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Tofino


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I thought I would give a plug to Tofino

The season is beginning

The Whale Festival starts March 19

CBC did a feature on them today

Sounds like some good events going on

fun for the kids

but those pesky ferries??

steve

Each spring the entire North American population of Pacific Gray Whales migrates along the West Coast of Vancouver Island, B.C.  An estimated 22,000 Gray Whales make the 16,000 km round-trip journey between their mating and calving lagoons on the Mexican Baja Peninsula and their summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi Seas near the Arctic.
PACIFIC WHALE FESTIVAL
Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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Looks like Tofino is out of the question now that I have to extend my time in Victoria. I feel a bit like a Jackass. :sad: Thanks everybody for the info.

Still, I'm excited about going back to Victoria. I'm going to be in and out of restaurants all the time so I'll report back. :wink:

Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

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...missing Tofino is a very big "drag" but having to do so to extend one's stay in Victoria is not too bad IMHO...look forward to hearing/reading your comments...still do not "get" Temple so hope to hear your comments....

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According to the 2005 People's Choice Awards for the "Tofino Time" magazine, Middle Beach Lodge won the best place for accommodations and the RainCoast Cafe (the name is not Rainforest) as the best place for dinner (two years in a row). Maybe that will help you make your plans.

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I heard the Schooner is not going to do any changes until winter. The rationale was that they didn't think the summer business would even make a dent in the reno costs. But they were hoping the small changes they made in their current dining room would be interesting enough.

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  • 1 month later...

I recently gathered up some family for a long weekend retreat in Tofino, catching the end of the shoulder season. Here's a quick report.

We marshalled in Nanaimo on a Friday morning, gathered our gear (including the Rancilio of course), wine and food and headed out. We stayed in a brand new two bedroom villa at Pacific Sands on Cox Bay. These were superb accomodations - well appointed, private and spacious with a great view.

On Friday we arrived in Tofino in time for lunch at SOBO - as reported now serving lunch out of the truck at the Botanical Gardens with options to eat indoors or out and wine and beer available. The gardens were looking great with the rhododendrons in full bloom and lots of birds bopping around. We elected to eat indoors as it was a little cool. Between us we sampled fish tacos, smoked salmon chowders, asparagus soups, cornbread, buckwheat soba noodle salad, and garden salads. The ingredients are fresh, the garden salad is nicely composed, flavours are light and balanced - very impressive for a take out operation. Prices are very reasonable. A couple of quibbles - too much dressing on the soba noodle salad, and eating out of cardboard, styrofoam or plastic with with plastic utensils just doesn't work for salads and soups of the quality being served here. Real street food like fish tacos works fine, but some of the other stuff doesn't fare so well.

Dinners were cooked at the "villa". Roast chicken, potatoes and asparagus the first night, with Riesling. Crab and asparagus the second night with Champagne and Riesling. Lunch on Saturday was at the Long Beach Lodge, next door to Pacific Sands: carrot ginger soup, shrimp sandwich, bouillabaisse and Wild Goose Riesling in the "great room". Everything was good, if not outstanding, and the service was friendly and helpful. The room has great views of the beach, an eclectic mix of furniture and seating options - very comfortable and relaxing.

On Sunday, it was back to SOBO for a quick lunch, on the patio this time - featuring polenta fries, fish tacos, garden salad, burritos and a flourless chocolate cake. Once again good and fresh. The cake comes on a real plate :wink: . One last walk on the beach and we headed for home.

Cheers,

Anne

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Well Barolo, we must have crossed paths in Tofino this past week. After a hectric month in Europe we decided to chill out on our own west coast for a few days, and, whilst the nature and spirit of the place was as grandiose and overwhelming as always - we were not entirely happy with the service industry that is sucking the tourist tit.

SOBO: well we had heard so much about this place - and read so much about it in this forum - that we expected some sort of singing and dancing Jesus to appear. But all we got were soggy shrimp cakes, sickeningly sweet (to the point of being inedible) soba noodle salad, and fish tacos that cried out for someone to do something interesting with the overcooked salmon and kiwis and onions that comprised this dish. Jikes! Now the southern California coast is dotted with places of this ilk - but sadly our experience at the much touted SOBO was far inferior to just about anything we have tried in SoCal. Why is this?

