The first time I went to the Bearfoot Bistro was in 2008, my first year covering the Whistler Film Festival (WIFF) for Miss604. The restaurant was the venue for the Director’s Guild of Canada’s WIFF party and I remember sitting at a table with woman I had recently met, filmmaker Eunhee Cha, talking about film and life. Canapés floated by and we kept stopping mid-conversation to taste things and to say things like “Canapés are never this good a film festival parties” and “This food is truly gorgeous.”
Fast forward to last Tuesday afternoon: I’m staying with my now-very-close friend Eunhee’s at her home in Whistler when I get the message that my request to review The Bearfoot Bistro for Miss604 has been confirmed and that dinner will be a couple of hours.
Owned by French-Canadian André Saint-Jacques, Bearfoot Bistro has a reputation of being one of if not the best restaurant in Whistler, BC, even Canada. Their Executive Chef, Melissa Craig, was once awarded the gold award at the Gold Medal Plates Canadian Culinary Championships — one of the most prestigious culinary events in Canada.
The second we walk through the doors, we are warmly greeted by Saint-Jacques, who immediately escorts us down to the 1,500-square-foot wine cellar which constantly wins the Award of Excellence by Wine Spectator magazine, with its over 20,000 bottles stacked up along the walls lit by blue lights. Saint-Jacques shows me how to saber a bottle of champagne. He just so happens to be an expert, holding the Guinness World Record for sabering the most bottles in a minute – 21, to be exact. He gives me the sword and I lightly graze the neck of the bottle with the blade and tap—opening a beautiful bottle Moet & Chandon Rose champagne.
We are seated upstairs and the 5-course Chef’s tasting menu begins. The amuse bouche is an Atlantic Lobster Salad with crème fraiche and a couple adorable baby potato chip in spoon.
Next, served on a granite tile, is an albacore toro tartare, with a jalapeño purée, frozen ruby grapefruit forest, and tempura enoki, which is so tiny and cute and gives a nice crunch.
A seared scallop follows, with a green pea mascarpone tortellini, Atlantic lobster cream, and Canadian caviar. I really like the deconstructed presentation of this dish—especially the peas being outside the pods. The dish goes really well with the wine paring provided: the 2008 Cedar Creek, Chardonnay from Kelowna B.C.
Just when I think the braised veal cheeks are melting in my mouth, I get a bite of the seared Quebec foie gras, which compliments the strength in flavours of the morel mushrooms and yummy fiddleheads. One of my absolute favourite wines is served with this dish: 2010 Meyer, Pinot Noir from Okanagan Falls, B.C.
The main adventure, as our server calls it, is the Roasted Lamb and Braised Belly, with small confit garlic potato croquette, apricot purée, toasted almond. I’m not a fan of the pairing choice, personally, the Nivole, Muscato D’Asti, Piedmont, Italy.
The dessert is a frozen coconut mousse with passion tapioca, exotic fruit sorbet, and mini meringues. Just when I think everything over, Saint-Jacques sweeps us away, gives us parkas to wear, and brings us into the Belvedere Ice Room, Canada’s first by sub-zero tasting room, and pours a variety of vodkas for us to taste. My favourite of the night? Ketle One, distilled in Holland.
Back at our table, our server is stationed with a big bowl, creams, creamy liquors, and liquid nitrogen. We pick the flavours vanilla and Kahlua. He then begins to make ice cream mixing the cream and pouring liquid nitrogen over it and mixing it all together with white vapour pouring out, onto the floor. I’ve never known ice cream to taste so perfect and smooth. I’m told it’s because the water molecules are frozen in place by the liquid nitrogen and become immobilized in tiny mini-crystals, rather than big ones, so what you get this wonderful creamy effect and taste.
Everything about the evening was about echos: the minuature potaote chips, the mininature croquettes, the minuature meringues; being swept down to the cellar and then later to the Ice Room for tastings; the coldness of the Ice Room, the chill of the ice cream. And just as he escorted us in, Saint-Jacques escorts us out, at the end of the evening, saying, “Here is to new friends,” and I look at Eunhee and think about the Whistler Film Festival and Bearfoot Bistro all those years ago, belly full of probably the best meal of my life, and everything seems absolutely perfect.
The five-course tasting tasting menu is available for $98 per person but it’s worth because not only it it’s amazing food, but it also includes wine. Right now is Lobster Fest and it’s only $29.99 for a three-course meal.
I’m looking forward to their event for Outstanding in the Field on July 14 and their World Oyster Invitational the next day, where there is an oyster shucking competition. Saint-Jacques said that he sometimes posts deals on Twitter – follow them – I heard he once was tweeted something about offering a bottle of Don Perignon champagne to anyone who came in the restaurant knowing about the tweet.