Marion Warhaft

  • Beer is focus at new Osborne Village restaurant/pub

    The traditional pubs of Great Britain -- those cosy oases of simple but savoury sustenance in the bad old days of British cooking -- are said to be disappearing at an alarming rate. Ironically, more and more pubs keep opening on this side of the pond, although not all of them offer old-style sustenance. But for some, beer is the pub's raison d'etre and, as it happens, beer is the best reason for a visit to Jekyll and Hyde's Freehouse (formerly known as Cheers). There are two totally separate rooms. The Hyde is for entertainment, usually after 10 p.m. -- music, comedy, karaoke, dancing and such. Jekyll's is the dining area, with tables, booths and a bar. It's quite dark and spare, but comfortable, with various sports events on a string of wall-mounted television sets, under a high, industrial-style ceiling. There's music, of course, and of course it's loud, but somehow far less intrusive than the music in many more intimate places. There's also a very attractive patio -- a pity lunch wasn't an option on our few balmy days, but the place doesn't open until 4 p.m. (and stays open late).
  • 71/4 changes don't add up

    What's in a name, Shakespeare's Juliet asks. Not a heckuva lot when it's Bistro 71/4, and Alexander Svenne isn't in the kitchen. And he isn't. The name may not have changed, but the cooking has. The restaurant has been under new ownership since last November and the difference is dramatic. Since my last review some years ago, the space has been doubled to include a bar and lounge, which is now the preferable area -- quieter, with more space between the tables. The sleek, understated original room is passably comfortable if you can get one of the few tables near the windows in front, but I'd avoid the dark, cramped and very noisy interior.
  • Japanese, Chinese and Filipino outlets offer delicious variety for at-home dining

    Sushi and sashimi are becoming increasingly popular for home consumption, and with good reason. Cold seafood travels very well, much better than those traditional Sunday night suppers of Chinese food or fried chicken. It can be bought for takeout from any sushi restaurant, but there is an increasing number of places that specialize in takeout and delivery only. Watta Sushi is one of the better outlets I've found. The choice of fish for sushi is limited, but the quality of those they do use is high and the prices below the general average. Because of their simplicity, nigiri sushi are an acid test, one passed swimmingly by our order of fresh-tasting, generously cut slices of tuna belly and salmon belly on moist, subtly seasoned and exceptionally good rice ($3.99 to $4.99 for two pieces). Tuna and salmon are the only choices for sashimi but they too were excellent (six pieces for $10.99, seven for $12.99, 12 for $15.99).
  • Pleasure in the park

    It's a heavenly site -- a long wall of windows and an equally long balcony overlooking a meandering pond (partially drained at present, for construction purposes), and beyond, a luxuriant growth of majestic trees. Some Warhol prints are displayed on the earth-toned inside wall; the chairs, with leather-like seats and lovely fabric upholstery, are not only exceptionally attractive but exceptionally comfortable as well, and, apart from a fireplace, set in a massive central pillar, that's about all there is for decor. And that's all it needs. The kitchen, under the direction of Wow! Hospitality's executive chef, Michael Dacquisto, and chef Beau Schell, lives up to the setting, offering relatively high-end food at less than high-end prices. At least they do at dinner, which, although not labelled as such, is the only menu shown on the restaurant's website. It was why a first visit for lunch seemed reasonable, especially for a restaurant in a major park.
  • Village tradition: Quality carries on into second generation

    Pembina Village must be doing something right -- after almost three decades of existence, this family-run business is now into its second generation of ownership. Nothing seems to have changed in the 13 years since my last full review -- the interior is still spacious and serene, with a minimalist decor of pale seafoam green, accented by lovely black-and-white photographs, and seating either in comfortable booths or at tables and chairs, as well as on a pleasant, umbrella-shaded patio. What also hasn't changed in 13 years is the quality of the food. Although the list of Greek specialties isn't particularly long, those that are listed are as good today as they were back then -- in some cases, even better.
  • Casual, welcoming... and delicious

