Friday, 31 August 2012

A Wonderful Wanderlust Weekend in Whistler: Part 1- Alta Bistro

Alta Bistro

104-4319 Main Street  Whistler, BC V0N 1B4
(604) 932-2582

Tastiness Factor: 5/5

Atmosphere: 4.5/5

Service: 4.5/5

Locavore Approved: Enthusiastically YES (the majority of their produce comes from a farm in Pemberton which is just 20 minutes from Whistler and our their menu is comstantly evolving to reflect the changing harvests)

My husband and I found the perfect excuse to go to Whistler for the last weekend in August- the Wanderlust Yoga festival for me and a few rounds of golf for him.

As soon as I found out the Wanderlust dates, I immediately started research Whistler's foodie hot spots.  It seems as though bistros are the New trend as the two restos that came up again and again both Bistros- Alta Bistro and Bearfoot bistro.   This is not surprising, as bistros seem to fit very well with the Whistler vibe- casual and unpretentious (although I can't say that Bearfoot actually fit this description- more on that later).


First, let's talk about Alta Bistro, our Friday night choice.  This certainly did have a casual vibe to it which is what we were looking for after a long day at work and the evening drive from Vancouver to Whistler.  I really liked the decor.  At the front of the restaurant near the entrance is the semi-open kitchen and just passed that is a cozy bar.  Along the back wall are several shelves adorned by mason jars with all sorts of preserved produce.  A very welcoming space indeed.


Service was very much in keeping with the decor.  Our server was very friendly and laid back but, while also being very knowledgeable about the dishes' ingredients (he was able to tell me where all of the produce was grown without hesitation).  He also offered us excellent wine pairings at very reasonable prices (a nice sparkling wine to start, followed by two half glasses of whites for me).  He was was attentive to all of our needs throughout the meal (my water glass was never empty) and I appreciated the time he took to answer all of the questions I had about ingredients and preparation of the dishes.  He was stellar.


Alta offers a three-course menu for $29 (no a-la-carte option).  I really appreciated the fact that the three courses included 3 savory plates and dessert could be added at an extra charge.  I am not much of a dessert person so it's inclusion in a prix-fixe menu is often a deterrent for me.  Getting the selection of 3 savory courses is ideal as you have the opportunity to sample a greater variety of flavors.  It is quite a unique concept that I wish more restaurants would offer.  In some reviews, Alta has been faulted for its courses being too small, but with 3 savory dishes, I thought that the small plates concept worked nicely.  I was not "stuffed to the gills" when I left but was certainly very satisfied.  My only caution is that you should probably not expect to actually pay $29 for your meal as there is a supplemental charge to almost half of the dishes.  While this may be a bit misleading, I was not bothered by it, as frankly the meal that I was served, made with quality local ingredients was certainly worth more than 30 bucks. 


Here is the lowdown on 6 dishes that Alta is presently offering.  If you like the sound of these dishes, you better get there quickly as there is a big emphasis on seasonal ingredients so, with summer coming to an end, this menu will likely not be around for much longer!

Dish 1: Summer Salad.  This dish was made which beautifully fresh Pemberton farm vegetables including beets, onions and some fried sage for textural contrast.  The roasted pistacios and almonds were done to perfection and the dressing was tasty yet subtle so that the freshness of the vegetables could shine through.



Dish 2: Scallop ceviche.  If ceviche or tartare is on the menu, my husband will order it (see my review of Whistler's Beafoot Bistro for a review of their tuna tartare).  This was a light and fresh summer dish and the chef made a wise decision in leaving it plain and simple. It certainly met my husband's standards.


Dish 3: Farmhouse goat cheese and buttermilk mousse with heirloom tomatoes.  This was my second dish which I chose mainly because of my love of goat cheese.  The goat cheese mousse was very light and airy, making the locally made goat cheese was that much more fitting for a summer dish.  The freeze-dried olives added a nice contasting flavor. The Pemberton-grown tomatoes were sweet and delicious.  Again, simple and perfectly executed.



Dish 4: Pickled Fraser Valley Veal Tongue.  Although this was my husband's last favorite dish of the evening, he did enjoy the slaw and the bite of the dijon mustard which was served alongside in large kernels.  The veal tongue was also perfectly cooked.  He is not a celery fan and this taste element may have been why this dish rated a little below the others for him.  Kudos to their for daring to have veal tongue on the menu- great to see them using all parts of the animal. 


Dish 5: Seared Halibut Filet with House Curry Spices.  This was my final and main dish.  The halibut was perfectly cooked and served on a radiantly-coloured carrot puree.  The starch was a small bed of pearl barley which was plump and well seasoned.  Alongside was some fresh, seasonal summer squash and the sweetess carrots I have ever tasted.



Dish 6: Pork shoulder with chipotle spaetzle and onion ketchup (the nightly special).  My husband had planned to get the bison shortribs but when he saw this on the blackboard of nightly specials, he knew he had to have it.  The pork had been pulled off the bone and served amidst the spaetzle (small fried potatoes).  The onion ketchup was too die for.  This was a winner for sure.


We both throughly enjoyed our first evening of our weekend getaway at Alta Bistro.  The food was simple and amazingly fresh.  The chef obviously has a very skilled hand in his use of local ingredients.  The service was casual and friendly, yet very attentive to detail.  What a way to start the weekend.  A new favorite in Whistler.

Alta Bistro on Urbanspoon

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