Sunday, 31 January 2010

A Fiesta in a Corner of Downtown Winnipeg

Thank goodness I know a couple of foodie friends in Winnipeg! Not only can we sample more dishes from one place, but we can also bounce off each other our opinions on all aspects of the dining experience. T. & J., that was a good night; I can see a few more noshes in our sights down the road.

For our first foodie dine-out experience, we decided to try a new Mexican grill restaurant called Don Pedro's. Tucked away in a quieter nook of the Exchange District behind the cluster of arts and cultural institutions, it's the kind of place one would kick back, chill out and have a good time over food and drinks with friends. It appears to be quite popular with the locals as well; spare tables were quickly filled within minutes, and reservations are highly recommended.

Upon checking the website I realized that I wouldn't get to experience some of the more unique aspects of Mexican cuisine that have yet to get mainstream foreign exposure, such as moles, but I was still determined to try this place nonetheless. Worst comes to worst, it would just be another restaurant I would have tried that I would either like or not like. If you like alcoholic drinks, though, this is a good place to choose from a decent selection of tequilas as well as various Mexican and/or tropical drinks like the mojito or the paloma. My friends enjoyed a few glasses, but I didn't touch any of that stuff. OK, so I hardly drink, but it didn't help that I had to drive myself home after playing indoor Ultimate after dinner.

For starters we shared the Tequila Drunken Shrimp, and we got so excited in trying it and were in the midst of a conversation that I unfortunately forgot to take a picture of it. The famed Mexican liqueur was noticeable in the shrimp and not too overpowering like some overdone versions of Chinese drunken chicken I've tried in the past. I thought that the shrimp may have been slightly overcooked, but thankfully it wasn't dry and rubbery. The bed of rice on which the shrimp rested, though not al dente, was not mushy, which I personally don't like. Our server was smart to provide us a serving spoon when he brought us extra plates so we could share the dish, a move I hardly see outside of restaurants that specifically serve dishes meant to be shared at a table.

For my main course, I ordered a chicken Chimi Fajita, which is a chimichanga filled with fajita ingredients. On the side was some hot sauce, rice and refried beans. T. also ordered a Chimi Fajita, but with steak as the meat. Both of us found that our meats were done well, and she appreciated the fact that the refried beans had a smooth texture. The portions were generous (the chimichanga itself was ~3" wide), and in hindsight I should have skipped dessert, but I enjoyed my main course and made sure I finished it all. Some sour cream and guacamole was provided on the side, and the guacamole was delightful. There was just a faint hint of cilantro or coriander in the guacamole, which was fine with me as too much of that stuff would've been too strong for my liking.

J. ordered for himself the steak fajita, and we could hear it approach our table as soon as it entered the dining room. As the photograph shows, there was quite a bit of sizzling smoke that caught some surrounding diners' attention briefly. J. said it was done to his liking and he finished it with gusto.

Lastly, T. and I decided to order ourselves some dessert, so we each tried a Choco Chimi. This chimichanga was stuffed with chocolate and caramel and had a side of vanilla ice cream. This portion was also pretty big, and I actually couldn't finish a third of it. Unfortunately, we both also thought that the Choco Chimi was a bit on the sweet side mostly due to the caramel. Perhaps if I skipped dessert I wouldn't have been so sluggish while playing indoor Ultimate just 1-2 hours afterward, but that's another story.

Don Pedro's was a loud, laid back and fun place to be, and the party-like atmosphere was complemented by the cheerful staff and at one point a live guitar performance. This would be a good place to go if you're looking for a place to dine out heartily and casually with friends and have a few good drinks to with your dinner. This would not be the place for you if you're very concerned about caloric intake, however.

Name: Don Pedro's Authentic Mexican Grill
Address: 114 Market Ave., Winnipeg, MB
Cuisine: Mexican
Price Range: ~$20-$40
Accessible: No

P.S.: One incident that happened during dinner deserves honourable mention here as it certainly made our night at the restaurant. As we ate our server checked on us to make sure all was well, then pointed out that J. looked exactly like "that guy from 'The Hangover'" (i.e. Zach Galifianakis). We all had a good chuckle at that, but it got so much better. As we waited for our checks, two women came to our table and said the same thing. One of them even brought her baby to the table and asked J. to have his picture taken with the baby. Just then, the server returned with our checks and he, T. and I were just laughing our heads off at the sight before us. It was absolutely priceless, and right on cue the baby started crying as the shutter went off!

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