Tough City Sushi? Well we are devotees of Toshis in Vancouver - and so I guess we were bound to be disappointed. TCS has such a wonderful location that we almost forgot about the meal. Almost. Now the only thing worse than old, fishy tasting sashimi is old, fishy tasting sashimi that is seriously overpriced. Go there, by all means, smoke a spliff on the terrace and order some nachos and you'll have an unforgettable afternoon. But do not go there for sushi. Please.

Of course we had a wonderful evening at the Wick. But you would have to be brain dead not to have a wonderful evening in this setting - despite the overprepared and overpriced food and the indifferent service. What I do not get is why a place like this does not just focus on perfect, fresh seafood? The setting cries out for this.

Friends took us to the Boat Basin Restaurant at the Tauca Lea Resort. By this time I was so pissed off with the indifferent seafood I had had elsewhere that I ordered a lamb shank - and this turned out to be quite brilliant. The others at the table all complained about their mussels and seafood stew.

It struck us all as highly incongruous that we should spend a few days at the navel of our so called fishing industry and eat indifferent and overpriced seafood. This would be unthinkable in any of dozens of other towns around the world where fishing is a major component of the local industry - for example Cadiz, Fukuoka, Kiel, Pkuket, Galway, Reykjavik, Hobart, Veracruz - or any little fishing village in Greece where you can find all manner of local seafood simply and expertly prepared.

Why don't one or two places in Tofino just concentrate on the brilliant preparation of, say, halibut, wild salmon, prawns and oysters. Establish a west coast culinary idiom of sorts for the products that we harvest from our shores. Who actually expects to eat New Zealand lamb in Tofino?

Can someone from Tofino share their views on this?

Also, the rapacious, mendacious mentality that has so characterized Whistler these last few years has clearly transplanted itself to Tofino. We were looking for some accomodation for some European visitors coming in July, and we checked out what was available. For the prices we were quoted for very modest wooden cabins - often very tackily decorated etc. - you could rent small castles in Tuscany! The Whistler bubble has burst. Can Tofino be far behind?

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I have always enjoyed all the mentioned restaurants, but I am uneducated. How do they keep the product fresh and alive without the population base?

full stop

To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art La Rochefoucauld

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cubiluaris, Ducky,

You raise an interesting point! I was travelling around Sardinia last summer, what is evident is the water is wonderfully clear & abundant with fish(Just like San Sebastian in Spain). The fishing boats are small & need only fish for a proportion of the day, they return & their DIVERSE catch is immediately in the market. Once the day's catch is sold THAT is it. Simple, respectful.

Obviously such a situation benefits from the proximity of the resource to the market, however i believe that the fishing/consumer practices enable this situation to sustain. In Europe as in N. America a distinct pressure exists on fish resources, perhaps moreso as consumption, certainly in med. societies, is probably higher however the emphasis seems more fitted to providing fresh fish daily.

I was at a certain crab/lobster establishment on Granville Island last week & asked them how long they kept their product in the tanks. At the time of asking the crowded tanks had sustained them for 3 weeks(without being fed, which results in them feeding on each other!) & undoubtedly would still remain for a while longer. I think economics has a huge role, certainly for fishermen, in supporting such practices & believe the consumer can help to determine a better managed model....bottom line being YOU GOTTA PAY MORE IF YOU WANT YOUR FISH FRESH!! I wonder historically how previous fishing practices have affected our resources today.....& the impact of other forms of industry...& why is it not possible to process our waste before it is flushed into the ocean!! Hell we have marine mammals/fish swimming around that can be legaaly defined as toxic waste!!!

And just to get back on topic, cubilularis can you expand on the Wick dinner, its funny because i'm also moving away from overprepared food BUT simple is the hardest thing to achieve!

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barolo, Thanks for your report.

We stayed at the Pacific Sands about seven or so years ago and I have very fond memories of that time. I'm sad to hear you didn't like the Wick, Ducky, as I had a wonderful lunch there at that time, with another chef at the helm, of course.

