COMING FULL CIRCLE AT JASPER'S OLDEST DINING ROOM
From the riverstone fireplace that greets you upon entering, to the custom-milled wooden ceiling tiles, to the heritage font on the signboard above the front door, Tekarra Restaurant is steeped in history.
But it’s not just the room, nor the stories of its famous guests (Marilyn Monroe, anyone?) which help make time stand still at the cabin in the woods. It’s the fact that for more than five decades, the restaurant has been a staple in Jasper’s culinary culture.
“In 1989, when my daughter Skye was born we had standing reservations for Sunday night,” said Jasper restauranteur Mike Day. “That was our family dinner.”
Two years before that, Day was part of a theatre troupe which would perform once a week to then-owner Nick Pitoulis’ guests. Then in 2006, Day worked at Tekarra, serving guests creative dishes dreamed up by Chef David Husereau.
Now everything is coming full circle for Day. In March, together with his wife, Cyndi, he bought the lease to the heritage dining room. On May 20, the Days opened the doors to another summer season at Tekarra.
“We want to continue that tradition that was started in the 1950s,” Day said. “There’s a sense of place here. Everything is at a different pace.”
To help execute that mission, Day has enlisted the services of Chef Dale Nutt, formerly of Overlander Lodge’s Stone Peak Restaurant. Nutt, too, has a connection to Tekarra’s past: he cooked at Fiddle River with Husereau. Nutt’s current menu pays homage to that relationship—the duck tart is a take on Husereau’s famous “Archie’s Delight,” for example—as well as Tekarra classics from menus past, such as the lobster roll (reincarnated as the nori trout roll) and the local favourite, banana-crusted chicken.
“[Husereau] has played a big impact on the culinary scene in this town,” Nutt said.
To be certain, Nutt is putting his own stamp on the menu. Devilled eggs with bacon jam, quinoa risotto and pan-seared wild boar belly are a few such items. While the menu is pared-down from recent years, Nutt is hoping the flavours will do the talking.
“It’s simply written,” he said. “I’m not trying to wow you from reading it. I want to wow you with flavours.”
Out in the front of house, the most notable change to the room, perhaps, is the art. Day and Mountain Galleries’ Wendy Wacko have collaborated to feature landscape artist Charlie Easton’s works which showcase familiar yet dramatic Jasper scenes. The large, dynamic compositions are striking for their vivid colours and unexpected perspectives.
“All of the Jasper pieces create a different vitality,” Day said. “They brighten up the room.”
And if they don’t do the job, front of house manager Jesse Lent will. Lent has been charming guests at various Jasper bars and restaurants for the better part of 20 years, including (of course) a short stint at Tekarra 10 years ago. He and Day have concocted a classic cocktail list they believe will hit the mark in terms of giving guests that “back-in-time” feeling. After nearly a month of biking out to the property preparing for the upcoming season, Lent said it’s nice to finally lift the curtain.
“It’s such a fantastic room,” he said. “What an easy place to come and dine.”
This is not the first time Day has taken over a restaurant from Husereau. In 2007, he and Cyndi bought Evil Dave’s. Last week, on a night when Tekarra was expected to serve a dozen diners, Day’s staff at Evil Dave’s were preparing to seat more than 120.
“Evils is more cosmopolitan, more up-tempo,” Day said. “Here everything slows down. It’s nice to have that contrast.”