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Primal-ish in Whistler: Araxi

September 6, 2012

Araxi-Strawberry-Dessert

Having just checked out Pemberton, the plan was to grab a drink somewhere in Whistler Village, and then to head over to the Den Restaurant and Lounge at Nicklaus North. I figured I’d give the Den a shot since it had a pretty extensive menu, and was said to have gorgeous views. Plus it only had a few reviews, but they were pretty much all positive.

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Well, that didn’t happen.

The most inviting patio was the one at Araxi. And it was a pleasant surprise that the drinks were on the reasonable side of expensive. Araxi is considered one of the top restaurants in Whistler. But I had avoided it up until now mostly because of its mediocre reviews (78% on Urbanspoon). It is owned by the Top Table Group, which also owns blue water café, CinCin, west, and Thierry – all very popular Vancouver fine dining haunts, except for the last which is a pastry and chocolate shop.

My friend and I scored a prime table in the sunshine, and there was a band/dancer performing right in front of us. And after noticing a burger option on the menu, all other plans sort of faded away, and we spent a very enjoyable afternoon at Araxi.

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First thing’s first – the drinks. When I asked which cocktail they’re known for, I was told it was The Trophy Wife. I had already been eyeing it since the ingredients all sounded very appealing (pink peppercorn infused vodka, apricot liqueur, egg white, lemon and lime, peppercorn dust), and because I had seen all the Vancouver Housewives order it (don’t judge, a girl’s gotta have some indulgences). So it was the clear choice, and I’m happy to say it was very good.

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But what was even better was the Sea Cider Rumrunner (organic apple cider). I think our server gently tried to dissuade me from ordering that one. After trying it, I could see why. It’s certainly not your standard, light and refreshing apple cider. This is the Guinness of apple ciders. For some reason, it really reminded me of sherry. The colour was phenomenal. And the flavour was intriguing – very complex. It’s hard to describe, you’d simply have to try it because any description won’t do it justice, especially if you’re trying to imagine it in the context of a typical apple cider. I will definitely have to track some down (apparently some of the local private liquor stores sell it). If you end up trying it, let me know what you think – for the record, my friend hated it.

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Rumrunner
12% abv

Rumrunner is crafted with home-grown heritage apples including Winter Bananas and Winesaps. The apples were hand pressed using our traditional rack and cloth press, slowly fermented with Champagne yeast then aged in rum barrels. Notes of brown sugar and spice give complexity to this semi-dry sparkling cider.

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For dinner, I had the Canadian Angus Beef Burger. Keep in mind that Araxi is known for its seafood, which I pretty much don’t eat, so my choices were limited. I didn’t want to pay $28 for chicken. And the rabbit came with pork (which I also don’t eat). So if you’re into seafood, you may get more mileage out of the menu than I did.

As for my burger, it was kind of the opposite of the one at Mile One in Pemberton. It was perfectly done (pink and moist). And it was larger (though still not as large as I would’ve liked). But it was kind of bland. It didn’t have that gamey taste to it which I adore. Also, it was originally supposed to come with crispy onions (read: battered), so when I told them I’d like gluten-free (the menu says something along the lines of “ask about our vegetarian and gluten-free options”), I was assured that they could do something about that. I figured that meant maybe they’d sauté up some onions for me, or replace them with something else, maybe mushrooms? Instead, they just omitted the onions, which was kind of a letdown. The salad it came with (subbed for the fries) was tasty. The presentation was great.

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They also brought me some gluten-free bread. I was going to tell them not to bother (the server didn’t know what was in it, and I avoid all grains), but I figured my friend would be interested in trying it. It apparently tasted like toast, which was meant as a compliment. Instead of butter, the bread was served with some shmancy hummus.

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My friend took advantage of Araxi’s seafood fare and ordered the BC Oysters 5 Ways (crispy with avocado and tomatillo salsa, chilled on the half shell with ponzu pearls, trout caviar and crème fraiche, raspberry mignonette and cucumber salsa) and the Wild Prawn Dynamite roll (with radish sprouts, yuzu mayonnaise and gem lettuce). The oysters were all very well-executed, and the Dynamite roll was good.

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And lastly, I wasn’t planning on having dessert, but once I saw the menu I simply couldn’t resist (perhaps I ran out of willpower from avoiding Blackbird Bakery in Pemberton). My friend and I shared two gluten-free desserts: the Black Forest Cake (layers of dark and white chocolate mousse amarena cherries and semisweet chocolate sauce) and a Selection of Pemberton Strawberries (strawberries with vanilla panna cotta and almond nougatine, chilled strawberry + basil soup).

They were both very very good. The panna cotta was delicious – it had a great vanilla flavour plus awesome texture. I didn’t care much for the soup – it was kind of on the sweet side and a little too syrupy for me. But with the exception of the soup, no part of the dessert was overly sweet. Actually, I was surprised how subtle in sweetness everything was. And the Black Forest cake was also quite tasty – I especially liked the amarena cherries. And of course it was a treat that there were two gluten-free desserts on the menu!

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The bill came with two almond financiers – sadly, not gluten-free, but my friend took one for the team and ate both. They were delicious and incredibly moist.

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The ambiance was fantastic – I couldn’t have been happier with the patio experience. The service was okay, although a little bit slow at times. The drinks were very good and the desserts were exceptional. I enjoyed the food, but I was hoping to be more impressed by it. Overall, I would recommend visiting Araxi, especially for their drinks and desserts, and their lovely patio.

Araxi on Urbanspoon

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