I have not been back to UBC since I last studied there, but if there is one thing that will get me taking the bee-line again (just kidding I prefer driving), it would be a new restaurant. This is Wildlight, a new Westcoast kitchen and bar concept, and the first of its kind within the area. UBC has seen much growth over the years with new eateries outside of the Student Union Building. Plus, more housing options for students, faculty, and residents alike. So, it was only a matter of time before there became a need for a finer dining concept. Located on the outskirts of campus, within the same complex as a residential high-rise and a thriving Urban Fare market is Wildlight. It may be hard to locate as they have yet to install signs during our opening launch period visit. But there is at least plenty of assessable and affordable underground parking, and you only need to follow the Urban Fare arrow to access it.
Within this contemporary space that combined wood and metal in a minimalistic approach we would get a curated look at their Westcoast centric food, drink, and wine menu. On top of meeting the entire dedicated team behind this project, as we nibbled on hors d’oeuvres, enjoyed welcome cocktails at the bar, and eventually sat down for a 4-course led dinner.
The head liner was Warren Chow, the Executive Chef fresh from his 2022 Culinary World Cup gold medal win in Luxembourg. He and the entire Wildlight team’s dream is to present the Westcoast experience with a large focus on local wine and spirits from BC. They would invite us to get “Westcoast wild” tonight. The whole of it is a novel idea, considering that many students who attend UBC are international and often host family and friends visiting overseas, so now they have a place to take them to within campus. A restaurant that serves as a fine example of Canadian lifestyle and cuisine on the Westcoast.
Tonight guests were greeted with a Kazuki Sour, a shaken cocktail featuring Sheringham Kazuki Gin from Vancouver Island, Cointreau, salted yuzu syrup, egg whites, and citrus. It was refreshing and light, but remained spirit-forward and heavy. The salt from the citrus syrup was balanced out the sweetness of the egg whites, for a very versatile beverage. This was a great one to have in hand, as we mingled and small bites were circulated around the room.
The kitchen found a clever way to showcase their Grilled Beet Salad. Served in mini cones, presented upright in a casserole dish of lentils. This was easy to pick up and eat, although the cone did take away from the gentle salad, and I tasted more waffle batter than sweet and juicy beets on top of soft Farmhouse Cheese, compressed Okanagan apples, sunflower shoots, and roasted hazelnut. This might have been better as a bite served in a spoon or in an edible lettuce cup for no waste or dishes to wash. The Tuna Tartar below was a great example.
Albacore tuna, spicy cucumber, avocado, ponzu & citrus vinaigrette, ikura, and coriander on a crispy fried nori rice cracker. This had bold red cubes of fresh tuna, cut thicker so you felt the texture of it on your lips and tongue, A well curated bit given some moisture from the ripe avocado and some freshness from the cucumber and mirco greens.
Golden brown rounds of duck confit leg croquette also circulated the room. Crispy on the outside and whipped smoother on the inside for a consistency like mashed potatoes. The little dollop of cream that crowned and garnished it was a lovely visual, but I could have used more as a dip on the side for much needed salted and flavour. We would get more croquets in our sit-down meal below, but as one of the many elements on the plate, there was plenty to couple it with for additional pizazz.
When time, guests were invited to take their designated seats. We would be introduced to the entire Wildlight management team course by course, as each member introduced a wine, cocktail, or plate. Four courses with four drink pairings. The photos taken are a mix of our individual plates served and the servings prepared for everyone to take photos of, so take each with a grain of salt.
We would start with the Cloud Du Soliel “Capella” Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon from the Similkameen Valley. The director invited us to have a sip as he explained how the wine’s acidity and natural back bone is great at highlighting seafood, and the perfect accompaniment to our first course, a shared seafood board.
Wildlight Pescatarian Charcuterie Borad with house made salmon pastrami, beet cured ling cod, marinated Salt Spring Island Mussels, smoked albacore tataki, cod rillette, pickled sea asparagus, warm olives, rye crackers, poppadom and nori crackers. A pick and choose grazing board featuring cleaver ways to prepare fish, and the perfect cracker base for each of the three.
I found the smoked albacore a little subtle compared to the other two, thankfully I knew to eat this one first, as the mildest in flavour. This I paired with the tangy dill cream sauce and the crispy fried sheet of seaweed for a similar experience to the tuna tartare that we had above, during the night’s reception. I was drawn to the hue of the beets with the ling cod. But despite its tender texture it was incredibly salty. The tougher rye cracker in conjunction with some of the pickled onions as chase helped to temper this out a little. Out of the three fish options, the salmon pastrami was my favorite and deliciously fatty. Although most memorable of the assortment was the chilled cooked mussels. We enjoyed it as is and each had a sweet milky finish to it.
That was a fun Westcoast take, but I still prefer the classic Meat & Cheese Charcuterie Board. Please note, I only got to taking a photo of it, after it was picked through, so this is not an accurate representation of what you would get if you were to order this yourself. A selection of artisan cured meats, local cheeses, chicken liver pâté, house made pickles, smoked olives, grilled sourdough, and assorted crackers. The salty pate with its sweet jam component was the highlight and as a result, I single handedly scraped the ramekin clean. I also finished all the fine meat and cheeses, finding that they were more cohesive together as a board than with the fish and pickles above.
