Wendake, Quebec – La Traite (First Nations Hotel/Restaurant)

Follow Me Foodie to l’Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations!

Kumbaya my foodies! A bite of First Nations cuisine at La Traite.

Uh, Follow Me Foodie to where?! A hotel for our national premiers? No. It’s the First Nations Hotel in Wendake, Quebec! It’s a 4 star boutique hotel featuring a First Nations restaurant La Traite and that was initially why we came. However after a tour of the hotel, I really wanted to spend the night or weekend there!

I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited to write about a hotel restaurant! This was honestly one of the most unique hotels I’ve ever been to. Forget Vegas, resorts or castle like hotels, this was a side of luxury I’ve never experienced before! I honestly want to go back to Quebec just to come here again!

I was invited to Quebec City for a culinary tour and when I saw that a hotel restaurant was on the itinerary I was pretty disinterested, until I did my research. Well, dinner at a First Nations Hotel was something different, and I was game… and ready for game meat.

Okay let’s get the stereotypes out of the way, because I feel like they could be crossing your mind. No, you’re not living in tepees, long houses, igloos or even having to use an out house… at all! However you’re situated right on the Akiawenrahk River and surrounded by forest, trails and pure nature.

Okay now throw all the stereotypes back in because these are the rooms and they have fur everywhere!

And boom! Flat screen TV! I’m not a camper or outdoorsy person, but I can manage this no problem!

The theme of the hotel is to experience First Nations art and culture and way of life… but in the 21st century. It’s actually a really nice hotel and the authentic experiences are quite luxurious, so it’s only as traditional as to still attract tourists. And as a tourist, I was attracted!

The hotel embraces the First Nations theme and we were taken to the outdoor fireplace where we were taught to make bannock from scratch. I’ve done this before on a field trip to a long house in elementary school and I was just as excited to do it again! Some things never change!

This is just an example of one of the many ongoing First Nations activities they offer at the hotel and there’s even a daily Labrador tea ceremony for guests. It was almost like First Nations “Disneyland” for adults, and it was just an all around fun, educational and adventurous experience.

Okay, so back to the original reason we were here. It was to have dinner at La Traite, which is the restaurant inside the hotel. This isn’t just any “hotel restaurant” though, this is a First Nations restaurant featuring traditional First Nations cuisine with French techniques, Quebecois twists and modern execution.

For a minute, the decor transferred me back to Colorado… or Calgary. If you’re vegetarian or fear dead animals on walls, you may want to reconsider… but everything is sustainable with respect to the environment if that helps.

It was visually overwhelming and I just couldn’t stop taking pictures because everything looked so interesting! It was the natural outdoors brought to the refined indoors, and it was successfully portrayed in the theme of the hotel, ambiance and food.

Beaver cushions… they’re in the rooms, at the restaurant… and on our nickles!

Restaurant: La Traite (At l’Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations)
Cuisine: First Nations/Canadian/French/Fusion
Last visited: November 10, 2011
Location: Wendake, Quebec (Wendake)
Address: 5, Place de la Rencontre (At l’Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations)
Bus stop: Bastien / au 16
Price Range: $30-50+ ($20-25 mains)

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6Tres Excellent!!

Food: 5
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • Located inside First Nations Hotel
  • Authentic & modern First Nations cuisine
  • Casual fine dining
  • Exotic meat & game
  • Fresh seafood
  • Local/organic ingredients
  • Home-smoked fish and game
  • Seasonal menus
  • Affordable set menus
  • Wine list/in house sommelier
  • Great view/outdoor patio
  • Indoor and outdoor fireplace
  • Private room
  • Sunday brunch
  •  Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch/Dinner/Late

**Recommendations: n/a
We were presented a 6 course dinner ($69) paired with wines ($115) which I thought was incredibly worth it. They also have 3 courses for $39 and 4 courses for $40, so the set menus are very reasonable. You can order a la carte too and the menus are seasonal so they change all the time, but they can be considered “adventurous”. In Vancouver, the closest restaurants we have offering this cuisine is probably Salmon n’ Bannock or maybe Wild Salmon Restaurant.

