Tofino, BC – SoBo Restaurant – Part 1/2

Restaurant: SoBo Restaurant – Part 1/2
Cuisine: West Coast/Seafood/Eclectic/Tapas/Pizza
Last visited: May 26, 2013
Location: Tofino, BC
Address: 311 Neill St
Phone: (250) 725-2341
Transit: n/a
Price Range: $30-50

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 4-4.5
Service: 3
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 4.5
Additional comments:

  • Husband and wife team
  • Chef-Owner Lisa Ahier
  • Since 2003
  • Award winning
  • Seasonal menus
  • Wood-fired pizzas
  • Local ingredients
  • Local favourite
  • Casual/lively ambiance
  • Family friendly
  • Moderately priced
  • Reservations recommended
  • Wine/cocktail program
  • Walk-ins are welcome
  • Soups/Desserts/Pies to-go
  •  7 days a week
    11am – 9.30pm
    Dinner 5.30 – 9.30pm

**Recommendations: Lime Margaritas, Broiled Oyster, Humpback Shrimp (lettuce wraps), Key Lime Pie, House Made Ice Cream Sandwiches

Tofino Feast Tofino SoBo Restaurant (2)This was probably the most highly recommended restaurant by locals in Tofino, BC and I knew I couldn’t miss it. I had about 48 hours of eating to do in Follow Me Foodie to Tofino and the itinerary was pretty set besides one precious dinner time. I had a lovely dinner at The Point Restaurant at The Wickaninnash Inn the night before and I had one more dinner left. I had researched the restaurants in the area and narrowed it down to three, but after talking to local foodies, SoBo seemed to be the general consensus and “must try”.

I had started my day with Feast Tofino events including a 5 course meal at an Introduction to Indian Cuisine, A Cooking Class with Khalil Akhtar and West Coast Paella on the Beach (which featured the biggest paella I’ve seen), but I had to make room for SoBo.

It opened in 2003 and was named one of Canada’s Top 10 Best New Restaurants by EnRoute Magazine and it’s apparently still as busy as ever. Considering the locals are still recommending it (signs of consistency and longevity), the menu manages to stay seasonal and refreshed. It seemed to be a sure bet.

SoBo stands for “sophisticated Bohemian” and their website describes it as “A combination of boldly imaginative, world wide dishes expertly prepared with simple, fresh, locally produced-often wild-ingredients and served in an environment that is somehow both elegant and rustic.” That’s a lot of adjectives and things going on at once, but I get where they’re coming from. It was a special place locals hold close to their heart and it had a quirky charm I found rather endearing.

The restaurant was a lot more casual than I was expecting, but perhaps this is considered somewhat “formal” in the laid back town of Tofino. It is a sit down restaurant open for lunch and dinner, but they also have a small take out area featuring ready to-go baked goods, and frozen soups and desserts. It seemed like a large scale production, so I questioned their promise to “locally produced and wild-ingredients”, but I was eager to try their menu nonetheless.

The menu had a range of cafe to restaurant style items which was again unexpected. It was family friendly with options for every taste and age, but the starters seemed more innovative so I decided to stick to those. That’s what a lot of people recommended as well, although their wood-fired oven pizzas are supposed to be great too.

It is not a tapas style restaurant, but it would succeed as one. Chef Lisa Ahier has a natural talent for flavours and while some items were a bit “Asian fusion” or bordering on older food trends, the majority of it was creative and funky. It had the approachability of say a Cactus Club, but the personal touch and flavours of Tofino. The food was fun, casual and unpretentious, but slightly hit and miss, which is likely due to the size of the menu. The “hits” were toe-curling good and I would come back for those alone… heck, I would even come back just for their Lime Margaritas!

I came here for dinner, but if you have limited time in Tofino then I would recommend coming for lunch and having dinner at The Pointe. SoBo is a great choice for families, but it is modern and lively enough to attract an urban clientele on any given weeknight or end. Next time I’m in Tofino I’m more than likely to revisit, but until then I’ll have to hold onto memories.

On the table:

Tofino Feast Tofino SoBo Restaurant (5)**Lime Margaritas6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • With Premium Sauza Silver Tequila and triple sec $12 (Photo is one split in two glasses)
  • OMFG. I was recommended to order this and honestly I wouldn’t have ordered it otherwise because “a margarita is a margarita,” right? Wrong!
  • This was amazing… and very dangerous.
  • On the menu it says “limit 2 per person” which I thought was unusual, but then I understood why after downing half within minutes and feeling “fine”. The heat and giggles caught up quickly.
  • These are deceivingly strong and it went down way too easily.
  • It was 2 ounces of Triple Sec and 1 ounce tequila so that’s 3 ounces of liquor in one margarita and I could barely taste any alcohol.
  • It was made with freshly hand squeezed key limes; and on that note, try their key lime pie too!
  • The orange flavour from the Triple Sec came through without much bitterness.
  • It wasn’t too sweet or sour and just well balanced with a bright pop of flavour. It was tangy and well sweetened, but not syrupy.
  • The drink had viscous texture too and it was almost like it was made with a creamy fruit puree.
  • The margarita was super smooth and the salted rim could have been better executed, but really it was good enough I didn’t care.
  • I wanted to sip on these all day long on a patio, but I would likely never wake up again.

