Browsing: Restaurant Features

Chew Restaurant

January14

I believe that Winnipeg is a wonderful place to raise a family an was not surprised when I heard the story of Chew Restaurant owners Kristen Chemerika an Kyle Lew and their desire to select an alternate lifestyle for their family than the one that Toronto provides.  I was also not astonished by the quality of their offerings once I read of their culinary pedigrees.  Chew is an excellent addition to Winnipeg’s vibrant culinary scene.

Upon entering the inauspicious storefront, contained in a little retail strip at 532 Waterloo St. (at Corydon), I was immediately struck by the warm but simple décor.  Our servers were equally warm and accommodated us for a quick dinner even though they were chock full with reservations.

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Immediately, a basket of just plucked from the oven bread was placed in front of us with a ramekin of marrow butter alongside. The bread was yeasty and delicious on its own, perfection when smeared with the butter.

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Two enormous seared sea scallops subsequently arrived with a saffron infused cauliflower puree and crispy beet chips for crunch.  The scallop was crusty on the outside and just barely cooked in the middle, which is just the way I like them.  Sister #3 would have appreciated them more had they been left in the searing pan for slightly longer.

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Moving from tastes of the sea, to deep an earthy flavours from the land, next up were roasted mushrooms.  The wild mushrooms were made rich and creamy when the poached egg yolk that was perched on top seeped through the bounty from the forest.

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Total unnecessary, but a delight just the same, were the truffle fries that we indulged in as well.  The hint of precious truffle oil elevated the already memorable fries to a whole new level.  When we return and I am somewhat braver, I may try the other fries on the compact menu, made from slivers of pig’s ear.

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Sister #3 returned for lunch the very next day and shared three items with her lunch companion.  Here’s what she had to say: “Our salad was amazing.  Fresh purple beets along with pickeled yellow beets. The fig vinaigrette off-set the sweetness of the beets and stood up to the saltiness of the halloumi cheese.

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Our sandwich was guanciale, baby greens, marinated tomato and herb aioli but our waitress described it well as an Italian version of a BLT.  The tomatoes looked like hierlooms to me and were bright with flavor and very juicy. Guanciale is an italian bacon which was delicate but delicious.

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I was glad that we ordered a side of pecan smoked bacon as it added even more yummy bacon flavor to our lunch.  I had thought there might be a sweetness to the bacon but there wasn’t.  It was thick cut and obviously cooked a long time over pecan flames, making it crispy and full of flavour.  K said it reminded her of farm bacon. ”

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Chew places a banana muffin alongside your bill instead of the typical after dinner mints.  I think that the little treat is so thoughtful, kind of like receiving a goodie bag when you were little and left a birthday party.

Chew on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “But I will place this carefully fed pig Within the crackling oven; and, I pray, What nicer dish can e’er be given to man.” –Aeschylus, ancient Greek poet

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Love-that is all.

 

Cafe Savour

January7

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Café Savour at 956 St. Mary’s Rd. is pretty much what I imagine our little restaurant would look like, if D and  I ever stopped talking about it and actually did it.  From the hand-painted tables, toss cushions, twinkle-lights and turquoise wine glasses to the photos adorning the walls from the places they have traveled together, this place reflects our personal taste and eclectic style.

We could never duplicate the skill level coming out of the kitchen though.  Chef Louise Briskie de Beer’s menu is imaginative and her creations, oh so delectable.  Her partner Faiz de Beer personally takes care of every table himself and his service is attentive, warm and comfortable. They are the only staff in the restaurant so they only open the limited hours of Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening.  We imagined them sharing a bottle of wine when the evening was through as they were tackling all of the dirty dishes.

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Their prix fixe menu, offers three courses for $35 or five for $45.  If you are concerned about quantity but want to sample as much as possible, you could follow our lead and order one three course and another five course and share it ll.  As a result, we started with an amuse bouche of house baked breads and dukkah which is a Middle Eastern spice and nut mixture to enhance the tasty breads.  Even though the recipe is a middle-eastern one, they discovered it while travelling in Australia.

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Next up were bowls of piping hot soup, in fact the hottest food I have ever had while dining,  Many soups are “held” for the kitchen’s convenience but Louise must heat small portions up when she receives an order.  I could not decide between my savoury bowl of sausage, mushroom and wild rice and my husband’s of cauliflower, potato and curry.  Bother were perfectly balanced and appealing in their own distinct ways.

