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Chef Bagshaw ups his game at new restaurant Enoteca

Scott Bagshaw, owner of Enoteca, in the kitchen of his new restaurant. (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Enoteca: Chef Bagshaw ups his game
Enoteca's ricotta dumpling with white prawns (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Enoteca's menu changes regularly. (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Scott Bagshaw, owner of Enoteca, in the kitchen of his new restaurant . (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Enoteca's beef tartare (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Scott Bagshaw, owner of Enoteca, in his new restaurant. (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Scott Bagshaw, owner of Enoteca, in the kitchen of his new restaurant. - (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Enoteca's ricotta dumpling with white prawns - (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Enoteca's menu changes regularly. - (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Scott Bagshaw, owner of Enoteca, in the kitchen of his new restaurant . - (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Enoteca's beef tartare - (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Scott Bagshaw, owner of Enoteca, in his new restaurant. - (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/5/2015 (1993 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

Deseo Bistro on Albert, four stars. Deseo Bistro on Osborne, four-and-a-half stars. Enoteca, on Corydon, five stars. Following Scott Bagshaw from venue to venue has been an increasingly interesting progression culminating, in this newest enterprise, in exciting creations by a chef at the top of his game.

The decor is spare, intimate and mellow, adorned mainly by a few prints — and although I’d always avoided using it when I lived there, the legend of the New York subway system on the wall behind me raised pangs of nostalgia. There’s nothing nostalgic about the food though, which is contemporary, imaginative and unique to Enoteca.

The dishes vary in size — from small to medium — and are intended for sharing. Your server may suggest that three are usually enough for two diners, and if they aren’t you can always order another one. Or three. Once they begin to arrive — each, improbably, tasting even better than the last — it’s hard to stop. The prices (most $16 to $20) make it easy to run up a sizable tab. On the other hand — depending on your appetite and choices (and degree of thirst) — you might end up with one that is quite affordable.

It’s impossible to generalize about the food. This is not a defined cuisine; some dishes have Latin touches, some Italian, some Asian, some French — the very definition of eclectic. And not only does the short menu change frequently, so does the composition of the dishes — the basic ingredient of a dish you’ve enjoyed might turn up again, but in an entirely different preparation.

One night’s hamachi, for instance — part cured, part fresh, garnished with passion fruit — had, on my return, morphed into an even more delectable ceviche, paired with slices of delicately cured, prosciutto-like speck. And I felt deprived when reading older menus, realizing I’d missed such dishes as beef cheeks bordelaise, uni with truffled aioli and duck pastrami on brioche.

Creativity isn’t automatically a compliment in my lexicon, but this is creative cooking prepared with skill, care and precision. Nothing seems contrived, not even dishes I might have had doubts about. Although I love sweetbreads, I couldn’t imagine them smoked, but my guest’s eyes lit up at the sight of them on the menu, so we ordered them, and they were a dazzling success of perfect texture, with a delicate and only slightly smoky flavour, lightly moistened with lamb jus and fleshed out by potatoes, peas, carrots and the house lardo.

Scott Bagshaw, owner of Enoteca, in his new restaurant.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Scott Bagshaw, owner of Enoteca, in his new restaurant.

As close to classicism as it gets here — and, as it happens, one of the more substantial servings — was lamb with fresh pasta in a light tomato-and jus-based sugo, with bits of chèvre and a sprinkling of gremolata. Another was beef tartare on a brioche, with a slightly tangy undertone and a grace note in the velvety torchon of foie gras.

The most memorable dishes for this committed carnivore were the tender ricotta dumplings with white prawns, caramelized miso and bits of bacon; raw scallops with lomo cured pork, black garlic and kohlrabi; wild boar belly under a peppery romesco sauce, sided with white prawns; and the rosy, flavour-packed duck breast with Jerusalem artichokes and golden beets.

But there are fine vegetarian choices as well. Roasted mushrooms with crunchy chick peas; roasted cauliflower with cauliflower soubise; gingery salt-roasted beets with apple and quinoa; and an exquisite asparagus salad with big, peppery cress leaves (to be added to the next menu).

There was one disappointment. One night’s superlative wine-sauced short ribs with smoky mashed potatoes and celeriac had, on another night, been overcooked to stringiness. And I have one nit to pick: when truffles are listed as an ingredient, it’s disappointing when they turn out to be truffle oil.

Two desserts per evening appear to be the rule, with crème brulée as a constant, and our cognac-flavoured crème was not only heavenly, but a good buy at $7 for a double-the-usual-size bowlful. I also liked one night’s dense, lemony cake with a texture much like pound cake, which I’m fond of but can rarely find.

The service couldn’t be better — friendly, attentive, impeccably trained and knowledgeable about every aspect of the food and the wines. There are no cocktails, but the short, well-selected wine list offers three sizes of pours from bottles that are good enough to wean me back from the hard stuff I’ve been resorting to.

Enoteca is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and if you reserve your table for one of the busier nights, you may be told that there will be a two-hour limit. Fair enough — it’s a small room with limited space, and a host of enthusiasts waiting to replace you.

marion.warhaft@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 12:57 PM CDT: Adds slideshow

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