Imagine, you’re sitting in a restaurant and a waiter places five delicious breakfast dishes in front of you, including one gigantic bowl that would convince any meat-lover that they’d died and gone to Heaven. Additionally, you get two hot, frothy cappuccinos – one with a heart on top – a cold orange juice and a bubbly mimosa. It’s a lot, right?
Well, one Sunday morning it happened to me. I felt like I went from typical Victoria commoner to queen of Oak Bay. I’ve never had so much food placed in front of little 117-pound me at one time.
My mother’s words echoed in the back of my mind. “Tut, tut, tut…your eyes are much bigger than your belly,” she warned. She was always right. My youthful and hungry self would always scoop way too much food onto my plate during big family dinners. Afterwards, I could sit for a long time trying to finish it all.
The difference between then and now is that all of this beautiful food was placed in front of me because I had a job to do. I was attempting my first organized restaurant photo shoot and food tasting.
My First Observations
It was my fourth visit to Vis à Vis, a French-style charcuterie bar, except this time I was there at 10:30 a.m. for breakfast. The atmosphere had morphed from ‘old Paris bouchon’ in the evening to ‘European café’ in the morning. Blue and white checkered table cloths covered the outdoor and indoor tables.
Outdoor ceiling heaters and blankets supplied by the restaurant make it enjoyable for people to eat outside even in winter.
The place was subtly decorated for Christmas with wreaths lining the back wall and funky elf heads hanging from the wrought iron lighting fixtures.
The ambiance was pleasant and relaxing. Edith Piaf, an old French jazz artist that I discovered here last time, played softly in the background. It was quiet at 10:30 a.m. which suited me fine, however more people arrived as morning crept closer to noon.
The attire seemed casual at this time of day compared to the more casual-elegant evening hours.
I set up my tripod at the end of the bar near the window. The barista asked me if I would like to order a drink and then handed me a menu.
A First-Time Food Tasting Experience
Just so you know, I’m extremely new to restaurant food blogging so I have a lot to learn. As with first time ‘anythings’ one always discovers by trial and error what they should have done in order to do it better the next time. For example, in the future I would definitely have a strategic plan on how to tackle eating so much food! That way each dish will get equal palate and tummy-time.
My first mistake was approaching this photo shoot and food tasting experience in the same way that I would approach dining anywhere.
I began with a drink – a hot, creamy and slightly sweet cappuccino – which isn’t a bad thing. It was really good!
But then I ordered a very yummy seafood frittata, called La Mer, with an orange juice.
A Healthy Breakfast
A friendly young waiter wearing a white dress shirt and black dress pants brought it out to me. It looked delicious, with a heaping mountain of freshly spritzed arugula salad over top of a layer of eggs, smoked salmon, baby shrimp, leeks, red onion, capers and drizzled with a creamy dressing.
After taking a few photos, I dug in and enjoyed. Ahhh was it ever tasty! It was a perfect combination of satisfyingly savory and feel-good healthy. I felt great knowing I was getting a healthy dose of crisp greens while still enjoying the delectable taste of a hearty breakfast.
The smoked salmon was melt-in-your-mouth soft. The smoky flavour and soft texture lingered between my palate and tongue. The baby shrimp added a contrast of sweetness to the salty capers and smoked salmon. The layer of eggs was light and fluffy and the slightly peppered arugula salad fresh. The dish offered a nice contrast of flavour and texture.
I was so engrossed in eating the frittata that when the other plates began arriving I felt an overwhelming sense of, “Oh my God. I need to eat all that too?”
It’s like forgetting to pace yourself in a 400 metre running race when you’re used to sprinting 100 meters. I was slowing down too soon and running out of room in my belly. The dishes were arriving hot and fast and I was beginning to panic!
