And no one is happier and more excited about it than its eminently gifted executive chef — returned native son Kristian Eligh. “My beaming smile says it all. I’m thrilled,” says Eligh, who left the capital of B.C. for Vancouver in his early 20s to advance his skills at Vancouver’s Diva at the Met. Next, he opened a Jean-Georges Vongerichten outpost at the Vancouver Shangri-La and spent seven years as David Hawksworth’s culinary aide-de-camp before deciding it was time for a change. “With a young family and what that means for the future, getting back to the island was top of mind.”
Toptable, the legendary Vancouver-based restaurant group behind big fine-dining restaurants like Blue Water Cafe, CinCin and Araxi, seemed like the ultimate vehicle. Until its other projects — and the global pause of 2020 — waylaid the Victoria opening.
Much of the original plan remains intact. The new venture is a 7,000-square-foot seafood-centric restaurant in downtown Victoria, opposite the heritage City Hall. The space, housed in a bright, mainly glass building, comprises a 100-seat dining room, 24-seat bar lounge, 14-seat private room, and 32-seat patio. The main kitchen and a primarily Japanese-focused raw bar will serve a combination of local and imported sustainable seafood.
Market research and some tweaks to the previous concept mean a more refined approach — gone is the wood-fired pizza oven, notably. Eligh says the open kitchen, anchored by a custom-built Hestan suite, now properly showcases seafood cookery.
And, he says, it’s about time. “It’s been a long wait during arguably the peak of my career. But we’ve assembled a fantastic team of like-minded individuals who are very excited to get back behind the stove…and to become part of the Victoria food scene, which is already thriving.”