During dinner we had the honour to watch a few First Nations song and dance performances which happen on occasion at the hotel.

La Traite features lots of wild life and fresh seafood and it embraces First Nations cuisine, yet tries to make it appeal to a mass market without “dumbing it down”. It was more refined than the traditional, but they didn’t hold back either. Of course, as a hotel, they’re bound to a bit, but I think they did a good job finding a balance. In the end it just matters if the food was good, and I thought it was. I probably valued the overall experience most though, and it’s something memorable, different and worth making an effort to visit.

And to top things off I got to meet the Premier of Quebec, Monsieur Jean Charest, who was attending an event at the hotel that night!

On the table:

Domaine de l’Idylle “Cruet” Vin de Savoie 2009, France (It’s a very rare grape!)

Complimentary Bread & Butter

  • It was nice to see the bannock come up again, and there was also a baguette.
  • The baguette was very chewy and a bit tough on the outside, but soft on the inside.
  • The bannock was thin and soft and made with some chives and it was almost like corn bread. It was quite moist, and cakey, but not really sweet or savoury.
  • Sometimes they make the bannock with cheese, which is not traditional, but I can imagine it to be delicious!

Face Cachée de la Mer 5.5/6

  • Bonbons of smoked certified ecological salmon with sour glasswort
  • This was one of my favourite courses of the night.
  • Being from the West Coast I’m familiar with my smoked salmon, but I’m not familiar with glasswort.
  • I loved the colour and presentation and the salmon was cured and smoked in house.
  • The salmon was meaty, smooth, oily, well cured and salty, smoky in the nose with a hint of black pepper to follow.
  • It sat on top of crème fraîche, which is a classic match so there was a nice tang and richness to complement the fish.
  • If I didn’t know it was glasswort I would have thought it was just mixed herbs. I could taste some mint and grassiness of alfalfa sprouts in the mix as well.
  • Glasswort is a type of plant that looks like a pathetic baby cactus or weed, and it just came across as a micro herb to me.
  • It was simple, fresh, representable of the restaurant, well executed and delivered and we were off to an excellent start!

All Natural Seal Meat1/6 (Not how it’s normally served)

  • I feel really bad about this. I was the one that was keen on trying seal meat when I heard it was on the menu. It’s sustainable, but I feel bad I didn’t like it.
  • This is not how it’s normally served, but they were nice to give us a sample since I was so curious to try it.
  • It tasted like beef tenderloin with a pronounced liver flavour that lingers for a long time with a slight iron finish in the nose.
  • The texture of the meat is very tenderized, marinated and almost pounded, but you would think it was beef in the initial bites… until you started breathing it in and letting your palate absorb the flavours.
  • The iron and liver aftertaste honestly lasts for a long time, maybe 10 minutes, and I felt like I ate a plate of rusty pennies.
  • I’m going to say it’s acquired. I’m glad I tried it, but it’s not for me.

Morgon Les Charmes La Louve, France

Que l’Odeur des Bois Sature4/6

  • Foie gras Torchon with haskap berry spread on toasted bannock bread
  • It’s a long process to make Torchon style foie gras, but I like it better than paté because you get more natural texture and flavour of the foie.
  • The Torchon foie gras is almost like sashimi. It has a blubbery raw texture (but it’s cooked quickly) and it’s marinated in wine and topped with some salt and served chilled.
  • I wish the grilled bannock was served warm though and I wouldn’t mind if it was non-buttered/oiled because the foie was already rich and buttery enough.
  • I liked the Haskap berry spread which tasted like cranberry meets raspberry sauce.
  • It was a nice twist to the classic strawberry and foie pairing and it was nice and tart rather than sweet to cut the richness.
  • There was also a sweet honey (foie needs a sweetness to complement) and herb infused oil condiment. I thought it was a basil or parsley oil, but I think it was glasswort oil.
  • It was an interesting, yet somewhat expected First Nations interpretation of foie gras.

