Category Archives: Restaurant Review

Carbone Coal Fired Pizza (aka, The wings, boss! The wings!)

With the recent announcement that Carbone will be opening a location downtown, I thought it was time to tell you a bit about this place.

But first, I’m actually going to use my university degree and give you a little information about coal.

There are lots of different types of coal, but Carbone uses anthracite in their ovens. This isn’t the dirty, frissable coal that you might picture when you first think “coal.” Instead, a chunk of anthracite would remind you more of a giant piece of graphite from a pencil.

Anthracite burns hotter than any other type of coal or wood. It also burns nearly as clean as natural gas. Because the anthracite allows the oven to get incredibly hot, pizza crusts baked in it have a lovely char on the outside with soft, chewy centres.

But enough about the coal. Let me tell you about the wings.

Wings smothered in caramelized onions

Wings! I love wings. (Side note: my personal Mecca, Quaker Steak and Lube, has finally opened a location within driving distance. As soon as I get a spare weekend, we are totally driving to Fargo for some wings.) I have found a few places that serve passable wings in Winnipeg, although I wonder if my wing snobbery is just misplaced nostalgia for the wings I had back in Ohio that I can’t get here.

However, the first time we visited Carbone, we got an order of their wings as a starter. The wings arrived at our table smothered in caramelized onions. One bite and I was hooked. I could keep going back to Carbone just for these wings. The onions melt in your mouth, and whatever they used to spice the wings complemented the onions perfectly.

(Psst! Try the wings!)

But they are a pizza place, not a wing joint, so I guess I should talk about the pizzas. On our first visit we tried the classic Italian pie, the Margherita. This is a classic, one that we make ourselves on our grill. And it tasted classic, exactly as promised. The crust had a nice crunchy char (which I’ve heard some people describe as “burnt,” but we like this style of pizza), but with a tender interior. They also didn’t make the common error of drowning the pizza in toppings, but let the simple ingredients speak for themselves.

On another visit, we tried the Peppino, topped with arugula, prosciutto and parmesan. I wasn’t as crazy about this one, but I admit that it grew on me. I think my husband enjoyed it more than I did. There was a lot of arugula on the pizza, but after folding each piece in half, sandwiching the greens in the middle, the bitter greens weren’t as overpowering. So apparently the preferred eating technique should be explained when the pizza arrives at your table.

Arugula pizza

And on that same thread, under Lessons Learned, the Ferrero is designated as a “personal size dessert pizza.” Lies! It may only be 6 inches across or so, but it’s drenched in rich melted Nutella and bananas. It was amazingly delicious, but it can easily serve four people who have just had wings and pizza.

The interior of Carbone is casual, and there are big screen TVs (tuned to sports, of course – yawn) in every corner. It can, however, get noisy as the place fills up. (Maybe I’m getting old, but yelling at your dinner companions across the table just isn’t fun.) I’m interested to see what kind of vibe their downtown location will have. They have a full bar, with weekly drink specials, and a nice selection of wines.

Carbone is located on Taylor in a strip mall, just past the tracks to the east as you turn off Keneston. They open at 11:30am on weekdays and 1pm on weekends. On Sunday to Wednesday they close at 10pm, and Thursday to Saturday they close at 11pm.

Carbone Coal Fired Pizza on Urbanspoon

1 Comment

Filed under Restaurant Review

Unburger (aka, Drippilly Delicious)

I know burger joints. They are in clean but well-worn locations, and decorated with the detritus of the era in which they were founded: licence places, bicycles, autographed photos from celebrities, and so on. Their colours are muted, possibly faded by time, and the menu is either permanently scratched onto a chalkboard or read from laminated menus that are curled at the corners. They are uniformly quirky places, and fit well into their neighbourhoods.

Burger joints aren’t supposed to be minimalist spaces, painted a brilliant white with red accents and decorated by QR codes. The menus aren’t supposed to be shown on flatscreens over the counter. However, Unburger is all of these things, and it works. In fact, it works really well, because it is still a quirky place that fits in perfectly with its Osborne Village neighbourhood.

