Inferno’s on Academy
Neighbourhood: River Heights
Address: 414 Academy Rd
When Inferno’s Bistro on Des Meurons opened in 2003, Winnipeg was introduced to the delights of French bistro cooking. The elegance of French cuisine in the comforting style and price point of a cozy bistro was such a winning formula that it eventually spawned a second location. Now, five years after chef Fern Kirouac’s French classics were transplanted onto River Heights soil, comfort food-meets-nouvelle cuisine draws diners with tastes that please as well as challenge the palate.
The scene is lively – downright vibrant even early in the week, with a bustling crowd, bold modern art on the walls, and friendly servers. Music, a highlight of this neighbourhood spot, brings in appreciative diners. On nights when the tunes aren’t live, promotional offers on mussels and appies ensure an enthusiastic dining room.
The kitchen does its part in entertaining, too. Small and big plates are offered, along with a first rate line up of sandwiches and salads. Seared tuna with mayo and unagi sauce is folded into a croissant for a twist on typical lunchtime fare. For the carb averse, try tuna in a salad dressed with cashew vinaigrette.
The menu is a gravy lover’s dream. Lemon caper beurre blanc, Dijon cream, roasted red pepper, Saigon, and fresh tomato sauces adorn entrees left and right. Signature moules frites offer still more choices. The Madagascar bowl covers perfectly plump mussels with a sweet and spicy cognac green peppercorn cream. Thank the house for complimentary warm bread to sponge it all up.
Diners in step with tapas culture are rewarded with an outstanding choice of small plates from which an entire meal could be drawn. Cauliflower and three cheese ravioli is a stand out, atop a housemade tomato sauce that is light, fresh and slightly sweet. Mediterranean salmon tartare is a winner. Subtle saltiness of feta zings through each dip of pita into this Greek-inspired rendition.
On the other hand, there are bistro style big plates: Inferno’s legendary braised lamb shank, veal schnitzel, Arctic char and pickerel are all alluring options. Zucchini noodle pasta is as delicious as it is righteous. Long cuts of zucchini-turned-linguine are finished with walnuts, goat cheese, and luxurious balsamic vinaigrette.
End your visit on a sweet note, as the French know a little something about pastry. Lemon hazelnut tarte is pitch perfect.