This Year’s Winner of Best New Restaurant (2009)
Address: 179 Bannatyne Ave
Phone: (204) 947-5434
Winnipeg’s culturally diverse dining scene continues to broaden. In recent years, high-end Japanese and Indian establishments have hit the mainstream, and now, first-time restaurant owner Noel Bernier and partner Leonard Wong want to make the same transition with the exciting flavours and unique dining style of South America. Judging by the bustling crowds since their Hermanos Restaurant and Wine Bar opened in October, a passion for Latin cuisine is catching on.
The spacious 5,500-square-foot restaurant (Taste of Sri Lanka’s former home in the Exchange District) draws you in with its mix of modern and rustic touches. A huge bar in the centre divides the room; there is a casual lounge on the right while on the left, the dining area is separated from the bar by a giant, cushy banquette. Communal seating encourages the South American sharing-style of eating. Gigantic framed photos of colourful landscapes, tango dancers and Machu Picchu showcase the continent, while exposed brick walls, multi-coloured cloth lamps and wood floors create a cozy atmosphere. Service is provided by charming native Brazilian beauties wearing chic black dresses and red heels.
Authenticity is also found in the Argentinean- and Brazilian-influenced menu, where meat reigns (they are some of the top meat-consuming countries in the world.) Most entrées are served on wooden cutting boards, a nice rustic touch.
There is a choice of two steaks on the menu, with plans underway to add more. The Argentinean strip loin is thick and juicy, smothered in a creamy blend of chèvre and crab that tangos nicely with a spicy chimichurri sauce. The generous portion of baby back ribs is presented with a large steak knife, which is for show since they easily pull apart. A subtle apricot glaze makes these slow-roasted ribs even sweeter. Mains are accompanied by sides of roasted asparagus, peppers and zucchini, and garlicky mashed potatoes.
Sablefish is the only seafood entrée on the menu and it is masterfully done. The delicate flesh is thinly coated in crispy cornmeal, fried and covered in freshly-prepared buttery hollandaise sauce.
Turn to the tapas list for paella, another great oceanic option. Offered in large or small portions, (the large big enough to share among two or more,) this feisty dish is served in a hot skillet with a bounty of seafood, chicken and sausage. The kitchen plays with the traditional tomato broth by mixing in coconut, lime and chipotle.
The popular Mexican pepper also appears in the restaurant’s sought-after empanadas. Three fried pouches encase a choice of fillings: black bean and beef; chicken and sausage; or vegetable and cheese. The meat combinations are pleasingly picante; a side of marinara-style sauce tones down the heat if needed.
For a divine chocolate feast, order the black gold dessert. A massive slice of rich Peruvian chocolate cake—designed for sharing—is covered in gooey dulce du leche and chai crème anglaise. Adding a spoonful of vanilla ice cream makes this dessert even more decadent.
Hermanos Restaurant and Wine Bar is open Wed-Thu 11:30 am-11 pm; Fri-Sat 11:30 am-12 am; Sun 11 am-11 pm.