To use a cliche, it was a dark and stormy night. The atmosphere for visiting a restaurant named for a person who loves rain couldn’t have been more perfect. Pluvio, specifically Pluviophile, means “someone who finds peace of mind during rainy days.”
A Hidden Vancouver Island Gem
The exterior of Pluvio, formerly Norwoods, in Ucluelet BC is unassuming. Upon entering, you are greeted not just by warm and friendly staff but also by an intimate twenty-four seat dining room. The menus at Pluvio are astounding, creative, and playful. We enjoyed the five course tasting menu with wine pairings. Our dinner included the additions of seared scallops, locally foraged chanterelles, and Pluvio’s famous Humdog. The Humdog is a grilled and marinated Humboldt squid hotdog served in the best and cutest little hotdog bun.
At Pluvio the west coast is encapsulated, made tangible and edible. You can smell it in the smoke that billows from around the salmon candy portion of the Snacks. Other bites include a potato salad and a kind of cheese puff served on rocks. To call the starter ‘snacks’ is to downplay the elegance and refinement of the dishes but that downplaying seems to be deliberate. There’s an awareness of where Pluvio exists. In fact their menu deprecatingly (or lovingly?) describes Ucluelet as “Tofino’s less hipster sister.” This isn’t Tofino and it isn’t Vancouver.
Following the Snacks is the Locally Caught Fish Lettuce Wraps. This dish is fantastic and all the more impressive because it doesn’t seem to matter how the wraps are assembled, they still taste well balanced. The ceviche is fresh and bright, the cantaloupe adds sweetness, and the Jalapeño oil adds more colour than heat. The shishito and sesame aioli is savoury. The preserved sea asparagus and carrot bring acidity. My favourite is the house made hot sauce that comes in an adorable little squeeze bottle. The wine pairing for this course is the Pluvio 2021 which is made for the restaurant by Averill Creek in the Cowichan Valley.
To sit at the pass was a truly unforgettable dining experience. Chef Warren Barr was busily garnishing and expediting an arm’s length away, and he even graciously served us a couple of times. He and his partner Lily Verney-Downey first opened Pluvio in April 2019, and the Pluvio guest rooms were opened a year later.
From West Coast to East Coast to Pluvio
Chef Barr was born and raised in BC. After an apprenticeship at Le Crocodile in Vancouver, he headed East and worked at The Inn at Bay Fortune in PEI. Whichever coast Barr was working on, the emphasis was always on local. When he returned to the west coast, before opening Pluvio, he worked as Executive Chef at The Wickaninnish Inn for six years.
Even the bread service at Pluvio is thoughtful. House sourdough and cornbread is served with Sake kasu butter made from the aromatic lees left over from sake production. The kasu comes from the Granville Island Sake Company and is made with organic, Fraser Valley grown rice.
The Gently Cooked Chinook Salmon is prepared as described. It is served with Great Northern beans and a coronation grape vierge, bathed in an elderflower beurre blanc with bay leaf grown in Pluvio’s rooftop garden. A menu addition we also enjoyed is the Seared Scallops, served golden and garnished with marigold.
The Crispy Grass Fed Veal Cheeks were almost overshadowed by the addition of seasonal chanterelle mushrooms. A local BC Cabernet Franc from Echo Bay in the Okanagan paired beautifully with the crispy yet succulent cheeks which are braised for forty-eight hours. They come with salt baked fingerling potatoes, roasted eggplant, and plums.
Pluvio’s Delicious Denouement
The Avonlea Cheddar Waffle is, in essence, a cheese course. Served warm and topped with grated cheese as well as fresh truffle, this savoury treat is at once sweetened and soured by a blackberry puree. Adding further sweetness and playing the role of a cheese plate’s chutney or jam, is the Brandenburg No. 3 by Venturi Schultze in Cowichan Valley.
For dessert, we had a dish simply called Stone Fruit and Corn. Pluvio likes to downplay. This features a Bourbon and noyaux cake, dulce de leche mousse, and a corn ice cream. Paired with a Moscato d’Osoyoos, the sweetness of the dessert is nicely lifted by the slight effervescence of the wine.
Pluvio has been awarded Canada’s “Best Destination Restaurant” and I can understand why. It is worth the trip to Ucluelet. There is no better place to dine after a day of storm watching. Trust me, the wind and rain outside will only further heighten your experience at this pluviophilic restaurant.