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Nanoose Bay Cafe

In this series of posts we were on Nanaimo Island, staying for one night and two days at Fairwind residents. We were here to enjoy a slower paced life and the bounty of the land through Nanoose Bay’s newest restaurant destination.

From the same restauranteurs and hospitality industry experts who brought Vancouver the beloved Water St. Cafe and Vancouver Island’s Qualicum Beach Cafe, comes the next legacy project in their portfolio: Nanoose Bay Cafe.

Like their other two destination restaurants, this one too focuses on and centres around their locale and view. Be it either a famous steam clock or a rustic Terrance. Nanoose Bay Cafe is taking advantage of their unobstructed water side scenery and centring their motif and decor around it.

Naturally, the water facing wall is made of glass, if not opened to allow for diners to be as close to the marina as possible. Nautical nods within include their wooden bar shelves equipped with portholes, suspended canoes, and living wall segments made from seaweed and kelp.

They have done much to dampen the vaulted ceiling acoustics of the space, and have even installed a stage in order to bring in local, live musical talents much like their Gastown property does.

This is a full service restaurant “offering a fresh take on coastal classics, grounded by Asian ingredients and flavours; warm and welcoming service; and an unequivocal commitment to its new Vancouver Island community.” As taken from the press release.

Helmed by Chef Bright, who we got to meet. He spoke to how Nanoose Bay Cafe also represents a return to his roots. “He began his career at the age of 17, apprenticing at a Chinese restaurant in Australia, then made a name for himself as he climbed the ranks to Executive Chef of Wild Rice in Vancouver, where his innovative yet approachable marriage of Asian flavours with sustainable, local ingredients quickly drew accolades.” I have eaten there a handful of times and can attest to this.

As another nod to their Water St Cafe connection, Nanoose Bay Cafe is offering the same equally expansive wine list. Over 80 BC labels that have won them the accolades of having the best BC wine list. We would enjoy the personalized pairings of wines to our dishes to come, as recommend by their in house sommelier.

We all noted how much we liked the delicate touches in each place setting. A folded napkin with a sprig of lavender tucked into it. A kiss of floral matching the dishware.

We would begin with a light rose from Unsworth winery in Ainsworth. Light strawberry and cherry notes, to help add some tang to the heavier chicken and bison below.

The Chicken Karaage was crispy-fried chicken with a kewpie mayonnaise and a fresh lemon dip. The chicken had an ashy texture hiding juicy chicken underneath. A dunk in the creamy dressing was all you needed to add flavour and moisture to the skin.

The Bison Carpaccio features Alberta bison, pink peppercorn crust, parmesan, truffle aioli, greens, and crispy capers. Thinly sliced sections of tender spicy meat that was a little thin in the lips, so ideal over some bread.

The Side of focaccia is an offering that is unsuspectingly good. You got a great herbaceous crunch from the home made bread. I ended up reserving a few pieces to be able to enjoy this throughout my meal.

Our second course was paired with some more Unsworth wine. This is a pinot gris and noir mix. A citrusy fresh bouquet with notes of grapefruit and summer peach.

The Tomato and cucumber salad was a sleeper hit. Something so simple and yet so delicious speaks to the produce they source. Heirloom tomatoes, izakaya cucumbers, thai basil, pickled onions, smoked maldon salt, and extra virgin olive oil. It was as expected and I would order it again as the perfect side to help refresh in between bites.

Our next wine pairing was the 2021 Blue Grouse Ortega, from the Cowichan Valley, on Vancouver Island. It is a hybrid of two white wine grapes and pairs nicely with the seafood that we were having next. It has tropical flavours that include pineapple and lychee.

If you are this close to the water, you have to order some seafood. And as a homage to their Qualicum Beach location, you can order their Qualicum Beach Platter, ideal for 4 individuals to share. Four west coast oysters, four east coast oysters, local albacore tuna sashimi, jumbo prawns, and wild smoked salmon. You can also order each of the following separately if you can’t commit to the feast.

The oysters were fresh, mostly creamy and slightly sweet. Served with horseradish, lemon, and cucumber mignonette to your preference.

