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A cut above



The kitchen at the Four Seasons now has a very well-stocked spice rack. In fact, its more like shelves filled with jars upon jars of fragrant, colourful herbs and spices: all of the ingredients needed to make their new modern steakhouse concept stand out from the pack.

The Whistler Four Seasons Resort is getting ready to officially re-launch their Fifty-Two 80 Bistro as Sidecut on June 19. Speaking as someone who has had the opportunity to enjoy Executive Chef Scott Dolbee's cuisine on a few occasions, I can safely say that the culinary offerings have been pretty spot-on in the past, but apparently things were in need of a shakeup. So, after careful consideration and planning the Four Seasons team has done an overhaul on the concept, introducing a steak-centric menu that's all about flavour and fun.

They definitely have the right men at the helm to make the transition a success: Chef Dolbee and Sous Chef Edison Mays, a more recent addition the restaurant. Dolbee helped open Chef Wolfgang Puck's famed The Blvd Lounge at the Beverly Wilshire, while Mays was on-board the launch of Puck's acclaimed steakhouse CUT. These guys know their meat.

Their recipe for success at Sidecut starts with quality ingredients: namely, the top two per cent of Canadian prime beef aged for 40 days, double-cut sterling pork chops, B.C. fallow venison loin, bone-in braised bison short ribs, and line-caught, local seafood. Not only are the entrée cuts top-notch, Dolbee also sources many other ingredients (including the spices) from the resort's own rooftop garden and from farms in the surrounding region.

Next, diners decide what flavour they feel like marrying with their meat. Sidecut offers a choice of six custom rubs - Edison's Medicine, a mixture of 14 roasted herbs and spices inspired by Chef Edison May's travels around the world; the exotic, citrusey Lemon Buddha; the spicy Caribbean Jerk; a more traditional Black Angus; the aromatic Herbal Ember; and Blueberry Hill, made from dried huckleberries.

(Anyone interested in making their own custom rub can also sign-up for an hour-long session with Mays, who will help them create their own personal recipe to take home for just $25.)

Then, the customized cuts are cooked to perfection on the restaurants brand-new 1800 degree infrared grill, a state-of-the-art piece of kitchen equipment that cooks with light, distributing heat evenly and ensuring there are no "hot spots."

The entrées are then served à la carte with six sauces - mushroom bordelaise, wasabi mustard, Argentinean Chimichurri salsa, a tangy yuzu butter, crème fraiche béarnaise and a rich house steak sauce - presented on a plate with a wide rim, which allows for plenty of dabbling and testing your customized choice with the different flavours.

There were so many possible combinations and options that I found myself experiencing a bit of order anxiety and in the end selected the Dixon Entrance halibut ($29) coated in Lemon Buddha rub. Yeah, that's right, I opted for seafood at the new modern steakhouse (I also had a chance to sample the venison with Blueberry Hill rub, cooked to a tender medium; delectable Kumomoto oysters topped with kobe beef tartar, truffle and a crispy potato chip; and their amazing variation on the sushi roll made with a sheet of pounded out wagu beef filled with sundried roasted tomato, avocado and Edison's Medicine seasoning, so I can in fact attest to the quality of their carnivorous offerings as well.)

As it turns out I was wise to select the lighter fish fare; that way. I could experience the custom grilling concept but still have room to indulge in a selection of their Southern-style sides ($6): a stack of double-dipped onion rings, macaroni and cheese, rich and creamy aged cheddar potatoes gratin and roasted baby beets, just to name a few. Of course, we also saved room for dessert, because the pastry chefs at the Four Seasons know what's up: mini-mango, coffee and Skor cheesecakes; a 14-layer chocolate cake served with cherry sorbet, apple pie and an assortment of cheddar, cinnamon and vanilla ice creams; and a deconstructed, re-imagined banana split. Swoon.

By using old, tried and true grilling techniques and traditional herbs alongside new technology and top-notch ingredients, the Four Seasons' could have a real winner on their hands with Sidecut. Factor in their new wine list, which offers 100-plus wines by the glass, this high-end hotel may have finally found a way to break free of their somewhat intimidating, upper-crust image by taking a young, hip and accessible new approach to fine dining. The grand opening of Sidecut is slated for Saturday, June 19 so sharpen your steak knife!