    I've been here before. Cafe Picolina was in this space more than 10 years ago, and at that time, as soon as I saw the menu, I knew who was in the kitchen. This time, I suspected who it was even before I saw the menu, and my suspicion was confirmed -- this was another resurfacing of Joe Pellegrino, who often names something after one of his daughters. In the past, it was Annabella's dipping oil; today's giveaway was the name of the restaurant, Little Maria's. Pellegrino has been involved in a string of restaurants -- before Picolina there was the Rogue's Gallery, and after it, Tomato Pie, and later still, Pop Soda's, which closed after a truck crashed into it. The food was good in all his locations, and it is good in this one as well.
  • Sandwich choices from around the world right here at home

    Inspired by FIFA fever, the Washington Post published a feature on the sandwiches of some competing nations. In Winnipeg, we need no special events to celebrate our rich ethnicity. Or at least I don't -- I love sandwiches, I'm grateful for the opportunity to indulge in so many international choices, and the following are just a sampling of some of the city's finest.
  • These cosy joints are like home away from home -- except you don't have to do the cooking

    They're not on anybody's hip list, but today's three have been around longer than most, with myriad fans -- some of them even hipsters who have days when they want comfort food and plenty of it, at un-hip prices. And in all three it's not just the food and prices that keep them coming, but also the warmth and friendly attention. When I first reviewed dinner at Dawning, over a decade ago, it was just one small room, but since then it has doubled to two small rooms. I remember liking the liver and onions, the fish and chips and, above all, an elegant cream of carrot soup du jour -- all still on the menu, although these days dinner is served from Wednesday to Friday only.
  • High-flying flavours

    It's a bright, clean, simple room done entirely in sky blue, with only some occasional greenery for decoration. But what it lacks in decor is more than made up for by what comes out of the kitchen. This address has been home to an endless series of restaurants, most of them good, but few of them lasting very long. One reason for the constant turnover, I suspect, was the lack of parking in a neighbourhood where strolling even a few short blocks isn't an appealing prospect. That's one problem the Winnipeg Flying Noodle House shouldn't have. Not only is there a parking lot in back, but there's also direct access from the lot to the restaurant. There certainly shouldn't be any problem with the food, which is delicious, and often exceptional.
  • Bound for Broadway

    The prestigious Relais & Chateaux association was founded in 1954 by eight luxury hotels in France, many of them genuine chateaux that had been transformed into hotels. Today it has 500 members worldwide, now including luxury hotels and restaurants as well, but their motto hasn't changed: character, courtesy, calm, charm and cuisine. There are a few in Canada, but the Fort Garry Hotel isn't one of them, although this designated National Historic Site is as close to a chateau as it gets in these parts. I can't comment on the rooms (I haven't stayed there), but most of the Relais's motto would apply to the hotel's restaurant, the Palm Lounge.
  • The spice is right

    This odd-looking, free-standing building was built (I was told) to resemble a nuraghe -- an ancient Sardinian structure. I dug deep into my files and discovered that it had, in fact, been built to house Nuraghe Restaurant, which served delicious Sardinian food but, sadly, didn't last long. Since then there have been several other occupants -- the most memorable of them, the late and much lamented Bobbie's, which served wonderful Romanian and Italian food. Most recently it was Tio's Mexican Restaurant, but today it's home to Karahi, which features Indian cuisine.
  • Stonewall restaurant fulfils craving for delicious, down-to-earth food

    I confess, the appeal of battered, deep-fried pickles has always mystified me. However, in the interest of fairness, I finally succumbed and tried one, and I'm still mystified -- the combination of textures and flavours makes absolutely no sense to me. But de gustibus -- as the Latin saying goes -- there's no accounting for taste and, as it turned out, it was the only thing at Cravings that didn't make sense to me. Everything else was delicious. It's a spare, spacious room with no decor other than some paintings by local artists. It's open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, and the menu covers the usual diner territory. There are burgers, sandwiches, wraps, salads and soups, but most come in dauntingly huge portions, and are prepared to a high standard. Most prices, which include fries and a bottomless beverage, range from $9.99 to $12.99, unless you're prepared to tackle the Jaw Breaker burger at $13.99 -- three patties, four slices of bacon, three slices of cheddar and all the other usual suspects.
  • E.K.? OK! We answer readers' call for good eats in East Kildonan

    They crop up occasionally -- pleas for a good restaurant in East Kildonan. Recently, though, there's been a different kind of email, rejoicing in the discovery of a good Vietnamese restaurant. Actually, there always have been some good eats in this underserved area, a few of which I'll get to later. But first, the Watt Street Bistro, the cause of that recent rejoicing.
  • It's not all Greek to me

