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Viva for Vermicelli Bowls


It must seem as if I go out for lunch an awful lot but the truth is that I do not.  Because I work from home, I’m able to grab some left overs or heat up some soup and so I likely go out for lunch, less often than someone who works downtown.  When I have lunch out though, I make sure that I get somewhere that I have never been before (or not lately at least). 

Such is the case with Viva Vietnamese Restaurant at the corner or Sargent and Spence Street.  I’ve enjoyed dining at Viva for what seems like decades but I have never gotten to go for lunch.  On this day, when I arrived at 11:45 the dining room was already full of business and trades people who obviously know of Viva’s popularity with the lunch crowd.  


When my lunch dates arrived, they were craning their necks to see what was in all of the steaming bowls that were being whizzed past our table.  I led the way by ordering a large ($1.50 more) grilled pork vermicelli bowl. 

I was followed by an order of the same with grilled pork and shrimp.

And then a third “deluxe” with pork, shrimp, spring roll, etc. 

Sorry, I must admit that I wasn’t paying very close attention by this point because we always have so much to get caught up on when I am with this particular couple of girlfriends who also happen to be business associates.  So when we are not talking kids, and house renos and winter holidays, we actually talk about projects that we are working on together.  

We started with rice rolls that were so delicious with their dark peanut sauce that we were tempted to request another order.  Luckily, we saved ourselves to dig into the lunch bowls.

Viva’s version is not loaded with vegetables as I have enjoyed it elsewhere, but is delicious none the less.  Lots of protein and soft, fluffy noodles and without a trace (or so it seems) of fat.  The sauce that was served along side,  was a light chili sauce.  I am accustomed to having the dish with a sweetened fish sauce, but I enjoyed this version tremendously.

The gentleman serving us was all alone and very busy.  But between his efficiency and that of the kitchen, the lunch crowd was in and out in no time and well taken care of in between.

Viva Restaurant Vietnamese & Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:“There are may of us who cannot but feel dismal about the future of various cultures. Often it is hard not to agree that we are becoming culinary nitwits, dependent upon fast foods and mass kitchens and megavitamins for our basically rotten nourishment.”-M.F.K. Fisher

Lunch at Brooklynn’s Bistro


We had been invited to the opening of Brooklynn’s Bistro last spring and met the inspiration for the restaurant’s moniker.  Brooklyn is a delightful child who obviously lives a life surrounded by the nurture of food.  On that evening we also sampled some of Chef Darryl Crumb’s evening offerings.  They were as exquisite as one might expect from an award winning chef.  But I understand that Brooklyn’s own Grandma and her great Auntie are responsible for the day to day lunch offerings. 

On this day I was willing to try whatever Nona had cooked up and it was an amazing concoction of swordfish and tomatoes over a long macaroni noodle.  The slivers of parmesan that were added provided just the right amount of saltiness and the dish was perfection.

My lunch mate decided upon the pizza- a perfectly thin crust baked over a wood fire and lightly topped with capicollo, roasted red peppers, basil leaves and mozarella.  The closest pizza I have tasted to the many we sampled during our time on the west coast of Italy. 

I understand that Nona delights their guests with little tastes from her kitchen-sometimes a savoury appetizer or other anti pasta  On this day though, she was busy getting her larder stocked up so that she could make a trip home to Italy, so we were treated to a amazing dessert instead.  The scoop of heaven did not have a name but I would describe it as tiramisu meets chocolate trifle.  There was no mascarpone cheese but chocolate mousse, lady fingers, a liquer and bites of semi sweet chocolate shards.  Oh my!

Good thing I do not have my office on the third floor of the building where Brooklynn’s is located like my friend who I was joining for lunch, or I would be in big trouble.  I can’t imagine the temptation of just zipping downstairs for a bite of Nona’s fare.

Brooklynn's Bistro on Urbanspoon 

Kath’s quote:  “…smell and taste are in fact but a single composite sense, whose laboratory is the mouth and its chimney the nose….”-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin


Billabong for Brunch


Brunch may be my favourite time to dine.  Sister #3 and an honourary sister go out every single Sunday for brunch.  I often have a brood to feed back home or a Sunday supper to get started on, so I don’t always get to slow down and savour a day of rest, as I believe we were meant to.  But on a day when D was out of town and Daughter #2 had her brunch date cancel, it seemed the perfect opportunity.  My lovely friend Denise who lives in the area, recommended Billabong for brunch when she read my evening accounting of Billabong fare, and it had long been on my must try list.

Everything worth having is worth the wait-especially Billabong Bistro for brunch.

