The Ambassador, Yellowknife’s newest (and only) Indian restaurant, opened its doors on Monday morning.
The restaurant, above Bijou Boutique on Franklin Avenue in the city’s downtown, opens at 6am daily for breakfast and stays open until 10pm, serving a range of Indian food including butter chicken, samosas, and biryani.
However, restaurant owner Mizanur Rahman Tito says he has been forced to open without a key ingredient: his wife.
Rahman Tito told Cabin Radio his partner, Zinatun Nesa, is an excellent chef whose cooking Yellowknifers will love – but she is stranded in Bangladesh.
Rahman Tito, a Canadian citizen, said his application to sponsor his wife’s immigration to Canada has been in limbo for more than two years, with no sign of an outcome.
“This is her dream,” he said, referring to the restaurant. “I don’t know when she’s coming but I’m trying my best.”
Formerly a resident of Montreal, Rahman Tito moved to Yellowknife just under a decade ago, involving himself in local real estate and logistics ventures.
Opening The Ambassador is his first taste of the restaurant trade. He says his wife is far better equipped not only to recreate south Asian cuisine, but also to manage the kitchen and its staff.
Rahman Tito said he had contacted a range of Yellowknife politicians for help with his wife’s immigration case – but had “a real shock and a bad experience” at the lack of support he says he was offered.
Frustrated by his experience with Canada’s immigration authorities, Rahman Tito said he contacted the offices of Yellowknife-based MLAs Julie Green and Cory Vanthuyne, the Premier’s office, and the office of Northwest Territories MP Michael McLeod, to no avail.
“In Yellowknife there are lots of restaurants and lots of food, but nothing Indian. I tried to explain Indian food is very different from other food, but nobody had the time to even speak,” he told Cabin Radio.
“They didn’t care, especially the local politicians. Before the election they want to communicate with the people. But when people like us, normal citizens, want to communicate? Nobody wanted to speak with me.
“Now I’m here, I just opened, and I’ll see what will happen. If someone listens, I will explain every single thing. I’ve tried to explain. When I tried to speak, no time. Telephone is cut.”
Reached by Cabin Radio, Yellowknife North MLA Vanthuyne said he was not able to comment, in part because he is not the MLA for Rahman Tito’s riding.
The Premier’s office said: “The Premier did receive a request that GNWT officials looked into, but the application was not under a program our government has jurisdiction for and it was determined that it would be inappropriate for the Premier to intervene.
“Mr Tito was encouraged to work with [Department of Education, Culture and Employment] officials or federal immigration officials, depending on the type of application he was pursuing.”
The office of Green, the Yellowknife Centre MLA – in whose riding the restaurant is located – said: “She is clear that Mr Tito has not contacted her for assistance on this matter.”
MP McLeod’s constituency office said it was not able to discuss its correspondence with Rahman Tito without his written consent, a response which we conveyed to Rahman Tito.
“I wrote to them in December. Seven months later and I didn’t even get an appointment,” he told us.
“Seven or eight years, I have lived here. Every day we see each other, we say hello, hi. But when I mention I need help to open a business, nobody knows me.
“Some people think I’m not ‘their’ people. They think I’m people from outside.”
In his wife’s absence, Rahman Tito has hired a staff of chefs for his restaurant, which occupies the second-floor Franklin Avenue space formerly known as The Champagne Room.
“We need at least one Indian restaurant in Yellowknife,” he said. “That’s why I am here.”
With files from Alice Twa