    I never did see the HBO Canada series Less Than Kind -- my loss, apparently, judging by some reviews that proclaimed it one of the best television series ever. Astonishing (considering what a Winnipeg booster I am) that I didn't even know it had been produced here, or (even more astonishing, given my profession) that several of its scenes were shot in Juliana. I can see why they chose it. The decor is hard to classify -- a little of this, a little more of that. Some think it dated, but I find it charming, in a warm, old-fashioned way -- a cosy clutter of a place, with nary a trace of trend. There are occasional statues -- one, a nymph (I think) holding a lyre, partially hidden within a little jungle of greenery (including a fig tree) near the entrance. A couple of mermaids loll sensuously in a strip of stained glass just under an undulating slatted wood ceiling, and there are more details to engage the eye than I can remember.
  • Raising the bar

    There can't be a more propitious location for a restaurant than River and Osborne, and it's hardly surprising that business started booming the very minute Cornerstone opened its doors at the former location of Papa George's. It's under the same ownership as the Grove, but don't expect many similarities. The Grove is as much restaurant as it is pub, but -- given the extremely short food menu, and the extreme length of the alcohol menu -- the emphasis here is the other way around. Which isn't to say the food isn't good; most of it is.
  • Few items reach the same heights as stupendous scenery at revolving restaurant

    If views were everything, Prairie 360 -- the restaurant atop Fort Garry Place -- would be heaven. The revolving panoramic views are stupendous, and the space has been handsomely remodelled by designers who were wise enough not to gild the lily. There are some charming details here and there, but the decor is basically understated, its most significant features views from the surrounding wall of tilted windows, and -- along the inside wall -- attractive art by local artists. To say this restaurant is better than its predecessor isn't saying much (I don't remember the Royal Crown with fondness), but it does offer a few dishes that are well above average, albeit at prices that are also well above average. However, they are the exceptions, and how you feel about your meal may depend on what you order and, possibly, when. The views may be exceptional; most of the food isn't, and the difference between what's good and what isn't can be dramatic.
  • Riverside restaurant worth a visit for atmosphere and menu

    I've never understood why a city with two great rivers (and few other beauty spots) should have had no riverside restaurants with views (two that I remember used their riverside space as parking lots). So bravo to Cibo, for taking an early 20th-century heritage building (the former intake facility for the old steam-heating plant) and turning it into this stunning venue -- a narrow, light-filled room, with a more open, raised area at the far end, which is calmer than the noisier front of the restaurant.
  • Original owners return diner on city limits back to its former glory

    The roadside sign still reads Eye Opener Diner but, because of legalities, the name of this excellent little place has been changed to the Red Eye Diner (the sign will eventually be replaced). For years its breakfasts drew a clientele from the most distant suburbs, but after it was sold a few years ago, it slid downhill, and finally closed. Now the original owners are back and breakfast mavens all over town are celebrating.
  • Search for seafood specialties comes up short

    There aren't many of my favourite foods that I can't find in Winnipeg, but watching chef Anthony Bourdain work his way through two seafood towers -- in Brittany on one program, and in Paris on another -- evoked pangs of nostalgia and longing for the ones I still can't have. I remember two of those magnificent spreads -- also, as it happens, in Brittany and in Paris, at the fish-famous Le Duc. The latter in particular was a magnificent array of crustaceans and bivalves the sea had yielded that very morning. But that, alas, was in another country; in our inland city, apart from sushi houses, seafood specialty restaurants are non-existent. I knew I wouldn't find that kind of tower here, but I yearned for something to satisfy my craving, and the very first item on Wasabi Sabi's menu looked promising: a seafood platter at $125 (obviously intended for two). It looked lavish, too, listing assorted sashimi, tuna tataki, seafood ceviche, shrimp, king crab and oysters.
  • Enormous menu at Chinatown spot overflowing with exceptional dishes

    Logan Corner has several things going for it: its own parking lot; late hours for night owls (11 a.m. to 3 a.m., midnight on Sundays); and a mammoth menu of 280 items, 80 more on the standard takeout/dine-in menu (plus combo plates), a daily specials sheet, and an all-day dim sum menu. Also, for me at least, the fact that it isn't on Pembina. That isn't a non-sequitur. Pembina may be the motherlode of Chinese regional cooking, but finding the invisible addresses on buildings set off the street can be a nightmare.
  • A prime classic

