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Posts tagged ‘Alberta Beef Tenderloin’

Restaurant Review: Araxi

Location: 110 – 4222 Village Square, Whistler, BC
Website: https://www.araxi.com/

Writing restaurant reviews had begun to lose their appeal. It had just become another mundane task, tedious, another “chore.” I had hoped that of all the writing I did, this would never happen to the reviews I wrote. As a matter of fact, I’m haven’t written the review for Tokachi and I’m not sure if I’m going to do a full review or if I’m going to just do a quick/short blurb on my Facebook page and call it a day. After all, it was more of an all-you-can-eat experience rather than a “fine dining” one. Then I happened across Araxi. From the minute that Alex suggested we make a day trip to Whistler, this restaurant has been on my mind. Ever since having heard of it on a season of Hell’s Kitchen, it’s been a dream of mine to try a “Gordon Ramsay” restaurant. I’m not sure if it’s still considered a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, but to dine at one of his restaurants has always been a dream of mine. Araxi, at its core, is the reason I began writing these reviews in the first place. Dining here has reignited a passion within me again.

When I mentioned this restaurant, I never expected to be going so soon, so when Alex asked me this morning if I wanted to go here, I had to keep myself from screaming out. Though I gave the calmest, most nonchalant answer I could manage, the foodie in me couldn’t keep quiet. I had perused the menu, as per usual, and I knew that a restaurant of this caliber would not be cheap, but I also knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I would not regret it. On a whim, I decided to check if there was availability at the restaurant for today and I don’t know if it was luck, but there was time. I can’t express enough how much I love modern technology when it comes to booking reservations. With a touch of a button, I made a reservation here through OpenTable. OpenTable is by far my favourite platform for booking reservations. The app is so user friendly for changing times, dates, and party sizes and for cancellations.

After a couple hours of exploring the town site, we headed down to the restaurant, arriving approximately fifteen minutes early for our five o’clock reservation. However, the dining room and dinner service doesn’t begin until five, so we were shown to the bar until our table was ready. We were seated at the bar and presented with three drink menus, all fairly comprehensive. Alex ordered a Wartsteiner non-alcoholic beer, her boyfriend, Alex ordered a raspberry lemonade, substituting water for soda, and I order the Perfect Wave, a non-alcoholic cocktail containing grapefruit, lime, lavender, and soda. The raspberry lemonade had a freshness to it from the sprig of mint used for garnish. The Perfect Wave was a little heavy on the lime and the only hit of grapefruit I got from the drink was in the bitterness of the fruit. In my first sip, I was greeted with an overwhelming punch of lavender, the kind of punch that makes you think, “Hello!” This drink is certainly not shy in its flavours and while it all seemed overwhelming at first, it really grows on you as you continue to drink it. Along with our drinks we were given some truffle popcorn. I absolutely love truffle, so this was delicious to me. However, I can’t say that this is the best truffle popcorn I’ve had to date. That honour goes to Evoolution with their butter truffle popcorn. The creamy, saltiness of the butter in Evoolution’s popcorn beats truffle salted popcorn.

Having seen the prices of the a la carte items and having seen that there was an option for a prix fixe menu for Araxi’s 37th anniversary, we decided to go with the prix fixe. Alex and I both ordered the Albacore Tuna Poke and Alex (bf) ordered the Jumbo Prawn Cocktail as starters. The menu advertised the Poke as crispy yam noodles with albacore tuna, sockeye salmon, green onion, Japanese pepper and spicy poke sauce. I can’t say that that sauce was spicy, but it certainly was aggressively seasoned. The tuna had a melt in your mouth quality and the salmon was bright and firm on the palate. Though it wasn’t mentioned on the menu, the poke was accompanied by a seaweed salad. Alex thoroughly enjoyed the salad and in my first bite, my tastebuds rebelled. You could definitely taste the sea in that salad. But as the meal went on, the salad grew on me. It was the perfect compliment to the salinity of the soy and the pure flavour of the fish. The Jumbo Prawn Cocktail is exactly what you’d expect of it. The prawns were paired with a house prepared cocktail sauce and accompanied by a salsa verde and spring pickles (assorted pickled veggies). While the cocktail sauce was of a higher quality than what you’d get out of a jar or even at some of the other restaurants, I personally don’t find this dish to really be worth it. The spring pickles were an interesting addition to the dish. Based on the flavour profile of the pickles, they don’t really complement the prawns or cocktail sauce. They felt slightly out of place within this dish, almost as if they were added as an after thought to the plate to justify the cost (on the a la carte menu, 4 prawns is $19.50).

