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Lobby on York Restaurant and Bar

Neighbourhood: Downtown
295 York Ave
Phone: (204) 896-7275
Entrees: $23-$45

Forget the recession—Winnipeggers are buzzing over the new high-end dining establishment Lobby on York Restaurant & Bar, which opened in May. With the talented veteran crew from Tavern in the Park (Barb & Dale Yuel and Chef Joe Dokuchie) at the helm and a super chic six-figured interior renovation, Lobby on York is the kind of place locals are excited to brag about. Housed in a former hotel, it offers an upscale this-feels-like-New-York dining experience. Combined with its central downtown location, polished service and dishes designed to impress this is the spot du jour, to send visiting city slicker relatives and business travelers.

Lobby’s taupe brown exterior—with bold lettering and pot lights that look like twinkling stars—is striking. Upon entering, friendly hosts greet diners underneath a breathtaking blue glass light fixture by famous sculptor Dale Chihuly (his 2,000 glass-blown flowers cover the lobby ceiling of Las Vegas hotel Bellagio.) To the right, a sleek black sushi bar and lounge area is typically packed post-work with sharp suits and skirts, while the stylish dining area (with two private rooms) attracts a sophisticated crowd for business deals, celebrations or a girl’s night out.

The owners play with an aquatic theme throughout the dining room: floor-to-ceiling bronze curtains are hung from the ceiling and cut to look like seaweed, soft blue waves wash over the walls and the statuesque bronze-tiled centre seating is upholstered dark brown with an aqua plant pattern.

When it comes to the menu, Winnipeg’s diverse cultural scene is reflected, including global influences from Austria, Japan and Morocco.

Chef Edward Lam, formerly of Miyabi, heads up Winnipeg’s first attached sushi and cocktail bar. The signature downtown lobby roll artfully blends pieces of spicy scallop and tuna tataki with unexpected ingredients like cilantro and chives, resulting in a subtle herbaceous taste. The refreshing crunch of cucumber in the roll contrasts against the seafood’s silken texture.

A steak house staple: chicken livers, appear as a starter. This retro dish is making a comeback on fine dining menus and Lobby delivers a spunky version of the typical liver and onions combo. Soft brown morsels—blushing pink on the inside with a jolting meaty flavour—top whole grain bread in a pool of light gravy. Slices of pear and cambozola infuse a pleasing tang, while crispy bite-sized tempura onion rings are the crowning glory.

Entrées are broken up into fine cuts, seafood and mains. One of the more unusual offerings is wiener schnitzel. Two huge portions of golden breaded pork are fried without being greasy and come on a bed of house-made spätzle. A drizzle of oil and sprinkle of parsley refreshes these chewy noodles. Order an à la carte side of whimsical corn brûlée—baked custard and kernels of corn are sealed underneath a sweet torched crust just like the dessert.

Renowned for his lamb at Tavern in the Park, Chef Joe continues to deliver with an astonishingly tender rack of Moroccan-spiced lamb. The menu lists a side of Indian flatbread, but doesn’t mention it is actually a small parcel filled with shredded lamb and chickpeas in a fragrant curry. A little dab of the picante green chile relish with each bite goes a long way.

Asian and regional ingredients meet in a generous serving of three panko-crusted pickerel fillets. The crispy coating flakes away to reveal the delicate white meat; creamy tartar with chunks of onion and classic seafood sauce are lovely complements. Save room for the fluffy sweet corn and wild rice waffle with smoked salmon on the side.

For a lip-smacking dessert, the typical coffee shop donut goes upscale. A sweet crumbly brioche donut soaks up a gooey, cinnamon-spiced syrup and vanilla ice cream; be prepared to fight over the last morsels of this exceptional dessert.

Lobby on York is open Mon-Wed 11:30 am-11 pm; Thu-Fri 11:30 am-12 am; Sat 5pm-12am; Sun 5pm-9pm.

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