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We shared a South African appetizer trio of “Dhaltjie”-spinach and chick pea fritter, “Frikkadel”-masala flavoured tuna patty and Cape Malay spiced samosa.  All were enjoyable and we concluded that we like the fritter the very best.  We also shared a deconstructed and reconstructed Greek salad where the wheels of tomato and cucumber were presented in a tower accompanied by rings of purple onion, green peppers, olives and feta.

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My husband opted for a slow roasted lamb shank smothered in au jus and sweet onions, while I tucked into an unusual eggplant parmigiana that we guessed had been made to order rather than the typical casserole style.

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But wait; there was still dessert to come: a chewy cherry crisp and a decadent chocolate apricot pate.  You might suggest that we would have been exhausted by eating such a quantity but the owners provide the perfect sized tastes of the starters and you are more than satiated with the portion of the entrée.  Every taste from start to finish was divine, made even more so by their reasonably priced wines by the glass.

Cafe Savour on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Savour: enjoy something unhurriedly, to enjoy something with unhurried appreciation“

Love-that is all.

Ringing in the New Year

January3

The roads in Winnipeg are a nightmare-no other way to describe them.  Being close to the restaurant business we know that this made for cancelled reservations and a spike in no shows for businesses on New Year’s Eve.  There was a corresponding peak in people ordering in and picking up, so it is not that Winnipeggers did not want to celebrate with food.  D suggested that because we had spent so much time at home over the holidays, that we dine out but choose a location in our neighbourhood.  It would have been a long walk, but one that we sometimes do in fairer weather.  With reports of Winnipeg being colder than Mars, this was a non-decision, we took a car.  Both of our vehicles have remote starters, an absolute must if you live here and do not own a garage. D’s also has heated seats so we were quite comfortable as far as the temperature was concerned.  Tre Visi, our destination on that evening is on Grosvenor Ave. and is the street which runs perpendicular to ours, a half a block away.  But with both of our vehicles trying to fit into a parking pad edged with ever-growing snow banks, we had to head into the opposite direction to get out of our spot.  This meant that we had a single city block to travel in order to get back to Grosvenor Ave.   D had not even touched the brake when we started to slide and spin.  Thank heavens there were no parked cars and it must have looked as if we were simply pulling a “U” in the middle of the block to park on the opposite side of the street.

Vivid thoughts of amazing food was our focus and our motivation to make the trek that evening and Tre Visi did not disappoint.  We spotted that there were marinated vegetables on their antipasto platter and so we eagerly ordered the board remembering the ones that we loved while traveling in Italy.

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This was our favourite from Cumpa Cosimo, high up on the mountainside in Ravello, Amalfi Coast.  A couple of these were marinated and all served cold.  In Italy, antipasto plates highlight the best of what the region has to offer, sometimes all seafood, others all cheeses, etc.

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Tre Visi’s included paper-thin slices of cured meat, shards of cheese, pickled onions and peppers.  Every taste was a lovely surprize and  when coupled up on fork tines, produced other delectable taste combinations.  We would have appreciated some crostini or baguette to stretch the morsels further, but perhaps that is passé with so many diners avoiding gluten.

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D’s choice was the gnocchi with the pesto cream sauce which he remembered from an earlier visit.  I could see that he was trying to exercise restraint as he speared each fluffy pillow.  Near the end of the time with our plates though, he might have decided that the portion was too generous and that perhaps we should have shared the plate and mixed tastes up with another item.  Next time….

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D could tell that I was torn between my original choice and the special of a rib eye with parmesan French fries.  This is one of the many reasons why I love him: when it was time to order, he asked our delightful server if the chef would provide the fries to accompany our appetizer.  What a guy-he knew that it I was on the cusp of New Year’s resolution time and wanted me to savour one last indulgence.

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In the end I selected the Frutti de Mare which is often my choice.  Tre Visi’s version was as delicious as I have eaten anywhere with plump scallops, fresh shrimp and mussels and easy on the pasta.  The secret was in the sauce which was light with tomatoes but luxurious with what I imagined to be butter.  I supped up the last spots of sauce with my spoon, not wanting to let a dribble go unconsumed.

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We enjoyed the festive ambience of the open room and imagined that some diners would carry on to a New Year’s party while others lived close by and would carefully make their way home.  There was one table of six just over my shoulder who were all Italian and spoke the romantic language throughout our meal which of course really swept us away to meals of times gone by.

Tre Visi Cafe on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people.
So overweight people are now average. Which means you’ve met your New Year’s resolution.”-
Jay Leno

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Love-that is all.

