Whistler has been a world-famous resort for winter sports for years, and the status has been raised to a new height since the 2010 Winter Olympic, the biggest winter stage in front of whole world. The easy access to Whistler from the beautiful City of Vancouver is one of the main reasons of its popularity. The trip is merely 1.5 hours through the Sea-to-Sky Highway. However, from October through February, the fall/winter conditions up in the mountains require safety measures for driving on the highway. Having the proper vehicle with winter tires is mandatory. It was perfect timing when Honda Canada offered me to test drive their latest HONDA PASSPORT SPORT for the week, so I had a chance for my own winter adventure to Whistler, visiting some of the best restaurants in Whistler.
This trip is definitely a foodie extravaganza in Whistler, which includes all gold, silver, and bronze medalist in “Best Whistler” in Vancouver Magazine’s Best Restaurant Award 2019 – Alta Bistro, The Grill Room, and Araxi, as well the honourable mention, Red Door Bistro, which happened to be recommended by many bartenders I talked to during my last Whistler trip for Cornucopia Festival. I also fit in a lunch at Splitz Grill, voted the best Burger joint in Whistler by Yelp and TripAdvisor
The Drive to Whistler
Although the snow came as early as the end of October this year up in Whistler, the area did not receive massive snowfalls until the 2nd week of December. I was leaving in the early afternoon from Downtown Vancouver, and it was raining. But raining in Vancouver is a good sign as it must be snowing in Whistler!
To avoid traffic, I picked the early afternoon to begin the journey from Downtown Vancouver. The first glance of the interior is impressive with all the features – keyless pushbutton start, heated front seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and one-touch power moonroof. There are a ton of cargo and passenger space, which is great for road trips!
The connectivity with mobile phone is straight forward with the Apple CarPlay. The audio system with 7 speakers and subwoofer sounds more solid than the Harman Kardon system in my own BMW X1. The GPS system is easy to start, and we are all set to go!
This car is definitely built for outdoor exploration. Besides its sporty looks including the roof rails for carrying outdoor activity instruments such as ski equipment, the road performance is also spectacular. With the V6 engine with 280 horsepower and 262 lb torque, the drive blazed through the Sea-to-Sky Highway with easy, whether it’s on the rainy part before Squamish or the snowy and icy part after. The wheel was extremely easy to handle and the drive was extremely smooth with the 9-speed automatic transmission with Grade Logic Control.
I find the Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) interesting. When the car is touching the lane line, the wheel vibrates. It did take me a little bit of time to get used to it.
I had to stop at the famous Stawamus Chief to take a couple of photos. Although it is such a popular destination in the summer for hikers and cliff climbers, the Chief is just as stunning in the winter.
Checking in Nita Lake Lodge
I arrived at the destination, Nita Lake Lodge, at the time as the GPS predicted around 3:30 pm. The award-winning Nita Lake Lodge & Spa is Whistler’s only lakeside property and known for the breathtaking views around Nita Lake. Although it is not in the Whistler Village with direct access to the Whistler-Blackcomb gondolas, it’s only walking distance to Whistler Creekside gondola and on the Valley Trail. And there’s an hourly shuttle to take guests to the Village.
The friendly front desk staff was super helpful with all my travel and foodie questions. They even offered me a free upgrade to a lakefront room! I was so excited and couldn’t wait to see the room.
The room is beautiful and full of luxury features such as European style furniture, a circular double soaker tub, and a luxurious king-size bed. The lake views are absolutely incredible!
Dinner No.1 – The Red Door Bistro
Rested up a little bit in the beautiful room. It was time for food!
A great benefit to staying a Nita Lake Lodge that the hotel is only a few steps away from one of the best restaurants in Whistler, The Red Door Bistro.
