Address: 550 Academy Rd
Fusion Grill has been cutting the path for the Manitoba Regional Cuisine movement since opening in 1996. Alongside Ciao! and a host of other passionate restaurants and chefs, owner Scott McTaggert and his team made it their mission to work with local suppliers and get diners excited about eating food grown right here in our own province.
20 years later, Fusion Grill and chef Lorna Murdoch are still pushing the envelope. In a time when “local” is a buzzword and beets are as common as French fries on restaurant menus, it remains on the leading edge of pioneering prairie cooking, picking up underused ingredients, sourcing seasonally, and partnering with many small farms and suppliers based within Manitoba.
Grass-fed beef, for example, is sourced locally by the cow, with cuts announced nightly as the kitchen works through the animal. Pike from Lake Kisseynew unites with greens from East Selkirk (Braman’s), all married under a surprisingly spice-kicked curry crust.
The local ethos is evident even on the walls of the inviting 41-seat room, on which hang local artists’ renderings of prairie scenery, awash in sunlight and puffy clouds.
Despite the longevity of the restaurant’s commitment, the menu continues to evolve not only with new ingredients, but modern flavour profiles and cooking techniques.
The changing vegan entrée, for example, is given thoughtful attention. Tender black bean cakes are layered with a buttery avocado emulsion and a salsa that unexpectedly incorporates fiddleheads. The tower is set in a pool of slightly sweet strawberry port sauce, with a tart edge giving way to an almost chocolatey richness.
The hyper-local ingredient list does nothing to limit the menu’s range. The tour of flavours laid out here spans the globe.
A row of miniature samosas is a palate-perking appetizer, incorporating wild rice and beluga lentils. Slavic-style ryazenka yogurt made by local producer Dairy Fairy is a rich accompaniment, adding a pleasantly cool, sour note.
In a Canadian twist on traditional paella, Northern Pike stands in for the fruits of the Mediterranean Sea, and a ring of PEI mussels enshrine the plate. The fragrant mélange of rice, vegetables, and spicy sausage hits with a rich saffron-laced punch.
Owner Scot McTaggert has long been an advocate for the Canadian wine industry, and will enthusiastically share recommendations from a carefully assembled selection of bottles from Ontario and BC vinyards. Winnipeg’s craft beer scene, which has been building to a head recently, results in a growing beer selection as well.
Desserts are heavenly, including a comforting apple crumble in a caramel sauce spiked with Newfoundland Screech. Even for those who have had their fill, the housemade truffles that arrive with the bill—rich Callebaut chocolate blended with local ingredients like nutty toasted wild rice powder—are a sweet extra touch that ends the meal on a Friendly Manitoba note.