I agree with the folks above about the crustacean frustration. We went sailing a couple of times (me doped up on heavy doses on Gravol-prairie girl prize puker) around the islands and I couldn't understand why we couldn't just catch and eat seafood, or just buy it and cook it on the boat. Every time we go to the coast for a holiday, we buy a fresh crab, cook it and eat it. Why can't you get that at a little shack on the side of the road?

One year we went to the sunshine coast and while waiting for our water taxi, I watched fishermen loading something interesting into a truck. Being a curious kitty cat, I discovered they were lovely lively prawns. We bought some and took them to the campsite where we ate them very simply with garlic and butter-same with the oysters we picked off the beach (the locals gave us permission). We had a few condiments, and just cooked everything to taste.

I've been reading about lobsters lately. Is there some way you can feed them in the tanks and just pump out the waste? It seems stupid (and cruel) to let their flesh waste away. Besides, I don't think grumpy lobsters taste as good.

On Hornby, we paid a commercial salmon fisherman to take us out and watch him try to catch us a fish. He did and we barbecued it within as few minutes of landing. Heaven. To a prairie person, this is just Nirvana.

I love fish, but the information I've been reading suggests we may not be eating it much longer.

It seems to me the Atlantic lobster industry has a very good management system in place, but the ocean is still filling up with our garbage, and I don't know when it's going to stop.

I'm looking for some hope in this picture. Please keep me informed about the positive developments in our fishing and tourism industry. I'm all for responsible culinary tourism, and B.C. is the place for it.

Zuke

Edited by Zucchini Mama (log)

"I used to be Snow White, but I drifted."

--Mae West

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Well Barolo, we must have crossed paths in Tofino this past week. After a hectric month in Europe we decided to chill out on our own west coast for a few days, and, whilst the nature and spirit of the place was as grandiose and overwhelming as always - we were not entirely happy with the service industry that is sucking the tourist tit. 

SOBO: well we had heard so much about this place  - and read so much about it in this forum - that we expected some sort of singing and dancing Jesus to appear. But all we got were soggy shrimp cakes, sickeningly sweet (to the point of being inedible) soba noodle salad, and fish tacos that cried out for someone to do something interesting with the overcooked salmon and kiwis and onions that comprised this dish. Jikes!  Now the southern California coast is dotted with places of this ilk - but sadly our experience at the much touted SOBO was far inferior to just about anything we have tried in SoCal. Why is this?

Tough City Sushi? Well we are devotees of Toshis in Vancouver - and so I guess we were bound to be disappointed. TCS has such a wonderful location that we almost forgot about the meal. Almost. Now the only thing worse than old, fishy tasting sashimi is old, fishy tasting sashimi that is seriously overpriced. Go there, by all means, smoke a spliff on the terrace and order some nachos and you'll have an unforgettable afternoon. But do not go there for sushi. Please.

Of course we had a wonderful evening at the Wick. But you would have to be brain dead not to have a wonderful evening in this setting - despite the overprepared and overpriced food and the indifferent service. What I do not get is why a place like this does not just focus on perfect, fresh seafood? The setting cries out for this.

Friends took us to the Boat Basin Restaurant at the Tauca Lea Resort. By this time I was so pissed off with the indifferent seafood I had had elsewhere that I ordered a lamb shank - and this turned out to be quite brilliant.  The others at the table all complained about their mussels and seafood stew.

It struck us all as highly incongruous that we should spend a few days at the navel of our so called fishing industry and eat indifferent and overpriced seafood. This would be unthinkable in any of dozens of other towns around the world where fishing is a major component of the local industry - for example Cadiz, Fukuoka, Kiel, Pkuket, Galway, Reykjavik, Hobart, Veracruz - or any little fishing village in Greece where you can find all manner of local seafood simply and expertly prepared.

Why don't one or two places in Tofino just concentrate on the brilliant preparation of, say, halibut, wild salmon, prawns and oysters. Establish a west coast culinary idiom of sorts for the products that we harvest from our shores.  Who actually expects to eat New Zealand lamb in Tofino?

Can someone from Tofino share their views on this?

