Category Archives: Winnipeg Food Scene

Modern Taco Company: A Truly Mexican Taco finally hits Winnipeg.

Ever since I was a child growing up on the shores of Rainy Lake in Ontario I have been obsessed with food.  Actually that is not precisely correct, it is more to the point to say that I’ve been obsessed with the idea of food.  That is to say how it should taste, what it should look like, the textures and aromas have always captivated me.

As my mother can attest, when ever her back was turned for a few seconds in the kitchen I would be in there grabbing seasonings to add freshness or heat to her spaghetti sauce.  Chopping onions for her stew, a handful of herbs here or a pinch of salt and pepper there.  It drove her batty.

Growing up in small town Northern Ontario in the 1970’s I was never exposed to grand ideas in food. Meat and potatoes, fresh walleye pike straight from the lake, freshly shot deer and moose hanging to age in the cold fall air from the rafters in the garage were the beginnings of my food existence.  Yet somehow I knew that good authentic food didn’t come from a can or a box.  Good food should be fresh, alive, vibrant.

Modern Taco Company

Modern Taco Company

Looking for adventure on a cold rainy spring weekend in Winnipeg can often be a chore.  More than likely my mind will turn to food for escape and what better way to escape the damp chilly streets than taking a trip for a few hours to the streets of Mexico.  The Modern Taco Company at the southern end of the St. James bridge, 612 B Academy Road to be precise offers a surprising choice of authentic Mexican inspired taco truck offerings at a very reasonable price.

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A carnivores idea of heaven: Carnaval Brazilian BBQ.

With Darlene’s birthday this past weekend we decided that we were due for a fine night out on the town for dinner.  It was just our luck that a the owners of Hermanos Argentinian Steakhouse opened a new South American themed restaurant just down the block Carnaval Brazilian BBQ.

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For Winnipeg the concept is quite revolutionary, for a fixed price of $39 per adult an endless buffet of savory meats and side dishes is brought to your table and sliced fresh from a skewer and onto your plate.  Simple in concept and frighteningly efficient in bringing one quickly to the point of entering a meat coma.  But oh so good.  Onetime chef and now author and globe-trotter Anthony Bourdain has said in the past that food and cooking is all about domination and submission.   The diner must be willing to submit to the will of the cooks and the severs to receive the best of what they have to offer.

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Carnaval in this case is full on Fifty Shades of Meat, a cruel mistress who only cares about one thing, fulfilling your every dark prehistoric desire for incredibly tender, juicy and wonderfully marbled cuts of slower and tastier creatures than Yes please, I want more.

YES PLEASE

Our meal began quite simply,  the floor manager welcomed us to our table and instructed us on the workings of the table and the floor staff.  We were each given a coaster, one side printed green with a hungry diner smiling fork and knife at the ready.  This was to be displayed if we wanted the gauchos to bring food to our table.  The other side was printed in red, the diner passed out in blissful slumber as if to say “Please no more, I need a break.”

No thanks

She also explained that family sized portions of side dishes would be brought throughout our meal to accompany the gaucho’s BBQ’d offerings.  Ready, steady, GO!  We cautiously flipped our cards to green, almost instantly a smiling gaucho appeared with a skewer packed top to bottom with roast chicken wings.  Yes, why yes of course I would like some my good man.  The wings were hardly off the skewer when a second gaucho appeared bearing pork chorizo sausage.  All so innocent luring me into their trap.

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The wings were crispy and juicy to a fault I gnawed at the wingtips for the crispy goodness and devoured the chorizo with equal fervor.  More and more gaucho’s appeared, skewered chicken thighs, slices of heavenly rare top sirloin, sirloin cap so fatty and crispy and delicious on the outside and so incredibly tender and flavorful on the inside that my eyes rolled up into the back of my head with near  orgasmic delight.

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One of the most outstanding wandering table side attractions turned out not to be food at all but a caipirinha trolley.  Where he mixed a very potent Brazilian staple beverage in honor of Darlene’s birthday.  Handing it to her, he whispered sip it slow it, it sneaks up on you.

Our table which was empty at the start of our meal was now packed with side dishes, condiments and the detritus of the meal.  Looking less and less like a fine dining experience but more like a frat party gone horribly wrong.  I had slipped into the dark side and was loving every finger licking, chin mopping crispy skinned and painful sigh as I tried to keep pace with the gauchos.

They looked less like friendly servers now, taking on the visage of black clad, sash wearing delivers of pleasure and pain.  My stomach pleaded with me to stop, full to bursting.  But my meat addled brain wanted more, more lamb, more cap of sirloin, a chicken wing yes please.

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Then it appeared, the object to stop my protein psychosis.  A single slab of BBQ pineapple coated in cinnamon and grilled to perfection.  The simple combination of sweet and acid brought everything together. Something so simple almost mundane left me full and complete.

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Overall the meal was delicious, however on my next visit I would do things a bit differently to ease into the meal.  Ordering a course of salad or starters from the complementary menu right of the bat seems the way to go.  We were pounded by meat right away and by the time our salads and bread had arrived we were already into full-fledged feeding mode.

This concept for Brazilian BBQ coupled with the quality and know how that the Hermanos ownership group brings to the table, I can’t see Carnaval being anything but a smash hit.

A lovely anniversary dinner at Beaujena’s French Table.

This past weekend was a special one for Darlene and me.  We celebrated our 4th anniversary as a couple.  We exchanged kisses and gifts as I arose for work early Friday, but little did I know that Dar had more up her sleeve this year.

