A tower of avocado and crab served with mango, chili and lime salsa and piles of baby organic greens is a fair distraction from the lush fields and forests that spill off the patio of the new Living Room Restaurant & Lounge in Squamish. Located in the Executive Suites Garibaldi Springs Hotel & Resort (replacing the former culinary incarnation - Rockwell's Bar & Grill), the Living Room is owned and operated by Whistler's chef darling Ryan Liebrecht of Ciao Thyme Bistro and his wife Sally.
"It's all about lifestyle, I wanted to be here and there is so much access to local seasonal foods. I love being able to use what's at my fingertips," said chef Liebrecht, who cut his teeth at the Chateau Fairmont Whistler. "Obviously, because of the farmers' markets, we are able to keep our produce fresh and local... and who doesn't love seeing a chef with a basket of carrots and 200 pounds of potatoes at market."
When the opportunity came up to take over (and re-haul) the restaurant space in the Executive Suites, the Liebretchs knew they had major potential on their hands. Not only is it located close to home where they're raising their two sons, they knew it had excellent infrastructure and a stunning location. Though still young, the couple gained extensive experience through the development of their first two ventures - Ciao Thyme Bistro in Whistler and the Copper House Restaurant in Squamish. They knew a good thing when they saw it.
"As well as our regular clientele, we have the in-house guests from the hotel and hold the rights to an executive catering contract for events here," said Liebrecht. "The space is pretty dynamic and with the patio - where we can serve food and drink - it makes for a pretty excellent package."
With ample square footage perfect for parties and events (it's licensed for 500), the Living Room flows from restaurant into lounge, which creates a cozy setting with ample views of the surrounding hillsides. The menu is broad and caters to both the intimate needs of a dinner date as well as families.
"There are some things that never stray too far from my menus, it's all about staying true to what we love," said Liebrecht. "Sally and I sat down and hashed out pages and pages of menu ideas and it ultimately came down to a process of elimination based on what we love, and as parents, what would work for families as well."
The result is a lengthy menu featuring appetizers like the soft hand rolled gnocchi ($9) served with roasted chestnut and apple (perfect for the heavy skied summer weather we've been having). The avocado and crab tower ($11) appie is built to share on crispy crackers, but you probably won't want to. Dinner was bacon wrapped jumbo scallops served on potato puree with salsa verde ($22) (though I substituted the puree for the evening special of pea risotto, which was creamy and delicate) and while the mains span the culinary horizons from New York steak ($24) to feta and herb stuffed chicken breast ($19) and macadamia nut crusted halibut ($24), the restaurant's comfort foods fall into the $12 - $14 range. Seafood cioppino, shepherd's pie and spaghetti and meatballs make for the ideal home cooked meal that you didn't cook yourself.
Liebrecht plans to change the menu seasonally, to provide the best of what the region has to offer. He knows his customers are savvy to healthy culinary ethics and expect his kitchen decisions to follow suit.
"Good food has become more of a way of life out here, and by that I think eating locally and in season is more of a general philosophy," he said. "I think everybody around Squamish and Whistler lives the lifestyle and believes in supporting your neighbour. And I think we offer something a little bit different than anyone else in town."
For the full evening experience, The Living Room brings in DJs on Saturday nights, and Sally organizes popular ladies' spa nights in the lounge.
Brackendale residents can save on gas and driving time by taking the new pedestrian footbridge to the restaurant, and those who live in the Garibaldi Highlands can navigate the trail network surrounding the Executive Suites for a pre and post dinner ramble. Drivers on Hwy 99 should turn right at the 7-Eleven on Garibaldi Way and left on Tantalus Road.
For more information go to http://www.executivesuitesgaribaldi.com/dining.html.