A Meat-Lover’s Breakfast
Following the frittata was the Big Breakfast Bowl. This bowl is big on protein with crisp bacon, mild sausage, tender pulled beef and perfectly poached eggs. The tasty stewed tomato, soft cooked spinach, roasted onion and bits of squash gave it a little health kick to counter all that meat. There were also large chunky hash browns – like new potatoes cut in quarters – and whole grain toast. This breakfast had everything! The grainy mustard Hollandaise sauce added creamy spice to it all – very nice with the sausage. This dish was definitely made with the hearty eater in mind!
The great thing about dining at Vis à Vis in the morning is that they serve many breakfast favourites, but with a much more creative presentation like this Dutch Pancake with sunny-side up eggs, sausage, bacon and more of those chunky hash browns. The sweet caramelized apple underneath the stack of sausage and bacon was a real highlight for me. It was perfect with the meat!
Another Canadian favourite that Vis à Vis serves is eggs Benedict, but in a variety of styles like this Spinach and Forest Mushroom version.
There are five other unique styles of Benny too, including Bacon and Roasted Tomato, Avacado and Shrimp, Pulled Beef Short Rib, Back Bacon and Lox Salmon, Red Onion, Cream Cheese and Capers.
At this point, I was stuffed, mostly with La Mer seafood frittata, but also with mouth full’s of the other dishes. There was a lot more food to tackle plus another cappuccino and mimosa.
A Vegetarian Breakfast Option
I have to admit that I’m not a lover of mushrooms so it is difficult for me to comment on them in this version of eggs Benedict, but I really enjoyed the spinach with it. It would be a great option for a vegetarian. The spinach was soft, not too strong and it contrasted nicely with the subtlety of the perfectly poached eggs and creamy lemon-butter Hollandaise sauce.
The fruit salad was nice too; light, sweet and fresh. I especially loved those decorative orange berry-looking fruits. I have no idea what they’re called, but I’m a fan!
A French-Style Breakfast
The Smoked Salmon Crepe is more of a French style breakfast. This buckwheat crepe is called a galette in France. It’s difficult to see, but underneath these perfect sunny eggs is a layer of melt-in-your-mouth smoked salmon, smooth cream cheese and salty capers. Fresh dill and shaved green onions garnish the top. I really liked the combination of subtle flavours with the salty and savory ones.
After seeing all of these dishes, you can imagine my panic to try and eat it all right? Well, I didn’t eat it all, not even close. It would have been impossible, however I hope to fully experience each individual dish (except for the mushrooms) on five separate occasions.
The chef at Vis à Vis, Wil, has worked in the restaurant food industry for over 15 years. He has cooked in France, on a yacht, in a resort and in fine dining restaurants including Centro in Toronto and Trafalgar’s in Vancouver. He cooks all kinds of dishes from breakfast fav’s to French-inspired gourmet dinner entrées.
Enjoy the Holidays at Vis à Vis!
In December, aside from being a popular place to dine over the Christmas season, Vis à Vis has a special New Year’s Eve dinner menu appropriately named “Midnight In Paris.” You can celebrate the arrival of 2017 Paris-style with a three course meal, an appie and, of course, fine wine. There are two menus to choose from and you can opt for either an early or a late seating. View the New Years Eve menu. Or if you’re thinking about organizing a Christmas party at Vis à Vis see the Christmas menu. There will also be a special feature on Christmas Eve. For more information and to make reservations call 250-590-7424.
A Great Place to Dine Anytime
In any season, Vis à Vis is a great place to sip a glass of wine with friends, nibble on a charcuterie (meat and cheese) board or enjoy a French-inspired entrée or dessert. To find out about my dining experience there, read my post titled Dining Solo in Victoria Paris-Style. You’ll even get a glimpse of the Chocolate Epiphany dessert option on the New Year’s Eve menu!
Vis à Vis stays open until “late” rather than to a specific time so guests can enjoy the evening without feeling rushed.
Vis à Vis is located at 2232 Oak Bay Avenue in Victoria if you wish to experience it yourself. Hours are 7:00 a.m. to “late”. View the menu here. Reservations can be made at 250-590-7424 or, if you enjoy dining solo like me, just sit at the bar. I highly recommend it!