Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Weczeria reopens on Broadway with a funky new decor

High-end dining pays tribute to its farming roots

In a tiny restaurant just big enough for a handful of tables, Chef Dan Walker of Weczeria Food & Wine developed a national reputation for serving modern French cuisine made from the highest-quality local ingredients. His newspaper ads as well as the photographs on the wall of the restaurant showcase the farmers and ranchers who work so hard to produce the food we enjoy on our plate.

Weczeria is reopening this week in a much larger space at 820 Broadway Avenue, and the décor is a playful tribute to the prairie farm. The restaurant was designed by Adam Pollock, who is also one of the servers, in a style that Dan laughingly describes as modern root cellar. Tiny lights twinkle like fireflies in the canning jars fashioned into chandeliers. Old barn boards and wooden crates provide shelving. The floor is bare concrete and the chairs are upholstered in burlap sack.

It’s a restful space with entertaining touches of whimsy – an elaborate chandelier manufactured from old wine bottles, an owl perched on a fence post, a barbed-wire sculpture.

It’s a big adjustment from a small restaurant with 9 staff to a much larger restaurant with 29 staff, but Chef Dan feels very comfortable with his team of core players.

Tanya, the restaurant manager, used to work at the Spadina Freehouse so she is used to big groups.

Drew Hormell is chef de cuisine. Originally from Newfoundland, he is already adding his own personal touch to the restaurant. A favourite Newfoundland dish, fries with turkey gravy and dressing, will be one of the dishes on offer at the bar. “It’s my comfort food,” he explains, adding that his wife is really pumped to know that the restaurant will be serving “Newfoundland treasure.”

The restaurant comfortably seats 48 to 52 people with additional seating around the large bar in the front of the restaurant.

Old window frames separate the long, narrow space into rooms so that it maintains the intimate feel of the original restaurant.

Weczeria can now serve large parties in the back section while still remaining open with seating for the general public at the front of the restaurant.

At the very back of the restaurant is the wine parlour with a round wooden table that will seat from 4 to 8 people. One wall holds the wine collection while overhead is a chandelier of wine bottles.

The kitchen space is as large as the original restaurant and was humming with activity when I visited.

The menu is posted on a chalkboard and changes regularly to match the food that is currently in season. The wines are all Canadian and one third to one half, such as Joie and Kettle Valley, are special order.

The heavy rains this spring have greatly interfered with Weczeria’s supply of local produce as two of the farms that Chef Dan relies on for the bulk of his vegetables and other produce have been flooded out, and he will have to find new suppliers.

Although the menu does not list any vegetarian dishes, Chef Dan assured me that there will always be a vegetarian dish available. So don’t hesitate to ask for it – maybe we’ll eventually get upgraded to the chalkboard!
Cocktails at the bar
Chef Dan worked with Steve Nydell from 6Twelve Lounge in the Sheraton Cavalier to develop a list with 10 different cocktails, which will be served with an ever-changing variety of small dishes, based on the food that is available in the kitchen.

Reach for the stars
Chef Dan Walker has set his sights on becoming the best restaurant in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan. His polished new restaurant with its quirky touches of Prairie humour is definitely a step in the right direction.

The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner starting on Thursday, June 30.

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