Star Grill Comments
Once again...what can I say. You have done such an outstanding job...it is a tremendous morale boost for our staff. The food, each year, somehow seems to surpass the incredible standard of the year before (those chardonnay meatballs were out of this world and the Mediterranean Dip was, as you said, outstanding and a great hit!) There are not sufficient words to thank you for all you do and the little bit you do it for...the presentation was superb, as well and as always.
What can I say but thank you so very much for always bringing great food, exceptional service, beautiful decor and friendly faces! It is such a pleasure to work with you - I never have to think twice if everything is going to be taken care of...I know it will! We make a great team and love having you as part of our NSI film festival functions!
Thank you so much for the fabulous catering of our bbq last night. Our staff have been raving not only about the food, but the excellent service that was provided. We put the last of the leftovers out at lunch today, and they went very quickly! We look forward to having Star Grill cater more of our events. Thank you again Shirley. Its been a pleasure working with you.
Star Grill Reviews
Cheryl Binning with Winnipeg Free Press
November 03, 2007
“It’s the holidays. You are supposed to be talking with people and there are so many more mingling opportunities standing up and moving around.”
Of Course, fabulous food is front and centre at holiday parties. According to local caterers, menu favorites this season include fondue, finger food and fun appetizers with extra flair.
Most importantly, party edibles have gone modern.
Shirley Vlassie, owner of Star grill, says hosts are choosing more daring fare for their party menus, such as tempura Thai black rice rolls and cashew-encrusted brandied sesame chicken served in spoons.
“People are staying away from the sedate and conservative hors d’oeuvres and trying more exciting and unusual foods.”
This Christmas, it’s all about spicing up your party with non-traditional flavours.
“The holidays are a great time to experiment,” says Vlassie. “Instead of a regular cheese tray, serve a brie wheel with caramelized sauce poured on top. It crackles when you cut into it. It’s fun to eat.”
As well, there are many more vegetarian options on party menus. And not just sliced vegetables, but gourmet items that are sure to catch the fancy of carnivores and vegetarians alike.
Serving local foods and regional specialties is also a growing trend.
When it comes to satisfying the sweet tooth, Vlassie says the trend in desserts is toward decadent finger foods, such as tiny pastries and chocolates, rather then big cakes.
Smaller-sized sweets are not only easier to eat standing at a party, they also allow guests to try different desserts without having to commit to a big piece of any one item.
“Dainties are very big right now,” says Vlassie.
Drink and be merry is the mantra of the holidays, and when it comes to beverages, wine continues to be the most popular party drink. But just as variety is the key to modern food menus, wine choices are also expanding.
Specialty martinis are also a holiday staple because they can be made to look quite festive. Many party hosts choose red- and green- tinted martinis for the holidays, or rent an impressive champagne fountain for some extra zing.
Although food and drink are typically the stars of the party, don’t forget to pay attention to how you serve the food and decorate the tables.
“The eye eats first,” says Vlassie. “So visual presentation is important. A lovely table setting and those extra special touches will be noted by your guests.”
David Sanderson with Winnipeg Free Press
July 07, 2007
Popular Portage Avenue restaurant an intoxicating cocktail of delightful food, celestial décor and little bit of MAGIC
Motorists, your parking woes are over.
Shirley Vlassie, owner of Star Grill, 2069 Portage Ave., is a firm believer in karma, providence and tow-away zones. “When you’re looking for a (parking) spot, you have to visualize it first, “Vlassie instructs. “Do this, and no matter how crazy the traffic or how busy the event, you will always find a place by the front door. I’ve been doing this since I was 19 and it works every time.”
(“But what if everybody in your party arrives at precisely the same moment?” asks a reporter who’s paid to pose the though question.)
“No!” implores Vlassie, almost coming out of her five-foot-maybe frame. “You CANNOT think like that or it won’t work. Don’t waver. Insist and demand and you will be rewarded.”
