Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Japanese, Chinese and Filipino outlets offer delicious variety for at-home dining

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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).

Regular rolls cost $3.99 to $6.99, special rolls $7.99 to $9.99. The chopped scallop roll was superior to most I've had, sprinkled with flying fish roe and not overdosed with mayonnaise (spicy sauce is optional). You can have the basic California roll with imitation crab for $4.20, or the deluxe version with the real thing for $5.50, but the California-based Rainbow roll, temptingly topped by tuna, salmon, smoked salmon and shrimp, uses only the imitation crabmeat roll as a base. We opted instead for the delicious and texturally interesting deep-fried Kamikazi roll with salmon, tuna, scallop, avocado and flying fish roe.

Some other rolls that sound appealing are the Pacific of salmon and tuna with asparagus, avocado and cucumber; the Volcano of scallop, crab meat, avocado, cucumber, tobiko and spicy sauce; and the Golden Tiger of salmon, tempura shrimp and two cooked shrimp with tobiko, tempura crumbs and spicy mayo.

At lunch there are bento boxes and combos from $8.85 to $10.99.

The appetizers and side dishes were particularly good: flavourful whole shrimp tempura in a crunchy, greaseless coating ($7.90); tuna gomo ae with spinach in exceptionally tasty sesame paste ($5.99); a refreshingly light sunomono noodle and cucumber salad with octopus ($5.50); and the relatively rare takoyaki baked batter balls with octopus ($4.99).

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MODERN Baohouse is easy to miss. It's just a tiny hole in the wall, tucked in among several others in a small strip mall, but the interior is cheerful, with two little tables for two and three stools along a counter. You can eat there if you wish, but the food is intended primarily for takeout or delivery. I love the name (I think their slogan should be From Baohouse to our House), and I also love these steamed yeast dough buns, so much so that I used to make my own when nobody else did. Thanks to this little baohouse, I no longer have to.

The dough isn't fluffy like most dim sum baos, but flatter, denser and nicely chewier. One makes a hefty snack, two a cheap, satisfying lunch, with eight fillings to choose from at prices that range from $3.70 to $4.05. My favourite was the Filipino-style chicken adobo, stewed in soy sauce and vinegar, and topped with cilantro and green onions. But although the baos are Asian in origin, not all the flavours are -- I also loved the taco filling of spicy ground beef with cheese, sour cream and onions and, although short on cheese, the Philly Cheese Steak of sliced beef loaf with tzatziki was pretty good.

The fillings may vary from day to day. The Indian butter chicken with sour cream and cilantro was bland on one try, but more flavourful on another. The barbecued pork, which was good on one visit, was skimpy and dry on another. I had hoped to try the Peking duck with hoisin sauce, green onions and celery, but it was unavailable on two tries. The two remaining fillings are pork belly with brown sugar and peanut sauce, and another of tofu with hoisin sauce, green onion and cilantro.

If the baos are bought for later consumption, they can be reheated, either by steaming, or briefly in a microwave under a damp paper towel. Service by the owner was particularly friendly and helpful.

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IT'S takeout only from the steam table at Tindahan's Food Market, which offers a mind-boggling selection of savoury Filipino foods. But first, be sure not to miss the best item here, which is tucked away in an easily overlooked corner behind the checkout counter -- the scrumptious, meal-size skewers of glazed, almost caramelized barbecued pork ($1.79 each).

The enormity of that steam table is a challenge for the indecisive, and some unfamiliar items may daunt the timid, but at $3.50 to $5.99 for containers that usually hold enough for two, they are worth some experimental tries. There are too many to describe, but some of the highlights were crisp, veggie-filled lumpia rolls; plump, slightly sweet and very garlicky cured sausages; big, juicy meatballs; roasted pork in a vinegar and liver-based sauce; spicy kaldereta beef stew; kare kare beef stew in peanut sauce; and soy and vinegar-braised chicken adobo. The fried chicken tastes like any takeout fried chicken, but the fried strips of unidentified sweet-fleshed fish were surprisingly good, even when cold.

There are also shelves of baked goods, among them two lovely little buns, one filled with coconut, the other with purple yam (50 cents each).

The staff -- notably the server behind the steam table -- couldn't have been nicer or more patient with our endless questions.

marion.warhaft@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 28, 2014 ??65531

History

Updated on Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 8:46 AM CDT: Replaces photo

9:37 AM: Adds map

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