Fish dishes shine at new Charleswood spot
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/07/2015 (2875 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Capital Grill and Bar is an L-shaped space, as it was when it housed Asahi, but the spaces have been reversed. The one-time short part of the L has become a long, narrow dining room, with a decor that is sleek, spare and cool, in shades of grey brightened by paintings by a local artist. The formerly short L is now a small lounge, which I find cosier (as long as there’s no sound on the television).
Capital’s chef/owner, Wayne Martin, comes with a reputation based on his highly-praised Vancouver Crave and Fraiche restaurants, and, for the most part, lives up to it, bringing some much-needed upscale cooking to Charleswood. I wish he’d brought more of it. Unlike some menus, with more items than the kitchen can competently prepare, this one is so short I kept expecting it to have grown each time I returned. But after two-and-a-half months, it hadn’t budged.
There was the occasional lapse, but, at its best the food was very good, at times exceptional. Of the four items labelled Smaller Plates the lightly battered tempura sushi roll was a standout, with a sizable chunk of fine ahi tuna in a thin coating of seasoned rice — worth every penny of its $12.50. Also worth its $12 tab was a fairly generous bowlful of small but flavourful popcorn shrimp in a barely visible batter, with a delicious sweet chili-mayo dip.
The poutine with short rib jus and Parmesan truffle fries wasn’t cheesy or saucy enough, but decent ($12). And although the crab cake didn’t taste of filler, it didn’t taste of much else either — a single, small, bland ball, garnished with a pleasant apple salad and mixed greens for a whopping $15.
Listed under Larger Plates, the portion of mussels could serve as a shared appetizer ($16). On one visit they were fresh, plump and juicy in a garlicky wine sauce, and the fries with them were sensationally crisp. However on a second try — possibly the difference between a Saturday dinner and a midweek lunch — they were flabby, often disintegrating, well past their prime, and the fries that day were merely good, not sensational.
The nine Larger Plates aren’t all conventional entrées: two are pastas, one is the above mussels and another is a salad of sorts — and, as it happened, one of the weakest dishes. Although the pan-seared tuna in the Niçoise was top-notch, it was perched over an unco-ordinated and insipidly dressed scattering of items, among them warm nugget potatoes that were good and hard green beans that weren’t.
However, all the fish, in whichever dish, was impeccably fresh-tasting, moist, sweet and perfectly prepared. Best of the lot, perhaps, was the pan-roasted halibut, served with light, lemony gnocchi and asparagus ($26). Beer-battered halibut was equally delicious, albeit quite skimpy within its huge, crunchy puff; with it were excellent chips, but totally flavourless coleslaw ($18).
One night’s special was pan-roasted mahi mahi — also skimpy, but lovely, piled atop green beans, shiitakes, little roasted potatoes and firm zucchini, in a light, ginger-citrus vinaigrette ($23).
Two meat dishes were also good: a tender 10-ounce New York steak in a light red wine sauce, garnished with asparagus and whipped potatoes with a hint of truffle oil — not a plus, in my opinion ($30); and the meaty, mildly chipotle-seasoned baby back ribs ($22).
Shorty Rigatoni in a short ribs tomato ragout was savoury and satisfying ($16). The only unsampled Larger Dishes are a bison rib-eye with a potato, bacon and mushroom ragout ($36), and linguini tossed with green garbanzos, assorted veggies, carrot top pesto and toasted macadamia nuts ($16),
The all-day menu also includes a good Capital burger with crisp pancetta, caramelized onions and truffled cheese ($15) and a disappointing sandwich of dry, tasteless pulled pork with slaw ($12). Other options are sandwiches of brown rice with quinoa and avocado ($12) and buffalo mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes and pesto ($14), fries included with all.
There were only two desserts — unvarying on two visits but, fortunately, both excellent — a superb and refreshing lemon tart and that luscious old-school British favourite (and, in truth, mine, too), sticky toffee pudding ($8 each).
The wine list is short, but the list of beers, scotches and whiskeys is relatively long. Although cocktails aren’t listed they are available, but a caesar was so watery and tasteless it was sent back and replaced with a more acceptable version.
Service is attentive and amiable, occasionally overly familiar. You have to ask for salt (there are no shakers on the tables), and if you ask for bread (which isn’t supplied), you may not be told that your single slice of barely grilled marble rye will add $1.50 to your tab.
The Capital, apparently, is just what Charleswood has been waiting for — it’s very popular, and on busy weekends there may be a two-hour limit on your table.