Declared the best restaurant in Whistler, at the Van Magazine awards, I found myself at the threshold of “Alta”, as part of a tourism of Whistler organized trip. Truthfully, majority of our group has never heard of this place and I frequent Whistler enough to know all of its drinking holes, or so I thought. Either way, I would get a chance to experience the buzz tonight.
“Alta” hosts an intimate setting, kept romantic in dim lighting. You walk into a lengthy bar that opens up into a more spacious dining area. There, we sat around a long wooden table, under a set of paintings showcasing Whistler’s snow capped mountains.
But what caught my attention was the shelf of jarred perseveres. Mason jars of lemons, beets, carrot, and peas, etc.
We started off with some drinks. I was tempted by all the wine stacked on racks and the wall of bottles separating the bar from the dining room. And more so after learning about their special machine that serves wine, fresh every time. Poured from the bottle, with every glass as good as the first. This specialized machine ensures no air gets in the bottle, resulting in the freshness of it for up to 3 weeks. Many of the others went the wine route, ordering half pours to be able to try more. What a great idea in place of a flight.
I however, wanted to try their cocktails. Like their food, many of their drinks too feature ingredients locally sourced and foraged in their backyard.
I was intrigued by the “Garden party” with its use of spring pea pods, along with Sheringham aquavit, yuzu puree, homegrown mint, and fresh lemon. I got the citrus, but none of the pea. Overall, this was refreshing drink, similar to that of a mojito.
The “Rhubarbarita” was tequila forward and only rhubarb in colouring. Olmeca Altos reposado, Cointreau, spring rhubarb, and fresh lime; served on the rocks with a smear of sweet lime sea salt. I wish I got more of the vegetable that would have been highlighted by the sea salt.
The “Rainforest daiquiri” is a mix of Havana Club 3 years anejo, lillet blanc, Douglas fir and green tea liqueur, fresh lime and a hint of green chartreuse. It was refreshing and you got the piney notes from the Douglas fir sprig.
The “equinox” was today’s special and a pretty cocktail. Bombay gin, flower and luxardo cordial.
As for food, I took advantage of their $29 three course meal. Here, you choose two appetizers and an entree from a list of choices. First course was between soup or oysters, so I went for the latter. Two fresh oysters with horseradish, lemon, apple, and ortega granite. They were of the East Coast PEI variety, but on the smaller side.
For my second course, I went for the most unique sounding of four options. This was the “Venison tartare and chicken liver parfait” with a rye and chocolate cracker, egg yolk, thyme, parsley, picked shallot, and malted black barely. This was a very inventive dish, plenty of flavours paired together that I have never had prior. I didn’t get any of the chocolate on the crackers, but plenty from the crust that surrounded the meat. This was a nutty spread that I wish was more salty and meaty, like a pate. A little too rich to finish, but interesting to try.
And for my third course I went for the “Pork shoulder cassoulet” with slow cooked white bean, a soft poached egg, rich pork jus, bacon, frisse salad, and crackling. A stew full of textures and warming flavours. The pork meat was tender, the bacon crunchy, the beans gritty, the greens crispy, and the runny egg bound it all together with its creaminess. I liked the idea and the flavour of the pork rinds, just not how thick and hard they were. It was hard to bite down to size, and therefore hard to enjoy together with the rest of the cassoulet.
Our table also shared a side of “Seasonal veggies”, maple roasted carrots and freshly picked sea asparagus. Some light and refreshing bites to balance out the richness and the gravy soaked flavours above.
As for desserts, the chocolate mousse cake caught my eye, with its candied lichen (Moss) edible decoration. The candied lichen didn’t really taste like much, but it was such a unique way to showcase something else hand picked from Whistler’s back yard.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A different way to experience all that Whistler has to offer through its edible nature. This favourite spot of local, is soon to be a popular destination, so be sure to stop by during your next drive up. Don’t deny your cravings.
104-4319 Main Street, Whistler BC, V0N 1B4