Sunday, February 19

Sushi in St. James

Although I pride myself in discovering downtown dining, I sometimes like to venture into unfamiliar territory to try something new.

From a culinary standpoint, Winnipeg has experienced an influx of sushi restaurants popping up all over the city in the past few years.  Some of my favourite places include Sushi CushiHanabi and Blufish.

After a friend of mine on Instragram shared a mouthwatering photo from Tokyo Sushi, I couldn't help but head down to St. James to see what all the fuss was about.

We went to Tokyo Sushi on a quiet Sunday night.  They had plenty of parking available in front, behind the restaurant and on the residential street beside it.

The restaurant doesn't look like much from outside, but you'll be delightfully surprised upon entry.  Faux greenery covers the floors on both sides of the walkway, with a custom wooden arch acting secondary as a door.

The restaurant in itself has a very oriental feel, which is more traditional than most sushi places I've been to.  The walls are covered in a muted red paint, with plants propped up on most countertops and ledges.  Lanterns adorn the ceiling and shine light on the otherwise dim atmosphere.  There's also a beautiful sakura tree and miniature lit house in the middle of the restaurant.

There are about a dozen tables in the restaurant, and the waitress seated us by the window looking out onto Portage Ave.  She was dressed in a kimono, which added another touch of oriental authenticity.

I started off my order with a sushi pizza ($7.95) - an unconventional item I order at all Japanese restaurants, if it's available on the menu.  Generally, a sushi pizza is made up of different raw fish drizzled in teriyaki sauce and (sometimes) mayo, atop a deep-fried rice patty.

I requested a vegetarian version of the dish, which was instead topped with tomatoes, avocado and apple. The tomato was juicy and the apples were sweet, if not tasteless.  The rice patty was a little overcooked, making it hard and chewy on the bottom of it.  Not the best I've had, but not the worst either.

Our main order included the avocado roll ($2.95), spicy vege roll ($4.45), b.c. roll ($4.45), teriyaki chicken ($4.45), bagel roll ($4.45) and vegetarian caterpillar roll ($8.95).

The rolls were average in size, except for the massive avocado pieces.  The sauces were tasty and the spicy sauce on the vege roll was the perfect blend of spicy and sweet.  Their chicken teriyaki roll, which is traditionally made with breaded chicken, was instead cooked with chicken covered in tempura batter.  It was an interesting alternative to the normally thin coating.

The only concern was overly chewy seaweed, making the sushi rolls a bit harder to swallow.

Tokyo Sushi has great presentation skills, both in the plating and atmosphere.  Their sushi is slightly above average, and their service is nothing out of the ordinary.  Nonetheless, it's worth the trip to admire the decor, and perhaps try out one of the popular specialty rolls.

Tokyo Sushi on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 15

"The World's Largest Kitchen Party"

Christmas and New Year's aside, there is one thing I always look forward to during the snowy season: le Festival du Voyageur!


This 10-day long winter festival is held in Saint-Boniface, celebrating Canada's unique French history and the fur trade era.

Get your snowshoes on, your fur hats ready, and don't forget to pay Fort Gibraltar a visit next week!  If not that, at least drop by for a mini donut or two.

This year, the festival runs from February 17 to 26.

The Voyageur Pass gives visitors access to the Voyageur Park and free/discounted admission to all other official sites for the duration of the festival.

Adult passes are $22 (day passes are $13), youth $7 and children five and under enter for free.

For more information on the Festival du Voyageur, click here.

Sunday, February 12

What's for breakfast?

In a perfect world, my breakfast plate would consist of:


A crepe from Cora's
Toast from The Tallest Poppy
Jam from Stella's
Hash browns from The Don
Croissants from Tall Grass Prairie

I've gotten a ton of great recommendations to breakfast joints I've yet to explore, including Fresh Cafe, The Nook, The Black Sheep Diner, Pineridge Hollow, French Way Cafe and Sunday brunch at The Fort Garry Hotel.

I'd like to know what your favourite breakfast food items are, and where from!  Share your comments below, because I'd love to write more about some of Winnipeg's best morning meals.

Paint it orange

Everyone knows that nothing rhymes with orange.  It's the same joke the storefront Rhymes With Orange has probably heard a number of times, although it's still in its early infancy.

The new vintage shop opened last December, merging two local businesses - one being Doug Shand's Vintage Glory, the other Erin Thiessen and Stefanie Hiebert's Oh So Lovely camper-trailer.  Some of you may recognize the stylish wagon from The Fringe Festival last year, featuring one-of-a-kind pieces from the 40's to the 70's.

My good friend Josh Alao and I went to visit Doug at their shop in the Exchange District a couple weeks ago to hear more about the merger of the two local gems.  The interview is soon to follow, but here's a sneak peak of what we saw in store!

You can visit the Erin and Stefanie's very successful blog here.  I also recommend following them on Instagram, an extension of their timeless vintage style in photograph.

Pick a pop at Pop Soda's

First walking into Pop Soda’s, I felt like I was in a dream sequence.

