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Billabong-Part 3

July28

Our recent sojourn “down under” continues at Billabong Bar and Bistro on Osborne.  The third of three entrees that we sampled was the baramundi that was also an ingredient in the spring rolls.  The firm, yet tender white fish that we liken to Manitoba Pickerel was combined with a sticky rice and wrapped in a banana leaf.  I’ve enjoyed meals cooked in this manner on other occasions in Mexico but never in Winnipeg.

The humidity in the leaf ensures that the fish is thoroughly cooked without drying out.  I am guessing that the sticky rice also helped with the moisture as the rice was infused with shitake mushrooms and a lime and coconut broth.  This accomaniment turned out to be our favourite of the three.

We tried to forgo dessert but were unsuccessful.  After another rest, we picked up forks again and shared tastes of their lovely fruit pavlova and Sticky Pumpkin/Date Pudding. 

The cloud of baked meringue was adorned with freshly whipped cream and a trio of fruit.  It was perfectly light and refreshing and would be a perfect complement to an ordinary sized meal.

We had more difficulty leaving the pudding alone.  The moist and dense pumpkin and date combination was savoury enough but with a buttery, rum, cinnamon and brown sugar sauce, we were absolutely smitten by tastes.

Billabong Bar & Bistro on Urbanspoon 

Kath’s quote: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”-Miguel de Cervantes

 

Billabong-Part 2

July27

The eating extravaganza at Billabong Bar and Bistro continues…..

I tasted my first Wedge salad last summer in New York City and I must admit, that I love iceberg lettuce.  For one, iceberg is the lettuce that I was raised on but also because I appreciate the density, refreshing water content and crunch.  When a really robust dressing is generously ladled on (just the way we like it), many lettuce choices don’t have the muscle to support the volume and hearty ingredients.  

I am not typically a blue cheese lover but this oil-based dressing was also chock full of a meaty bacon and I’ll admit it-I could have eaten it with s poon!  The wedge was topped with red and green onion and melon-lovely sweet and salty contrasts.

There was a pleasant (and much-needed) rest before our entrees were served.  I was most anticipating the chicken stuffed with spinach and eggplant but my fork was often drawn to the lamb shank and baramundi wrapped in a banana leaf. 

The lamb had been slow roasted with an Australian port and black cherry reduction.  The density of the glaze had permeated the rich nuggets of meat which easily pulled away from the shank.  The roast was perched  on a platform of creamy but hearty, garlic mashed potatoes.    

 

The stuffed chicken was covered with panko and parmesan reggiaano and then oven baked.  What was particularily intriquing was the basil and herb French toast with baked boccaccini that it was resting upon.  The plethera of tastes was further enhanced by a fire roasted plum tomato gravy.

Billabong Bar & Bistro on Urbanspoon

I’m getting full, just thinking about that amazing meal and will have to save the remaining entre and dessert until next time.

Kath’s quote: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”-Benjamin Franklin

Billabong-Part 1

July26

I have only had a chance to visit the popular Billabong (on Osborne Street), once previously and that was before the bistro doubled in size by acquiring the space next door.  The new section where the dining room has expanded, has a simple decor which reminds me of the narrow dining rooms of Manhattan.  A rich colour scheme, uncluttered table tops and soft lighting provided by table lamps meant we were relaxed and at ease as soon as we sat down. 

The evening was our last opportunity to spend extended time together before I headed out to the cottage for a month long stay and so we were determined to take our time and savour the moments. 

We started with a couple of bites of a variety of tastes:

The calamari tossed in corn meal flour had its heat zipped up with chili flakes and jalapenoes.  If the heat was a bit too firey, the tzatziki could cool you down. 

Black bean, shrimp and baramundi meshed together beautifully in their spring rolls with a soya drizzle for seasoning.  We had not tasted baramundi before but liken it to our beloved pickerel.

There was shrimp from the barbie (of course)-so tender and perfectly cooked that we had to inquire as to whether they were fresh.  Of course that was impossible in the middle of the prairies but tasted that good.  A just crushed peanut sauce accompanied these.

Next up were Mrs. Keating’s Old Fashioned sausage rolls (the Keatings being family of the proprietor’s).  Unlike any I had tasted before-they were so meaty and savoury, with a flaky pastry that made a wonderful mess with each bite.

We also sampled the Kangaroo Tacos! The unusual square shape was as a result of Chef David cleverly utilizing a won ton wrapper as his crunchy holder.  The tiny pieces of marsupial were perched a top cole slaw, mango and red Thai chili dressing ensuring that the meat was well appointed. 

I know that it is hard to imagine that we were just getting started but this was exactly the case.  Stay tuned for next courses.

Billabong Bar & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: Once a jolly swag man sat by the billabong (a small lake).

