Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dine Out Vancouver 2012 - Salmon n' Bannock Bistro

Salmon n' Bannock on Urbanspoon
Overall, for a Dine Out menu of $28, Salmon and Bannock offers okay value and a sample of what sets them apart (bannock and game meat). If you're expecting aboriginal food to somehow be a very novel experience in taste and presentation, then you're already setting yourself up for disappointment and it can be hard to remove that element when you are evaluating the food, ambiance, and the restaurant as a whole. Seriously: What does "aboriginal food and presentation" look like to you?

That said, the food is basically good edging up to very good. The novelty is really limited to the elk roast. If you're more serious about game meat then you might want to instead try one of the prix fixe fixed-menu feasts, which run from $30 to $50 per person, minimum 4 persons.

The room used to be Habibi's, a hummus place. Now it's decorated with framed aboriginal art that seems to clash with the music that's played in the background (although, really, do you want to hear traditional aboriginal music?). Oh, and watch out for the low-hanging mini-canoe.

  • Indian candy on organic mix greens with bannock crackers:
    • "Indian Candy" turned out to be, as expected, candied salmon flakes.
    • The Indian Candy was flaked salmon meat, the largest chunk maybe the size of a 25-cent coin. But there was only a little of it, maybe two tablespoons. The rest is salad. Pick this and you're basically ordering a salad.
    • Dig into the salad to find chopped up nuts.
    • The bannock "crackers" were two slices of bread that looked like it had been shaped into a baguette and cut slightly on a diagonal, and the crust removed. Mine were slightly toasted but not crispy. Bannock is a slightly chewy bread that's denser than most breads, and typically fried. Nice to try as a novelty, but bread is bread.
  • Spicy mixed game chorizo skewer with peppers, red onions and double smoked cheddar:
    • The chorizo (sausage) was a single skewer on a long lettuce leaf. Those who tried it said they didn't find any cheddar on it, but that the meat was good.
  • Halibut consommé garnished with west coast toasted seaweed:
    • I didn't get to try the halibut consomme. It was a bit hard to share and only one person ordered it.
  • Elk roast with red wine and mushroom gravy, carrot and rutabaga purée and seasonal vegetables
    • Nothing too special on this plate. In fact, it looked like it might have been a plate of steak from any other restaurant. All the entrées looked like that, but to be fair, you really need to first let go of your expectations of what an aboriginal plating looks like.
    • Seasonal vegetables here were brussels sprouts and a half ear of corn. Everyone also got a half ear of corn on their plate, which works out to be a different way of adding mild sweetness to your main. You don't see this very often, so you could conceivably count this toward your aboriginal experience at Salmon n' Bannock.
    • Strangely, the pulled elk meat (not a single large slab, more like large chunks from a bigger roast) was thick and infused with jus. And strangely it was to me like duck both in taste and texture. Hard to say how much meat there was... Maybe about the same mass as two burger patties.
    • The carrot and rutabaga purée looked like mashed sweet potatoes, but was surprisingly airy and not as sweet. Interesting to try!
  • Wild Sockeye Salmon filet with dill beurre blanc served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables
    • I'm not huge on salmon, so this was just alright. Tender and juicy meat from what I tasted.
  • Ojibway wild rice and barley risotto served with asparagus, wild mushrooms and double smoked cheddar
    • Looked and tasted like any other mushroom risotto I've had elsewhere. I think here the flavour wasn't as thoroughly mixed because an initial taste was quite bland but it worked up to a more pleasing savoriness later.
    • Came with a lot of asparagus and if the initial portion of risotto looked small, look under the asparagus for the rest.
    • Didn't know where the cheddar was, although some people who tried the risotto said it tasted like there was blue cheese in there. I didn't find that myself.
  • Cinnamon bannock bites served with a hot caramel sauce
    • Can't say the bannock screamed cinnamon at me. The whole dessert is basically bread used to sop up a generous amount of caramel. You got four small randomly sized pieces of fried bannock, averaging about 3/4 of a cubic inch each.
    • To me, this dessert is less about the bannock than the caramel and having a sweet finish to your meal.
Nothing particularly interesting on the beverage list for a non-drinker like myself. I did try a blackcurrant/elderberry cocktail ($3). It's quite a bit on the sweet side so keep your glass of water. The juices are not fresh squeezed.

The restaurant didn't look it, but it was booked solid with a waiting list for both seatings. It's a small space that only seats about 24 and they allow themselves a half hour between the two 1-1/2 hour seatings, which should be plenty for a party of 2-4. Our party of 6 dragged on because of conversation and a some people who needed to pay by VISA. Apparently they couldn't or didn't think to bring the credit card machine around to the tables. Go to the counter.


  1. I am of aboriginal descent and do not know what aboriginal food is supposed to look like. I am in a culinary school in the lower mainland on a reservation and still am baffled. The only food I know is a bag of chips and a PEPSI. I know that we are in a position to train natives to eat more cultureds foods but not aboriginal. Bannock I believe is not even a aboriginal food but adopted from the scotish.

  2. @Anonymous - Thank you for your insights! I expect that no one has the whole pie on this one, but slices of reality could include lost traditions or (as so much is nowadays) the realities of marketing and what is going to realistically sell.
    Still, all traditions start somewhere at sometime, so if you're in culinary school, maybe you and your peers will find your own culinary identity and make a new tradition.