Address: 909 Dorchester Ave
Small Plates: $5-$22
In a city as culturally diverse as Winnipeg, there is no lack of inspiration for chefs seeking to explore flavours from across the globe. The resulting fusion across cultures has birthed new diverse dining categories. It is into one such novel genre that Máquè, the new open for Deseo and Enoteca chef Scott Bagshaw, steps. Like Enoteca, Bagshaw’s River Heights haunt, Máquè features few seats, an open kitchen, and small plates made for sharing. The twist comes in the flavour profiles that populate the carefully considered menu.
Inspiration comes from Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisine, translated into carefully balanced plates that blend far east flavours with French derived technique. Plump dumplings, with tacky dough giving way to juicy pork, are paired with a thick smear of almond butter, playing off the warm notes of Chinese five spice powder with pairings that both complement and deepen the complexity of its flavour. Coins of Japanese eggplant—each topped with a piece of lobster—swim in a gingery black bean sauce which replaces the saline punch of traditional Chinese versions with an earthier richness.
A dish of tender crab, lobster, bacon, and caviar is a menu highlight. The delicate jumble of seafood is doused tableside with a fragrant, swoon-inducing blend of red curry and lobster bisque. This revelatory French-Thai mash up is impossibly rich, savoury, and spicy, overset with hints of sweet coconut and a whisper of black truffle.
Straight adaptations from the world of take out boxes are also found here, like greens fried with XO sauce or fried rice elevated with the likes of oyster mushroom and truffle. Multiple orders of steamed buns can be spied on every table. Drawing Momofuku comparisons, the pillowy crescents are stuffed with a mix of crisped pork belly, peanuts, ssäm sauce and a sliver of pickle.
While many dishes eschew strong funky and fiery flavours for subtle complexity, an egg noodle dish in fermented bean and chile sauce is a rare tongue-scalder, spiciness playing boldly off of the rich tenderness of duck confit.
Décor is simple, with drawings of sparrows (the Chinese translation of the restaurant’s name) adorning the window-wrapped room. Though simple wooden chopsticks replace silverware, saucy French-inflected dishes beg diners to lick the plate.