— by Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor —
Picture the Yukon. You may imagine scenes of snow, mountain ranges, moose or caribou. You likely won’t picture delicious and often sophisticated food, but you should.
I ate my way through Whitehorse, the Yukon’s capital and largest city, the Klondike gold rush town of Dawson City, and, earlier this year, Haines Junction, the crossroads on the way to Haines, Alaska. I pleasantly surprised to find a wide range of foods, including Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, American, Indian, Jamaican, organic, vegan, and good old Western fare. These are some of realfoodtraveler’s favorite Yukon eateries.
Burnt Toast Café
2112 2nd Ave.
This is a welcome newcomer to Whitehorse’s culinary scene. A casual café serving breakfast and lunch, in the evening the space transforms into a chic wine bar. We went to the Burnt Toast Café for lunch and found a selection of salads, soups, and sandwiches, all reasonably priced. I ordered the Humble Salad with the addition of grilled shrimp. It came in a large bowl filled with greens, shredded beets and carrots, black beans, sunflower seeds, and four medium-sized grilled shrimp and served with creamy dill dressing. My companions both ordered the Thai Shrimp Salad, a heaping pile of broad noodles, slivered sweet peppers, carrots, and beets, and grilled shrimp in a light peanut dressing. (shown at top)
312 Steele Street
Who’d expect a Jamaican restaurant in downtown Whitehorse? This fine dining establishment offers a wide range of appetizers ($12-15), including French fries with curry chicken gravy (Antionette’s version of the popular Canadian Poutin), baked brie with garlic, crispy frog legs with chili butter, gravlax, Thai lemon grass soup, and bison meatballs with horseradish sauce.
My favorite was the baked brie, which was topped with a sprinkling of sugar, which provided a nice contrast with the creamy cheese. The frog legs had a bit too much coating, but the meat was moist and sweet. The gravlax was rich and very fresh and the bison meatballs had a lovely wild taste.
Dinner selections were equally broad. I ordered mustard and panko crusted lamb with ratatouille. The six chops were perfectly cooked to medium rare and the panko crust gave the meat a satisfying crunch. The ratatouille was hearty and tasty and accompanied by a mound of sweet, creamy potatoes. I paired my meal with sorrel, a delicious and refreshing non-alcoholic drink made with sorrel flowers.
One of my dining companions ordered the spicy pork, a generous portion of shredded sweet pork with a bit of heat. It was served with Jamaican vegetables, fried bananas, and sweet potato.
Others at our table selected the halibut cooked with coconut and tomato curry and they were satisfied with the freshness of their choice. The vegetarian plate was pile high with vegetables, including a savory carrot cake that one diner proclaimed, “delicious.”
Desserts were less successful. The rum chocolate truffle cake was a small, dense disk of chocolate that needed to be creamier and silkier. The kahlua cream did have a nice coffee flavor. The pana cotta with fruit was creamy, but a bit thin. However, the lacy coconut sugar cookie served with it was very crisp and delicious and I could have eaten a half dozen of them.
Overall, the food at Antionette’s is delicious and satisfying. However, I’d recommend they abandon the difficult-to-read chalkboard and opt for paper menus.
Baked Bakery & Cafe
108-100 Main St.
Baked is one of the most popular gathering spots in Whitehorse and deservedly so. It’s a great place for people watching and getting a sense of what it’s like to live in this northern city.
Pull up a chair to one of the community tables and you’ll likely find yourself having a conversation with a local. This bright and airy neighborhood coffee shop specializes in espresso drinks, quiche, soup, and hot and cold sandwiches.
Don’t be intimidated by the long lines; the service is fast and they’ll happily grill any sandwich for you. I ordered the beef sandwich with Dijanese which they put into the Panini press and served it hot and crispy.
The Cellar Steakhouse
101 Main St.
Tucked into the basement of the downtown Edgewater Hotel, The Cellar Steakhouse is a great place to go for a fine dining experience. After years of the same menu, they recently completely updated their menu and it’s a success. The night we dined was the first night of their new menu and missteps were few and far between.
The Cellar’s new menu offers plenty of appetizers – soft escargot in a light tomato sauce, moist seared scallops, perfectly cooked garlicky prawns, a lovely sweet sausage cooked with olives, and baked brie served with a sweet berry compote and freshly-baked herbal bread.
I ordered the coastal salad, which proved an interesting combination of romaine lettuce, strips of sweet red bell pepper, tomatoes, grilled pears, roasted candied pecans, slices of avocado, feta cheese, and thinly sliced red onion.
I paired this with their New York steak which came with roasted potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, garlic, carrots, and peppers. The steak, which was huge, was perfectly cooked with a slightly smoky flavor.
My friend ordered the salmon, which was overcooked and dry. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell the waitstaff until after the meal, too late for them to do anything.
Desserts, which change every week, are quite successful. The crème bruleé had a perfect silken texture with just the right crispy sugar top with a hint of cinnamon. Apple delight, sliced apples on a dinner plate-sized puff pastry served with chocolate and raspberry sauces served with vanilla ice cream, was warm and rich.
