Thursday, August 19, 2010

Saturday, August 14th - Restaurant Matisse - Identity Crisis

Amuse Bouche Quail's Egg
For dinner during my first trip ever to Victoria (Yes I know, I've been here four years and it is the first time. Wierd.)  We were recommend Restaurant Matisse, a French bistro between the bar district and Chinatown.  It is highly rated and lauded for its food and I was rather excited.  I am lukewarm on my final opinion.  The food itself was good for the most part but the experience was a bit scattered. 

When you walk in you are struck by the calm and elegant lighting and design. Quiet classics like Edith Piaf were playing on the speakers and somewhat cliché posters of Matisse paintings hung on the walls. Rather surprising since it is next door to a Youth Hostel. It is very dark with all the windows covered as the obscured view of brickwalled industrial buildings and loud bars is not what the concept desired.. apparently.   It is small and seats about 20.  So I was expecting a nice, tranquil dining experience.  I mean, that is what the design seemed to imply.  Alas, it was not so.

We were greeted by a vivacious manager who was very friendly and obviously very proud of his establishment.  He is extremely knowledgeable on the menu and wine list.  However, his exhuberant personality and dress seemed a bit at odds with the setting at times.  This was exacerbated by the fact that we were sat directly next to personal friends.  Let me repeat, the restaurant seats 20 or so.  During the evening, it ranged from 60-20% full.  It felt 130% full sitting near this table.   There was a loud and energetic conversation constantly with the owner, with him usually standing table side.  Shop talk was constant.  You would barely have guessed there was anyone else in the restaurant and at times felt that way.  It was unpleasant to be in an otherwise romantic setting with a raucous, insider pow wow 1 ft away.

I have no issue with raucous in the appropriate setting.  I love some of the rowdy bistros in Paris where people have incredible French food in a setting louder than a mall.  The sound design in La Matisse was not conducive to this at all nor was there any other distraction from it.  No windows, no large groups of people to watch.  It was like being in someone's living room where there is a party going on to which you are not invited but they're serving you dinner in a corner.... for 3 hours!

Now you will recall that at on my review of  C Restaurant, I made a point of saying that I enjoyed the relaxed pace of the meal and chastised a nearby table for complaining.  That is because it was befitting of the concept and the environment.  Not so here.  The sophisticated, romantic ambiance was turned boring waiting room where we were drowned out of our own conversation while we waited excructiatingly long for food.

The food.  The food, as I said was good for the most part.  I make that qualification because D's main was not at all cooked well.   We perused the menu with some lovely Arancia Saffron Infused Vodka Martinis, the Sommelier/Bartender's specialty.

Cauliflower Vichyssoise Soup
We started with the Cauliflour Vichyssoise topped with Chive foam.  It was gorgeous.  Flavours of the Cauliflower were pronounced and the the foam was wonderful.  Then for appetisers, I had the Snow Crab Nicoise.  It was dressed well, though a touch underseasoned.  The eggs were too hard boiled but not the end of the world.  The Crab was lovely.    D started with the Fois Gras Parfait.  It had an Aspic on top which was the only thing he did not like about the dish.  It was served with a little Onion Relish with housemade crisp bread.  D enjoyed it quite alot.

Snow Crab Nicoise Salad

The main for myself was a Seafood Fricassée which was a mix of Scallops, Lobster knuckle, Prawn on a bed of Risotto.  To be honest, the menu read as if I were ordering a whole Lobster.  That was not at all clear and I was rather surprised and disappointed when it first arrived.  That said, the dish, as it was was wonderful.  Everything was cooked delicately and was piping hot.  D's dish on the other hand, the Halibut was unacceptably over cooked.  It was dry and flaked up too easily.  We assumed it was a matter of timing for our two mains but that was a shame.

Seafood Fricasee

D's Dry Halibut
For desert I had a horrible Flourless Chocolate cake.  There is no other way of describing it.  Me, I left 2/3 of a 14$ Cholate Cake on the plate.  It was dry and mealy and the centre tasted raw.  I make this cake at home.  It is not difficult or tricky so, that much greater the disappointment.  The sauce on the plate was nice.  D had a mixed Cheese plate, all French all beautiful.  That just inspires me to visit Les Amis du Fromage on 2nd sometime soon.

Mealy and Dry Flourless Cake
Overall, I would not recommend this restaurant the service and the food were inconsistent for the price point.  The concept was a complete identy crisis.

Meursault Chartron et Trebuchet

Cost: $$$$
Service: Excrutiatingly slow
Ambience: Boring with an identity crisis
Wine list: Limited on variety of price points

Restaurant Matisse
512 Yates Street
Victoria, BC V8W
(250) 480-0883
Restaurant Matisse on Urbanspoon




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