Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Winnipeg's culinary scene is so hot, we needed two weeks to dish out 2013's highlights

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Wild Rice Croquette at Come 'n Eat


Wild Rice Croquette at Come 'n Eat Photo Store

All of last week's nominees for the best restaurants reviewed in 2013 were rated four stars or more, but it's a measure of how much more the city has to offer that another column was necessary. Some that didn't make last week's list actually had four stars; others -- because they are very modest or limited operations -- had no stars at all, but, as is often the case, the stars don't always tell the whole story.

Today's first four listings did have four stars. GAMI SUSHI is a particularly charming place with several outstanding offerings, among them generous fresh-tasting tuna sashimi; a deluxe California roll with real crabmeat; exceptional sunomono salad; sesame-flavoured tuna and avocado goma ae, crunchy don katsu pork and addictive beef yaki noodles. 912 Portage Ave., 204-775-0444.

Among YAMI GARDEN's North Chinese specialties are stunning cold, finely shredded, barely cooked potato shreds with hot sauce and vinegar, along with such hot dishes as fluffy, slightly gingery braised pork meatballs (a.k.a. lion's head); sautéed shredded pork with sweet bean sauce to be rolled in paper-thin tofu crepes; and the knockout Yami Chicken -- a massive casserole of bone-in chicken nuggets and potatoes combined with hand-pulled wide noodles. 20 Island Shore Blvd., 204-256-6585.

KABOB PALACE offers the town's only Persian specialties. Among the starters are fabulous marinated green olives coated in a glaze of crushed walnuts and pomegranate, and a dip of barbecued garlicky eggplant mashed with eggs. Standout entrees include skewered, lemony broiled lamb chops; a kabob of boned chicken leg, the garlicky koobideh ground beef kabob; and the mahicheh, tomato-flavoured stewed lamb shank. Also, at times, an incredible pistachio cake. 595 Notre Dame Ave., 204-504-6787.

BLUE NILE's Ethiopian combo platters are good, but -- apart from the excellent and mildly spiced vegetable combo -- the best and most interesting choices are la carte. Crisp meat or veggie-filled sambusas; the superb chili-stoked kitfo of minced lean raw beef seasoned with herbed clarified butter; the addictive chacha of mildly spiced sizzling beef cubes; and the bozena shiro of ground roasted chickpeas with little cubes of beef. 510 Sargent Ave., 204-416-9681.

Chef Leighton Fontaine's sophisticated breakfast and lunch dishes (served all day) at the OSBORNE VILLAGE CAFE come as a delightful surprise in the unlikely setting of the Osborne Village Inn. His flair for detail turns out juicy cheeseburgers with house-made tomato jam; a superb club sandwich with pork belly instead of bacon; and a poutine with fresh-cooked turkey enlivened by the house cranberry chutney. Another must is the puffy Hipster Omelette folded over cheddar, avocado, curried chickpeas and mushrooms. 160 Osborne St., 204-452-9824, ext. 217.

VIENA DO CASTELO is a special case. Part grocery store, part source of a much expanded repertoire of delicious Portuguese cooked foods for takeout (the motherlode is on Saturdays) and part tiny cafe where you can sample such specialties as bifana sandwiches of marinated pork with caramelized onions, and such daily specials as a burger of the great house-made courico, wine-sauced pork tenderloin, stewed octopus or the glorious piri piri chicken. And don't miss the exquisite pastries -- little chocolate-mocha, carrot or honey cakes and custard or coconut tarts are only a few. 819 Sargent Ave., 204-415-4615.

At COME 'N EAT CAFE, in Neechi Common, some must-tries include Métis meatballs with gravy, the fantastic wild rice croquettes bound with sweet potatoes, the warm wild rice pudding and the fluffy pancakes with blueberries. Moreover, this bright new supermarket is a fine source for wild rice, wild blueberries and such delicacies as smoked sunfish tails and smoked catfish strips, not to mention the terrific-when-toasted Red River Cereal bread. 865 Main St., 204-949-1338.

For an elegant, served-at-table brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, MISE offers puff pastry filled with mushrooms, bacon, cheddar and shirred egg yolks, topped by a fragile meringue, or eggs Benedict in a perfect hollandaise, or crepes filled with seafood and topped by cheddar. 842 Corydon Ave., 204-284-7916. You can have breakfast/brunch all day, any day, at BERNSTEIN'S, where the fabled potato latkes are given a marvellous new twist in the Stacker of latkes, corned beef, poached eggs and swiss cheese, or go for the also-new hot, hand-cut house-made corned beef on rye. 1700 Corydon Ave., 204-488-4552.

There were so many other great dishes, and (space being what it is) the following are only a few of the possibilities. Trying to choose among CAFE CE SOIR's French pastries can give you a headache (I was partial to the Gateau Basque pastry with cherries and a chocolate cream), but I also loved the full-bodied, port-spiked onion soup. 937 Portage Ave., 204-414-7647. PAPPAS' cinnamon-scented moussaka was downright sumptuous and the all-meat pizza on a thin, pliable crust was one of the year's best. 3318 Roblin Blvd., 204-889-5504.

I was also impressed by FITZROY'S wonderful house-made salt-beef sandwich and delicately cured trout, 102 Sherbrook St., 204-504-6945; GUS AND TONY's tiny, lightly breaded calamari and terrific Ntako bread, tomatoes and feta salad, 2501 Portage Ave., 204-414-5508; BEST PIZZA AND DONAIR's delicious beef and lamb donair and chicken shawarma (I prefer the garlic sauce to the white one), 1469 Pembina Hwy., 204-275-0444; SABAI THAI's lime-moistened cooked beef laap, and chicken-stuffed chicken wings, 1113 Corydon Ave., 204-888-6508; and the NEW DIM SUM GARDEN's superb tiny octopus in chili oil, the garlic-strewn skewered shrimp with bits of fried garlic, and the luscious (weekends only) egg tarts, 268 King St., 204-942-8297.

Go out, eat, find some more new favourites, and enjoy 2014.

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.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 2, 2014 C5


Updated on Thursday, January 2, 2014 at 6:43 AM CST: Changes headline, replaces photo

9:25 AM: adds map, adds links

January 3, 2014 at 12:31 PM: Corrects address.

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