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Binh An Restaurant-The Complete Unedited Story

October1

You may or may not know that I write for the Canstar community newspapers.  I recently penned a column regarding “Magic Sushi 2” and when I returned to the restaurant the following week, the family who own it, gathered round me in appreciation, to tell me how happy they were with my recounting but also about the extra business that had been flowing in as a direct result.  D and I are all about promoting the incredible number of exceptional restaurants in the city and so we especially wanted to shed a positive light on a little Vietnamese place that had come highly recommended by J2’s parents.  Unfortunately, I must have been too verbose and the editor at Canstar had to omit the last paragraph of the story which is where the headline had been fashioned from.  As result the story did not make sense and indeed seemed somewhat derogatory, when my intention was the opposite.  So here it is written in its entirety.

“Very good friends of ours (in fact their daughter married our son) have been recommending the Binh An Restaurant (1076 Main St.) for years but because it is close to their neighbourhood and not ours, we have not found an excuse to visit.  They encouraged us for three reasons: they speculated that we would be charmed by the restaurant owner; they predicted that we would love the food and they care for us enough that they wanted to share the healing powers of the Rare Beef Soup with us.

We started with shrimp wrapped around sugar cane accompanied by rice noodles, crunchy, fresh bean sprouts, julienned carrot, slivers of cucumber, romaine lettuce ribs and an amazing herb that I could not identify (unlike the basil or mint I have had in other Vietnamese restaurants).  You get very messy making a wrapped up package of these ingredients and dipping them into either your choice of hoi sin or fish sauce.  My husband and I are not afraid of a little mess and know that good food is worth the extra effort, so we rolled up our sleeves.

When we were deciding on a Vermicelli dish, the owner Binh immediately declared “19”! This deluxe version comes with charbroiled pork, teeny spring rolls, pork ball (more like a patty) and pork hash.  There were also more crunchy bean sprouts, carrot, cucumber and fish sauce.  I tossed all of mine together into a little soup bowl and slurped down every last noodle.

I could have stopped there but in the mean while, my husband was “oohing” and “aahing” over the Medium Rare Beef Noodle soup, which he insisted I try.  We had never tasted a beef broth like it and Binh shared his secret with us: they simmer beef bones for 10 and sometimes up to 14 hours and this he indicates is the reason why the broth is so healthy.  We guessed that the thinly sliced rare beef must be added to the broth raw so as to let the broth itself do the cooking.  The result is absolutely delicious and satisfying.

Binh Le is the owner of the Binh An restaurant and he told with us that the restaurant is named for his son.  He recounts the story of arriving in Winnipeg in the early 1980s via boat with other refugees from Vietnam.  He returned to his home country to marry his wife and they now have four teenage children.  But when his first child was born, the baby boy had a heart issue and had to be cared for by experts in Montreal.  Now his healthy son is 15 and Binh not only expounds about how amazing Canada has been to his family but that the meaning of the restaurant’s name is “everything okay”.  ”

Binh An Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Only the pure of heart can make good soup” –Beethoven

Love-that is all.  (Can you see a heart image in here?  Neither can I, I just wanted to see if anyone was paying attention).

Magic Sushi 2

September14

We take dining recommendations from everywhere now a day, don’t we?  Newspapers, magazines and on line have all become trusted resources.  But I believe that the best endorsement is still made by a family member.  After all, they understand our likes, dislikes and the importance of food in your daily lives.  So when my nephew recommended “all-you-can-eat” sushi at Magic Sushi 2 (562 Keenleyside) recently, we responded immediately.

Daughter #2 and the Frenchman, who know sushi better than I, cautioned me en route that this place could not possibly serve the exotic maki sushi that we have come to enjoy, at the $10.95 “all-you-can-eat” price.  We were all delighted to be proven wrong.

Won ton soup started us off and even though the dumpling looked mighty lonely in the bowl, the clear broth was surprizingly rich, likely from the inclusion of a shirred egg.  Edaname beans were tossed in a glistening sea salt and Shrimp & Vegetable Tempura came from the appetizer section of the menu.  The latter included sweet potato, onion ring, and thick white potato slices.  Potatoes done any style are my weakness and these were delicious.  The tempura was obviously, carefully watched when plunged into the fryer because the cooking was perfectly timed with not a hint of greasiness.

