Restaurant Recommendations for Winnipeg Canada
I live in the US and have not been to Winnipeg. But, I have very close friends who live in Winnipeg. This couple is about to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. I would like to take them out to dinner but have NO CLUE where to go.
I would like recommendations for an exquisit dining experience - exceptional service (I want them pampered - they've earned it!), delicious food and beautifully presented, fun and interesting atmosphere - live music would be a plus. They enjoy all kinds of food but I'm thinking French/Spanish/Italian cuisine -- not interested in "chain" dining. Any suggestions?
I am a foodie from NYC who comes to Winnipeg on business every 6 months. I'm currently here on my 16th visit and I can tell you with no hesitation that the best restaurant in Winnipeg for my money is 529 Wellington. Fantastic food (I had an Alberta beef tenderloin last night that was sublime, house-smoked salmon, a superb made-at-the-table Caesar salad, and their always excellent Kennebec french fries, served, charmingly, with silver finger tongs), beautiful setting (stately old mansion on Wellington Crescent on the river, with an outdoor patio overlooking the water), surprisingly comprehensive wine list and excellent sommeiier, and great service. It stands up to any steakhouse I've eaten at in NY (including Luger, S&W, Palm, Ben Benson's, etc) and more than holds its own against many of my favorite restaurants in the city (from Savoy to Gramercy Tavern).
Other restaurants worth trying are Cafe Dario, which is in a tiny house in a not-so-great neighborhood. The chef, from Colombia, is very good, and it's inexpensive. Amici is better-than-average old-school Italian (think Il Mulino or Accapella), and if you're in the mood for more steak, Hy's is fine (though part of a chain, if that matters).
For atmosphere, try Rae and Jerry's -- the food is fine (again, mostly steak) but the place should not be missed for its preserved-in-amber late-60s/early-70s vibe, right down to the red polyester waitress uniforms.
Haven't tried Dubrovnik (I was put off by the "Distinguished Dinning" typo on their homepage) and have been generally underwhelmed by the other (many) restaurants i've tried here.
529 Wellington Cres., Winnipeg, MB R3M 0A5, CA
I have heard that Dubrovnik is well passed it's prime.
Amici has good food but the comment my parents made was that the decor looks tired and the place needed to be gutted.
I really enjoyed Oui Bistro in the exchange- french food and I loved the atmosphere.
I have heard really good things about 529 Wellington for Beef/continental fare.
People rave about Fusion Grill but my parents were really disappointed with it and hated the atmosphere there.
529 Wellington Cres., Winnipeg, MB R3M 0A5, CA
Absolutely take them to the restaurant in the Fairmont, The Velvet Glove. My partner and I stayed at the Fairmont for a conference and he made reservations there for our anniversary--we were a bit amused by the name, but it looked beautiful. It turned out to be the right decision.
The food was well prepared and, while it featured classic flavour profiles, delicious. The room is beautiful and quiet, the music not obstrusive at all. The service was exceptional: attentive, knowledgeable and very helpful.
The wine list is also extensive and, although there is no sommelier, it is wide ranging enough that you will not need one.
The nicest part was that they gave us a corner booth and they covered it with rose petals and votive candles. It was really beautiful (and I say that as a jaded New Yorker!). They went out of their way to make the evening special, without being obstrusive or cheesy.
It was an elegant meal with gracious service and ambience.
I like Bonfire Bistro. It is casual but I have always had very good food. It is very popular so arrive early. If you want the best beef, go to Wellington Cres, perhaps it is called 528? I can't remember. It is quite staid. Bonfire is alive with chatter. It is small and intimate.
Provence Bistro and Dubrovnik's are the closest to "exquisite" dining experiences in Winnipeg in terms of food and service. Much more continental in serving style (and food--Provence is French-influenced, Dubrovnik's is continental). Maybe Amici's (Italian), too, but I haven't been there in quite some time, so I don't know what it's like now. I'm thinking in terms of special occasion dinners I've had in the US and abroad at high-end restaurants, and I really think those two are the closest to those standards (but they would still fall short if you're doing a direct comparison).
The only Spanish place is Segovia, but it's tapas, not a full-course meal, so I wouldn't categorize it as a very special dining experience. While the dining room is a little more upscale than your usual tapas place, it's still tapas. It's also a little noisy, so I don't know if it would suit the occasion. But the service is very personable, the food is well presented, and I like the atmosphere. No reservations are taken, though, so you'd have to go early (like 6) unless you want to wait an hour or so for a table (at least on weekends, I'm not so sure about weekdays).
Another possibility is Mise. Friendly and competent service, but not exquisite, in my opinion.
No live music at any of the above.
222 Osborne St, Winnipeg, MB R3L, CA
Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness with your suggestions. What is the atmosphere like, is there any music at all, loud/quiet, intimate or upbeat and fun? We could scratch "exquisite" for interesting and unique as long as the service is excellent and the food is delicious. What are your thoughts on Fusion Grill -- the atmosphere - interesting? Mise is regional cuisine yes? Isn't Fusion as well? I just want them to have a wonderful meal inside an interesting/entertaining space.
222 Osborne St, Winnipeg, MB R3L, CA
Mise and Fusion Grill are both "regional", but there's nothing really regional about them in terms of preparation. In Winnipeg, the use of pickerel, bison, and wild rice allows a restaurant to qualify as "regional". But the food isn't particularly distinctive.
I haven't been to Fusion Grill in a few years, but I did enjoy the food when I was last there. I can't really remember much about the experience, or even the food except that I thought the meal was fine. I've heard some mixed reviews recently, though.
Mise--I think they do better with appetizers than mains. They're not bad, just not stellar. It's sort of like casual fine dining to me (but not too casual). I don't find the atmosphere particularly fun or upbeat, but it's not uptight, either; it's just a usual restaurant to me.
Provence and Dubrovnik are both a little more staid, but not stuffy. The food is solid and the service is well-trained. I don't really pay attention to music, so I can't even remember if either has any (but if they did, it would probably be classical), and I wouldn't qualify either as upbeat or fun, but you can have a great conversation with your guests and actually hear each other.
Personally, even though it's a little more casual, I'd choose Segovia if you wanted something a little more interesting. It does get a little loud there when it's busy, but it isn't too overbearing. As for the food, I think the chef's experience abroad has informed his preparation of the food quite well, so he pays a little more attention to details many other restaurants don't. Not all of the dishes I've had have been unqualified successes, and some venture into the pretentiousness that seems to mark the Winnipeg food scene all too often, but I think he does a very good job with what he does. As far as music, I know there was some, but I don't remember it. Spanish acoustic guitar? I'm sure it changes. The atmosphere of the restaurant is relatively sophisticated *for Winnipeg* and the staff is very helpful and personable without being disingenuous. I heard them explain tapas and many of the dishes many, many, many times to different tables (apparently few Winnipegers are familiar with Spanish food and the concept of tapas), and not one of them ever sounded annoyed or bored. Plus even though I perceive tapas as being on the casual side, Winnipegers seem to think it's a little more upscale, so most people who dine there aren't dressed like rubes. There are probably a number of Winnipegers who would consider it an upscale restaurant.
But the no reservations thing would be a problem. If you called them, you might be able to get them to make an exception if you're willing to dine early, but that's a very big "might".