New Victoria eatery blends European flavours with local ingredients (PHOTOS)

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The “Rigatoni” (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)

A new restaurant has opened in downtown Victoria, located inside the former Sherwood location, just across from city hall. 

The new eatery is called Rudi, and it is owned by the same group as Wind Cries Mary, a staple of the local culinary scene. 

Rudi opened quietly just before Christmas for their soft opening, with December 26th being their true launch date. 

Although Co-owner and Director of Operations Jesse Dame says they had hoped to be open on December 1st, sometimes last minute setbacks will pop up and push back on preconceived plans. 

Dame and his managing partner, Chef David Healey, have worked together in a handful of restaurants over the years and finally opened something of their own in 2019 with Wind Cries Mary. 

Since its launch, the restaurant in Bastion Square has become one of the mainstays of the local cocktail scene, they’ve become known for their decadent food and their late night fried chicken has become well known for its affordability as well as its deliciousness. 

Dame says that because of the success of Wind Cries Mary, he and Chef Healey have been planning on opening a second eatery and have been working on the concept for around two years. 

Inspiration

The concept of Rudi is close to Dame’s heart, as it is inspired by his grandfather’s European travels and the culinary landscape of the countries he visited. 

While Rudi is not his grandfather’s real name, Dame told Victoria Buzz that “Rudi is much easier to say than his real name.”

“The whole persona of Rudi is very much my grandfather and my European lineage whereas with Wind Cries, it was more my love of music and my Vancouver Island roots,” Dame explained.

Dame says that Chef Healey also has some Italian and German background, so they used their familial inspiration when thinking of the concept for food, drinks as well as the space itself. 

“By no means are we trying to be a traditional European restaurant, but we are definitely looking at Europe as inspiration,” Dame explained. 

When it comes to the food, it is best to walk into Rudi hungry and with people.

The menu is “family style,” meaning the dishes are larger portion sizes that are meant to be shared, whether you bring a date, or you bring a handful of people. 

The more people at your table, the more dishes you’ll ultimately get to try. 

Sharing is caring

Rudi’s food menu is divided up into five sections. The front page lists what you can have for the proper “family menu” which requires the whole table’s participation at $60 per person. For that cost, you will get a seven course meal of all the hits, with the option of adding additional courses. 

The second section is a choose your own adventure charcuterie board where you will have the option of choosing three types of meats, cheeses and condiments for just $24.

Then you get to the rest of the menu which is organized by the dish size–smaller, pastas and grains and lastly, larger.

With a small group of people, one thing from each section may be sufficient while adding additional dishes as needed. 

Some standouts are the bread, which is a hunk of a grilled loaf that comes with a dollop of cultured chive butter, a balsamic caramelized onion jam and olive oil. The bread is meant to be torn and will also go perfectly with a plate of pasta. 

The burrata salad is another standout dish, with a bed of arugula served over fresh burrata, a versatile and creamy semi-soft cheese; an apricot preserve; white anchovy fillets and topped with popcorn. This unique dish has everything needed to be a standout on Rudi’s menu—texture, acidity and creaminess. 

The rigatoni is what was suggested by Dame to be one of the standout pasta dishes. The pasta itself is sourced fresh locally from Bagga Pasta in Esquimalt, the spiced fennel sausage is made in house and the kitchen certainly doesn’t skimp on the sausage. Finally, the dish is coated in a blanket of grated pecorino.

The “Burrata” salad (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)
The “Rigatoni” (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)
The “Rigatoni,” the “Bread” and the accompanying cultured chive butter with a balsamic caramelized onion jam (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)
The “Sticky Toffee Pudding” and the “Hot Buttered Rum” from the digestif menu (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)

Three-headed dragon

When it comes to the drinks, Dame knew he needed a concept that would be equal to the food he envisioned in stature, saying that everything needs to be in sync. 

“I’ve always looked at anything that I’ve done as that three-headed dragon as I say, where the food, the cocktails and the wine program need to be taken as seriously as each other,” Dame told Victoria Buzz. 

“That was the vision with Wind Cries and we brought that mindset into Rudi as well.”

The cocktails are simple, yet elegant—most of which are a unique riff on a classic such as a Pimm’s cup or an old fashioned. 

Their cocktail menu has a “before” and “after dinner” section as well for a nice aperitif of either sherry or a vermouth cocktail, whereas the digestifs options are a bit more rich to pair well with a dessert such as the sticky toffee pudding. 

One standout cocktail is the root beer and absinthe, which uses Lucid Absinthe and a house crafted root beer that is made with sarsaparilla and mint. 

When it comes to wine, Dame said it was important to him for authenticity to have a large focus on old world wines but he made sure not to neglect wineries that are closer to home and deserving of being among the wines that are on their lists. 

“We have the outlet of the Pacific Northwest and the abundance of the local wines, same as Wind Cries, but more inspired through Europe,” said Dame. 

“On the wine list, there’s lots of fun European wines, but lots of European style wines from the Pacific Northwest.”

The “Sweet Vermouth” aperitif (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)
The “Root Beer & Absinthe” (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)

In addition to their incredible dinner service in an immaculate room that will make you feel like you are in a Wes Anderson film, they also are running a grab-and-go style lunch and coffee service from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. where you can grab a baked good, sandwich and a coffee made with Mile Zero beans. 

Dame says he couldn’t be happier with the reception Rudi has received so far and he is excited to see where it goes.

“We are just really proud of this room and we are super happy to have the support of Victoria,” Dame concluded. 

Rudi’s exterior (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)
One of Rudi’s many beautiful light fixtures (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)


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