Tofino, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on Earth, also plays host to some of the Pacific North West’s best restaurants. Inspired by its lush locale, and named after the year that Tofino township was founded, 1909 Kitchen is one of such places. Based on the freshest ingredients of the Pacific Ocean, Chef Paul Moran showcases the best of this magical part of the world in refined and elegant settings that are both up-market yet appropriately relaxed for this surfer’s paradise.
With an interior redolent of its backdrop of the wild outdoors, 1909 Kitchen boasts stylish exposed beams, wooden flooring, and a chalet feel. Set on the waterfront of the Tofino Resort + Marina, though, it remains upmarket and with a warm, premium feel that speaks to its exceptional ingredients. During the day, one can enjoy epic mountain views across the water, whilst at night the restaurant turns into a cosy, candlelit and intimate space. There is also a lively patio area for the summer season, where diners can sit outside with a drink or meal, enjoy the view over the docked boats and breathe in the fresh Tofino air.
Chef Paul Moran has a prestigious background at some of the world’s top restaurants and hotels. He began his career under the leadership of the acclaimed Chef David Hawksworth, before moving to the foodie-haven of Dubai where he became Chef de Partie at the 5 star Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai. Named as a member of the Jumeirah International Culinary Team, he then moved to Nice, France, where he cultivated his French culinary art as Chef de Partie at the two Michelin starred Hotel Negresco. From thereon, Chef Paul progressed up to Paris to Saturne Restaurant, and gradually ventured into restaurant consulting, sharing his international expertise.
Drawn back to the West Coast of Canada, Chef Paul has worked from Haida Gwaii, to Valemont, Whistler, and now, Tofino. Passionate about local produce, and familiar with foraging for mushrooms and wild plants across Canada, Chef Paul brings a fish-forward menu, of course, yet draws in welcome shoreline favourites and forest items. There is also a hark to his international background, as 1909 brings in an Italian Mugnaini wood-fired oven to make delicious pizza, breads, and roast dishes.
Open for breakfast and dinner, the menu is compartmentalised by primary ingredient: there is the ‘garden’ section, ‘sea and pasture’, ‘wood fire pizza’, and finally, the ‘1909 signature’. Garden features everything from fries made with kennebec potatoes, triple blanched, and served with garlic and apple cider vinegar aioli, or wood roasted Brussel sprouts, with sesame yogurt, hazelnut dukkah, and fresh coriander. There is a delicious looking Gala Apple salad, with 2 year old cheddar, almond crumble, tarragon, lemon, and single origin greek olive oil as well as a sugar snap pea dish, and sweet potato fries. Sea and Pasture has everything meat and fish based, including oysters, venison, chicken, black cod, a beef pasta dish, and clams. For pizzas, there is the classic Margherita, some traditional Italian varieties, and of course, a seafood pizza.
The 1909 special, meanwhile, is an exciting ‘Cook your own Catch’ option whereby you let the kitchen brigade create a dinner for you with your own sport caught fish and seafood. Very Tofino.
My guest and I arrived on a Saturday evening, to an already bustling restaurant and greetings from our kind and welcoming host. We decided to embrace the mix and match variability of the menu, and share our food as small plates (though my guest was vegan, so we had two separate items). We began our meal with a ‘starter’ of the Albacore Tuna, which came out as beautiful little tacos served with a topping of white radish shavings, white soy, oozings of bamfield nori aioli, sprinkles of crispy bits and fresh lime. Crunchy, fresh, and pleasantly savoury, this wetted the appetite well. To drink, we had the Blue Grouse 2017 Estate Ortega. Made from vines now 25 years old, this was fermented in stainless and has a strong, zesty fruit finish. With only two months on the lees, it has a welcome creaminess to it that stood up to the rich tuna and morel pizza dishes, but had a delicious crisp acidity that cut through them well.
Our second dish was the Burn morel pizza, a medium sized pizza with a fantastic, tangy sourdough crust, and topped with creamy white sauce, parmesan, and fontina. Fresh chives, red onion, and wilted arugula balanced out the creamy, earthy mushroom flavours with a welcome Spring crunch.
Our second wine was the Quail’s Gate 2017 Pinot Noir, the estate’s flagship red wine. Graceful and elegant, this wine is less a New World expression than akin to a solid Burgundy. No wonder this is one of Canada’s leading producers of Pinot Noir, with rich, complex fruit flavours, and a delicious earthiness.
With this wine, we enjoyed the ‘mains’, a further spread of small plates. I had the delectable Handmade Pasta – a beetroot infused pasta, ricotta and winter herb stuffed agnolotti dish with yarrow meadows duck ragu. Warming, creamy, and filling, this was worthy of being a main and paired beautifully with the Pinot Noir. My guest had the crispy sweet and spicy tofu of the Black Cod dish served with herb salad, which blew her mind, and paired this with the side of steamed and chilled Snap Peas with a sesame & sake dressing, crispy seaweed, and coriander.
Of course, I had to try the Black Cod too (though this was really unnecessary with the volume of food at this stage – the portions are deceptive in their size). Wood roasted on cedar, the Black Cod was beautifully miso and maple infused, tender yet flavoursome, meaty yet soft. It arrived with a similar tofu dish to my guest’s vegan option, and all together, made a perfect rendition of an age-old classic.
For dessert, we had the Quail’s Gate Optima, a late harvest botrytis sweet wine. Grown at the base of the Quails’ Gate Estate vineyards, the Optima grapes are close to the lake which encourages Botrytis to grow. Sauterne like in its intensity and sweetness, this was a wonderful New World dessert wine I’d want to have again.
We shared the Sorbet and gelato, a mango fruity explosion, and to die for Tiramisu. A creamy, melt-in-your-mouth espresso cocoa and mascarpone haven with orange, we almost ordered two of these. Extravagantly good.
Stuffed up to the brim, we were glad we didn’t though when it came to leaving. Laughing, merry and very satisfied, we left 1909 Kitchen feeling elated and glad to have been. This is a dining experience that is most definitely up there with one of the best we’ve had.
634 Campbell Street
BC V0R 2Z0