Saturday, 29 December 2012

“On pointe” at the Pointe Restaurant at Wickaninnish Inn

The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn

Tastiness Factor: 4/5

Atmosphere: 4.75/5

Service: 4/5 (For the resort as a whole, a resounding 5/5!)

Locavore Approved? YES (sustainable and locally caught seafood, focus on seasonal ingredients, many ingredients prepared right in house including bread and bacon)

Because we did not have enough time off to make the long trip back to Newfoundland for Xmas again this year, we wanted to do something a bit different over the holidays this year.  It has been a busy few months for the both of us, so the idea of a mini-getaway was very appealing.  We immediately thought of the great time that we had a few summers ago in Tofino on Vancouver Island and, after a brief google search for “Xmas getaways Tofino”, we stumbled across the holiday package offered at the Wickininnish Inn.  This Inn, which holds the prestigious “Relais et Chateaux” designation, has been named “Best Resort” by Travel and Leisure Magazine and, having now experienced it for myself, it is very clear why.  This place is top-class in every respect, with service far above any place I have ever stayed.  I strongly encourage you to discover this extraordinary getaway for yourself if you are able.  The Holiday package that experienced was a very special treat that we will never forget. 

We had several meals at Wickaninnish’s Pointe Restaurant courtesy of our Xmas package (one dinner, two brunches and a Xmas drink).  The atmosphere at Pointe is unbeatable.  The restaurant is built on side of the resort overlooking the water and it juts out of the building such that you are almost sitting on top of the crashing waves.  And crash they did.  Winter is storm season in Tofino and, even though the weather was relatively mild while we were there, the waves were very impressive to watch from our perch at Pointe. 


In keeping with its status as a Relais et Chateau destination, Wickaninnish Inn prides itself in fantastic service.  The service that we received from the resort staff was without a doubt the best that I have experienced thus far.  Fortunately, the service at Pointe followed suit for the most part, although there were a few minor blips that occurred over the course of the meals/drinks that were a bit substandard compared with the rest of our experience at “The Wick”. 

Our first dining experience was a brunch at Pointe on Xmas Day.  We were both pretty hungry and therefore decided to order some of the larger brunch items.  There was a special brunch menu that day, offering dishes with a seasonal twist.  There was a myriad of dishes to choose from, whether you were in the mood for sweet and decadent (eggnog-dipped French Toast with deep fried ice cream), to light a healthy (oatmeal with cranberry compote) to somewhere in between (pulled pork benny, hamhock hash).   Unfortunately, service was not quite up to snuff during this visit, although, in credit to our server (who was quite friendly), it seemed that he had many patrons to look after at that time.  My water glass was not refilled once (I polished off my husband and then had to chase down another server to get it filled), and I did not get the sweetener or the ketchup that I requested.  Our dinner was also quite slow coming out of the kitchen. 


Here were our Xmas picks:

The Pointe Breakfast- My husband, being a breakfast purist, went with the standard breakfast.  I trust his opinion entirely on this one, as he has had many a bacon-and-egg breakfast in his time.   Fortunately, he had only good things to say about the Pointe Breakfast.  It came with your choice of egg, bacon or sausage, a piece of potato rosti with a lovely tomato jam and homemade toast (rye, sourdough or whole wheat).  On the side was a lovely strawberry jam that he absolutely devoured (along with my serving!).  Very basic, but very well done for a breakfast purist like my hubby.




The Tofino Omelet- This was a special offering for Xmas brunch (nothing like it on the regular menu) and special it was.  The 3-egg omelet was stuffed full (and I mean full) with fresh salmon, smoked salmon and shrimp.  This is one high-class omelet!  The fish was accompanied by cream cheese for extra richness.  As if this was not good enough, they also had sprinkled deep-fried capers on top which added the perfect crispy, salty bite.  On the side was confit potatoes (these were just ok) and then I added a side of the homemade toast (loved the poppyseeds in the whole wheat toast!).  Overall, a very special brunch for a special Xmas day.



Next in line came our holiday drinks which we enjoyed at the “On the Rocks” bar, which is an extension of the Pointe Restaurant.  They have quite an extensive cocktail menu, including two whole pages of Holiday drinks.  I chose the “Wreath and Mistletoe”, made of gin, cherry brandy and lime juice with the martini glass rim covered in sugar and pistachio dust.  It included just the perfect amount of sweetness with nice holiday flavor.  My husband ordered a drink from the regular cocktail menu, that was supposedly made of whisky and infused with house-made cured bacon.  Unfortunately, he really did not like his drink at all and doubted that it was actually the one he ordered (he did not taste any whiskey).  Also, it took almost 20 minutes to get the drinks after ordering.  




