Showing posts with label Whistler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Whistler. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A must stop in Whistler, Aura at Nita Lake Lodge

 
Located at Nita Lake Lodge resort, Aura is an elegant lakeside restaurant, which the moment you step in, radiates  a warm, cozy vibe and a stunning view of nature.  We settled in cozily for the Saturday's brunch during a quiet mid day. Since it was off-season, the area was really secluded and so the whole place was pretty much ours to enjoy for the moment.

 Now, it's rare that I would say this, but the service was just outstanding. We were warmly greeted and the staff remained proactive, professional and attentive throughout the service. It was a stark comparison to our later dinner service at Alta.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Araxi

After years of hearing raved reviews about Araxi, I sort of made it a mission to conquer it on this trip to Whistler once and for all. I had made the reservation 2 weeks prior just in case it gets full from the long weekend.  The restaurant was conveniently located in the heart of the Village and a minute walk from our hotel.  We were warmly greeted and seated cozily by the window.  I already took a peak at their menu online but  couldn't wait to hear about new additions to the list.  

Araxi has an extensive list of wines from around the world.  While we admired the by selections and inventory of wine bottles that surrounded us, consquently, we also had to watch servers reached over us or literally crawled under the table to reach for the correct wine bottle ordered by the patrons.  We felt bad for them and perhaps there should be a better method of filing the bottles (and not under or behind the tables).  It didn't take long for us to decide what we wanted.  Araxi offers a 4 course prix fixe menu for $58 per person, which is quite an excellent deal. BBJL and I were in for another culinary expedition.

Bread and tapenade
Raw Bar


BBJL ordered beef tataki as the commencing course for additional $5.  The thinly sliced Canadian prime beef tataki was served over a bed of grated radish and cucumber and topped with cucumber pearls.  I thought the emerald green pearls were fascinating while BBJL quickly scraped his off the beef.  They had a refreshing taste of cucumber and just a hint of sweetness.  They didn't exactly enhance the flavour of the tataki but were pretty as ornaments.  For the rest, the rare beef tataki had a nice texture but the ponzu sauce tasted a bit watered down.  The small dab of spicy yuzu definitely gave quite the heat to the bite.

Spicy albacore tuna roll with cucumber and crisp shallot.  I thought the crisp shallot was brilliant and wondered why I haven't experimented with that at home (a big tub of fried shallots from T&T does wonders).   I didn't expect a lot and was delighted to find that the roll was actually really good!  The rice was seasoned well and not soggy.  The albacore tuna was fresh and the texture was mixed with the crunchiness of cucumber and shallots.  The spicy mayo also gave enough kick to the roll without the need to reach for soya sauce.

Appetizers
BBJL was once again disappointed to find the green pearls in his seafood bowl.  Despite an exotic and elaborate presentation, unfortunately, the seafood bowl lacked the component which would make it stand out from a regular seafood cocktail.  For an upscale restaurant, I'm not sure if this dish was well thought out.  All the dressing was on the bottom, leaving the top part extremely bland and boring.  BBJL was sad to discover more flavours at the bottom after all the seafood was gone.  Overall, it was quite a mundane, simple dish.

Luckily for me, they had just added foie gras to the list.  The presentation was simple, but the taste...well, it was mindblowingly good.  The more I think about it, that was probably the best foie gras I've ever had!  It was so smooth, creamy, and just melted in my mouth.  Bravo....I wanted to give the chef a standing ovation.

The Mains


After our positive experience last night at Il Caminetto, our expectations soared. BBJL wanted to try the duck breast this time at Araxi.  It could also partly be my constant echoing propaganda "My sister said the best duck breast she's ever had was at Araxi!".  So, for the second night in a row, the duck breast was once again on the table.  Before it arrived, I overheard the server informing the patrons that they were out of duck breasts for the night, and I was counting my blessings that we scored one of the last few.  Once it was presented, however, we were surprised to find the pieces were sliced so thick.  I guess the texture would still be the same regardless, but we're spoiled that way.  After a few bites, we unanimously agreed that we didn't have the same mesmerizing moment with the duck as we did the night before.  The meat was a bit tough and not tender or juicy.  The skin was not as crispy as it was at Il Caminetto or La Belle Auberge.  The jus was okay but didn't bring out that much flavour.  Though it was not terrible (or I'd send it back), everything about this dish was only average.  It was a wee bit of a let down when you reaction was "meh", instead of "Oh wow!".  As for my sister, I later learned that the best duck breast she's ever had was actually at Chambar in Vancouver which we were going to the next day (Doh!). Duck breast for the 3rd night in a row?