Table Marker at Unburger

Unburger specializes in burgers that are fresh, locally-sourced, and hormone-free, and you can tell by the taste: quality ingredients means a quality taste. You can choose between a variety of beef, chicken and vegetarian burgers, and any beef burger can be made out of bison for an additional $2.75.

I’ve sampled several (many!) of their burgers, and have yet to be disappointed. The Bella, made with a portabella mushroom cap instead of a patty, was delicious, dressed with lettuce, tomato, onions and blue cheese. I also really enjoyed Caeser’s Offering: basically a chicken burger topped with a crispy caeser salad. But my favourite, and the one I keep going back to, is a classic: the bacon cheddar burger. Smoked bacon, Bothwell cheddar, lettuce and tomato – how can you go wrong with that?

Caeser's Offering

For a unique taste, try one of their burgers that are impossible to eat in a dignified manner. I especially like recommending The Drunken Aussie to friends, if only to watch them try to eat it. It is delicious but messy: beef burger, bacon, cheddar, lettuce, grilled pineapple, sliced beets, and topped with a fried egg. (Another burger, The Donald, is also topped with a fried egg, but isn’t nearly as drippy.) I’m not knocking these burgers – in fact, I highly recommend them – but you probably shouldn’t wear your best shirt while trying to eat one, if you get my drift.

The Drunken Aussie and Fries

Sides are ordered separately but there is a nice selection of fries and salads. A friend tried the “Hal Johnson and Joanne McCleod 8-Grain Energy Salad” and pronounced it “yummy.” I’m afraid, however, that I’ve been stuck on the fries ever since my first visit. Our usual MO is to order a “Shareables,” which has an order each of regular and sweet potato fries accompanied by two dips. The fries, while good, are essentially vehicles for getting the dip into our mouths. We always get the rosemary garlic aioli and the chiplotle aioli, and never look back. (Seriously. Try the rosemary garlic aioli. You will not regret it.)

Unburger obviously subscribes to my notion that pop tastes better when it’s drunk directly from a glass bottle, so they have miniature bottles of Coke products in a cooler near the door. They also have a small selection of beers and wines. They carry Fort Garry, but Half Pints is notable in its absence.

Unburger is located on Stradbrooke between The Happy Cooker and Segovia. There is parking behind the restaurant, but we’ve always been able to find street parking. Unburger is open Monday through Saturday, from 11:30am to 10:00pm.

Unburger on Urbanspoon

2 Comments

Filed under Restaurant Review

First Impressions: Dhoom

My husband visited Dhoom recently with some friends and gave me his impression of the place.

If you ever went to the current location of Dhoom when it was still a Pizza Hut, you will not recognize the place. They have divided it down the middle, with a lounge on one side (complete with VLTs), and a restaurant on the other. The restaurant was tasteful and quiet, though I can’t vouch for the noise levels later in the evening when the lounge fills up.

All three of us ordered the lunch buffet, which includes complementary fresh, hot naan bread served at your table. Other restaurants have larger buffets, but this one covered all of the basic dishes; rice salad, assorted hot pickles, rice, navratram korma, aloo gobi, beef curry, lentil dhal, goat curry, butter chicken, tandoori chicken, and chilli-lime chicken wings all made an appearance.

Once we were seated after our first trip to the buffet, one of the chefs emerged from the kitchen with complimentary hot naan bread for our table. As we were getting ready to head up for seconds, another chef and one of the serving girls made the rounds from table to table offering complimentary pizza. Apparently they kept the oven in place when they remodeled. It was a vegetarian pizza, and I think that it was the highlight of the meal. The crust was darn near perfect, and it had a rich blend of vegetables, with just enough peppers to give it a pleasant little bite. I am normally not a fan of vegetarian pizzas, considering the anemic ones you get from most pizza chains, but this place showed that it can be very very good if done right.