It’s an eclectic mix of the old and new: 7,000-square-feet of pre-loved vintage furniture, abstract art and sunken woolly couches.  Upon entry, you’ll find yourself walking into a brick room painted over in orange, white and red.  They call it The Coffeehouse.  There are booths, tables and a few couches in the seating area best known as the quieter side of the restaurant.

The diving brick wall connects the two main rooms with little peek-through windows.  These openings peer into what they call The Shoeless Gallery, but socks and slippers are permitted.  There are dining tables, couches and a tall bookshelf with reading material and board games.  The walls are adorned with adorable depictions of the solar system, a massive white tree and a pop soda top.


There’s also a stage at the front of The Shoeless Gallery where local performers set up during the day for family-friendly events, and at night to belt their hearts out.


This building sure has personality, to say the least.

I was a little confused when walking in, but the staff member at the front was both friendly and accommodating.  We picked up a menu, decided on two small dishes for the night and made our orders back at the front till.  Instead of table numbers, they have cards with different exotic animals.  We had the Koala.

We started off with two root beer floats; because ordering pop is a given if you’re going to Pop Soda’s!  We got two cool bottles of Dad’s Root Beer and two glass mugs filled with ice-creamy goodness.  All of their sodas are reasonably priced at $2.25, their floats at $3.50.

Our food order came out in less than 15 minutes.  From their menu of salads, soups, paninis, flat breads, nachos and pastas, we opted for Kiki’s bruschetta (spicy white cheese with garlic and onion, $7.00) and Baba’s perogies (served with sour cream and your choice of hickory bacon or kielbasa, $11.95).

Their appetizer bruschetta platter was massive.  I had six huge morsels of toasted bread covered in ricotta, cheddar cheese, red onion and hot sauce.  They were tasty and filling, but here’s a warning – they can get quite spicy after a few bites.

The perogies were sprinkled with herbs, onions, garlic and large pieces of kielbasa sausage on a bed of lettuce leaves.  They were gooey, tasty and the flavours all blended together quite nicely, but careful of the huge pieces of garlic on your plate.

If you’re feeling adventurous, they have something called The Devil’s Ball Challenge.  If you finish this 21” Panini loaded with corned beef, bacon, sausage, meatballs, spicy eggplant, three cheeses, lettuce, hot sauce, tomatoes and potato salad in 45 minutes, you get to have it for free!  If you opt this route, let them know the day before so they can get their ingredients in line and their video tape rolling.

I loved my experience at Pop Soda’s - if not for the food, for the atmosphere.  There’s something so homey and welcoming about being able to take your shoes off, curl up on the couch and read a book or two.

Pop Soda's Coffeehouse & Gallery on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 8

Sh*t Winnipeggers Say

"I hate Winnipeg."

I've said it a few times.  I've heard it hundreds of times.  We can moan and groan and make fun of Winnipeg all we want, because that's just what Winnipeggers do.  But no matter how many times we complain, there's bound to be a soft spot in our hearts for our snowy city.

Last week, my friend Reid and I decided to record a Winnipeg version of the "Sh*t __________ Say" meme.  Although this trend has been done to death, I still wanted to leave a digital mark in honour of our hometown.

Within 24 hours, our video fostered 5,000 views.  It's currently sitting at over 15,000 views - and counting!  Needless to say, I really appreciate everyone's support in making this production a success.

Thanks to everyone for both the positive comments and constructive criticism on what we have said and haven't said.  It's important to hear feedback to help us get better at what we do!

Thursday, February 2

Thida's special sauce

With so many different Asian restaurants popping up all over Winnipeg, how does one stand out from the rest? In the case of Thida’s Thai Restaurant, it’s their homemade peanut sauce.

Donn Eccles, restaurant manager and son-in-law of owner Sunee Inthon, plans on patenting their widely popular peanut sauce and selling it on supermarket shelves. “Who knows, it might be the next Frank’s Red Hot Sauce!” he jokes.

Thida’s is located at the corner of Donald and Broadway, tucked behind the The Fyxx Espresso Bar. Inthon decided to take on the business in 2006, shortly after her family immigrated from Thailand. They moved the restaurant from its previous location on Fife Street, but decided to keep the name Thida meaning “daughters” in Thai – a fitting title, considering her daughters and son help her run the business.

All walks of downtown patrons come flooding into the restaurant during the lunch hour rush. The deceptively small entrance leads into a beautifully decorated space with traditional Thai trimmings, numerous tables and booths, as well as a large flat-panel television mounted on the soothing red walls.

“It’s nice downtown. A few of our regulars work at nearby hotels. When people come from out of town and ask where to eat, they tell them if they want great food to come here,” says Eccles. “The people are great, and everyone that comes down here loves the food. I know half of the clientele by their first name.”

Thida’s prides themselves in using the freshest ingredients and cooking dishes that taste just how they would back in Thailand. Customer favourites include their garlic pork, mango salad with shrimp and basa fish.

“There’s a lot of Thai restaurants, but out of 10, maybe only three are owned and operated by Thai people,” says Eccles. “The customer can really taste the difference in the cooking.”

Business profile written for the Downtown BIZ

Thida's Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon