Monday, March 29, 2010

Ferris' Oyster Bar - Victoria, BC

Dear Vancouver,

Please go to Victoria, eat at Ferris’ Oyster Bar, and remember what life was like before you got so pretentious and bloody greedy.


Food to Miss Your Plane For

I don’t know when we all unanimously agreed to pay too much for pretty much everything, but somewhere along the line wittingly or unwittingly we accepted that $16 is a completely sane price for a burger. It isn’t. Well at least it isn’t for your run-of-the-mill uninspired chain restaurant/casual dining whatever burger. I mean, I went to the Taphouse at Park Royal, which happens to be run by Cactus and they were charging $18 for nachos. Not epic life changing nachos, but half a bag of Tostitos with a bit of melted cheese and a side of El Paso salsa nachos. $18! Vancouver has lost its mind. Either that or I have, but I’m sticking with Vancouver having lost its mind. It’s a horrible vicious cycle as well, as soon as, the chain restaurants start charging $16 for a tasteless burger, the fine dining restaurants start raising their prices and before you know it we’re all desperately poor and miserable. Oh and can someone seriously define fine dining for this city. What happened to just dining? If you have a restaurant and your food isn’t complete rubbish, you’re fine dining. It’s ridiculous.

But enough spleen filled ranting. I’ve said all the above because I do think that Vancouver’s dining scene is missing the plot. And here’s an example of a restaurant not all that far away, that I think exemplifies what Vancouver has forgotten.

Ferris’ Oyster Bar is tucked upstairs over Ferris’ Grill, just off of Government on Yates Street in downtown Victoria. It’s a small place in a restored loft style room that is intimate, yet, comfortable. I thought the kitchen at Bin 941 was small, but this place is a miracle. My wife and I sat up at the bar, but it took half a Gibson and a Poire martini to realize that we were also sitting up at the kitchen. A well put together man in a butcher’s apron, quietly sautéed mushrooms and shucked oysters in about 4 square feet of space next to the bartender.

The cocktails were excellent, and they ranged from about $7.50 to $10 – all with at least a two-ounce pour. I had an Old Fashioned with Knob Creek and it was made without a lot of fuss, it didn’t cost me $14 and it tasted perfect. We had a dozen Black Pearl oysters for $24, and they were presented just as you would get at Rodney’s or any good oyster bar – fresh grated horseradish, mignonette, and a unique mango based cocktail sauce. The oysters were small, sweet and delicious. You know an oyster is good if it tastes perfect with only a drizzle of mignonette or a touch of lemon.

We ate dinner tapas style with Moroccan chicken skewers, steamed clams and a trio of Baked Scallops. The clams were steamed with a slightly spicy broth of tomato, chorizo and chili. The clams were small – something that I think is important – and went perfectly with the broth. The chicken skewers were nicely spiced and the portion was generous – five thick skewers. The scallops were heavenly. Three large, clearly fresh, scallops were each served in their own small dish and with three separate flavourings: Creamed Leeks and Truffle Oil; Diced Tomato and Maple; and Fresh Sage and Porcini Mushroom. The scallops were perfectly tender and melted in your mouth. Each sauce was equally delicious. I’m a slut for truffle, but both the tomato and maple, and the sage and mushroom were wonderfully balanced and contrasted each other nicely.

After a couple of martinis each, a dozen oysters and a few share plates, our bill was just under a hundred dollars before tip. I was full and slightly drunk. This, in case you aren’t aware, is the state of perfect happiness.

Ferris’ had made two loyal converts who swore to return.

And we did. The next morning as a matter of fact, for a French 75 and delicious eggs benedict served with leeks and truffled Hollandaise. We weren’t disappointed.

This kind of loyalty is hard to come by and I think that restaurateurs are overlooking this in our city. Perhaps I’m a lone idiot with a skewed sense of economics, but I know that I’ll have two or three $8 dollar martinis, but probably only one $13 martini. Not only do you probably end up spending more, but you’re happy to spend more – almost grateful to spend more. And coming from an ex-bartender who knows that liquor cost is less than a dollar an ounce, it makes sense to me to sell more drinks at a better price rather than fewer drinks at a higher price. Give people a sense of value and they may just come back for brunch.

Ferris's Upstairs Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon


Rosa Meyer said...

Wow. Thanks for this post. I am now even more excited to be visiting the Island for Easter weekend and will definitely hit up Ferris' - my favorite restaurant in Victoria!

I still haven't tried the brunch there so I will have to put that on my long list of breakfast/brunch spots not to be missed in Victoria.

sophiasian said...

good read Tim - especially following our recent lengthy discussion over dumplings of the same topic

Melody Fury // said...

I'm so there on my next trip to Victoria. I'm liking the sounds of the proper cocktails as well - well priced too!