Vis-à-Vis Wine & Charcuterie Bar

Lingcod confit with soft egg yolk, English peas and potato purée at Vis-a-Vis. Photo by Rebecca Wellman

Clever, handsome, meticulous, fun and tasty is how I describe Vis-à-Vis, the Vic Pub Co.’s newest addition to its fleet. But wait, this small-plates wine and charcuterie eatery isn’t another Goliath pub. This time it’s a little classy, cozy and delicious nook in Oak Bay (I can stop missing the Oak Bay Beach Hotel’s long-defunct Snug a little less now).

Exposed brick, angled gilded mirrors and a deep bar invite you to sit happily solo with a glass and perhaps a plate of the soft, garnet-coloured, air-dried bresaola or the dense and luxurious pork rillette with artisan bread.

Thanks to the fancy Enomatic Wine Preservation System, guests can enjoy 24 table wines by the glass. The wine program was developed by sommelier Erika Staffanson and the bar is run by Stephen Quigley. Wines are offered in one-, five- and eight-ounce pours. Flights are offered, and my server customized a “big and bold” for me. The glass arrives with a small ring of paper noting the specific wine. All the better to recall it at the Vic Pub Co.’s store across the street on your way home.

I tried the grilled asparagus, radish, pecorino and black truffle pudding. The presentation was busy yet careful and creative. The pudding, an even slash of black, was the flavour and visual foundation for the dish. The pale pecorino and red-rimmed radish were ever so thinly sliced and the grilled asparagus was still solid and brilliant green. The truffle was as earthy, subtle and bass as it could muster. The flavours and textures—the creamy pudding, the waifish crunch of the radish, the saltiness of the pecorino—were many but wove into a pleasing vegetable dish.

Next I sampled the pork belly with grapefruit, endive and maple onion caramel. I did not want to share it. This was the first pork belly I have enjoyed that was not mostly fatty, but the shift away meant that it was, well, porkier, and stood well against the grapefruit and maple onion caramel especially.

The seared scallop with salted liquorice glaze and fennel purée was beautiful and well made. But it was a bit too sweet for me, and I found the liquorice somewhat overbearing for the tender scallop. The crisp sweetbreads with apple butter, watercress and bacon dressing was a good one to share, and, again, the balance of textures and opposing flavours worked well. But it was the lingcod confit with soft egg yolk, English peas and potato purée that really impressed me. The whole egg yolk, not quite hard, was bulbous and glistening atop the potato puree debecked with peas. And the lingcod was fantastic—salty, solid, gorgeous. Chef Jens Larsen has really brought a wide array of flavours, textures and goodness to the menu.

Vis-à-vis means “face to face,” something one might better apprehend when you enter the bathroom and come face to face with a large pig’s head. Large. Staring at you with its big, humanoid eye. The rest of her body stands outside the bathroom on a bench. It is unsettling, but you do get used to it. Vis-à-vis can also mean “a date at a social affair,” or “a person of equal authority, rank, or the like” and it is from these that I warm to the name, much like I warmed to the staff who were not only very skilled and well-versed on the meals but were so genuinely enthusiastic about being there that they created their own collective vibe as they worked seamlessly together.

A friend invited me to Vis-à-Vis again tonight. That will be three times in a week and a half. One more good reason to go to Oak Bay often. Nicely done and thank you. —Gillie Easdon

Vis-à-Vis Wine & Charcuterie Bar | 2232 Oak Bay Ave., Victoria | 250-590-7424 | www.visavisoakbay.com

 

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