Unfortunately, the power of positive thinking won’t do you much good if you arrive at Star Grill without a reservation. The St. James gem is often booked a week or two in advance, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays. “But we always try to accommodate people who drive all this way,” Vlassie says. “If you walk in and we have, say, an hour window, we’ll try to work some magic.”
Vlassie has been performing culinary sleight of hand most of her life. Her father moved to Canada from Canton, now Guangzhou, China and opened a string of restaurants from Vancouver to Porcupine Plain, Saks., before settling in Winnipeg. Vlassie harbours not-so-fond childhood memories of peeling 100-pound bags of potatoes in her parents’ Hong Kong Restaurant on Main Street. The happiest day of her life, she maintains was the day that property was expropriated by the city. At the time, she swore to her father that she would never own a restaurant. That was 20 years and four kitchens (The Chocolate Shoppe, East Side Exchange, Niko’s and the Star Grill) ago.
Much of Vlassie’s current staff has followed her through each venture, Reid Edwards, Star Grill’s resident Tarot card reader, has been by her side for 29 years. Head waiter Ken Tyler (“my star,” Vlassie calls him) has taken orders for – and from – Vlassie for a quarter century. “And Susie, my bookkeeper, was one of my bartenders at East Side over 25 years ago; we’ve literally grown up together, “Vlassie says.
The 45-seat Star Grill – it’s situated almost directly across from the foot bridge leading into Assiniboine Park – is one part funk, two parts feng shui. Bamboo shoots representing luck show up on every table. Sets of chimes near the front the door thwart evil spirits. Silver valences, slung over decorative rods, provide a delicate canopy. Then there are the stars: hundreds of laser-cut, stainless steel luminaries line the midnight blue walls, while ones fashioned from carrots and not celestial enough for you, another thousand or so decorate the room’s main focal point, a once-proud fig tree.
“How that came to be was we had a break-in in 1997, a year after we opened,” Vlassie says. “Somebody busted right through the front door – it was, like, minus 69 outside – and the tree, a beautiful ficus benjamina, died. I couldn’t bear to throw it out so I told my staff that we’d sell stars for a toonie, let people write whatever they wanted on them and donate all money raised to the Rainbow Society.”
Vlassie’s menu – an eclectic mix of Mediterranean Asian and continental, including arguably this galaxy’s best calamari – is a hit with ballerinas and Blue Bombers alike. Terry David Mulligan, Jane Arden and Peter Mansbridge all make a point of dropping by the 11-year-old establishment whenever they’re in town. (Vlassie once asked the latter if her desserts would turn up on The National after the CBC honcho declared her Heavenly Mile High Lemon Pie “the best god-damned pie I’ve ever eaten.”)
Never mind that Vlassie has catered for the likes of KISS and Prince Charles (uh, that would be separately). Star Grill’s top testimonial hails from a Winnipeg woman who visited the locale once and promptly declared it the perfect venue for her upcoming nuptials. “She loved this little restaurant so much that she chopped her guest list down from 300 to 45,” Vlassie says. She told me, “I absolutely have to have it here.”
Star Grill is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
August – September 2009 issue
With the shouts of kids playing soccer, the pound of runners hitting the pavement and the whir of cyclists whizzing past trees, Assiniboine Park is at the heart of summer. All that activity fuels the appetite for a visit to Star at the Conservatory. Surrounded by lush greenery, it’s the perfect spot for relaxing after a day in the sun.
The verdant dining room, looking onto the park, is furnished in a palette of pastels and vases of bright flowers filled with electric blue- and hot pink-spiked water. A cute and whimsical star theme continues throughout with sparkly silver cut-outs dangling from strings and star-shaped pieces of carrot garnishing plates.
While pretty colours and sweet décor may lead you to believe this is a dainty experience, everything at Star at the Conservatory is big and bold. That includes towering plates; huge wedges of cake; a spacious and airy dining room; and a tome of a menu offering everything from casual wraps to creative salads to elaborate entrées. Similar to the menu at the sister restaurant Star Grill, this version offers a greater focus on regional ingredients.
One of the playful techniques used in the kitchen is the combination of sweet and savoury ingredients resulting in a harmony of flavours.
