Restaurant review: Pluvio, run by former Wickaninnish Inn chef

Restaurant review: Pluvio food is hyper-local and focused on iterations of Canadian cuisine.

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Pluvio Restaurant and Rooms


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Where: 1714 Peninsula Rd., Ucluelet

When: Dinner, daily, 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Info: 250-726-7001.

Here’s the gist — shortly after its 2019 opening, Pluvio took No. 4 spot in Canada’s Best New Restaurants awards. When I visited this summer, the warm room, unpretentious personality and pristine, immaculate food reminded me, in some ways, of California’s famed Chez Panisse. That’s a heap of praise.

To continue, when Pluvio opened, Ucluelet, long overshadowed by nearby Tofino, suddenly became an ‘it’ town.

“It’s what Squamish is to Whistler,” owner/chef Warren Barr says.

Barr was previously at The Pointe restaurant atTofino’s renowned Wickaninnish Inn, where he was an exceptional chef. But it was always his dream to run a restaurant/inn.


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“It’s more of a European concept,” he says of Pluvio Restaurant and Rooms.

His fiancée and business partner, Lily Verney-Downey, is right there by his side. They met nine years ago in the kitchen at ‘The Wick’, but she moved into operations and management, great training to run Pluvio. The name, by the way, refers to rain. Il pleut — remember that?

The food, Barr says, is “hyper-focused on developing what we can call ours and that would be iterations of Canadian cuisine with multicultural techniques and ingredients. I’m very focused on local ingredients and making everything myself without shooting myself in the foot — so I’ll use imported lemons, limes and truffles. And it’s a matter of delivering something very unexpected to our guests.”


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The DIY kitchen makes its own soy sauce from Canadian wild rice; crafts its own miso, and produces vinegar from wild ginger — all 300 litres of it.

The Pluvio room.
The Pluvio room. Photo by Jordan Dyck /PNG

“It means something as common as teriyaki sauce is unique and memorable because it’s made with our own shoyu,” he says. “It keeps me engaged. I love ingredients from around the world but I create the flavours myself.”

As well, they source an Oaxacan corn variety from Mission, which you’ll find dried and ground in their polenta; and the flour they use is freshly ground in Port Alberni.

Marauding deer forced the garden to their rooftop, now a public area for room guests. Barr says Tofino doesn’t have the same deer problem.

“I’ve heard they avoid the long peninsula where predators could get them in the narrows. That’s the theory,” he says.


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He also relies on the non-profit Tofino Ucluelet Culinary Guild that distributes produce from local farmers to restaurants. Barr apprenticed at Le Crocodile in Vancouver, worked at Pastis and was the chef at the highly regarded Inn at Fortune Bay in P.E.I.

After experiencing his food at The Wick, I couldn’t wait to try his food in the more intimate setting and wow! Not disappointed! It’s visually gorgeous and thrilling to eat with clean, well-defined flavours. There are two menus — a $79 three-course tasting menu with choices for each course and a $101 five-course chef’s tasting menu ($150 with wine pairings).

Pre-COVID-19, it was a la carte service but the tasting menus will stay.

“We never thought we could do it in Ukee,” says Barr.


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Off-season, they give locals 15 per cent off, and they’ve done pasta nights and offered discounted room rates to Tofino residents.

Humpback Shrimp Escabeche.
Humpback Shrimp Escabeche. Photo by Jordan Dyck /PNG

We opted for the three courses, sampling six dishes between the two of us. For appies, a grilled mussel tart with sea water ricotta, smoked maple syrup glaze and kombu oil was definitely unique and local.Nigari, a mineral-rich byproduct from Vancouver Island Salt Co., coagulates the ricotta that formed a custardy base for some lovely mussels, fermented white asparagus and lemon balm. Another dish, humpback shrimp escabeche, was ravishing with shrimp brined in sake kasu, shaved radish, apple, flower petals and salmonberry sake dressing.

Halibut and clam with pea tip sauce.
Halibut and clam with pea tip sauce. Photo by Jordan Dyck /PNG

For mains, a butter poached local halibut looked happy in a clam and pea tip emulsion along with new potatoes, leeks and morels; it was crowned with crispy chicken skin. West Coast ling cod rested in roasted fishbone and kosho broth (citrus, chili, herring juice and shoyu) along with fermented potato dumplings, grilled green onions, seaweed and green garlic.


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Barr ferments half the potatoes for the gnocchi-like dumplings to add flavour depth or “a louder voice,” as he says. These mains hummed with harmonic flavours.

We tried a couple of whimsical desserts. I loved the 3-D visual of the honey and elderflower mousse and lemon curd under a beehive dome of meringue. Fondant bees perched on orange petals on the meringue hive. Another dessert was a rolled chocolate and spruce ‘nurse log’ with a mousse filling and some chocolate bark, cynamoka berry sauce and candied lichen on the log. Cynamoka berries are referred to as evergreen huckleberry by locals.

“They’re the smallest of the berries and a feat to pick. It’s like caviar of the woods with high-powered fruitiness to them,” Barr says.


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The forager picked 50 pounds of them: “I don’t know how long that would have taken,” Barr says.

Guests are treated to an amuse bouche, some house breads and a ‘foraging box’ where you hunt for the mignardise among some pebbles.

The wine list features small producers of B.C., French and Italian wines with natural and biodynamic choices.

“We’ve included more international for now since we’re not travelling,” Barr says.

An imaginative cocktail list includes barrel-aged negronis and boulevardiers. And if none of that works for you, maybe you’re looking for a bottle of ‘Ukee Champagne’, otherwise known as Lucky Lager.


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BUCK drink dairy alternative.
BUCK drink dairy alternative. PNG


If you drink dairy alternatives, check out BUCK made from Canadian buckwheat by a socially conscious company. The ‘mylk’ is gluten-free, vegan and nut-free. It’s nutritious, with 17 amino acids, including the nine essentials; contains 11 vitamins and minerals including B12, calcium and potassium; there’s no added sugar or salt; and no GMOs or artificial flavours or colours.

I’m a fan. I’ve tried the beverage ($5.99/litre) on my cereals as well as the maple walnut gelato ($9.99/pint) and liked the smooth, rich taste in both.

At this crucial juncture, it’s an environmentally friendly product — among other attractive attributes, buckwheat needs less water to grow than soy, oats, almonds or canola, preferring drier conditions. It requires little or no fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. It grows fast and naturally mitigates weeds without herbicides.


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Over the next three years, BUCK aims to provide one million litres of BUCK mylk to families and people in need via food banks, lunch programs and urban missions. They’re currently accepting corporate donations and matching them, litre-for-litre. The first donor, King of Floors in Surrey, donated 2,000 litres resulting in 4,000 litres going to the Surrey Urban Mission. Other donors include Monahan Holdings and Elementus Wealth Management Inc., and BUCK is working to expand the program to individual donors. Visit for information on where to buy or donate.

The Vancouver-based owners want to support Canadian buckwheat farmers as crop production was declining due to international competition.

“By creating products that utilize buckwheat, we could help put Canadian farmers back on the map, nourish communities, organically regenerate the Earth and reduce greenhouse gases all at the same time,” says Peter Yupangco, who operates parent company Saint Michael Foods with Jason McIvor.



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