Also, the rapacious, mendacious mentality that has so characterized Whistler these last few years has clearly transplanted itself to Tofino. We were looking for some accomodation for some European visitors coming in July, and we checked out what was available. For the prices we were quoted for very modest wooden cabins - often very tackily decorated etc. - you could rent small castles in Tuscany!  The Whistler bubble has burst. Can Tofino be far behind?

Ducky, I'm sorry you had a terrible time! Had I just returned from a month in Europe maybe I'd be complaining about the food too, but alas, it is not so. Perhaps we were just so appreciative of having a long weekend away that we were not so exacting as you are.

Regarding SOBO - I didn't have the fish tacos or the soba noodle salad so I can't really comment on them. I still believe what I had - garden salad and asparagus soup - was pretty good for takeout food and compared to the alternatives. Despite the Enroute thing I wasn't expecting any dancing Jesus - it's take out, it's Tofino. BC doesn't have any grand culinary traditions - SOBO's menu is "borrowed" from around the world, that should tell us something.

I didn't eat seafood at any of the restaurants we dined at because I knew it would probably be disappointing. We only ate lunches out, the rest of the time we cooked for ourselves. We deliberately chose to stay somewhere with cooking facilities because we knew we'd do better cooking for ourselves, and we did - and of course it was more economical. So perhaps my expectations were lower, and my wallet was smaller, so I was happier with what I got.

As for the question about why there is no great seafood restaurants to be found, I'm not from Tofino but I can make a few guesses:

- many or most of the visitors don't want/appreciate simple well-prepared fresh fish and seafood and they are not willing to pay the price for it. The locals probably cook it themselves

- There is not a deep culinary history or history of seafood restaurants to fall back on

-The low population density in the environs makes restaurants a risky business, even crab shacks.

- The town's economy is being transformed from a natural resource based one to a resort based one in a very accelerated manner and those employed in the former are not the naturals for the latter. Many of those who are moving to Tofino to work in the resorts find that they prefer to live closer to (or in) urban centres resulting in a high turnover of staff.

- the fishery is premised on serving outside markets rather than feeding the locals

- increasingly fishing licences in BC are held by Vancouverites, who lease them out. In other words Vancouver is the navel of the BC fishing industry, not any of the small towns of the coast.

As for the prices of accommodation - we got a discount from the listed prices on our unit and I did not find it outrageous for what we got. I didn't even consider going in the summer though.

I don't have enough points of comparison to assess how they rate on a global basis either. I'll be in Tuscany in September so I'll have to remember to check out the castle prices :wink:

Now everyone can jump in and tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about.

Cheers,

Anne

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I didn't eat seafood at any of the restaurants we dined at because I knew it would probably be disappointing. 

Thank you barolo for this thoughtful response.

Your quote above is intriguing - and really at the heart of what I was trying to get at in my last rant. Why should it be that the seafood in Tofino of all places is disappointing? How long and how hard would someone have to try to put a restaurant in Tofino on the map that just served very fresh local seafood grilled or fried with some butter, garlic and/or herbs?

It seems that every last fishing village in Greece (to use my last example) can support a few restaurants that just serve simple and fresh local seafood - and God knows there's precious little of this in the Aegean compared to what we have here.

But in Tofino, where cooking seafood should be bred in the bone by this stage, it is virtually impossible to find a place that prepares fresh seafood daily.

To be honest even in Vancouver there are very, very few restaurants where you can order a simple fresh seafood "frito misto" (or something equally simple) and be sure this is going to be fresh. Sure you can go to "C" and pay big bucks for a fine sauce and an creative presentation - but where can you really go for a fresh, well prepared, daily catch that is bigger than a matchbox and not served in a tower with anything else? Pink Pearl and a handful of Asian places perhaps. But where else?

I think the reasons for this paucity that you mention in your bullet points are compelling. Still we had some Greek friends here (Vancouver) not long ago who saw the splendid offering of fresh seafood at Granville market and said, "let's find some nice place by the water and have some really fresh seafood tonight." Well we were stumped. And it is tragic that we were stumped - I think - and this was almost incomprehensible to our Greek friends. We ended up at the Cannery - hardly al fresco - but the best we could come up with and had a so so meal.

