While many Canadian cities opted to cancel their New Year’s events as a cold bubble settled over the country, a completely unique dining experience on Lake Winnipeg was just getting started. For the adventurous foodies who set their sights on RAW:Gimli, it may have even come as a relief to know that the ice they were dining on was really frozen solid. These were my thoughts at least, as I walked beyond the shore in -30 degree weather.
New Iceland sights
While RAW: almond and RAW:Churchill have already made a mark on Winnipeg and Churchill, it is a first for Manitoba’s own New Iceland, named so for its rich Icelandic history and culture. And as I embarked from the Gimli Harbour toward the eerie, glowing structure in the distance, it became abundantly clear that all of it – the cold, the ice, the lake, the wide starry skies above – is just another piece of what makes RAW:Gimli one-of-a-kind.
Once inside, I was greeted by a candlelit interior featuring a long, rustic, family-style dining table with log seats (and a fur cover to warm the rear). Designed by Joe Kalturnyk, Chad Connery and Jon Reid, the structure was made without the use of nails, screws or any other hardware: a truly unique piece of architecture, fit for the spectacular, quintessentially Canadian culinary experience we were about to have.
Soon, it was time to eat. Make no mistake, this 8-course tasting menu is not a joke. Generous portions and refined flavours meant that every plate went back licked clean – and if they weren’t, it was just to save room for the next course. The culinary team of Mandel Hitzer, Chantalle Noschese, Stefan Lytwyn, Cyrus Smith and Kris Kurus did an incredible job at creating a diverse yet complimentary menu that combined the simplistic (sourdough bread with a garlic sauce – to die for) with the complex (foie gras on braised daikon and maple gelée – interesting and new, to me, at least).
When you’re opting for dinner on a frozen lake, dungeness crab soup (with celebratory vegetables and fish eggs) will always be warm and welcome treat, especially when followed by savory and filling dishes like pork braised in vinegar, sable fish and 12 day brisket.
And as with any great meal, this one concluded with not one but two (!) scrumptious desserts.
The first, a coffee granita with white chocolate namelaka, hazelnut crunch and cocoa nib, seems to fit perfectly with the setting, combining the warm and familiar flavours of coffee with icy textures. The next dessert (and sadly, the last dish of the evening) was completely different than its predecessor, made up with prunes, organe sablee and candied kumquat. If I had to name any of the dishes as the winner, it would be this one.
With this pop-up culinary event picking a new location annually, RAW:Gimli is truly a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list item that can only be checked off this year. Tickets are still available in limited quantities, so don’t wait to purchase yours!