While we waited for our mains, we munched on some bread. The presentation of the butter wasn’t like anything I had ever seen before. It was somewhat reminiscent of an egg, but the colours of yolk and albumin were reversed. On the one hand, it’s just bread and butter, but on the other, the warm bread, the slight chew of it, coupled with the unique presentation of the butter, in a way, elevated it.

For our mains, Alex ordered the Alberta Beef Tenderloin Steak (for an additional $15), Alex (bf) ordered the Paradise Valley Pork Tenderloin Duo, and I ordered the Miso Marinated Wild BC Sablefish. All three dishes were plated beautifully. Sablefish, also known as black cod or butterfish, is one of my favourite fish, but it is also one of the most expensive fish because of its amazing texture. As one of its alternate names indicates, it has an intensely rich buttery taste. Sablefish is a delicate fish, prone to becoming rubbery when over cooked. This is the fish I want served at my wedding. The Sablefish is served with daikon radish, baby bok choy, shaved scallions, shiitake mushrooms and a smoked tuna lemongrass dashi broth. The mushrooms had been properly infused with flavour, I assume from the dashi, and wonderfully succulent. It was unfortunate that the first of my two piece of fish was slightly overcooked. It wasn’t horrible and not a consistency that was disagreeable to me because I didn’t even realize that it was overcooked until I dug into the second piece. While the second piece wasn’t as severely overcooked as the first, it was still more cooked than I was used to and more than I would’ve like. It had lost much of its flaky smooth quality that defines it. In the past, I have had bad experiences with ordering pork, primarily with it being underdone (and still pink inside. I know that you can eat it with some pinkness, but it’s still not something I’m overly comfortable with) or overdone (and dry). I have to say, the pork duo was the most surprising dish of this evening with how absolutely amazing it was. The dish was a roasted pork loin, smoked pork belly, sweet onion soubise, brandied cherry jus, Rootdown Farm rainbow chard and hakurei turnips. The pork belly was the best thing I’ve ever tasted in my life. It simply just melted in your mouth. It was actually so good that my head started spinning. The loin was impressive, but paled in comparison to the belly. Don’t get me wrong, the loin was very good. It wasn’t under or over cooked. It was tender and the natural juices remained within the cut of meat. The dish actually came with brandied cherries, not just the jus. Like the lavender, the brandy really announced itself. The Steak was served with roasted fingerling potatoes with thyme, asparagus, charred baby onions, red wine sauce and chimichurri. Sure, it seems ridiculous to be ordering Alberta beef in BC, but the masterful preparation of this cut of meat at Araxi is second to none. The chef’s handling of the beef is nothing Alex has ever enjoyed before. Throughout the meal, she couldn’t keep from remarking on the tenderness of the meat. There was almost a melt in your mouth quality about it even. Alex even mentioned that she typically doesn’t enjoy chimichurri, but she quite enjoyed it.

