These days everyone's a locavore, but Fusion Grill was one of the first to emphasize ingredients that were, as often as possible, locally sourced and organic.
It's been well over a decade since I was last here, and although the tables are still close together, the small space seems cosier than I remembered -- still simple but nice, with white tablecloths, chairs more suitable to a kitchen but padded for comfort and lovely paintings of clouds on the walls.
The soft lighting is pleasant, but the menu is hard to read, and either the lighting should be brighter or the print bigger. Checking the website menu before a visit can help in making your choices.
The ingredients may be local but the eclectic menu has global influences. The starter I had most looked forward to was the white truffle perogies, and they didn't disappoint, apart from the fact that there were only five of them (my only regret was in agreeing to share them). The luscious cream sauce was sparingly infused with white truffle oil (much nicer than most of the black truffle oil I've tasted), enlivened by the crunch of walnuts and topped by pieces of duck sausage -- I'd have liked more of those, too ($11.95)
Seared Digby scallops were also excellent -- not very big (three to an order), but juicy and sweet-tasting. They came with creamed corn grits and bits of roasted mushrooms in a demi-glace, all of it delicious, but in my opinion gilding the lily, and overpowering the delicate flavour of the scallops. I enjoyed mine by scraping off the extra bits and eating them and the scallops separately ($14.95)
All the entrees on one visit were more than acceptable, if less than memorable. If the duck entrée had been only the moist and flavourful leg confit, it would have ranked much higher, but the roasted breast it was paired with was slightly dry. The cherry demi-glace disguised some of the dryness while adding some needed flavour, however, and the crunchy wild rice and potato latke garnish was delectable ($30.95).
A lightly smoked pork chop with wild mushrooms in a port demi-glace was very good, absolutely massive (enough to provide the next day's lunch), and the yam frites with it were crisp and tasty ($29.95). The arctic char, in a light hollandaise sauce, was slightly overcooked and under-flavoured, but here too there was consolation in the wonderful garnish of bacon-dotted Israeli couscous, which was bigger and thicker in texture than the more common kinds of couscous ($32.95).
If all the above entrées had equalled those of another visit there might have been another half-star above. I loved the paella, one of the best I've had in years. The texture of the Arborio rice was perfect, with a subtle saffrony flavour, and although I didn't find any of the promised artichokes, the spicy house-made sausage was delicious. It also included plenty of seafood -- mostly mussels, but also a few shrimp and scallops and several bits of chicken ($32.95).
Grilled bison tenderloin was one of the more generous entrées, and it was another winner -- tender, flavourful, cooked precisely medium-rare as requested and cloaked in a lustrous demi-glace with an underlying nip of curry. It came with a scattering of veggies, most notable among them the battered deep-fried green beans, as well as some nice little potatoes, a few snow peas and a single chunk of carrot ($44.95).
Other possible starters are roasted beets with pressed goat cheese ($11.95), panko-crusted pickerel cheeks with fennel bulb ($14.95), mussels in Pinot Gris with garlic butter ($14.95) and crisp beef dumplings with garlic sesame noodles ($10.95). Among the other entrées are grilled beef with a barley risotto ($39.95), chicken breast coq au vin ($26.96), pan-roasted pike with a curry rub ($30.95) and -- for vegetarians -- spiced chickpeas, lentils and yam wrapped in vegan phyllo ($25.95) or gnocchi with squash and pepita pesto, white beans, pickled eggplant and Parmesan ($25.95).
You get bread only if you ask for it and, although price won't be mentioned (it wasn't in our case, at least), it will cost you extra -- delicious focaccia, but $3.95 seems steep for three pieces of any kind of bread. Desserts, though, were worth every penny -- a glorious apple crumble with Screech-spiked caramel sauce and ice cream, and a luscious chocolate mousse cake ($8.95 each). And on the house, delectable little chocolate truffles.
The Cuvée Award-winning wine list is all Canadian, with over 30 available by the glass. I've had some excellent Canadian wines and I'm sure there are some great ones on this list too, but our demi-carafe of the house wine, a thin and acidic Copper Moon Malbec, wasn't one of them ($18.99). And although much of it remained unconsumed -- in our glasses and in the carafe -- there were no comments or questions asked. Service otherwise was attentive and well-informed.
To see the location of this restaurant as well as others reviewed in the Winnipeg Free Press, please see the map below or click here.
Restaurants marked with a red flag were rated between 0.5 to 2.5 stars; yellow flags mark those rated between 2.5 to 4 stars; and green flags mark those rated rated 4.5 to 5 stars. Locations marked with a yellow dot were not assigned a star rating.