Fortunately, our Xmas meal to follow was a far bigger success.  Service was I had come to expect from “The Wick”.  Attentive, knowledgeable, friendly and timely.  Our waiter had great confidence in describing our dishes and making recommendations.  The menu, being largely meat-based, was tailored to suit my pescatarian needs.  Dishes were served in a timely manner and water glasses were refilled often.  And, with the waves crashing against the rocks just beneath us, who could ask for more?  Here is a detailed look at our holiday fare:


Quinoa with cranberry (amouse-bouche)- this was probably the most unique amouse I have ever had and it was delectable.  The texture of the quinoa was lovely, and the cranberry added a nice holiday touch.  Even my husband who is usually not one for “health food” like quinoa loved this little mouthful.



Salad and shrimp- This simple and light dish, made with local shrimp (I was told by the waiter that the “chef would rather die than to use frozen shrimp”) was a nice start to the meal.  The side striped shrimp were served on a lovely bed of fresh frisee and served with  a tasty mayonnaise-based dressing drizzled on the side so that the frisee stayed crisp. 



Ham croquette- This was the second dish on the standard Xmas dinner.  Fried and served on a sweet and sour broth, It seemed like a bit of an odd way to incorporate Xmas ham into the meal, but one cannot argue with success as my husband thoroughly enjoyed this dish.  He found the broth especially flavorful and licked up every last bit from the bottom of the bowl (figuratively of course!).  Although I cannot comment on the taste, I did find the dish rather unattractive, especially as a holiday dish.  A little dash of color would have added a lot to the visual appeal.



Potato-wrapped oyster- For my pescatarian replacement for the ham croquette, I received quite a treat.  I was told by the server that this was the chef’s signature dish and that he had competed with it at last year’s Golden Plate Awards.  As someone who does not like oysters, this dish was fabulous.  First of all, it was beautiful visually, with the potato wrapped like golden straw around the cooked oyster.  Beneath the oyster was a mountain of a sort of slaw, then at the very bottom there was an exquisite pool of a light cream sauce.  This dish contained multiple layers of complexity that worked beautifully together.  I would eat an oyster prepared this way again any day!



Cranberry sorbet- What a nice surprise to have a pallet cleanser as part of our Xmas dinner, especially with such festive flair.  The sorbet itself was lovely, but what really made it for me was the pieces of spicy candied ginger over top.  Loved it!



Turkey dinner- what would Xmas be for any carnivore without the turkey? This version of the traditional Xmas meal featured all of the fixings including dressing (my husband's favourite part of the meal), cranberry sauce (big and juicy whole cranberries), mashed potatoes, a huge mound of Xmas dinner veggies (turnip, carrots, brussel sprouts) and of course turkey (both light and dark). I was quite impressed at the portion size- certainly not your typical fine dining size but very fitting for a splurge on Xmas. I appreciated how the chef kept this one straightforward- why mess with tradition?


Arctic char- this was the Xmas dinner substitute that the chef kindly created for me.  It was derived from a dish on their regular menu, with a few twists to make it "Christmassy".  This dish was an absolute winner for me.  The Arctic char (caught locally) was cooked perfectly and was topped with beautiful ribbons of butternut squash (so pretty!). Underneath was a light puffed barley and a sweet butternut squash purée. What really set this dish apart was the black garlic purée that was artfully smeared under the fish.  This was quite a bold move by the chef as this purée gives a huge garlic punch.  With the other subtle flavours of the dish, it acts as an amazing contrast.  It is also extremely beautiful next to the orange squash purée. I felt like a princess having such a phenomenal dish prepared just for me!   




Dessert- After such a phenomenal main, this was unfortunately a big miss for me and my husband certainly concurred.  I actually thought that this would be my kind of dessert (I am not a sweet fan), as it was made of squash.  Pointe specializes in unique desserts, and actually has a seperate category of desserts entitled "unconventional", which features "non-dessert" type ingredients (beet, smoked tomato").  Strangely enough, the few strands of squash on the plate were the only part of the dessert that I actually enjoyed. The other elements on the plate , an awkward combo of chocolate, ice cream and pea shoots (yes pea shoots) just did not work together.  The worst part however was an off-puttig transparent jelly-like substance sandwiched between the base and the ice cream. Not sure what its purpose was but after taking a bite of it, I could not finish the rest of the dessert.  An unfortunate end.



 Although it ended on a bit of a low, the complete meal was a success in my opinion.  The service was spot on (they redeemed themselves after the lukewarm brunch service), the atmosphere was second-to-none and most courses were both delicious and festive.  The Xmas dinner was a strong finale to our very memorable holiday in Tofino.  

A big thanks to the Wickaninnish Inn for making our holiday so special.


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