Sunday, 8 April 2007

An Osborne Village Backroom

Posted by Andrew

Osborne Village is a neat little "yuppie" neighbourhood in Winnipeg that's reminiscent of The Glebe in Ottawa. Both Osborne Village and The Glebe are close to their respective downtowns and sit beside major recreational waterways (Assiniboine River and Rideau Canal respectively). Both have all forms of housing from apartment towers to large mansions and everything in between. Both have a central main street (Osborne Street and Bank Street respectively) lined with an ecclectic medley of shops. And both have a mix of new and gentrified buildings that help establish the character of their respective neighbourhoods.

It is not surprising therefore to also see a good selection of decent restaurants featuring cuisines from around the world along Osborne Street in this area, and it is here where you'll find Mise. Had it not been for the red and yellow fascia signs facing Confusion Corner I wouldn't even have known that this restaurant existed at this locally famous landmark. As if it wasn't already hard enough to find it while casually strolling the streets, I realized that this was located in the basement of the two-storey building, and to top it off the entrance was from the back

Once you enter the restaurant, however, the atmosphere is warmer thanks in part to the treatment of the brick interiors complementing the furnishings and in part to the friendly staff. Mise's style of cooking, officially labelled as "Canadian regional cuisine", is an infused mix of different cuisines, much like Canada is multicultural today. The food presentation may be inspired by the French, but the flavours point to East Asian, Mediterranean, northern European and even local origins.

After ordering my meal I was first treated to an amuse-bouche of a curry potato cracker topped with a mix of chicken and gala apples in a creamy sauce and a cashew, giving the tastebuds a nice spicy kick and a soothing sweet finish. The focaccia was then accompanied by a hummus and sundried tomato butter (fortunately unsalted as the focaccia itself was sprinkled with coarse sea salt). For starters I had buckwheat blini with yellow caviar and creme fraiche. The blini were flavourful, light and cake-like fluffy, and there was just enough fish roe to provide a salty accent.

My main dish was duck confit and breast with spinach, fresh shiitake mushrooms and wild-rice noodles in a sweet soy-based sauce. The duck breast and leg, already flavourful on their own, were simply pan-seared rare, leaving the meat tender and moist while the skin had a light crisp to it. The sauce alone was pretty strong and reminded me somewhere in between of teppanyaki sauce and roast duck marinade. Though the sauce matched well with the duck, it unfortunately proved to be too strong for the fresh shiitakes and drowned out the flavour of the mushrooms. The use of noodles as the starch followed this dish's East-meets-West style, and the use of wild rice in Manitoba to make the noodles was hardly surprising at all.

It seems that a true Manitoban chef must use wild rice in as many different forms of his/her cooking. On top of being a base ingredient for the noodles in my duck dish, Mise's chef also sprinkled puffed wild rice on my dessert dish, a chocolate brownie topped with some heavenly cinnamon ice cream. A slice of caramelized banana was served on the side, and though it was a pleasant experience, it didn't seem to register with me how the banana should have played with the brownie and ice cream in terms of flavouring. Capping it all off in the end is a nice mignardise, a mini dark chocolate truffle coated in crumbled puffed wild rice.

Mise has shown that its food, like Canada and its culture, has been influenced by other parts of the world yet still gets its inspiration from home-grown foods as much as possible. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Osborne Street and Confusion Corner, it's a cosy little restaurant with food that befits Osborne Village. Perhaps offering a wider selection of Canadian and especially VQA wines might better round out its claim of "Canadian regional cuisine". All dishes are individually priced; there is no a-la-carte menu.

Name: Mise
Address: 22-222 Osborne St., Winnipeg, MB
Cuisine: Canadian Regional
Price Range: Dinner $50-70
Accessible: No

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