Tofino’s Hottest Restaurant
Wolf in the Fog has some of the best restaurant views in Tofino, and the food is intriguing yet uncomplicated.
With a year-round population under 2000 and zero traffic lights, the small town of Tofino, just past the Pacific Rim National Park on the furthest west coast of Vancouver island, arguably has the hottest food scene in the country. Tofino is home to an unusually large number of fantastic restaurants per capita; there’s also a local brewery, coffee roaster, chocolatier and gelato shop, and most recently, a tiny charcuterie. The fish and chip stands serve up crispy rock shrimp, cod and halibut pulled straight from the ocean, and SoBo has been one of Canada’s best-known eateries since it was a small purple food truck – one of the first of its kind. And then there’s Tacofino – a destination in itself, there are now trucks on the streets in Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna, with a bricks and mortar location now open in Vancouver.
During the summer months, tourists descend on the town to surf, fish and just take in the natural beauty of Long Beach and the Pacific Rim National Park. The Wickanninish Inn, has been regarded as one of Canada’s premiere hotels since it opened in 1996, and it’s where Chef Nick Nutting led a talented team at the renowned Pointe Restaurant. (His early days were spent as an apprentice with Chef Michael Noble at Catch in Calgary before moving to Garcon in Montreal.)
Nutting is now in the kitchen at Wolf in the Fog, Tofino’s newest restaurant on the block, which has been a hotspot since it opened at the end of June.
Chef Nick Nutting has designed an inspired menu that pays homage to Tofino’s fishermen and foragers – taking the ocean-to-table and forest-to-fork concept to a level that some locals and regular visitors are saying has raised the already-high bar for restaurants in the area.
Located on the second floor of a newer building in town, the warm, inviting room has some of the best restaurant views in Tofino, a wolf made out of recovered driftwood by local artist Guthrie Gloag, and a 14 foot fir communal table that makes it easy to share platters like the Spanish Picnic – fresh cod, octopus and mussels with romesco sauce, tomato salad and focaccia ($50) or the Paprika Chicken, deboned and roasted with summer squash salad and merguez sausage ($40). The dishes are intriguing yet uncomplicated; small plates include charred Humboldt squid with Vietnamese slaw, or Bamfield seaweed salad with shitake mushrooms, wild rice and daikon, crab cakes bound with scallops instead of breadcrumbs, and oysters wrapped in thin strings of potato and fried until crisp. I loved the Jamaican fish, fried in a cornmeal batter and topped with jalapeno-vinegared slaw and a creamy yogurt dressing, and their hand-ground cheeseburgers are some of the best I’ve eaten anywhere. Chef Nutting shops at the small Green Soul Organics market below daily, picking out what’s fresh and new to create an unique daily vegetarian dish. (If he hasn’t foraged it himself; on the day I arrived, Nick had just returned from taking a few friends out foraging, careful not to give away his best locations. One of the featured handmade breads contained chantrelle mushrooms.)
At Wolf, the focus is very much on family-style gatherings, communal dining and share plates, which encourage guests to engage with each other and their food. They even offer punch bowl-sized cocktails for 2, 4 or 6, served in classic cut-glass punch bowls that fit comfortably with their eclectic collection of mismatched plates, culled from curious shops across the island.
Bar Manager Hailey Pasemko’s creative cocktail list includes locally-inspired flavours and innovative techniques, like the cedar sour; she infuses vodka with cedar, making it taste like inhaling deeply in an old-growth forest after the rain. On the main level, the Den serves up coffee and fresh sandwiches (think spot prawn banh mi and lamb meatballs), hand-made artisan breads and pastries. And it’s worth mentioning that they have a phenomenal kids’ menu – for $8-$9 the little ones are served generous platters of real chicken fingers (some of the best I’ve eaten), fish and chips, or smaller versions of their already famous burger. And desserts are not an afterthought – everything from their summer parfait with lemon curd and torched meringue to the butterscotch brulee with raspberry sorbet is divine. And the hot fudge sundae comes in an old-fashioned sundae boat, topped with Okanagan cherries and candied pecans.
We were in town for 2 weeks this July and August, and ate at Wolf five times; a good sign for a town with so many outstanding culinary options.