Monticchio

December31

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Whenever I walk by Monticchio Ristorante Italiano (684 Osborne St.), I do a double take, retrace my steps and gaze inside.  I have never been sure of what goes on inside because the banners of the other businesses are displayed more prominently and the restaurant name across the building awnings has faded in the sun.  On this day, with a light snow fall that the wind had not yet dispersed, the letters were completely camouflaged.  But, now that I have been inside and know the delights within, I will never forget their locale.

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I was hosting a dinner party that evening and had decided to pull out some of my Italian vegetarian recipes, so I let my lunch companion make the decisions as to what we would share.  Had I tried to avoid duplicating tastes, who knows what we would have ended up eating?

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We started with their house salad which was dotted with shavings of cheese and Italian ham.  The tomatoes were meaty and the dressing a perfect complement to all ingredients-with a pungent acidic taste of vinegar, a fine olive oil and what I always assumed was my secret ingredient: a pinch of sugar.   

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Our “main” was selected with the help of our server who is a part of the Di Fonte family, who have owned the restaurant for the past eight years.  She recommended that we share a pizza that is not listed on the lunch menu.  As my lunch mate picked up a slice, I grabbed my knife and fork.  When she commented, I had to admit that I was afraid that if I ate the amazing smelling pizza without utensils, my share would be completely gone before she finished her next sentence.  It was so tasty, I had to muster a great deal of restraint.  The crust was wafer thin and yet flaky and buttery.  Our sever described it simply as ”Pesto” on our bill and this is how it appears on their dinner menu.  In addition to the sauce of basil, pine nuts and parmesan, the pie was topped with sun-dried tomato, feta and chicken.  I often select a version similar to this and even make it often at home, but this rendition was truly stellar and expertly prepared. 

There was another ingredient that I just could not name but discovered what it was later in our conversation with our server.  She told us that her brother-in-law was recruited to be the chef.  They had tried to teach other staff to fulfil this role but they could not find a person who understood what it meant to “cook with love.”

Monticchio Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”-John Ruskin

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Love-that is all.

Mano a Mano

December18

I loved Civita on Corydon Street in Winnipeg, although I didn’t get a chance to dine there very often and now that it is closed, I have regrets.  In its place is another Italian Bistro Called Mano a Mano.  Interestingly, the restaurant name comes from the Spanish and Portugese phrase meanning “hand to hand” and was used originally for bullfights where two matadors alternate competing for the admiration of the audience.  I cannot guess the signficance of this in relation to the special lunch that we celebrated there.  Without looking the phrase’s original up, I assumed that the restaurant would be a hand-made tappas place.  Once I got small plates in my head, I steered the selections to that area of the menu.

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We started with Blistered Snap Peas-perfectly stir-fried with mint (a little bit too light on the chili flakes) but delectable when set aside a drizzle of plain yoghurt and a heavenly mound of fresh ricotta cheese.

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Next up was Gnocco Frito with a Fontina Fondue. Enormous pillows of dough had been fried and then sprinkled with a glistening of salt.  They were fun on their own and extra savoury when dunked into the gooey cheese fondue.

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Somewhere along the way a shrimp cocktail arrived.  I was paying less attention as the conversation flowed and our glasses were continually filled with the lovely Malbec that we had chosen.

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The birthday girl requested Beef Carpaccio and was well pleased.  I appreciated the twists of crispy capers and white anchovies, adding a heady, salty layer.  The thin slices of beef tenderloin were perfect on the thick wedges of homemade bread that tasted as if they had been toasted over an open-flame.

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Last but not least were pan seared scallops which were plentiful even if they were not quite the larger size that I prefer.  The crumbles of ham and tart apple pieces added both sweet and salty tones that I crave.

All of these selections were from their dinner menu as they do not offer a separate lunch menu.  This was explained as a result of them only being open for Thursday and Friday lunches.  Service was prompt which was not terribly surprising as were the only ones in the dining room until two business acquaintances came in to share a pizza.  It might be best to call ahead to ensure that their lunch hours do not change.

The refurbished décor is clean, stylish and warm, but then again, I loved Civita’s décor too.  Theo’s is the name of the bar/lounge area and I understand that they will have their lovely enclosed balcony open again next summer.

Mano A Mano on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Nobody really likes capers, no matter what you do with them. Some people
pretend to like capers, but the truth is that any dish that tastes good with capers in it tastes even better with capers not in it.”-
Nora Ephron

Love-that is all.

 

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