If you ask me, there are two ways to determine when the sun comes up in any given city on any given day – and they both involve a smartphone. You download an app that reveals the sunrise / sunset info with the swipe of a finger or you set your alarm for 5:00 a.m. and actually watch the sun peek over the horizon. That’s precisely what I did to kick off Saturday #6.
On Friday I met an old friend for dim sum at a vintage Chinese restaurant near my hostel in Victoria. The sign outside Don Mee’s boasted of it being “The Heartbeat of Chinatown for Over 80 Years.” The dim sum was good. The offer I got after lunch was even better: Todd insisted that I stay with him for my last two nights in town. I didn’t give him a chance to back out when my options were an 18-person dorm with shared bathroom vs. the entire top floor of Todd’s beautiful Oak Bay home complete with en-suite, skylights, etc. I was reasonably sure that I made the right decision until Todd announced that he goes for a brisk walk every morning and I would be joining him – just after 5:00 a.m.
Aside from the hour, the walk wasn’t too hard to take since Todd’s route takes him through the heart of his Oak Bay neighbourhood. Think of the best residential streets in Toronto’s Rosedale or Forest Hills or Montreal’s Mount Royal neighbourhood and toss in some 300 year-old oak trees and infinity pools overlooking private Pacific Ocean beachfront and you’ve got Oak Bay. If there’s a more picturesque urban neighbourhood in Canada, I haven’t seen it.
Todd is one of those guys who works on Saturdays and has for his entire life. We met at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon when I was 21 and a few years into my career as a racing official. Todd was 18 and had just obtained his harness racing driver’s license. I charted the race in which he notched his first win. He signed a photo for me. I sent it back to him this past May, 31 years later.
Todd won another 1252 races and made a nice living on the Alberta circuit before concluding that a twice-yearly migration between Edmonton and Calgary just wasn’t worth it, especially with a young family. He hung up his silks and started selling insurance in Edmonton.
After a few years he moved to Peachland, BC and eventually to Victoria where he’s Finance Manager at Campus Acura. He’s also proof there is life after racing.
After our Saturday morning walk, Todd went in to the dealership and closed deals on four new Acuras before knocking off at 6:00 p.m. Not a bad day at the office, I suppose.
I spent the day lounging on his deck, did laundry (all 9 pieces of clothing that I currently own), wrote a blog post, and had a nap in a lawn chair. By Victoria standards, that was a grueling day.
When Todd returned from work and asked what I wanted to do for dinner on my final Saturday on the Island, I said that I was up for almost anything but it should be “unique to Victoria.” No Milestones, Kegs or TGI Fridays, thank-you.
“Red Fish, Blue Fish,” he replied. “Case closed.”
As the web site for the outdoor fish and chips shop indicated that it closed at 7:00, we left right away and battled Victoria traffic for the six minute trip across town.
With one look at the 60 or so people lined up outside Red Fish, Blue Fish, I knew that Todd had picked a winner.
We waited in line for about 45 minutes to place our order, and another 15 while they prepared the food, so it was about an hour before they finally called out “Fernando.” (I generally offer Fernando or Lancelot when asked for a ‘lineup’ name.)
It took a fraction of that time to determine that Red Fish, Blue Fish had served up the best halibut and chips I’ve ever tasted. Sorry, Heikens family of Stouffville Fish & Chips, who are Facebook friends, but this place is pretty unique. Online reviewers certainly think so.
Urban Spoon: 1934 votes; 89% liked it
Trip Advisor: 669 reviews; 4-1/2 stars
Yelp: 333 reviews; 4-1/2 stars
Google: 40 reviews; 4-1/2 stars
Eat Your City: rated 9/10
I’ve never had chowder quite like RFBF’s Pacific Rim Chowder. It had a sweet chipotle coconut base with fresh sweet corn and Pacific white fish confit finished with chives. Superb!
The halibut and chips were also phenomenal. I chatted with the chef through an open window for a few minutes and he said that he lets most of batter drip off before frying. I think he nailed it as it seemed to be just the right ratio of batter to halibut. The twice-fried Kenebec fries, homemade slaw and homemade tartar sauce were great as well.
Other items on the menu:
• Sweet Red Curry Chips
• Jack Fish Poutine
• Spicy Pacific Fish Poutine
• BBQ Fanny Bay Oyster Tacone
• Grilled Fanny Bay Oysters
• Smoked Albacore Tuna
• Grill-Seared Albacore Tuna with Spicy Spot Prawn Mayo
• Grilled Wild Salmon with Million Island Dressing
• Chilled Baby Shrimp Roll with dill Dijonnaise, tartar, lemon-pickled onions and organic greens
• The Cod Dog
• Mushy Edamame
Red Fish, Blue Fish is a strictly take-out “restaurant” operating out of a converted shipping container on the wharf. The seating is limited to stools at a long counter overlooking the marina, from which one can enjoy the “live” entertainment. A half dozen seagulls waited patiently (if not exactly quietly) for the odd chip to be tossed their way. Rarely did the chips hit the water as the gulls snatched them from mid-air.
“And how do you propose to finish off a perfect Saturday night in true Victoria style?,” I asked Todd. “Grab an ice cream cone on the wharf and head home to catch the start of the the Angels – Red Sox game,” he replied.
After the 5th inning Todd was asleep on the sofa and clearly in for the night. I wasn’t thinking of bed before 10:00 p.m. on my last Saturday in Victoria so I started to research bars with live entertainment. A little post-ballgame tour of Victoria’s hotspots seemed like a good idea.
Six hours and 31 minutes later Albert Pujols’ leadoff homer in the bottom of the 19th inning gave the Angels a 5-4 victory. It was the longest game in the majors so far this year. So much for a night on the town. I crept up the stairs and was asleep within two minutes.
And that, folks, is Saturday night excitement, Victoria-style.