Railroad people generally know the best places to eat in the cities their trains serve, as chances are they have had to eat at least a few times in that community. Therefore, I took the suggestion to eat at Fan Tan from the conductor on the Victoria - Courtenay train.
It would be very easy to walk right past this place if it were not for the large signs out front and above the doorway. It is a very narrow place, with only a doorway and fairly small window facing the street. At night the entrance is pretty nicely lit up, though, which makes it a bit easier to find - though ony a bit. It is amazing how such a brightly lit place may fade into the background lighting in Victoria's China Town, especially with the entrance so narrow.
When you walk in the door, the first thing that greets you is a fish. Imagine a grey-white brick with fins and eyes, and you have the rather eccentric looking fish that was comfortably drifting about his tank at the entrance to the restaurant.
The eccentric nature of the restaurant doesn't end at the fish tank. When I visited, the artwork on the walls appeared to be Picasso or an artist very closely imitating his style. The entire interior is black, except for the paintings. Some of the ceiling lights are small recessed fixtures that give a "starry night" look to the place, with the smaller lights programmed to darken and lighten over time.
In a place with great gobs of good restaurants, longevity tends to be a good indicator that a place has a winning combination of food, prices, and interior appeal. Fan Tan has apparently been in business for 26 years, and thus has earned the right to be an institution rather than merely a restaurant.
Favorite Dish Dinner special #3 was advertised on the sign out front, and for $12.95 I enjoyed a wonderful combination of Thai peanut sauce with mixed vegetables, deep fried shrimp, and chicken.
I also decided to get a hard apple cider ($5.50), but there is a fairly good sized book of alcoholic beverages available here.
The restaurant is apparently well known for its Dim Sum, but it is not served after 6 at night, and i arrived a bit too late to enjoy that experience. Maybe next time.
The Fan Tan Café is next to the famous Fan Tan Alley in Victoria's China Town.
It's not a place for drinks only; the Café offers several small Chinese meals.
Mo-Th: 10AM - 9PM
Fr-Sa: 11AM - 10 PM
Su: 10AM - 9PM