My mom and Ernie started a new tradition of spending a family weekend in Banff at the end of each summer. This was the second year we did it, and it was so much fun! A major highlight for me was dinner at Juniper Hotel Bistro. Perched on Mt. Norquay, the dining room and huge patio overlook the town below and luckily for us, the food and wine match the spectacular view.
I’ll be honest – we came here last year and it was so good we had to do it again. We decided to start out the meal the same way we did last year by splitting a bottle of wine along with their gorgeous charcuterie and cheese board ($26) featuring Canmore-based Valbella charcuteries, Canadian cheeses, house-pickled vegetables, whole grain mustards, preserved fruits, nuts, bread and crackers. Um YES!
Look at that flower made of meat. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful. The variety of cheeses was well-balanced, the pickles were delicious (pickled fennel, I love you!) and the meats were cured so beautifully. Everything on here went perfectly with our bottle of Spanish Bodegas LAN Reserva ($60), too!
My dinner order was influenced by last year’s meal here, as well. I was SO jealous of Matt’s lingcod ($35) dish that I don’t even remember what I ate that night, which is a rare and unsettling situation. Obviously we both ordered it this year, and we had no regrets. The lingcod’s skin was lightly crisped and the flesh nice and flaky. It was fantastic with the mild lemongrass and coconut curry, baby potatoes (curry + potato = heaven), asparagus and brussels sprout. The crunch from the sesame seeds was pleasant, too! What a fantastic way to show off such a tasty piece of fish.
Ernie ordered the braised pork short rib ($33) with Asian BBQ glaze, smoked pineapple & roasted red pepper white bean ragout along with some seasonal vegetables for the fanciest take on pork and beans I’ve ever seen. I could see as Ernie ate that the meat was falling off the bone. When we asked for his thoughts, he gave an emphatic thumbs up and couldn’t say much more.
Mom ordered the gnocchi ($24), which is both vegetarian and gluten free for anyone who’s curious! She was nervous after having had some incredible gnocchi in Italy a few years ago, and I think this batch did disappoint her slightly. The flavourful green sauce was brought together with fresh peas, spinach, mint, blue cheese and crushed pistachios, but the gnocchi themselves were doughy and a bit sticky rather than the soft pillows she was hoping she’d receive. Still, we loved that sauce and I would have eaten it with a spoon if she had planned to share. It was also a good value as a very filling dish for its price point.
For dessert, our table split two of the chef’s daily creme brûlée creations. That night it was chocolate mint garnished with sweet, ripe blackberries. This did not disappoint and was a fabulous way to end the meal!
Juniper Bistro (1 Juniper Way, Banff, AB) knocks it out of the park for location, view, service, ambiance, wine list, ingredient quality and creativity. If the worst thing I could say about it is that the gnocchi didn’t measure up to Italy, then I think you’ll agree this spot is worth a visit. I love that most of the menu can be made without gluten or dairy, making this a great place to bring a mixed group with various dietary restrictions. I highly recommend you give it a try.