There is always a level of uncertainty going to an eatery the first day it is open. It could be amazing, but it could also have faults that will easily be worked out within a few days. Nevertheless, I went to the first day of the new Museum Cafe under the operation of Flavour Trader and wanted to write about it.
Writing about a local eatery is always tricky for me as I want to be fair to all Yellowknife eateries and promote them from a neutral and equal standpoint but I do love trying something new and sharing it with people.
All that is to say, if you own a local food eatery, invite me to dine and I’d be happy to produce a profile of your establishment here on Yellowknife Online.
Back to the Flavour Trader Museum Cafe.
Entering the Museum Cafe is an experience many Yellowknifers will have had many times when dining at the cafe under the operation of Chef Chris Zouboules, who now runs the Cliff Cafe at the Legislative Assembly Building. The decor, pretty much the same, most likely because the Museum Cafe is owned by the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, which is run by the Government of the Northwest Territories, Department of Education, Culture and Employment. The high ceilings, with the wooden arches and the large full wall of windows, make it a pleasing visual either way.
However, I’m not writing this to comment on the decor. I was curious about the food.
The drinks first. With the extended hours that are being promoted that reach from a typical morning coffee break to almost the afternoon coffee break, a separate menu is provided with a full range of cafe drinks. Regular coffee to fancy specialties. To accompany my late afternoon lunch, I’m a fan of black coffee and water.
While I was there for a full meal there is a wide selection of snack items on the flipside of the drink menu. Energy balls anyone? I’m willing to bet these will be a hit for employees of the Price of Wales Northern Heritage Centre and the Legislative Assembly.
On to the main menu.
The main menu, made up of small plates, salads, large plates, and deserts boasted a wide array of cuisines. Dishes ranging from seasonal items like roasted squash to northern fare such as Great Slave Lake whitefish, to international flavours ranging from regions like Jamaica, Morocco, Lebanon, and India.
Reading over the menu it showcased specialties we, in Yellowknife, have come to know and expect from Executive Chef Étienne Croteau. Flavours from around the world, bold and layered.
And while I’m excited to try those large dishes, I was pleased to see small plate and not-the-same-old-same-old salad options on the menu. Especially being someone who would rather a small, light lunch.
When reviewing the prices I was reminded that I am not the average demographic of customer that will be dining at the Museum Cafe regularly. That and I am out of touch on local food prices for a restaurant, having to remind myself of curry dishes at the lovable Fat Fox being between $16-18.
At the Flavour Trader Museum Cafe you will be looking at small plate dishes from between $6-11, and large plates between $18-22.
Not dwelling on prices I was there to experience the food of Executive Chef Étienne Croteau and Chef Calvin Rossouw, who some might remember from NWT Brewing/The Woodyard Pub. While admiring the menu I still chose to try the daily special.
Butter roasted Great Slave Lake Whitefish, with glazed carrots and squash on a bed of barley risotto with goat cheese.
The dish instantly reminded me of Chef Étienne Croteau style. With the dish made of three parts, each one had its own personality and complexities. The fish was sweet and creamy with a salt and pepper undertone. The vegetables were savoury and naturally sweet with a crunch. And the risotto was creamy and packed with flavour as if all the flavours piled on top of it melted together to seep into your taste buds with each mouthful.
I was satisfied.
But wait there is more. Not one for deserts, I thought since it was there taking it all in I needed to try it as well.
On the recommendation of the Chef, I tried the Maple Cake with house-made ice cream and candied walnut. The dish was served in a mason jar, warm. With each bite, I could see a food coma coming closer and closer. Yet, here I am writing this.
The atmosphere was enjoyable, however, I did avoid any type of lunch rush that might have happened. I was able to easily sit and sip the remains of my coffee trying to counterbalance the amount of sugar I had just consumed that dessert.
Overall I’m happy to have the Museum Cafe back in operation as a lunch destination. Even more happy that it is a local business owner who is expanding his reach and bringing his food to another location, a more accessible location, with another young local chef. Thanks, Chef. The Museum Cafe will be back in my lunch destination rotation.
Disclaimer: I must mention that my dessert was compliments of the Chef but did not influence my decision to write this article.