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Ethnic 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 prairie roots.

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?

Useful Information

Alycia’s: 559 Cathedral Ave (204) 582-8789
The Current Restaurant and Lounge: Inn at The Forks (204) 942-6555 www.innforks.com/dining/
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

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