As I went out the door for work leaving her in bed she told me to be ready to dress special for dinner.  WHAT?  No clue to where we were going??  Just dress nice.  What a brat! My mind was spinning all day.  What were we going to dine on?  Should I dress casual or to the nines?

When I got home from work she finally relented and told me to get dressed for St. Boniface’s french quarter.  We were going to Beaujena’s.  Beaujena’s even for the residents of St. B is a mystery.  A husband and wife team run the 24 seat restaurant and the menu is known to change at a whim.   Once seated you are at the mercy of the chef.

Not to worry though, for years the reviews of this establishment have been solid to say the least.  Myself, a seasoned eater and more that welcome to eat whatever is put in front of me, was cool.  More to the point I worried about Darlene,  although not a picky eater, she really does have preferences and I thought that a “Strange” dish could have thrown our dinner off the rails.

The first dish of our seven course meal was a baked lemon with anchovies, cheese and olives.  Served with bread, it was strange for sure but savory, sweet and tangy all at the same time.  This dish shouldn’t have worked but it did, it was light and really awoke my palate.

Baked lemon with bread. This should never have worked but yet it did.

The second dish a light garden tomato soup.  The soup was silky smooth and rich, none of the extra acid one would normally expect from a tomato soup was present.  Rich and velvety, all around excellent.

Smooth excellence garden tomato soup

The third was a trio of quinoa Arancini stuffed with a light white cheese,  fried to a golden texture.  I am not a huge fan of quinoa, but I did like the treatment of the ingredients, everything worked well together.  If you like the grain instead of rice you’ll love these, served in an acidic red sauce they almost taste like pizza bites.  Everything works in this dish except for my dislike of quinoa.

Trio of quinoa balls in red sauce.

Fourth came an evolved seafood dish,  calamari stuffed with shrimp served on a light mustard sauce.  To my taste the shrimp stuffed calamari was perfect, a nice interplay between the two sea creatures.  As I told Chef Randy after the meal however, Darlene and I both found the mustard a bit overpowering.   Seafood by essence is delicate, mustard should be left for more hearty meats.

Squid stuffed with Shrimps

Bacon Squared turned the corner on flavor, throwing subtle out the window and giving us full two barrel flavor.  Bacon and fatty pork belly really make you hit the wall.  Salty, fatty but balanced with a supremely acidic gastrique.  It all works, if you like fatty pork, if you like bacon, if you enjoy a good tangy pickle you will love this dish.  It’s over the top in richness but saved by the gastrique which cuts through it all and just delivers flavour.

Three levels of heaven, the Bacon Squared

Thankfully a cleansing salad was served before dessert, a joyfully light portion of Asian greens with beets and a blue cheese vinaigrette.  Thankfully light and acidic.  Fighting once again through the very heavy levels of the bacon and pork belly.

Asian green salad with beets and blue cheese vinaigrette.

I bet you thought I forgot about dessert , not by a long shot friends.  The Chef himself brought out our decadent rich chocolate torte.  He and I discussed how the dinner progressed, Darlene seemed content to just sit and listen.  Waiting for the first perfect bite of an obviously obscenely wicked treat.

Beaujena’s chocolate torte. So rich, so delicious.

One cannot explain a meal like this in a few sentences.  Was the meal perfect? How was the service?  Did we have a great time?

For Beaujena’s I can solidly say that the total of the experience was well above average, the food was an exploration of what food can be, the service was personal and friendly.  Darlene and I got to reconnect in many ways that went above food and flavor.

If you and your special someone have more than a few hours to kill.  Do check out Beaujena’s French Table.  For romance and good food you will not forget the experience.

Beaujena’s French Table

Bob's Place Winnipeg restaurants

Confusion corner bar and grill: Maybe a bit more confused than grilled.

Ok, I must admit that I love Confusion Corner it’s just a strange space in Winnipeg.  Cars don’t know where to go bus lanes go here and there.  It takes some time as a Winnipegger to know where you’re going in traffic.

And because I am a confused Winnipegger I love this spot to dine.
All except for tonight.

Dar and I walked in easily before the hard supper service and got a table right away. Ordered a beverage and a french onion soup each.  The drinks and soup were served in normal short order, but the french onion that I had come to love here was way off.

Yes we got a nicely coated broth full of cheese, but also topped with a nasty cayenne pepper.  The soup on it’s own was good but there was to little of it, the broth was packed with way to much bread.

On to the mains, both of ordered beef, and that came cooked to order, very well seasoned and tasty.  Only the beets that came on our plates were an issue.  Those were rock hard and not really fit for human consumption.

One other sticking point, where is the divider between  the lounge and the dining room.  If walk in diners wanted to sit in the lounge and with the loud music and background we would ask for that.  Just to open it up seems awkward and counter productive.

All things considered though. it’s a good meal and I would go 3.5 out of 5 this week.

Fresh, fast and flavourful: Saigon Jon’s Vietnamese Kitchen.

Last night Dar and I found ourselves out and about on a Friday evening after work.  Going for a visit to our chiropractor we ended up in the south end of the city very close to the University of Manitoba.  Being hungry and definitely not in the mood to cook we decided to check out a new Vietnamese place that we had spotted a couple of weeks earlier on Pembina Hwy.

Saigon Jon’s 2696 Pembina Hwy

Saigon Jon’s Vietnamese Kitchen is billed as a fast casual Vietnamese fusion.  Meaning that the service is somewhere in between fast food and casual sit down dining.  Upon entering we were immediately greeted by a server who inquired if we were new to Saigon Jon’s.  Nodding yes she proceeded to give us the lowdown on the menu and service.

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