Manitoba Artic char is given a tropical twist. The fish’s firm flesh is delicately grilled and moist. A sweet mango salsa smothered on top is boosted with a dash of smoky curry.
A towering deconstructed bison Wellington offers a unique preparation on the regional favourite. Two triangles of puff pastry sandwich three hefty layers of mushroom and bison. Dressed with a blueberry demi glaze, the dish elegantly balances the gamey meat, sweet berries and earthy mushrooms. The delicate pine flavour of rosemary laces every layer adding freshness to the plate.
A puck-sized patty of goat cheese crusted in almonds forms the base of a sweet and tangy appetizer. Spread some onto a thin slice of freshly-toasted crostini and add the crowning touch – a robust blueberry-sambuca sauce that will leave you scooping up the surplus with a discreet finger after the rest has been devoured.
Chicken becomes a lush entrée when it is coated in a thick, crunchy layer of pecans. It comes on a pool of creamy maple sauce that complements the gentle flavour of the poultry and nutty crust.
Vegetarians find several thoughtful and creative options on the menu. The vegetarian tower is a toppling stack of juicy portobello mushrooms, roasted peppers and panko-coated bricks of firm tofu. A balsamic sauce adds depth as it soaks into the tofu’s crust, enhancing its natural sweetness.
During your meal, it’s hard not to notice the winking desert case filled with fresh house-made concoctions. Even before our plates were cleared, we found a reason to wander past so we could set to work contemplating our options.
An airy key lime cheesecake is speckled with vibrant shavings of lime zest. Emanating tartness, a thick whipped cream topping adds to the dish’s lightness. In contrast, a dark chocolate cake layered with peanut butter frosting is dense and sinful. A generous (and much appreciated) frosting to cake ratio is combined with whole hazelnuts yielding crunch and layers of flavour.
Star at the Conservatory is open daily 9am – 10pm.
100 Reasons to Love Winnipeg
Sun Media with The Winnipeg Sun
November 05, 2009
There's not enough to do in Winnipeg. The bugs are bad. It's cold.
We've heard all the complaints about the city we call home over the years. Heck, we're guilty as much as anyone of joining in on the negativity sometimes.
But you know what? Winnipeg really is a terrific city, unlike any other, and we wouldn't trade it for any other city in the world - especially Toronto. Man, that place is terrible.
Anyways, we here in the newsroom at the Sun have spent some time coming up with all the unique things we love about Winnipeg. We came up with hundreds of ideas, then narrowed it down to what we feel is a fairly comprehensive list of 100. The first 50 reasons appear today (in no paticular order), with the rest saved for tomorrow.
82. The Star Grill. A St. James gem whose specialities never disappoint.
Star Grill Successful Marriage between Funk 'n' Sophistication
The Discreet Diner with The Winnipeg Sun
June 03, 2004
The Star Grill manages to pull of a rare mixture of funk and sophistication. The service is rather good and the décor is mildly insane – another unexpected mélange that works nicely.
Picture a smallish restaurant with several cozy booths and few inviting tables, along with tons of silver stars floating hitcher and yon, numerous galaxy type ornaments and filmy curtains on the windows and you still won’t quite have the atmosphere. Best to go and see and savour for yourself. Make reservations first, because this joint is popular.
The Discreet Diner and The Friend were awarded a window table upon a recent visit and loved the sidewalk view of strollers out to enjoy the beginning of what we all hope is summer. Amid pleasant sounds from the guitar playing in the tiny lobby, we perused the Star’s eclectic menu. For appetizers, we considered the jalapeno shrimp with Thai basil and coconut milk ($10.95), paused over the scallops in a tomato Chardonnay sauce ($10.95) and almost gave in to the Asian pork and veggie spring rolls ($8.75). In the end, though, it was the lemon-pepper calamari with sweet chili sauce (48.95) which captured TF’s attention while the coconut encrusted mango shrimp got to the DD.
The calamari arrived in such tasty abundance that they would have fed two, maybe three people, and the shrimp were large, fat and flavourful.
