Within Whistler, one may make the error of thinking that they are hard pressed to find a fine-dining institution. It is a modern day European chalet town, full of beer patios, comfort food bistros, and a couple of luxury hotel chains. Recently, a couple of new venues have opened up to showcase a more fine-dining experience, but they are few and far between. Instead, one should look behind the main street of Whistler’s village. Tucked away behind the bustling streets full of skiers and tourists, is Bearfoot Bistro – an ultra fine dining institution with the largest wine cellar in all of British Columbia, and, funnily enough, an ice vodka room. With exceptional food, wine, and vodka in an intimate and cosy setting, this may well be the perfect place to come to for your special occasion when in Whistler.
Founded by Andre Saint-Jaques, the vision for Bearfoot Bistro was to serve excellent wine and beautiful food which will always lead to a celebration. And thus perhaps the Vodka room. Bearfoot Bistro has the coldest vodka tasting room in the world, called the “Kettle One Ice room”. There is also a private dining area with a huge wine cellar (featuring the likes of jeroboams and Dom Perignon 1996 no less).
It was on a cold -14 degrees celsius night that we set out for dinner at the Bearfoot Bistro. Upon arrival, we found the doors opened out to two giant velvet drapes that led to a staircase which brought us into the restaurant. A grandiose welcome already, we were greeted by our host who showed us to a lovely table with a view of the beautiful open kitchen, where executive chef Melissa Craig orchestrated dinner service. We then were quickly whisked away down into the wine cellar (which houses over 20,000 plus bottles no less) to kick off the evening. As part of the Bearfoot Bistro celebration, we started with a champagne sabering. Handed a champagne saber, and a bottle, our host Marc showed us how to saber before releasing us to try it ourselves. A fantastic and successful moment later, he presented us with two glasses of champagne from the flowing bottle, and popped the champagne cork and top into an elegant custom box (akin to a jewelry box for those on a date night) as a keepsake. A brilliant experience and a great opportunity to impress any date.
After the excitement, we went back to our table with our glasses of the champagne we just sabered to experience the food. Chef Melissa Craig had created a fantastic amuse bouche for us with a salmon ceviche with a citrus blood orange, foam and little crunch for texture. Slightly salty, tangy, sweet and crunchy, the myriad of flavors truly excited our palates. The surprises kept coming as the bartender arrived with a trolley of vodkas and mixers, and, in a copper teapot, began to whisk away a nitrogen martini for us. Named a “Vespa” martini in an homage to James Bond, this concoction was chilled with nitrogen tableside to create a steamy, smokey, deliciously cold and icy martini for us to sip, in further theatrical fashion, as we waited for our starters to arrive. Already the evening was off to an excellent start.
To start, we had an amuse bouche of oysters with tempura, before the first starter of Maple Soy Cured Wild Salmon with lychee, compressed cucumber, blood orange, white shoyu, tapioca, and jalapeño. Presented immaculately, this delicate yet flavorsome dish blew us away as a mouthwatering introduction to Bearfoot’s cuisine. To pair, wine director Luc Trottier brought us Fitzpatrick’s, The Mischief, a Pinot Blanc from Peachland in British Columbia, 2017 vintage. With a brilliant golden hue and aromas of apple, pear, honeydew, citrus blossom and slight tropical notes, this neutral oak aged wine with some lees contact showed great texture and complexity. Viscous and lovely, it stood up well to the flavorsome salmon dish.
Our first big starter followed shortly after, in the form of an Atlantic Lobster Chowder with honey mussels, littleneck clams, confit fennel, and saffron tuile. Another flavorsome dish, the lobster was tender and juicy whilst the mussels gave pleasant sweet and salty notes that worked wonderfully with the confit fennel aniseed. A richer dish than the prior, we had Louis Jadot’s Chablis, from Burgundy, France , 2018. Pale gold in colour with more apple, pear and lime on the nose, this slightly chalky yet luscious white cut through the creamy chowder well.
Our first main was the Yarrow Meadows Duck Confit Cavatelli, with textures of cauliflower, brown butter espuma, and a Brussels sprouts salad with leeks. The duck was juicy and tender yet pleasantly lean, whilst the brussel sprouts added a welcome earthiness to the sweet flavors of the confit. A well rounded dish, this was paired with the Lopez de Haro, Reserva, Rioja from Spain, 2015. This blend of tempranillo and graciano from San Vicente de la Sonsierra, La Rioja, has seen twenty months in French and American oak. With crushed plum, cassis, leather, and a bit of tobacco on the palate, this musky red gave a deep, sumptuous dose of depth to the duck, beautifully.
The Sterling Silver Beef Tenderloin with wild mushroom jus, Yukon potato purée, lobster mushroom, roasted parsnip, and kale was our second main. A mighty dish of fulsome Sunday roast flavors, including a refreshing dose of kale for greens, proved brilliantly filling, the beef rich and meaty, the roast parsnips sweet and earthy. Joseph Phelps, Innisfree, Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, 2016, was the perfect wine pairing for this main, the tannins softening the beef wonderfully whilst the fruit added freshness to the dish.
As we finished our mains, Marc insisted we experience the vodka room. Given the arctic climate inside, we were given huge, puffy, ultra-Canadian jackets to don (mine was deliciously large and cosy) before we gingerly stepped into the icy room. Icy, brightly lit, cavernous, and, well, full of Vodka bottles, this Vodka ice room was quite literally – a room made of ice filled with Vodka. And the vodka options were endless. Everything from all the mainstream brands, to lesser known British one hit wonders, to rare, Russian sought after specials, the vodka room had everything. We may have got over excited at this point, as our host eagerly handed us vodka shot after vodka shot, insisting we sample, well, pretty much, everything. After about 7 shots each, we stumbled out of the ice room, feeling surprisingly refreshed and energized (the cold does that to you) and crawled our way back to our dining table for the grand finale – dessert.
To finish, we had the Nitro Ice Cream, with Tahitian vanilla bean, and sundae toppings. Cold, creamy, sweet, with a crunch on the first bite, this was almost a palate cleansing style of dessert yet also incredibly moreish. We ended the meal with the Sortilege, a Maple Whisky from Quebec. Sortilege follows the traditional recipe for Whisky making, yet brings a rich, golden flavour of maple syrup – that Canadian edge. Medium sweet and perfect with the vanilla bean ice cream, this was a perfect pairing.
Feeling full, merry, and a little bit over excited from the sugar high of dessert and seemingly endless shots of vodka, we left Bearfoot Bistro in high spirits. Smiling and laughing in the taxi home, we earnestly nodded to each other a promise to return to Bearfoot before too long to keep the party going. What a wonderful, wonderful night!
4121 Village Green
BC V0N 1B4