Courville Domaine Les Brome Cuvée Julien 2009, Quebec (made with 2 grapes that grow in the Winter)

Qui Roucoule dans la Broussaille3.5/6

  • Roasted half-squab glazed with molasses and birch syrup and served with cattail sauce
  • Whoa! Cattail sauce? It’s those straw like plants that grow by ponds! I didn’t know they were edible! This was going to be a first!
  • The cattail sauce tasted like chicken gravy, but it was a bit tangy like it had lemon in it. I think it was made with cattail pollen and other ingredients, so I’m not sure what the cattail alone would taste like.
  • The sauce was served on top of parsnip puree which was smooth and silky like a pommes puree.
  • The squab was very rare and I prefer it medium rare, but it wasn’t very tender so I needed to use a steak knife to cut it.
  • The birch syrup was served on the side and also reduced with some balsamic vinegar.
  • The syrup was sweet and not really tart, but almost a bit bitter in the aftertaste.
  • I appreciated the creativity, but I wasn’t keen on the squab although I enjoyed everything else.

Lavia Monastrell Syrah 2006, Spain

L’Inattendu4/6

  • Elk tartar with fir jelly, thyme liqueur and salsify chips
  • Again! Staying true to its roots by featuring elk and fir! I really like elk, so I was looking forward to this.
  • Elk is a game meat, but it’s not gamey in flavour. I’m sensitive to gaminess and this wasn’t gamey.
  • It’s a very lean meat, but it was very rich and creamy as a tartar and it almost had a stickiness from the marinade.
  • The texture of it is meatier and thicker than beef tartar and sweeter than it too.
  • The fir jelly enhanced the sweetness of  the elk, but I was hoping for a more intense flavour and perhaps a berry sauce since elk can handle strong sauces.
  • There were some red onions, chives and what seemed like little dried hay pieces in the tartar, but it wasn’t distracting and barely noticeable. I’m not sure what they were though.
  • I could have used more salsify chips for more contrast in texture, but I did enjoy the tartar alone.
  • The herbs were all more mild than expected, and I liked it more with the wine pairing which just helped bring it to life.

Kangaroo Paté4.5/6

  • This was an alternative to the tartar which I also got to try.
  • I’ve had cooked kangaroo on pizza before and it tasted like beef, but it was my first time trying it as pate.
  • It tasted like pork pate and it wasn’t gamey and you probably wouldn’t have guessed it was something else unless you knew.
  • It was a bit dense and chunky rather than creamy and smooth and it had a peppery seasoning that wasn’t spicy.
  • It was topped with a berry sauce for sweetness, herb oil and some sort of honeyish red berry sauce. It was the same sauces from the Torchon foie gras course.
  • I really like pate and I enjoyed this, although I think I’ll remember it based on being kangaroo rather than the flavours being particularly memorable.

Blancas Nobles Barranco Oscuro, Spain

Au Pays du Nord5/6

  • Sieur Corbeau, Rivière Rouge and Comtomme cheeses served at just the right temperature with hazelnut fantasy
  • This was a fantastic cheese plate, but it was a shout out to Quebec more than it was an ode to First Nations cuisine.
  • The cheeses were served perhaps a bit warmer than room temperature, but they weren’t melting.
  • They were nice and soft and their oils were coming to the surface so I could really taste their flavours.
  • The Sieur Corbeau (left) was a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese. It was creamy like a lighter brie cheese with a thin rind. It was quite oily, buttery and almost a bit like White Cheddar meets brie.
  • The Rivière Rouge (middle) was a saltier, firmer and thicker cheese, but it’s not hard. It was almost waxy and buttery and it coated the roof of my mouth.
  • The Comtomme (right) was a soft raw cow’s milk cheese with a very mild flavour and it didn’t seem very rich.
  • The hazelnut fantasy was like a Raincoast Crisp meets a biscotti and it was loaded with toasted hazelnuts and brown cherries. I loved it!
  • The apples were a bit powdery, which I found quite common in a lot of varieties in Quebec, unless they were just old apples I kept getting.

La Part des Anges 2001, Quebec

Délice Boréal 4/6

  • Crème brulé with chocolate and strawberry and frozen maple crystals
  • A crème brulé is a classic choice for dessert in Quebec and the maple crystals made it more unique, but I was hoping for more of a First Nations dessert or twist.
  • It was a rich creamy smooth bittersweet chocolate, but it wasn’t too sweet although a few bites was satisfying enough for me.
  • It had a great brulé crisp that wasn’t burnt and it was very good for what it was, but I was just hoping for something more unique since everything else was.

