Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Denali Salmon Bake - Denali NP

Finding places to eat in the vicinity of Denali NP was difficult. There aren't really towns to look at, so I was basically looking at Trip Advisor for restaurants, comparing their distances by mileage markers, and trying to figure out how close they were to where we were staying. I did not find any on-line maps that were of any help. One of my goals in visiting Alaska was to become knowledgeable about salmon. I learned that there are five kinds of Pacific salmon and that three are considered the best: (a) king or chinook; (b) red or sockeye; and (c) silver or coho. I determined to try and eat each type. So in looking at restaurants, I focused on restaurants that served salmon. The restaurant "Denali Salmon Bake" certainly fit that criteria. It was about 10 miles north of the cabin we were staying in along the George Parks Highway and just a couple of miles north of the turn-in to the 92 mile drive in Denali NP. 
Denali Salmon Bake is part of a large complex of restaurants and stores along the highway. It has a rustic atmosphere, like an old lodge, and is filled with moose and caribou antlers, wooden tables and chairs and wood floors. A nice fire was burning in a rock fireplace. 
Judy was not particularly hungry, so she ordered a bowl of Alaskan buffalo chili, made of Alaskan raised free-range buffalo, red beans, onions, garlic and 14 spices. It was topped with cheddar cheese and green onions. I thought it was so-so, I think Judy enjoyed it. 
I ordered a bowl of their "Signature" Alaskan seafood chowder which had king salmon, Kachemak Bay (near Homer) halibut and baby clams. It was pretty good, much better than the chili. 
What I was really looking forward to was the cedar plank salmon. It was king salmon, considered by many people to be the best kind, baked on cedar wood, with birch syrup from Talkeetna, ginger and soy sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. I told our server that I like salmon under-done and he told me that they would not vary how they cooked it. It would be cooked through. I was not happy with that news, but did not have much choice in the matter. The vegetables and mashed potatoes were excellent. Fresh, well-cooked and tasty. 
The salmon, however, was another story. The sauce on it was good, but the salmon itself was over-cooked and dry. It was a beautiful piece of meat, maybe the best looking piece of salmon I saw the whole trip, utterly destroyed. 
Jumping ahead, we ate at another restaurant the next night near our cabin, 229 Parks, and I had king salmon again. This time they cooked it as I'd asked them to and it was fantastic. The best meal we had in Alaska (not just because of the salmon - everything was fantastic). The contrast could not have been more glaring. So early in the trip I learned that cooking makes a huge difference. You can have a beautiful, expensive piece of salmon, but over-cook it and you might as well have gotten it out of a can.  
At least for my taste, salmon needs to have some raw in the middle. 
If anyone reviews this that is planning a trip to Denali NP, 229 Parks is the place to go for dinner. 

1 comment:

  1. Amen. Denali Salmon Bake is less than even an average restaurant. The setting is very nice, but i wouldn't go back, even for the chili, and certainly not for the eponymous salmon.