TF wanted fish – pickerel to be exact – and lit upon the Manitoba pickerel with garlic lemon-pepper sauce ($20) with alacrity, if not a touch of unseemly greed. Choosing an entrée was not so easy for the DD because the menu offered too many interesting alternatives. The blackened Caribbean salmon ($20) sounded quite smashing, as did the Chardonnay chicken with scallops ($22) and the almond encrusted pork tenderloin with a Tequila apricot sauce ($21) almost won out.
That was before the DD’s eye fell upon the stir fry section which beckoned with its red curry stir fry with fresh veggies in coconut mile with Thai basil ($19), not to mention the spicy Szechuan peanut sauce, rice noodles with water chestnuts, peppers, bean sprouts and onions – also $19.
Finally, as TF waited a trifle impatiently, the DD discovered the pasta section. The crispy Chinese sesame chicken linguini in a soya-ginger sauce ($19) sounded most yummy while the hemp basil pesto linguini with tomatoes and mushrooms ($18) sounded intriguing. It was, however, the lemon caper seafood linguini with shrimp, scallops and salmon ($23) which made the cut. The linguini was most satisfactory, with a delicate sauce which enhanced the seafood but did not overpower it – something every chef must consider when fetching up seafood for clients.
TF meanwhile was a tiny bit disgruntled with her pickerel because she felt it was, indeed overpowered somewhat by the sauce.
“Pickerel has a distinctive but delicate taste,” she said. “And you have to be careful not to cover it up.”
She offered your DD a bite and she was right – the flavour did indeed come from the sauce and not the fish itself.
One of the fine things about the Star Grill is that all their meals come with a choice of salad – The Star, Field of Greens, Paradise or Caesar. The Star includes romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, oranges and almonds with a balsamic vinaigrette; Field of Greens offers broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, onions and romaine in a basil rosemary olive-oil, and romaine is a basil rosemary olive-oil vinaigrette and mozzarella cheese. It was, however, the Paradise, with its fresh fruit, romaine and cucumbers in a honey-Dijon vinaigrette, which attracted us.
We had just enough room for dessert and chose two varieties of chocolate cake. Both of us were a little disappointed with desserts which looked great but which turned out to be rather heavy and bland. And it is here that the DD wishes to question trend in many Winnipeg restaurants to serve gargantuan desserts which constitute a meal in themselves. Not good. Better to offer a small delicacy which gently compliments the meal and lingers temptingly in the memory.
The bill came to $100.12 with tip.
As an-after dinner bonus, patrons can take a leisurely evening stroll through Assiniboine Park to work off a few of the calories, enjoy the greenery and admire the many dogs out walking their humans.
The Star Grill Dishes up Art on a Platter
The Winnipeg Sun
January 02, 1998
The Star Grill in St. James is a little bit funky, with galaxy art all over the place (the DD was particularly enchanted by a tree of sorts, decorated with silver stars and lights), and a large bit delightful, with an eclectic array of food to satisfy the most demanding of gourmets.
The Star Grill kind of menu requires the aid of wine to help in the decision-making process - we chose a Chardonnay, the walnut Crest, in fact, which helped us picked out some appetizers.
The DD chose the scallops in a tomato chardonnay sauce at $10.95 and spent the next 15 minutes in gastronomic heaven.
The Friend meanwhile picked the tempura veggies with a ginger, soy sauce at $8.95 - nearly a meal in itself. "Crispy and varied," said The Friend.
For entrees, the DD paused at the blackened salmon, drooled discreetly over the pasta special (which came with a coconut milk sauce and which our server on her way to another table stopped to show us) and finally lit upon the almond encrusted pork tenderloin at $19.95. The Friend picked the beef tenderloin neptune ($24.95).
But before the DD waxes poetic over these two dishes, it is necessary to point out that these entrees came with salad, and not just any salad, but salads from the specialty menu. I chose the paradise which consisted of a bed of crispy lettuce complete with grapes, pineapple and orange slices in a sweet oil and vinegar dressing. The Friend fetched up with the field of greens, a fine picture of various vegetables with lettuce and cheese in a light olive oil dressing. Both were exquisite.