Inuit Herbal Tea – They serve this tea during the daily Labrador tea ceremony for guests as well. It was almost like a chamomile meets mint tea and it was really light, mild and soothing.

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La Traite on Urbanspoon

13 Comments

  • Suz says:

    premier not prime minister

  • Mijune says:

    @Suz – aww you caught me before I had time to change it!! I was just editing and then I saw ur comment already… lol my bad!

  • Bow says:

    I’ve eaten a lot of game(grew up in Saskatchewan, had a .22 by the time I was 8…as well as driving a tractor at that age ; everyone hunted to supplement the winter larder because there was no meat shop, no Safeway. I’ve plucked wild duck, geese, domesticated chicken…want chicken ? Get the axe), but haven’t eaten kangeroo or camel(ate just ’bout everything else..oh yeah,haven’t had porcupine). The food looks great but you had some fine wines, lucky girl. Wish I could’ve joined you to sample those wines.
    Is eating seal worse than eating baby lamb? Or suckling pig ? Foie Gras from forced fed ducks(see a video on it, you may never eat it again) ?

  • Linda says:

    ooo bring on the game!!! lol i’m actually not a gamey person either and i just recently started to like lamb… i don’t know if i could stomach some of the stuff you ate here, good job on your bravery! 🙂 and thanks for telling us how everything tastes so precisely.. it was almost like i was eating it.. almost 🙂

    wow, the tasting menu prices are insane.. i think if we had something like this in vancouver, it would probably be twice the cost – considering the rareness of the meat that you had too, this meal was definitely worth it… i wish they had more desserts for you though 🙂

    i’ve never had bannock before and i never got to go to that retreat when i was younger! i’m so jealous because lots of ppl i know have gone before and i’ve always wanted to have the experience. on that note, the que l’odeur des bois sature looks delish! i love love LOVE foie! (sorry bow!) i’ve watched the videos before too but nowadays when i do eat it, i try to look for more sustainable foie gras which i’m guessing at this particular restaurant, it hopefully was.

    the face cachée de la mer looks nomnomnom and glasswort??!?!? definitely very interesting!

  • Mijune says:

    @Bow – All the foie I had in Quebec was not force fed 🙂 Neither is this one! They’re very aware of the negative press and just horrible concept of that. Wow Bow! You’ve done it all! Yes, I was very fortune to try those wines! Wish you could have tried them too!!! Eating seal was as “bad” as eating super gamey lamb or pigs that have that weird flavour at hot pot sometimes… it’s almost like a hormone flavour that’s super gamey. Suckling pig I don’t find bag/gamey though…?

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – ohh good!!! I try to describe it so you can almost taste it!! yay! Yes! It would be double the price here!

    Hey Linda I used to have the same problem with lamb, but I started with kebabs (from Indian/Persian places… tastes like beer) then the shoulder (not gamey) worked my way up to the rack (gamier) and now it’s fine… also make sure you get it at a good place… it can ruin it otherwise with the rack of lambs.

    Stick with sustainable foie.. and our chickens can live/die worse. It’s just now as known.

    And you can try bannock at Pair Bistro! I posted on that in Kitsilano! 🙂

  • Linda says:

    mmm thanks for all the tips! i usually get lamb at greek places so i guess in some ways, that’s not really a great way to get it 🙂 and yay for bannock! i must try it 🙂

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – actually Greek places can do it really well! They’re famous for their lamb! but you have to go to the right place.. and go for the shoulder before the rack if you don’t want to risk it. 🙂

  • Sharon says:

    Hi there! Wow what a great written article on First Nations cuisine! Now thats some pretty high end foods and wines! Always great to top it off with some yummy bannock/frybread!
    This sounds like a place to visit, love the outdoor firepit and toasting bannock over an open fire! That would be something to try here at my cafe! lol, but im in the city ish…
    Thanks for sharing:)
    Sharon Bond

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