Around the world in 8 or 9 plates
Winnipeg is a city where over 100 languages are spoken, so it should come as no surprise that a world of flavours are represented in our restaurants. Our dining scene has always had excellent ethnic hole in the walls, while new rooms have also opened in the last several years where immigrants have brought authentic dishes from their homelands.
Here are some of our city’s can’t-miss worldly rooms – which, ironically, are literally easy to miss because some of them are pretty hidden, being either place at the bottom of buildings, in strip malls, or at the bottom of a parking garage.
107-180 King Street
Noodle Express is in every sense a hidden gem. It’s located within a circular glass door on the bottom of the Dynasty Building in Chinatown. While there is no shortage of dim sum options in Chinatown (and south on Pembina Highway for that matter) connoisseurs are adamant that this bare bones, no frills room – which is often packed – is the top spot in the city for steamed buns and bowls. It’s incredibly cheap too.
193 Isabel Street
Bi Bim Bop.
A couple blocks to the northwest is where you will find Kimbaek Restaurant. It’s located in the Isabel Square strip mall and it’s where all the spicy, gochugaru flavours of Korea area served in a bustling little room. Dishes of note include spicy bulgogi, gamjatang (pork bone soup), LA beef galbi (served on a sizzling plate) and what has become possibly their most celebrated dish, the Haimool Pajun – a giant egg pancake brimming with squid and vegetables.
Vegetable fried rice.
Continuing north over the tracks at Arlington Street is Lao Thai. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it delivers massive flavours in a tiny setting. Family run by the affable Laotian Boonthajits (the mum does the cooking, the son does everything else) this place has awesome, authentic dishes like souk gai – a tangy clear Laotian soup that is seriously addictive; Thome Yam – an aromatic soup with straw mushrooms and green beans; and Seen-Hang – a dried pork (sort of like jerky) that is seasoned with lemongrass. They also have a pretty rad version of vegetable fried rice served with Laotian-style fried chicken.
Baraka Pita Bakery
1783 Main Street
Chef Rami Aboumrad.
Pita pocket goodness.
If you were to keep driving north then swing a right toward Main Street you’d find yourself at Baraka Pita Bakery where Lebanese cuisine – served up by an incredibly friendly family – comes right out of their open-flame natural gas oven. Their popular pita pockets are folded and baked right before your eyes while their chicken shawarma and beef donair are as good as it gets; the meats are cut right from the spit, the garlic sauce is out of control delicious, and the Persian pickles are the tangy in the best way possible.
Dwarf no Cachette
Neighbourhood: St. Boniface
157 Provencher Boulevard
If you were to head back down Main Street and over to St. Boniface you could find yourself in surely Winnipeg’s most unique restaurant. Located on Provencher Boulevard, Dwarf no Cachette takes kawaii (cute in a Japanese context) to a whole new level. As the name indicates there are dwarfs hidden all over the place; Tuesday is Maid Café day (where the servers dress as maids and do dance routines – not in a kinky way, so get your mind out of the gutter); they have a gift shop filled with cool Japanese stuff; all the menus are handmade like a scrapbook; and the food, well it’s just as you’d get in Tokyo (where owners Takekuni and Yasuko Akimoto are from). The ramen is rich and ideal on a winter’s day while their okonomiyaki and takoyaki pair perfectly with an ice-cold Kirin.
Famena’s famous roti/curry
295 Garry Street
From there, go across the Esplanade Riel to downtown’s most unassuming restaurant – which is literally sandwiched between the entry and exit of a spiralled parking garage. You could easily walk past Famena’s Famous Roti/Curry and not know it, where it not for the enchanting smells permeating from the place. As the name would suggest, curries are the name of the game here. The owners Famena and Mohammed are from Guyana and do great work with ox tail and goat, stuffing rotis to the size of small footballs. It’s also a fun spot to sit up at the counter (which is the only option) and chat with owners and regulars, many of who are from the West Indies.
Neighbourhood: South Osborne
722 Osborne Street
From there take a drive down Osborne to BMC Market where Betty and her husband Rigoberto, who both come from Morelia, Mexico, make real deal tacos – no cheese or sour cream, just slow braised meats topped with onion and cilantro (3 for $5 or $6, so pun intended). Betty makes all the tortillas by hand to order, the have a great beer selection that includes Negra Modelo, and you can also pick up great ingredients from Mexico. Plus, they are simply lovely people who have become adored in the South Osborne neighbourhood.
Finally, continue all the way south down Pembina Highway toward the University of Manitoba and Investor’s Group Field, for its here, in a vast strip mall, that some sublime Hong Kong style fare at Sun Fortune awaits. The large circular tables at this place are always filled with families devouring hot pots and all manner of fried rice. We are especially enamoured with their Peking duck which is served in the traditional way with crispy skin crapes followed by stir-fried lettuce wraps.