The Vibe

The name is weird. The menu is weird. And the food is weird. But deliciously weird! And perhaps ‘weird’ is too strong a word. Unfamiliar would probably be more appropriate, but whatever you call it, Dwarf No Cachette is Winnipeg’s touchpoint for the full meal deal when it comes to Japanese-inspired street food.

Let’s start with the name. Loosely translated, it means the hiding spot for the dwarf, which makes complete sense once you step off of Provencher Boulevard and into the little alleyway to reach the door. This is the former location of Step N Out and while the interior has been transformed (no more collection of miniature footwear), it has retained that cosy feel. The space is light and bright in the daytime, thanks to a bank of windows overlooking Provencher. Half the tables are white plastic (feeling a bit cafeteria-like) while the other half are wooden, offering a warmer
vibe.

dwarf menu

Be sure to have a look around the space, where you’ll find drink offerings posted on one chalkboard and a selection of desserts posted on another. Everything else is on the delightful printed menu, featuring photos of some of the entrees—a helpful addition for those of us unfamiliar with Japanese food.

What You Should Order

If you’ve never had Japanese food beyond sushi, this menu will completely overwhelm you. Unfamiliar terms like takoyaki, agemono and doria leap off the colourful pages, adorned with starbursts. But fear not. Thanks to brief descriptions—and a few of those photos—you can figure out if your entrée will look more like a pizza (okonomiyaki) or an omelette (omurice). And of course, you can always ask your server.

For a sampling of what’s offered at Dwarf No Cachette, a teishoku is a good option. This ‘set meal’ is reminiscent of a platter or perhaps a Bento box. On a recent visit, I opted for the potato croquette version. I had my choice of four types of croquettes, a choice of two meat side dishes (karaage chicken or shrimp tempura), two vegetable side dishes, plus miso soup and rice. Each little bowl housed a deliciously different experience in temperature, taste and texture.

dwarf shrimp

If you’re a fan of risotto, you’ll love the hearty doria dishes. Billed as Japanese rice casseroles on the menu, each is a massive serving dotted with your favourite additions. The chicken mushroom doria is my favourite, and best shared with a table mate so you can sample some of the other menu options.

The lunch crowd here loves the ramen, and there is no shortage of choices. Dwarf miso, black sesame and pork katsu are just a few of the favourites. Pair a big bowl with a side order of agedashi (deep fried) tofu, and lunch is served.

Out of Pocket

Dinner for two with drinks and dessert will set you back about $60. Smaller dishes (appetizers) are all under $10 including gyoza (dumplings), croquettes and most of the tempura offerings. Rice bowls and ramen float around the $12 mark. The teishoku are $15.95 and you’ll likely be taking home a doggie bag.

dwarf croquette

What I Love

On my first visit to Dwarf No Cachette, I was extremely thankful for the menu photos. I picked the chicken mushroom doria because it made sense to me (rice, chicken and mushrooms). I was amply rewarded and continue to order it on a regular basis. But the more I visited the restaurant, the more I wanted to try the unique items on the menu. And I have yet to be disappointed. In short, I took my own advice. I often encourage people to try something COMPLETELY out of their comfort zones when dining out. After all, how would I ever have found out I love hot and sour soup so much or crave arancini (stuffed rice balls) if I never would have given them a try decades ago. It’s a big culinary world out there, dear readers, just waiting to be discovered.