Our second course stared with their Chef’s Choice cocktail, on tap. This is a more commonplace occurrence now, but a pre-mixed cocktail available at a toggle of a lever is typically accompanied by a lower price point. Therefore at $16 a glass this was a little steep. However, based on how this take on a white Negroni tasted, you would not be able to tell it was premade, especially served with a king cube like this. Ampersand Gin, Cocchi Americano, Cognac, St.Germain’s Elderflower liqueur, and an orange twist. The lingering floral notes from the elderflower finish was a nice lead into the Seared Hokkaido Scallops below.
Pan-seared U10 Hokkaido Scallops atop of a lobster & truffle risotto with preserved lemon, paprika oil, and a squid ink tuile. This was so cheesy yet light, the citrus made it bold, but I was left wanting more salt and still some depth. Perhaps if I were able to make out the essence of truffle or if the nuance of squid ink came through on the tuile I would be satisfied; but as is the risotto felt like a side, and some scallop was needed to round out the bite. Therefore, when paired with our main below, the dish sang.
Our third course began with the decanted pouring of their Blue Mountain Gamay Noir form Okanagan Falls, as the wine director told a story of heart and dedication as the winery was forced to scrap a failed crop and begin anew. He likened it to the BC duck entree served in conjunction, as it represented the heart and soul of the kitchen. This was a scrappy red with a good amount of tannis. Juicy with notes of red fruit, this made a great accompaniment for the collection of elements below.
Aged Fraser Valley duck breast with a confit leg croquette, carrot puree, dijon spaetzle, orange marmalade glazed vegetables, pickled chanterelles, and duck jus. Individually I loved every element of this plate, and as a whole it just worked. The duck in particular was roasted so perfect and crispy. It had some of the best skin I have ever had, and is probably the best rendition I have had to date. Sliced thick it at lean and similar to a beef steak. Flavourful as is, but great in conjunction with some of the buttery glazed root vegetable and the sweet squash puree. The spetzel was the perfect carb-y accompaniment, it had a great mouth-feel chew with the spiciness of the Dijon giving it a different take, and more of a presence on the plate. The Brussel sprouts could be a little crispier, but all attention was on the less commonly seen and used sunchoke, a versatile veggie with the texture of a potato and the slightly floral flavour of an artichoke. I was very happy with this one and would recommend it for anyone looking to come down for dinner.
Our last course was dessert, and it came with the perfect dessert cocktail in the S’more Me More. Marshmallow infused Odd Society Vodka, chocolate coffee liqueur, and a whole egg, served up with a torched s’more skewer and shaved chocolate. With a drink this lush you could easily forgo the cakes and tarts to follow, but if and when possible, why not both? This was less of a chocolate martini and more of a spiked egg coffee. The garnishes offered a nice change in texture and different taste in between bites.
For desserts what is pictured was what we were served, small bites to be able to try and fit in it all. But the chef also prepared full servings of each dessert, to be able to offer a more accurate look at their menu.
The Lemon tart is a classic and refreshing dessert to end on. It led with sour and tart and ended on sweet with a nice cakey-cookie texture from the crust. Lemon curd, pâte sucrée, torched meringue, macerated berries, and powdered raspberry.
The Coconut Cannoli was the room’s favourite, best enjoyed fresh for the ideal crispy shell contrasting the heavy silken cream stuffed within. The finisher was the roasted pistachio offering a nice crunch and adding depth. Mascarpone & lime filling, chocolate soil, pistachio, and passionfruit sorbet. I liked the tangy fruit sorbet as is, although I did not find it all that complimentary on the plate. An opposite in flavour profile, texture, taste, and even appearance. A nice pistachio gelato would have been better received here.
Another classic given a Wildlight twist is the Caramelized Honey Cheesecake with a cardamom granola crust, passionfruit gel, crispy meringue, macerated berries, and lemon balm. Not too sweet with a nice heavy cheese base that you need to lick off the fork.
The Triple Chocolate Mousse is for those who like a rich and chocolatey note to end on. White chocolate raspberry mousse, dark chocolate filling, flourless Callebaut cake, and dehydrated raspberry.
And as I mentioned earlier, guests were presented with a collection of photo-worthy dishes prior to sitting down to our meal. So the following are photos of said dishes that we saw, but did not try, and therefore I cannot report on.
UBC Farms Harvest Greens with roasted shallot vinaigrette, charred grapes, compressed pear, candied walnuts, and flax cracker.
Oyster Motoyaki with broiled oysters, uni mayo, wakame and roasted sesame, and a bacon crumb.
Seasonal Risotto with farmer’s inspired vegetables, mushroom broth, brown butter gremolata, and dressed pea shoots.
In conclusion, Wildlight is a much needed and one-of-a-kind addition to the area. They truly do deliver on what they set out to do: serving their guests a Westcoast meal that let’s them know you are in the Westcoast.
Wildlight Kitchen + Bar
5380 University Blvd #107, Vancouver, BC V6T 0C9, Canada