The Jumbo prawn cocktail was chilled black tiger prawns, cocktail sauce, fresh horseradish, and lemon. Here size matters, and they did not skimp out.

It would have been nice to have the Tuna sashimi incorporated into the platter somehow, as a more fulsome presentation. This was line-caught albacore tuna, furikake, lumpfish roe, chives, house-made and taro chips. Out of the whole platter this was my least favourite. The quality of the tuna wasn’t the same, I have had similar dishes where the fish is a lot more tender, so couldn’t help but hold this to the same calibre. I did like the ponzu that added some much needed excitement to it, plus flavour. And the taro chips were good, as is on their own. We would have a second bowl of them to snack on.

Switching from raw seafood to cooked meat, we went from white to red wine with Hillside Gamay founder’s block series, from the Naramata Bench. This is a wine club exclusive that goes well with our dumplings thanks to its juicy and sweat meatiness.

All their dumplings are made from scratch in house. Keep in mind, although they appear it, these are not tradition by any means, and if you get hung up on authentic Chinese style dumplings you are going to have a bad time. This is Asian fusion appetizers, a great meaty snack in an easy to eat dough sack, served with homemade chilli oil and ponzu.

The is pork dumplings are rectangular stuffed with, garlic, cabbage, green onion, soy, and ginger. I found this more skin than filling. Great because for me because my favourite part of the dumpling is its dough wrapper, but I did find it lacking in seasonings and flavour for that reason.

The shrimp was by far tastier with white pepper, water chestnut, garlic, and cilantro. The white pepper really gave it its own character.

And out of the three my favourite was the mushroom medley with garlic, spices, water chestnut, and ginger for how herbaceous and satisfying on the palate it was.

The Seared scallops are a great one to order. Three hokkaido scallops topped with bacon, corn sabayon and micro-greens. They were seared wonderfully with just the right about of complimentary fat and salt from the bacon.

The Steamed clams are one pound of manila clams dressed in ginger, garlic, sherry wine, coconut milk, lemongrass, and thai basil. Plus served with more of that delicious house-made focaccia to help soak up all that fragrant broth after.

For something a lot more filling look to the Sockeye Salmon. This is 6oz skin-on wild sockeye salmon, corn-butter sabayon, gnocchi, roasted butternut squash, and edamame. There is many layers to this all of the helpful in getting you full. The tender drops of chewy gnocchi ran parallel with the starchy butternut squash and firmer salmon. Where the lima beans offered a nice firm texture and some freshness against the buttery corn sauce.

The Korean fried cauliflower is one of their more popular dishes. Prepared sweet, spicy and extra crispy; then topped with sesame and scallions. A nice meatier option for a plant-based diet.

And in time for dessert our last glass would be a rich port from Black Sage Vineyard. It was sweet and warming with maple on the nose, to pair with our sweet confessions below.

The Yuzu citrus tart is yuzu citrus curd, graham cracker crust, Italian meringue, and raspberry gel. The meringue is a soft and fluffy cloud. It and the rest of the sliced cake resembles a key lime pie in texture and tart pucker, but with a less citrusy zest thanks to the mellow yuzu.

Matcha swirl cheese cake with matcha cake crumble, white chocolate sauce, and matcha powder. Despite the first word in the name, it is more cheese than matcha. Overall a mild desert that is equal parts rich to fluffy in its cream texture.

The Chocolate mousse torte is a chocolate ganache cake with piped chocolate mousse and cacao nibs. This one is for the chocolate lovers, as it is oh so chocolatey and velvety, plus gluten free.

In closing, Nanoose Bay’s newest restaurant is a welcomed edition to the neighbourhood. Catering to those looking for a more dressed up experience with it elevated offerings, seafood platters and spectacular view. As well as a casual dining destination with a great drink selection including wine, spirits, and beer; a strong variety of share plates; plus live music to enjoy all of it with.

But not just that, Nanoose Bay is also a classic cafe with coffee, breakfast bites, and pastries; plus a market place with an extensive assortment of local goods and foods for purchase. But more on the latter in the next post.

Nanoose Bay Cafe
3521 Dolphin Dr, Nanoose Bay, BC V9P 9K1

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