Desserts included coconut burfi, kheer and gulab jamun. The kheer was a bit light on the cardamom, and the gulab jamun was (as expected) cloyingly sweet. The burfi was a pleasant surprise, being nowhere near as rich and sweet as I was expecting.

20120111

The plates available at the buffet are a slightly arty, square shape with edges that rise and fall in a shallow sine wave. It looks neat, but it’s a trap for sauces on the plate. I nearly wore a rivulet of butter chicken sauce before I realized it was spilling and managed to stop it with my thumb before it left too large a spill on the carpet. Also due to their shape, the plates hold deceptively little, which is good and bad. Since it’s a buffet you can go back as many times as you like, but there is the annoyance of getting caught behind some schmuck on his cell phone who is more interested in conversing with his mouth-breathing cousin than actually loading food onto his plate. On the other hand, forcing one to take smaller portions also helps one to avoid overeating, which can often be a problem for me at one of these places.

The food was all good (especially for the price), the atmosphere was pleasant, and the service was prompt and attentive. I plan to go back, though the next time in I am tempted to skip the buffet and just try their pizza.

First Impressions is just that – my first impressions of a restaurant. I adhere to the Food Blog Code of Ethics, and prefer to only do a full review of a restaurant after I’ve visited it at least twice, whenever possible. If I write a full review of this restaurant at a later date, I will add the link to this post.

1 Comment

Filed under First Impressions, Restaurant Review

Edohei (aka, Best of the West from the East… in the West)

I first visited Edohei almost a decade ago. Since then, a few things about the Japanese restaurant have changed, but I still consider it one of the best places in Winnipeg for sushi.

Sushi at Edohei

One of the most striking changes is behind the counter. Up until a few years ago, the restaurant was run by Sadao Ono, a renowned formally-trained sushi chef. His son, Makoto Ono, has (perhaps only temporarily) taken over the reins of the restaurant. If you haven’t already, you must visit Edohei before Makoto, the gold medalist at the 2006 Golden Plates Canadian Culinary Championship, decides to take on another challenge.

Prior to Makoto’s stewardship, I had always associated Edohei with top-quality fish and a traditional approach to Japanese food. (Unlike most sushi restaurants in Winnipeg, you have a choice of sitting at a regular table, or kicking off your shoes to sit at traditional tables set into a raised platform.) Now, in addition to the superior fish, Edohei sports Makoto’s avant-garde creations.

As much as I love the regular sushi at Edohei, we’ve taken to ordering the bulk of our meal off the special menu, which changes daily. Slivered scallops with black garlic in a lemon and herb vinaigrette was a recent favourite, as was a delightful kimchee laden with vegetables, and crispy rings of calamari accompanied by a shiso tzatziki.

Tuna with shiso rice and mushrooms

The selection of sake is not to be missed, either. On our last visit there were nine different sakes to try, with Shochikubai Nigori as the star of our evening. This unfiltered, smooth sake was a wonderful counterpoint to our surprise dinner.

Surprise? For a treat, call two days in advance and schedule yourself for omakase. The exact translation seems to vary depending on who you talk to, but omakase is basically “chef’s choice” for your evening. We had our first ever omakase when Sadao Ono was running the place, and it was a delightful, five-course full dinner. After hearing that Makoto Ono had updated the omakase to a more traditional tasting menu (with many small samples of various dishes) we had to give it a try.

Omakase must be booked two days ahead. (I would recommend confirming your reservation, since on our last visit there was a mix-up and our request for omakase was lost.) You alert the staff to any allergies, select your price point – anywhere between $60 and $75 a person – and prepare to be dazzled.