We initially ordered three rolls:   Dynamite (with shrimp and avocado), Philadelphia (smoked salmon and cream cheese) and Crunch Sake (salmon and tempura vegetable on the inside and additional tempura crunch on the outside).  The ingredients all tasted sparkling fresh and each portion is rolled to order.

We might have stopped here but the “all-you-can-eat” challenge was too thrilling to ignore.  So, we chose another three:  Totally Crazy (deep fried with cheese and assorted fish), Tuna (our only selection from the “Regular” Maki Sushi section) and the Spider (soft shell crab tempura & veggies).

By this time we were more than satiated.  The restaurant interior is calm and clean with lovely, homey touches.  The charm is matched by the smiling, courteous servers who take obvious pride in the restaurants’ offerings.

As with all “all-you-can-eat” establishments there are guidelines that are clearly stated to keep the family in business and ensure that food is not being needlessly ordered and not consumed.  Therefore, a left over charge of $1. per piece is assessed along with the declaration “love food, hate waste”.

Magic Sushi and Wok on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:   “Cookery, or the art of preparing good and wholesome food, and of preserving all sorts of alimentary substances in a state fit for human sustenance, or rendering that agreeable to the taste which is essential to the support of life, and of pleasing the palate without injury to the system, is, strictly speaking, a branch of chemistry; but, important as it is both to our enjoyments and our health, it is also one of the latest cultivated branches of the science.”-Frederick Accum

Love-that is all.

Ty’s Cafe and Bakery, The Sand Bar Motor Hotel-Grand Beach

September6

Perhaps the best part of a vacation at the cottage is going out for dinner.  This treat actually makes the entire day seem longer.  You can stay on the beach later in the afternoon and there is no worry if you forgot to plan on getting something out of the freezer.  Mind you, it may mean that you have to get out of your bathing suit but this is only a preference.  I think that the casual atmosphere of the Sand Bar would accommodate you in any attire.  I love a summer when you change from pjs to bathing suit and back to pjs.  The summer of 2012 was a summer like this.

When D and I visited The Sand Bar last summer, we were disappointed by the quality of the pickerel special and not surprized when we saw racks of it already fried and ready to plunge back into the fryer to warm it up.  But this summer, batch cooking had been rejected and as soon as we ordered (all of us choosing the same thing) our server rushed to the kitchen window to ensure that there were five fresh orders left.  The bar around us was almost empty, but supposedly the dining room was jammed with pickerel lovers.

We started off with an order of fire-dusted calamari.  There was plenty to share and one member of our party declared that it was perhaps the best calamari that he had tasted in a very on time.  This was high praise, as The Australian resides near the ocean in Melbourne.  Perhaps it was the Long-Island Ice Teas and Bloody Caesars that elevated our appreciation.

The “old school” crunchy batter is not a necessary enhancement because pickerel retains a delicate flavour (when freshly caught and never frozen it actually sparkles in your mouth), but this recipe is fun every once in a while.  Unless of course you are trying to get back into shape to play professional rugby after an injury and surgery, which happens to be the case for the Australian.  He left a mound of the batter on his plate but still seemed to enjoy the treat.

The sun was just setting as we departed.  Another perfect ending to a perfect day.

Kath’s quote: “Grilling is like sunbathing. Everyone knows it is bad for you but no one ever stops doing it.”-Laurie Colwin

Love-that is all.

Ricky’s All Day Grill -Lockport

September5

When I was a little girl (this was before central AC was common place), my Dad had a solution to our hot, sleepless, summer nights.  We would pile into the family station wagon (still wearing our pajamas) and we would drive with all the windows open up Henderson Hwy. or the River Road on the west shore of the Red River to Lockport.  Upon arrival at the Half Moon or Skinners, Mom and Dad might have a crunchy skinned hot dog and we would get a cool treat.  Then we would have a walk on the grassy river bank before heading home.  Typically, my siblings and I would fall asleep en route and we would be carried in by my Dad’s big strong arms.  Problem solved.

My Mom still loves that drive and so we find an excuse to take her whenever we can.  We will have a fresh reason now because Lockport has a new eating establishment.  Ricky’s All Day Grill is on the corner of Hwys. 9 & 44 (5753 Main St.) and can’t be missed.  It is owned and operated by the Singh family.  We had a chuckle when we were introduced to Dan Singh (pronounced dancing) last evening at their official ribbon cutting ceremony.

