By Mia Stainsby, Vancouver Sun
Photograph by: Handout, Files
VANCOUVER — This isn’t a place you’d find strolling through Whistler, so consider this a heads-up.
Alta Bistro is out of the orbit of Whistler’s madding crowds (part of the Pinnacle International Hotel development) and that, for me, is one of its allures.
It’s small and intimate, and on a quiet street (across from the library, which, by the way, has a reasonably-priced parking lot beneath).
Whistler’s entering the shoulder season right about now and that’s exactly why restaurants are doing their annual Dine In Whistler, which is like Vancouver’s Dine Out.
It runs from April 25 to June 22 and they’re offering three-course menus for $19, $29, $39 and $49. (www.whistlerblackcomb.com/todo/events/detail/dine/index.htm)
Which brings me back to Alta.
It’s new, relatively unknown and one of the better places to eat. During Dine In Whistler, they’re offering a $19 three-course menu, which, considering the tempting food, is a loss leader — a chance to make your acquaintance.
Rather than doing the appetizer/main-course/dessert routine, they’re offering two appetizers and a main.
Owners Eric Griffith and Edward Dangerfield have been in the industry for several years, working front of house at various jobs before deciding to open their own restaurant.
“We don’t say it on the menu but we try to be as sustainable as possible,” says Griffith.
They use local products and they built the restaurant tables with pine-beetle-damaged wood (milling the lumber themselves).
They hired Guillaume Gissinger, whom they’d met while working at Umberto Menghi’s Il Caminetto.
Gissinger had gone to work in Spain, then became a private chef when they sent out the call.
The meals I’ve had here were enticing enough to make me want more, especially for the prices: mains are $18 to $26.
My criticism would be with the seafood.
Too often, a beautiful piece of fish is overcooked and not at its most regal.
However, my mouth literally waters at the thought of the beef Burgundy tourtière.
A beef bourguignon-like stew had a roof of the light, flaky puff pastry and on the side, a light green salad and pomme gaufrette.
(The sides vegetables aren’t repeated from dish to dish, à la lazy chef style.)
A duck confit and frisée salad was drizzled with fig dressing and garnished with preserved pear slices. Pork loin two ways featured minced pork studded with gherkin and onions, wrapped in loin meat; Peace River bison carpaccio with juniper berry dressing and B.C. alpine cheese played well together.
Halibut came with a celeriac root purée and white wine sauce, foamed and a lovely piece of B.C. sockeye was served with orange pepper spice, rice and white wine sauce.
Provençal lamb belly was braised for six hours, made into sausage, sliced, then pan-seared and served with demi-glace, braised mushrooms, and roast potatoes.
For dessert, a duo of crème brûlé were rather short on height but tasty; and molten chocolate cake with bing cherry reduction and ice cream was an irresistible trio.
Wines are made from sustainably-farmed grapes and their two $8,000 Enomatic wine systems allow for a wide by-the-glass program.
Overall: Four stars | Food: Four stars | Ambience: Three-and-a-half stars | Service: Three-and-a-half stars | Price: $$
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