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Restaurant Dubrovnik

Neighbourhood: Downtown
290 Assiniboine Ave
Phone: (204) 944-0594
Entrees: $25-$46

(2009 review)

The tinkling of a grand piano; a distinguished maitre d’ clad in a crisp tuxedo; and the unequivocal sense that you’ve stepped into another time—all sure signs you’ve entered Restaurant Dubrovnik’s stately character house. In a dining scene crowded with sleek, modern restaurants clamouring for attention from the hip and trendy, this cornerstone establishment is a welcome breath of fresh air. It’s old-world charm remains as relevant today as it did upon opening its doors more than 30 years ago.

It’s rare to find a restaurant with this much finesse. A team of mild-mannered waiters thoughtfully deliver every detail of the meal from the water, to the bread, to the wine, to the food. It is a dance so seamless, it seems as though the staff know what you need even before you do. That precise attention extends to the kitchen as well. The menu of classically prepared dishes is every bit as impressive as Dubrovnik’s riverside setting.

An appetizer of escargots offers a symphony of textural agreements and contrasts. A crispy nest of phyllo pastry is sandwiched between tender slices of portobello mushroom and silken escargot. The arrangement is then enveloped in a buttery sauce flavoured with garlic and herbs. (Save some of the chewy Portuguese water bread from the breadbasket to mop up the extra.)

Foie gras is one of the menu staples that has made Dubrovnik famous. Served atop a slice of brioche, a port wine reduction absorbs into the cake-like bread until it nearly becomes one with the creamy liver. Slices of caramelized apple offer pops of sweetness and cut through the richness of the other ingredients. A glass of tawny-hued Sauternes (French dessert wine) is chosen to enhance the dish’s flavours and is served alongside.

Proving that even a restaurant with this much elegance can have a sense of humour, the lobster bisque ‘cappuccino’ is a whimsical offering. Although there is no actual coffee flavour, a mug-shaped bowl and a layer of delicate vanilla ‘froth’ mimics a morning cup of Joe. The sweet bisque is velvety and swims with generous chunks of lobster. Subtle spice is added with a sprinkling of cayenne.

Main courses include meats and seafood crowned with exquisite sauces. Fruit reductions are particularly outstanding and come bejewelled with whole berries.

Sour cherry sauce dresses a breast of duck with lightly crisped skin. Tart halves of cherry complement the bird’s lush flavour.

Lamb scaloppini is fork tender and served with a blackberry reduction. After simmering in the sauce, the plump berries exude the same earthiness as the lamb offering impeccable balance.

Regional ingredients get a nod with a juicy bison filet. A rosemary glaze gives the meat a light crust and provides fresh contrast. A pavé of nutty wild rice and sour cranberries served alongside is reminiscent of turkey stuffing.

After feasting, an enormous tray of eye-widening desserts made in-house daily, is offered. But the show-stopper is zabaglione. Whisked tableside in a copper bowl over a small flame, the sweet and creamy sauce is spooned into a shallow dish of fresh berries and melon.

Restaurant Dubrovnik is open Mon-Sat 5 pm-close.

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