Address: 243 Lilac Street
Long before the tapas craze hit the city, Café Carlo was offering an appealing selection of “little plates.” Described as “Californian-Italian fusion”, the menu nevertheless explores flavours and cooking techniques from many other regions. From the Japanese influence of panko crumbs on the bistro’s prawns to the Mexican flair of its fish tacos, there are a wide variety of appetizers that can be combined for a satisfying meal. Local artists showcase their work on the bistro’s taupe walls, and the service is always knowledgeable and friendly. The cozy, 50-seat dining room makes it ideally suited for a first date or private parties.
Little has changed on the menu since the restaurant first opened in the late 80s, but a variety of specials each night gives the kitchen room to be creative.
One of Café Carlo’s most remarkable dishes appears deceptively simple. It is the humble pickerel fillet that shows off Executive Chef Dave Hyde’s skills. The golden brown, enticingly-crisp crust gives way to moist, delicious fish. Hyde wisely chooses to keep the sauce elements to a minimum, using a brown butter vinaigrette with parsley and just a hint of garlic to create an unforgettable masterpiece that is savoury with a tangy after taste teasing the tongue.
One can feel good about eating at Café Carlo. This restaurant focuses on locally available food such as Bothwell squeakers in its poutine and in-season Manitoba-grown vegetables. Everything is housemade, from the roast chicken gravy to the irresistible French bread, still warm and with a pleasantly chewy crust.
This poutine is memorable for its perfectly seasoned, housemade French fries and the aforementioned roast chicken gravy, which boasts generous morsels of tender meat.
Cut in-house, the beef tenderloin requires next to no chewing and is served with veal stock reduction, sautéed portobellos and herb roasted potato wedges with pillowy centres.
A visit to Café Carlo would not be complete without sampling its fresh pasta. The house-made ravioli is plump with a fresh-tasting mixture of butternut squash and ricotta cheese that has hints of tantilizing butter with intense sage notes. The asparagus garnish gives a sense of summer, providing an ideal counterpart to a decidedly autumn dish.
Café Carlo is open for dinner Mon-Sat 5 pm-10 pm, Sun 5 pm-9 pm and will re-open for lunch in September Mon-Sat 11:30 am-2 pm.