The "Opening Soon" sign was up for months and months on the windows of this Osborne Village venue, the latest outpost of a popular Vietnamese restaurant that started in the West End.
It was worth the wait. Adding to the original Sargent location and a second small spot on Portage, Pho Hoang and Rollesque Osborne delivers great food in a good-looking room.
The design is very cool, the lofty space filled with greenery and great lighting, muted decorative tiles and wood-slatted walls.
The hybrid service system — you order at the counter but you get food delivered to your table — is fast, friendly and efficient.
And then there’s the food. The pho is fresh and fragrant, from the pure simplicity of the ultra-thin-cut rare steak with loads of Thai basil to the abundant "carnivorous medley" of brisket, meatball, flank, fatty flank, rare steak and tripe. A duck soup with egg noodles is also tasty.
Other standouts include smoky short ribs cut very thin across the bone, served with a mound of sticky rice and a frazzle of garlic.
The phrase "Save Room Pho Dessert" (ha!) is spelled out along one wall, and this is good advice. A crème caramel is a smooth, subtle classic, especially the version covered with a sweet, strong coffee syrup.
And if you’re feeling whimsical, you can try the rolled ice cream. The Rollesque concept, which premiered at the Sargent locale, specializes in this popular Asian street food, which is made right in front of you. Sweetened cream is poured onto a super-cooled slab and then rolled up into curls, and the whole process — from the making to the eating — is performative, fun and highly photogenic.
And dig those crazy add-ins (Pocky sticks, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Nutella drizzle).
If you’re considering takeout or delivery (through Skip the Dishes, DoorDash or Uber Eats), the pho travels surprisingly well. The hot broth is packed separately from the rice noodles and fresh herbs, and you put it all together at home — you’ll need a very big bowl — for optimal freshness.
This is another popular local food destination that has added a new location. Along with the original St. Vital venue, there is a new La Pampa Empanadas shop on Grant Avenue, which will be handy to a lot of south Winnipeg neighbourhoods.
La Pampa Empanadas
1549 Grant Ave.
La Pampa Empanadas
1549 Grant Ave.
Go for: 24 flavours of empanadas, to go
Best bet: anything from the old-school spicy beef to the vegan tapenade
Empanadas: $4 each or $39 per dozen
Tuesday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday noon-5 p.m.
This is a takeout-only joint, specializing in Argentinean-style savoury turnovers. (You can also get delivery from DoorDash.) La Pampa’s empanadas are a hefty size, the tender dough plumped up with a choice of two dozen fillings, from classics such as spicy beef and pulled pork to a melty mozzarella and caramelized onion flavour or a tapenade version made intense with olives, peppers and tomatoes.
Hawaiian pizza heretics can get ham and pineapple.
There are vegetarian options (mac ‘n’ cheese!) and some vegan varieties (mushroom, a Moroccan version made with chickpeas).
You’ll get some herbaceous chimichurri to serve alongside, and an "Identify Your Empanadas" sheet, which lets you figure out what’s what by the way the dough is crimped.
Empanadas are clearly the thing here, but La Pampa also offers a selection of grab-and-go prepared foods, including tabbouleh, hummus and veal and chicken schnitzel.
And make room for sweets. There are several variations on Argentinean alfajores, rich, soft cookies sandwiched around mellow dulce de leche.
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.