Ontario’s northern towns typically feature family-oriented restaurants that feature burgers, steaks, salads, maybe pasta, and a few things for the kids. If you are lucky, they do a pickerel dinner and do it well. There is also usually at least one Chinese-Canadian restaurant if you want some chop suey, sweet and sour chicken balls, egg foo yung, and fried rice.
So L’Autochtone stands out as something very different. The chef/owner is Anishinaabe and so the food draws from Indigenous as well as local English and French backgrounds. And it is also more sophisticated than typical local restaurants, as the chef trained at the Stratford Chef School and has worked at other restaurants before opening his own place. They are also perhaps the only place to get creative craft cocktails in this neck of the woods.
I work regularly in northeastern Ontario so I get a chance to eat here fairly often. So this night I tried some dishes that were new to the menu:
I ordered the cocktail special, which was called Sommelier’s Bouquet. It combined a homemade grape reduction, Hendricks gin, vermouth, rose water, and elderflower syrup. It was light, very floral, and refreshing. For food, I tried the broccolini “Caesar”, which featured blanched broccolini, anchovy breadcrumbs, thick smoked bacon, caperberries, and drizzled with a garlicky Caesar dressing. Fun and very tasty.
For a main, I had another new dish: ravioli filled with lobster, with a poached half-lobster tail, a saffron-tomato-leek sauce, and gremolata. The ravioli were lovely, supple and not overcooked. The sauce was tangy and balanced. The only disappointment was the poached lobster tail, which seemed likely frozen and lacked the texture of fresh lobster.
A new dessert was a buttermilk frybread donut, glazed with caramel sauce, and served with candied peanuts, crumbled sponge toffee, and chantilly cream. This was great. The frybread was light and not oily (they used to a great main with a large frybread smothered with bison chili) and the rest was decadent but not overwhelming.
Definitely a place to visit if you find yourself in Ontario’s northeast.