Eating in Winnipeg is as diverse as it is excellent — I know you might be getting sick of me saying that but it’s just so true! And it’s not just the traditional restaurants that are great — so are the secret dinners. Put on by The Young Chefs, Max Frank, Jesse Oberman and Chris Gama, we were treated to an eclectic and creative five-course meal on a chilly Thursday night.
In a surprisingly perfect (and highly classified) venue, about 50 people sat down and dug into the wines I brought for the table. The meal started with two amuse-bouches: grapefruit, fennel and crab,with campari gel, and a Village Bay Oyster with pressure-cooked kumquat, radish and black pepper. It was the oyster that tipped my pallet into being officially excited about eating the rest of the meal.
Our first course was the beautiful Hindu Beets: roasted beets, chili-pickled mango, goat yogurt and Indian granola. The portions were perfect and every bite was balanced. Part of what made this meal so fun was the presentation. Consideration had clearly been given to each dish as to how it would be presented to each diner. To that end, our beets were served on Home Depot floor tile samples which was as quirky as it was perfect.
The second course was Crispy Chicken Banh Mi: a spring roll of chicken confit, chicken liver mousse and kimchi, with cashew, hoisin and sriracha. Considering our location, I was impressed that the roll was piping hot. This dish was served, in a cheeky fashion — it came out in a 7-11 hot dog shell.
By this time thing were getting decidedly silly; lessons on “duck-face” began, along with theories about why we were always at the loud table. I was later found to be a regular culprit of the “loud” factor — neither surprising nor incorrect. The third course was Salmon Pastrami, served with hot mustard sour cream, pretzels, bean salad and fresh horseradish. It was the last of our lighter courses.
Our fourth (and main) course was Almost-Kosher Bo Saam: deep-fried pork belly, roasted pork shoulder, braised pork ribs topped with crispy onions, green onions and sesame. It was served with smoky maple barbecue sauce, sauerkraut, hot sauce, ginger scallion aioli, Baba’s pickles and challah bread. The pork ribs were absolutely perfect. They fell effortlessly off the bone and were perfectly flavored.
To cap off the night we were served Old Fashioned Parfait: bitters ice cream, bourbon Jell-o shots, old fashion syrup, cherry gastrique, orange and a cherry candy cane stir stick. It all came served in a rocks glass.
To read more from Sarah Zaharia, go to her blog at http://www.sarahzaharia.com/