British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is going through a tremendous growth spurt, not just in the number of wineries there but in the quality of the entire experience. Vignerons have now got “old” vines in their vineyards, many 20 or more years old, and they are providing wineries with ever-better raw materials. Wineries in turn have upgraded equipment and are hiring experienced talent from across the globe to make or consult on the making of their wines. Tasting rooms are catering to luxury travelers’ wants and desires. And now the restaurant scene has joined the act providing some really terrific dining experiences. The Restaurant at Phantom Creek is leading the way.
We wrote about Phantom Creek and its wines when we visited in 2020. It is a stunningly beautiful property where literally no expense has been spared in terms of the winery, the hospitality buildings, and the spectacular artwork on the property. Their Restaurant is no different.
Like all things at Phantom Creek, their restaurant was created with the goal of being the best in the Okanagan Valley. Occupying the last building on the property as you walk down the broad sidewalk from the parking lot past the tasting room, you find your self with a choice of either indoor or outdoor seating, and all with stunning views of their vineyards and the rest of the Black Hills and the Southern Okanagan Valley. The room is modern with clean lines that uses floor to ceiling windows to capture the views. We found the atmosphere to be upscale without being stuffy. A perfect environment for a wine country meal.
The service was first class at our lunch. Wine lovers are well acquainted with the term ‘balance’, a much sought after trait in good wines.
We think it applies in service as well. We want wait staff to be friendly, but not too friendly, available but not hovering, knowledgeable without showing off. That kind of balance. Our staff at Phantom Creek stood right on the fulcrum. The pace was also just what we wanted: relaxed and slow enough to allow us to savour our meal without excessively long pauses. Again, that balance.
But of course, the main event is the food. This is Phantom Creek, a spectacularly beautiful place where no detail is too small to command the staff’s full attention. We knew before arriving we were in for a treat and landed with high expectations.
When our first courses arrived, those expectations were quickly exceeded. We both opted for the Two Course menu ($50, or $70 paired with wines), and chose it paired, of course. It was comprised of a starter and a main with a different glass of wine chosen by the house to best pair with each course. We couldn’t resist the heirloom tomato salad to start, especially at this time of year, when the flavours are so ripe and sweet. Incredibly intense flavours with beautiful presentation.
The 2022 Phantom Creek Estate Viognier was a great choice with this dish. Its acidity was a good counterpoint to the sweetness of the tomatoes. The other starter we chose was the beet and endive salad that was paired with their 2020 Organic Pinot Gris. The influence of consulting enologist Olivier Humbrecht is increasingly shown in Phantom Creeks embracing organic and biodynamic agriculture. The success of these methods was well demonstrated in the purity of fruit in this Pinot Gris.
Our main courses somehow managed to take it up a notch! The pork belly was soft, tender and so juicy and the Arctic Char was cooked to perfection. Both dishes showed such intense flavours along with great creativity. The pork belly was paired with their Quartz and Yarrow White, a Chardonnay dominant blend sourced from other sustainably farmed, low yielding vineyards in the Okanagan. The Arctic Char went well with their 2020 Similkameen Riesling’s crisp profile.
The highlight of this lunch was when Executive Chef Alessa Valdez came out of the kitchen to stop by our table and say hello. Alessa is absolutely charming. She is so passionate about food and where it comes from that it is positively contagious.
She is very proud to source local ingredients from the best growers, that are people like herself who respect the land and farm using sustainable and regenerative techniques. During our chat we talked about the Philippines and the food culture there and how it is a part of her family. Alessa is clearly a rising star in the restaurant world having gained experience in top restaurants in Toronto including Michelin-starred Alo Bar, Buca Yorkville and Auberge de Pommier. She is combining what she learned there with her Filipino upbringing and the natural bounty of the Okanagan Valley. It is a combination that works incredibly well.
We think that under Alessa’s guidance, The Restaurant at Phantom Creek is on the path to receiving a Michelin star. And we are definitely cheering for them!