Restaurant: The Pointe Restaurant at The Wickaninnish Inn - Part 4/4
Cuisine: Canadian/Seafood/West Coast
Last visited: May 25, 2013
Location: Tofino, BC
Address: 500 Osprey Lane
Phone: (250) 725-3100
Price Range: $30-50, $50+
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
- Executive Chef Warren Barr
- Award winning
- Tofino’s upscale dining restaurant
- Seasonal menus
- Emphasis on local BC seafood
- Pacific Ocean view
- Ocean Wise seafood
- Tasting Menu upon request
- Reservations recommended
- Wine/cocktail program
- Walk-ins are welcome
- Mon – Sun 8am-9pm
- Twitter: @WickInnBC
**Recommendations: Chef’s 4 Course Tasting Menu $80 with wine pairing + $49
Well it looks a bit creepy at night time and I haven’t been here during the colder and darker months, but Tofino is a summer time escape. I actually came during the spring and specifically for Feast Tofino which happened throughout May.
It was a month long culinary celebration of boat-to-table cuisine. It featured set menus from local restaurants and special events unique to the occasion. The Feast Tofino events I attended during Follow Me Foodie to Tofino were The Saturday Dockside Festival, Introduction to Indian Cuisine, A Cooking Class with Khalil Akhtar, and West Coast Paella on the Beach.
I was invited by Tourism Tofino to explore the culinary scene and hosted at The Wickaninnish Inn, commonly referred to as “The Wick” by locals. It is a Relais & Châteaux hotel and is rated as one of Canada’s top resorts. It is highly regarded in Tofino and BC and is perhaps the finest accommodation in Tofino.
It is not ritzy or glamourous (as if the yellow heavy duty raincoat and rainpants in the closets don’t say it all), but this is Tofino – a “surfer town” with a population of about 2000. It is casual and relaxed, and in the context of Tofino, The Wick is assumingly as fancy as it gets. It has a rustic elegance and charming character of a boutique hotel, but this is a full service Inn with a restaurant that exceeds the definition of a traditional “hotel restaurant”. The ocean view (from every guest room) and private patio (a suite feature) scream in room dining, but I was invited to try The Pointe Restaurant for dinner.
When I travel, I try to get out as much as possible, but here it was hard not to request room service. I was still looking forward to trying The Pointe though, and little did I know that the view there would be even better than the one from my room.
Ask any local about fine dining in Tofino and chances are The Pointe Restaurant will come up, followed by a recommendation. It was actually hard to meet a local who hasn’t worked at The Wick at some point of their life, but it was nice to hear it recommended even with no current association. I didn’t really need to hear the recommendation though because it has already been on my radar for the last couple years. This year they were named “Best Vancouver Island Restaurant” at the Vancouver Magazine Awards, and although I’m not really one to flock at hype, I was eager to try it. It was more because reliable friends had reported positive experiences though, and after some research I could sense it was one of Tofino’s pride and joys.
There are only about 3 restaurants in Tofino I would call “fine dining”, but even so they are more casual than traditional fine dining. This is the only “fine dining” restaurant I visited in Tofino, so I can’t compare, but it is arguably “the best” in its caliber. I really hate saying anything is the best, but I needed a benchmark for fine dining in Tofino, and this was it. Most of the diners were couples and the room was quite casual and a bit dated, but the view was breathtaking. The view is worth coming for alone even if it is just for a casual meal, their Sunday champagne brunch, or drinks.
I decided to try the Chef’s Tasting Menu by Executive Chef Warren Barr and his Chef de Cuisine Nick Nutting, which ended up being the extended version of it. It was more adventurous and creative than the a la carte, and it was more representable of who chef was. The a la carte menu changes seasonally and the Chef’s Tasting Menu changes weekly, and both feature local and sustainable meats and seafood.
It attracts a clientele who enjoys simple food, and many are there for the view which is understandable, but it is a bit of a shame because the menu is interesting and deserving of attention. I am not sure how many people order the Chef’s Tasting Menu, and how often chef gets to exercise and express his creative side, but I doubt it is many. Therefore things weren’t always as well executed as they could have been.
I could see Warren’s interest in modernist cooking, but some of the techniques and plating were a bit rough around the edges although still enjoyable to eat. There was also some repetition in ingredients and garnishes, so a couple courses seemed slightly improvised. The attention to detail was more on the surface, and at times it felt a bit unrehearsed. The menu and style was not quite committed to avante garde, and it was more refined home cooking with an ode to local flavours. Nonetheless he took risks, experimented with ingredients and flavours, and delivered on texture. He created something exciting for Tofino, but still familiar to the majority.
