Tourtière Time

Riel's Menu Isn't Manitoban and Ukrainian, But It Still Sounds Mighty Fine

Asian influences are prominent on the newly solidified menu.

By Alice Levitt January 10, 2017

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The borscht is a classic among otherwise highly original dishes at Riel.

Image: Signe Birck

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Tourtière, $16.

Despite wide reporting to the contrary, Ryan LaChaine, chef of then-upcoming Montrose restaurant Riel, told us back in September, “It’s not necessarily going to be super Ukrainian or super French-Canadian.” Guess what? He told the truth. After opening January 3, LaChaine has just solidified the menu beyond the concise soft opening bill of fare and we're the first to share all the details. The dishes mentioned below should be available for at least another month.

For fans of Slavic fare, the warm, beefy red borscht is a classic, served in traditional style with crème fraîche (OK, usually it's sour cream) and dill. The hanger steak (an underutilized cut, in our opinion) is accompanied by potato-cheddar pierogi, green beans and horseradish cream. Canadian hearts will be warmed by flaky-crusted tourtière, a Québecois meat pie typically aromatic with cinnamon and cloves.

Though LaChaine is a native of francophone Manitoba, the only other explicitly Canadian dish also hails from Québec—Montréal smoked meat, a pastrami cognate that the chef serves plated with both pickled mustard seeds and a splatter of French's and rye to recreate the flavors of the hefty sandwiches made famous at Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen.

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Gulf fish karaage, $12.

But as LaChaine promised in September, Asian and Gulf Coast cuisines are just as prominent. Influences from the Orient reveal themselves in tempura cauliflower served with kimchi hot sauce, nuggets of Japanese karaage-style Gulf fish with a ranch dip, and crispy tonkatsu served as a tartine with cabbage and Japanese condiments Kewpie mayo and fruity Bull-Dog Sauce. The local seafood LaChaine grew to love as sous-chef at Reef and Underbelly is present in deeply Southern presentations such as head-on shrimp with collard greens, and red snapper served in a ham brodo with Crowder peas and dandelion greens. There's also Texas blue crab served with bacon, lettuce and tomato; oysters from Louisiana's Sister Lake with a tangy pickled granita; and an elegant crudo of golden tilefish with Texas citrus, fennel soubise and Prosecco.

After a ribeye for two with house steak sauce as well as Béarnaise, maître d'hotel butter and fried eggs (the kind of old school French fare we often ate in our Montréal days), diners may not have room for dessert. They should make an effort to save it. A strawberry tart with pistachio cream should go down easy, but it may be a more worthy effort to reserve space for the sticky toffee pudding, which incorporates a torchon of foie gras and toffee blood sauce. You read that right. It's probably best to make a reservation immediately—with a offerings like these, it may be just as difficult to score a seat at Riel as it is to dine there in moderation.

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