Last but not least, dessert. There were three desserts and three of us, so naturally we ordered them all. I had the strawberry + pistachio nougat glace, Alex had the Araxi ‘Harmony Ridge’ Chocolate Tart, and Alex (bf) had the House Made Petits Fours. Alex and I ordered coffees with our dessert; she had an Americano and I had a macchiato. I’m glad that Alex² chose their dessert first because I was really struggling with what I wanted, but in the end, I think we all ended up with desserts that best suited us. The Glace consisted of Fraser Valley berries with frozen pistachio parfait and lemon-basil chiffon cake. The smell of the strawberry coulis waifed off the plate, seriously stirring my appetite. It was a light dessert and didn’t make me regret my entire life as most desserts often do with their richness and sweetness. The fresh strawberries were firm, but very sweet and I don’t know what variety of mint this restaurant uses, but it’s a very minty mint. It’s delightful! Alex’s Chocolate Tart was dark chocolate ganache in a sweet pastry crust topped with chantilly cream and accented with fresh raspberries. From the one bite I had, I thoroughly enjoyed it as it wasn’t nearly as sweet and rich as I had expected from a chocolate ganache. The bitterness of the chocolate was absolutely perfect to me. I didn’t even need the coffee to cut through the sweetness as I often have to do. The Petits Fours consisted of a financier, chocolate, fruit jelly and salted caramel. It also came with hazelnut chocolate bark and a blondie. I’d have to agree with Alex that the fruit jelly was one of the best things on the plate. I didn’t try the salted caramel or the hazelnut chocolate bark, but was informed that the salted caramel contained flecks of sea salt dispersed within. The financier was almond (I believe) and was very light in its flavour.

This place had impeccable service, a perfect balance to the impeccable food. As I mentioned earlier, Araxi reignited a passion in me that I thought no longer existed. If I could afford to eat like this every day, I would, but I suppose that would remove the “special” element from it. I will acknowledge that it is expensive, but I would say that this place is worth every penny. The best thing I find with fine dining restaurants is that there’s lots of courses, but I never walk out of the place feeling like I’ve eaten too much. I would 100% come back to this restaurant and would rate this place 4.75/5 (which is probably the highest rating I’ve ever given, on par with Teatro’s).

Araxi Exterior
Restaurant Interior
Bread and Butter
Albacore Tuna Poke
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail
Miso Marinated Wild BC Sablefish
Paradise Valley Pork Tenderloin Duo
Alberta Beef Tenderloin Steak
Strawberry + Pistachio Nougat Glace and Macchiato
Araxi ‘Harmony Ridge’ Chocolate Tart
House Made Petits Fours

Restaurant Review: Escoba Bistro and Wine Bar

Location: 624 8 Ave SW
Website: https://www.escoba.ca/

I first heard about Escoba as it was the place chosen to sorta host our welcome lunch for our articling students (a mentors, principals, and articling students lunch).  As you may well know, Italian flavours are very attractive to me.  While they do have other items on their menu that wouldn’t fall under Italian and they do classify themselves as a Mediterranean restaurant, they have some quintessentially Italian offerings such as arancini and panzanella salad.

Originally, Carmen and I were planning on going to Teatro, but as we were unable to procure a reservation, this became our next restaurant of choice.  I love how convenient it is to make and cancel reservations through OpenTable and I’m glad to say that this is one of the places that does accept reservations through that app.

For the starter, we chose to go with the Appetizer Taster, which allowed us to try three appetizers for $18 (or $9 per additional person).  For the Appetizer Taster, we could choose from the top five items on the appetizer menu: Escoba Spring Rolls, Prawn & Crab Cakes, Italian Meatballs, Wild Mushroom and Oka Arancini, and the Mediterranean Black Bean Croquettes.  As Carmen has a plethora of sensitivities and allergies, it ruled out all but three of the options.  Through inquiries, we found out that the restaurant doesn’t deep fry anything, everything is oven baked using olive oil.  We ordered the Prawn & Crab Cakes, Italian Meatballs and Wild Mushroom and Oka Arancini.  The Italian Meatballs and Arancini could be enjoyed as is while the Prawn & Crab cakes had to be enjoyed with the aioli on the side, as the mayonnaise used in the aioli contained an oil that Carmen couldn’t have.  We both started with the Arancini.  I was slightly disappointed as I couldn’t find the wild mushrooms or Oka as advertised in its name.  I love mushrooms and really would have loved to have been able to taste it.  I will admit that the balsamic drizzle on the Arancini was very nice and the truffle crème fraîche was quite nice.  Though I’m not sure whether it was white or black truffle, I’m pretty certain it was white, but it wasn’t overpowering as is often the case with white truffle oil.  The pepperiness of the arugula was a nice contrast to the creamy crème fraîche and Arancini.  Next we tried the Italian Meatball that had a lovely warm tomato sauce, pesto, and Parmesan accompaniment.  The Meatballs were served on top of watercrest.  I originally thought that it was arugula, but Carmen noticed the difference in the leaf shape and corrected me.  Watercrest tastes remarkably similar to arugula that I didn’t notice they were different.  Next time, I’ll have to pay closer attention.  The final component to our trio was the Prawn & Crab Cakes, which was the one I was most excited for.  While it was difficult to discern prawn from crab, the lemon-caper aioli was the best thing I have ever tasted.  That aioli was the make and break point of this component.  Carmen noted that usually crab cakes are among one of her favourite, she did not enjoy it as it was “quite fishy.”  I believe that the aioli, had she been able to eat it, would have counteracted that quite nicely.  I was also surprised at myself as I usually don’t like capers, but I loved it in this application.

