Neighbourhood: River Heights
Address: 1670 Corydon Ave
Tapas are trending. Small plates have gone viral in a big way, from corner bars in Spain to slick New York hotspots, and Winnipeg is no exception. But with sophisticated flavours, brilliant presentation, and a bustling, intimate atmosphere, Enoteca has us securing our place on the bandwagon and settling in for the ride.
The much buzzed-about eatery is the latest open for Scott Bagshaw, coming hot on the heels of his 2011 opening of Deseo Bistro in South Osborne. Part of a new order of young chefs going off their gut, Bagshaw has let experimentation and taste lead the way in both the setting and the food, rather than standing on formality or convention. Pared down table settings equipped with the necessities—large wine glasses, paper napkin, cutlery, and the minimalist menu—set the tone for an experience that is all about the food, the drink, and the conversation.
Hip and stylishly understated, the 30-seat space makes use of every inch for a cozy dining experience. A communal table establishes the setting for an engaged style of dining that hinges on sharing. While praise from national publications and favourable word of mouth draws an eclectic mix of diners, complex flavours and inventive preparation are the real magnets.
Exquisitely unexpected dishes eschew popular pairings for new flavour combinations with added depth. Lightly charred Brussels sprouts are tossed with ruby red grapefruit wedges in a bright dish that plays the light astringency of the sprouts and grapefruit against the salty spice of chorizo and cool, tangy crème fraiche. Bagshaw’s roasted beets take the fashionable root vegetable in a new direction with molecular gastronomy flair. Thick almond gel swiped across the plate provides bedding for the jewel tone slices, topped with a light drizzle of buttermilk dressing and a generous scattering of microgreens and almonds. Prosciutto-wrapped pears finish the dish, in a combination that trumps melon with the green pears’ bright, citrusy notes.
On every plate, nothing is placed by accident; every element of the dish is thoughtful, a study of sophisticated flavour and depth. Duck confit graces the plate on a smear of funky black garlic, while roasted cauliflower is paired with wedges of apple and placed on a puree of cauliflower imbued with a red curry kick. Soft shell crab luxuriates in a sauce of its own broth, and roasted crimini mushrooms draped in truffle aioli bring earthy depth to a stack of flatbread and crispy chickpeas.
Even bar snack inspired offerings deserve rave reviews, like a mix of smoked nuts that arrive, still warm, in a heaping, fragrant bowl, slick with slightly floral oil and sea salt. Roasted warm olives electrified with a spicy pop of pepper are almost too addictive for sharing.
From the first plate to grace the table to the last, Enoteca presents a carefully crafted symphony of flavour that hits all the right notes.