It is just over the first year anniversary of Sooke, British Columbia's Route 14 Bistro - a favourite of locals that's laid-back atmosphere is matched perfectly with a menu filled with quality comfort food.
Business partners Paul Dupuis & Stew Jeppesen (an experienced food entrepreneur) had a vision to provide Sooke with a relaxed place for people to kick back but still enjoy quality food at an affordable price. The vision was there, and the space was available - and when they found their chef the magic began.
Head Chef James Dahnke brings 27 years of culinary experience to the table, and Stew and Paul fully handed over the reigns of the kitchen to James, who is clearly passionate about food. When we sat down with James, it was quickly made clear that anything but fresh, quality ingredients weren't welcome in his kitchen. This is not a place where you will find boxed pub food - that is for sure! Clearly the balance of pub atmosphere and bistro, flavour rich food is being greeted by Sooke with open arms. We arrive early for dinner, and it isn't long until the place is full. It seems the only challenge facing Route 14 is space - but they know it, and they are prepared. They have taken possesion of the neighbouring property, and plan to start construction on an outdoor patio this summer. Cheers to that! Everyone knows that I love me a patio beer!
We started with a couple of drinks, I chose the Red Willow Shiraz from Prospect Winery, Kris opting for a glass of Lucky on tap - can't go wrong!
Sometimes simple is the way to go - and I love me a good Shiraz! This was smooth & mellow with mild berry undertones and such a lovely, lingering flavour. Yum!
I was super excited for our first course of salads - mainly because my close friend (a local of Sooke) warned me that it was the burgers and the salads that were majorly addictive at Route 14. It's no secret that I am a sucker for a gorgeous salad - so I was more than ready to give it a try.
The Bocconcini Salad was up for me… and oh.my.goodness. This was so flavourful and had that weird culinary phenomenon of the flavour getting better with each bite. The Bocconcini was mild & fresh with a gorgeous texture. Tossed with arugula, red onion, tomatoes and served in a sweet balsamic vinaigrette this could easily be in the top 5 best restaurant salads I have ever had. Delicious.
Kris had the de-constructed Caesar Salad - which included crispy prosciutto, deep-fried capers, shaved parmesan and a hard boiled egg. The dressing was spot on and was so damn good I could have eaten it plain. While I obviously didn't get a chance to personally try the prosciutto - Kris loved it on this salad. The real flavour winner here though was the addition of the deep-fried capers. They were so delicious and they were the perfect match for the dressing. I did try the salad with the egg as well - and while it tasted good - the salad already was so delicious that I personally didn't find the egg necessary. A super well done and creative ceasar.
For his main, Kris went for the Sunday special - the AAA Prime Rib served with Mashed Potatoes, Yorkshire Pudding and Seasonal Vegetables. Kris devoured his Prime Rib calling it tender, juicy and absolutely delicious. Judging by the plates around us, this was a popular choice. I got to try out his sides, and the vegetables were seasoned well and very tasty, the mashed potatoes were AMAZING - creamy, fluffy, and flavoured perfectly (you will not find better mashed potatoes), but it was the Yorkshire Pudding that was the real winner. Crunchy on the outside - chewy and warm on the inside - Kris had to guard it with his life. It was so good!
They had me try out a new menu item - the Thai Yellow Curry and it was so nice to see them adding a vegan option to the menu! I am not fully vegan, but I do avoid dairy and not only is this a vegan option - it is also a show stopper. Thai curries are arguably one of my favourite things about Thailand - and Chef James' recipe brought me right back to the Koh Chang seaside. The lemongrass flavour was so delicious and prominent - and with the slightly spicy yellow curry cooked in a coconut milk base with fresh ginger, peanuts, red peppers and fresh lime squeezed on top... this curry was to die for. This is a chef who knows his flavour profiles - and I thank him for it. I only wished I had more room in my belly for the life-changing curry after that Bocconcini Salad and my Yorkshire Pudding thievary!
Route 14 is our favourite kind of place to dine. After long days of exploring, we want to kick back in a relaxed atmosphere and still enjoy awesome food, without having to change out of our hiking clothes. This is that place. One thing that really impressed me also was the owners stressing the importance of us giving an honest review. While this is always our policy - it showed us both confidence and character … so a little disclaimer here that this opinion of our dining experience is all our own, and was not influenced in any way. Do not miss this spot if you are in the area.
Thank you so much to Chef James and his kitchen crew for a killer dinner - and to Paul, Stew and the Route 14 family for having us!