Cafe Brio Restaurant0
Just a short walk from the downtown Victoria core exists a lovely restaurant that has quite a local following and recently I found out why.
Cafe Brio (from the Italian word “brio” (bree-oh) meaning liveliness, spirit, vivacity) is a place that truly lives up to its name.
Walking in on a Saturday night there certainly exists a lively bistro atmosphere, great for dining out with friends or family.
The dim lighting gives it a warm and cozy feel as well, which makes it also a perfect spot for date night.
With a menu that focuses on fresh, regional products, they make everything here from scratch.
The menu changes regularly so that they’re able to serve the best possible products in their freshest form.
I can personally vouch that freshness makes a difference and you can definitely taste that in the food here.
One of the menu items that my friend Mark wanted to try out right away was their “Salumi”. Mark loves these Italian cured meats, and let me help him pick two off the menu for one of our appetizers.
The two meats we chose were the “Brio Prosciutto” ($6), and the “Genoa Salami with Lamb” ($6). Both were served with some pickled green beans, olives and two types of homemade mustard on the side as well.
Not normally being a huge fan of meat in this form, I actually quite liked the lamb salami and its red wine, garlic and pepper flavouring. Mark obviously liked his prosciutto as it was gone of the plate in seconds.
To continue on with some appetizers, we got half an order of the “Roast Parsnip Soup” ($7 half/ $11 full), and half an order of the “Hand Cut Chestnut Maltagliata Pasta” ($12 half/ $22 full).
The parsnip soup, which had shaved black truffle on top, was incredibly smooth and creamy. It tasted just like parsnip but as Mark said it was “the best parsnip I’ve ever tasted!”
Needless to say we used the bread that we’d been served to sop up every last bit of this delicious soup.
The pasta was a bit different for me in that although I liked the unique shaping of the pasta and its feel in my mouth, I didn’t find there to be any one flavour that stood out or made me overly excited. It was just okay for me.
One thing I have to say I really like is having the option to get a half an order of anything on the menu. This gave us the ability to sample more dishes and I find it’s also just nice to not waste food in general.
Moving on to our mains… As we often do, Mark and I asked our server for recommendations. I was looking at having the “Tomato and Molasses Braised Beef Short Ribs” ($16 half/ $29 full), and Mark asked about the “Grilled Brio Steak” ($16 half/ $29 full).
But our server had not tried either of these entrees. I was quite surprised that he had not done so, as I would expect that at a restaurant of this caliber, the servers would be quite knowledgeable about all the dishes.
Oh well, we decided to go with these two mains anyways, as we were both in a mood for red meat and had already started into some tasty red wine we thought would go nicely with it.
Speaking of which, one thing Cafe Brio’s got going for it is its extensive wine list. Their list is comprised of about 300 selections from around the world, with an emphasis on wines of the West Coast of North America.
I was drinking some fabulous “Two Hoots” Cab/Merlot ($9.50/glass, $31/half liter) from the Fairview Cellars winery in British Columbia and Mark was enjoying some French wine from the Cotes Du Rhone region.
My red wine was going really well with my short ribs which were served with braised greens risotto and braising jus.
The meat was pretty tender, though perhaps not quite as tender as I have tasted elsewhere.
I liked the risotto however there was quite a bit of jus on top of everything which made it hard to taste the true flavours of the entire dish.
Mark’s steak was served with creamy blue cheese polenta, braised greens and balsamic vinegar jus.
He really enjoyed the polenta and the meat was done to his liking. Again though, there was a lot of jus on this dish which it really didn’t need.
As a side note, Cafe Brio’s website states that “Sauces are often kept simple or light as not to mask the natural flavours found in our local quality ingredients”. Maybe the two dishes we selected were exceptions?
We finished off our evening on quite a high note with the “Sticky Date Toffee Pudding” ($8).
We have had sticky toffee pudding at many restaurants around town and this one ranked up there with the best of them.
In summary, both Mark and I enjoyed our evening out at Cafe Brio. We really liked the atmosphere and owners Silvia and Greg were super nice and friendly. In talking with them they both seemed to have a true love and passion for what they do.
The food here was solid, and though I think there may be minor things to improve upon, both Mark and I would not hesitate to return here again.