The bland and the beautiful

St. Boniface bistro Resto Gare serves up insipid cuisine in a nonetheless exquisite atmosphere – a poor pairing to say the least

  • While eating food like the dish pictured here, diners at Resto Gare can opt to sit in the historic observation car, built in 1914, or the dining room. – Suzanne Nichol

Resto Gare
630 Des Meurons St.

Resto Gare, a trendy French bistro located in the old St. Boniface train station on Des Meurons Street, is certainly more of a feast for the eyes than for the palate. Diners can opt to sit in the historic observation car, built in 1914, or the dining room, both of which are stylistically stunning.

While the restaurant has a chic contemporary feel with dim lighting and a sleek fireplace, diners who are looking for a more unique experience should definitely dine in the train. The train car’s lobster-red walls and royal blue ceiling are elegantly accentuated with gold mouldings and glitzy chandeliers. Vintage French art peppers the walls and makes one feel as though they are riding first class to Paris.

Unfortunately, a glance out the window at the parking lot on one side and the dull scenery on the other brings you straight back to Winnipeg.

On a brighter note, the extensive wine menu features a variety of wines from across the globe, but it does seem a bit strange that the house wines are Australian rather than French. Nonetheless, servers are helpful in offering pairings.

The lengthy food menu includes both affordable casual fare like soups ($5-10), salads ($7-16) and sandwiches ($10-19), and pricier entrees including bison short ribs ($24) and beef bourguignon ($20).

The Alsatian grilled flatbread, which the menu claimed was topped with brie, grapes and caramelized onions, could have been a dish with a lot of sharp, contrasting flavours, but it turned out to be muddied and bland. The long slab of crisp bread arrived at the table over-charred and the brie cheese could hardly be seen, never mind tasted, due to the excess of poor quality mozzarella. The onions were sparse, but added a sweet bite when they did meet the palate.

The tourtière ($14), a French bistro classic, was a cute individual pie with a delectably dense, buttery crust. Unfortunately, the beef and pork filling was overwhelmed with nutmeg, though the tangy tomato chow chow, a relish-like condiment, toned it down a tad.

The soupe de jour, a cream of potato, bacon and dill, was thick and salty, but became too heavy after a few spoonfuls.

Another bistro classic, the crêpe au fruits de mer ($13), failed to delight. The crêpe, which was very burrito-esque in appearance, was thick, overcooked and eggy, resulting in a less-than-pleasing combination with the nearly tasteless lobster cream sauce. However, the plump, perfectly cooked shrimp redeemed the dish slightly.

The accompanying house salad was fresh and punchy, with elegantly julienned carrots, sweet cherry tomatoes, crunchy cucumber, crisp radicchio and tender greens finished with a tangy balsamic dressing.

The delightfully soft and chewy complimentary bread served with a saucer of garlic-infused oil and balsamic vinegar was unarguably the best part of the meal.

Desserts, including classic crème brûlée, lemon tart and maple sugar pie, change daily.

While Resto Gare certainly offers a unique, visually stunning atmosphere, overall its French-inspired cuisine is not really worth a second glance.

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