Take note that those patrons wishing but a light supper would do well to choose a delectable appetizer and a specialty salad.
We were offered focaccia bread but cunningly declined, having realized that the generous portions at the Star Grill might leave little or no space for dessert.
Back to the entrees: The pork tenderloin was delish. The menu said the pork was "encrusted" in almonds; "enshrined" might be a better word. The pork was, indeed, tender, and the DD was quite impressed with the accompanying snow peas.
The Friend's beef tenderloin was magnificent, beautifully cooked and surrounded by shrimp and crab as well as the aforementioned fab veggies.
The desserts at the Star Grill are better titled creations or perhaps, sculptures - all baked in house, of course. The mile-high lemon meringue pie is a monument to behold, and the skor chocolate cake and the red velvet cake represent visual titillation. The Friend was unable to resist the lemon meringue, while the DD opted for a chocolate swirl cheese cake. Excellent.
Patrons are sure to note the Star Grill's excellent presentation of the food. Each dish - appetizer, salad, entree or dessert - is a piece of art on a plate.
All of this for $114.75 including tip. What's not to like?
Shirley is the Star Grill. Her joy and passion for food is evident the moment you step into the 12-table restaurant. "I was cleaning out my son's closet back in 1988 when I discovered a poster of the stars." This was Shirley's inspiration for the name, and the poster proudly hangs at the front of the restaurant. Shirley believes that it is important to surround ourselves with positive energy. "You can conquer all with positive energy. My restaurant has evolved due to the people who work here... great energy comes from within our people and the success of the Star Grill comes from their combined energy."
Open brunch, lunch and dinner daily. Prices widely.
Across from the Assiniboine Park footbridge sits a small eatery, a mixture of food and fantasy. Celestial maps and stars grace the walls and you can have a heavenly reading done by way of tarot cards, I Ching numerology or tealeaves.
The cafeteria-style sugar shakers are in direct contradiction to the sophistication of the menu. But this is all part of the plan that Shirley has for her restaurant. "I want it to be a place where everyone feels comfortable, with a menu that will bring people back time and again, whether they are in the mood for a wonderfully exotic dinner, a decadent homemade dessert to or a homemade burger." Quality ingredient and attention to detail are the common links that build the menu items together.
Star Grill has six chefs on staff who are constantly creating new taste combinations for customers to enjoy. Thai spinach tort, Hoisin stir-fry, and an exotic fusion dish of salmon with fresh mango sambucca sauce are all customer favourites.
Shirley has a very personal passion for desserts. "I eat two desserts every night by candlelight in bed; some people might think it's strange" but this is how Shirley chooses to enjoy the masterpieces she bakes. Her signature dessert is a mile high lemon pie that Shirley bakes in honour of Lynda who made it for 20 years for Shirley's family.
When designing her menu, Shirley wanted to give vegetarians a place to come. Shirley is very sensitive to this lifestyle choice, as it is one that both her and her son have chosen for themselves. "We don't advertise but people know our cooking style respects personal food choice." Many dishes are available as vegetarian, chicken beef or shrimp.
Cena Postremo with Style Manitoba
For those seeking a cosmic dining experience, a visit to Star Gill is a must.
Located on Portage Ave., this cozy café features décor in an astrological motif. Pictures of constellations grace the walls and mystical silver stars dangle mysteriously from above, while strands of marquee lights and low lighting create an intimate dining atmosphere.
Our visit to this locale fell on Valentine's Day, when a specially created theme menu for two and romantic decorating details befitting the occasion were featured. The extensive menu at Star Grill does not disappoint. Appetizers include nachos, cheese toast, shrimp and spring rolls. We chose roasted garlic hummus served with sesame crackers and lemon-pepper calamari, which is, without a doubt, the best I have eaten. Salad offerings are sure to please and some accompany your meal.
The main fare tests one's decision-making abilities as it makes a qualified attempt to please all palates. Offerings include all the favourites - chicken, fish, shrimp, and steak. Pasta choices comprise of penne, fettuccine, linguine, tortellini and ravioli.
