Winnipeg | 1670 Corydon Ave. | 204-487-1529
Five years ago, around the time that Scott Bagshaw was opening Deseo Bistro in an old downtown punk bar, the chef developed a reputation as the enfant terrible of the Winnipeg food scene. His second restaurant, in a strip mall between the upmarket neighbourhoods of River Heights and Tuxedo, aims to bring a little more refinement to that brashness.
The small, boxy room – formerly a Quiznos – is decorated with well-trained orchids and images of typewriters and optometrist charts. “No Whining/No Complaining/No Frowning” states a notice posted in the open kitchen. The almost-French, almost-Spanish cuisine here plays on unexpected notes that resonate: A puck of sweet raw scallop, diced and sandwiched between slices of lomo and pickled kohlrabi, gains sharpness from black garlic and dehydrated ginger. A bowl of dense salt-roasted beets and hickory-laced yogurt, about as Manitoba as Enoteca gets, picks up a crunchy balance from thin-sliced apple and toasted black quinoa.
That there’s no cocktail or draught beer program here reflects Bagshaw’s mistrust of trendiness. Anyway, wine is a better partner for his food – a nicely edited list features underappreciated selections from the Old World as well as the New, like New Zealand pinot noir and South African chenin. My server, the one with the denim shirt buttoned right to the neck, swears the rosé of syrah from Washington pairs best with the boar belly and romesco. Perceiving my doubts, he brings me a taste and proves it. You can build a reputation on that, too.