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2023 RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR: Wild Mountain Food & Drink

YAM MAGAZINE RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR

Wild Mountain Food + Drink

Runners up Saveur, Nowhere



By CINDA CHAVICH


At Wild Mountain Food + Drink in Sooke, owners Chef Oliver Kienast and sommelier Brooke Fader offer beautiful food with a beautiful message:

“Our mission from Day One has been to create a local food economy and we have not wavered from that commitment for eight years,” says Fader. “It’s our absolute honour to be able to showcase the best of our region. Year round. No excuses.”


Chef Oliver Kienast and Brooke Fader



Everything is locally sourced at Wild Mountain Food & Drink — even the pottery.

That means you will always enjoy something fresh from the island when you dine here, whether it’s been foraged or fished nearby, plucked from an island farm, bottled by a small winemaker, or created in their own kitchens. Even the stoneware is made by a Sooke potter.

“Farm to table for real,” is the restaurant’s tagline and that’s not hyperbole — ask about any item on their seasonal menu and Fader can tell you where, why, and how it’s sourced, from the juicy pork chop from Tom Henry’s farm in Metchosin to the crispy Fanny Bay beach oysters in a cornmeal crust (the cornmeal ground at nearby Nootka Rose mill), and presented with pretty cupped leaves of miner’s lettuce in a sauce of wild nettles they foraged themselves.


Metchoisin raised pork and other local ingredients on the plate

Whether sourdough bread, charcuterie, ferments and desserts, almost everything is made in house. Fish is sourced from Sooke fishing families. Even the flour for their pizzas is grown and milled just a few miles down the road.



A small, cosy restaurant in a vintage bungalow overlooking Sooke Harbour


The cosy restaurant sits in a vintage bungalow above the Government Wharf, with much of the space devoted to Kienast’s kitchen, a little food garden and a massive outdoor, wood-fired oven, a pandemic project built by local stone mason Martin Swift, with added details from Leechtown blacksmith Ryan Fogarty.






Cooking in a wood fired oven is the chefs' specialty here — whether pizza or proteins.

There’s always an air of culinary adventure and experimentation here, Kienast and his long-time sous chef Scott Wood riffing on the local “micro-seasons” as fresh ingredients arrive together, whether nettles and oysters, peas and morels or fall quince and honey.

Presented with a source of local mutton, Wood created his own island-style donair — the meat which he butchered from whole animals, ground, extruded, poached and then roasted on a spit over a Japanese charcoal grill, to serve alongside house made flat bread, cucumber and tomato salad and sauces.

“I’m not the same chef I was 15 years ago,” says Kienast who started his career with Fader at Sooke Harbour House, and now loves the simplicity of cooking with fire, whole animal butchery, sourdough breads and fermentation.

“I’m not trying to manipulate things as much, but rather asking how do we let the ingredients speak for themselves, let the food sing its song.”


Terrines, charcuterie, prosciutto and sauces - every detail created in house at Wild Mountain in Sooke.

There’s intention at every level and a story behind every ingredient, their mantra being "West Coast Canadian Cuisine reflecting the harvest & season".

But Fader and Kienast go beyond walking the local talk — they are often leading the walk — volunteering for Slow Food and leading the Slow Fish movement, supporting “our food sheds and the people who tend them”.

Wild Mountain has become a gathering spot for Sooke locals and a place for destination dining. The hospitality is warm and inclusive, whether you come for a multi-course menu, a cocktail and snack at the bar, or a takeout pizza.

Fader credits her husband and their team for driving the restaurant’s ongoing evolution.

“It is a collaborative working environment which means our capacity and our creativity is limitless,” she says.

Also among our judges’ top tables: Saveur for its complex and artfully executed plates; and Nowhere, featuring adventurous, ever-changing tasting menus.

 


AND A SECOND 2023 AWARD FOR CHEF OLIVER KIENAST AND TEAM:

 

WEST COAST CONTEMPORARY

Wild Mountain Food + Drink

Runners up: Part and Parcel, The Courtney Room

 






Modern west coast cuisine means creative dishes featuring all of the wonderful ingredients from our farms, fishers and forests.

At Wild Mountain, owners chef Oliver Kienast and Brooke Fader embody that ethos, buying direct from island food producers, butchering whole animals and making literally everything in house. Beyond the ever-changing dinner menu featuring fish, seasonal vegetables and wild, foraged foods, there’s take-out pizza and sourdough breads from their outdoor wood-fired oven, house dressings made with honey from the family’s Okanagan farm (bottled for sale), plus various pickles, ferments, house made charcuterie, gnocchi and pasta.

Other modern west coast kitchens we love: casual Part and Parcel with its local, plant-forward fare (from charred broccoli sandwiches to nettle and lamb agnolotti with morels); and The Courtney Room, an elegant bistro celebrating everything Pacific Northwest on the plate and in the glass, whether beautiful breakfasts, seasonal cocktails or winemakers’ dinners.

 



 ©Cinda Chavich


 

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