Good eating, in our View
Nanaimo Food Blog is now over a year old and it is a CRIME that it has taken us this long to get in to The View Oceanside Grill in order to see what they have on offer. We finally did it and present for you our thoughts.
(Ed. note: Speaking of crimes, please accept our apologies for the few lousy photos in this review. Our visit occurred on a dark and stormy night and the restaurant was very dimly lit. Also, we try to take our photos surreptitiously. Taking stealthy pictures in the dark is hard.)
The View is located downtown inside the Dorchester Hotel, on the harbour-facing side. The other side of the restaurant is home to the excellent Top Notch Burgers. These two restaurants offer totally different menus and atmospheres, but appear to operate out of the same kitchen. Where Top Notch offers a variety of gourmet burgers, The View offers gourmet… everything else.
The View’s entrees menu consists of a huge variety of options, though there is definitely a tilt toward seafood. You can have pasta, Thai curry, fish, shellfish, chicken, beef short ribs, lamb, veal, pork chops, and other vegetarian options too. For a gourmet, chef-driven operation, this is quite a lot of variety on offer, but that does have drawbacks, which we’ll explain.
Our visit this time was for dinner. On arrival, we were asked to wait in a comfortable lounge area while our table was made ready. Our hostess was back moments later to seat us. Unable to decide on wine, we retreated to the relative safety of the cocktail menu and started our night with a couple of Negronis (pictured above). The drinks were attractively presented and came out quickly.
In a gourmet setting, we typically we like to order an appetizer to share in order to try something in addition to our mains. We perused the appetizer menu but couldn’t really decide on something that we both wanted to split. Chowder, soups, poké… these things may be great, but are not super easy to share. In the end we ordered a simple bread basket. Said basket was a massive mound of dinner rolls, crusty breads, and even a pita. These were served with a basic balsamic vinegar/olive oil dip. The breads were not particularly interesting but it’s hard to argue with the $5 price point for the volume of food we received. We could have shared that one appetizer and been full. Yeesh. (Sorry no picture of the bread basket. We’re still amateurs.)
For mains, he ordered the prosciutto-wrapped lingcod, and she ordered the restaurant’s signature dish – the seafood flambé. He had originally tried to order the veal (a rare offering in Nanaimo) but it was sadly out of stock – one of the downsides of having a large menu.
The lingcod arrived first and was attractively presented atop a bed of coconut rice and veg. The veg in this case was a great stalk of broccolini, grilled cauliflower, and a couple impressively huge wedges of beet. Seriously, this beet must have originally been the size of a turnip. The fish was covered in a butter sauce and a remoulade (fancy tartar sauce) was served on the side.
Lingcod are ugly as hell but they sure taste good. The meat tasted essentially like rockfish but was a bit heavier and dryer in texture. This dryness may have been due to the inherent nature of the meat (aside: wait, is fish… meat?) or it may have been slightly overdone. Our experience with lingcod is limited enough that we can’t say for sure so we’ll leave that there. The prosciutto added some crispiness and the caper butter sauce was very good, delivering some salt and richness.
The veg were also well cooked. We were curious about the beet though. It had a melt-in-your-mouth texture which was great, but it was also a bit acidic, which was not so great to our taste buds. Perhaps it had been brined before cooking? Perhaps the acidity is the tradeoff in order to cook a great big taproot like that all the way through? We’re not sure.
The other veg and the rich coconut rice were delicious.
The seafood flambé arrived at the same time, but as you can imagine required an element of table service. Fresh scallops, clams, and prawns were chucked into a sizzling pan at our tableside. A dollop of Ricard (a French aperitif that tastes like licorice) was added then ignited, sending a whoosh of flames to the ceiling. Ooooohhh…. aaahhhhhhh. Interestingly, the menu says Sambuca, not Ricard, is used, but ehhh, it’s probably the same result.
Once the flames subsided, the pan was doused with cream sauce while the shellfish finished cooking. When done, it was served on the same bed of veg and rice as the lingcod was served on. (That’s why the pictures are so similar.) It’s another drawback of the long menu – many meats are served on identical sides.
The seafood was succulent and well-cooked. The scallops in particular were buttery and seared just how we’d like them. The licorice cream added interest to the dish without overwhelming the delicate flavours of the shellfish. We can see why this is the restaurant’s most popular item. It’s just great food, served with panache.
We were so full from dinner (actually, let’s be real, it was the bread) that we skipped dessert.
Our meal, with two cocktails each, taxes, and a modest tip came to $120. Take the cocktails out and it would have been something like $80. We consider this excellent value. In fact, for gourmet scratch cooking from local ingredients, we were very impressed with the menu prices, especially considering the price pressures on every restaurant due to the pandemic. Keeping prices reasonable is so important in our opinion as it encourages experimentation on repeat visits. Well done.
Overall, we had a good experience at The View. The restaurant itself was fine (though lit too dimly), the service was good but not particularly memorable, and the food was great, but with a few foibles. That said, the value is absolutely excellent. They have endeavoured to provide quality food and elegance in dining, and with only a few minor rough edges to polish off are clearly going to be capable of total excellence very soon. Go check them out and let them know we sent you!
Of course the six million dollar question is, which is better, The View, or Mélange? These two gourmet restaurants are literally across the street from each other.
That’s tough to answer, but in our view, Mélange has the edge in terms of elegance and refinement, but you will absolutely pay for it. The View’s grill certainly competes and does so at a more affordable price point. If we had to make a call, we’d say if you must have the absolute best, go to Mélange. If you want a still-great dining experience without tapping your HELOC, go check out The View.