The fondue is one of the most social of meals. It requires the diner to wait between bites and, thus, has lots of opportunity to chat with others at the table.
So it is no surprise that Wolf’s Den Restaurant is owned and operated by a Swiss couple, Harry and Yvonne Ochsner. You see, in Europe, restaurants expect guests to spend the entire evening lazing over their meals. A 30-minute wait between courses or drinks is standard there.
The Ochsners wouldn’t try that here because they would be accused of offering slow service to their North American customers. But the fondue has the same result as diners are forced to slow down and enjoy their meal and each other’s company.
You know this is a European restaurant as you approach it. Just a couple of kilometres past the Carcross Cutoff on the Alaska Highway, it is located at the Caribou RV Park. The wheelchair accessible building is buried just enough in the trees that you would never know it is there unless you went looking for it. It looks like a log-built, Swiss chalet and it is lit up so nicely from the outside that it seems almost magical.
Inside, your eye is hit with a pine ceiling, pine, floor, pine window trim and pine furniture. The Ochsners are nice, nice people and you instantly feel welcome in their “home”.
Favoured tables are the four that are placed in front of windows. Quiet moments can be spent looking at the far-off mountains change colour with the dying day and watching various woodland critters bounce on branches that almost touch the windows.
My LDC chose a seat closest to the wood-burning stove and that was enough to completely set the mood for this quiet evening … until she saw the cloth napkins: “I feel like I’m being pampered,” she said, admiring the design.
The salad arrived and it was like nothing I have ever seen. It was a colourful collage of individual piles with our salad dressing drizzled over each. Arranged like an artist’s palette, there were carrots, marinated beets, cucumbers, tomatoes and pickled cabbage all around a garden salad. Harry explained that this was the European way of serving a salad, but not all restaurants in Europe do it this way.
Then it was time for the main course. I had called ahead at 393-3968 the day before, and asked for the Fondue Chinoise. Yvonne needs a day to shop for all of the ingredients to ensure they are fresh. And, there it was, arranged on a platter were raw beef, pork and chicken. On another platter there was an assortment of mushrooms and pickles to round out the meal.
A small pot had been brought to our table and a fire was lit underneath of it. We chose the Chinoise because, instead of grease, it uses a hot bouillon that is healthier. Long colour-coded forks were placed in front of us and Harry gave us a lesson on how to cook our own meal: “Try it, it will be rare or well done, you will get the hang of it.”
OK, so we speared our choice of meat and placed it in the pot to cook. We then pre-scooped our sauces onto the compartmentalized plates to be ready to dip. It was all home-made – banana curry, spicy tomato, pepper, herbs and spices, bourguignon and, our favourite, garlic and herbs.
It was fun. We chose different meats and different sauces. And when we weren’t talking about the weather or our day, we were talking about how much fun this meal was.
When we were done, long before the platter was empty, Harry came over with an egg and cracked it open into our bouillon to make a soup of it. It was delicious and fun.
Before we had dessert, Harry took us over to an empty table where a Raclette was set up. It’s like a long, open toaster oven. He said it is another way for diners to make their own meals. Each person cuts a piece of cheese and places it under the element in an individual tray. When it softens, you put it on your plate and eat it with potatoes, pickles, onions, bacon and fruits.
Back to our table, we shared an Apple Strudel. Again, it was home-made and it was served in a pool of warm vanilla sauce.
As nice and relaxing as the evening was, my LDC and I decided it would be much more fun to come back with another couple … for the socializing.
This review is not meant to judge quality of food or service. It only describes the experience offered by the reviewed restaurant. The owners were informed in advance of the review and the meals were provided at no cost.