Finding Quality Take-Out In Victoria

Quality take-out is subjective. For some, greasy and delivered is a must. For others, a day from hell can mean home cooking isn’t in the cards. Having moved house twice in six months with three kids ages three and under, I have fallen repeatedly into the latter category. After a lengthy experimental phase that included repeat trips to the following restaurants, here’s the quick skinny on a few places with quality take-out in Victoria.

Ithika Greek Restaurant, 1102 Yates St., (250) 384-6474

Ithaka Greek Restaurant: When the man who takes your phone order recommends his mom’s homemade ekmek dessert, don’t say no, even if you don’t know what ekmek is. Aside from the charm of knowing the phone call is being handled by someone related to the chef, there’s a comfort that the kitchen playbook is splattered with generations of hand-written notes, not corporate directives. To cover as much ground as possible on their substantial menu, the appetizer-sharing platter ($36.50) comes loaded with traditional foods one is likely seeking when in the mood for Greek. The keftedes are bigger than golf balls and lightly herbed – good on their own or with a schlook of tzatziki. The dolmades – small cigars of grape leaf-wrapped beef and rice – had the right snap and give on first bite. The Greek salad didn’t fall into the wetness trap that ruins so many a good traveling salad – the veggies stayed crisp and dry enough to keep the crumbled feta in place for each bite. The warm slabs of spanakopita were a meal in their own right, maintaining a good outer flake with ample spinach and cheese inside. Surprisingly, the calamari held its own, despite the take-out box. While nothing beats sizzling, crisp, deep-fried squid straight from the vat, this order kept together beautifully and was a centerpiece for the evening’s meal. Grilled pita bread and Greek dry ribs (the ribs, $9.99, were not included in the platter – this was a separate order necessitated by the six-pack of stout in the fridge) balanced by slices of fresh cucumber and fat, warm lemon wedges rounded out the meal to make for a wide ranging spread of flavours.

Saffron Persian Cuisine, 2217 Oak Bay Avenue, (250) 370-0766.

Ever a fan of the understated, the ever-so-slightly curled paper sign hanging in the window of Saffron Persian Cuisine is as much of a draw as the smells moving through the often-open front door. Located in the same small space as the former Village Patisserie on Oak Bay Avenue, Saffron is a family-run restaurant focused on quality Persian rice, vegetarian dishes, and meat and fish dishes. While the selection of easy to grab wraps, sweets and savories is good, the main lunch and evening meals are made and served home-style, with a limited but filling protein option that changes each day. The chef makes an excellent plain rice, as well as a vegetarian, saffron-laced Persian rice to go with the daily meat, typically a curried chicken, beef or salmon dish. The salmon didn’t win me over, but the chicken and beef over the vegetarian rice was a necessary step away from normal, with strong, hard-to-name, easy-to-eat subtleties layered throughout the meal.

Varsha Sips & Nosh House, 1600 Government St., (250) 590-6252.

Having recently left Squamish, where a proud community of East Indian people has long resided and fed the locals, I was hoping to find another excellent spot to dine on Indian food. Varsha in downtown Victoria has filled the gap. The fusion menu items are tempting – burgers and poutine with an Indian lilt – but their true Indian meals – spiced kebabs, bite-sized pakoras, paneer tikka masala, and mom’s traditional chicken curry served with basmati rice and warm naan are bang-on for a home-cooked dose of authenticity not procured in your own kitchen. This is a place that does chutneys well, splurging on a few extra of Varsha’s family flavours rounds out the meal.

—By Susan Hollis

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