Manitoba had a soft launch this past week but opens today, officially, for lunch. Co-owner Elisabeth Cardin spoke to Eater Montreal about her background, the principals and the food.
I am a gardener and wild edible plants and mushroom forager. I always wanted to have my own place but never expected to have it so soon. The whole adventure began when I visited the space to share it with friends as a woodshop. When I saw the trashy space, I don't know how it happened, but I had a vision of it turned into a restaurant. The woodshop project did not work and I compulsively signed the lease. I had 3 months ahead me before I took possession of the space. I had three months to find money, partners and so on.
I met [partner Simon Cantin] in an art exhibition. We share many friends but never had met before. He co-owns La Firme construction and design. He had just sold his shares in a bar and was looking for a new project to jump in. When I told him about the space, he offered to be my partner and to build and administer everything. I could not say no.
We hired [chef] Christopher Parasiuk [formerly of Hotel Nelligan] and I am very happy that he understands exactly what kind of food I want. Wild, fancy yet a bit punk. He's great. His sous-chef is Rebecca Jane Wilson. She's from Ontario and has been working in kitchens for over 12 years, mostly at Garde Manger. She's also really curious about cooking with wild food and she rocks.
The menu changes every week if not every day. We work with abats (heart, tongue, etc.), seafood, we smoke, salt and dry meat and fish. It's boreal, native and nature inspired.
The wine card is mostly bio and natural. My barman Alexandre Taillon is cool, he used to work at No Name Bar (The Emerald) and he creates cocktails with wild fruits, chocolate, lichen, and more wild stuff.
We want people to feel good and spend the night with us, slowly eating and drinking, laughing and sharing. I want to make people happy and aware of the wonders of nature and the fact that you can eat a thousand different things in the wild, if you know how to gather them with respect.
Also, this summer, the backyard will be transformed into a nice garden with a smoker, outside grill, horseshoe pitch and plants. We don't have a terrasse licence yet but the garage door will be open all summer.
Manitoba serves lunch daily and is open for dinner Wednesday to Saturday. You can track the restaurant's evolution from "trashy space" to viable entity here.
· Manitoba [Official Page]