As the dishes arrived at our table, a profile of a uniquely modern Japanese dinner developed. Red snapper with black garlic and almonds was followed by red tuna chunks with wasabi “tobiko,” then by steamed clams with greens. I loved the elegant zucchini flower, stuffed with seafood, dipped in tempura batter and fried, served with a wedge of lemon and flavoured salt. Nigiri sushi, fresh and flavourful, preceded a crab and salmon roe soup. My favourite dish of the evening (the one I wrote “Wow!” next to in my notes) was torched tuna served over shiso-flavoured rice with tomatoes and mushrooms. The main dish, beef in a light curry sauce with shrimp tempura and cauliflower puree, seemed pale in comparison to the previous offering. Had it been served alone, however, the beef would have amazed me. Our dinner was concluded by a rather industrial passionfruit gelato, which was the only real disappointment in the entire meal. Overall, we had a wonderful dinner that was graced with excellent service.

Zucchini flower stuffed with seafood at Edohei

Edohei is located downtown on Ellice across from the Air Canada building, with free parking behind the restaurant. They are open for dinner at 5:00pm, Wednesday through Sunday, and are open for lunch 11:30am-2:00pm, Wednesday to Friday.

Edohei Sushi & Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

1 Comment

Filed under Restaurant Review

Skinner’s (aka, Slaughtering Sacred Cows)

When I first moved here, native Winnipeggers asked me “Have you tried eating at [place] yet?” The insinuation, of course, is that these places were both classically Winnipeg and excellent places to eat as well.

Unfortunately, it seems that some people’s tastes have been clouded by nostalgia. Places that have been around forever, that came highly recommended, that were supposed to rock my tastebuds… Didn’t. Not all of them were bad. Some were pretty good, and the recommendation was appreciated. The vast majority, though, I was forced to meet with a resounding “Meh.”

One of those places is Skinner’s. The sign touts their hot dogs as “world famous.” In fact, the Globe and Mail included Skinner’s on a list of Canada’s best hot dogs. I’m pretty sure that this means the writer did not actually try the hot dogs (or the smokies) at Skinner’s because they’re kinda blah.

There, I said it. Please don’t hurt me.

A regular hot dog at Skinner’s is skinny, which I suppose might be a play on the name of the establishment. The skin of the hot dog, though, is disproportionately thick for such a skinny dog. This is the type of skin you’d expect on a smokie that’s bursting at the seams with meat and juice and flavour. Instead, you bite down into the hot dog and feel the skin stretch and stretch until it snaps, almost as though you’re biting into a weiner dog balloon animal.

It might be because I didn’t grow up eating these stretchy, snappy hot dogs, but the texture of the dog snapping as my teeth bite into it really turns me off. Plus, once you’re past the skin and into the meat of the hot dog, the experience doesn’t improve. The hot dogs taste boiled, or maybe steamed. All of the flavour seems to have been removed in the cooking process. Possibly it wasn’t there to begin with. To make the hot dogs palatable, then, Skinner’s loads them up with condiments. Maybe that’s why they’re so skinny – to allow more room for condiments?

Smokie from Skinner's

If you’re dying for a hot dog, the smokies seem to have taken over in the flavour department: juicy and meaty, although still rather “meh” on taste. The signs around the restaurant indicate that the hot dogs and smokies are from Winnipeg Old Country. If that’s the case, I would stick to their smokies as the better of the two bets.

All is not totally lost, however. The burgers are ok. Not great… Just ok. They taste like frozen patties, but with enough condiments they make for a passable (if thin) burger. With the burger you also don’t have to deal with the strange skin you get on the hot dogs.

Double cheeseburger

About the best thing I’ve found at Skinner’s are the chili cheese fries. An order of these can feed one hungry person, or is suitable to be split by two adults. The fries themselves are nothing to write home about, but the chili is a hearty beef chili with beans and excellent seasoning. With the addition of melty cheese, the chili cheese fries are easily the best thing on Skinner’s menu.

You can get a much better hot dog at Half Moon across the river, or pretty much any hot dog cart in town. If you really do like Skinner’s hot dogs, by all means recommend them to your non-local friends, but please don’t be offended if your friends don’t think they’re the “world’s best hot dog.”