The service was attentive and helpful. The kitchen here at The Cellar staff is on the right track. They’ll work out any minor issues with the new menu, and I predict this restaurant will make its mark as one of Whitehorse’s finest dining establishments.
206 Jarvis St.
This high-end Italian/Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Whitehorse is surprisingly sophisticated.
We began our meal with a variety of starters, including flavorful sausage in a tomatoey sauce; mussels in a spicy broth; warm, creamy crab and artichoke dip served with a pile of house made multi-grain chips; and a very fresh, perfectly seasoned Greek salad of red peppers, sliced red onion, cucumber, briny Kalamata olives, and feta in a light vinaigrette.
I wasn’t prepared for the huge portions they serve at Girgio’s. My seafood fettuccini was a giant bowl of al dente pasta and seafood – big shrimp, scallops, and mussels in a creamy tomato sauce. The sausage and penne, an equally huge serving, was packed with penne and sweet sausage.
The rack of lamb, cooked to pink perfection and served with wild rice and carrots, snow peas, and red peppers, was succulent and satisfying.
While Girgio’s offers a wide selection of desserts, including baklava, chocolate pecan pie, strawberry rhubarb pie, chocolate truffle cake, and mango berry cheesecake, all of us were too full to indulge. Maybe next time.
950 2nd Ave.
This Mediterranean restaurant is a wonderful find in the rough and tumble gold mining town of Dawson City and one of the best and most memorable meals I ate during my stay in the Yukon.
We started with drinks and appetizers, including fresh, soft pita bread served with garlicky hummus; rich flaky spanokopita; fresh briny shrimp (garides), and Greek salad made with big, fresh chunks of cucumber, tomato, red bell pepper, salty olives, and red onion in a perfectly light vinaigrette.
Our appetizers were so filling we decided to order a sampler platter rather than individual dinners. This choice came with some of our appetizer choices (spanokopita, the shrimp, Greek salad). It also came with tiropita, a delicious five-cheese concoction in buttery phyllo dough; fresh tzatziki (cucumber/garlic dip) with pita; moist, flavorful chicken and smoky lamb skewers; rice; roasted potatoes; and sweet, meaty ribs.
Jack London Grill
1025 2nd Ave.
(867) 993- 5346
With their good selection of sandwiches, including BTL, beef dip, clubhouse, beef melt, and burgers, the Jack London Grill is a good lunch choice when you’re in Dawson City. I opted for the burger, a big meaty patty on a substantial bun served with lettuce, tomato, and onion and a pile of French fries.
They also claim to have better cheesecake than you can find in New York City. With that kind of bravdo, we had to try it, and, while it’s not the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten, their chocolate cheesecake is a bit of creamy deliciousness.
(Bonanza Dining Room)
El Dorado Hotel
3rd and Princess
During our stay in Dawson City, we stayed at the El Dorado Hotel and enjoyed the generous breakfasts served every morning in the Bonanza Dining Room. One evening, we decided to grab dinner in the Sluicebox Lounge where they serve the Bonanza’s full menu.
I ordered their 10-ounce rib eye topped with a mass of sautéed mushrooms and sliced onions. This without a doubt was one of the most tender, flavorful pieces of beef I’ve ever eaten. It was served with a giant mound of creamy mashed potatoes. It also came with thinly-sliced yam frites, which didn’t have a lot of flavor, and completely overcooked broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. But, you don’t come here for veggies. Do come for the terrific steak.
The Raven Gourmet Restaurant
The Raven Hotel
Haines Junction is a little town on the Alaskan Highway located at the crossroads to Haines, Alaska. It’s not someplace you’d expect gourmet dining, but the Yukon is full of surprises. Owners Bruce Tomlin and Gwen Watson have long prided themselves in attracting talented chefs to their Raven Gourmet Restaurant. When we visited, a young African American chef, Victor Bongo, was at the helm and doing the restaurant proud.
I knew things were going to be good when we began our meal with house made bread served with whipped butter sweetened with Canadian maple syrup.
I ordered Raven’s spinach salad, which was a refreshing combination of organic spinach, crispy prosciutto, Stilton, candied pecans, and thinly sliced pears. The pecans and prosciutto offered a nice crunch while the pecans added just the right amount of sweetness to balance the rich Stilton.
The Raven salad came as several disks of yellow and red tomato on a bed of greens with cucumbers and radishes dressed with a wonderfully sweet fig balsamic.
For my entree, I opted for the Musk ox, cooked medium rare and served with a sweet and tangy blueberry reduction. The meat was very much like an excellent piece of beef, but had lighter flavor that was delectable. It was served with risotto that could have been a bit creamier and perfectly cooked asparagus, carrots, and, curiously, baby corn (this ingredient never tastes like much).
My dining companion ordered the venison shank, which was rich and fall-off-the-bone tender. It was served with herb-flavored mashed potatoes.
While the starters and entrees were entirely satisfying, the desserts were less successful. The unbaked trip cheesecakes should have been creamier and cheesier and the trio of chocolate mousse was uninspired.