Before I spread my napkin, I’ll confess that I like Whitefish. More than pike, trout or pickerel, or burbot, and much more than loche.
That places me in a minority, but I’m comforted by the knowledge that Archie Buckley shared my preference. Archie, in his own estimation, was the best fisherman to ever set a net on Great Slave Lake. Barry, Archie’s son and successor to the title of king of the lake, inherited his father’s taste in fish and prepares it in the same way: boil potatoes in salted water and when they are about done, add Whitefish to the pot.
Voila! Lunch is served. You won’t find that particular treatment on any menu in Yellowknife, where Whitefish is rarely plated. The number of restaurants that offer Great Slave Lake’s most common fish every day are few. Here’s a breakdown of most of them:
Gold Range Bistro
Whitefish is on the menu every day at the Gold Range Bistro, and a featured special on Fridays with a bowl of soup. The cooks take a minimalist approach. The fillet is seasoned, dusted with flour, fried in butter, and finished with a squeeze of lemon. Occasionally, there might be a pinch of dill or a few capers. The sides are fried rice and mixed veg.
Take a counter seat at Bullocks Bistro to witness the most complex rendering of pan-fried Whitefish anywhere North of 60. The fillet is dusted with flour, fried in a small lake of butter and beer, then doused with secret sauce. It comes with a fresh-baked bun, fries, salad, and a dollop of the Bistro’s famous yoghurt-feta dressing. Lunch is often less busy than dinner, but if you’re on a budget, drink water. The beer and wine prices are steep all day.
A hybrid sports bar/hangout cum diner hiding in a strip mall off Old Airport Road, Hot Shots is a neighbourhood favourite with a direct approach to old standards. Steaks and burgers are fresh and full of flavor. Whitefish stars in Hot Shots fish and chips. It comes lightly cloaked in crisp batter with a generous side of fries.
The Diner is a Yellowknife institution, a place to nurse a Sunday morning hangover, or eavesdrop on the crowd of regulars that sometimes includes such luminaries as Alex Debogorski. The Whitefish in the fish and chips is fresh, but overwhelmed by a heavy coat of batter.
The best thing about the Whitefish lunch at the latest iteration of The Cellar was the squash and pear soup. The fish had been cryogenically frozen, and while it did not show evidence of freezer burn, it was thoroughly pan dried.
Sunny’s, the new inhabitant of the former Le Frolic space is trying to find its way as a sports bar. Whitefish is not its strength. The batter was leaden, and the fish it concealed tasted of stale cooking oil. On a positive note, the bartender did not say “what?’ when asked to make a Negroni.