There are steakhouses. And then there is Sidecut.
Where you can order a 56-ounce "Cowboy" or a 36-ounce "Long Bone," have it carved at your table; with perhaps a lobe of fois gras for the side, and nobody bats an eye.
What seemed like almost over-the-top cuts of meat, added to the menu more as a talking point than a feasting point, soon became Sidecut's most popular dishes.
"It's just that level of extravagance that you can't get anywhere else," says executive chef Tory Martindale.
And yet, for all the fine dining, for all the decadent things that sets this steakhouse apart, Sidecut still feels inviting and relaxed, a tone set perhaps by Chef Martindale himself, a tone that is decidedly Whistler — high-end meets laidback for ultimate refined relaxation.
That tone may have been honed in Martindale's youth, "in Prince George of all places," a place where you either skied or played hockey.
Martindale skied — downhill racing and freestyle — so you could say this B.C. boy comes to Whistler quite naturally, though it would take several years and stints around the world before he finally landed here.
After culinary school in Prince George, Martindale took a job with the Four Seasons in Vancouver. That was almost 20 years ago. What followed was a string of placements in the organization from Dublin, Ireland to Nevis in the West Indies and then Santa Barbara, California.
Four years ago, Martindale came to Whistler as part of a task force to help the Four Seasons during the 2010 Olympics.
Within months he had moved his family here to slide into the newly created position of executive sous chef. He is now executive chef.
It was good timing — he got in on the ground floor designing and branding Sidecut. The question was: how to set it apart from all the steakhouses out there?
This is what they decided.
First, Sidecut would use only the best Canadian prime beef, the top two per cent in Canada.
The beef was to go through a 40-day dry aging process to condense the flavour.
It makes a difference says Martindale.
"It's a costly process," he adds. "You lost a bit of product due to the dry aging but the final product is absolutely amazing," he said.
Now, here's the rub — quite literally, seven signature rubs to choose from like Black Angus or Herbal Ember or Edison's Medicine or Lemon Buddha.
The playful names are a theme: "We like to have fun with our restaurant," said Martindale. "We don't want it to be a stuffy, fine-dining restaurant."
Spicy? Smokey? A little sweet with some exotic flavours?
There's something to tempt every palete.
Top it all off with a choice of one of the four signature steak sauces.
"We want the dining experience to be an adventure!" says Martindale.
As it turns out, it's a non-stop adventure in the kitchen at the Four Seasons; it belies the peaceful postcard setting of the hotel, laden with snow-covered roofs, quietly nestled in the Upper Village.
It begins every morning, when Sidecut and the neighbouring Fifty-Two 80 bar are transformed into a breakfast setting.
On a busy day the kitchen can turn out 400 breakfast covers and 275 will be between 7-7:45 as parents come in with kids, in gear, all watching the clock before ski lessons begin.
Put in the added stress over the holiday season of skiers desperate for snow, and you can see the chef has his work cut out for him.
Breakfast is a critical time.
With guests coming back day after day, Martindale has to keep the breakfast buffet fresh and innovative: bacon pancakes one day, a savoury muffin the next.
"It's almost like a small war," he jokes of feeding on a time crunch.
And so, from breakfast frittatas, to après ski favourites at the bar, to decadent steak, to in-room dining, to the summertime barbecues, Martindale is a man on a mission.
"We realize that guests want to pay for quality," he said.
That's what he aims to deliver.
1 olive baguette — diced into 1" cubes
1 clove of garlic — minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 bell pepper large — diced
1/2 red onion — sliced thin
3 large heirloom tomatoes — diced into 2" pieces
1 sprig fresh oregano chopped
3 sprigs fresh basil chopped
2 large buffalo mozzarella chopped
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes preserved in olive oil — chopped
1/2 cup of pitted seignorello giant olives — chopped
1/4 cup aged sherry vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup grated parmesan — cook on a cookie sheet pan in oven until crisp and remove when light golden brown
Fresh cracked pepper
Chef's homemade truffle maldon sea salt
Toss diced bread in a bowl with the minced garlic, half of the basil, salt and fresh cracked pepper.
Bake in 350F oven until the bread turns golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Mix the remainder of the ingredients in a bowl and toss with seasoning, vinegar and olive oil.
Add toasted bread 15 minutes before serving and toss well.
Crumble the crispy parmesan over the top of the salad to garnish.