The name came up many times when I was visiting different restaurants and bars in Whistler during my visit during Cornucopia. Apparently, it’s a well-regarded restaurant in the industry but something it was somewhat under the radar for folks from Vancouver and other travellers. The restaurant was constantly fully booked for the coming 2 – 3 weeks, they do fit on or two drop-in diners at the chef’s counter if you visit when they open at 5.
And it was my lucky day and I found myself sitting at the chef’s counter here watching Chef RD Stewart and 3 other cooks in action working on the line, dispatching dish after dish from the open kitchen.
This is the place where classic dishes are done right. They have done an amazing job presenting French bistro-style dishes with a West Coast touch, a sense of refinement, but also a casual welcoming ambience. The Rack of Lamb I had was absolutely divine. It is no doubt the best Whistler restaurant away from the Whistler Village. You really need to check it out if you travel to Whistler by yourself or just with another person. But if you want to visit a bigger party, you’d better book in advance.
Cocktails at Cure Lounge, Nita Lake Lodge
I was meeting my friend for the 2nd dinner in Whistler Village. While waiting for a shuttle that travels between Nita Lake Lodge and the Village every 30 minutes, I managed to sneak in a cocktail at Cure Lounge at the hotel. The Ginger & Rosemary Smash was delicious and the live music (played every Wednesday) was a bonus!
Whistler Village at Night
I arrived at Whistler Village via the Nita Lake Lodge shuttle and took a walk through the village centre. The night was beautiful with all the holiday nights out.
Dinner No.2 Alta Bistro
The “Best Whistler” gold medalist, Alta Bistro, provided a menu with fresh local and seasonal ingredients. They surprise the industry in 2019 by beating the previous title holders such as Araxi and The Grill Room at Fairmont Chateau Whistler. The main dish of the evening, the Harpur Farms Venison & Braised Bison, was delicious. However, the whole experience was not as exciting as how I imagined perhaps because the expectation was a little high. Overall, the casual ambience and a good company kept the evening going fabulously. Hopefully, next visit will be better with the dish choices.
Cocktails at Araxi
After dinner, I couldn’t wait to show my buddy one of my favourite bars in Whistler, which happens to be at one of the best restaurants in Whistler, Araxi.
The mega-popular restaurant is the Toptable Group‘s flagship fine-dining house in Whistler is in the heart of the Village. Helmed by Chef James Walt, known as a passionate locavore, the kitchen sends out fabulous dishes prepared with local and seasonal ingredients. Besides a world-class curated wine list, the talent of cocktail-making behind the bar is also the reason that keeps me coming back here.
After tasting something from their seasonal menu, the bar created drinks on the spot based on our preferences. If you think an Espresso Martini is decadent, try the “Sin City” Espresso Martini, with the addition of dark berries and acidity, the coffee-infused flavour became even sexier. I had always thought the essence of Spanish G&T is about the combination of fresh herb aroma and fresh fruit acidity, but the bar manager created a G&T with STUMP Coastal Forest Gin, olives, citrus, and rosemary, maximizing the pleasure from drinking both G&T and dirty martini. Brilliant!
So mark my words. A great restaurant usually comes with a great bar.
Nita Lake in the Morning
I woke up from a great sleep. It was snowing outside, and I was captivated by the beautiful view outside of the windows. The full view of the lake and the nearby mountains is breathtaking, especially in white winter, but it must be quite attractive in the summer too.
Taking a walk around the lake is a must. Getting out of the backdoors behind Cure lounge, the view of the lake, the forest, and the mounts was breathtaking, with a touch-up with the Japanese style lights right at top of the stairs leading to the lakefront. The lake was only semi-frozen due to a late winter this year. I could only imagine how spectacular it is when the lake is completely frozen! There is a river on the side of the hotel. Listening to the river current and watching the snowfall – what a memorable moment! You can also walk around the hotel and discover how fantastic the entire architecture is through different angles.
