Spotted Bear Bistro, Tofino
Earlier this week, I put up a recipe for chocolate cake using Tofino Brewing Company’s Kelp Stout. To round out the week, I thought I’d share with you an amazing dinner I had while in Tofino.
Located in the main town part of Tofino, The Spotted Bear is tucked away around a corner. It’s a tiny space: it seats just under 30, but the atmosphere is warm and cozy. On the night we were there, there was just one server, the chef and the sous-chef.
I like places like that, though. I like being able to have a conversation with the chef about the food and his inspirations. The night we were there, the executive chef from the Wickaninish Inn, Warren Barr, came in for a drink and a snack. It’s always a good sign when chefs come to your restaurant.
The chef here is Cameron Young, and he’s been the head chef here for about a year, and was the sous prior to that. Cam is just one of the young, upstart chefs that are leading the food scene in Tofino. The Spotted Bear is all about upscale comfort food, and seafood, like many restos in the small fishing town, figures heavily into the menu.
Instead of ordering, I put myself in Chef Cam’s hands, and was not disappointed.
The meal started with the Tuna Tartare. Now, trust me when I say, this Tuna Tartare is legendary. I had no less than three chefs while I was in Tofino tell me how much they loved it. It is amazing. Albercore Tuna, topped with pickled shallots and enoki mushrooms, tossed with a soy truffle vinaigrette, served over a schmear of avocado. It comes with absolutely perfectly crisp toasts made from baugette sourced from the bakery just down the street.
Next up: Scallops and Octopus. Perfectly-seared scallops, caramelized just on one side, in a cauliflower puree with a dollop of carrot puree and perfectly-seasoned crispy fried cauliflower. One thing I remarked over and over about Chef Cam’s food was how perfectly seasoned it was. There’s no need for a salt shaker on the table at this restaurant!
The main was a beautiful piece of Ling Cod. Ling Cod is plentiful right now, so you’ll see it lots. It was served on a bed of green lentils, which added such richness to the dish, and were cooked to a perfect al dente consistency. The lemon sauce was out of this world. I could have licked it off the plate–again the balance was perfect–tart but not too puckery.
Finally, dessert. There were two: a beautiful lemon tart, and a flourless chocolate cake with a dark chocolate mousse. The chocolate was my favourite, as the cake was rich (but because it was a small piece, it wasn’t too overwhelming), and the mousse was full of rich, dark chocolate, but was a gorgeous, light consistency, not too bitter, and full of depth.
The Spotted Bear isn’t the biggest or fanciest place to eat in Tofino. But for me, I felt like it struck exactly the right balance: the atmosphere was really laid back and casual, but he food was top-notch. The service was attentive, but friendly, and it’s always a joy to watch a chef at work in an open kitchen. If you don’t get the chance to go for dinner, they are also open for weekend brunch. At the very least, slip in for a Sneaky Pete and to try the Tuna Tartare the next time you’re in Tofino…