Cafe Carlo

July14

When Daughter #1 was just weeks old, we took her out for her first dining experience.  We plunked her car seat in the middle of of a table at the St. James Keg (when it was located further west on Portage Ave.) and we told our server to bring out all of our food, all at once and we would determine as we went along, how long we could linger over individual courses.  Well it turned out to be a leaisurely evening for two reasons: D was the General Manager of that Keg location at that time and all the staff were so accommodating and would have walked the floor with Daughter #1 had she needed attention.  But the fact of the matter was that she did not make a peep and slept the evening away.  Everybody was kind of disappointed because they did not get to see her open her beautiful big blue eyes.

And so it was, that our Cafe Carlo celebration was the long-awaited birth of the son of dear friends of ours.  The evening was made that much better by the inclusion of Grandma and Grandpa from Pennsylvania, whom we have waited a very long time to meet.  But the guest of honour was the newborn baby himself, who also slept blissfully throughout the entire evening.

This particular couple live in the Corydon area and often visit Cafe Carlo, ordering and sharing their favourite dishes.  They let us have tastes.  We were duly impressed with the chunks of chicken in the from-scratch gravy and authentic cheese curds in their version of Poutine, served as a “Small Plate.”  The cheese-makers at Bothwell call their curds “squeakers” because a well-formed curd, squeaks when you bite into them.

We also got to sample another “Small Plate” the portobello mushrooms sauteed with beef tenderloin tips. 

Then the new parents split a dish of ravioli and appreciated that the kitchen split the order for them to enjoy.

You will all be shocked to learn that I did not order the Spag Boo containing my fav artichokes and spicy eggplant (only because that is the dish that I always have when I go).  I opted instead for the Fett Chile.  Silky fettuccine topped with chicken, chorizo for heat, cashews for crunch and a chili cream sauce for slurp.  I dove right in to mine so that I could have my turn holding the baby.

D had the same dish as one of four courses entitled the Fantasy, including spring rolls, a salad and creme brulee. 

The Cafe was packed with neighbourhood folk out for a stroll on a glorious summer evening in Winnipeg.  We celebrated old friends, new friends and the miracle of creation.  Life is good. 

Cafe Carlo on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:  “So where did these cravings come from? I concluded it’s the baby ordering in. Prenatal takeout. Even without ever being in a restaurant, fetuses develop remarkably discerning palates, and they are not shy about demanding what they want. If they get a hankering, they just pick up the umbilical cord and call. ‘You know what would taste good right now? A cheeseburger, large fries, and a vanilla shake. And if you could, hurry it up, because I’m supposed to grow a lung in a half hour.’” –Paul Reiser

T,C & L-love you guys!

Ta Da-Unburger!

July11

For a couple of years our office was on the second floor of a converted old house near Stradbrook and Osborne.  We had the second and third floor and a Korean restaurant was on the first.  It was the strangest little place, but we were sometimes lured by the aramos of soya, garlic and ginger.  When we would decide on our order, the female owner would declare “No you don’t want that!” 

The new proprietors are far more helpful.  I was introduced to Kyle and Marc when I visited for my first time last week.  Behind the scenes as the menu creator, is Osten who is a culinary artist.  I understand that Kyle was originally smitten by the concept while travelling in Australia.  I was very impressed by their youth, enthusiasm and the fruits of their patience and hard work.  The little place has a fresh, crisp and clean design and Kyle did much of the work himself.  

Without much deliveration I ordered what is called “The Drunken Aussie” (on their on-line menu) but I was quite sure it was named the “Unburger” on the in store menu board-grilled pineapple, balsamic onion & tomato relish, carmelized onions, bacon, cheddar, herb mayo & a sunny side up fried egg!

  

Different from the on line description was the addition of pickled beets which was just my cup of tea-loving the sweet and salty results of the partnering. 

My host choose “The Zoomer”-a grilled, balsamic/herb  portabella mushroom burger topped with blue cheese and served alongside yam fries.

Now that I’ve had a chance to further peruse the menu (there were no paper copies in the restaurant that I saw) I am quite sure that I will sample the Oopah! next time and not just because Nia Vardalos is reportedly in town making a movie.  Promises of roasted garlic & kalmata tapenade and cucumber & lemon oregano yogurt have got me daydreaming even now (and it is only 8 am). 

The lack of a paper is a part of the Unburger”s commitment for a greener product and environment, working hard to negate their carbon footprint.  I love hearing business journeys like this one-having a dream while vacationing and working diligently to make that vision a reality for the folks back home.

Unburger on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “A Hamburger is warm and fragrant and juicy. A hamburger is soft and nonthreatening. It personifies the Great Mother herself who has nourished us from the beginning. A hamburger is an icon of layered circles, the circle being at once the most spiritual and the most sensual of shapes. A hamburger is companionable and faintly erotic. The nipple of the Goddess, the bountiful belly-ball of Eve. You are what you think you eat.”
Tom Robbins

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