Browsing: Restaurant Features

Chez Sophie Revisited


Sister #3 has visited Montreal and New York City in the last couple of months.  This is wonderful for her but poses a problem when you are trying to decide where to take her out for a birthday supper that is special, unique and will delight her. I was thinking that the warm and cozy ambiance of Chez Sophie at 248 avenue de la Cathédrale would do the trick.

The extensive menu is full of surprizes. She had decided upon quiche when she discovered that there were also crepes and opted for the latter. The crepes themselves were perfect in their thinness and lightness and were bulging with smoky, rich salmon and then topped with drooly slices of Camembert.

Sister#2 ordered the Alsatian pizza, at my prompting. The Alsatian region of Europe brings together France, Germany and Italy.  Alsatian wines have long been our favourite because they taste to us like a perfect blend of French and German white wine.  So too, the pizza has a regional French twist with the inclusion of a creamy bechamel sauce instead of a traditional Italian tomato based sauce.

Our Mom had her eyes on the accompaniments more than the entree itself.  The three sisters love the fine taste of bread and this trait could certainly come from Mom, as the little pan buns fresh out of  the oven were a big attraction.  The big mixed salad was also tempting and so we helped her chose a quiche which would deliver it all. She took most of her quiche Lorraine home for her next day lunch.

I too had eyes bigger than my tummy.  Having savoured the bun, the salad and the beautiful little casserole of potatoes in cream and topped with cheese, I could only manage a single bite of my fried Camembert.  That taste was delicious but was even better when I took it home and had intermittent nuggets of it all through the next day, for the dish was so very rich.

Service was perfect as usual.  I almost always have the same beautiful, bilingual server take care of me.  She is proud of the food served at Chez Sophie’s and is willing to be translator between we Anglaise and French Chef/Owner Stephane in the kitchen. The restaurant was absolutely jammed early on a weekday night so pick your times carefully. But do not miss out on one of St. Boniface Winnipeg/s little gems.

It turned out that Sister #3 had a heavy cold and just wanted to get home to bed. But did she enjoy her birthday treat?  I am sure of it because  one of her beautiful and unique character traits is that she is so easy to pamper and delight.

Chez Sophie Bistro & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quotes: “The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight…”-M. F. K. Fisher

Love-that is all.

Arkadash Bistro and Lounge


Before D and I were married, I lived in four different downtown apartments all within about 4 blocks of each other  and I came to know the area south of Portage Ave. as my neighbourhood.  I went to school, worked, grocery-shopped, dined and attended a myriad of artistic events all within walking distance.  For much of this time, I didn’t own a car but I could perfectly manage to obtain everything  I needed and wanted, without one. Every once in a while D and I are tempted to choose this lifestyle again and now a days there are even more reasons to draw us back to downtown living.  I have had an opportunity to tour The Avenue apartment building recently including their splendid roof top space and could easily see myself nestled in, right on Portage Ave.

This fantasy might mean that Arkadash Bistro and Lounge could become our neighbourhood hang out.

As soon as I walked into the sleek space, I was reminded of the long  and narrow bistros of the East Village of New York city.  The decor of Arkadash is so sophisticated that it could easily hold its own in the Big Apple.  I understand that the husband of the chef was the designer/architect for the make over and my high praise goes to him and his space.

But to the food!

Lunch began with a little basket of focaccia bread with olive oil for dipping and this delicious soup of the day.  Too much time has past since this visit to remember what it was, but I do recall a spicy chili taste.

One friend chose the pulled pork.  Even though this photo doesn’t do the dish justice, I am happy to see that Chef Karen doesn’t disguise the savoury taste of slow cooked Berkshire pork with an unnecessary barbeque sauce.  The moist taste of good pork is velvety and distinctive when prepared properly and this was.  The meat was served with corn tortillas to wrap it up.

Another friend selected the Turkish grilled chicken which she enjoyed with the couscous.  Both these dishes were accompanied by baked vanilla pumpkin which received kudos.

I tucked into this lunch feature of grilled scallops with a simple pasta.  It was just my cuppa tea as the sweet meat of the scallop was all I needed with a spear of butter- tossed pasta (no sauce required).  Everyone agreed that the local ingredients and preparation was exceptional but we all wondered why the food was not piping hot.  In all honesty it was luke warm.  This is in the small points department, but hot food is a  basic dining expectation.  I look forward to visiting again when I am sure this will be different.

I will return as I am eggplant obsessed and intrigued by the starter of “Toenail of a Dog”, and the entree of “Imam Baldi”.  I had the pleasure of meeting cousins and restaurant partners Karen and Kelvin and we spoke at length about their commitment to local ingredients and serving the neighbourhood.  They have exciting plans ahead for the service of High Tea along with their continued offerings of jazz on Friday evenings in the lounge.

Arkadash Bistro and Lounge on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:
“Manhattan is a narrow island off the coast of New Jersey devoted to the pursuit of lunch.”-
Raymond Sokolov

Love-that is all.


Binh An Restaurant-The Complete Unedited Story


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


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


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.

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