Field Trip to Tofino

“FieldTrips” is either a day trip or a few days where I visit food areas of interest which may include farm visits, producers, wineries, restaurants and/or other places that people can visit. This is about offering Vancouver Foodster readers a chance to get out of town and take a “Field Trip” for the day or a few days to explore, learn, taste and experience.

Field Trip to Tofino

Leaving Vancouver, driving Highway 1 to take BC Ferries over to the island from Horseshoe Bay, sailing on the Queen of Oak Bay (100 minutes) to the Departure Bay Ferry Terminal in Nanaimo. There is a lot to do once on board the ferry.

From Nanaimo, drove North West to Tofino which was about a 3 hour drive through all of the elements from rain to snow and back to rain and then sun. This only happens through the winter until mid-late April when snow is a possibility in the mountain passes.

My friend Jason joined me and arrived to Hotel Zed Tofino a colourful hotel about a 5 minute drive from downtown Tofino.

Our room was cozy and the beds were super comfortable; and there was a sitting sofa for reading or relaxing. There was a small kitchenette bar with a mini-fridge along with a toaster and a French press, the hotel even supplied freshly ground coffee for us and other guests to make a fresh pot each day. The hotel composts the coffee after each guest departs.

There was a covered hot tub and sauna outside in the back for guests to use. They even have a Lanai (patio deck) on the 3rd floor for guests to enjoy. There are various games set-up outside that include a ping pong table and shuffleboard. The lobby features the living room for guests to relax along with books to read, there is a disco room for taking those instagram worthy pics and videos..

In addition to Roar that serves delicious dinners they also have the Roar Coffee Shop next to the restaurant for breakfast, baked goods and coffees to eat in the sunken living room or to go. The bar serves happy hour daily and there are games guests can play there as well.

Roar is an exciting restaurant that specializes in live fire cooking, it is located inside Hotel Zed and we ate there on the first night. Started off with a glass of white that we both enjoyed.

We were seated at the chef’s table and got to watch all the chefs in action including Chefs Jeff Keenliside and Mitchell who worked the cooking over the fire.

We both loved the Flambedou Grilled Beach Oysters that has duck fat drizzled before it’s flambed on the alder wood live fire served on a bed of braising greens, caramelized onions and pork belly.

Next was the outstanding Fire-roasted Tahini and Spiced Cauliflower platter that was served with Baba Ghanoush, winter greens, fire roasted veggies, grilled olives, housemade flatbread and chermoula. It’s vegetarian dream dish to share. We then shared the Spanish Salmon with saffron basmati, braised swiss chard, kale, fennel, pea puree, and cedar juniper glaze.

For dessert we had their Cheesecake Flight featuring (Funfetti, strawberry and chocolate).

The next day, we took a walk on the trail out back behind the hotel where you could see the mudflats and more scenery.

We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Sobo in downtown Tofino where the restaurant is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. Over the years Chef/Owner Lisa Ahier has created many dishes which have become customer favourites and they are currently featuring those favourites by changing their menu monthly if not every couple of weeks so that locals and visitors can enjoy.

Jason and I shared these favourites starting off with the delicious Cornbread, followed by the Polenta Fries with caesar dip.

We each had a bowl of the outstanding Smoked Salmon Chowder with wild salmon, spicy cream broth.

The Thai Chicken soy-marinated chicken thighs, came with organic greens, carrot & cabbage slaw, peanut sauce.

We finished with their famous Key Lime Pie and it is Lisa’s classic Key West Recipe served with House Whipped Cream.

Spent some time in the afternoon walking around town as well as checking out some of the local beaches where the surfers often hang out such as Chesterman’s Beach and Cox Bay.

For dinner that night we visited Jeju Restaurant, it is a family run Korean restaurant where Chef Dylan and his mom are in the kitchen cooking, sister runs the front of house and their father does almost everything else; there is a hum of every detail running smoothly with precision.

A few of us shared these delectable dishes; starting off with the Scallop dish with yuzu vinaigrette, herb oil, pickled radish, marinated kelp, kelp salt.

I loved the Mandu steamed pork dumplings, as well as the Eggplant dish with prawn, dill aioli, smoked gochugaru; and the Corn pancakes with onion, carrot, egg, mushroom, aged parmigiano reggiano, arugula; along with the Bulgogi with truffle, sliced rib eye, rice, kimchi, aged parmigiana reggiano, and seaweed bugak (crackers),

The star of the meal was the outstanding Galbi Korean bbq cab short ribs aged for 35 days served with arugula salad, ssamjang, lettuce, pickled radish, jangajji, kimchi, rice.

Every dish was incredible and was full of flavours, but if I had to pick one dish that I am going to remember for a long time to come it is the Galbi. After dinner Chef Dylan shared many stories with us about his family, Korea, The Green Egg in the kitchen (that grills the meat) and their new plateware; I adore this restaurant and can’t wait to return someday.

Make an advance reservation and go and go again.

After dinner we visited Shelter Restaurant for dessert; a locals favourite for many years the restaurant recently relocated and reopened the weekend we were there.

We shared the delicious Fruit crumble and the Salted Caramel pot de creme and had some drinks as well. The decor of the spot lives to their philosophy of surf culture with surf boards mixed into the interior.

The next morning, we rented beach cruiser bikes at Swell Tofino that is located at our hotel on the property, and we went exploring on their off road tarred pathway. It was a rainy day but that didn’t stop us from riding around.

Afterwards we headed over to The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn for brunch and a spectacular view.

We started with some non-alchol drinks.

I had the delicious English Pea & Duck Risotto with Duck Confit, Puffed Wild Rice, Alpindon Cheese; while Jason had the Smoked Salmon & Cream cheese Eggs Benedict on Homemade English Muffin with Hollandaise and Rösti Potato.

We also had a chance to tour the new wine cellar that features a vast selection of wines in their collection.

We also toured the art gallery and extensive art collection some of the rooms and the grounds.

In the afternoon we ventured out for another bike ride, this time over to Pettinger Point,

Headed home in the afternoon, another wet day but an enjoyable one aboard BC Ferries back to Horseshoe Bay. Always make sure to have an advance reservation in both directions of the route from the mainland to Vancouver Island.

Stay tuned for my next Field Trip outside of Vancouver.

By: Richard Wolak

Disclosure: Hotel Zed provided us with complimentary accommodation, Tourism Tofino assisted with providing complimentary meals and such, and photograph. BC Ferries provided the ferry transportation. As always, all opinions and photos are my own.