The arctic char on top of chive and leek risotto.  The texture of the arctic char to me, resembled somewhat of salmon (even the taste, just slightly).   I think the main focus of this dish was to the natural flavours of the fish come through with minimal seasoning.  However, I found that there were no flavours that really stood out, complemented, or brought contrast to the dish.  I thought it was very linear and lacked a wow factor.  The risotto had a beautiful vibrant color and was cooked perfectly, nonetheless, it was a supporting role.  Meanwhile, the best part I enjoyed about the arctic char was its extremely thin and crispy skin.

Desserts

BC Berry pavlova with lavender meringue and strawberry rhubarb frozen yogurt, what a lovely presentation!  The meringue was sweet a chewy but was balanced by the tanginess of the frozen yogurt and tartness of the berries.  It is a perfect dessert for those with a sweet tooth.
Orange blossom creme brulee was decorated with berries and flourless pistachio squares.  It was not a small portion and was done perfectly with crispy caramelized sugar top, creamy and sweet texture.  The orange flavour was very subtle. The squares had a smooth texture and had very little sweetness, but very filling.

The verdict..
We were definitely full to the brim and the prix fixe was a really great deal.  The service was excellent and although some dishes didn't exactly surpass our expectations, the majority were exceptional. We had a wonderful and memorable evening at Araxi and I would love to come back for another visit.

Araxi on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 5, 2011

Il Caminetto Umberto

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to the restaurants, it's always the exterior that catches my eye, followed by the menu.  I was strolling along the Village in Whistler when an elegant Italian restaurant caught my attention.  The ambience was more upscale, but not over the top.  It was a place I'd like to spend an evening at.  So, I went up and took a look at the menu.  The price range was also on the higher scale but on par within its league ($14-$20 per appie and >$30 per entree), and the selections sounded appealing.  It was a done deal.  BBJL and I showed up later that night without a reservation and took our chances.  

Side note: Its sister restaurant, Trattoria Umberto provides rustic Italian cuisine and also receives great reviews.  It was also located right in our hotel and we thought about trying it out there as well.  In the end, the ambience at Il Caminetto prevailed. 


 For an appetizer, our waiter informed us of today's special, a goat cheese soufflĂ© on bed of arugula.  When I heard the words "cheese" and "soufflĂ©", I was sold.  It must be a girly thing because I imagined it to be cute and fluffy just like the dessert and couldn't wait to try it! Once the plate arrived, it was pretty much how I imagined it would be, except even fluffier!  The top was golden and crispy while the inside was white and delicate.  It was slightly salty and reminded me of a really fluffy quiche.  Even though it is made out of goat cheese, the trademark goat pungent taste was very faint here.

 
For the main entree, I once again went for the obvious, duck breast with a side of red cabbage, and lentil.  Personally, I'm not a fan of the sides to go along with my duck and would have preferred steamed vegetables or anything else more interesting instead.  The duck breast, however, was simply delicious.  It was cooked medium rare, still very juicy in the centre and the skin was crispy on top.  It was almost as good as La Belle Auberge (which to me, still reigns supreme for duck breasts).  The sweetness and tartness of the gooseberry also complimented the overall flavour very well.  BBJL would agree with me on this one because he kept complimenting how good it was.  

 

Another main ordered was also the special of the day, grilled red snapper with tiger prawn, beans, peas and carrots.  Unlike my sister, fish isn't an entree at the top of my list.  However, this must have been one of the best fish entrees I've had in a long time.  I was surprised at how flavourful it was.  The seasoning on the fish was amazing and they did not hold back the garlic.  The red snapper was also cooked well, very tender and flakey.  It was a large dish with 3 giant red snapper pieces with 2 prawns and beans underneath in case that didn't fill you up.  The cream sauce was also tasty and went very well with everything (especially bread).  

The verdict..
We were extremely satisfied with our meal that evening (and frankly I'm surprised we finished everything).  Since we finished all the food, there was absolutely no more room for the dessert.  The portions were huge, yet carefully crafted.  Both quality and quantity were there and it was worth the value.  The ambience was pleasant, and the service was also good.  As it was a positive experience, I would definitely return again.  Even though Il Caminetto is an Italian restaurant, based on what we ordered, I would assume that it is more of a Italian-French fusion restaurant.  As mentioned above, its sister restaurant, Trattoria, would more likely offer more traditional, rustic Italian selections.  Nonetheless, each dish very executed and we were quite pleased with our first time experience at the restaurant.  

Il Caminetto on Urbanspoon