Skinners on Urbanspoon

6 Comments

Filed under Restaurant Review

The Tallest Poppy (aka, Where to take your friends for brunch)

When you are driving north up Main Street from downtown, it can be easy to miss. Nestled next to the New Occidental is a restaurant with a cheerful yellow sign hanging over the door and a bear mannequin in the front window. It looks small and unassuming, but it’s one of my candidates for Best Brunch in Winnipeg. It’s a restaurant called The Tallest Poppy.

Brunch.

The Tallest Poppy has a lunch menu that makes me all kinds of happy (variety! surprise! creativity!), but I’m here today to tell you about their brunch. Brunch is a special sort of meal for me, combining some of my favourite breakfast foods with a much later time frame, and it eases me into lunchtime foods at the same time. The Tallest Poppy’s brunch does all this and serves local food whenever possible? Free run eggs? Antibiotic-free, naturally-raised meats? Yes, please!

We’d been to the restaurant for lunch a few times, but one Sunday morning we decided to try their brunch. I was sold on the first visit. Brunch at The Tallest Poppy is a four-course set affair, served family-style. What this means is that if there are four people at your table, you will each get a plate. Then the food arrives on a platter and you can help yourself to however much you want. You know – just like your family did. And just like back home, what you get depends on what the cook decided to make. The staff at The Tallest Poppy check for allergies or other dietary concerns before the food arrives, though, and do their best to help out people with dietary restrictions.

Brunch at the Tallest Poppy

So if you can’t pick what you’re having, what types of food can you expect? Well, we’ve been there for brunch many times now, and it’s different each time. However, there are themes. Fruit and vegetable salads are common at the beginning of the meal, although once we got smoothies and cute little individual oatmeal servings. Scones and latkes often grace the table, followed by omelets, quiches, or frittatas, often served with amazing sausages and bacon. And finally, there is dessert. Breakfast never has dessert – brunch always should. (Another reason why brunch is superior to breakfast.) Pie, lemon squares, cookies and muffins, oh my!

The brunch itself is $25 per person, but that includes everything, including the usual breakfast drinks (including Black Pearl coffee), tip, and taxes. (So really, if you figure $2 per drink, brunch itself is only about $17.) One note, though – it’s cash only!

Tallest Poppy's Twitter feed

The Tallest Poppy has an active Twitter account, where you can often find their specials and what’s on for brunch. Watching their Twitter feed for a while will give you an idea of the sort of things they serve for brunch. Bonus – you’ll also get their lunch specials during the week, and a neat little peek into restaurant life.

The Tallest Poppy is located at 631 Main Street. Brunch is served on Sundays only. They open for brunch on Sunday at about 10am, although during the winter they’ve been opening at 9am. If you have a large group, call ahead – their cozy dining room fills up quickly.

If you’re a friend of ours, and you’re in town one Sunday, don’t be surprised if we decide to drag you off for brunch at The Tallest Poppy. I love showing off Winnipeg’s excellent restaurants to visitors, and The Tallest Poppy is definitely on that list.

1 Comment

Filed under Restaurant Review

Winnipeg Markets on Foodtv.ca

School has really been handing it to me lately. We’re starting the upward swing into finals, with all of the big projects and papers that are also due. I keep looking at my calendar wondering where the semester has gotten to! Unfortunately, my schedule has left little time for fun cooking. (Boo!) We’re getting to the very end of the produce that we got at the farmers’ market (a few potatoes, onions and a butternut squash are left), which is a bit of a shame. Once the semester is over I’m going to make a big dinner for us in celebration of – you know, having time to cook.

Meanwhile, I’ve actually been busy blogging behind the scenes for Foodtv.ca and I wanted to share the entries with you. First, I profiled Baraka Pita Bakery in September. This is a deli that’s just down the street from us, and we’re big fans of a lot of their food. (And, because of the gigantic oven behind the counter, it’s a great place to get warm when you’re out on a walk in the winter!) Check them out for schwarma and falafel if you’re in the neighborhood.

The second post that I contributed was a quick rundown of what Fentons’ Gourmet Cheese, Inc at the Forks has to offer. I was sooooo disappointed that they were out of the Trappist monk cheese when we visited them. Oh well, I guess that just means we’ll have to make another visit soon. (Seriously. When we get some more of that cheese I’ll take photos of it. I just wish you could lick the screen to taste it.)