Being from Vancouver and getting a taste of what Tofino offered thus far, I was anticipating seafood. So far it was better than what I was getting at home, and The Pointe further confirmed it. The fish was fresh, good quality and cooked perfectly, and they really understood their seafood and how to cook it. On the other hand many of the courses featured “surf and turf”, and I’m guessing the chefs get tired of cooking seafood all the time even though it was their strength.
The order of the dishes in the Tasting Menu were a bit unexpected, but the wines were incredibly well matched. I felt as though there may have been a bit of spontaneity, but I enjoyed my overall dining experience. Although not all the courses worked, none were disappointing and I admired chef’s effort to try and stay current. He played with ingredients and techniques and provided an experience that was unexpected in Tofino. I think if he had the opportunity to showcase his Tasting Menus more often, he could potentially distract diners from the view.
The Pointe Restaurant is associated with fine dining and special occasions, but I would not miss the opportunity to dine at a restaurant with a view like that. The view and ambiance aside, Chef Warren brings sophistication to Tofino’s culinary scene, and he is a key contributor to making Tofino and The Wick a culinary destination.
On the table:
- The bread basket and butter can say something about a restaurant, so I like to mention it.
- They came around with a selection of house baked bread served with house churned 16 hour cultured butter.
- I always liked this method of serving bread better because it prevents wastage.
- The three breads were spelt, roasted pepper focaccia, and walnut pecan and olive bread.
- The spelt was quite standard, not as rustic or dense as a traditional baguette, but it was chewiest and densest of the three.
- The roasted pepper focaccia was soft with a little bit of roasted red pepper on top, but it didn’t have the yeasty texture and seasonings of a traditional focaccia.
- The chewy and stretchy walnut and olive bread was my favourite and it had the most flavour.
- The bread was served room temperature and they were okay, but I appreciate them being made in house.
- Cultured butter is an European style tart butter and it was salted, soft, and rich. It was good butter.
Unsworth Vineyards, Pinot Gris, 2011 – This wine won bronze at the 2013 All Canadian Wine Championships. It was crisp, bright and well balanced with lemon and lime for acidity and peaches for sweetness.
- Corned Veal, Mustard, Shrimp Crackers, Sorrel (available a la carte $22)
- It was an interesting surf and turf dish and it was almost like a deconstructed shrimp club sandwich, but the execution didn’t translate as well.
- Spot prawns are such a highlight and treat on their own, so I prefer them simply steamed or sashimi.
- They were sashimi here, but I lost their naturally sweet flavour due to the dressing.
- They were mixed with a cucumber and herb mayo which was almost like a tartar sauce.
- I think the dressing was a tarragon mustard mayo and there were some pickled mustard seeds on the side.
- The shrimp crackers were very hard, thick and crunchy, so they were perhaps over fried, however I appreciated the thought for texture.
- The corned veal tongue was sous vide and grilled and it was much stronger than the prawns, so it kind of overpowered them.
- It was very tender veal tongue, as tongue should be if done properly, and it wasn’t too salty from the brining process.
- I could taste flavours of cardamom (?) and cumin in the veal tongue and it was well flavoured and spiced.
Tantalus Riesling 2012, Okanagan Valley, BC – This is one of my favourite BC Rieslings. It’s fresh, bright, tropical with flavours of coconut, sweet from melon and honey, refreshing and acidic from tart green apples and lime, and great alone or with food.
- Wild Bay, Fennel, Orange, Milk (available a la carte $17)
- It was another surf and turf course.
- I liked the flavour combinations, but I think it would have showcased better as a soupy dish, or one served with broth.
- I thought of bacon and clams and I would be curious to see this as a clam chowder with an orange and fennel infused milk/cream base.
- The clams were delicious with a savoury umami.
- They were cooked in a classic butter, white wine, shallot and garlic sauce and I wanted the sauce/broth they cooked in.
- The pork jowl was sliced very thin and it was melt in my mouth tender and not chewy or gelatinous, but it was very oily.
- It was confit pork jowl so it was extra oily.
- The pork jowl itself was already quite fatty, and the flavour reminded me of Chinese roasted pork.
- There was some citrus orange powder and pickled celery to cut the rich pork, but the celery was a bit too sour.
- I liked the caramelized milk chips which were sweet and salty and they had some heat as well.
- However besides adding texture, they were a bit odd with pork jowl and clams.
- There were whole toasted fennel seeds which went with the orange powder, but I kind of wanted one of them to be the fresh ingredient.
