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Watershed Grill wide open in Brackendale

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It takes a lot to get me out of Whistler these days, but enduring the 45-minute drive south to Brackendale to check out the newly opened Watershed Grill is definitely worth the effort.

What used to be a beat up old coffee shop was transformed by the owner of the infamous Malone’s in Kitsilano into a west coast wilderness hideaway.

The open air joint, which consists of a restaurant, lounge and patio, is located on the banks of the Squamish River with the Squamish Chief on one side, the Coast Mountain range on the other and Garibaldi Provincial Park as far as the eye can see straight down the middle.

The unspoiled view, void of development eyesores, will also be the perfect vantage point when thousands of eagles flock to the area to feed on salmon in the late fall and winter. Until then, there is still plenty of wildlife to be amazed by: blue herons, buck deer and the crowd a sunny evening packs onto the patio.

I checked out the Watershed on a drizzly evening. It had this wonderful West Coast feel with the cool fresh air seasoning the experience. I sat in the lounge with the elements at my back and an open kitchen and bar at my front. I didn’t open my book once over the course of the evening. There was 360 degrees of entertainment, whether watching the bartender shake up one of the grill’s specialty martinis (Bartender’s Pride: Bombay gin, crème de cassis, lime and tonic), the chefs stacking the perfect tomato bruschetta starter or couples strolling along the river after dinner.

The owners have done no advertising, completely relying on word of mouth recommendations, and I can see why.

My dishes were as wonderful as the view: both letting Mother Nature be the star.

Although casual fare, the grill chef’s heightened culinary sense resulted in fresh quality ingredients simply prepared with plenty of flavour and colourfully presented.

The golden crab cakes with a house Southwestern creole sauce packed the perfect amount of heat. A mixed green side with buttery roasted pine nuts and tart dried cranberries accompanied the cakes I still dream about. The drive was worth it just for this one appetizer.

I chose short ribs as my main course – the second most expensive item on the menu at $16.

A bit like a Las Vegas showgirl, the ribs – doused in a sweet, smoky barbecue sauce – were both lean and a little gaudy, but tasty all the same. The ribs were accompanied by fresh corn on the cob, slightly crisp green beans and pan-fried potatoes. It reminded me of a home cooked meal. Nothing overly fancy, but healthy, tasty and fresh.

Other items I saw come out of the kitchen to note for future visits were the beef carpaccio appetizer, high-stacked burgers and seafood fettuccini with salmon and prawns in a white wine rose sauce.

Appetizers range from $4 to $9 and entrees $9 to $19 – the most expensive entrée being a 14 oz New York steak.

Six wines by the glass are available with the modest wine menu listing primarily B.C. and Australian vintages.

The riverside escape is open for lunch, dinner and drinks from 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

The Watershed is located off Highway 99 at 41101 Government Road. Look for the red roof. Phone: 604-898-6665.

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