When Katja Schmidt was hired in January by Northern Vision Development (NVD) as the president of food and beverage at their new Whitehorse restaurant, Belly of the Bison, she had two priorities to make her vision come to life: the atmosphere had to fit the theme of the Edgewater hotel, where is the restaurant is located, and it also had to reflect the feel of the Yukon as a whole.
“I liked the image of the bison because it is an import to the Yukon, like so many Yukoners who come from all over and find their home in our territory,” Schmidt, whom NVD has dubbed the restaurant’s “creative eye,” told What’s Up Yukon. “The belly of an animal is a food-inspired concept, which I think harnesses the warmth and nourishment we wanted to convey. The two ideas just fit well together and had a nice ring!”
Striving for excellence and uniqueness in all aspects, Schmidt and the Belly of the Bison team have worked hard to craft a top-notch menu and create a special atmosphere for its diners. The location is also unbeatable, said Schmidt, as the restaurant is right on Front Street, overlooking the Yukon River. According to Schmidt, this is something the team is eager to take advantage of next summer with an outdoor patio.
When it comes to the food, Belly of the Bison offers an impressive host of dishes that are “upscale but simple,” as Scmidt describes them.
“The food is elegant comfort food,” she said.
The menu boasts appetizers like the “Belly of the Bison Board,” a charcuterie board featuring cured local meats and artisanal cheeses, as well as a house-made mustard spread; small plates like a creamy seafood dip and seared scallops with eggplant caviar and truffle tapenade; and large entrees like fresh Atlantic salmon, hand-made gnocchi and fire-roasted steaks, both a 10 oz sirloin and a 12 oz ribeye. The restaurant also offers an impressive wine list and a section of cocktails that are meant to put a modern spin on classic drinks. Names like “Bison Sour” and “Where the Buffalo Roams” fit with the Yukon wilderness theme.
Having opened just in early August, the restaurant has been creating a buzz and attracting locals by the masses. The timing of Belly of the Bison’s opening couldn’t have been more convenient, with many COVID-based restrictions on indoor dining places being lifted this summer and Yukoners being eager to start enjoying nights out again.
“The reception so far has been extraordinary! I’m so thrilled to see so many familiar Yukon faces paying us a visit,” said Schmidt. “It has definitely been busy, as I think many people are keen to get out and celebrate as things open up, and the vibe in the restaurant really reflects this positive outlook.”
Though the Yukon has a handful of restaurants and bars that offer a unique experience inspired by the land and way of life in the territory, Belly of the Bison is no copy of any other, but rather yet another name to add to the list of local specialty establishments. The simultaneously energetic and relaxing feel of the restaurant makes it an easy spot to choose, according to Schmidt.
“The atmosphere is lively, but set against ambient candlelight,” said Schmidt. “It’s the kind of place you can go to for any occasion, be it to celebrate with friends or enjoy a romantic date.”
Though they have only been in operation a few months, the team at Belly of the Bison have found themselves swamped, in the best way possible, with an endless rush of Yukoners coming out to see the restaurant and try the food, but being constantly busy hasn’t stopped them from finding time to work on new plans.
In the foreseeable future, Schmidt said she plans to open for breakfast and lunch, in addition to the dinner service the restaurant already offers. This would not only mean increased hours and ability to serve more guests as a result, but also new dishes for the different times of day. Part of the reason the team is working to offer additional meal services is because the restaurant is located in a hotel, and with tourism likely to return in a major way next spring and summer, Schmidt and her colleagues want to be able to serve guests of the Edgewater Hotel in all ways possible, as well as continuing to provide an exciting dining experience to locals.
“We are just in the process of building our staff to make this happen, and look forward to seeing more Yukoners at all hours of the day,” said Schmidt.