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Return to bliss

Araxi’s maintains its high standards with a new seafood bar and the return of chefs James Walt and Aaron Heath

Whistler, being one of North America’s most prestigious resorts, offers unparalleled dining opportunities in a place where the scenery is stunning and the food is harvested from diverse, yet local, environs. Araxi restaurant leads the pack of luxury dining experiences in warm, welcoming and serene surroundings. Araxi is hard to miss when walking by, especially in the summer when its flower-flanked patio spills forth to offer enthusiastic patrons an extra 140 dining spots. It is located in the Village Square, where all village ambulatories converge.

Recently, the bar space in Araxi restaurant was renovated to include a chilled seafood bar. The bar itself, which seats 14 people, is a mixture of chrome, mirror and glass that spears light forth to catch the action of the two chefs stationed to shuck oysters, roll Dungeness crab between thin crepe layers and toss jellyfish salad. These are just a few of the delightful chilled offerings. There is an extensive list of sundry oysters harvested from both the West and East coasts and even selections from France. The menu provides taste descriptors for different types, using words like lettuce or cucumber flavour, buttery, fruity and sweet. I tried a Stellar Bay oyster which was presented with a generous topping of osetra caviar, freshly grated horseradish and sprigs of watercress. The taste was as fresh as the salty spray off an ocean wave.

The chilled seafood menu, which is also available to patrons in the main dining room, offers a unique presentation of seafood towers. The two or three tiered plates proffer chilled, fresh shellfish and local wild seafood, which can be shared as an appetizer or eaten as a main course. For the adventurous, there are even oyster Caesar shooters.

The sea food bar is flanked by the restaurant’s lounge and bar, which is a great place to relax with a cocktail made with freshly pressed/squeezed juice or a selection of the several single malt scotches available. The lounge offers casual dining with a backdrop of a beautifully integrated display wine fridge which houses over 1,500 bottles.

The main dining room, a mixture of wood and tile, terra cotta and earth tone hues, is an atmosphere of warmth and comfort with subtle baroque influences. In these pleasant surroundings it is simple to relax and enjoy the award winning menu. Committed to sourcing and serving the very best of regional and organic foods, the plates that emerge from the kitchen are not only beautiful to look at, but also memorable. Appetizers offer a stunning layering of flavours that truly stimulate one’s appetite. Try Vancouver Island sardine ceviche with shaved fennel, sweet onions, artichokes, citrus segments and herb salad for taste that jumps off the plate to grab hold of your tongue. For the foodie, a plate comprised of Quebec Foie Gras Parfait, toasted brioche and ruby port glaze is beautifully accented with a tiny seckel pear which has been poached with star anise. The flavours combine wonderfully.

Naturally, these delights are enhanced with sips from the extensive wine inventory. Araxi maintains a cellar of 13,000 bottles, made up of over 650 different labels bought from around the world. There are also wines available by the glass or half bottle.

The wine list, impressive as it is, is enhanced by the knowledgeable and approachable staff who share a passion for pairing the food with great wines. There are five sommeliers who share the floor with Pat Allan, Araxi’s wine director. Their love of wine and eagerness to share great matches is infectious. The scope and range of wines allows a real accommodation of price and pairings.

James Walt, Executive Chef, has recently returned to the restaurant after opening the renowned Blue Water Cafe in Vancouver, a sister restaurant to Araxi and fellow member of Top Table restaurant and bars. Chef Walt’s plates are a carefully choreographed group of elements, incorporating colour, aroma and taste, that become a symphony for the discerning palate. His presentations are elegant and attractively simple. Main courses range from Miso-marinated B.C. sablefish served with soba noodles, edamame, shiitake mushrooms and smoked tuna broth, to seared red deer venison with Fraser Valley duck confit cappeletti, Savoy cabbage and red currant, orange glaze. With so many different ingredients used together it is difficult to typify James’ cooking but there are definite Asian influences, especially with the subtle use of herbs and spices and the clean, fresh flavours that are a part of every dish.

Pastry Chef Aaron Heath also returns from Blue Water Cafe. I was fortunate to taste his molten chocolate cake with toasted hazelnut ice cream and frangelico-caramel sauce paired with Framboise. The melange of warm, cold, soft and hard textures was nothing less than magnificent. To truly take advantage of Araxi’s dining experience, dessert must not be skipped!

Araxi Restaurant & Lounge is located at 4222 Village Square and is open from 5 p.m. for dinner seven days a week. For reservations and enquiries telephone 604-932-4540 or, for further information visit www.araxi.com.

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