Thursday, January 29, 2015

Era Bistro: 4/5

Big 'ol Burger
Score: 3.9
Platter: $14

Greek Burger (feature)
Score: 4.1
Platter: $14

Era Bistro opened four months ago in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) at 85 Israel Asper Way at The Forks. It’s a beautiful space designed by the Number Ten Architectural Group that also envisioned the Metropolitan Restaurant. “Gorgeous décor with a lovely bistro aesthetic and upscale furnishings” wrote Sande. The spacious restaurant seats around 80 and features a large open kitchen - there’s a row of chairs where diners can watch the cooks work their art. Half of the seating is at long wooden communal tables which suited our group of fourteen perfectly.

The CMHR is famously still under construction and the entrance isn't obvious. If you spot Gandhi at the trailhead, you’re close. Along with the erection of the Esplanade Riel bridge tower, the 'Broadway Promenade' was created tracing a line to Union Station and Broadway Avenue to “restore the original linear connection between downtown Winnipeg and St. Boniface.” The cobblestone trail included an 'Aboriginal interpretive site' complete with fire pit, which people took as an invitation to have a bonfire, so it was eventually
filled in with boulders reminiscent of a bell shape and renamed the 'Peace Meeting interpretive site'. In anticipation of the CMHR, Gandhi’s statue made an appearance and the walkway is now known as 'Gandhi Way' highlighting the true multiculturalism of Winnipeg and the ability of civic politicians to leverage the same real estate to recognize three different groups of people. I digress though, the CMHR entrance is by the skate park.

One thing all fourteen of us agreed on was the service was top notch. Jason seated us and didn't blink an eye when he first removed an extension table that I said we wouldn't need, then pulled it back and reset it again when I realized our number was to grow. Our server, Jereme, was very respectful, efficient and quick to greet us and take drink orders. Our visit coincided with Winnipeg’s city wide boil water advisory so he poured each of us a sparkling glass of Era bottled water. When Jereme delivered our meals, they all came at once and everyone got what they ordered.

There’s one burger on the menu – the Big ‘ol Burger, and on this day Era’s lunch feature was a Greek burger. The cooking and final assembly was all done in front of our eyes. I don't think I'd like working under that kind of scrutiny! The burgers were presented bun open with ripe, red tomato, fresh leaf lettuce and red onion on the cold side, and two big slices of leathery bacon and cheddar cheese crowning the large beef patty on the hot side.

If you ordered the Greek burger, it was topped with a balsamic reduction and feta cheese. After uniting the two burger halves, a very shiny Gunn’s Bakery brioche bun looked back at you. The side dishes shared the plate and dipping sauces were garnished with bright little flowers. Les ate his.

My Big ‘ol Burger was very juicy and I enjoyed it. It reminded me of The Keg burger patty but without the grill crust. It wasn't dense and it wasn't soft – some described the texture as fluffy. Sous Chef Steve told me they buy the premade 6 oz. AAA prime-rib patty unseasoned and cook it in their own recipe of herbs and spices. Era had made a beef patty in-house, but received such good feedback on the Sysco burger they decided to go with it.

However, most of the flavour of the stack came from the maple smoked bacon and some char flavour from the grilled bun. Some of our group thought they didn't have any cheese until looking at the photos afterwards. The bun was right-sized to the patty and did a great job of holding the assembly together and soaking up the grease from the succulent patty. The fairly plain tasting sandwich probably won't win any awards, but also won't offend any palates.

Nelson had the Big ‘ol Burger and wrote “Balanced burger flavours, but none stood out individually except the bacon.” Sande had the Greek feature and noted “Burger looked promising - juicy patty, generous size, shiny bun - but was underwhelming.”

The carrot fries were a hit. They were lightly battered, and the seasoning reminded me of a Chinese five spice salt. They were served with a cucumber dip. Nelson said the white potato “fries tasted good but were nothing special.” I believe they came with a curry dip - I didn't have a chance to try it. The creamy Carrot-Ginger soup packed a surprising punch from an abundance of fresh, spicy ginger. I really enjoyed mine.

Some thought the price a little steep for a good quality, but routine burger. Of course much of the value from our pleasurable dining experience came from the wonderful service and striking restaurant design. Located inside the beautiful CMHR building, and with somewhat limited hours, but still offering menu items like fillet mignon, pickerel and lamb, I imagine higher prices are a necessity.

Era Bistro on Urbanspoon

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