UCLUELET GOT ITS GROOVE ON WHEN PLUVIO OPENED IN APRIL 2019 and spotlit this modest town (population: 2,000) on the western flank of Vancouver Island as a sublime culinary destination. The name pluvio — Italian for “rain” — signals chef-owner Warren Barr’s embrace of all things West Coast, from the relentless downpours and the bounty of the ocean to the plentiful foraging options in the surrounding rainforest alongside the increasingly prolific harvest from Vancouver Island’s farmer-producers. In addition to nuts, cheeses and sea salt, the local produce from this island and neighbouring Salt Spring now includes truffles and citrus fruits, such as yuzu, makrut and Persian limes, as well as mandarins. The menu sometimes takes linguistic liberties in conveying concepts born of Barr’s avoidance of imported products, as in “blueberry capers,” where the culinary use of Sicilian caper bush buds is mimicked with local wild blueberries. “I use blueberries that flirt with just a blush of colour,” Barr says. “They’re fruitier and floral and have a crunchy pop.” Cynamoka garnish is a local evergreen huckleberry that is, he notes, “like caviar of the woods with a high-powered fruitiness to them.” Butter, soy sauce, miso and ginger vinegar are housemade. Flours are either local or from Saskatchewan and locally milled-to-order. And Barr relies on a small army of foragers for wild edibles that he tames, like Nootka rose petals, spruce tips, sea asparagus, watercress, elderflowers, sea buckthorn, vetch and loads of mushrooms. Locals sometimes bring him fruits and vegetables from their own gardens, as with the redcurrants which end up in a colourful pisco sour. A culinary craftsman, Barr coaxes dishes to reach for their best. Take the gnocchi, amped up by fermenting some of the component potatoes for “a louder voice” to accompany West Coast ling cod in a broth of citrus, chili, herring and shoyu. With its grilled green onions, seaweed and green garlic, this dish is — as always here — beautifully and brightly composed. In the well-established parlance of a benchmark French guide, Pluvio is worth a detour.
Photos by Jordyn Giesbrecht