Daughter #2 ordered the Eggs Bennie which she declared-the best in the city (next to her Auntie K’s).  The Chef took a classic Bennie and made it Billabong’s own by adding tomato and spinach under the perfectly poached eggs and enhanced the back bacon with a slice of proscuitto.  Her only disappointment was the fruit side which she said, had it been more abundant, would have been an appreciatied complement to the richness of the dish.

I was very tempted by the Aussie Foo Young but opted instead for this roasted vegetable frittata.  Zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, peppers and red onions were enough to delight me so the addition of eggplant sent me over the top!  The smoky and carmelized flavours of the vegetables were contrasted by marscapone and podano cheeses.  My mouth is watering even now as I reflect of the lovely tastes from a number of weeks ago.

We sat near a front window with the afternoon light streaming through and watched the passers by on Osborne Street.  The coffee was robust and plentiful and the service polite and attentive.  The perfect way to while away a Sunday afternoon.

Billabong Bar & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Bistro cooking is good, traditional food, earnestly made and honestly displayed. It is earthy, provincial, or bourgeois; as befits that kind of food, it is served in ample portions.”-David Liederman


Stella’s at Plug In – Portage Ave.


Earlier this summer, I taught a class for the University of Winnipeg in the Buhler Building on Portage Ave.  I only ventured out once to try and pick up some lunch and ended up coming back late for my own class.  So I was excited to see that a restaurant had leased the space and had started building and installing equipment.  Now I will admit that the noise of construction was sometimes difficult to lecture over top of.  So I was eager to reap the benefits of the distraction that my students and I suffered through.

I had dropped in once previously to pick up a coffee and had a glance at the menu.  I knew that I would return because the dinner prices were so reasonable and they had my favourite Chilean Merlot as their house wine.

I chose the pesto shrimp linguine with slivers of red pepper.

My companion selected this gorgeous curried chicken.   

Stella’s service was very caring.  Both of our dinners were exceptional tasting and really well priced for a downtown dinner date.  Many fellow diners were on their way to the Jets Game that night but stopped first for a bowl of chili and toast.  I also saw a number of  “all day” breakfasts leaving the kitchen and heading to the tables of hockey fans.  I’ll have to keep Stella’s in mind for a pre-game supper on a cold winter night. 

Stella's Cafe at Plug In on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:  “Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili.”-Last words of Kit Carson



I have known Chef Osten since he was a toddler.  The family were good friends of good friends of ours and we would gather for kids’ birthday parties and the like.  More recently, his Mom and I have become close friends and I have gotten to follow his culinary pursuits from a very unique perspective-through the recounting of his proud parents.  Born into a family of creative persons, it is no surprize that Osten is a creator of art too.  Food art….my favourite kind.

I have tasted the fare from the Broadway Wasabi location as it is available at many retail outlets but I have never had the pleasure of dining there.  I always admired the courage and foresight that they opened on West Broadway way before the area began its regentrification.  I’ve also never had the experience of visiting Wasabi’s Osborne location.

So even though I can’t compare locales, Wasabi-Sabi is stunning with its soothing decor and comfortable seating.

Laura (one of my lunch dates) is my Asian food mentor-together we have created an “A” list of dim sum items, Vietnamese bowls and what little I know about Thai cuisines, she has taught me.  So I was content to sit back and let her do the selecting.

We started with a house blend of green teas which were thirst quenching and retained a nutty quality. 

Next up were the mandatory edaname beans. 

Then came Spicy Mango Prawns. Tempura shrimp and mango tossed with an unusual take on chili sauce-it was creamy.  I even ate the bed of greens and the crunchy wrapper that they were place upon.

We couldn’t get enough of the tempura shrimp and selected it again in the White Dynamite.  This time the shrimp was enhanced by avocado, spicy mayo, tobiko (fish roe), sesame seeds and sprouts.  All this was wrapped in a thin radish crepe-hence the white take on a dynamite roll.  A sushi newbie dining with us, loved the surprize of the fish eggs popping in her mouth.

Prairie Fire arrived on the same platter.  A spicy tuna, wrapped with grilled vegetables and tempura for crunch.

We could have been done at this point but my sushi mentor didn’t want me to go without the piece de resistance-East meets West.  Laura knows how much I love both lobster and salmon.  This roll is the exquisite  marriage of both spicy, succulent east coast lobster and west coast salmon.  To add sweetness and creaminess, mango and avocado are wrapped inside a soy sheet and yuzu (a citrus flavour) infused tobiko sits on top. 

To describe all the choices as delicious would be such a gross understatement.  We feasted on them with our eyes and tasted them slowly and with reverence.  Art-no other way to describe it!

 Wasabi Sabi on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:  “All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.”-Federico Fellini

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