Report - Good eats in Whistler, Tofino and Ucluelet from a California visitor
...we've had great dining luck these past few days on our Spring Break tour of BC. We spent three days skiing in Whistler, and have been enjoying the stellar Blackrock Resort for the past couple of days. Heading home via Vancouver on Tuesday. Thought I'd share some highlights as a thank you for all the info. FYI, we're with our fairly picky 13 and 15 year old kids, and I'll throw in their perspectives as well.
On our way out through Vancouver, we stopped randomly at Lukes Corner Bar and Grill. We had no expectations at all, but everyone found something they liked. The service was terrific, the drinks reasonable, and the juicy burgers and piping hot skinny fries made us very happy after a flight with just a few pretzels to eat. I've since read mixed things elsewhere, but all four of us were fans.
In Whistler, we had an adults-only dinner at 21 Steps (aptly named, I counted on our way in). I had a Garlic Chili Prawn "small plate" that was very generously portioned, flavorful, and just the thing for a snowy night, and a relative deal for $12. My husband had the $25 roasted chicken, which was good but nothing special, and we both had forgettable salads. The food was decent, if not memorable, we had a nice corner table overlooking the Village stroll, and the service was OK, considering the place was packed. We enjoyed our evening out, but were feeling very much like victims of the traditional overpriced tourist fare that seems to be par for the course so often.
We ate lunch on the mountain each day, at the Roundhouse and Rondezvous Lodges at the top of Whistler and Blackcomb. Both had surprisingly broad choices, pho and stir fries, seared tuna sandwiches, etc, although the kids stuck to Fish and Chips like glue. My favorites were the sandwiches...the tuna with olive tapanade especially, served with a side of tangy greek salad. Avoid the potstickers (horrible), the pizza, and the bizarre naan and rice plates. Just plain bad.
On the way up to the slopes, do stop at Zog's for a beaver tail! Hot fried dough in the flat oval shape of its namesake, these are dredged in cinnamon sugar and are just about the best pre-ski or post-ski treat I can imagine, especially with a cup of hot cocoa, My daughter was addicted immediately, and the rest of us were right there with her. My son had a hot dog there one afternoon, giving in to the irresistible smells from their grill. I quote here: "It was a pretty good".
After getting directions from the friendly woman at the local bookstore, we made our way through falling snow to Pasta Lupino, a tiny place next to a 7-11, Told there was a 40 minute wait, even with empty tables (being held for people with a fixed return time), we decided to hang in there after seeing the plates coming out of the kitchen and the case full of homemade sauces and fresh pasta available for take out. They even offer pizza dough for people who want to make their own at home. Oh, if we'd only had a kitchen. The meal we had was worth every second of that 40 minute wait. I had a ham and jalapeno chowder to start that was one of the best soups I've ever tasted, albeit a most unlikely combination. It was spicy and smoky, with fleck of potato and perhaps dill in there. No cream, so it was also light and just perfect as a starter. We were told the chef is known for his soups, and I for one believe it. My husband had the meat lasagna ($15 including a starter salad) and I had homemade rigatoni pasta, with 2 different sauces (you can do 1/2 and 1/2 at no extra charge - $12 with that killer soup). His lasagna was cheesy and full of sausage, and the tomato basil sauce was bright and fresh and tasted like summer. Fantastic. My pasta was cooked perfectly, and the bolognese sauce was just right. The alfredo was excellent, too, but I'm a sucker for a good red sauce. Cannot recommend this place enough, particularly at these prices.
On the other end of the spectrum, we splurged big time for a final meal out at Sidecut. The restaurant is modern, warm, and sleek, with high ceilings, upholstered banquettes, clean wood and large swaths of glass looking out into the patio of the Four Seasons. The basket of fresh biscuits, cornbread, and mini cheese popovers disappeared almost instantly, and was refilled just as fast by the waitress after my son asked longingly for more biscuits. Just one instance where the service was friendly and impeccable. Our kids both devoured the mac and cheese (which was quite good, after a healthy grind of salt and pepper were added). My appetizer, a lone grilled scallop in a sea of lentils, golden raisins, and other odd things, was not something I'd order again, particularly at 3x the price of that mac and cheese. But, oh, the steaks! Although their gimick of custom rubs with fanciful names seemed a bit much, (and the font size on the card explaining them the tiniest Ive seen in ages!) the end results were steaks that were among the best we've had anywhere. Like the bevy of rubs, the steaks are accompanied by a custom set of cute little jars filled with their "signature" sauces, which again seemed a little over the top but entertaining. All four of us were delighted with every meaty bite. The grilled asparagus side was just right, and the potato gratin was a messy to look at, but so indulgent to eat. Loved it. We could easily have skipped dessert, and probably should have. It would have shaved $25 off an already hefty bill...close to $250 for the four of us, with cocktails and wine for the adults. We did agree it was a meal to remember for the price.
