Sometimes a Saturday night at home looks a lot more inviting than going out, especially during the kind of deep freeze we've been having, but getting out of the house during the day doesn't seem quite so intimidating.
Brunch is an attractive (and less expensive) alternative to dinner, but although there are many brunches on Sunday, just try to find one on a Saturday. There are plenty of Asian choices, but the pickings are slim for a more traditional brunch.
One of the few and, fortunately, one of the best, can be found at Mise on both Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It's a polished little bijou of a room, with one dark grey wall hung with local artworks, and a wall of windows opposite that overlooks a patio in summer. The ambience is serene and smart, but comfortably casual.
You can have lunch if you wish (another rare Saturday/Sunday find) and I was briefly tempted by the curried chicken salad on cranberry bread, or the Italian sausage with roasted peppers and provolone on a baguette ($15.95 each, including two sides of chips, salad or soup). But it was brunch we were primed for -- a leisurely, sit-down, served-at-table brunch.
The menu isn't huge but the selections, which range in price from $7.95 to $17.95, are elegant and interesting. One terrific choice was the Mise Special Breakfast -- a puff pastry filled with mushrooms, bacon, cheddar and shirred egg yolks, baked under a fragile and beautiful meringue -- which was not only delicious, but so pretty it seemed almost a shame to destroy the structure by digging in.
Another winner was eggs Benedict, the bright yellow yolks perfectly runny, layered with flavourful back bacon, and cloaked in a rich hollandaise that was sheer perfection (there's also a vegetarian version with chimichurri sauce). Tender crepes -- generously filled with salmon, shrimp and scallops and topped by cheddar cheese -- might also have approached perfection if its cream sauce had more flavour.
There are no fruit juices or other la carte items, but most dishes come with a container of fresh, prime fruits. Most are also garnished by what the menu describes as wild rice hash -- erroneously (in our case, at least), since there were only token grains of wild rice among the potatoes, which would have been just as tasty totally on their own.
Other options include a spicy Italian sausage skillet with peppers, zucchini and onions; grilled Atlantic salmon with poached eggs and hollandaise; a New York steak with poached eggs and chimichurri and roasted red pepper purée. More spartan tastes can opt for just two eggs, any style, and, for sweeter teeth, there's fig and star anise French toast topped by sautéed bananas, whipped cream and candied pecans.
Service was attentive to start with, but elusive when the place filled up.
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A few blocks down Corydon and you're in another world. Nobody would ever describe Falafel Place as a polished little bijou. Actually it's the very antithesis -- a diner with no decor, and a decibel level that reduces conversation to a shout. Don't expect a leisurely meal -- the place is bustling and perennially packed, and you'd feel guilty if you kept your table while others are waiting for it.
But in its own way it's a gem. You can have brunch from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. any day of the week, and if you can find a time between meals when it isn't full, good luck (I'm not sure there is such a time). But whenever you come the wait won't be long and the food -- part Middle Eastern, part East European, part classic deli -- will be copious, made from scratch and top-notch.
The breakfast platters cost from $6 to $9.50 for two eggs, with either a potato pancake or hash browns (both excellent) and toast. Most are augmented by the meat of your choice, not just the usual bacon, ham or sausage, but also salami, corned beef, tender and flavourful medallions of beef tenderloin, a lightly breaded chicken schnitzel, or (a personal favourite), the garlicky ground turkey burger. There are several kinds of hash -- corned beef, chicken or turkey -- for which the meat, eggs and hash browns are all mixed together (the eggs will be cooked separately if requested).
There are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free choices as well. The fabulously fluffy (no, that's not an oxymoron) falafel are aromatic with hints of cumin and cilantro, and are served with tahini sauce and velvety hummus (for vegans, with vegetables instead of eggs, i.e. beets, eggplant or kohlrabi, possibly). And the blintzes are simply wonderful, bulging with smooth, vanilla-scented and slightly sweetened cottage cheese, served with jam and a dollop of sour cream.
Many of the items can be ordered la carte or in half portions. The orange and grapefruit juices are freshly squeezed, and there are six varieties of luscious house-made jams, as well as a moderately hot sauce for those who hunger for a dash of heat. And, as busy as the place is, the service is always friendly and phenomenally efficient.
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.