We travel for work, play, work/play, so dine out often. It’s tough to name one restaurant as our favorite of 2011.
In the past year, we tried dozens of new eateries, from high-priced Jaleo in Las Vegas, to one-man seafood joints off the docks in Coos Bay, Oregon.
We sifted through all the seafood places we were ecstatic to find in Oregon, all the red-meat places we tried in Colorado and Nevada; hip openings in our new home city, Portland; our vegetarian favorites — from Toronto to San Francisco; and our secret dessert discoveries, from Arizona to British Columbia.
It wasn’t tough after all.
Best new restaurant: Salmon n’ Bannock.
It’s an out-of-the-way restaurant in Vancouver, B.C. (not be confused with that other Vancouver).
It is, by far, the best place we discovered in 2011.
First, it’s unique.
Second, it serves the wild food we enjoy more than any other on the planet: Salmon. Salmon is served in every way that celebrates this majestic, wild creature of the Pacific Northwest.
Third, Salmon n’ Bannock is a new business, built by two true (non-romantic) partners — an aboriginal woman (Nux’alk First Nation) and a French-Canadian man — who hired an all-aboriginal staff. They showcase aboriginal chefs and servers at table; the work of aboriginal artists on their ceiling and walls; and, on special occasions, aboriginal musicians and dancers.
This is First Nations in elegance.
Fourth, its cuisine is all-Canadian, and all-natural/organic/wild (where possible). Where else can you get salmon and fiddleheads? Bison, yes, but Arctic muskox?
Salmon n’ Bannock is a product of passion. Inez and Remi are full-time Air Canada attendants, who were in Hong Kong then Sydney, Australia over the holidays.
They’re busy in their full-time careers, and perhaps even more busy in this new, exciting venture — the only aboriginal restaurant in Vancouver, a city of great dining.
Salmon n’ Bannock is an example of passion in the kitchen and to the curb: On another visit, Remi welcomed a visitor parking her car out front; suggested a more secure parking lot nearby; then went out to put change in the meter without anyone asking him.
That is service. That is commitment to one’s own business. That is commitment to excellence.
We were introduced to this delightful, hospitable couple earlier this year by Paula Amos, kind ambassador of the Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia.
Don’t know if we would have found this restaurant without her.
But we did, as travel photojournalists.
We wrote about Salmon n’ Bannock for a travel story in the Toronto Star, largest newspaper and news online site in Canada.
Then we did what everyone should do when they discover a great, new business: We went back and spent real money.
We introduced Vancouver friends to the restaurant.
Then we supported Salmon n’ Bannock by holding an intimate dinner for family and best friends there this fall.
We’re unemployed, so a big dinner out is a big deal for us.
Salmon n’ Bannock will get our business every time we return to Vancouver because it’s a new business with great food, great art, and a big heart for community. It buys from the community; it hires from within the community; it celebrates community.
We’re big believers in the strength of community, and the many small businesses who contribute to the soul of a place.
We celebrate small businesses with real soul.
WHERE? Salmon n’ Bannock, 1128 W. Broadway, Suite 7, Vancouver, B.C. Reservations recommended: 604.568.8971.
(Food photos by Hadi Dadashian; other photos, courtesy of Salmon n’ Bannock)
TOMORROW: Our favorite restaurants of 2011