Marilena Cafe and Raw Bar restaurant back dining space. (Ella Matte/News Staff)

Marilena Cafe and Raw Bar restaurant back dining space. (Ella Matte/News Staff)

Two Victoria restaurants named on list of the best new eateries in Canada

Air Canada compiles a list of 30 new restaurants

Two Victoria restaurants have been recognized as some of the best new eateries in all of Canada.

Each year, Air Canada sends out a top food critic travel the country looking for the hot new restaurants.

In the top-30 list issued by Air Canada, Ugly Duckling and Marilena Cafe and Raw Bar in Victoria made the cut.

Ugly Duckling Dining & Provisions just opened in February at 543 Fisgard St. for high-end fine dining with dishes inspired by Chinatown.

And the owners have described the approach behind their food as “whimsical.”

It’s only open from Wednesday to Sunday each week (starting at 5 p.m.), so make sure you make a reservation. Plans are also in the works for a Sunday morning brunch.

“Now open in the heart of downtown Victoria, Ugly Duckling is an intimate fine-dining restaurant that takes its inspiration from the intersection between Coastal BC’s magical landscapes and the rich cultural heritage of Canada’s oldest Chinatown,” reads a post from the restaurant. “We craft dining experiences built around two promises: to serve you only those things which we have made by hand; and to work really, really hard to make you smile. We can’t wait to welcome you.”

Marilena was opened a few months ago by Vancouver-based Toptable Group. Toptable Group is known for its restaurants in Vancouver, but also in Whistler and even in New York City. The new restaurant, Marilena Cafe and Raw Bar, is located at the Rotunda building on 1525 Douglas St.

The restaurant group is also notable for its connection to the Vancouver Canucks. Toptable Group and the professional hockey team share the same owner, Francesco Aquilini.

“For me it’s been a long time coming. This project has been in the hopper for probably three and a half years,” said Marilena executive chef Kristian Eligh. “The pandemic had a lot to do with the delays, but now we’re trying to time that opening with the kind of vibrancy coming back into Victoria’s food scene and downtown in general. We’re definitely excited about the time of year we’re embarking on this opening.”

The restaurant’s cuisine will have a strong seafood focus anchored by a Japanese-inspired raw bar.

One of the seafood highlights from international waters that the eatery will prepare is a stripped bass from Mexico. The raw bar will also serve up fresh hibachi, ahi tuna and more from Pacific waters around Hawaii. Although the restaurant specializes in local and exotic imported sustainable seafood, the chef said that “outside of that, we have something for everyone.”

– With files from Ella Matte, Victoria News

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