EAT Magazine September | October 2021

Page 18

Get Ready to ROAR

WOR D S

Cinda Chavich

The new Hotel Zed in Tofino adds an airy, live fire restaurant with a vintage rumpus room vibe and an open kitchen.

I

’m finding it hard to stay focused on my upcoming dinner date as I enter the new Hotel Zed in Tofino.

CHELSEA GRAY

My stomach may be growling but my brain is on overload. Before I even get near the entrance to Roar, the hotel’s new “live fire” restaurant, there’s a gauntlet of whimsical diversions to check out, like the multi-coloured bike lane winding through the lobby past a sunken, avocado green shag carpeted “living room” and a replica hippy VW van (made entirely of driftwood) gracing the garden.

In a snug space hidden behind a retro teak wall unit, Ms. Pac-Man shares the floor with other video games that remind me of my misspent youth. I’ll get back to the psychic’s palm-reading den and the Donna Summer-esque minidisco later. Now it’s time to eat, and my nose takes me directly into the restaurant. The aroma of charred, smoky meat and grilled seafood is wafting from the open kitchen where a wood-fired grill dominates the soaring space. Roar is the first new hotel restaurant in Tofino in seven years, and the excitement in the room is palpable. This tourist-dependent town is ready to welcome new faces, and several have arrived specifically to open Roar, including executive chef Kaelhub Cudmore and bar manager Dinah Kisil. Both are present and enthusiastically share their passion for this new project as my dinner unfolds. Chef Cudmore grew up on Vancouver Island and arrives from Victoria where he most recently worked as the banquet chef at the Empress Hotel. General manager Emma Woodward hails from Britain and her resumé includes opening restaurants at the Fairmont Banff Springs, while assistant GM Kisil is an award-winning mixologist from Calgary who honed her skills behind the American Bar at London’s Savoy Hotel. It’s all the brainchild of Victoria’s Mandy Farmer, the president/CEO of Accent Inns and creator of the company’s funky Hotel Zed subset. With locations in Victoria and Kelowna, all channelling a fun, retro vacation motel vibe, Hotel Zed recently added

The open kitchen at ROAR Tofino to the mix with a $20-million redevelopment of the former Jamie’s Rainforest Inn. Roar is the first hotel restaurant Farmer has designed and will operate herself, the concept developed with the help of Vancouver culinary consultant Eric Pateman and Farmer’s team. Roar is all about cooking with fire, featuring everything from beach oysters to ribs and salmon grilled over a wood and charcoal grill, with an oven that tops out at a searing 900 degrees and a large smoker dedicated to house-smoked salmon and other delicacies. Cudmore and his team are learning the quirks of wood fire cooking as they go, experimenting with equipment and techniques borrowed from around the world. The Fire-Hung Chicken is literally suspended over the glowing coals in an oval iron cage as it rotates and slowly roasts. And the big beach oysters are cooked with a drizzle of hot fat from a conical “flambadou,” a cast iron funnel that’s heated in the embers until red-hot to deliver a shot of fiery rendered fat over grilled meat or fish. There’s a perfectly crispy sear on the tender cubes of pork belly that come with Cudmore’s deconstructed Grilled Potato and Roasted Pork Belly Salad with charred asparagus, and the house-cured Salmon Pastrami is served with sweet, caramelized parsnips and seedy house-made crackers. Carnivores will lean to the smoky beef brisket with charred salsa and tortillas, while vegans can try his homemade mushroom tofu, served with a comforting leek and miso congee and crispy leeks.

PORTRAITS: KEEGAN ROBIN

Creative desserts from the restaurant’s pastry chef include a playful selection of doughnuts with smoky caramel and chocolate dipping sauces, and a unique roly-poly Roar Cake, a kind of bread pudding with dulce de leche. All is served up in an airy, open space with a vintage rumpus room vibe and an open kitchen, the smoky aromas of grilled food adding to the beach party atmosphere. Make a call from a funky rotary dial phone on your table or take a seat near the pass to commune with the chefs as they feed the fire. There’s a big outdoor patio and a bar across one end of the room where mixologist Kisil works her cocktail magic. Executive Chef Kaelhub Cudmore 18 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021

General Manager Emma Woodward

Bar Manager and Assistant General Manager Dinah Kisil

She has an amazing palate and creative streak, melding wild foods from the rainforest with classic cocktails. Try A Place Called Kokomo with her gorseinfused tequila, a rye and whisky old-fashioned with Suius Cherry Bitters, or a