For our mains, Carmen ordered the Tiger Rose and I had the Alberta Beef Tenderloin.  While I don’t drink, I like that the menu recommends wine pairing for each of their dishes for people who do drink and aren’t sommeliers (and are too shy to ask about wine pairings, but also, this makes things easier on servers).  The Tiger Rose contains pan-seared tiger prawns, asparagus & sundried tomatoes tossed in a tomato Dijon cream sauce with linguine.  I have to admit, I was eying this, but as I frequently get pasta, I decided to go for the tenderloin. I suppose I could have gone with the best of both worlds and chosen the beef tenderloin fettuccini.  I only shied away from the Tiger Rose because I wasn’t sure I was feeling in the mood for a Dijon cream sauce.  Thinking about it now, it sounds intriguing and I would definitely give it a try.   I was actually debating whether to go with the tenderloin or salmon, but ultimately went with the tenderloin.  The tenderloin was an 6 oz AAA tenderloin, served with Gorgonzola smashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, bordelaise sauce and a foie gras butter.  Like the Dijon, I was a little apprehensive about the Gorgonzola as I was worried that it would be overpoweringly strong, as is often the case with blue cheeses, but I knew that Gorgonzola went really well with beef and the server gave me one last push by saying that her favourite thing to do when she ordered the tenderloin was to take a bite of potato with the steak.  Intrigued, I ordered it.  Unfortunately, the Gorgonzola was undetectable, which was disappointing.  I may not like how strong it is at times, but if I ordered it, I want to be able to at least taste it.  In recent years, I’ve grown to really love red peppers and I always find that it pairs really well with beef.  I was, at one point really excited because I thought I had gotten two pieces of red pepper, turns out the other was a slice of tomato…

Of course, what is a meal without dessert.  The dessert menu had so many amazing options, but again, it was the server’s suggestion that cemented my decision.  I ordered the Cookies and Cream which was amazing!  It was essentially caramel sauce sandwiched between two fluffy chocolate cakes with spiced rum, topped with vanilla ice cream and more caramel and a raspberry coulis and more caramel sauce drizzled on the plate.  The only weird thing on the plate were the microgreens under the ramekin.  A better choice here would have been mint.  If I wasn’t already so full and happy with my main, I probably would have gotten another dessert.

The food and service at Escoba was exceptional!  Our server not only wanted to know what Carmen was allergic to based on what she could think of by looking at the ingredients listed on the menu, but wanted to know all her allergies and sensitivities in case they weren’t listed and in case there was any cross-contamination.  I got to learn a lot about processes and ingredients and I really like to be able to learn about my dining experience, especially as  a restaurant reviewer.

I would definitely come back here.  It’s a great date night spot.  Based on my experience here, I would rate this place a 4.5/5.

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Sign

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Projected sign

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Restaurant Exterior

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Restaurant Interior

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Cork Wall (behind me)

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Appetizer Teaser (left to right): Wild Mushroom and Oka Arancini, Prawn & Crab Cakes, and Italian Meatballs

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Tiger Rose

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Alberta Beef Tenderloin

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Cookies and Cream

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