Oct/Nov 2015 Feb/Mar 2015 - Page 29

A turn towards comforting, playful pub food swept the city in 2014, with modern twists on comfort food classics typically defining this new order of gastropub. We lead with the fanciest, but all our eating was highly rewarding. THE BLUE MARBLE Neighbourhood........Airport Address... 1979 Wellington Ave Phone......... 204‐594‐1967 Entrées............. $11-$32 Despite its location at the airport, a gateway to the globe, The Blue Marble is Manitoba through and through. With a commitment to indigenous ingredients, sustainable dining, and elevating home-grown dishes to modern masterpieces, the restaurant proves itself a destination for weary travellers and locavores alike. The space, inside the Grand Hotel, takes hospitality to heart, offering niceties like validated parking and after-dinner truffles. Complimentary focaccia set alongside whipped butters (flavoured with maple and Saskatoon berry on one visit) are a gracious start to a meal that unfolds with perfect execution of details. A beautiful interior, awash in calming shades of blue, illustrates these details as well. An urban cultivator facing the dining room sprouts microgreens and pea shoots to grace diners’ plates, and a custom built wine cellar visible through glass doors tempts with an extensive but thoughtful selection. While the breakfast menu and a lunch/dinner selection of more traditional comforts boast some palate-perking twists, the modernist influenced tapas menu is not to be missed. Full of exciting interpretations, the selection presents a conundrum with dishes sized to share but good enough to hoard. ciao! reviews Manitoba ingredients populate the menu, like the Berkshire pork tenderloin, juicy from a birch and ginger marinade, which arrives in coins scattered over a sweet and nutty smear of pancetta creamed corn. Prairie produced cavena nuda (“naked oats”) are incorporated into a rich and chewy risotto accented with sweet pops of blueberry and salty Parmesan shavings. The flavour is reminiscent of mama's classic pork chop and cream of mushroom combo, but ups the ante on Sunday dinner with rich pork belly, seared to a crunch, and porcini mushrooms. Local pickerel shines, with crunchy fried shallot rings and truffle aioli perched atop the well seasoned lake fish. Bright leeks and a watercress purée dotted with green peas supply vernal grassiness, while an earthy bite of morel mushroom balances the dish. Other dishes reveal creative cooking with underused meats. Quail is served drizzled with tangy tamarind sauce emitting the warm scent of cardamom. Accompanying Brussels sprouts with their favourite bedfellow, bacon, are a bright contrast to peppery mashed potato quenelles. Oxtail ravioli amps up a tough cut, imbuing the meat with flavour and adding salty crunch from shaved Parmesan and bacon dust. Marrying global inspiration with the tastes of home and some planetconsciousness, this airport restaurant is flying high. The Blue Marble is open 6 am-10 pm (restaurant), 11:30 am-12 am (lounge). BILLABONG GASTROPUB Neighbourhood. Osborne Village Address........121 Osborne St Phone......... 204-452-1019 Entrées..............$7-$27 With its prime Village real estate, Billabong has become a fixture on Winnipeg's dining scene since opening in 2005. Though tweaks and changes in ownership have been made in the past 10 years, this Aussie grub hub is still serving up exotic and creative takes on comfort food. The dim interior oozes local watering hole vibes, with a deep red paint job highlighting wall art that points to the restaurant's Australian influences – boomerangs, vintage Foster's ads, and a climbing crocodile. The bar offers the usual suspects along with favourite brews from Down Under, while the cocktail menu features sophisticated twists on classic drinks. This chic edge is present in the menu as well, which lives up to the gastropub moniker. Telltale signs of a clever kitchen can be spied in the use of Manitoba ingredients, like roasted beets, pickerel, and Bothwell cheese, as well as trendy elements like pickled red onion, chorizo, and sharing boards. Steambucket mussels play on these hip flavours, served under a scattering of corn, garlic and chorizo. Crusty garlic toasts are on hand for sopping up a fragrant chipotle white wine broth. Other dishes marry Australian ingredients with classic pub fare. Kangaroo nachos are no gimmick, just downright delicious – a mountain of corn chips loaded with the distinctively earthy dark meat, cheese, and veggies. The signature Aussie burger is also loaded, a juicy patty stacked with sliced beets, a ring of sweet pineapple, bacon, cheese, tomato relish, and, best of all, a fried egg. A selection of entrées tempts those looking to tuck into more. Pan seared duck breast draped in honey balsamic sauce fills fine dining cravings, with carmalized apples and rosemary proving a tart, herby balance for fatty duck. This restaurant also caters to a brunch crowd, with a Sunday morning menu of breakfast favourites amped up ciao! / feb/mar / two thousand fifteen 27