45 Bastion Square
A friend of mine raved about Camille’s, I didn’t know where it was, I must have walked by it over 50 times. She convinced me to go. I waited much too long, it blew me away.
This meal was a complete surprise. The entire experience couldn’t have been more enjoyable. I owe her one.
Camille’s is situated in Bastion Square, if you venture down the short flight of stairs you’ll enter a quaint, cozy, and luxurious dining setting.
I forget which night of the week we went, it may have been a Wednesday. There were only a few tables when we entered, but the room was full of food-related banter and romantic gazing. My friend J had so much faith and trust in this establishment, it was inspiring. She inquired if the kitchen was doing a tasting menu, which our server replied, ” The chef can prepare one for you.” She proceeded to ask if J had any dietary restrictions and/or allergies in a very professional manner. Given that J was having the five course tasting menu( all of which was a complete surprise, course-by-course), our server suggested that I order an appetizer so that I am not watching her consume food without me for a few courses. This made me crack a grin. I opted for the scallop appetizer, and the scallops much like the rest of the menu, was a local and sustainable option from Qualicum Beach. She thoughtfully asked if I would like her to pair wines for me throughout the evening. I agreed to have a glass of white wine with my appetizer.
J’s first course was a pork rillette, similar to a pâté, with some nice bread , mustard and pickled cauliflower(multi-coloured). My scallops arrived with her next course, a rustic borscht with a beautiful creme fraiche. The portion was generous, and it was intentional, as the servers had observed we were sharing our food, me being the greedy and snoopy foodie that I am. The scallops were delicate without a heavy sear as they are typically served in most restaurants. I think this was strategically prepared by the chef to match the mouthfeel of the shaved artichokes, tomato confit and fennel seed chips( almost like pappadums).
The pairing was perfect, if I recall correctly, a Naramata Ridge Chardonnay, not too dry with a subtle sweetness which complimented the sweetness of the scallops.
J’s next course was a plump and succulent sablefish from Hecate Strait( Queen Charlottes/ Haida Gwaii). The portion was extremely generous, considering her entire 5 course tasting menu was only 60 dollars( 90 dollars if you would like to pair with wine, which is very reasonable for the quality of product and service). The fish was beautifully buttery and flakey, with a flavourful tomato consomme moat around it, crispy chorizo chips, accompanied with a dill and kale salad. It was divine.
My main course was a duck breast with roast garlic and eggplant puree, brussel sprout leaf slaw with crispy pork belly, beets and carrots, yam gnocchi and quince chutney($30). Just describing it again makes my mouth water. The skin was crispy, the meat perfectly pink, and the flavours were incredible. The quince chunks coupled with the crispy pork belly bits was a bonafide foodgasm.
Our server had mentioned that a Pinot Noir would be the perfect match with this dish. I declined and said that I would have another drink with my dessert. She brought a complimentary tasting of the Pinot Noir with my duck entree because it would really add to the experience. It was very thoughtful and it threw me off. The level of service exceeded my expectations. The wine was rich with cherry tones, and it really did add to my experience and tasting of the dish.
J’s fourth course was a beef tenderloin with parsnip puree, yam hash, and sous vide beef tongue. When our server first described the dish, I thought I heard her say beef tallow, so I expected little bits of soft fat. But we were confused when we started eating it. Upon collecting our dishes which we nearly licked clean, she commented that we enjoyed the tongue. Shocked and laughing, ” I guess we did!”. The tongue was so soft and it was a great way to try tongue for the first time.
So far, J’s tasting menu was 4 for 4, I tasted all of them, and I was in disbelief. Could it be? A restaurant with a chef so talented, that he could consistently deliver a calibre of food so high. I was impressed.
For our dessert, J received a dark chocolate semifreddo( a frozen mousse) which translates to ‘half-frozen’ in Italian. The texture was beautiful, smooth and rich, and there was some crunchy bits, maybe a brittle to contrast the smoothness. I ordered the citrus cheesecake. It was spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon. It was dangerously smooth, no lumps, and I think I tasted sour cream. It was a mild citrus flavour, but it still made its presence known. Our server informed us that she makes martinis , so based on her performance up until then I took her up on it, and ordered her Yuletide martini( 2.5 oz total, combination of Frangelico, Espresso Vodka and Goldschlager). She also brought us a blackberry port-style wine from Alderlea vineyards on the island, and a hazelnut sherry for tasting fun to go with our desserts.
The generosity and knowledge of our server, coupled with the expertise of the chef, made this was one of the most memorable meals of 2010 for me. I look forward to going back and going on a culinary carpet-ride, with local ingredients and staff that really go the extra mile.
I really can’t fault anything major about the experience. The only constructive criticism I can give is:
-I found that the Men’s bathroom didn’t match the rest of the restaurant, could use a bit of touching up ( e.g. the wall art was crooked)
- One of my pet peeves is seeing mint leaves on dessert plates, I didn’t try it with my cheesecake, who knows it may have enhanced the flavour, but for garnish it makes me cringe
- In my duck dish, as much as I love starch, I really didn’t think the dish needed the gnocchi, They were an adorable shape, but I found the texture to be a bit gummy and they didn’t have much flavour.
- lastly, I know this is nit-picky, but my white wine was brought before my appetizer, and by the time my appetizer came with her dish, my wine was lukewarm. The server probably didn’t want me to just drink water while my friend was eating, so this was just a bit of a timing issue.
Really those critiques aren’t even that important. I had an amazing time, and keep posted for my next visit. This is the perfect place to take someone who loves food, wine, and supporting a great local restaurant which shows off local ingredients.
Thank you Camille’s!