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We’ve all had those nights. You know, the ones where you crave greasy fast food (cue the thought bubbles filled with cheesy, gravy-soaked poutine, thick burgers and steamy hot dogs) so bad that almost nothing can come between you eating it (think Harold & Kumar and their epic search for that perfect White Castle burger). This hunger is often magnified after having a few drinks at a place like the Distillerie, one of the city’s most popular bars. Guess where La Paryse is located? Right next door – which couldn’t be more perfect. At the ready to feed the inebriated masses coming in from nearby St. Denis or just next door, La Paryse is as busy at 5 pm as it is at 11 pm.
Club Chasse et Peche gives off an air of exclusivity in the discreet nature of the establishment: to the regular passerby it would be easy to miss the place and walk right by, blissfully unaware of the culinary delights that take place inside. The only indication that it even exists on the middle of St. Claude street is a large stylized logo that is at once easily recognizable while being somewhat indistinguishable at the same time – the icon resembles an eagle spreadings its wings, showcasing a torso made of a coat of arms. I think it’s open to interpretation. There is a little bit of snobbery that comes off as you experience the Club for an evening but it totally works in their favor. It helps that we were knowingly greeting with a warm “Welcome to the Club”.
Di Bao is immediately striking what with two great big Chinese drums flanking its outer entrance (diners are free to pick up the drum sticks and hit the drums as hard as they can) , elaborately dressed waitresses (headdresses and formal Chinese gowns), and the glimmering gold emperor’s chair at the front of the restaurant. The plating at this restaurant is most impressive: catching a glimpse of other tables with food already served, I couldn’t wait to see what the set menu we had pre-ordered had in store.
About an hour away from Taipei, the Sunrise Villa is tucked away off a back country road – to a foreigner (yeah, me), maybe a little difficult to find. Popular in its own right, people travel from all around the country to taste their authentic Hakka style food. With an enviable feng shui arrangement, the natural space around the buildings are in perfect harmony – the mountains behind the restaurant serves as a strong support, the body of water in the front promotes fluidity and the green space in the middle of the lot for new life.
Not too far away from the SoGo department store in the Zhongxiao Dunhua district is the unique VVG Bon Bon (13, Lane 161, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1, Taipei 台北市敦化南路一段161巷13號). One of the most interesting places I have been to in Taiwan so far, this spot is great for a leisurely afternoon lunch or for high tea. The decoration inside, the general vibe and the clientele (from what I saw today) here is almost too cute for words. Housing an eclectic collection of items (silver glitter antler horns, a smiling child sized giraffe, several foot tall wooden nutcrackers, plastic cakes etc.) that would otherwise seem tacky or overdone on their own, VVG Bon Bon finds a way to make the pieces work together to create a fun atmosphere.
For lunch, we went to the Yamato restaurant for some Japanese cuisine. Whetting our appetites with a plate of crunchy marinated burdock roots, we eagerly waited for the the deluxe sashimi assortment. It was a nice mix of different elements that are harder to find as fresh in places like Montreal. The squid was very tender and chewy, the tuna and salmon melted in your mouth. As for the tempura shrimp, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and asparagus, each item was deep fried to perfection. The tea kettle soup was one of my favorites of the entire meal – it was tasty and full of nutrients, being composed of the juices of clams and mushrooms and a hint of lemon. Served piping hot, the tea kettle is served with a miniature cup that rests on top – you flip it down and use it to drink the broth out of. I thought it was a compact way to serve the dish and an aesthetically pleasing one too.
Qing Hua Dumplings has an unassuming looking exterior – to the average passerby, the place could be easily overlooked. Serving some of the most authentic, delicious soup dumplings I’ve had in the city (yes, even better than Chinatown), Qing Hua provides fast service, an approachable menu and great food.
Mundo Trattoria is probably the ‘hottest’ restaurant in the West Island – the place to see and be seen, if you’re into that. The outdoor seating area is limited (fits less than ten) but is quite pleasant to look at, what with an immaculately manicured patch of grass and perfectly trimmed bushes. The windows stretch up to the ceilings – at least twenty feet high, giving the restaurant the illusion of being bigger than it really is (not a bad thing).