Neighbourhood: St. Boniface
Address: 312 Des Meurons St.
Five years ago, Ciao! editors named Inferno’s Bistro one of Winnipeg’s best new restaurants. In an industry where establishments can quickly go from sizzling to fizzling, the always packed dining room (and hopping summer patio) at this St. Boniface French-Mediterranean eatery leaves no doubt it is here to stay.
Today, the phone lines still burn up for reservations; call at least a week in advance to secure a spot on weekends. Discerning diners from all parts of the city are drawn to the restaurant’s relaxed, yet smart, bistro atmosphere, picture-perfect presentation and Chef Fern Kirouac’s imaginative dishes. The former La Vieille Gare chef’s long-time family involvement in the biz helped him foreshadow the popularity of quality fine dining in a casual atmosphere, one of the main reasons for the bistro’s success.
Spread over two floors, the main dining area features colourful art work and large windows facing busy Des Meurons Street. Upstairs, a few well-placed changing LED lights add a pop of colour to the intimate room, creating a cosmopolitan night time vibe ideal for a date. Set tables look sleek and sharp—much like the appearance of guests who dine here—with black and fiery orange square plates along with black napkins.
A basket brimming with fresh house-made breads, including cheese puffs, olive and walnut pretzels, baguette, focaccia and corn bread starts the meal on an impressive note.
Experienced staff easily recite a mile-long list of specials that change daily, which keeps things interesting, but the thick menu is also packed with adventurous choices.
There are 15 appetizers ranging from traditional French offerings like steak tartare to modern fusion bison spring rolls. Cheese lovers will swoon over cambozola frit. Three golden-fried parcels ooze a tangy blue cheese flavour. Ribbons of cream weaved into raspberry coulis combine into a sweet tarty pool that offsets the tang.
Shredded duck confit finds its way into potstickers. Lightly seasoned crispy wonton wrappers burst with sweet meat complemented with an addictive sweet-and-sour orange dipping sauce.
For entrées, espadon marine is a great choice, especially for those with a sweet tooth. Satin-textured swordfish is served under a hefty fruit salsa made of avocado, strawberries and mango. The glossy fruit chunks combined with an orange basil vinaigrette almost turns this meal into dessert. Sides of buttery twice-baked potato, broccoli and spiced carrot-rutabaga purée are also well-crafted.
Agneau et cepes pappardelle testify to Chef Fern’s creative talent. Inspired by the Mediterranean, flavourful pieces of spicy lamb are balanced with a creamy tzatziki and mushroom sauce. Peppers add colour to the thick, chewy noodles.
A French bistro experience isn’t complete without an order of moules et frites. Chef Fern uses curry to subtly flavour a bowl of soft mussels. They come in a lovely yellow cream sauce with large juicy pieces of mango chutney. The accompanying fries are perfection—salty, delicate and cut pinkie thin.
The dessert case is what dreams are made of, displaying house-made creations right at the entrance. Grab a fork and dive into the hazelnut milk chocolate chantilly. Below the creamy surface, candied hazelnuts stud a layer of caramel above a crumbly shortbread crust.