- I would have loved fresh orange segments, a pickled shaved fennel salad, or some sort of fennel infused puree or orange sauce.
- The orange powder and fennel seeds seemed to be the spices and seasonings.
- I liked the creative interpretation away from the expected fennel and orange salad, but as is, they got lost in the dish.
- They had concentrated flavour, however there wasn’t enough of either on the plate to make a difference.
- The pork and clams were great, but I found the dish a bit scattered and the components never quite found each other.
- I liked the mains, but everything else presented more as garnish than a contributor to flavour.
Chardonnay, Red Rooster Winery, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia 2011 – It was another familiar BC wine. It’s rather accessible and affordable and it’s full of fruit flavour from pineapples and melon. It was nice and light for the next course.
- Wild Rice, Celery, Black Garlic, Bamfield Seaweed Broth (available a la carte $36)
- It was a very light dish, but I really enjoyed it and it was a great wine pairing too.
- It was Asian inspired and quite simple and homestyle, but well prepared.
- The Bamfield Seaweed Broth tasted like a savoury seafood broth with a hint of soy sauce and a touch of butter.
- It was rich in flavour and I’m not sure if soy and butter was used, but it had that sort of flavour.
- It was not just salty, but briney from the seaweed.
- There were little bits of black garlic sauteed with the spinach and it had incredible umami.
- Black garlic is traditionally Korean, and this idea was more Japanese and Chinese.
- It was kind of “Asian fusion”, but I dislike using that word.
- The flavours weren’t too foreign and still somewhat traditional to Asian tastes.
- Along with the spinach was fresh kelp and chewy wild rice.
- The wild rice didn’t absorb the broth, but it brought an earthy nuttiness to the dish.
- A soba noodle would be nice in this too, but perhaps it is a bit too Japanese for the style of restaurant.
- It was topped with shaved fennel and I think pickled celery and mint, but I wish they were cut smaller.
- The fennel and/or pickled celery (?) was in the confit pork dish as well, so I would have loved something different like pickled enoki, daikon or cucumbers.
- The local line caught halibut was perfectly cooked and it flaked beautifully.
- The flakes were large like sablefish and it was incredibly juicy, silky and almost buttery.
- It had a black garlic glaze on top, but otherwise it wasn’t even that seasoned, and it didn’t need to be although the broth helped with flavouring.
- I could taste the halibut’s natural flavour, but I would have loved the glaze to be caramelized and a bit charred onto all sides of the fish.
- In Vancouver it would be typical to see this as sablefish with a miso glaze instead of black garlic, but they both bring the same umami. I liked the black garlic for a change.
- Licorice, Matcha, Granola (available a la carte $24)
- This sounded very interesting to me on the menu and I was pleased it was on the Tasting Menu.
- I thought this was the last course, but they served a salmon after which was a bit reversed, but not a big deal.
- It was a play with sweet and savoury flavours, but it was a very unusual interpretation.
- The squab breast was marinated and seared medium rare and my first piece was a bit chewy, but the rest was tender.
- It was glazed with a red wine reduction, but it was not a saucy dish.
- The matcha was in sponge cake form, but he aerated it so it was extra light.
- I expected the cake to be steamed, moist, and soft, but it was toasted and quite dry.
- There was no sauce or jus for the cake to absorb so I wasn’t quite sure of its purpose.
- I loved the creativity of the matcha cake, but I’m not sure it went with the squab and it didn’t quite hold up to the squab flavour.
- There might have been pistachio in the sponge cake too, but I’m not sure.
- A dark cherry and balsamic sponge cake might have been more suitable, but I appreciate chef’s risk.
- There were a couple dollops of licorice gel that was sweet and boozy and it went nicely with the squab.
- It was almost like a boozy fruit sauce so it complemented the quail like duck and fruit.
- The crunchy granola was great for texture and there were some sunflower seeds in it too.
- The dish lacked acidity and the garnish was shaved fennel again, so I was hoping for something different but it was still good.
- Overall the dish tasted fine and I liked it, but just not sure the flavours gelled. They didn’t clash, but they didn’t necessarily enhance.
- It almost reminded me of Grant Achatz’s Lamb 86 with the selection of slightly random components.
Kettle Valley 2009, Malbec–Okanagan Valley, BC – It was a red wine pairing with salmon which I loved. It was a refreshing change from expected white and at this point in the game he couldn’t go back to serving whites. I was expecting a pinot noir, but the malbec was nice although lighter than the previous merlot.
