4121 Village Green Whistler, BC V0N 1B4
Tastiness Factor: 4.5/5
Locavore Approved? YES (Not as passionate about local ingredients as Alta Bistro, but do have seasonal menu. Pemberton Farms produce used in many dishes, local fish.)
After such a pleasant meal at Alta Bistro the night before, we wondered if the better-known Bearfoot Bistro, among the hottest spots in Whistler right now, could possibly measure up.
Although both Alta and Bearfoot are both called "bistro", I have a hard time thinking of Bearfoot as a bistro. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, bistro is defined as a "small and Unpretentious restaurant". Alta, with its cozy, welcoming space fits this definition to the tee but Bearfoot, not so much. The room is more on the formal side and there was more of a fine-dining overtone to the whole experience. The only "bistro-like" element to the evening was the front of the house staff, sporting their walking shorts and tank-tops, wearing "Toms" on their feet. A little bit of an identity crisis perhaps?
Overall, the service was quite good. Each dish was described to us in detail by the numberous servers that we had throughout the evening. Our main server was obviously experienced, and was gracious in answering all of my questions. He was familiar with all dishes and was helpful with menu selection. I was not as impressed, however, with the sommelier, who, after finding out that we were wanting only a glass of wine each instead of a few bottles, seemed to pretty much brush us off. She was short in her responses to my wine questions and then never returned later in the meal to see if we wanted anything else (which I probably would have if she had asked). Certainly not very "bistro-ish".
Now to the food. Like Alta, Bearfoot does not offer dishes a-la-carte. You must order a three-course menu but, unlike Alta, this includes a dessert. I am really not a fan of this traditional 3 course setup as I am not a restaurant dessert fan (I would rather have a yummy cookie when I get home!) and therefore, I much prefered Alta's approach with 3 smaller savory dishes. Fortunately, I spoke up and asked for 2 appetizers and a main instead of a appie/main/dessert and they did accomodate my request. Portion size at Bearfoot was fairly generous, especially the apetizer portions. My belly was certainly more full after leaving Bearfoot than it was Alta the night previously. Plate presentation exceptional and really added to the experience. We also really appreciated the generous Amuse (that night, a bite of lobster with avocado, fresh and delecious) as well as the sorbet before the main (a passion fruit sorbet, perfect for summer). These additions really made the meal extra-special.
Here are the dishes that my husband and I enjoyed:
Dish 1: Grilled Pacific Octopus
Don't let the octopus scare you. Although this was the least favorite of my dishes, that is only because the other two were so fabulous and this one was "just" great. I loved the farro salad and the octopus was tender and mild. The chili-infused olive oil added just the right amount of spice. My only criticism was that there was too much of the boro and that it overwhelmed the other flavours somewhat. Just a few pieces of the thinly-sliced meat would have sufficed in my opinion, as the dish was already substantial enough.
Dish 2: Vancouver Island Black Cod
This was my second appetizer since, as I mentioned previously, I chose not to have dessert. This was without a doubt one of my favorite dishes of 2012. Black cod is my absolute favorite fish and this one was prepared perfectly. It was a strikingly beautiful dish, with the white fish perched atop the most beautiful sea of green of the pea gnocci. The mascarpone cream was light, making it perfect for summer. The gnocci were fluffy pillows of deliciousness. Absolute bliss.
Dish 3: Albacore tuna toro tarare.
My husband is now an expert in tuna tartare as he orders it whenever it is on the menu, and this seems to be a trendy dish at restaurants this summer. He did not hesitate in choosing this version as his favorite one to date, edging out Alta's rendition the night prior and Hawksworth's tuna at our anniversary dinner. He loved the addition of the pressed watermelon rind and the tang of the jalepeno puree. The tuna was melt-in-your mouth smooth. Another winner.
Dish 4: Canadian Rangeland buffalo
My husband chose this as his main, mostly because of the appeal of the bourbon bbq sauce. He was not to be disappointed, as the sauce was thick and spicy which really dressed up the mild flavours of the buffalo. Although he is generally not a cornbread fan, he did not leave a crucb of the accompanying version in this dish. He even ate the quinoa, which he has generally avoided in the past (sounds too "healthy" he says!). The portion was very generous and the plating was solid. Again, a very successful dish!
Dish 5: Butternut squash marscapone "cannelloni"
After ordering the cod for an appie, I felt like a vegetarian main would complete the meal nicely. The canneloni, the only vegetarian main, was pretty much a must-have as soon as I saw it as I love butternut squash, pine nuts and and mushrooms. At first, I found the choice of butternut squash a bit surprising for a summer menu (it is more often a fall ingredient) and, while this dish may have been more suitable for a fall menu, I was very glad to have it served to me on a summer's night, or any time of the year! The squash took the place of pasta that is typical of cannemoni and was wrapped around a mixture of wild rice and mushrooms that was reminiscent of a risotto. A pinenut espuma (aka foam) gave the dish a balancing lightness. The complete dish looked like a piece of art on a plate. Bearfoot delivered again, with what I consider one of my top vegetarian dishes of 2012.
Dish 6: Peanut and milk chocolate bar (sorry, no pic!)
This was my husband's least favorite part of his meal. He loved the first bite but this dessert is the epitomy of richness and he had a hard time finishing it. Although Bearfoot must generally be commended for its generous portions, but sometimes, as with this dish, more is not better. Half of the bar, with something to cut the richness would probably make it more sucessful.
Based on food only, this was easily among the very best meal of 2012 so far. My husband's tuna and my cod were things of perfection. The chef and her team and extremely talented and are a wonderful asset to Whistler.
As a whole experience, Bearfoot was a little less succesful for me. The atmosphere is a little on the "stuffy" side, which you do not expect going into a "bistro". Perhaps if Bearfoot just called a spade a spade and declared itself as the Fine Dining establishment it is, its diners (and may themselves too) would be a little less confused and more accepting of a bit of the formality. Vancouver and Whistler seem a bit scared of fine dining these days, but there is a time and place for everything and there are certainly times when people seek out a place with all the bells and whistles where they feel pampered.
With a chef this good, a few tweeks to round out the dining experience would be all that is needed to make this a place soar right to the top of Whistler's dining scene.