Opinion

The Polo Park area is chock-a-block with big-box stores and chain eateries. While the location and the exterior of this St. James venue (formerly a Barley Brothers) might suggest yet another franchise, in a pleasant surprise, Preservation Hall is the culinary domain of Winnipeg chef Tristan Foucault, serving up a local take on such French bistro classics as steak frites, croque monsieur, escargot and charcuterie.

Restaurant review

Preservation Hall Eatery + Wine Bar
655 Empress St.
204-783-2386, preservationhall-eatery-winebar.com

Preservation Hall Eatery + Wine Bar
655 Empress St.
204-783-2386, preservationhall-eatery-winebar.com

Go for: a farm-to-table approach to French bistro classics
Best bet: Preservation is serious about its meats
Mains: $21-45

Tuesday-Saturday: 11:30 a.m.-10:00 p.m.

The City of Lights is referenced in the art as well as the bistro tables, with their elaborate metal pedestals (and some authentic Parisian wobble).

Starters include the Hall salad, greens counterpointed with tender-crisp asparagus, beets, fennel and good fresh ricotta, or a garlicky flatbread with burrata, smashed fava beans and Persian cucumbers, a dish that has just a perfect edge of bitterness.

Chef and owner Tristan Foucault shows off the charcuterie walk-in cooler for their house-made cured meats.

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Chef and owner Tristan Foucault shows off the charcuterie walk-in cooler for their house-made cured meats.

Autumnal options include onion soup, extremely rich but a bit oversalted, and dense slabs of bison meatloaf, served up with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage.

Crisp beer-battered pickerel and chips are very good, and the upscale Preservation hamburger is made with "directionally house-ground beef" – that’s a bit of menu speak that I haven’t seen before, but I can vouch for the results.

Foucault prepares cured meats for a charcuterie tray.</p>

Foucault prepares cured meats for a charcuterie tray.

For dessert, there’s a simply lovely lemon tart with a shortbready brown butter crust and very good chocolate terrine, its deep, dark creaminess contrasted with a delicate puddle of crème anglaise. (Every time I taste a good crème anglaise I think restaurants that default to whipping cream just aren’t trying hard enough.)

Preservation offers an edited wine selection and a tight but ambitious cocktail menu, including some grown-up zero-proof options.

COVID protocols are helped by the restaurant’s big, airy rooms, with well-distanced tables and booths with extended plexiglas dividers. Curbside pickup is also available.

 

A tray of the house-made cured meats at Preservation Hall.</p>

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A tray of the house-made cured meats at Preservation Hall.


 

Jason Chapman, executive chef, and sous chef Dustin Bernacki at P.F. Chang’s.</p>

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Jason Chapman, executive chef, and sous chef Dustin Bernacki at P.F. Chang’s.

Another recent St. James addition, P.F. Chang’s is a franchise joint, part of a popular chain founded in the U.S. in 1993 that’s now gone global.

Restaurant review

P.F. Chang’s
865 St. James St. (The Plaza at Polo Park)
204-775-1777, pfchangs.com

P.F. Chang’s
865 St. James St. (The Plaza at Polo Park)
204-775-1777, pfchangs.com

Go for: mainstream versions of pan-Asian favourites like sesame chicken and Mongolian beef
Best bet: some satisfying street noodles
Good to Know: The old-school takeout containers come printed with the phrase, “This belongs to ______,” presumably to discourage nefarious fridge thieves.
Mains: $15.25-26.25

Sunday-Wednesday: 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday: 11:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.

Marked by the three-metre-high horse statues that flank its doors, P.F. Chang’s offers a trade-off — you’re forgoing the authenticity you might find at a family-run hole-in-the-wall for predictability and sleek, comfortable contemporary décor.

The big, broad menu (slightly curtailed by COVID-19) offers a panoply of pan-Asian cuisine: There are some pad thai, ramen and sushi options, but the main emphasis is on American-style Chinese dishes.

P.F. Chang’s delivers mainstream versions of pan-Asian favourites.</p>

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

P.F. Chang’s delivers mainstream versions of pan-Asian favourites.

House favourites include Mongolian beef, chewy-tender strips of flank steak loaded up with green onions; the Hokkien street noodles, skinny rice noodles fried up with a sweet-tart mild curry sauce; and the kung pao Brussels sprouts, with some char, some peanut crunch and a little chili heat.

Sushi is fine and fresh, though not exceptional enough to tempt me away from my general rule of only ordering sushi at places that specialize in sushi.

The drinks menu is extensive and includes sake and cocktails, as well as some non-alcoholic options: The house-made ginger beer and lime soda are both very good.

Delivery is available through Uber Eats, DoorDash and Skip the Dishes.

The Mongolian beef at P.F. Chang’s.</p>

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Mongolian beef at P.F. Chang’s.

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

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