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Sooke Harbour House (Vancouver Island) report (long)

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Sooke Harbour House (Vancouver Island) report (long)

zook | Jul 16, 2006 10:12 PM

DH and I returned for our third time to Sooke Harbour House sandwiched between a visit to San Juan Island and Orcas Island and Seattle (see post regarding those stops on the Pacific Northwest board).

We dined both nights in their restaurant. The setting is gorgeous in that you look out over the water and their gardens. The service on our first night was somewhat amateurish but much improved the second night. For instance, on night one, our wine was delivered long after the first course was served. We had to ask our server to slow up the pace so we could enjoy the wine and not be rushed. Also, some of the plates were delivered to the wrong person. On the other hand, the service on night two, where we partook in the tasting menu was absolutely perfect.

The first night was a bit of a disappointment. Somewhere between the time we were last there (4 years ago) and this trip, they changed their menu format. Now, they have three prix fixed menus; one a seafood menu, one a mainly meat menu, and the third vegetarian. My husband had the seafood menu which consisted of the following: smoked albacore tun broth with a cilantro and side striped shrimp steamed dumpling, grand fir oil and purlsane, pumpkin seed crusted giant flying neon squid with a nasturtium leaf, lemon eucalyptus horseradish sauce and dried blueberry cumin puree and a spicy dill buckwheat noodle cake and lily petal, and the roasted lingcod with a sweet chili mint dianthus flower emulsion and arugula hazelnut Montana cheese pesto, wild rice agregia seaweed chive griddle cake, braised purple cabbage and a purple pea, sage flower chickweek salad. The portions were quite small. They were tasty; but nothing really stood out.

I had the vegetarian menu which was delicious; but tough to justify the $70 (Can.) price tag. (btw, the fish and almost meat menus were $75). My meal consisted of the house salad which was just some edible greens and blossoms with a miso grainy mustard tyme vinaigrette. This was followed by the roasted garlic cauliflower peppercress and bulgur stuffed red icicle beet with a marinated daikon beet salad, perppercress, sorrel puree and roasted garlic sour cream. The last course was a crispy angelica and honey marinated tofu with dried sweet and sour cherry puree and scallion oil, roasted baby onions with msio braised purple kohlrabi and baby bok choy. While tasty and attravtively prepared, not much to eat. Each of the menus then is followed by your choice of dessert. DH had a cardomom cake and I chose the sorbet selection. The cake was fine but nothing extravagent. The sorbet was attractively presented, five small scoops of various flavors, some were a hit, and others, such as the cucumber sorbet, a definite miss. A chocolate truffle and tiny square of some sort of pastry followed.

Sooke Harbour House does provide breakfast (delivered to your room) and lunch (to go) so you don't go hungry during the day. The breakfasts consist of a choice of a continental breakfast (their baked goods are terrific) or a hot breakfast each day. Lunch is always a surprise that they pack for you which always includes a fruit, a baked good, and generally an interesting sandwich on home baked bread or some cold pasta variety with either fish or chicken served atop it. Freshly baked cookies are offered throughout the day throughout the inn.

Now on to the tasting menu on day two. This is where the restaurant really shined. It started with a cauliflower sage cream broth with a rabbit ravioli, scallion oil and sage flower. This was fabulous. This was followed by octopus served with a pea shoot, snow pea and radish salad, the dianthus flower oil and rhubarb grainy mustard vinaigrette and artichoke chips. Each component of this course had a stand out flavor that we enjoyed. We were then served half a pork sausage spring roll with apricot chutney, swiss chard purslane and lily salad, bok choi and a sour cherry licorice tea sauce. Another winner. The steamed lettuce wrapped trap caught sablefish in a sweet chili basil shrimp borth that came with a braised cabbage, fennel bulb, raclette style cheese tarragon crege bundle, garlic butter poached radishes and wilted greens was so fresh tasting, as if the fish had only been caught moments before landing on our plates. We were then served honey garlic cilantro glazed Cowichan Bay Farm duck breast with a black currant pineapple sage glaze and port meat stock reduction with a roasted garlic, carrot, lemon thyme stuffed fingerling potatos, ruby beets and broccoli. The broccoli spear was there for color only. The duck was as delicious as it sounds and I will be dreaming of that stuffed potato for a long time to come. We were then served a cheese course that consisted of five local cheeses with a few accompaniments. The wines that were served with each course were local wines and perfectly paired with the food. For dessert there was some type of spongey cake with apricot flavors served with ice cream and cherries followed again by the chocolate truffle and custard square. This tasting menu was reasonably priced at $100 Can. excluding the wine pairings.

This was our third visit to Sooke Harbour House and on each visit we've eaten only at their Inn. If there is a next time, we'll definitely partake in the tasting menu; but will explore the wonderful other culinary adventures that Sooke has to offer for our other meals. The inn is so gorgeous that I wouldn't dream of staying anywhere else in that area.

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