There aren’t many restaurants in downtown Victoria that I haven’t been to, especially ones that have been around for over a couple years.
When I realized that The Reef Restaurant had been open since 1999 and I still had yet to eat there, I knew it was time to get my island groove on and check it out.
Walking into the The Reef, my friend Mark and I were greeted with the chillin’ sounds of Bob Marley.
After one quick look around the colourful, palm treed, Caribbean themed room, I knew we had come to the right place for a relaxing and fun evening.
We arrived around 5:30pm on a Friday and were glad to see we had beat the rush so we had our choice of table.
As the Reef Restaurant is situated in “tourist central”, you might want to call ahead to reserve a spot. Though reservations aren’t necessary, if you’re here in the summer months and plan on coming any later than we did, the place could be full.
After being seated in our front window booth, Mark ordered himself a bottle of Jamaican “Dragon Stout” ($6.50) and I, getting in the island mood myself, went for a “Reef Classic Rum Punch” ($6.50).
This was a pretty sweet punch made up of cranberry, oj, lime, mango and pineapple. I’d say it was solid as far as punches go, though I might have preferred it served in something more fancy than just a regular water glass.
If you like rum and don’t need it sweetened up in a punch like I do, you will be happy to know they serve 42 different types at the Reef Restaurant and you can even order a rum flight too.
For an appetizer, we chose to order the “Coco Prawns” ($9). These were prawns rolled in toasted coconut that came with a minted avocado yoghurt.
Now I’m usually a huge prawn fan but I have to admit I didn’t really “get” the taste combo here. Though there was nothing wrong with the prawns themselves, the dip just didn’t seem to go with the coconut.
On the upside, right after we ordered our prawns our server delivered 2 of their famous “Johnny Cakes”. These were deep fried cornmeal balls of goodness! They were super delicious… I highly recommend you try them.
For our mains, we took the advice of our server and Mark ordered the “Jamaican Jerk” ($14) with pork tenderloin. If you don’t like pork, you can also choose chicken breast, salmon or tofu.
If you’ve never heard of Jerk, it is a style of cooking native to Jamaica in which meat is dry-rubbed or wet marinated with a very hot spice mixture called Jamaican jerk spice.
In the Reef’s case, their marinade is made up of allspice, soy, tomato, garlic, ginger and Scotch bonnet peppers (these are among the hottest of chili peppers).
If you like some “heat to your meat”, as well as lots of flavour, this is a great dish for you. Mark has had jerk chicken and pork at many restaurants and said the jerk at the Reef was one of the best he’s ever had.
For me, I decided to go with the “St. Barts Lamb Shank” ($19). The lamb was braised in red coconut curry and was served on mash potatoes.
The plate was very colourful with it’s side of purple coleslaw and roasted cob of corn on it (both which went down fairly easily I might add).
As far as the lamb was concerned, I liked the curry sauce it was braised in but unfortunately there wasn’t much edible meat because the majority of it was very overcooked and dry. I’m not sure if this is how they normally serve their lamb at the Reef, but I have to admit it was a little disappointing.
The few bites that were not as overcooked were tasty but it really could have been a much better dish overall.
Our time at The Reef Restaurant was still a good one, despite my entree not being the best.
The highlights were definitely the Johnny Cakes and the Jamaican Jerk.
We both enjoyed the island music and atmosphere and look forward to coming back to the Reef Restaurant to try some more of their unique Caribbean menu.
IN A NUTSHELL…
The Reef Restaurant
Address: 533 Yates St., Victoria
Phone: (250) 388-5375
Hours: Mon – Fri 11:30 am – late
Sat & Sun 10:30 am – late
Price: $$ ($10 – $15 per entree)