Neighbourhood: North Kildonan
Address: 2015 Main St
The city’s second largest park, famed for its summer stage productions, has been absent of food service to speak of, until this year. In fact, Food Evolution might be considered a culinary gift to the city’s North End, which has evaded entrepreneurial advances influencing how and what we eat. Judging from the multi-generational crowd filling the open concept room, this newest Wow! Hospitality restaurant is rewarding the patience of a community ripe with anticipation.
As the name suggests, food is changing, and under the tutelage of imaginative chef Michael Dacquisto, old is what is new–and exciting. Dacquisto’s experience cooking regional cuisine goes back to days helming the kitchen at Green Gates, one of the city’s first regional cuisine focused dining destinations. More than 15 years later, interpretations of local fare are trending more furiously than ever, and staples from the kitchens of Manitoba homes are appearing in fresh, playful ways.
It stands to reason that Manitoba Regional Cuisine–food that reflects its land and its people–would take many forms across this city. While our prairie province produces a plethora of ingredients for chefs to play with, an ever-evolving population bolstered by immigration provides plenty of inspiration. The more elusive, yet essential ingredient for restaurant success is an ability to identify the spirit of its neighbourhood.
Food Evolution does just this, a beacon in the centre of North Kildonan’s beloved park with a menu that speaks to the surrounding neighbourhood. “Old country” German, Polish, Ukrainian and Russian cooking is overhauled but the ingredients are familiar and comforting. Potatoes, beets, dandelion greens, dill, pork and pickerel are mixed with North End household delicacies like smoked salmon, schnitzel, sauerkraut, spaetzle and perogies.
Fresh recipe updates subtly interwoven with more tricked out creations keep all at the table happy. Two variations of beet salads succeed at this. Dandelion greens, dill and crème fraiche are topped with light and crunchy beet fritters resulting in a new favourite fried food; Metro meats kielbasa cubed and pan-fried adds salty depth to a row of sliced roasted beets atop arugula and sprigs of dill. Creamy Fontina cheese, hazelnuts and a few artful swizzles of buckwheat honey add molasses-like sweetness to this earthy dish.
Pork schnitzel, eaten in many homes but rare as restaurant fare shines in the hands of this pro. Tender meat with a crunchy light beer coating is topped with cream, mustard infused sauerkraut adding a silky sour kick. Pear compote accented with coriander and a heavy hit of pepper layers on a bit of heat, while pan-fried spaetzle provides a perfect backdrop for this flavour diverse dish.
Pan-fried pickerel is delicately breaded and served with creamy mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts jacked up with bacon. Chef Michael’s version of this unloved veggie almost outshines the delicious fish.
The last course offers a sassy and nostalgic finish to an extravaganza of tastes. Milk and cookies, a frozen fruit salad (fruit flavoured sorbet), chocolate fudge brownie and sponge cake take a cue from grandma (or Oma, Babi or Baba) but make no mistake, baba never layered her sponge cake with sponge toffee, cappuccino foam, caramel cream and chocolate ganache.
Food Evolution is open for lunch Tue-Sat 11 am-2 pm, for dinner Tue-Thu & Sun 5 pm-9 pm, Fri & Sat 5 pm-10 pm, and for brunch Sun 9 am-1 pm.