Whistler Dining Classics



New chairlifts. New trails. New ownership for Whistler Blackcomb. Clearly, the resort is going through an era of major change. But when it comes to dining, there are certain dishes that remain constant. For a relatively young ski resort and municipality, Whistler boasts an abundance of beloved restaurants that have stood the test of time — in these cases, two decades or longer. And on those menus, there are several fan favourites that the chefs would never dream of retiring. Please allow us to introduce you to some of Whistler’s signature dishes.

ARAXI

Venison and Beets

Established in 1981, Araxi is one of Whistler’s longest-lasting restaurants and still one of its finest. After Executive Chef James Walt joined in 1997, he fell in love with the incredible produce from nearby Pemberton and the menu quickly changed from Italian to farm-to-table — this being long before farm-to-table was even a thing.

Vegetables still drive the menu, including the meat pairings. In the winter months, venison is a constant. It’s usually red deer from Vancouver Island, but this year there will be prized Cerf de Boileau from Quebec as well. The lean game is simply crusted with salt, pepper and fresh bay leaf, cooked sous-vide and nicely seared. Invariably, it is served with beets and other earthy flavours (squash and sunchokes), maybe crispy polenta and perhaps fruit chutney. But the beets come first.

“Maybe I work backwards, but I just really like vegetables. And with venison, I like beets the most,” says Walt, who now also oversees Whistler’s Il Caminetto, Bar Oso and The Cellar by Araxi. “They taste better with protein and they just tie the whole dish together.”   

604-932-4540 | araxi.com

 

BEARFOOT BISTRO

Sablefish with Uni Beurre Blanc and Caviar

At the Bearfoot Bistro, where sabering champagne in the underground wine cellar has become a rite of passage, luxury has never gone out of style. The opulence naturally extends to Melissa Craig’s exquisite dinner menus and even her favourite poisson — rich, velvety sablefish.

“I love it because it’s a West Coast fish and I grew up on the West Coast, but it’s also very versatile and forgiving because it’s so fatty,” says the executive chef. She notes that customers usually fall in love at first bite and often compare it to sea bass, although this sablefish (also known as black cod) is even better because it’s sustainable.

This winter’s rendition is simply seared, finished in the oven and served over a thick and creamy pool of bright and briny urchin beurre blanc. For the finishing pop of ocean minerality, she crowns the dish with a dollop of Canadian caviar.

If a dollop isn’t enough alongside that sabered bottle of bubbles, you could order a full service. “We will always have traditional caviar service,” Craig says. “Always.”

604-932-3433 | bearfootbistro.com

 

CARAMBA! RESTAURANT

Calamari a la Plancha

Calamari a la Plancha has been on Caramba’s menu ever since the casual, Mediterranean-inspired eatery opened in 1995. Back then, it was owned by local restaurant legend Mario Enero. Tender, flavourful and garlicky, the dish paid homage to his Spanish roots.

In 2014, Enero sold the restaurant to Jay Paré, his long-time general manager. Paré re-launched the restaurant with his nephew, James Paré, who had been working as executive chef at the Savoy Hotel in London.

“I don’t think I could take it off the menu,” says James, who sells about 25 portions a night. “There would be too much backlash. And why would I want to? It’s amazing.”

Simply seared with olive oil and minced garlic, the lightly caramelized squid is finished with minced fresh parsley, fresh lemon and a side of garlic aioli.

“The first time I tried [the aioli], I thought I was breathing fire for an hour,” the chef laughs. “But people just love it. They ask for the recipe all the time.”

604-938-1879 | carambarestaurant.com

 

QUATTRO AT WHISTLER

Spaghetti Quattro

Calamari a la Plancha has been on Caramba’s menu ever since the casual, Mediterranean-inspired eatery opened in 1995. Back then, it was owned by local restaurant legend Mario Enero. Tender, flavourful and garlicky, the dish paid homage to his Spanish roots.

In 2014, Enero sold the restaurant to Jay Paré, his long-time general manager. Paré re-launched the restaurant with his nephew, James Paré, who had been working as executive chef at the Savoy Hotel in London.

“I don’t think I could take it off the menu,” says James, who sells about 25 portions a night. “There would be too much backlash. And why would I want to? It’s amazing.”

Simply seared with olive oil and minced garlic, the lightly caramelized squid is finished with minced fresh parsley, fresh lemon and a side of garlic aioli.

“The first time I tried [the aioli], I thought I was breathing fire for an hour,” the chef laughs. “But people just love it. They ask for the recipe all the time.”

604-905-4844 | quattrorestaurants.com

 

RIMROCK CAFÉ

Seafood Antipasto

Looking for something new and different? You’ve come to the wrong place. Specializing in seafood and game meat, this cozy, upscale restaurant in one of Whistler’s original A-frame timber buildings has hardly changed since it opened in 1986. And that’s precisely why locals love it.

“Shelley, how long have you been working here,” Co-owner Bob Dawson asks one of the servers. “Eighteen years? Hmm. And she’s one of the new ones.”

His business partner, Executive Chef Rolf Gunther, has a tough time selecting just one signature dish. Rack of lamb, venison medallions, lobster bisque, scallop and pork belly, the famous seafood trio — they’ve all been here in one form or another since the beginning. When pressed to choose, he points to the seafood antipasto platter, an assortment of raw oysters, creamy halibut brandade, finely diced salmon tartare, wasabi-daubed tuna tataki and various other seasonal selections.

“People have been coming here a long, long time. Sometimes they ask for something we haven’t served in 15 years, but we still make it for them.”  

604-932-5565 | rimrockcafe.com

 

SUSHI VILLAGE

Spicy Agedashi Tofu

Miki Homma opened Sushi Village in 1985 as a means of supporting what he fondly referred to as his ski-bum lifestyle. The beloved icon passed away unexpectedly last year, but he left behind one of Whistler’s most cherished restaurants — a lively, second-floor hideaway that sparked a local sushi revolution, inspired a passion for sake-strawberry margaritas and became so important to the best seafood suppliers in Vancouver that Head Chef Keisuke Matsuzaki still gets first dibs on the freshest fish available.

Oddly enough, one of its most famous dishes is vegetarian. The spicy agedashi tofu is a generous portion of golden, deep-fried tofu smothered in a thick, creamy tomato sauce seasoned with mirin and shiitake mushrooms. Or at least that’s what most people think. No one, except the chef, knows the secret recipe for this highly addictive, umami-flavour bomb.

“Over the years, we’ve had so many magazines ask for the recipe — Gourmet, Food & Wine, Chatelaine,” says Manager Amy Huddle. “Miki would say, ‘Oh just lie and tell them it’s made with ketchup.’ He had a great sense of humour.”

604-932-3330 | sushivillage.com

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