The Mediterranean spinach cheese tortellini was delicious but chicken breast stuffed with roasted red pepper, spinach and chevre cheese proved to be the best dish sampled. The Pisces Platter from the Valentine's Day menu was also sumptuous - salmon and garlic and mushrooms wrapped in phyllo pastry, topped with grilled shrimp and scallops, and served with julienne sweet potatoes.
After sating our appetites on the main fare, the dessert counter beckoned. Of the many house baked treats available, we chose the moist and pleasing red velvet cake; the peanut butter cheesecake was also a winner.
More traditional fare is also available, including an impressive breakfast menu. By changing an old adage, we could say that this establishment is a "jack of all trades and master of them all."
Jodi Morhart With Ciao!
Just over the footbridge from Assiniboine Park, you'll find the Star Grill (2069 Portage Avenue, 837-STAR (7827) with its smoky blue and grey interior, celestial charts, and Feng Shui-inspired chimes that play as you walk in the door, this little stop is surely a unique member of the local dining scene. The creation of this inviting space was owner Shirley Vlassie's intent when she opened the restaurant, which has a comfortably energetic and spiritual atmosphere. The restaurant seats forty-five patrons, with room for twelve more on a summer patio. While dining, you can experience tarot, tea leaf, I Ching or numerology with the help of Reid Edwards a knowledgeable and experienced reader, who will come right to your table.
The trio that run the kitchen work together to produce their culinary creations all of which are fantastically presented. The Star Grill's menu features a variety of temptations to please every taste. The grill's menu includes traditional favourites, vegetarian alternatives and everything in between. Whatever time you wish to dine the menu remains the same, as do the prices. Choose from lemon-pepper calamari, vegetarian spring rolls with chili-garlic mayo, or the Star salad as a teaser for the main fare. An eclectic collection of dishes follow including; Thai vermicelli stir-fry; stuffed chicken breast with mushrooms and Swiss cheese; pepper basil linguini with green olives; and the Star's flambé pepper steak. Those with traditional tastes can try the hand-battered fish and chips with malt vinegar, or oven-roasted turkey sandwich with pan gravy and home-cut fries.
Cap off your meal with a cafe latté and try to resist their sinfully (rum torte!) delicious (lemon meringue pie) desserts. An added bonus is that with two days notice, they'll make any of these up for you to take home.
In addition to the menu, Star Grill carries a variety of novel items for purchase-including incense, candles and wind chimes-all of which contribute to the cosmic surroundings.
The Star Grill is open Mon-Thur 10am-10pm, Fri 10am-11pm, Sat 9am-11pm, Sun 9am-8pm. Breakfast served all day. Entrees: $5.50-$19.95.
Sit-down Brunches Great
Marion Warhaft With The Winnipeg Free Press
January 02, 1998
WITH THE holiday just over, a costy evening at home probably seems irresistible.
So if you still have a craving for somebody else's cooking, consider brunch. Not the shlep-your-own-tray kind, but one that comes to your table under somebody else's steeam.
The Star Grill serves excellent brunches daily, until 11:30a.m. on weekdays, 3 p.m. on weekends. Puffy pancakes come on their own ($3.95) or, for those who find decisions difficult, as a substitute for toast with other dishes.
Hollandaise on eggs benedict ($6.95) was slightly curdled but taste good, and everything else sampled was faultless - fluffy, three-filling omelette ($6.25), a side of perfect pork sausages ($1.85) and terrific home fries.
Coffee ($1.25) is a robust French-mocha blend, and for those little engines that still can, the impressive desserts ($4.50 to $4.75) include a wonderful rummy caramel-drenched cake. The ambiance is attractive and the service perfect.
100 Reasons to Love Winnipeg
Star Grill Successful Marriage between Funk 'n' Sophistication
The Star Grill Dishes up Art on a Platter
Sit-down Brunches Great
Welcome to the Star Grill
RESERVATIONS: CALL 204-837-STAR