“What’s that ingredient in the caramelized sablefish dish that vaguely tastes like Japanese sansho pepper?” I ask our server. It’s not the pickled mussels that surround the fish like a necklace, the kasu (sake lees) marinade or the grilled green‑onion oil. And it’s not the pretty bits of lemon balm, herbs and flower petals that make this dish look like a wreath at a royal wedding and taste like a delicate symphony of umami, acid, fat and spice. In short order, our Québécoise server, Chloé, returns with a dish of pale pink‑and‑white radish blossoms: Could this be it? We never solve the mystery, but the exercise shows just how far this kitchen will go to satisfy their guests.
Though it’s not actually bucketing down tonight (what luck!), the ever‑present threat is in the air. Pluvio means rain, and a pluviophile is someone who finds peace and joy in it. Chef Warren Barr, who last headed the kitchen at the nearby Relais & Châteaux Wickaninnish Inn, has, along with his wife and business partner, Lily Verney‑Downey, taken over the warm dining room from Richard Norwood’s restaurant Norwoods, adding a small inn behind it. They kept the glowing fir tables (made from the same tree) and high leather chairs, adding their own touches, like a quirky Day of the Dead‑inspired limited‑edition Star Wars print. (Finding out the chef’s a fan of the George Lucas franchise is a little like catching the Queen sneaking Timbits.)
Tonight, grey‑haired Ukee (the town’s nickname) locals rub shoulders with bare‑midriffed millennials discussing sushi and small‑batch distilleries: typical Island talk. To the soothing sounds of First Aid Kit and Kate Nash, we lap up fresh, macerated and dried strawberries with miso‑glazed shortbread and sesame‑cured foie gras, then ridiculously good poached sidestripe shrimp with a kosho vinaigrette, shrimp aioli and dill oil.
To the sounds of First Aid Kit and Kate Nash, we lap up fresh, macerated and dried strawberries with miso‑glazed shortbread and sesame‑cured foie gras.
Chloé, who is also our wine savant, brings us a nutty and mineral‑tinged biodynamic 2014 Jean Bourdy Côtes du Jura white to match our sablefish. Two 2015 B.C. reds – a hand‑harvested Red Bridge from the Similkameen Valley and a Roche Tradition pinot from Naramata – come our way with a plate of impossibly tender grilled beef short rib with bitter greens and a cheddar‑and‑mushroom tart. As we savour this moment, it dawns on me that it doesn’t matter what pluvio action is going on outside when we’re in here.