Fashioning itself like a Montreal-style eatery, Bistro 7 1/4 sets the dining bar high in Winnipeg by serving inspired specials like pan-fried pickerel with fennel slaw and celery-root mash.
UPDATE: Bistro 7 1/4 is permanently closed.
If you’re seeking out a boisterous and bustling urban hot spot, Bistro 71/4 is the place to be. Since opening in 2006, the Montreal-style bistro quickly became a popular spot on the city's restaurant landscape.
It's no wonder. The South Osborne eatery serves innovative plates using the best local ingredients, a bounty of boutique cheeses, and some killer mussels and shoestring fries. The chic bistro would easily be at home in some of the world's best food cities, like New York City or Paris.
In late January, the restaurant reopened after a renovation which nearly doubled the space, adding a lush and lavish New Orleans parlour-style lounge with rich, white leather banquettes, saturated purple accents, chandeliers and a large bar. The expansion is great news for locals and visitors. In the past, getting a same-night reservation at the bistro has been a frustrating exercise. Reservations, especially on weekends, are recommended to avoid disappointment.
For diners who love to be close to the action, take a seat at the chef's table—the open kitchen at centre stage in the dining room. Chefs do double duty making meals and, time permitting, chatting with guests sitting at the bar. Insider's tip: Amiable chef and Bistro 7 1/4's owner Alexander Svenne often mans the grill.
The menu includes seven kinds of moules and frites, an extensive "little plates" selection, and many entrées including a Fred Flinstone-sized beef hammer chop, roasted free-range chicken and Canadian rack of lamb.
For starters, try seared scallops with bacon jam and creamed corn. This small plate delivers big taste in a few bites.
With room to spare, dig into Macaroni and cheese with lobster. It's luxurious, comfort food at its creamy, cheesy, calories-be-darned finest.
Daily specials, which showcase local, in-season ingredients, are also worth a try. On my visit, lightly-battered, pan-seared pickerel (a Manitoba staple), served with pickled julienne fennel on a bed of creamy celery root, was an epicurean epiphany. It was simple and delicious.
Don't pass on dessert, which are thoughtfully offered in half portions. Chocolate banana bread pudding with caramel sauce is a warm, gooey denouement to dinner.