Tiffin Project

Aura Restaurant at Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler

by paulkamon on October 25, 2010

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Last week, a group of local food media were invited up to Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler to dine at Aura (formerly Jordan’s Crossing), the 3 year old resort property’s newly revamped fine-dining restaurant. The lodge, having recently changed ownership just after the 2010 Winter Olympics last March, has quietly been ushering in a series of promising changes and upgrades that are worthy of note.

The restaurant’s new kitchen talent is big league. Executive Chef Tim Cuff (formerly of West, Wickaninnish Inn, Mission Hill), along with Restaurant Chef, Owen Foster (former Bearfoot Bistro, Market by Jean Georges, Mission Hill), have some serious kitchen chops and it shows all over their ambitious menu.

Sourcing directly from local farmers, foragers, ranchers and fisheries, the team is committed to bringing the freshest and highest quality products into their kitchen. And they have even taken it one step further by planting a massive roof-top herb and vegetable garden, which is lovingly serviced by both gardeners and cooks. More plans to expand  are in the works with a greenhouse being built in the next few weeks.

^ A taste of some of the house made charcuterie and accoutrements

Our first bites are in the lodge’s impressive presidential suite where we are presented with a variety of charcuterie, all made in-house. Drawing on much of Chef Foster’s butchering skills and experience (he did a brief stint at Market by JG as their butcher), the variety of salumi is impressive, and what is more impressive is they started us off with a beer pairing of Kriek Cherry Lambic served in wine glasses, very clever considering the room was filled with mostly wine nerds.

As an aside,  much of the restaurant’s delicious charcuterie will be featured at the Crush Gala at Cornucopia this November.

^ Once a wine fridge, now a charcuterie fridge

Once seated and after a nice start with a cherry tomato amuse bouche to liven our palates, we dove into this multi-course wine-paired marathon of culinary delights. Here is the play by play:

First dish is a mixture of seafood and fruit that has many subtle and soft flavours, along with a citrus note blending in the mouth, fairly complex and interesting.

^ Scallop, Side Stripe Prawn and Cuttlefish with Lime Injected Melon paired with Lucien Albrecht Gewurztraminer 2008

Next up is a bit of surf and turf with some Artic Char and Veal Cheek Pastrami that has some of us perplexed. With the meat, lettuce, bread crisp and horseradish it evoked a deli sandwich but one bite of the Artic Char and we are thrown off completely. Not a big fan of cold surf and turf to begin with. This dish was a big swing and a miss for me.

^ Arctic Char Belly, Veal Cheek Pastrami, Caraway Aioli, with crisp lettuce and fresh horseradish paired with Codoulet du Beaucastel Cote du Rhone Blanc 2008

The next dish brought table service, which is always a nice touch to any dining experience. The warm consomme is a perfect change of pace for the palate.

^ Parsley Root Consomme and Tortellini, with poached quail’s egg and lemon zest paired with Domaine Weisskopf Les Rocher des Violettes 2006

The Porchetta dish, which uses fresh artichokes from the roof-top garden, is tasty but also a bit busy on the plate with the hazelnut oil and capers and pine nuts and could have benefited with a little more focus and a couple less ingredients.

^ Sloping Hills Porchetta Di Testa, Rooftop Artichokes Barigoule, with virgin hazelnut oil, fried capers, and confit pine nuts paired with M. Chapoutier Beaurevoir 2007

The next course of bacon wrapped quail was incredible and perfectly paired with the evening’s only BC wine, the highly quaffable reserve Pinot Noir from Naramata’s La Frenz Winery.

^ Tiroler Bacon Wrapped Thiessen Farms Quail Breasts, served with Heirloom beets, blossoming oregano, and savoury oats La Frenz Reserve Pinot Noir 2007

Perhaps, it’s because I prefer meat to fish, but this course of bison and melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu short-rib was by far my favourite dish of the evening. Just enough meat, balanced with a variety of interesting and colourful textures, and further elevated by a big red cabernet from Washington. Excellent.

^ Bison Flat Iron Steak, Oakleigh Ranch Waygu Shortrib, served with antique carrots and toasted bulgur wheat Isenhower Road Less Travelled Cabernet Franc 2006

By this point my palate is starting to red line and the Foie Gras and freeze dried fruit salad is hard to appreciate. While the techniques are admirable, this dish is lost to me.

^ Vidal Ice Wine and Quebec Foie Gras, and Amarena Cherry, with freeze dried fruit salad paired with Amarena Cherry Cocktail

But dessert is not finished! An incredibly rich Chocolate Ganache flown in from Belgium with smears of squash toffee and pumpkin streusel arrives to pound my belly into submission. I wince and ignore the gingerbread fudge and coconut macaroons that arrive shortly after.

^ Fresh Coriander Seed and Cluizel Chocolate Ganache with squash toffee milk sauce, and pumpkin seed streusel paired with Graham's Lat Bottled Vintage Port 2005

A final glass of port is a welcome digestif and a perfect ending to this epic meal. The wine program is headed by Ryan Dyck (also formerly from the Wickaninnish Inn) and is a nice mix of mostly B.C. and new world wines along with a few excellent old world selections.

All in all, I was very impressed with Aura. The kitchen team is very talented and it is great to see a new fine restaurant stepping up in Whistler, and giving Creekside another dining attraction worth seeking out.

Aura Restaurant at Nita Lake Lodge
2131 Lake Placid Road | Whistler
Tel: 604.966.5700
www.nitalakelodge.com
View Map

~ PK

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Greedy Guts October 25, 2010 at 11:43 am

I got married at Nita Lake Lodge this summer and from start to finish, it was the most perfect weekend. The lodge and surrounding area is stunning, our food at the reception was delicious and all of our guests (including us) loved our suites. Can’t recommend Nita Lake enough!

Kathryn October 26, 2010 at 9:41 am

everything I have heard about the “new and improved” Nita Lake Lodge is the complete opposite of what you have described – poor service, malfunctioning amenities, crap food

paulkamon October 26, 2010 at 11:23 am

Well, there is only one way to be sure, Kathryn. Go and experience it for yourself.

Steve October 26, 2010 at 1:04 pm

I’ve been twice since Tim and Owen have taken over and both times have been amazing! Great pics Paul.

Lucia October 29, 2010 at 2:48 pm

My family and I had a most memorable dinner at Aura this summer and have not stopped talking about it to our friends ever since – this restaurant chef really rocks! Whistler restaurants- watch out!

myaura November 3, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Wow! Way to be closed minded Kathryn. As Paul has mentioned here it would be worth it to check it out for yourself before judging negative hearsay. Otherwise opinions like that are quite unnecessary when you have no ground to even stand on.
Clearly there is a lot of love that has gone into this restaurant and I just wanted to say congratulations to you all!

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