With the craziness in my schedule, dinners have been quick, rather pedestrian affairs lately. Hopefully things will settle down for a few weeks near the end of December.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Meta, Restaurant Review

Sydney’s at the Forks (aka, The Fancy Side of The Forks Market)

I’ve been to a lot of restaurants, but there are very few which make me sit back and go “wow.” It takes a unique combination of environment, service and food to knock my socks off, but when it happens I can’t help but think, “We are so coming back here again.”

We first visited Sydney’s at the Forks a few years ago. I had heard some good things about it, and we went there for our anniversary. We have been back several times since, all on special occasions, because our experience has always been superlative. I’m afraid that I’m going to run out of synonyms for “great” in this review because I love this restaurant so much.

Sydney's

Sydney’s offers a prix-fixe, 5-course dinner. The menu for the month is published on their website, so you can pick your selections before arriving at the restaurant, or you can ask your waiter what he recommends. If you need a wine recommendation, ask the sommelier for help: every wine he has suggested for us has been excellent.

The set meal consists of an appetizer, a starter, a sorbet, an entrée, and a dessert. Each course typically has five different choices with an option of an add-on or a special choice for an additional fee. For example, the main course offers exotic game such as red deer or elk instead of the other choices. A selection of breads with spreads made in-house is also presented at the beginning of the meal. The menu sounded a bit restricting when we first visited the restaurant, but I quickly realized that even with only five choices for each course, the decision was really difficult!

I have never been disappointed with anything that I’ve ordered at Sydney’s. The last time we went, I chose “boneless loin of Berkshire pork stuffed with goats cheese & sun-dried tomato, wrapped in prosciutto then finished with a basil pesto.” I had read an article about the Berkshire pork and when I saw that Sydney’s was offering this delicacy, I knew that I had to try it. The pork was incredibly juicy and flavourful, and the cheese and pesto finished it wonderfully. On a previous visit, I chose a dessert of chocolate fondue with fruit and angel food cake for dipping; my husband was almost embarrassed at how much I was ooh-ing and aah-ing over the richness of the dessert.

The service has always been impeccable, and is one of the reasons we find ourselves returning often. We were astonished once to find that the sommelier remembered our two previous wine selections – especially considering that our visits had been about six months apart! Our glasses are never empty, and the staff work hard to make sure we’re never wanting for anything and that each visit is memorable.

If you ever find yourself looking for something “fancy” for dinner to celebrate a special occasion, I highly recommend giving Sydney’s a try. Please don’t overlook the restaurant because it’s at The Forks Market (a site generally focused on family entertainment): this hidden gem, located on the second floor of the market, is an oasis in the bustling and busy venue. Treat yourself!

Sydney's at the Forks on Urbanspoon

Leave a Comment

Filed under Restaurant Review

Sushi Train (aka, Sushi just like Mom used to make*)

There are three Sushi Trains in Winnipeg; this review is for the Sushi Train at the Forks. All three restaurants are similar, with their individual quirks. (For example, the service at the Pembina Sushi Train has historically been a bit frazzled and disorganized, but as we haven’t been there for a long time I can’t comment on what it’s like now.)

Winnipeg is about as far as you can get from the ocean in Canada, so it may be surprising that there are a number of sushi places here. They run the gamut from fantastic to not worth your time or money.

Sushi Train is not fantastic sushi. It’s not even great sushi. It is, however, satisfying and reasonably priced sushi, and is good for filling your sushi needs when you get that sushi craving. If you have a friend who has never tried sushi, this would be a good place to get them started, especially since they have a nice selection of non-sushi menu items as well.

Sushi Train

Located in the Forks Market (on the side closest to the CN rail tracks), the restaurant is well-lit and has a nice, informal atmosphere. One downside is that it does not have a restroom inside; you’ll have to run to the other end of the Forks Market to use the public washrooms there. There is seating at both high tables (with barstools), or low booths, or at the bar.

