YAM magazine’s Best Restaurant Awards 2023 celebrates Greater Victoria, B.C.’s exciting food scene and are judged by an independent panel of chefs and food experts.
BY CINDA CHAVICH | PHOTOS BY JEFFREY BOSDET
Restaurant of the Year Wild Mountain Food + Drink
1831 Maple Avenue South, Sooke | wildmountaindinners.com
At Wild Mountain Food + Drink in Sooke, husband-and-wife owners chef Oliver Kienast and sommelier Brooke Fader offer beautiful food with a beautiful message.
“Our mission from Day 1 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.”
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 baked 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.
Whether sourdough bread, charcuterie, ferments or 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 kilometres down the road.
The cozy restaurant sits in a vintage bungalow above the Government Wharf, with much of the space devoted to Kienast’s kitchen. Outside is a little food garden and a massive wood-fired oven,
a pandemic project built by local stonemason Martin Swift.
There’s always an air of culinary adventure and experimentation here, with Kienast and his long-time sous chef Scott Wood riffing on the local “micro-seasons” as fresh ingredients arrive together, whether it’s spring’s nettles and morels or fall’s quince and honey.
“I’m not the same chef I was 15 years ago,” says Kienast, who started his career with Fader at Sooke Harbour House. He now loves the simplicity of cooking with fire, as well as 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?’ and let the food sing its song.”
There’s intention at every level here. Fader and Kienast go beyond walking the local talk — they are often leading the walk by volunteering for Slow Food and Slow Fish, 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.
Saveur, for its complex and artfully executed plates; Nowhere *A Restaurant, which features adventurous, ever-changing tasting menus.