Cheers

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Still we had some Greek friends here (Vancouver) not long ago who saw the splendid offering of fresh seafood at Granville market and said, "let's find some nice place by the water and have some really fresh seafood tonight." Well we were stumped. And it is tragic that we were stumped - I think - and this was almost incomprehensible to our Greek friends. We ended up at the Cannery - hardly al fresco - but the best we could come up with and had a so so meal.

Cheers

I agree completely! When, in an earlier thread, Jamie Maw asked what was missing from the Vancouver dining scene good, inexpensive fish and seafood restaurants were on my list. This lack of focus on fresh and simple has been a real puzzle for me.

And yes it is sad that I did not expect to get good fish or seafood in a Tofino restaurant.

Good rant, by the way.

Cheers,

Anne

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Good points, Barolo and Ducky. I guess in Vancouver the cost of real estate by the water is prohibitive to the kinds of seaside tavernas in Greece that sell that lovely grilled octopus with a squeeze of lemon. Oh, I've got to win the lottery this week...

I love warm seafood salads on a hot day with a good Sauvignon Blanc. I think the chef has to check his ego by the door to do the real basics-not that I don't love chefs with big egos. They can make great food and be very entertaining, but the pressure to impress must be a pretty big burden to bear.

Sometimes the amateurs who love good food can do great things in simple ways, like the families who own the tavernas in Greece.

My sister said she went to a really good basic seafood restaurant in Seattle that seemed to fit the bill. Are things better there?

Zuke

"I used to be Snow White, but I drifted."

--Mae West

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Good questions Zuke, and I readily admit that I don't have the answers. I'd love to hear the perspective of those in the restaurant business on the trials and tribulations of operating a seafood restaurant in Vancouver and BC.

Cheers,

Anne

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Regarding fresh fish daily, it is easy in Victoria to get really fresh, often alive, seafood.

Today we had spot prawns and dungeness crab on the menu, both alive and probably caught within 15 hours of delivery. Mussels are hard to get, so we go with the seasons.

Sometimes guests think unusual equates to difficult or "too fancy". Especially tourists.

Tonight our catch was pan roasted ling cod (6 oz), a delicious by-catch, on creamy polenta with grilled kale, provencal olives and best quality olive oil. Maybe some onion chipotle relish. $21

Is there really anything complicated about the above? No.

Is this hard to find in tofino? Has anyone tried "Shelter"? It has a good local rep.

-- Matt.

edit: having read this thread all the way through now, I see some people have indeed tried Shelter ... Chef Jeff is back in Victoria, at the Marriott Hotel where I work.

Edited by Matt R. (log)
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Regarding fresh fish daily, it is easy in Victoria to get really fresh, often alive, seafood.

Today we had spot prawns and dungeness crab on the menu, both alive and probably caught within 15 hours of delivery.  Mussels are hard to get, so we go with the seasons.

Sometimes guests think unusual equates to difficult or "too fancy".  Especially tourists.

Tonight our catch was pan roasted ling cod (6 oz), a delicious by-catch, on creamy polenta with grilled kale, provencal olives and best quality olive oil.  Maybe some onion chipotle relish. $21

Is there really anything complicated about the above?  No.

Is this hard to find in tofino?  Has anyone tried "Shelter"?  It has a good local rep.

-- Matt.

edit: having read this thread all the way through now, I see some people have indeed tried Shelter ...  Chef Jeff is back in Victoria, at the Marriott Hotel where I work.

Thanks Matt, your cod dish sounds delicious. I would have liked to eat at Shelter but we were looking for lunch spots and they don't do lunch.

Cheers,

Anne

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  • 1 month later...

I was wondering if anyone had any ideas on excellent places to eat while we are heading up to Tofino this weekend to enjoy Long Beach and area, that doesn't break the bank. We are going to try and check out Glow in Nanaimo while we are briefly visiting and raid Coombs market as well. But other than those two places, I'm at a loss. Any thoughts?

Fish is the only food that is considered spoiled once it smells like what it is. - P. J. O'Rourke

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  • 5 years later...
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