- Sour Cream Perogies, Beetroot Mostarda, Caraway Rye Crumble (available a la carte $36)
- It was an Eastern European country style dish.
- The salmon was very fresh and cooked medium rare, but I wish it was served with a crispy skin.
- I get so worried when salmon comes out because I find 90% of the time it is overcooked, but here it was just right.
- Some people may consider it under cooked, but I found it perfect.
- It was custardy, juicy, flaking in chunks with the touch of my fork, and tender.
- It was very lightly seasoned and the beetroot mostarda was a bit strong for it so I used it sparingly.
- The beetroot mostarda was quite chunky and it was crunchy with pickled beets and mustard seeds.
- It was very sour and very sweet, so I could have used less on the plate to balance the ratio of salmon.
- Mostarda is traditionally an Italian condiment for charcuterie and cheese, so it was different to have with fish.
- Since it was almost like a beet puree it reminded me of a borscht as well and played into the scallion crème fraîche on the perogies.
- The house made crème fraîche and potato perogie was pan fried and heavy with the dough, so I would have loved a bit more filling and thinner dough.
- The perogies, beets and sour cream were very Russian/Ukrainian/Polish and I was surprised to see it on the menu here, but they made it their own.
- There was some horseradish dressing and grated horseradish as well.
- It was a sweet, salty, acidic, tangy and slightly spicy dish and there was a lot of flavour.
- The Caraway Rye Crumble was good for texture and the whole dish was quite rustic in thought and flavour.
- Again there was the shaved pickled fennel garnish which showed up on most of the courses, so I wouldn’t have minded something different.
- Grilled salmon steaks and dill with a side of perogies can be seen in some Eastern European cuisines, and this was a more refined version of that.
Vista d’Oro Fortified Walnut Wine 2007, Langley – This has been a long time favourite for me. It is a blend of North Okanagan Marechal Foch, Central Okanagan Merlot & Cabernet Franc, Fraser Valley Green Walnuts and Okanagan Brandy. It is a port style wine that is ideal with chocolate.
- Bee Pollen, Cocoa Nibs (available a la carte $12)
- The dessert menu is created by Pastry Chef Matt Wilson and I found them inspiring and well executed.
- There was attention to texture, modernist techniques, unique flavour combinations and just enough components to make it special, but not overwhelming.
- There seemed to be two different styles of hazelnut praline which was executed in two ways.
- The first (I think) was the bottom layer which was an aerated semi frozen milk chocolate and hazelnut praline.
- Usually praline is hard and brittle, but this was aerated and almost like a semi-frozen sheet of mousse.
- It had a grainy sugary texture and I would have preferred it to be a feuillantine crunch for crispiness.
- I wasn’t keen on the sugary texture and I’m not sure if the sugars were melted properly, or if they had crystallized.
- It could have also been the quality of chocolate giving that texture.
- On top was a honey ice cream and the second crisp was another style of hazelnut praline.
- The candied hazelnut praline on top was more traditional of praline, but it tasted like a caramel brittle or caramelized sugar glass.
- It looked like an ice cream sandwich and it was better with every component eaten in one bite.
- I liked the bee pollen and cocoa nibs for texture, but with hazelnut in the name, I really wanted whole hazelnuts as a component.
- Honey, chocolate, hazelnut, and coffee were the flavours at play and it was an enjoyable dessert that made me curious enough to order one more.
- 100% Chocolate, Mole, Lime (available a la carte $12)
- I love avocado in desserts and South East Asian countries have been making avocado and chocolate shakes for ages.
- The avocado ice cream is not savoury or like guacamole. It is lightly sweetened.
- I could barely taste any avocado and it just made for a buttery, rich and creamy texture.
- I like to taste avocado in my avocado ice cream so I would have liked it stronger, but I can see the majority not liking that.
- The ice cream was tangy from lime and maybe crème fraîche and it was almost mousse-like and light in texture.
- There were some lime segments for extra bursts of citrus and also a spicy mole spread.
- It was salty from lime salt, and the mini beds of cocoa nibs and lime salt underneath the ice cream quenelle held it in place.
- The cocoa nibs gave the mole a chocolate and nutty flavour which contributed to characteristics of a traditional mole sauce.
- I could see the Mexican theme with the avocado, lime and mole, but I couldn’t taste the cinnamon in the mole.
- The heat was gradual and it lingered, but it wasn’t as well balanced and mainly just spicy with chile powder and or/paprika.
- I loved the attention to texture and the creativity of the dessert, and I appreciated the outside of the box thinking.