Food: 21; Decor: 24; Service: 22; Cost: C$31
“Stunning views” of Juan de Fuca Strait (enhanced by “binoculars placed at every table”) alone would make it “worth the long drive” to this “remarkable” Sooke inn, but it also makes points with “very fresh” eclectic fare (with an emphasis on seafood), served by an “energetic staff”; moreover, even on “rainy days” or “foggy weekends”, it’s “cosy” for lunch, afternoon tea or “a romantic dinner.”
WHERE TO EAT IN CANADA
“Almost everyone in Victoria has visited Point no Point at some time in their lives. It’s a favourite area for weekend walks, the scenery being uniformly spectacular. The resort has been here for 50 years. Their teas were famous in Miss Packham’s era, but Stuart and Sharon Soderburgh, who took over twenty years ago, still offer raisin scones with real whipped cream, finger sandwiches, berry crumble and carrot cake, plus a pot of loose tea – all for $12.95. In the last year or two Jason MacIsaac and Jason Nienaber (they’re joint chefs) have been turning out dinners that compare with the best. Lunches are simple – seafood chowder, spinach salad with poached pears and walnut vinaigrette and a Cajun-chicken roll-up. But in the evening you might start more ambitiously with a risotto of morels and sweet corn or ravioli with spinach and ricotta and go on to something like veal osso buco, roast chicken with tomato and rosemary or pork tenderloin with a purée of squash. After that there’s a rich chocolate mousee and bread-and-butter pudding in a rum-and-caramel sauce. Everything tastes as it should. There’s a nice short wine list featuring chardonnays from California and the Okanagan. The Beringer chardonnay is an excellent buy at $46.00 and so is the Quail’s Gate at $39.00. You’ll find Point no Point on Highway 14 fifteen miles north of Sooke.”
VICTORIA TIMES COLUMNIST
Despite the name, many good points
Point no Point Resort is well-known as a romantic getaway spot. It’s not so well-known for its food. It should be.
It gets very little in the way of hype or word-of-mouth, but chefs Jason MacIsaac and Jason Nienaber are creating outstanding meals in a singular style that deserves more attention. The dishes embrace simplicity, but not at the cost of luxury.
Like a lot of other chefs in town, the Jasons value fresh local ingredients. Once armed with the good stuff, they employ a low-key approach that uses little in the way of rich sauces. So without great quantities of wine, cream or demi-glace, what prevents these meals from being boring? Well, a little olive oil and butter never hurt, but above all else, MacIsaac and Nienaber have the sensitivity of safe-crackers when it comes to the control knobs on the kitchen range.
These guys know heat and how to use it on fish. We so enjoyed our dinner we had to remind ourselves to take in the view. And quite the view it is. From the simple little glassed-in dining room attached to the resort’s lounge, the Olympic Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean spread out in reference-defying scope.
Each table is equipped with a set of binoculars that weren’t even required to watch a bald eagle fly byw ith its take-out dinner firmly clenched in beak.
The potato gnocchi with Dungeness crab and organic sorrel ($10.95) sees soft pudgy fingers of potato dumpling lolling in a grainy Dijon mustard cream sauce, their texture and form echoed by some healthy chunks of crab. The quiet flavours of the crab and potato are not crowded out by the mustard, and the whole ensemble is encircled bya useful slick of chive oil.
The fennel walnut tart ($9.95) is an inventive savoury with walnut chunks and chopped fennel studding the egg and crème fraîche-filled pastry. The accompanying super-fresh greens could have survived with a regular vinaigrette but instead they receive a beguiling swatch of sticky, sweet-and-sour balsamic and apple cider reduction.
As we are almost within casting distance of the ocean, anything other than fish seems to be not of the moment. The west coast halibut ($23.95) is a less on what can be done with a flame, a pan and some oil. The big fillet has a golden brown crust that you can actually tap with your knife. Beneath this tawny mantle lies tender, moist fish, a result of perfect finishing int he oven. Instead of sauce, the fish receives more of a condiment in the form of an olive tapenade. At first this seems too strong an approach for the white fish, but gradually flavours meld and the dish strikes a perfect balance.
The wild spring salmon ($22.95) holds similar pleasures. The fish is grilled, but with a temperate hand that negates any risk of dryness. Here the dressing is a salsa verde of basil, parsley, mint and anchovy. As with the halibut, the salmon and its topping arrive as two distinctive flavours on the plate, which enhances the appreciation of the fantastic fillet.
As the meal evolves, the elements elegantly coalesce. How Point no Point tackles the issue of starch is another facet that indicates these boys are always thinking. The salmon sits atop a knoll of clean-flavoured white beans and the halibut comes with Israeli couscous. These affable little pasta pearls marry with other flavours on the plate with a chameleon-like adaptability.
Vegetables receive no less attention. Tasting so fresh that one can almost hear their cries as they are torn from the soil, each little cluster of bok choy, carrot, asparagus and creamed squash are good enough that you can imagine chowing down on a bowl of them in front of the TV.
As we work towards the end of our main courses, we realize that even though we are getting full we don’t want to stop eating. When the mouth overrules the stomach, things are going well. As a restaurant critic I encounter a lot of crème brûlée, but here the vanilla bean rendition conforms so honourably to what the Gods have inscribed into their recipe book of stone that it is greeted like an old friend.
The walnut maple cake is a coarse, moist, rustic slice that seems to contain an entire sugar-shack of maple syrup. It sits bullseye in the middle of some quality caramel and crème anglaise and is a delicious departure from more typical offerings.
Reminding us that this is a small resort, the wine list is brief, but there should be a bottle to accompany anything on the menu and the mark-ups are low. Service is friendly and I have a soft spot for anyone who says “swimmin’ scallops.”
Great food, great view, nice people, not outrageously expensive, cool name – it turns out that there are many points.