“Oh, you’re from Nova Scotia?” a smiling tourist from Washington remarked as we sat on the gondola last week, traveling up Blackcomb. “You have a lot of lobster over there, don’t you?”
I sighed inwardly, but smiled and nodded.
As a displaced East Coast kid, I’m getting accustomed to receiving variations of this response after telling people where I’m from. And it’s okay — there really is a lot of seafood in Halifax, being a port city and all. We just don’t eat it morning, noon and night.
That said, I definitely don’t mind digging into the odd dish of lobster, salmon or halibut.
During the peak season, you can do just that in Whistler, at the Four Seasons’ Fifty Two 80 Bistro.
Now before you cringe and turn the page, with visions of dollar signs dancing in your head, hear me out.
It’s not exactly cheap — $52.80 per head, to be precise — but it’s good value for your money, offering a four-course, all-you-can-eat feed of fruit de mer. Personally, I couldn’t afford to dine like this on a regular basis, but I’d definitely put it on my list of places to take a friend or family member who was visiting from out of town.
The food and beverage director first came up with the idea for the seafood dinner in January, in hopes of enticing more Whistler residents to come out and enjoy the comforts of the Fifty Two 80 Bistro. And comforts abound here — the atmosphere is warm and inviting, with kids running around the bright and airy dining room, and friendly service around every corner.
The sommelier tells me that they have put a real emphasis on stocking wines from B.C.’s boutique vineyards, and after perusing their lengthy wine list, I eventually settle on a glass of 2006 pinot gris from the Okanagan Valley’s Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars.
The meal starts out with a bowl of rich and flavourful lobster bisque, which contains a smattering of shrimp throughout. Usually, I find bisque can be a bit too thick and filling, but this one has a pleasant consistency, and doesn’t leave me feeling like I just finished the main course.
Afterwards, guests are invited to the cold buffet bar, which is a seafood-lover’s veritable paradise, stocked with an impressive variety of finds from the ocean — split king crab legs, prawns, freshly shucked oysters, lobster claws, and platters of assorted smoked salmon.
There is also a wide selection of salads to complement the seafood selections — roasted vegetable with bocconcini, Thai seafood salad, and scallop mussel calamari escabeche, to name a few. (I know the last one sounds a bit strange, but it’s really just a dish containing fish that has been marinated in an acidic vinegar or citrus sauce.)
To add to the family-friendly atmosphere, staff has also created a kid’s version of the buffet table, which is lower to the ground and has some less exotic offerings for the little ones.
After sampling a bit of everything from the cold buffet, I took a moment to relax and enjoy my wine before our attentive server, Nicole, returned with an assortment of main course dishes.
That’s right — plural. The main dish is a selection of five hot dishes — prosciutto-wrapped chicken, served on a celeriac puree, prawns, halibut, seasoned lobster, and a coconut curry shrimp risotto — presented all at once, in small servings. If you decide you want more of one (or all), simply ask your server.
Maybe it was because I had already had my fill of seafood, but the chicken, surprisingly enough, was my favourite of the five options. Tender and well seasoned, it was served atop a savory puree of potato and celeriac root.
After sampling each of the mains, it was time to put the fork down — I needed to save a bit of room for dessert, which is arguably the most important part of any meal. Also served in a buffet style, the presentation of sweets at the Fifty Two 80 has led me to conclude that all desserts should, in fact, be served in shot glasses (less guilt, more selection). A cup of tea, followed by bite-sized strawberry mascarpone shortcake and a few spoonfuls of the crème brulee and white chocolate mousse was the perfect way to end this decadent meal.
This Wednesday will be your last chance to experience the Seafood Night, before it is replaced at the beginning of May with the Dine and Unwind specials, offering daily three and four-course meals for $38 and $42, respectively. Check out their fresh catch before the season is over.