Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Zambri's - classy Italian at the Atrium

Zambri's has been a fixture of Victoria's restaurant scene for over fourteen years.

The restaurant is located in the beautiful Atrium building, adjacent to the main entrance on Yates Street. Prior to opening up shop in their glass walled setting, they were tucked into a non-descript spot between London Drugs and the Market on Yates. Back then, weekdays lunches were ordered & paid for at the counter and brought out to your table. Dinners were usually a wait for one of the unreservable few tables (or you might luck-out and grab a stool at the tiny bar). Scene-change: Atrium - now Zambri's is open for lunch six days a week (with table service) and reservable for dinner seven nights a week. They're also open for a fabulous brunch on Sundays.

Zambri's Atrium location

Everything about the restaurant setting has changed. Nothing about the quality of the food has.


I've combined two recent dinners together (any reason for more food porn). One dinner was my ladies-who-lunch partner (as we're flexible enough to do dinner as well) and another was a celebratory dinner for four.

I'd show pictures of the olives and bread that every table is served, but that would have meant I'd have to stop eating them to pick-up my camera. Stomach first in this case, no snaps of the mixed, marinated olives and house-made crusty bread. First appetizer up is the Zucchini and Eggplant "Croccante" with Burrata (cheese). It's simple and very tasty - small piles of the burrata cheese nestled on chopped tomatoes and fried zucchini & eggplant slices.


Zucchini and eggplant with buratta cheese

Next two up are the Fried Mozzarella and Tuna Tartare. The fried mozza block (just waiting to ooze out) is plated with compotes of fig, spicy pepper, chestnuts and sour cherry. The tartare consists of two thick slices of raw tuna are set atop of creamy disc of farrow grain salad and finished with kick of sprinkled spiciness. Both are excellent.

Fried mozzarella with compotes
Tuna tartar on fallow salad

Final two appies : Fried Chanterelles on Fresh Arugula and Octopus and Chickpea Salad. The first takes advantage of the chanterelle season being upon us. The mushrooms are fabulous fried - moist and flavourful. The octopus salad is also quite good - with tender pieces scattered amongst the chickpeas.


Fried chanterelles and arugula
Octopus and chickpea salad

Dinner selections included the pork shoulder, lamb shank, beef tenderloin, swordfish and duck: I believe we covered most of the animal kingdom. First up is the pork shoulder, on a bed of greens, radishes and grapes. This tasty cut of pork is fried and topped with chili mayonnaise. Fabulous dish - the grapes add a nice flavour and texture to the accompanying veg. The lamb shank is just as tasty - served with a rich balsamic glaze and set on a bed of lentils with a dollop of polenta. It falls off the bone perfectly. (the sun had begun to set...hence the "romantic" lighting for the rest of the photos)

Pork chop with greens, radishes & grapes
Lamb shanks with lentils and balsamic reduction


The beef tenderloin is tender, buttery and flavourful. This is actually this diner's regular order at Zambri's. Where most people think of "Italian" and "pasta" - he thinks of it as the best steak around. It doesn't hurt that it's topped with a a slice of aged cheddar and nestled in gorgonzola sauce with a canelle of polenta to keep it company. The other dish taking advantage of the seasonal chanterelles was duck breast - seared and sliced, set on fried potato slices and topped with the chanterelles. The duck was moist, tender and served at a perfect medium (also put over the top by the gorgonzola sauce...pass the bread!).

Beef tenderloin on a gorgonzola cream sauce
Duck breast with chanterelles on potato slices.

And finally - swordfish steaks. Set on polenta with a caper, olive, tomato and zucchini sauce and finished with a thin slice of candied orange peel. Wonderful dish - with the saltiness of the sauce really elevating the solid swordfish.


Swordfish steaks on polenta with tomatoes & olives

And onto the desserts - first up was panacotta, served with grappa soaked strawberries higlighted with basil coulis and finished with a thin, crisp monogram. And an affogato - a shot of espresso poured over a scoop of vanilla gelato.

Panna cotta with basil reduction & grappa soaked berries
Classic affogato

Next up was part of the birthday celebration - tiramisu with added illumination - it was very smooth, creamy and nicely balanced. And a chocolate budino - an italian "pudding" - also silky smooth and decorated with tiny gold flecks - accompanied by crisp chocolate cookies.

Tiramisu in celebratory mode
Chocolate budino with cookies
All of these were great ends to great meals.

We quite enjoyed ourselves at Zambri's (which we usually do when dining here).

The restaurant used to be a hidden gem, tucked away in an odd location - now it's shining brightly in full site of everyone. The setting is upscale & lively, the service is professional & attentive, and the food is well prepared & consistent. The last point is probably the most important to us - although the menu changes to reflect the season and specials highlight what's currently freshest; the dishes coming out of the kitchen are always of a high quality.

Oh, and there's a great wine list....and an in-house sommelier....and prosecco on tap.

Cin Cin!

Zambri's Restaurant
820 Yates St
Lunch Mon-Sat 11am-3pm
Dinner daily from 5pm, Sun-Thu to 9pm, Fri/Sat to 10pm
Sunday brunch 10:30am-2:30pm
250-360-1171

www.zambris.ca
Facebook: ZambrisVictoria
Twitter: @ZambrisVictoria

Zambri's on Urbanspoon

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