One of North America's noteworthy restaurants: Montreal's Manitoba
Modern techniques, heritage ingredients: Montreal's Manitoba
On a forgotten side street in Montreal's non-touristy Mile-End neighborhood is a restaurant doing so many interesting things, it's been heralded by such venerated publications as The New York Times. Manitoba is assuredly destination dining!
It was a bit of a rainy evening out and I was lucky to snag an outdoor seat with umbrella: I had brought my dog with me! In this part of the world, I was definitely hauling out my high school French in reading the menu.
One of the co-owners, Elizabeth Cardin, has a background in botany and foraging. A fun, laid-back young woman, she waived her hand over some dying culinary window box herbs with a cigarette when I met her, laughing, "I know . . . I don't seem like much of a botanist." She is part of that Atlantic seaboard culinary wave (on both sides of the pond) of foraging wild herbs and berries, growing local things, hunting wild game. The foraged food movement took hold in Denmark and just as the Vikings came over and explored Eastern Canada 1,000 years ago, so have their culinary trends traveled.
Even Manitoba's cocktails utilize local things: Bloody Caesars (the Canadian version of a Bloody Mary) are made in-house with fresh Canadian clam juice for delicious savoriness, garnished with corn sprouts. They're seasoned with a high-end pepper mix: flavorful without being harshly spicy.
Their Pimm's Cup -- the famous British aperitif served at Royal Ascot -- incorporates tart foraged berries.
A nut oil for a light salad had spruce tips in it: making it taste like a vegan blue cheese!
Wild greens had a strong flavor, laced with elderberry jam for a sweet contrast.
A hearty dumpling in a small amount of broth was surrounded by a crisp cabbage chiffonade. Another dish with a Slavic-Balkan type bent was the mushroom crepe made with buckwheat. The dish also had zucchini, beans, leeks, crunchy carrots, grassy leaves. Any vegetarian or vegan would be quite satisfied with this dish.
For the carnivores, the divinely rich bone marrow came in huge, long cuts of bone, with a maple-mushrooms-cassis sauce. Spread on bread, this is quite the decadent dish! I definitely recommend this dish with a good Belgian ale; it cuts through the fat. Also, blanched, slightly bitter Swiss chard makes for a very well-balanced plate. If you're wondering . . . yes, I gave my puppy a bite!
I'm not usually big on chocolate restaurant desserts, but theirs was quite sophisticated: chocolate mousse with caraway, coriander, chocolate crumble, sea buckthorn -- also found in Nordic climes -- as well as elderberry and maitake! Sweet meets sour and earthy here.
Though off the beaten path, this restaurant is very popular: you most certainly better plan ahead and make reservations!