Restaurant: The Pointe Restaurant at The Wickaninnish Inn - Part 2/4
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
- See – Full post (Parts 1-4)
**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.
To be continued…
… sneak peek…