Almost everything on the menu is ala carte, with full inclusive meals only being served for lunch. Good starters would be the miso soup, edamame, or sunomomu salad, the latter of which comes with large quantities of noodles, cucumbers and seafood.

I’m a little embarrassed to say that we’re almost regulars here, although that gives us the luxury of having tried almost everything on the menu. My husband is fond of the ma po tofu, a dish of breaded, deep-fried tofu blocks covered with ground beef and hot sauce. (This item has been on their “special board” for over a year. I’m wondering if they’re just waiting to get their menus reprinted before finally adding it to the menu permanently.) The tempura is also a good dish, especially if your party includes sushi virgins. I would stick with the vegetable tempura basket, as the assorted only contains a token shrimp or two for an extra $2; it doesn’t seem worth it.

As far as the sushi goes, it is almost always perfect. Occasionally the sushi chef on duty gets carried away with the wasabi; this seems to happen most often on the nigiri sushi and in the simple rolls such as the tuna and salmon rolls. If you’re sensitive to wasabi, I would recommend asking for no wasabi on your sushi, or ask them to go light on it. All of the rolls are maki sushi, either regular or inside-out; temakisushi (hand rolls, also known as cones) are available on request.

Sushi Train does not have a lot in the way of custom rolls, although their beach roll (crab, tempura and hot sauce) is a personal favorite. The deep burn of the hot sauce is a lot different from the bright, cool heat of wasabi, so I like to follow the beach roll with anything containing wasabi for the contrast. The chopped surf clam roll is very tasty, as are the California roll and the teriyaki chicken roll. I’ll occasionally order the fatty salmon or fatty tuna nigiri sushi as well, since the pieces of fish in these dishes tend to be thick and generous.

Service is generally attentive and responsive. Be prepared to wait when the restaurant is very busy, however; their service doesn’t seem to scale well when they have many customers to attend to.

There is nothing here particularly earth-shatteringly good, but I can’t recall a single menu item which I would not order again. It’s a great place to meet after work, and a good place to get your sushi feed bag on.

What’s that? Oh yes, the titular train. If you sit at the bar, there is an O-gauge train running all the way around where the sushi chefs are working. The train has several flatbed cars, on which the chefs place various kinds of sushi. If the restaurant is busy, look sharp! The best stuff will get snatched off the train as soon as it goes by. (If there’s something you’re looking for and it’s never on the train, you can ask the chef to make it for you when she gets a minute.) A guide to the prices hangs over the bar: beige plates are $1.75, black plates are $2.75, and so on. You keep your dishes stacked up next to you while you eat, and when you’re done the server will total up what you’ve consumed. (No fair slipping your teal plate ($4.75) into your neighbor’s stack!)

If you’re looking for the best sushi Winnipeg has to offer, this is not the place to go. If, however, you just feel a craving for marinated river eel rolls, be sure to stop by.

*Actually, the subtitle should have been “Sushi just like Mom used to make, had my Mom ever made sushi in her life,” but that seemed a bit too long.

**edit: I’m a bit surprised at the negative comments that this restaurant has been getting. As I said above, this isn’t awesome sushi; this is sushi for the “Did you want sushi?” “Sure.” “Where do you want to go?” “I dunno. I don’t have much cash on me.” “Um, how about Sushi Train?” “Sure, that works.” conversation.

In comparing this restaurant to other sushi restaurants in Winnipeg – yeah, Sushi Train is going to fall short. But I wonder at the commenters who said that the service was rude, or the sushi tasted terrible – did you complain? We’ve had problems a few times at Sushi Train, and it was always corrected after bringing it to the attention of management. The tempura was cold once (yuck) – it was quickly replaced. Another time there was so much wasabi on my nigiri sushi I couldn’t even taste the fish. I explained that while I liked wasabi, this was a bit too much of a good thing! It turns out they were training a new sushi chef, and I received new sushi with an apology.

