The Marina Restaurant

1327 Beach Dr tel: (250) 598-8555

It'd been a couple of years since my last visit to the Marina Restaurant, when I was horrified to be seated next to two tables of screaming children and was traumatised for quite some time. Having recovered from that experience and hearing positive news about the current kitchen management and staff, I thought I'd give it another shot. Good thing I did.

While the Marina Restaurant is never, ever, going to be a hip and happening place to dine, and exemplifies Victoria's reputation for the 'newly-wed and nearly-dead,' the food is excellent and the view stunning. Indeed, their was a sea of old lady, cauliflower hairdos upon arrival, but it's Oak Bay, why would I expect anything else. The restaurant space is attractive, well designed and comfortable, that said it lacks a little intimacy.

Our initial drink service was slow, but the server was able to answer a question about the martini list, which is fairly extensive. To disclaim as well, the server was acquainted with our dinner guest Ryan, which I think served to improve our service at times and sacrifice it at others. The server was generally polite, engaging and fairly knowledgeable about the food and wine, but we thought could have done a little more to answer a couple of product questions. Patty inquired about they type of rockfish being served and  it seemed she didn't understand that there were different species of rockfish. When Patty explained, she didn't offer to ask the kitchen. Similarly, when asked about the wine, she gave us the descriptor off the bottle, albeit in a tongue in cheek fashion - fair enough, it was a somewhat obscure grape (Marsanne), I'll blame the management for not having a cheat sheet for the wine list. I looked it up when I got home.

One of the nice things about the Marina Restaurant, is the ability to order off the Sushi Bar menu. I started with a plate of delicious nigiri and Ryan had sushi as well, for his main. For Patty's first course he ordered the halibut cheek crepe ($13.5). Wow, this was the best dish of the night and one of the best dishes I've tasted in awhile. Tender and flavourful with a lemony oil garnish - super-good. Ryan had the chicken liver and wild mushroom pate ($9.5). I found the mushroom flavour to be non-existent, but Ryan insisted it was there. That said, the pate was lovely and creamy, without any bitterness. You could tell some time had been put into the preparation of this dish.

For my main I had the roast halibut with sablefish, potato and leek salad ($27). Pretty darn yummy. The warm salad accompaniment was well designed and executed with a good balance of flavours and richness. Similarly, the frisee salad garnish, was fresh and the bitterness of the lettuce provided a nice contrast to the rest of the dish. It was presented attractively and fish cooked to medium. Patty had the salmon, with lentil, bacon and asparagus ($25). Unfortunately, it was a smidge overdone, but not terribly so. The lentil accompaniment was a nice variation on ordinary salmon dishes and Patty gobbled it up.  

In advance of ordering desert, Ryan, for some mysterious reason announced to the server that we were writing a review - so consider the rest of our experience tainted. Nevertheless...Ryan ordered the dessert special ($6.95) - a cream filled tart, topped with blueberries and ice cream. Beautifully presented, the tart shell was a bit thick and hard to cut, the berries however were fresh and Ryan loved it. I had the lemon tart ($7.5) - one of my favourite desserts. My tart shell was not as thick as Ryan's and I was delighted with the well balanced lemon curd and the crispy bruleed top.

Overall, we were really happy with the food. The wine list is decent and we liked the selection of bin ends, but it's not a terribly interesting list and falls seriously short on vintage identification - making it hard to identify value. We love the view and think it's a well designed space, but there were a few corners being cut, like cheap wine glasses. If you're looking a great view, good food and plenty of free parking, the Marina is your place.

reviewed July 17/2006