Put away the chicken noodle soup. These Victoria restaurants will expand your idea of comfort food

·3 min read

It's cold, it gets dark early, and we're in the midst of a pandemic.

In these tough times, food is one of the few things we can take comfort in.

That's why at All Points West we have been doing the leg work to find some of the best comfort food in Greater Victoria — to help us all get through what looks to be an arduous winter ahead.

Initially, the classic staples like chowders and curries sprung to mind. But as the journey continued, a burning question emerged: What is comfort food?

The adventure started with a trip to Chinatown for a visit to a place called Noodle Fans, famed for its beef noodle soups.

Rohit Joseph
Rohit Joseph

Owner Chris Lee says he wanted to serve food that people eat at home in China.

"The kids like it, the friends like it, so we can copy it in the restaurant," said Lee.

Mini He works at Noodle Fans. She says there are several good reasons why noodle soups are a breakfast comfort food in China.

"It's fast, it warms you up, it fills you and gives you energy to start your day; that's why it's super popular," said He.

Rohit Joseph
Rohit Joseph

Noodle Fans initially had a lot of customers wanting to order the westernized Chinese food they were familiar with, like stir-fried noodles.

"A lot of Canadians, they refuse to try anything with the soup. A lot of time they will ask for something dry or fried," said He. But customers who are more open-minded often come around, she said.

"After they try our classic dish, the beef soup, they say, 'Oh, you were right, the broth is really rich!"

'This food changed them'

Trying to expand people's idea of comfort food is a challenge faced not only by Noodle Fans.

Trini to D Bone is a Trinidadian restaurant in Victoria that All Points West listener Yoni Bremner recommended.

"The rotis fill your mouth and belly with warm, succulent, tender, excellently spiced ingredients wrapped in the most fresh and delicate flatbread wrap," Bremner wrote in an email.

Rohit Joseph
Rohit Joseph

Jeffrey and Nirmala Singh are the husband and wife duo behind Trini to D Bone.

The restaurant was born out of necessity when Jeffrey was laid off from his roofing job in 2008. The couple made the bold decision to open an authentic Trinidadian restaurant in a city with a very small Caribbean population.

"It was hard in the beginning because nobody on the Island had known about Trini cuisine," said Jeffrey.

But Nirmala refused to compromise the authenticity of their food.

"I told Jeffrey off the bat, I am not westernizing my food," said Nirmala. "If you were to go into my mom's kitchen, this is exactly what you would get."

After years of developing a small devoted following, word of mouth spread beyond the Trinidadian community and into the general public. And taste buds began to shift.

"At first when we started off, a lot of my customers would eat mild. Now, 10 years after, I can't even supply them with enough hot sauce ... this food changed them, they actually went out of their comfort zone," said Nirmala.

Rohit Joseph
Rohit Joseph

Despite the huge amount of work involved in running a restaurant on their own, Jeffrey says the customers' reactions make it worthwhile.

"We have some customers that hug this [roti] wrap, put it next to their face as they're walking out, it brings a good feeling to your heart seeing this," said Jeffrey.