Temiskaming Shores isn't exactly close to the GTA, being about 500 km straight north. But since yesterday's Globe and Mail did a short report on this restaurant, I thought it was a good opportunity to offer my own review of this place.
For those who travel north of North Bay, there are relatively few interesting dining options. Aside from the chains, the small towns will have family-style restaurants that serve burgers, salads, a few pastas, and if you are lucky, a pan-fried pickerel dinner (which is usually the best bet). There is also usually a chop suey-style Chinese restaurant, where you can get an order of decent egg foo yung if you want to avoid the deep fried chicken balls with bright orange sauce.
So I was very pleasantly surprised when L'Autochtone opened a couple of years back. The chef is Gerry Brandon, who is a member of the Dokis First Nation (Anishinaabe). He trained at the Stratford Chefs School, so he brings sophistication and skill to the menu, which is a blend of northern Ontario anglophone, francophone, and Indigenous flavours. Some favourite dishes from earlier menus included a hearty buffalo chili with frybread and tender braised rabbit over a three-sisters wild rice risotto.
The drinks are also a few notches up from what you might usually get at a local watering hole or restaurant. There are a number of great cocktails, including the Colonizer Punch (Empress gin, St, Germain, Amaro Montenegro, honey, and lemon) and The Original Maple, Burnt Orange Old Fashioned.
My most recent visit was on Friday night (I travel to the community for work). As the patio was closed for the season, I dined indoors and had my vaccine passport scanned for the very first time (most places just eyeball it). Tables were reasonably spaced, all staff were masked, and hygiene seemed to be maintained well.
They had just updated the menu with many new dishes (resulting in some favourites being retired). Everything I tried was excellent, including a cocktail special that was a riff on a Pisco sour. The peppered venison carpaccio featured thinly sliced tenderloin rimmed with pepper, fennel, rosemary, and chili, served with roasted garlic oil and parmesan - delicious and very sophisticated for the locale. Another new dish was the "faux gras", a vegan pate made of mushrooms, beets, walnuts, and lentils. It came with still-warm toasted frybread pieces. For a main I had (not-overcooked!) mushroom ravioli served with a light lemon-brandy cream sauce with more mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. Dessert was a carrot cake and candied walnut trifle.
So if you are ever in the Temiskaming Shores area, this is the place you want to eat.
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