MONDAY, AUGUST 31, 2009
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.
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Welcome to the Star Grill
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