Contemporary Aboriginal Dining at Salmon n’ Bannock
Salmon n’ Bannock (1128 W. Broadway) is a cozy 30-seat restaurant, offering an upscale twist on Aboriginal food. Having been in service for four years, I was surprised that Salmon n’ Bannock hadn’t shown up on my radar of restaurants to try. Fortunately my friend suggested we check out their $28 3-Course Menu for Dine Out Vancouver 2014, and I enthusiastically agreed because I was looking for a menu option which offered something out of the ordinary, and I certainly consider dishes made with Bison and Elk as something unusual.
Our meal started off with the Stewed Bison Tart appetizer. The pastry crust was so incredibly light and flakey and a comforting start like a mini pot pie.
Next up was the Elk Winter Pie with a red wine reduction, served in a double baked potato jacket. The insides of the potato had been mashed with garlic (like at The Keg, when you order the delicious garlic mash as your side) then scooped back into the potato skin and back in the oven again for this perfectly baked, slightly browned texture. The taste is comparable to Shepherd’s Pie, but with a much more creative twist in presentation. A crispy web of cheese topped the dish.
Bison and Elk just tasted like beef to me. Especially when covered with a flavourful sauce, I don’t have the culinary sensitivity to distinguish between different types of meat. Co-owner Inez Cook explained to us that the way the meat is prepared reduced the “gaminess” of what you may expect wild game like Bison and Elk to taste like. According to Inez, if an animal is stressed prior to being slaughtered, adrenaline flows into their blood, which gives it a less desirable “gamey” taste and a tougher texture.
Meanwhile, my friend ordered the Bannock Crusted Smoked Sockeye which game with crispy smashed potato, purple slaw, and a sea asparagus tartar sauce. In order to truly appreciate the flavour of the salmon, try a bite without the tartar sauce.
Both meals came with bannock and butter, which is an Aboriginal-style scone.
During our meal, we had the pleasure of meeting Shawna Davis, the newly hired Executive Chef at Salmon n’ Bannock. Talented yet humble, Shawna attributes her first cooking lessons to her Grandmother, years and years before she stepped foot into culinary school. As this year’s Dine Out Vancouver menu is one of her first official creations, we were impressed by her creativity and mix of flavours and ability to give an upscale and modern twist to something as traditional as salmon and bannock.
For dessert, we had Chef Shawna’s Jiits Saskatoon Berry Cake, topped with whipped cream and a dollop of berry compote, which was nice because it wasn’t overly sweet.
I would definitely recommend Salmon n’ Bannock for this year’s Dine Out Vancouver Festival. Beyond that, this would be a great place to bring out of town visitors for a traditional Westcoast Aboriginal meal, yet somewhere which wouldn’t be out of anyone’s comfort zone. For more information, visit salmonandbannock.net.