Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/10/2009 (2763 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
No matter how often I eat out -- and I eat out a lot -- there are certain foods I can never have. I wish, for instance, that we had a raw shellfish bar, and I'm still waiting for the arrival of such crazes as Brazilian skewered meats or pressed Cuban sandwiches. On the other hand I'm grateful that I don't have to deal with molecular gastronomy (I was always a dunce at science -- any science). Otherwise, though, there isn't much that isn't available here, and when asked to name a favourite restaurant I can't -- it might depend on my mood of the moment, and so many good ones spring to mind.
Dozens of Asian restaurants, for instance, as well as several Italian and, increasingly, French choices, not to mention that catch-all category called eclectic or global cooking.
But I have no trouble naming some of my favourite dishes. Absence notoriously makes the heart grow fonder, and possibly one reason I sometimes long for the following is because I don't get them often enough -- each of them can be found in one place only:
French cuisine is the one I love and know best, but CHEZ SOPHIE (248 avenue de la Cathedrale, St. Boniface, 235-0353) makes two dishes I've never had, even in France. Tartiflette might be described as glorified scalloped potatoes but that doesn't do justice to this luscious casserole of sautéed potatoes, onions, bacon, ham and cream, bubbling under its topping of Trappist and mozzarella cheeses. It would take determination, not to mention courage, to tackle it on one's own, and I'd suggest sharing ($12.65 at lunch, $16.99 at dinner, salad included). The other rarity is the thin-crusted Alsatian style pizza -- the tarte flambé gratinée, in our case, which wasn't flambéed, actually, but was topped by a nutmeg-scented cream sauce with bacon, onions and mozzarella ($13.50 for nine inches to $24 for 17 inches).
For many of us the SHANGHAI (234 King St., 913-7700) was our first and, for a long time, only experience of Chinese food, albeit in westernized forms. But even back then -- if you were a regular, with an established relationship with one of the waiters -- you could get the real thing. One of the real things still is the special Chinese omelette, which I have never found anywhere else. It's not your usual egg foo yung, with all the ingredients mixed together, but a puffy omelette folded over a mixture of ground pork, chewy bits of shrimp and crunchy water chestnuts, and topped by a light brown sauce and a sprinkling of peanuts ($14.25). It's huge, and includes that classic Chinese consomme (with rice and scallions), but if you need more the pan-fried shrimp are good ($10).
At 30-plus BISTRO DANSK (63 Sherbrook St., 775-5662) is a durable charmer, one that is always among my top recommendations for consistently delicious, value-priced food. The Danish frikadeller are one of my top comfort foods -- dense patties made with a mixture of finely ground pork and veal, served with a mayo-based remoulade sauce. At lunch they come with potato salad and beets ($9.95), at dinner, with pan-fried potatoes and sweet-and-sour cabbage ($16.95), and at both meals with the terrific house-made baguette. Portions are massive, and if you start with an appetizer -- preferably the bacon-topped liver paté -- and finish with the great hazelnut pie, chances are you may have to share all three dishes.
LES JASMINES DE LA TUNISIE (131 Provencher Blvd., 231-8308) makes such savoury Tunisian classics as couscous and frittata-like tagines, which are probably the only ones of their kind in the city. But also, and especially, the brik -- a deep-fried pastry triangle stuffed with cheese, parsley, tuna and an egg, and what really puts it on my map is the fact that the egg (unlike some hasty hard-boiled versions I've had in other cities) is soft boiled, the yellow yolk spurting out as you eat -- obviously something to be eaten carefully, over your plate. Also something to be shared, but so good you won't want to ($5.50).
KRAUT KING (295 Garry St., 949-1292) is tucked in under a circular parkade, a tiny place with only 16 seats at a counter, and although its bratwurst and pork schnitzels may not be the only ones in town, this is the only restaurant that makes leberkaes, which translates into liver cheese, but contains neither ingredient. Instead it is an ultra-dense loaf of finely ground meats (primarily pork), and is wonderfully flavourful, whether served in a bun ($4.95), or as part of a platter with delicious roasted potatoes -- more like pan-fried, actually ($8.95). Open to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday, to 8 p.m. Friday, and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday.
I love sandwiches too, almost any kind as long as the bread has character, and the fillings are generous and tasty. True, I have good sandwiches often, but the following three only rarely:
BERNSTEIN'S (1700 Corydon Ave., 488-4552) is known for its bat mitzvah herring and potato pancakes, but they also make their own pickled tongue, shave it thin and pack it thickly between slices of City Bread rye. "ö You may have had the falafel at FALAFEL PLACE (1101 Corydon Ave., 589-5811), but do you know about the turkey burger? Unlike the breaded, fried slice of meat that is so often dubbed a burger this one is actually made of ground turkey, liberally seasoned with onions and garlic.
OSCAR'S (175 Hargrave St., 947-0314) is practically synonymous with the Winnipeg-style corned beef sandwich, but they also do a glorious one of hot marinated beef brisket, moistened by a light sweet and sour gravy.