Monday, 21 March 2011

Big White Restaurant Reviews: The 2011 Update

I have blogged twice in the past (once in March 2008, once in March 2010) about the restaurants at Big White. This year we ate at Raakel's, Sam's (both downstairs and up), the White Crystal (now Santé), Beano's and GiGi's.

Raakel's continues to get seedier, the service is still poor and the food continues to be nondescript. The location continues to rock, however.

Snowshoe Sam's bar used to have the best burger on the hill. Now it's just an OK burger, and the rest of the food (like the pizza) is also OK at best. Good atmosphere, but the service continues to go downhill and be very slow; it took us 90 minutes to get lunch one quiet Monday when there were only 5 other tables occupied.

Sam's restaurant upstairs is reliable but the menu is basic and not that interesting.  I think the steaks are overpriced but many other items are good value (try the lamb shanks). The wine list is well priced and compared to other places isn't overloaded with Okanagan wines that are overpriced and you haven't heard of.

GiGi's impressed us last year, but things have changed, some for the better, some not. Dinner was very disappointing. They have a very long "by the plate" appetizer/tapas style menu that I bet would be quite expensive to build dinner around, with plates from $5 to $9. They were out of what we wanted on the menu (waiters should mention things like that), and the food we got was neither hot nor cooked properly. They did take one dish off the bill, but considering it was undercooked to start and overcooked when they tried to correct it, was the least they could do. The service could use a tune up (personally, I think when the manager comes by at the end of a meal to discuss why a dish was sent back as undercooked, he should come off as apologetic, not arrogant, and not try to tell you that it's your fault).

GiGi's lunch on the other hand is a great deal and very good. For $12 you get a half a pannini, a salad and a bowl of soup, all three of which change daily and all three of which were excellent. You can also get a $12 flatbread and salad that's less successful, and a $12 pasta which we never tried. Stick with the pannini and you can't go wrong, though. On top of that, it's called an express lunch and you can indeed be in and out in under 45 min if you want.

Santé is in the White Crystal and has a new name and the same menu as the last few years I have been going to Big White. It remains a great place for lunch, with good service and good food (the Jamacian jerk BBQ pork is a standout, as are the wraps). Dinner was just OK and the service was variable. The dinner wine menu is the Okanagan wines you haven't heard of but the pricing is better than other places on the hill in that it's a fixed markup amount, plus they do corkage if you want to bring your own.

We always stop for coffee in the morning, and historically we have stopped in the main lodge at Beano's. My suggestion: go downstairs to the bakery instead. The seating at Beano's is always hard to come by. We got a medium hot chocolate on Monday and Tuesday but on Wednesday & Thursday were told they don't make them in medium. Beano's is more expensive than the bakery. Beano's takes forever to make drinks, even if (like us) you order machine delivered hot chocolate. If you just ask for a hot chocolate, you get the one made by adding Italian chocolate syrup to milked steamed by the cappuccino maker, which is (a) much more expensive than the machine stuff, (b) weak and flavourless, and (c) takes forever for them to make. There's better selection of snacks at the bakery, too. The owner of Beano's wanders the day lodge yacking on the phone, greeting the regulars, but isn't what I'd call an "approachable" guy ("smarmy" would be a better word).

In fact, I think next time, we might hit the bakery for lunch, too. They sell chili and stew, two items that strike me as being obvious ski lunch food, plus they do pizzas that I hear are good. I also want to get to Globe (which is twice as big, now seating 60+ instead of the 28 last year), but it's a bit awkward to get to. A new deli opened in Stonebridge that we didn't go in (shame on us). We keep looking at eating at the deli in the market, but with GiGi's upstairs, headed there twice instead.

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