After an amazing day soaking at Hot Springs Cove and then an afternoon being mesmerized by the surf at Cox Bay Beach, I am starving! Not the “I could go for a nice meal hungry”, I am starving. The fresh air has given me an appetite, and I’m going to satisfy it at one of the newest restaurants to open in town, Kuma Tofino. For a town of 2000 Tofino is not lacking in great restaurants as I experienced on my last visit, but Kuma offers something a little different. They serve Japanese comfort food, and they make a wicked Sake Martini. I’m going Japanese, and there will be no Sushi in sight.
Located in the heart of Tofino at 120 Fourth Street it is surrounded by culinary goodness as Rhino Coffee, Wolf In The Fog & Tuff Beans Coffee are less than 100 steps away. All are places I visited during my last visit.
I arrived at 7 pm and the place was packed. Doors open at 4 pm for Happy Hour and by the time I had arrived they had already had filled and cleared the restaurant three times, and they weren’t done for the night. I grabbed a seat at the bar and left myself in the capable hands of John, the Front of House Manager. His first recommendation is a tasting flight of Sake to start.
From light and flowery to clean and crisp and ending with earthy notes these Sake get the night started just right.
As I am tasting the Sake, my first course arrives. Every local I’ve met has recommended this dish, so I’m thrilled that I am starting with the Bear Tuna aka Tuna Tartare. Caught locally this Tuna dish starts off the night on a very high note. I had intended to have a few bites then move onto the next course, wrong, I devoured the entire plate bite by bite.
The next course Executive Chef Simon Birch presented to me was a Roasted Squash Salad with braised Winter Greens and Sesame Dressing. So simple yet so good. The dressing transformed this dish for me. In fact I see myself trying to replicate this one at home.
It is time for a cocktail pause between courses and John mixes me a Kuma Martini made with Kozaemon, Goddess of Sake and a few other ingredients.
Ok, let’s begin the third course. A Japanese pancake called Okonomiyaki. Made with Cabbage, Bacon, Cheddar, Japanese Mayo, Tonkatsu sauce and garnished with bonito flakes. If you like it hot get it served with a side of Japanese Mustard.
It is hard to believe, but there is still one more dish to come and it is a signature and a staple of the menu, House Ramen. Pork Belly, soft poached Egg, Kale, Noodles and a Shio based double Broth that is as complex as my personality.
I’ve had some great food in Tofino, but I have just found my favourite place. Every plate is designed to be shared and the prices are reasonable ranging from $10 to $15 each. Whether I eat alone or bring a friend, Kuma Tofino is my Japanese comfort food home. Now if I could only get him to open up a location near my home in Vancouver.