A new restaurant is waddling its way to Victoria’s Chinatown this spring

A new restaurant is waddling its way to Victoria’s Chinatown this spring

Food at Ugly Duckling

Ugly Duckling is head chef Corbin Mathany’s first foray into owning a restaurant, and so far, it looks delicious. 

“I’m terrible at keeping a secret,” the former Wind Cries Mary sous-chef said on Instagram. “Over the next 7-ish months, this ugly duckling of a location will transform into a beautiful swan.”

The restaurant will be an intimate Chinese-fusion restaurant located in the historic Fan Tan Alley. The menu’s focus will be on serving farm-to-table food provided by local farmers such as Muddy Feet Farm in the Cowichan Valley and North Star Organics in Central Saanich. As a former chef at Hattie’s Farm to Table, it’s not surprising Mathany will carry that ethos on with Ugly Duckling.

Ugly Duckling is slated to open in the Spring of 2023, but already the restaurant is giving people a sneak peek on Instagram of what you might come to expect, such as a Pacific Octopus with cucumber, house-fermented black beans, and drizzled with black bean chili oil made with Lockwood Farms chilies.

For starters, you might try Ugly Duckling’s Mighty Milk Bread: a Chinese milk bread made in the Tangzhong method—a yeast bread technique where a portion of the liquid and flour are cooked together before mixing, giving it an especially soft, fluffy texture.

As a main, Mathany previewed his duck breast brined with black tea and glazed with soy. On the side, it comes with duck, chive, and ginger dumplings, carrots, star anise (a plant native to North Vietnam and South China), braised gai lan (Chinese Kale), and duck skin with chive flower crumble.

Ugly Duckling said this dish is a good example of its commitment to sustainability: the entire duck is used, which it says pays “respect to the animal, its life, and the farmer who raised it.”  

The deliciousness doesn’t end at the mains, though. Ugly Duckling plans to serve a sweet and tart strawberry cremuex (a silky textured French cream) with whipped yogurt and purple yam, too.

This is just the beginning for Ugly Ducking, of course, but until the restaurant opens, you can expect Mathany to be busy with renovations. The interior will have an exposed red brick look, likely looking like an extension of Fan Tan Alley itself. Before that happens, Mathany said he has to excavate the plaster that currently covers the brick.

“Because in life, as in food, the hard way is usually the best way.”


Written by

Ryan Hook

Ryan Hook