Mouth-worthy Mountain Adventures: Two new spots make Banff and Jasper exciting dining destinations

The boldness of the pioneers who helped shape Banff and the bounty of the land tucked around the spiny ridges of the Rocky Mountains are the focus of two new restaurants opening this month.

Both spots, which anchor Pursuit hotels in Banff and Jasper, feature share plates and strong cocktail programs but, much like the towns where they reside, each has a different feel and flavour.

Natural elements and a modern feel underpin Terra, the food-focused spot that has taken over a former burger restaurant at The Crimson in Jasper. 

Bringing the outdoors in is Terra’s theme, with large windows that open to the street — and out to mountain views — natural elements throughout the décor and a menu influenced by seasonal ingredients with an assist from pioneering preservation practices. 

While unable to forage in a national park, Tyler Tays, executive chef, Jasper Lodging for Pursuit sources ingredients locally, ensuring the sense of place and farm-to-table approach Terra wants to share.

The window for fresh ingredients is short, he notes, so kitchen staff are up on canning, pickling and drying the herbs and flowers that would otherwise only be available in the brief summer months.

Dishes are served family style with vegetables designed to be an all-star supporting cast for items like reverse-seared bison tomahawk with housemade dandelion chimichurri and fish served with fiddleheads.

Anchoring the space is the long, rough-edged marble bar, behind which cocktails featuring local distillers will be mixed. Don’t miss the impeccable Wildfire Old Fashioned featuring Eau Claire Distillery’s Rupert’s Whiskey, tequila and a house-made black pepper-vanilla syrup, and the refreshing Strawbarb Pie Mule — a very Alberta play on the Moscow Mule.

While Terra has a modern edge to its design, Banff’s Brazen is a nod to the Alberta bar it once was — the feel of the space is masculine and traditional with dark wood and leather club-like chairs. Long gone are any vestiges of the Tony Roma’s that most recently occupied the space in the Mount Royal Hotel.

Less traditional than the decor is the menu, which nods to classics but updates them with unexpected twists. 

Scott Hergott, executive chef For Banff Jasper Collection by Pursuit, said the name of the spot is meant to reference the extra touch, “a brazen part” of each dish.

The macaroni and cheese uses creamy Brie as its base, the ginger beef features shishito peppers (a must-order) and pub favourite fish and chips is reimagined as a salt cod fish cake with lemon pearls. The certified Angus beef tartare is smoked in the kitchen, covered in burlap and unveiled tableside to dramatic effect, smoke swirling up from the plate. 

The Prohibition-era-style cocktails are inspired by two major figures in Banff — the legendary Bill Peyto who is rumoured to have brought a live lynx into the very bar Brazen now occupies and Mary Schaeffer Warren, an amateur botanist who published a guide to alpine flowers and then extensively explored the mountain region, surveying Maligne Lake, lobbying to have it included in Jasper National Park.

For him, the Smokin’ Warden Old-Fashioned features a pine simple syrup and angled ice cube that evokes the sharp glacial edges of the surrounding mountains. Brazen’s play on a classic Aviation references Schaeffer Warren’s love of flora, with its gentle violet hue and purple pansy adornment.