December 3, 2009

Merchant of Veneto

Rialto.jpg Scallops%20at%20Veneto.JPG

Once upon a time, boys and girls, there was a sketchy hostelry here in Victoria, the Douglas Hotel, at a notoriously rundown corner, the intersection of Douglas and Pandora. Known to one and all as the Dougie, it was a flophouse, really. Young women of good family gave it a wide berth; a beer (or more) at the Dougie was a rite of passage for young men. But one man's flophouse is another's treasured landmark, and so the Dougie underwent a complete, 18-month, $10 million renovation. It reopened this summer as the Hotel Rialto, with shiny marble floors, 31 upscale rooms and suites, a sleek new restaurant and lounge (Veneto ) and a bright new coffee shop (Breve). The off-license liquor store, now called Vintage Spirits, was relocated to the back of the reception area.

The Rialto, back in Shylock's day, was the Wall Street of Venice, so it makes sense to call its restaurant Veneto. But let's be clear: Veneto is an official regione in northern Italy, and "tapas" are Spanish. (They're called pintxos in the Basque country.) The equivalent small plates in Venice are called cicchetti; Cornichon "discovered" them on a trip to La Serenissima several years ago; there's now an offshoot of Serafina on Eastlake that's named Cicchetti, just-opened and well-reviewed; we'll let you know what Cornichon thinks upon our return to Seattle. (Hint: already online at, we liked it a lot.)

As for Veneto: they serve their cicchetti in flights of three, priced from $14 to $17. (Shades of the late, ill-fated Qube!) So your scallop trio, for example, includes three complex dishes; the best one begins with a base layer of butternut squash soup, topped with a perfectly roasted scallop drizzled with a sage-scented brown butter. Went down all-too-quickly. Also enjoyed a veal raviolo stuffed with portobello bits in a garlic cream. They let you choose your three desserts from a roster of six. Exec chef Tod Bosence clearly knows what he's doing. Matching wine flights, well-chosen by bar manager Wes Hunter, are $10 for three glasses.

The cocktail menu, by the way, reprints Steve Allen's wise adminition: "Do not allow children to mix drinks. It is unseemly, and they use too much vermouth."

Veneto, 1450 Douglas St. (in the Rialto Hotel), Victoria, BC, 250-383-7310  Veneto on Urbanspoon

Aspinal of London Ltd.

Posted by Ronald Holden at December 3, 2009 8:00 AM | TrackBack

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