820 Yates St.
Ahh, the much anticipated new location of Zambri’s. I wish I had gone to their previous location so I would have something to compare my experience to.
I went to Zambri’s last week for lunch with JB. I had been talking about it ever since I saw that it had opened, and god knows I have a weak spot for proper Italian food. I had heard good things about Zambri’s, but also some controversial reviews on Urbanspoon.
First off, the Atrium is stunning inside. Definitely one of the most modern and interesting buildings I have seen in Victoria. The waiting area inside Zambri’s is small, warm and comfortable. I liked the chandeliers, but I wasn’t too fond of the lighting behind the bar, the lights reminded me of 1970′s lamps( the circular globes). Lunch service was busy, and the energy seemed decent. The greeter/host wasn’t overly friendly, but she did her job, nothing above average. She sat us outside the restaurant( but inside the Atrium portion). I liked that the menu’s were located underneath the tabletops.
We started with a drink( I had a glass of white wine, JB had a beer), which arrived shortly after bread was dropped off. The wine was slightly sweet and refreshing. I’m usually reluctant to order pasta when I go out, because I make it at home sometimes, and the price is inflated. But in order to gauge Zambri’s on any scale, I felt it was a fair dish to measure it by.
I ordered the Tagliatelle Bolognese($13) and JB ordered the Maccheroni with tomato sauce and mozzarella($12). The maccheroni description included Alberta mozzarella, I’m curious why they did not choose a BC option/ Natural Pastures mozzarella di bufala, perhaps the Alberta cheese had a preferable texture.
The tagliatelle wasn’t exactly prepared like a traditional Bolognese, but maybe that’s a good thing for lunch. Most Bolognese preparations are rendered down with rich and dark tomato flavours, and intensely seasoned for a hearty almost-ragu-like consistency. Zambri’s Bolognese was fresh and bright with a nice acidity from the tomatoes, a couple of hits of garlic, and minced beef. The pasta was cooked how I like it to be done, with a bit of chew but not a lot of resistance. JB’s dish was very similar to mine, just without the meat, the sauce was similar in that it was a tomato sauce. I didn’t particularly enjoy the texture of his maccheroni, it was considerably more tough, perhaps because it’s a thicker pasta. He enjoyed it though, and the portions were a good size for lunch. With tip, our meal was 50 bucks, which makes Zambri’s more of an occasion destination. That being said, I live nearby, and every night seems to be very busy so I doubt they are struggling to find people willing to pay a bit more.
There are two issues that seem to be on the table with Zambri’s. No reservations and no substitutions. How does everyone feel about this? Personally, neither affect me too much, as I don’t have any food allergies, or any aversions to waiting. But I think it’s unreasonable to not substitute basics, especially if they have the ingredients in house. Or is it because there is a lot of prep-work involved in these dishes? But for any restaurant that charges over $20 dollars for an entree, it seems unacceptable for them to not offer options in the experience. You could also read it as Zambri’s being perfectionists and professionals, not accepting anything but their vision for a dish, but even typing that makes it sound very ego-driven and stubborn. Discussion?
I have also noticed other reviews commenting on the service quality. I can’t comment on what Zambri’s was like before the big move, as I never went to their previous location. From my experience at lunch, to be frank, I was underwhelmed with the service. I’m kind of a hardass with servers though( as it is my weekend gig), but our server left us with a ho-hum kind of feeling. Given that it was busy, I can let some of it slide. But she didn’t really offer any personality into conversation or menu discussion. I can forgive a server for slow service or food mess-ups if they have a good attitude/personality about everything, but a stressed out, overly apologetic or a generally non-committal server usually doesn’t fare-well with me. Our server did the bare minimum, smiled when need-be, but didn’t enhance the experience.
The big question: Would I go back to Zambri’s anytime soon?
Maybe. I’m curious about their pizza, and maybe trying some of their meat/seafood entrees.