Food Goes Upscale
Traffic jams don’t happen very often
in Winnipeg - unless you’re headed to Alycia’s, a Ukrainian restaurant
on Cathedral Avenue in the city’s north end. Be prepared to jostle
with babas carrying white plastic pails for borscht or with crowds
who come seeking fresh perogies. The stuffed dumplings, once traditionally
prepared quilting-bee style by women peeling potatoes, rolling dough
and pinching edges, are now machine-made most other places, so demand
for Alycia’s handmade version often outstrips supply. Fortunately,
as I recently discovered, Winnipeg’s ethnic food scene is growing
and evolving in exciting new ways.
Traditionalists may count on Alycia’s
for their comfort food fix, but across town at Fusion Grill on swanky
Academy Road, people are also jockeying for tables. Devotees are
drawn to Chef Lorna Murdoch’s inventive regional cuisine where perogies
have gone upscale. Drizzled with white truffle oil over a walnut
cream sauce and topped with slivers of duck sausage they are a luscious
yet delicate surprise.
Other Winnipeg chefs offer equally
inspired versions of Ukrainian fare. At The Current, Chef Barry
Saunders’ contemporary perogy appears as an elegant forest and field
mushroom dumpling topped with carmelized onion and chive crème fraiche.
Legacy vegetables (think pickled beets
in mason jars) lined many a Polish immigrant’s pantry shelf. Today,
the colourful tuber appears as beet-infused olive oil for bread
dip at Fude, a creative newcomer to Winnipeg’s dining world. Don’t
miss beet carpaccio, an array of delicate, golden-hued beets accompanied
by shaved fennel at The Current.
First Nations, Metis and French Canadian
The meat of the plains bison was a
staple of Winnipeg’s earliest inhabitants. Now, contemporary diners
nosh on crispy bison strips served tapas style with sticky ginger
garlic sauce at Luxsolé Restaurant. Owned by the Warwaruk brothers,
these farm-boys draw ingredients (and inspiration) from their rural
Early explorers relied on pemmican,
a dried meat enriched with fat and berries, to strengthen them on
their arduous fur trade routes. Today, Chef Fern Kirouac of In Ferno’s,
a former furrier shop turned stylish bistro, serves elk as moist
medallions braised with glossy huckleberries.
The same glam treatment is given to
wild game fish such as walleye (pickerel), whitefish and goldeye.
Historically caught by hardy Icelandic settlers in Manitoba’s Interlake
region, today’s smoked goldeye gets reinvented as an adventurous
parfait of layered mango, avocado, basil cream and balsamic molasses.
Check out panko-crusted pickerel cheeks, a whimsical take on the
traditional shore lunch.
Foraged foods are being rediscovered.
Long-familiar natural plants such as wild rice feature prominently
in new creations such as popped wild rice truffles at globally-inspired
Mise. Watch for delicate bulrush fluff from regional marshes as
a garnish atop city springtime desserts.
Seasonal and local products, once compulsory
for early settlers, is a virtue at hip new Dandelion Eatery where
organic chicken comes paired with creamy polenta.
To accompany this new-generation dining,
there’s even Tansi, a wine made of birch sap. Created by D. B. Leobard
Winery, its golden iridescence hearkens back to a homestead favourite
- dandelion wine.
Little did the prairie pioneers imagine
how their early culinary improvisations would evolve to become today’s
gastronomic inspirations. Next up, kielbasa carpaccio anyone?
Alycia’s: 559 Cathedral Ave (204) 582-8789
The Current Restaurant and Lounge: Inn at The Forks (204) 942-6555
Inferno’s Bistro: 312 rue Des Meurons (204) 262-7400 www.infernosbistro.com.
Mise: 22-222 Osborne St (204) 284-7916 www.miserestaurant.com
Fusion Grill: 550 Academy Road (204) 489-6963 www.fusiongrill.mb.ca/index.php
Dandelion Eatery: 230 Osborne St. (204) 453-5755 http://dandelioneatery.com/
Luxsole: 726 Osborne Street (204) 453-0222 www.luxsole.com