Within the last week three eagerly anticipated places have opened in the city -- two of which are riding a wave of previous successes.
Let's start with Clementine (123 Princess Street), a brand new brunch spot which just opened on Thursday. It's the second restaurant from Chef Adam Donnelly and Carolina Konrad (along with chef Chris Gama and Raya Konrad), the power couple behind Segovia, which has consistently been one of Winnipeg's best restaurants since it opened back in late 2009. (It's also going to get the majority of the words here, as I haven't had a chance to get to the other two yet.)
We went yesterday for lunch, and I'm wagering that Clementine is destined to become the best brunch spot in the city. It's a place that Winnipeggers can fawn over, brag about, and bring their out of town friends to all the time, much like Vancouverites do with Cafe Medina (which I assure you is high praise).
For starters, the food: Case in point the fried chicken toast (pictured at top) which gives you two pieces of crispy bird perched on house-made sourdough that is so good it will see bakers getting their buns in a knot with envy.
The chicken is brined in a liquid swimming with citrus notes, the meat is spoon tender, and the batter has an audible crunch. Underneath it there is a tangy pimento cheese spread, while on top it's adorned with slices of pickled squash for acidity and texture, along with a smattering of cilantro and micro greens. At $10 it's a bargain -- get it with a side of fried beets with smoked cashews on curry aioli ($5) and you have yourself a killer meal that costs less than that subpar food court sushi you were thinking about.
The second item we inhaled all while singing its praises -- from the crunch of crispy quinoa, to the sweet snap peas, to the zesty smoked cashew pineapple salsa (which is the bomb), to the crust of the fish -- was the albacore tuna salad ($12). It all comes together on an assortment of greens from Selkirk's Braman's Greens (who grow the best leaves around; in fact, all the herbs and microgreens at Clementine are from Braman's -- as is the case at a lot of great Winnipeg restaurants) -- so you get bite combinations that are herbaceous, peppery, bitter and sweet. Get it with a tamarind lemongrass soda (refreshing, not syrupy, featuring the ideal amount of lemongrass) and you've got yourself good summer lunch vibes all round.
Secondly, it's the details: Anyone who has dined at Segovia will tell you that they get all the little things right, from breezy yet professional service, to ambiance. Clementine is much the same -- and it's only been open for three days!
We ended up sitting with a couple of our friends from The Forks and all of us hit the same talking points.
First, it's a bright space, despite it being a basement setting.There's only one window which is at street level yet the open kitchen at the opposite end illuminates the room along with white painted exposed brick and bar. The space was designed by Winnipeg-turned-New Yorker designer Fiona Sanipelli (who also did Segovia) and is a mix of industrial chic with North African cafe notes (my workmate also used the term "steampunk chic" which google images appears to verify #imnodesigner).
The layout features two long communal tables, which is a nice touch as it makes it seem less intrusive when you are spying on what a stranger (or maybe soon-to-be friend?) is eating next to you. One communal table is hip-level with taller stools, while the other one is low-lying, with stools that are attached to the table which swing out. The room is lined with banquets that accommodate two and four top tables.
Clementine is located at 123 Princess Street and is open only for breakfast/brunch/lunch, Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Weekends 8 a.m.-4 p.m. It's licensed and features wine, beer, a hair of the dog cocktail list along with coffee drinks made with beans and equipment from the same people behind Parlour and Little Sister (in other words, it has good coffee). No reservations, sorry.
To use a line I've gone with before, Winnipeg's OD is back (that’s original doughnut, “cruller was the case that they gave me”) as Oh Doughnuts now has a storefront at 326 Broadway. (Before, you could only get their creations at cool coffee shops like Parlour, where they were one hot morning commodity, while they haven't been on the scene since April 2015).
It just opened yesterday -- and Winnipeg's devout doughnut fans were very excited -- so excited that a queue started at 7 a.m. and all the doughnuts were gone by 12:30 p.m. (and they had made a serious amount of doughnuts). I just checked in with owner/doughnut queen Amanda Kinden this morning and she said today they'll be out by 1:30 p.m. (they've been making them in batches, as to keep up with supplying this demand).
But why are people so pumped for these doughnuts?
Well, for one they are embarrassingly good -- when you eat one you may find yourself hovering over it like an ugly bird protecting it's eggs -- while they also do an amazing variety of flavours and styles. There's the gorgeous lemon meringue, an Instagram darling which is filled with lemon curd and topped off with toasted meringue; there's crème brûlée -- crispy on top and pillowy in the centre; a croHnut; and even vegan doughnuts like the cherry Amaretto with toasted almonds.
For another, the ingredients are meticulously sourced, which of course makes for a better product. The organic flour is milled by Prairie Flour Mills in Elie (another producer that supplies some of our city's best) and the organic eggs come from my homie Hermann Grauer -- whose Nature's Farm company is just a peach. Everything about the store is either local, or sustainably sourced, while its take-out containers are either compostable or recyclable. Read more about it here.
Anyway, you can't order by phone right now as they are only just getting their systems in place, so you best get there early to get the pick of the bunch.
Oh Doughnuts is located at 326 Broadway. Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.-4 p.m..
The former home of Gio's has been under transformation for quite some time -- getting a whole new facade, and a pretty sweet skull-wearing-headphones symbol -- and just last week it opened as La Roca (155 Smith Street), Winnipeg's newest Mexican restaurant.
Here's what I can tell you: it is open Tuesday-Saturday, 3 p.m. to late, the menu has classics like tacos al pastor (and 8 other varieties), churros, tres leches cake, three ceviches, and table side guacamole (but not the awkward kind, à la Breaking Bad).
I know one group who has gone and they said the food was quite good, they have a rooftop patio, Taco Tuesday gets you three tacos for $10, and they have DJ's and live acoustic guitar sets during dinner hours. More to come when we get a chance to visit.