Tofino Feast Tofino SoBo Restaurant (8)Albacore Tuna Spring Roll - 3/6 (Good)

  • Shredded vegetables, peanut sauce $5
  • I normally wouldn’t be tempted to order anything “spring roll” unless I was at an authentic dim sum restaurant, but here it was recommended.
  • The tuna was near fully cooked, which is overcooked for me, so it was almost coming off as chicken.
  • When I think of albacore tuna I think of something fresh and light, but here it was a bit covered up.
  • There was also some shrimp in it too and I thought it was a bit of a waste to use albacore tuna in this.
  • To control cooking time I would have preferred seared albacore tuna with spring roll wrapper chips on top if I was going with the same idea.
  • There were also carrots, scallions and I think shredded cabbage in it as well.
  • The spring roll wrapper was thin and crisp which I like, and it was well stuffed with the majority of it being tuna, so I was pleased with that.
  • It came with a tangy, spicy, and smooth Asian inspired peanut sauce for dipping, which was good, but also further masked the tuna. A vinaigrette might have been nicer.
  • It was good, but not something I would have to re-order and the idea was a bit dated or reminiscent of “Asian fusion” days.

Tofino Feast Tofino SoBo Restaurant (10)**Broiled Oyster6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • Medium beach oyster, salmon bacon, miso mayo $4
  • Holy umami bomb! UMAMI BOMB! This had so much flavour I’m salivating just thinking about it.
  • This is not for the oyster purist, this was a very eclectic way of enjoying an oyster.
  • It was really not about enjoying the fresh and natural flavours of the oyster, but about the incredible toppings and sauces baked on top with it.
  • I love raw oysters, but I appreciated this on another level. It was original.
  • This is a signature and it never leaves the menu – thank goodness too.
  • Squeeze the key lime on top before eating it because it cuts through the heaviness and brightens up the flavours.
  • It reminded me of a West Coast version of oyster motoyaki, but I liked it even better.
  • It was super rich and pretty salty and savoury with intense umami, some might find it salty, but I have a high tolerance for salt.
  • From the oyster to the miso, each ingredient had a natural umami, so this was a huge flavour bomb.
  • It was very rich with a creamy and semi-crispy baked miso mayo sauce, and semi-crisp and chewy salmon bacon bits on top.
  • The salmon bacon bits were sweet and savoury and it was such a nice change from expected pork bacon bits.
  • This had Tofino flair and 1-2 would be enough, but I would highly recommend them and come back just for these.
  • $4 for one broiled oyster might sound like highway robbery, but it was totally worth it. The delicious factor made it worth it.
  • NOLA is famous for broiled oysters and this would have them jealous.

Tofino Feast Tofino SoBo Restaurant (11)Tofu Pocket3/6 (Good)

  • Sushi rice, avocado, wasabi mayo, sunflower sprouts, sesame seeds, smoked salmon or shiitake mushrooms $4.50
  • This was very “Cactus Club” for me and it reminded me of Rob Feenie’s West Coast Pockets which I enjoy.
  • I would have loved more smoked salmon, although the stuff used tasted pretty good and it was wild salmon too.
  • The sushi rice wasn’t authentic or anything, but I didn’t expect it to be which is fine. It was okay, but there was more of it than salmon.
  • I couldn’t taste the wasabi mayo and I just wanted a better ratio of ingredients.
  • The idea was good, albeit something you could attempt at home, but the assembly lacked a bit of care so I felt like I was eating it in parts.
  • I also wish the sunflower sprouts side salad was dressed with ponzu vinaigrette, or even better if they were pea shoots (like Rob Feenie’s) or wasabi sprouts to go on top of the pocket.

Tofino Feast Tofino SoBo Restaurant (13)Killer Fish Taco2/6 (Okay)

  • Sauteed spicy wild fish, crisp corn tortilla, fruit salsa $6.50
  • This was the only real “miss” out of the things I tried.
  • I had high hopes for it too since fish tacos are a big deal in Tofino. Every restaurant seems to have their own version.
  • It was loaded with cooked wild fish and chunky fresh fruit salsa, but it just never came together.
  • The sauteed spicy wild fish was fully cooked and quite dry, but there was a fair amount.
  • The tuna or halibut (? or mix?) was all chopped up and flaked so it was almost like a flaked tuna salad taco.
  • I would have preferred grilled or deep fried fish in a soft taco, but this was what it was.
  • The fruit salsa included big chunks of kiwi, honey dew, green apple, blueberries, pineapple, red pepper and onion.
  • While I enjoy fruit salsa with savoury, this one was a bit too chunky for the taco and it was more like a fruit salad to be enjoyed separately.
  • The hard taco shell got soft and a bit soggy from the sauteed fish and fruit salsa, so overall the execution was a bit rough for this.

To be continued…

… sneak peek…

Tofino Feast Tofino SoBo Restaurant (14)Cibolo Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

Tofino Feast Tofino SoBo Restaurant (6)Polenta Fries

Tofino Feast Tofino SoBo Restaurant (24)Key Lime Pie, Peanut Butter Ice Cream, and Flourless Chocolate Bomb

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