Whistler Creekside Village
Staying in Whistler Creekside Village has the benefit of being close to Whistler Creekside gondola. So after checking out, you can well go for some skiing before heading home, stay in the neighbourhood for food or sightseeing, such as checking out Southside Diner for a hearty brunch or visiting one of the Creekside viewpoints for incredible winter views. I drove up to the Creekside Market’s parking lot and take a few minutes for the beautiful views up there.
Lunch at the best burger joint in Whistler, Splitz Grill
We decided to head over to the Whistler for lunch. After a night of drinking, having something meaty, greasy & delicious for lunch would sound like such a good idea. So how about a good ole burger? Finding Whistler’s most highly recommended burger joint turned out to be super quick, as Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Zomato all point to one spot for their pick of #1 burger joint – Splitz Grill.
The meaty beef patties here were well made, nicely seasoned, and grilled to perfection. The most impressive bite was on the Bison Burger. If you are craving for a good burger in Whistler Village, this is the spot. They also serve beers and boozy shakes if you feel like cure your hangover with more booze!
After lunch in the village, you can go as the Whistler-Blackcomb Gondola is here in the heart of Whistler Village. But you can also just walk around as there are many shops, art galleries, parks, cafes, pubs and eateries for you to hang around at. But if you want to bring your family, especially with young kids, you should check out Whistler Olympic Park.
Whistler Olympic Park
Whistler Olympic Park is in the beautiful Callaghan Valley just South of Whistler, attracting families for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, biathlon, tobogganing and more. I brought my friends here via Honda Passport to discover the Olympic legacy so that they could experience the athletes’ stories of glory and gold at the Winter Olympic Games in 2010. Apparently, the park is also a perfect place to introduce children to Nordic ski disciplines such as cross-country, biathlon or even ski jumping in one of the youth lessons and camps. There is also the licensed Day Lodge cafe for you to hang out and relax.
The Grill Room at Fairmont Chateau Whistler
We came back to Whistler Village before the sun was going down, and we were ready for the bang at our last stop in Whistler. Among all the “Best Whistler” medalists, only The Grill Room at Fairmont Chateau Whistler was left from the checklist. So here we are, sitting in the middle of the iconic dining room at The Grill Room, looking at the famous stone fireplace and the cherry wood wine cabinets.
While you can go super fancy at The Grill Room, tapping on the steak tasting menu for $95 a pop or going for the $68 surf & turf deal, you can also get a very decent dinner at affordable price. The portion here is enormous. For 2 people you could order an appetizer, a main and a side are already a lot of food to share. And order something exciting for the appetizer, such as the Tomato Gin Soup and the Beef Tartare, both prepared and served at tableside, and super entertaining. With great food and impeccable service, this is definitely one of my best dinners in Whistler. The Grill Room is highly recommended if you want to experience some 4-diamond dining. Also if you want to find one of the best 5-star hotel to stay in Whistler, Fairmont Chateau Whistler has everything you need for a lavishing vacation with class.
Driving back to Vancouver
Although it was getting dark early in the winter, the drive was super smooth back to Vancouver. The loaned Honda Passport provided a safe and comfortable journey through the winter conditions on the Sea-to-Sky Highway. This is an amazing trip filled with top experiences you could possibly get in the world-class resort, Whistler. And all the places visited are recommended to everyone and I truly hope you have enjoyed reading this post. Thanks to Honda Canada for providing me this awesome vehicle to review.
For more about my trip:
Honda Canada: https://www.honda.ca
Honda Passport: https://www.honda.ca/passport
Nita Lake Lodge: https://www.pickydiners.com/www/nita-lake-lodge-whistler-creekside/
Red Door Bistro: https://www.pickydiners.com/www/the-red-door-bistro-is-the-hidden-gem/
Alta Bistro: https://www.pickydiners.com/www/a-casual-taste-of-alta-bistro-in-whistler-village/
Splitz Burger: https://wp.me/p5mrqV-4Wa
The Grill Room at Fairmont Chateau Whistler: https://wp.me/p5mrqV-54y