Anyway, I stand by my original assessment that if you’re looking for great sushi, this is not the place for you. But if you’ve got $5 and a craving for fatty tuna, this is a nice, quick place to scratch your itch. :)

25 Comments

Filed under Restaurant Review

Fusion Grill (aka, Fancy without the Schmancy)

The sixth anniversary is the “iron” anniversary. I wasn’t too keen on getting an iron barbell for an anniversary present, so we just did what we always do on our anniversary – go to a “new to us” restaurant.

My husband had been wanting to try the Fusion Grill for a while, and since it was his turn to pick a restaurant that’s where we ended up going. I read up on some reviews, got all excited, and away we went.

Fusion Grill

We were greeting immediately (my observations of the staff after we were seated showed me that they jumped to the door whenever they heard the buzzer), our coats were confiscated, and we were seated. After puzzling over the menus for a while, we made our decisions and the food began to arrive.

We decided to get two appetizers to share. First we got the “Proscuito and asparagus stuffed spring rolls with organic sesame seeds and sweet lemon ginger dip.” This was actually the lowlight of the whole meal. There wasn’t anything wrong with the spring rolls… They just weren’t very remarkable. I suppose that our tastebuds just aren’t refined enough to pick out the subtle flavours that the procuito and the asparagus lent; they tasted like very good spring rolls that I might find at any Asian joint. My husband liked the dip that came with the rolls, while I thought it was just ok.

Feeling a bit disappointed, we waited for the next appetizer: “White truffle perogies with duck sausage and walnut cream.” Curiously, this was the highlight of the meal. If there was one suggestion I could give to the restaurant, it would be to pretty this up with some veggies and make it an entree. The duck sausage was almost sweet, the perogies were smooth-tasting, the walnut cream was rich and complimented the other tastes perfectly… Oh, yum. This was my favorite dish, by far. My mouth is watering just remembering it.

Confident that the rest of the food wasn’t going to be reruns after all, we eagerly awaited the rest of our meal. My husband ordered “Slow roasted Manitoba bison back ribs with spicy Seagram’s Five Star glaze and garlic smashed potatoes,” which he thought was just fantastic. I tried some, but I found the sauce just a bit too spicy. My husband’s a spicy kind of guy, though, so he devoured the ribs, which fell off the bone as soon as he touched them. I ordered the “Pan seared scallops of Minnedosa elk loin with caramelized shallots, roast potato and chestnut crème frâiche.” I’ve had elk before, and it’s always been slightly dry because it’s such a lean meat. This dish somehow avoided that problem: the elk was succulent and tasty. We also ordered a 2004 Mission Hill cabernet-merlot with the meal (on our waiter’s suggestion), and it complemented our meals perfectly. Dessert was equally good, although I was starting to get full so I don’t think I appreciated it like I should have. I got a simple apple crumble, while my husband ordered an Earl Grey infused creme brulee.

The service was impeccable. We didn’t have one set waiter through the meal; they switched off seamlessly as our water glasses drained or our silverware needed changed or our food was ready. The decor was interesting, but the main dining room we were in seemed a bit small. I don’t know if there was another room upstairs or not. If not, then I’m glad we made reservations, as the dining room filled up quickly and was full the entire time we were there. (I did feel bad for the people sitting right next to the door: because of the way the front door was hinged, you had to open the door all the way (past 90 degrees) to get in past the first booth because of the close quarters. I would have been really unhappy if we had been seated there, and I can’t imagine what it’s like during Winnipeg’s -40C winters.) The restaurant has all the trappings of a gourmet, fancy restaurant, but it has the seating, energy and feel of your favorite roadside diner.

Thumbs up for using locally-grown meat and produce and Canadian wines, serving up a good feed, and being a fun place. Thumbs down for the cramped seating. A mixed rating for the food, although it was mostly excellent. I’d like to recommend this as a place for people who are looking for an interesting new place to eat, but who aren’t neccesarilly interested in the usual French fare.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Restaurant Review