Submitted Wednesday, February 25, 2009 - 10:23pm [Dine in]
During a short holiday in Victoria my husband and I took the opportunity to have a special night out (no kids!) and indulge ourselves in a local fine dining experience. Along came Niche! Tugged into a two storey heritage-style house in a residential area, you wouldn't just come across it when strolling around the Victoria sites. It is a niche alright, and the interior with its simplistic, modern, low-key, yet luxurious and welcoming decor gave us a hint of what turned out to be characteristic of the menu.
The menu changes often and exclusively depends on what the chef buys or gets a hold of on a particular day. Be surprised! Let yourself be taken to a dining experience truly out of the ordinary! You won't get many choices, some of them might even be unusual, but all of them are sensational!
Starting with warm nut bread our waiter surprised us with an "amuse-gueule" (a quail egg with the tiniest bit of buttery hollandaise) which was presented with much detail and in as much a simplistic, (yet) very appealing style as the rest of the three course meal. For starters we had carpaccio with fennel salad, cooked tongue with shitake mushrooms and a dollop of apple sauce (both mouth-melting), for mains 1) slices the most perfectly roasted duck with a nest of buckwheat angle hair pasta and (yes, surprise, but it did work) thin slices of red raddish, and 2) scallops with crispy sweetbread (yes, that, too worked well together!) and risotto. Dessert was a heavenly creamy panna cotta with a fenugreek aroma and a slice of parmigiano with crackers. We let our waiter pair the dessert with port and we got two distinctly different types (one had an almost ice wine character, the other one was on the bolder side) that harmoniously emphasized the goodness of our last course.
Our waiter was attentive, knowledgeable and slightly (and pleasantly) understated. The food was described in the menu with three words only, which truly caught the essence of the meal, and the courses were presented like everything else: With beautiful simplicity.
It was one of the most delightful culinary experiences I've ever had, and I hope that this gem will be discovered by many who look for the outstanding.
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Submitted Wednesday, February 25, 2009 - 9:37pm [Dine in]
Being recommended to us (2 adults, 1 child) as a family-friendly restaurant we were looking forward to a dining experience a notch up from the usual family diner suspects...
Unfortunately, neither the lovely interior of this historic building nor the generally appealing menu couldn't cover up the fact that there was a factory-like quality to the food and to the way the tables were processed.
All dinner menus come with bread and garlic/plain butter, soup or salad for a starter and ice cream for desert (as well as pop or milk with kids' dinner options). The kids menu choices were good and really fairly-priced, though I should add the following:
The minestrone soup was quite heavy on cracked pepper and way too spicy for a three year old's palate, the spaghetti with tomato sauce were lukewarm (not necessarily a bad thing, as everyone will concur who has ever had to deal with the hungry-child-meltdown syndrome), but came in a wide-rimmed pasta plate that was so hot you couldn't touch it with bare hands.
My linguini with Thai red curry sauce and jumbo shrimp were lukewarm and quite mediocre, bland and a disappointment really. My husband had baby ribs that were lukewarm, too, with fries (which were great).
Our waitress was friendly, but very busy, once the restaurant filled up (which happened really quickly on a weekday night at around 6:30 pm). She never told us about the free pop/milk for the little one, and by the time we found out had already ordered an Italian soda at full price.
As for family dining, I had much better food and fun times at 'hole in the wall' sushi places and lively Chinese eateries than at the Old Spaghetti Factory which is kind of sad, as a good Italian family restaurant would fill the gap between the big American-diner chains and the numerous places with take-out character.
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