Table-side service hit a peak in 1950s New York, when members of the original Rat Pack dined on dishes like Steak Diane, the meat seared and flambeed with brandy right by their elbows.
The dramatic dining experience tapered off after that, but it never disappeared altogether.
Done well, having dishes prepared right by your dining chair can enhance the whole experience. With some items, you get a mini cooking lesson by seeing how they’re made. There are some theatrics, especially with foods that call for a burner or open flame. And the style ups the interaction with your server.
We told you about where to find “dinner and show” in Vancouver; here’s where you can order it in Whistler, the mountain resort making for so many quick summer getaways.
The Grill Room, Fairmont Chateau Whistler
The award-winning restaurant that’s tucked in next to the hotel’s more casual Wildflower Restaurant, the Grill Room is a modern steak house complete with stone fireplace. Beyond tenderloin, striploin, and rib-eye steaks are Tomahawk chop, Brant Lake wagyu, Gaspor Farms porcelet, Yarrow Meadows duck, and rack of cerf de Boileau: Quebec red deer (plus Ocean Wise fish and seafood).
Beef tartare is prepared table-side, and don’t let the raw factor take away from the wow factor. A server pulls up a cart with close to a dozen small dishes with: diced beef tenderloin; minced shallot, cornichon, and capers; chopped parsley; Dijon mustard; Tabasco sauce; Worcestershire sauce; and egg yolk.
Each ingredient gets added one at a time, the seasonings adjusted to your liking: Want a little extra Tabasco or maybe a bit more salt and pepper in there? The tartare is shaped into quenelles and plated with toasted baguette and a salad of bitter greens.
Tomato-gin soup is another. The server fires up a burner right at your table and starts sizzling double-smoked bacon. As the bacon cooks, in go thinly sliced white beech mushrooms. Next: Pemberton Distillery’s Schramm Gin, a rare, organic, potato-based London Dry-style gin; up go the flames! Then it’s cream and freshly cracked pepper. Those all go into a bowl that’s finished with the soup made with Roma tomatoes, thyme, basil, and cracked coriander.
SIDECUT Modern Steak + Bar, Four Seasons Resort Whistler
The steakhouse overlooking the hotel’s courtyard with patio has an open fireplace with bright tile surround and an 1,800-degree infrared grill for a flawlessly seared meat.
Cuts to choose from include Snake River Farms’ wagyu black label flat-iron; Highriver angus reserve beef tenderloin; and grass-fed Sungold Farms’ grass-fed lamb chops. Besides seafood, the resto has strong vegetarian offerings: beetroot “Wellington” and avocado dukkah and grilled halloumi with hummus.
Two dishes are carved table-side.
The planks for the cedar-plank salmon come from Western Red Cedar trees from Parksville, by BC Coastal Grilling Planks. SIDEUT soaks the planks in Pernod, giving the wood a hint of anise aroma. Ocean Wise sockeye is seasoned with herbs, sea salt, and lemon zest in the restaurant’s signature rubs, Lemmon Buddha. The filet is placed on the plank skin side up and put on infrared grill until the wood starts charring, then into the oven. Once the skin is crispy from being under the broiler, it’s brought out on the plank to the table to be sliced, all the aromas wafting through the room, and plated for family-style sharing.
The Long Bone dry-aged beef ribeye is from Washington’s Double R Ranch. The meat only arrives at the restaurant after being wet aged for at least 40 days, when it’s seasoned with Black Angus rub containing cardamom, black pepper, onion and garlic powder, thyme, celery salt, mustard seed, chili powder and cayenne pepper. The entire rack is tied and hung inside a walk-in refrigerator in front of fans. The salty seasoning and the constant air flow air dries the meat for at least 10 days.
The Long Bone gets rubbed with rapeseed, kosher salt, and black pepper, and put onto the infrared grill, then into a convection oven to roast. Right before serving, it’s dusted with Black Angus spice and topped with a dollop of butter. The chop goes onto a wood cutting board and sprinkled with some Vancouver Island Sea Salt, then brought out to the table along with a head of garlic confit, charred lemon, and red-wine sauce, for deft carving. Like the salmon, it’s meant for sharing, and served with sides like steamed asparagus with Bearnaise sauce or sautéed broccolini with chili-garlic butter.
Hy’s Steakhouse and Cocktail Bar, Whistler
Among its prime grade cuts at the long-standing steakhouse are barley-and-grass-fed Canadian black angus bone-in rib and 60-day dry-aged beef; then there are house specialties like Gorgonzola filet mignon, steak Neptune (with asparagus, Dungeness crab meat, and hollandaise sauce), oysters Rockefeller, and Muscovy duck confit.
Tableside service is part of Hy’s history, dishes like spinach salad with flambeed dressing; steak tartare; and chateaubriand, the fat end of the fillet roasted, then brought out to the table in an oval copper pan, sliced and served with a bearnaise sauce and jus. Steak Diane is served table-side on request, the meat searing while the server prepares a mushroom-shallot cream sauce.
Bananas foster are flambeed in rum, brown sugar, and orange zest then served over vanilla ice cream.
Caesar salad is a classic, with a waiter whipping up the dressing with garlic, lemon, anchovy filets, egg yolk, oil, Dijon mustard, and cracked pepper before tossing with romaine and freshly shaved Parmesan.