Reader. Writer. Romantic.

Posts tagged ‘luxury’

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: Via Cibo

Location: 101-104 Country Village Rd NE
Website: http://www.viacibo.com/

Years ago, I went here with my parents and sister after our trip to Italy, but I don’t remember much of it.  The only thing I remember of that trip was getting a macchiato and having my dad say, “That’s even stronger than what I drink.” It made for a good laugh.

This time, I had the fortune of going with my boyfriend, his cousin, and her kids. The best part about this was that we got to share everything family style, allowing us to try out more dishes off their menu. Via Cibo isn’t like your typical sit down restaurant. It’s setup more like Vendome’s is: you order at the counter and are given a number. Once the dishes have been prepared, they are brought out to your table.

Most everyone had a generic drink (soft drink or juice), but I ordered an Italian soda. Since they had cherry, I went for it. Usually it’s my sister who has the Italian soda, but today I felt adventurous. There was a nice balance of syrup to carbonated water making it so that it wasn’t too bland or too sweet.

That evening we ordered a pepperoni pizza for Braeden and two formaggio (cheese) pizzas off the children’s menu (which is actually a meal combo which comes with a drink and gelato) for Cindy’s kids, Keenah and Taye. The pepperoni pizza isn’t like the chain pizza joints’ style of pepperoni pizza. The crust was thin where the toppings were and airy around the edges.  It was garnished with rosemary which set it apart from most other kinds of pepperoni pizza, giving it an almost more high class, refined taste. And the pepperoni tasted like cured meat usually tastes, unlike pepperoni on store bought or chain pizza restaurants, which tastes just like salt.  Cindy and I ordered the Gnocchi and Steak Italiana to share. The Gnocchi was a no brainer as it had been a recommendation from Cindy/a friend of hers.  The Gnocchi consisted of a Gorgonzola cream sauce, pancetta, and slow roasted tomato, garnished with green onion and Grana Padano. I am typically apprehensive about dishes that contain Gorgonzola or any form of bleu cheese because of its strong taste and smell. However, this was not the case with this dish. For those who don’t know, pancetta is essentially Italian bacon, which of course enhanced the flavour of the dish, potentially masking.  Another reason could be that Gorgonzola is a milder bleu cheese than others I have had. One bite of the gnocchi was all it took to send me to cloud nine. If luxury was a dish, this would be it. The richness of the dish made me feel as though I was dining in a high end, expensive restaurant rather than a place serving Italian street food. My only reservation about this dish is the addition of the tomatoes. They did not serve to enhance the flavour or add anything to the dish. The second thing, I’m not sure if this is a reservation or not, but the balance of gnocchi to pancetta was off. I’m not sure if that was originally how it was or if it was because the gnocchi was so good that we were too focused on eating that and not paying attention to the pancetta. The Steak Italiana was something more reminiscent of Italian street food. It consisted of Grilled Steak, arugula, carmelized onion, slow roasted tomato, Grana Padano, and a Pesto Aioli. The steak was perfectly cooked.  The tomatoes had far more utility in this dish than in the gnocchi. There was a nice balance of sweet (tomatoes and onions), salty (steak and Grana Padano), bitter (arugula), and richness (onion and aioli) in the sandwich. The sandwich came with a small salad that provided the acid the dish needed. However, since we got so much food, I wasn’t able to finish the salad on my own. Lastly we got Tuscan fries to share (regular for the kids). The Tuscan fries were aggressively seasoned with rosemary and salt with a hint of white truffle oil, garnished with Grana Padano and served with a spicy aioli. I found the fries to be a little on the salty side, but they had good flavour and crunch.

For dessert the children consisted of Nutella gelato. Brae got the mango pineapple gelato, and I got a pistachio affogato. Turns out Brae loved it so much that after we left, we actually came back later that evening to get another one and came back again the following day. This was my first time getting an affogato. An affogato is  gelato with a shot of espresso. Although I chose pistachio, I feel like coconut or something creamier (chocolate -which they were out of- or vanilla) would have complemented the espresso better because pistachio has such a light flavour that it got lost. The next day, when Brae came to get his mango pineapple gelato, I got the coconut one. It is more like a sorbetto than a gelato and I’m thinking it probably wouldn’t have worked any better.

If I had another stomach I would’ve tried the mushroom pizza they had on special. If their pizza was anything like the one I had at Scopa, I would have died. That pizza is truly the most amazing, delicious pizza I have had in my life. Maybe next time I go they’ll still have it.

Based on my experience this time, I would rate it 4.5/5 and would definitely return. I love restaurants with an open kitchen so that I can watch them cook, but also because I can see exactly how far along they are along with my dish and watch them walk my food out to me. The wait staff was patient and very helpful and friendly. I can’t wait to come back here again another day.

kitchen

Kitchen

cashier

Cashier

cheese-pizza

Formaggio (Cheese) Pizza

tuscan-fries

Tuscan Fries

steak-italiana

Steak Italiana

pepperoni-pizza

Pepperoni Pizza

gelato

Mango Pineapple Gelato

affogato

Pistachio Affogato

Tag Cloud