I am not sure what their dance moves are like but their diner-style cooking is very good.

Throughout the evening we were treated to a bruschetta made with fresh, ripe tomatoes that are at their peak right now.  Perogies, chicken fingers, bacon cheese toast and zucchini sticks were sampled too.

My favourites were the Garlic Tequila Shrimp

and Kolbi Meatballs in a ginger sauce.

But I surprized even myself by the item that I enjoyed the most.  Dill Pickle Wings were piping hot and meaty.  The savoury dill was offset by the tangy cucumber and they were absolutely delicious.

I understand that Ricky’s is already a family hit in Western Canada and Manitoba’s first location officially opens today.  We will definitely be back for breakfast or brunch to try their Shrimp, Tomato & Goat Cheese or Portobello & Three Cheese Omelets.

Ricky's All Day Diner on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Dine, v: to eat a good dinner in good company, and eat it slow. In dining, as distinguished from mere feeding, the palate and stomach never ask the hand, ‘What are you giving us?'”-Ambrose Bierce

Love that is all.

 

Le Gouter-Albert Beach

September4

I will deliver the bad news first: Le Gouter is now closed until the May Long Weekend in 2013. The good news is that every season that they start anew, they expand their offerings to include more and more delectable light meals and snacks.

As you may deduce by the restaurant name-Le Gouter (pronounced goo-tay) is a French establishment at Albert Beach.  In fact, most beaches that line the east and west shores of Lake Winnipeg have similar associations.  The community where we have our little place is German, as is easily deduced by the family names that identify the cottages.

We have been vacationing for a couple of weeks and enjoy cooking and assembling many family members for a post-tennis brunch or barbeque supper on the deck.  Then again, there is a relaxed pleasure when the two of us can make a date on our own for lunch as well as some shopping (freshly picked corn and some end of season flip flops).

I often select Reuben sandwiches for lunch, not just because I enjoy the taste but because I rarely make them in my home (I never remember to keep stocked up on sauerkraut) and because I believe that a well made Reuben is a very telling manner to assess the abilities of the kitchen. This one had the authentic Russian dressing, whereas many kitchens utilize thousand island and plenty of both corned beef and sauerkraut.  My preference is when the sandwich has been watched on the grill for enough time for the cheese to melt through the other ingredients and fuse them all together.  On this day, the Swiss cheese was not quite melted enough for my tastes.

But no matter, for the small order of poutine that we shared was loaded with melted cheese curds.  When we ordered, we were asked if we had a preference for mozzarella or authentic curds.  We simultaneously requested the latter.  After all, authentic poutine was invented by French Canadians and squeaky curds are what make them such a treat.  In this case the hand-cut, never frozen fries and the brown gravy were equally top notch.

The star of the show was the Cheese Burger that D ordered.  The hand formed burgers are crowned with tomato, pickle, lettuce, red onion, mustard and ketchup as well of plenty of melted cheddar cheese.  The old school taste is succulent and perfect, in our minds.

This summer has been glorious, as has been the visits, to our favourite beach establishments.

Le Gouter on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Sauerkraut is tolerant, for it seems to be a well of contradictions. Not that it would preach a gastronomic neutrality that would endure all heresies. It rejects dogmatism and approves of individual tastes. It forms a marvelous combination with numerous spices, odors, or spirits: juniper berries, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cranberries, Reinette apples, stock, and wine; it even welcomes flakes of yeast or leftover Gruyère since it accepts being prepared au gratin. Its flavor sustains various potato dishes: boiled in their skins, crisps (potato chips), braised, sautéed, grilled, or simply cooked in water. It adopts many sorts of fat, including lard, butter, goose fat, or roast dripping. The variety of meats to which it consents is infinite: sausages of all kinds, such as knackwurst, white sausage, Lorraine, Montbeliard, chipolata, black pudding, hams, smoked or salted bacon, quenelles, pickled and smoked pork, goose, pheasant, etc. It makes excuses for red wine, although it has a weakness for beer and lets itself be spoilt by white wine. Each stomach may find its own happiness in it.”-Julien Freund

Love-that is all.

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