Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 21/9/2016 (1822 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
If you want to talk about the notoriously elusive idea of Canadian cuisine, it helps to start with indigenous food. Feast, which opened late last year on the corner of Ellice Avenue and Sherbrook Street, offers a modern take on traditional First Nations ingredients, beautifully showcasing bison, pickerel, corn, wild rice, sunflower seeds and berries, along with some creative adaptations of bannock and fry bread.
Owner Christa Bruneau-Guenther offers up First Nations cooking in an open, airy, light-filled space finished with white-and-black semi-industrial decor. Well-positioned as a West End community hub —next to the Adam Beach Film Institute and the Bandwidth Theatre, and across from the West End Cultural Centre — Feast clearly has a lot of regulars, with servers greeting some customers by name.
There’s a lot of locavore-influenced comfort food here, served in hospitable amounts. In fact, if you’re eating lunch at Feast, you might want to plan for a light supper.
The stick-to-your-ribs chili ($9.75), satisfyingly seasoned but not spectacularly spicy, is made from grass-fed bison and a mix of beans and topped with made-in-Manitoba Bothwell cheddar. Piled-high "Indian tacos" ($9.25-10.75) start with a plate-sized circle of crisp fry bread, which is then heaped with bison chili or maple-chipotle chicken, shredded lettuce and salsa, and drizzled with lime-inflected sour cream.
The burger ($10.95), served on a crispy-chewy fried bannock bun, offers that genuine mayo-mustard messiness so beloved in our town. (Our server, knowing what’s what, brought extra napkins.) Garlicky mushrooms, an optional add-on, were slightly undercooked, but the bison patty was juicy and good. (You can swap in Winnipeg rye or multigrain for your burger or sandwich if the fried option seems too much.)
A very nice house salad ($7.45 or $9.45) is finished with sunflower seeds, dried cranberries and a well-balanced dressing spiked with Saskatoon berry syrup.
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The house-made desserts vary day to day. The filling of a strawberry rhubarb pie was delish, fresh and not overly sweet, but the pastry didn’t quite match up, being a little soggy. There are also modestly priced baking staples such as blueberry muffins, a moist banana-walnut bread, and cinnamon-sugar bannock, available as coffee-time additions or to take out.
The café’s breakfasts include slight tweaks on standard diner classics, such as the Ellice platter ($7.95), which starts with bannock and intense Saskatoon jam. While the whites of the poached eggs were slightly watery, the bison sausage was lean without being dry, and the squash cakes, made with finely grated butternut, were fried up brown and tender-crisp.
There is also an indigenous take on eggs benedict ($9.95) — the poached eggs are served on bannock with lemon-chive hollandaise — and bannock-based breakfast sandwiches.
During the work week, Feast is a daytime café, but it has started staying open on Friday and Saturday evenings. Many of its mains work well for supper, including bannock-based pizza and bison ribs basted with berry barbecue sauce.
Service is helpful, with the coffee pot circulating regularly for top-ups. Feast also offers kids’ meals, a nice, family-friendly menu option you don’t see so much these days.
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.