    Back in 2009, rumour had it that Rae and Jerry's would be replaced by a Ruth's Chris steak house. Turns out it was only a rumour -- there never were any negotiations. We still don't have a Ruth's Chris, and although trendoids may sneer, after almost 60 years this old-school institution endures, still holding its own in a sea of small plates, duck confits, truffle oil and pork bellies. It still packs them in, and if you try getting a seat without a reservation, you may end up eating in the lounge, which is not a bad thing, actually. It's popular -- famous, even -- the Winnipeg venue many out-of-town food writers have asked to see. I've written about Rae and Jerry's before -- snippets about brunch, about its $13.26 daily lunch bargains (Wednesday's pot roast is my eternal favourite), about a best-burger search -- so it came as a surprise to realize I hadn't actually done a full column review in more years than I can remember.
  • You don't have to go far for Italian, Ukrainian and German delicacies

    None of today's subjects are restaurants, in the traditional sense of the word, but all have something special to offer. Cafferia is a sweet, light-filled little place, with a peaked ceiling and cottage style windows overlooking a parking lot that would make an ideal patio in summer. There are a few shelves of Italian products for sale (pastas, oils, canned tomatoes and such), but basicalanly it's a genuine Italian coffee house, serving up rich Italian brews ($2.50 to $4.50). I'm not a coffee fanatic but I do like my cuppa -- hot and strong, albeit often non p.c. (with sugar and cream) -- and when the espresso is rich, dense and not too bitter, when I don't add sugar to my cappuccino, and when my coffee maven friend declares the latte as the best ever, I know I have found my coffee heaven.
  • Charming eatery dishes up homey classics taken to a new level

    There are quotes from James Beard and M.F.K. Fisher on the menu, and another from Julia Child on the wall behind the bar, all of which hint at the aspirations of this charming place. Quotes don't necessarily mean much (I remember a menu with a highfalutin quote from a French chef but some pretty lowfalutin food on the plates) but the Marion Street Eatery is the real deal. It's a lovely room, with a laid-back vibe and an understated decor of simple white walls, dark brown woods and interesting paintings by local artist, Kristina Dimitrova (a.k.a.Dimi) -- I loved the three charging bisons that seem almost ready to leap off the wall. I also loved the handsome, mismatched old chairs and the clear glass filament bulbs that hang from the ceiling. Most of all I loved the sense of warmth and enthusiasm that permeates the atmosphere.
  • Tiny St. Anne's Road spot serves up delicious Indian fare

    It's tiny and plain, with nothing one could call decor, but there's a feast for the eyes in the big, beautiful painting by a local artist that faces the door (make a point of checking out the other painting just around the corner). And there are intimations of another kind of feast in the aroma of Indian spices that perfumes the air. However, those who like their spices hot should emphasize that fact. We ordered our food medium, which usually delivers enough zing to tingle our tongues, but, although most of what we got was full of flavour, medium turned out to be very mild (the best bets for incendiary spicing are the vindaloos and zhal frazis). But even though most of our dishes had no discernible kick, no two sauces tasted alike -- each had its own individual flavour.
  • Take a trip: Airport-hotel restaurant worth travelling for

    Getting to the airport is easy; getting to the Grand Hotel's Blue Marble Restaurant, not so much. The parking is validated, but first you have to find it and, in my case, instructions on the phone varied from person to person on different days. Other sites were mentioned, but the official version seems to be the airport parkade, which, I was told, involves only a short walk to the hotel. It doesn't. In fact, getting from car to hotel is a bit of a hike, after which, reaching the entrance to the oddly placed restaurant, with its back to the lobby, involves another stroll along a bleak, curving hall. Once there, though, you may find it was worth the trek. The decor is minimalist but beautiful, with a single wall of azure blue, other walls of taupe and pale grey, and seating either in handsome booths or on comfortable chairs. An illuminated fridge in one corner, which displays the herbs and micro-greens used by the kitchen, adds a fresh touch of green. It's the kind of elegance rarely found in airport-hotel restaurants, an elegance that extends to much of the food and to its presentation.

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