Your new first date spot
“What’s Mélange?” we asked ourselves after receiving a gift certificate for Christmas from a generous family member. Well, we’ve been now and have good things to report.
Mélange (“mix” for the Français-challenged) is located downtown on Commercial Street, just a few doors up from the Modern Café. It’s in the old REWsters location, for those who knew it.
Upon entering on this particular evening we were immediately greeted by a courteous host who led us to our table. We were quite surprised to find that despite the small street façade, the restaurant is actually L-shaped and has quite a bit of seating in the back. There’s a great semi-separate area at the back that would be great for large groups or corporate events (post-Covid, obvie).
The restaurant is very chic and is decorated to give a sense of urban sophistication without causing discomfort for casual diners. As with other upscale eateries in Nanaimo, you’re going to feel comfortable wearing jeans in there, but you wouldn’t be out of place with a bow-tie or nice dress either. We found the service to offer the same balance. Our server skillfully assessed our casual bearing and mirrored it. We love that. We had a number of questions about the menu, and she was happy to answer all of them.
Mélange is essentially a small-plates restaurant. While there are a few mains on the menu, you’re probably going to have the best experience by ordering a number of small items and sharing them with your table. There is a great cocktail list and an expansive wine list. The latter is something they are clearly proud of and happy to discuss with you. We’re not wine experts by any stretch but we know enough that we picked a reasonably-priced Riesling to go with our mixed meal. We were impressed with the wine service , which included an ice bucket with white towels. Pretty classy.
Since we can’t resist daily rotating items, we decided to order the daily taco – a duck taco – times two, and the daily spring roll – pulled pork on this particular night. We also ordered the chorizo sandwich to share.
It was a short wait for food, during which we enjoyed our wine and relaxed. There was good downtempo music playing and a warm din coming from the other diners, kitchen, and wait staff. The vibe was mellow and positive (or maybe that was just the effect of the wine!)
First to arrive were our duck tacos. These were tiny street tacos with glazed duck, onions, a sauce we couldn’t quite peg (was it the duck wing sauce they admittedly stole from Moby’s on Saltspring?), and a topping of sunflower sprouts. Everything was in its perfect place and we swiftly devoured them. We could have had round after round of these, but at the $7 price per taco, one each was enough.
After our tacos came the pulled pork spring roll. This was a creative fusion of Asian with BBQ. Even knowing what to expect, the flavour was somewhat surprising – in a good way. We did find it to be a bit dry, especially considering pulled pork is usually quite sloppy, but the overall flavour and presentation made up for this small shortcoming. Great dipping sauce too – not just your usual fish sauce.
Lastly came the chorizo Cuban sandwich. Cubanos are a big hit in our household so we knew we had to give this a try. The menu gives the impression you’re getting a hearty Cuban sandwich, but it’s actually more like a panini, albeit with much of the same contents of the Cuban. The roasted pork has been swapped for spicy chorizo, and the pickles aren’t quite as pronounced as you might expect.
While we were admittedly a little disappointed in the size of the sandwich, the flavour and texture (CRUNCH) of the sandwich was delightful, and we agreed we’d happily eat ourselves to death on these things.
Finally, we decided to try our hand at luck-based ordering and had their “the third one” dessert, so-named because it is literally the third one on the dessert list. Mélange has a few cheeky blind-order items like this on the menu and we didn’t want to leave without rolling the dice at least once. Our luck was good, as dessert that night was a slice of apple pie. That’s pretty much the most traditional dessert out there but the restaurant did put a bit of a twist on it by spicing up their pie filling. It was slightly spiced with… cloves? Cardamom? We’re not quite sure, but it was intriguing and quite good. Sadly, we failed to take a picture of it for you because 1) it was good enough that we ate it swiftly, and 2) that bottle of wine I mentioned? Yeah. Gone now.
Our final bill, including one $50 bottle of wine and a modest tip, was $120. We consider this fair value. While there wasn’t a lot of volume of food eaten, what we were served was creative, expressive, fun, and above all truly gourmet. The dining experience was also excellent with great ambiance, and true professionals for hosts and servers.
Mélange is a great spot for an upscale dining experience and should be appealing to almost anyone. It’s not cheap, but for your money you will get to try some great dishes and drinks, and count on a fabulous dining experience. We recommend it for dates and special occasions. We’re excited to go back!