On to the wilds of Vancouver Island. Since we are staying at the Blackrock, and arrived in the evening, we had our first dinner at Fetch. The restaurant is lovely. Intimate and perched on the edge of the ridge, with the ocean crashing outside the windows that surround the diners on all sides. Another clean, modern and welcoming space, very much in keeping with the overall hotel aesthetic. Our crab and salmon cake appetizer was beautiful to look at, and a little messy to eat. The salad of fennel, apple and cress was somewhat unwieldy, and the cakes themselves tasted mostly of salt. The kids were very pleased with their fish and chips (surprise!), at $12, a relative deal on this dinner menu. My pistachio-crusted lamb ($38) was outstanding. Perfectly cooked, with a rich little brown jus and a hearty little gratin (a neat one this time) and broccolini. My husband's smoked black cod, on the other hand, was just plain odd. Lemon grass broth, some lentils, a few beets...just a mish mash of flavors in search of harmony. On the plus side, the fish itself was tender and quite tasty. The lemon blueberry tart with ginger ice cream was a winner for dessert.
Brunch at The Pointe at the Wickinnanish Inn was spectacular, as advertised. We were lucky enough to go on a sunny day, and the view and dining room were breathtaking. Food wise, my husband's chorizo fritatta was delicious, as were the kids pancakes and bacon. My breakfast sandwich was not, but I really didn't care. We walked the beach for over an hour afterward, and the whole experience was out of this world. Another expensive outing, but with a big emotional payoff.
Which brings me to our final meal...an utter surprise and a wonderful find in Ucluelet for foodies passing through. We discovered Cyn at Night via Trip Advisor, looking for something other than fancy food and fish and chips. Intrigued by the idea of a BBQ place that also had homemade gnocchi and wild mushroom tarts on the menu, we pulled up to the Cynamoka Coffee House and found the place empty, but with a glowing open sign out front. The super-friendly chef-host and his partner could not have been more welcoming on a rainy Sunday night. After explaining that the coffee house let them use the place in the evenings, and that the menu was entirely his own, we focused on the choices on the folded paper menu. Everything was enticing, and there wasn't a fried piece of halibut or cod to be seen. We ordered the smoked brisket with a coffee/chipotle rub, baby back ribs with a maple BBQ sauce, a cheese platter with hand-formed hot corn tortillas and a juicy, very spicy grilled house-made chorizo link and a mix of local and imported cheese, and the roast pig, tender pieces of pork over a lemony herb chimchuri sauce. The BBQ dishes and the pork came with hot buttered french bread and a fresh potato salad with some kind of lemony dressing. I was sorely tempted by that gnocchi with homemade meatballs and the smoked "bacon" (grilled pork belly), too. If they were open Mondays, we'd definitely be back again tomorrow. As it was, this was a terrific, very tasty and unexpected treat, and a definite winner in our books. Particularly at prices that are so reasonable in comparison to what we've been spending. ($10-18). Hats off to the chef! The locals are very lucky to have this place.
Also worth a stop in Tofino: The Common Loaf Bakery, for the carrot cake. It's amazing. Skip everything else and just have that.
Tomorrow we digest, hike, and look for whales. And perhaps find another new place to enjoy the wonderful food of BC!
that's a whirlwind tour - lots of travel time (not to mention the wait for the pasta - see above ; ) - i like your writing style (your breakfast sand was ok but the beach walk amazing, for eg) ... and will reference your reviews in near future. It is a package, isn't it?
are you from No Cal or So Cal? just asking to understand more of the context. we are very familiar with OC and inland areas as well as the 210 corridor (as i would call it - not sure of local names)
you might find an early grey whale -- heading north from cabo (really)
ps - the whitespot is a local institution at a low-chow level - they have burgers on the ferry (the Legendary burger) - if you're in to burgers - a taste test vs in-n-out? I'd be interested in that review