Whistler’s restaurants are getting creative and nimble in challenging times
Even Whistler’s finest restaurants offer a more casual vibe; such is the nature of ski resort dining where guests are often keen to top off a day on the mountains with food that’s as great as the surrounding scenery. This season local restaurateurs have pivoted to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and keep the lights on safely all while staying true to their long-established standards.
Here are three standouts known for top-notch dining that also offer more casual experiences, taking relaxed meals to seventh-heaven heights. Despite these most trying of times, they continue to shine with a commitment to top-quality products and warm welcomes. Be sure to check websites for the latest COVID-19 updates.
Araxi Restaurant & Oyster Bar
As it approaches its 40th anniversary next year, Araxi remains a Whistler culinary cornerstone. Long before “farm-to-table” was a catchphrase, Executive Chef James Walt was cooking with local, seasonal, sustainable ingredients in the most tantalizing ways. Quick to meet the challenges of the pandemic, Araxi’s staff are wearing masks, the restaurant tables are spread out and new Plexiglas partitions between tables are unobtrusive. Besides, the focus is on what’s on the plate, not what’s keeping you in your bubble.
Take Araxi’s classic cheese fondue: Emmenthal and Gruyere melted in a little pot with white wine, herbs, and garlic; to dunk into that gooey goodness are chunks of fresh bread, slices of Granny Smith apple, crunchy gherkins, and chewy cubes of sausage or ham. It is perhaps the perfect way to top off a day in the mountains. If the fondue warms you up, why not crank the heat with a Firecracker Margarita, a mainstay on Araxi’s cocktail menu. Araxi infuses Silver Tequila with jalapeno peppers (complete with seeds, which fuel the fire) and basil, then concoct the cocktail using more basil and hot peppers as well as orange wedges, fresh lime juice, and Cointreau, served in a glass with a smoked-sea-salt rim.
“In true 2020 fashion, we are seizing this moment to be creative and to take care of our staff and guests,” says Walt, author of Araxi: Roots to Shoots: Farm Fresh Recipes. “Hospitality and safety are our top priority.”
Basalt Wine & Salumeria
Here’s a cozy place to watch the wintery world go by: Basalt’s heated, covered patio on the Village Stroll is especially magical with its glowing fire pit. Look for additional awnings this season so you can stay dry while giant snowflakes fall from above.
“We really look forward to surprising our guests with our unobtrusive, yet knowledgeable and fun service style, along with the cocktails, wine, and food,” says Michael Guy, director of food and beverage operations.“We wish everyone who joins us to feel like they are at the home of friends. Guests can choose from a simple après experience with charcuterie, cheese, and a glass of wine or a full meal—anything is possible when it comes to patio time.”
Perfect for sharing, beautiful charcuterie boards highlight B.C. products like Little Qualicum Cheeseworks’ Mt. Moriarty, Poplar Grove Cheese’s double cream camembert, and Farm House Natural Cheeses’ gouda alongside prosciutto di Parma, fennel salami, soppressata, and juicy Mediterranean olives.
“Since reopening earlier this year, like all restaurants, it took some time to adjust,” Guy says. “But with a properly laid out safety plan and engaged team members, it seemed easier than it appeared. We put in the effort to improve even the smallest aspects of the business to give the freshness that our guests are looking for.”
Call ahead if you can: “With additional COVID procedures in place, reservations truly allow us to best prepare for our guests at any time of day,” Guy says.
Bearfoot Bistro is as quintessential to Whistler as the skiing itself. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the restaurant may be best known for sabering bottles of Champagne, the largest wine program in B.C., one of the largest cellarsin western Canada, and the Ketel One Ice Room, the world’s chilliest vodka-tasting space.
This season, the celebrated restaurant founded by André Saint-Jacques (who broke the Guinness World Record in 2005 for the most Champagne bottles sabered in a minute) and helmed by Executive Chef Melissa Craig is looking to extend its après-ski offerings and bar bites. Late lunch will be on the menu—meaning you can skip the grab-and-go on the mountain and ski straight to Village Green to replenish.
The oysters at the Bearfoot, from Sawmill Bay Shellfish, are delivered from the ocean within 24 hours from being harvested. “They can’t really be any fresher,” says Executive Chef Melissa Craig. “It’s the perfect time of year for oysters with the cold water.” The Bearfoot also has a resident professional oyster shucker.