Address: 1 Portage Ave E
Like the wood fired pizza oven or the Brazilian churrascaria, the tandoor is a tool singular to its cuisine. At Clay Oven, char-touched, blistered flatbreads and smoky curries show that traditional Indian cooking methods inspire more than the name.
The restaurant’s three locations in the city each boast stylish digs that elevate the dining experience. At Shaw Park, the swanky dark toned room with touches of sparkle overlooks the baseball diamond: curry and a ball game is quintessential of Winnipeg’s multiculturalism.
The experience begins with a ride up to the second floor in a sleek glass elevator, giving a view of the city. That is, unless you prefer to study the images of Indian cuisine’s essential spices on the elevator walls. This includes a helpful guide listing medicinal properties of each (so go ahead, order seconds).
A special menu explores the tastes of the little-known cooking style of the Hakka people. A fusion of Chinese and Indian flavours and cooking techniques results in dishes like ginger laced lamb, a fragrant stir fry style dish touched with warm spices. Another hallmark, manchurian sauce, appears several times on the menu. A Chinese sauce adapted to the Indian palate, it lends a hint of heat and a salty tang to fried vegetable fritters.
Pickerel is a standout appetizer, adding a third element of fusion to the party with the use of Manitoba’s favourite lakefish. The flaky fish is breaded and tossed in a slow burning sauce piqued with chilli.
Traditional Indian dishes are equally impressive. Chewy and charred, freshly baked naan is heavenly, especially when showered with fresh garlic and parsley or stuffed with cheese. Hearty curries in chic silver dishes (holding more than meets the eye) encourage eating family style.
Favourites like channa masala and subtly sweet korma are can’t-miss picks. Vegetarians will delight at the range of options, including palak paneer accented with an unexpected kick and packed with cubes of soft housemade cheese.
Drawing from light, seafood forward cooking style of India’s southern regions, prawn vindaloo incorporates tangy tamarind and coconut. The bright, acidic notes of tomato shine in this sweet and tangy dish.
Like good fusion food, Clay Oven performs the magic trick of marrying seemingly disparate elements into a seamless whole. You may find yourself wondering why you’ve never eaten in a glam dining room over a baseball diamond before.