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Alta Bistro, Whistler

On this night we were in Whistler, visiting for a weekend of wining and dining. So thought to check out one of the more popular restaurants in the ski town. This is Alta, known for their seasonal French-alpine cuisine. And memorable for their decor that includes an impressive display of jarred preserves in a large assortment of colours. Sadly, I failed to capture a photo of this sight, so you will have to trust me on this.

Our party was a group of 5 and as a result we were able to order and try the majority of their seasonal winter menu. All the below, minus the more common dishes like tomato soup, the charcuterie board, and a salad.

Starting with appetizers we had their Winter Squash Veloute with coconut kaffir crema, curry spiced popcorn, cilantro, and chilli oil. This was a creamy, well-churned mixture that went down like velvet. This was a serving that warmed you inside and out and definitely got you excited for the more complex plates to come.

Whereas the Pemberton Roast Veg Salad got your appetite going. A fresh mix of red cabbage, feta, sunchokes, parsnip puree, confit garlic vinaigrette, and a coffee balsamic glaze. A great mix of texture bound together by the sweet and tangy vinaigrette and the contrasting smokey garlic.

Sharing it 5 ways it was harder to get a fair shake of the Rangeland Elk Tartare. Morel mushroom and cheddar cream, charcoal lavish, crabapple jam, and rootdown greens. It ate like a starchy and rich terrine that you slice down to size. As is it seemed incomplete and could have used some crostini to smear over.

The Seared Tuna and white anchovie was a lot leaner with a perfectly prepared soft-boiled egg, olive tapenade, tomato concasse, lemon gel, garlic chips, and a leek aioli. There did not seem to be a star of this dish, something to focus on and have all the ingredients accompany. And with the whole egg and leafy greens it ate like a salad, different elements that are brought together and worked well enough together, but felt incomplete.

Looking to main courses I found the plates became a lot less cohesive, and that it all felt the same as a whole. An assortment of interesting sounding ingredients assembled together on a plate. Tasty enough, but nothing to really have you thinking you wanted more than a bite or would crave again. It was interesting, but not comforting or satisfying.

This was exactly the case with the Smoked Pork Hock Cassoulet. Pork and elk sausage, navy beans, beef fat croutons, ruby steak, and terroir gruyere. The grainy beans felt like the feature as they exerted their presence with their grainy texture (admittedly not my favourite for mouthfeel in general). I wish I had gotten more of the game meat sausage, left in large chunks so that they were noticeable. And that the steak was not sliced so thinly that they went unnoticed. And there also weren’t enough beef fat croutons to go around, so I missed out.

The Koji Potato Latka was densely seasoned potato flavoured like bacon prepared with sake kasu soubise, miso and pemby veg kimchi, sesame furikake, kombu, and microgreens. It read like Asian fusion, but I did not get any of the iconic sweet and salty or spicy and sour Asian nuances. I found the fermented flavour of the kimchi domineering. Overall, the dish felt lost and could have used a uniform agent to bring it all together. Perhaps some julienne green onion to tie it all together with freshness.

I thought the meat protein mains faired better like the Pan Fried Rock Fish with smoked celeriac, crispy fettuccini, piperade, sweet garlic puree, and an apple and fennel salad. The white fish was well cooked and tender. The fresh slaw used for balance had this dish feeling like a dressed-up fish and chips. Where instead of tartar you got a nice sweetness from the puree.

The Flat Iron Steak Tarte was probably one of the most approachable dishes of the night. Puff pastry, onion confit, king oyster mushrooms, crispy kale, and Qualicum blue cheese. Here the dish centred around the thick and tender slices of beef that well contrasted the flaky and buttery party base. The caramelized onions added a nice rounded sweetness and the kale chips provided a great crispy texture to wrap your teeth around.

I found the Alta Cheese Burger disappointed. It had so much promise given the allure of a pork and bison patty topped iwth cheddar sauce and lettuce between a sesame brioche bun. Served with Helmer’s farm potato salad. This one was difficult to split five ways, so we ordered 2 with high hopes. I, short it was uneventful and lacked depth of flavour. It was also far too salty to have as is and I found myself reaching for more of the creamy and chunky potato salad to chase.

Ending on sweet we had both of their dessert options. Unfortunately, I failed to take a photo of this menu and that is listed online is different from what we had on plate. The Rye Rum Baba was a stunning plate, separate elements arranged meaningfully under the cover of a light honeycomb tuille. Ideal for patrons to curate their own bites. I found the block of rich and chocolatey mousse too sweet for me, but somewhat balanced out by the sweet and tart dollops of gel. My favourite element was the spongy bits of ripped banana bread. I would have been happy to have a square of it as is.

The Pressed Apple Terrine ate like gelatinous fruit leather. The notes of cinnamon gave it a nice seasonal accent. This is a great one for those who like classic dessert and to cleanse their palate with something fresh and fun.

Given the prestige of the restaurant I came in with high expectations. I would definitely classify them as a finer dining experience with the work they put into building their plates and the time to finesse the presentation. However, for my tastes I found it overly complicated in order to unnecessarily elevate. You did not leave hungry, but weren’t satisfied either.

Alta Bistro
4319 Main St #104, Whistler, BC V8E 1B1, Canada
+1 604-932-2582

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