It’s tough to convey just how long Victorians have been waiting for the much-anticipated Toptable Group‘s restaurant to open its doors. So long that the company has opened not one, but two (two!) restaurants in New York in the interim. I checked my Instagram messages to find out how long ago I messaged head chef Kristian Eligh about what I assumed was the imminent opening: 146 weeks ago. At that time, I was in Victoria writing a story on design hotels, and when I followed chef Eligh’s directions to the location of the new room—1525 Douglas St—I was a bit puzzled. While nothing in the compact downtown of Victoria is all that far, this was definitely not the tourist-heavy streets of the Empress. It seemed an odd choice for a spot forecasted by most to arrive in town smack atop the local food chain.

But two-plus year later (after two-plus years prior to that) Marilena has finally opened its doors, and it seems like it was worth the wait. For starters, the location now seems inspired. It’s perfectly situated to take advantage of the local/business crowd, and if there’s a cruise ship patron who really cares about food, it’s close enough for a short hike.

The interiors are designed by the Toronto’s Eric McClelland from Fleur de Lys and channels themes from several other of the group’s restaurants, most notably Blue Water and Elisa. There are curving, neutral-hued banquettes all with the clear view of the massive (truly massive) open kitchen and adjacent raw bar. It’s a jolt of elegance in the uber-casual vibe that typifies most of the Victoria dining scene.

The opening menu, likewise, seems a natural fit for Toptable’s brand of accessible luxury. In addition to time at such bold-name spots as The French Laundry and Jean George’s in New York, Eligh was the culinary director of the Hawksworth Group during what were arguably its most high-profile years. My understanding is that he joined Toptable Group with the express purpose of returning home to Victoria to raise his family and and helm Marilena.

The preview of the menu shows dishes that are both confident and comforting—there are crispy tacos, but they’re served with steelhead, a generous portion of pork belly comes out with an enticing sticky glaze of ssamjang and sesame.

Across the pass from Eligh is a full raw bar helmed by Clark Park, formerly of Miku, who’ll oversee a curated selection of nigiri, rolls and oshi.

They’ll be supported by restaurant director Aaron Matsuzaki and sommelier Savannah Robinson, who’ll oversee a massive list that’s particularly deep in Vancouver Island gems—like the 2016 Rathjen Cellars Pinot Noir Saison Vineyard.

Marilena literally just opened—for dinners only for the near future—but the food-obsessed in Victoria already seem to be piling in, in part due to the prices, which seem a bit of a throwback to pre-inflationary times ( Spaghetti Vongole at $29 and slow-cooked steelhead at $37 definitely make it the most accessible of all the Toptable rooms, and comparable to other spots in town with much less vaunted credentials). Look for a full review in the coming months.