my camera sat idle. We also enjoyed the grilled octopus with watercress, radish, cucumber and a charred ancho chill aioli.
Then onto the “dry ribs”. These are not your normal dry ribs, these are dry ribs for real men. Sorry women, pork belly is just a manly thing and when they are fried crispy on the outside, and mouthwatering tender on the inside and coated with black pepper, sea salt, and star anise – the world just isn’t big enough to share. In the mentality of pain and pleasure, your first bite is painfully hot, but you can’t stop indulging as pork belly juices start to run down your chin. Even though the “Ribs” are boneless, they are located near the …… blah blah blah, screw it, these guys are just fuckin amazing. Picture removed due to server crashing from food porn downloads!
By the time I came out of my pork belly coma, I did remember to take a picture of the chicken livers we had. They had a nice light pan sear to them, the coating was just enough to give it a crust. This was served with some pickled onion, BACON jam and a great herb salad to balance the richness and flavours.
The beef tartar. If your afraid of raw meat, get over it! When you trust a restaurant and their culinary talents, serving up food that is raw, crudo, ceviche, tataki, or carpaccio – is all about respect. A chef worth his credentials will source cuts of meat, from animals that they believe in. To offer such dishes is the utmost respect to the food itself. Minimal preparation allowing you to experience the finest textures and subtle flavours is an honour. Take the ceremony around many Japanese dishes, its about showcasing the ingredient and thats what raw food is all about.
The tartar at either restaurant has always been one of my favourites. Traditional preparation with shallots, egg yolk, capers, preserved lemon, and parsley so that no flavour dominates and the texture has a melting perception on your palate. If you use the truffle scented potato chips as a vehicle to get the tartar from the plate to your mouth, you have discovered something truly remarkable.
As I said in the beginning, a trip to Victoria without stopping in to see whats new on the menu, just isn’t worth the trip. Find one of Sam’s restaurants and enjoy the works of a culinary artist.
His love for food shows.