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Le Bremner is one of Montreal’s newest and most popular restaurants – not only has it been all over the Urbanspoon talk of the town, but it has been quite successful in getting a fair amount of attention just through word of mouth. This buzz may mostly be because of its celebrity chef owner, Chuck Hughes. With a sweet spot on St. Paul street in the Old Port and one of the most beautiful terraces I’ve seen in a while, the back part of the restaurant is an absolute gem. Weather permitting (fall and colder weather fast approaching), make sure to request for a spot out there. Surrounded by rustic chic decor and leafy greens, paneled/embossed ceilings and great big wooden tables, Le Bremner has its look nailed. The lack of signage makes it very possible for people to miss Le Bremner – the word “Restaurant” is written in simple red lettering above steps leading to a basement level giving it a more underground, exclusive feel.
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.
An hour and half away from Taipei city by bus, Shen Yen is located in the suburb of Yilan. It is a quaint little restaurant across from an elevated bike path with a gorgeous view of the lush green mountains. The owners of Shen Yen are dedicated to bringing their customers the freshest ingredients and the best food – this becomes quite obvious from the moment you even get a glimpse of the front of the restaurant as they have dozens of large pots full of fermenting soya beans so that they can make their own soya sauce. The garden out back is full of home grown fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Last night, we ate according to the weather. Cool and grey, the humid spring temperature brought the black flies and the mosquitos out of hiding and out into the open, forcing us to abandon any hope of staying outdoors. Scampering inside to avoid the pestering swarm, we contented ourselves with making a delicious home-cooked country meal.
The leek and potato soup required we ‘sweat’ the vegetables (carrots, celery, leeks and onions) in order to extract the flavor for the soup base. Thickening it with cream and potatoes, we finished the dish with salt and pepper and served it with a dash of cayenne pepper for a hint of spicy flavor.
For the salad, we used a spring mix with arugula and added orange slices, sliced avocado, chopped red onions and dried cranberries. The dressing was half a lemon’s worth of juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Simple yet tasty!
The main meal had us sautéing the onions, carrots with added spices of cardamom, cumin, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper. The chicken slices were done in a similar way with raisins, plums and oranges, later baked in the oven for 60 minutes. The Israeli couscous was boiled and mixed in with the chicken and vegetables. All in all, a great meal! For the next time, I would serve smaller portions of the soup and the main as they are both heavier dishes. The Israeli couscous must be boiled for at least fifteen minutes (don’t treat it like regular couscous – that takes around ten minutes) otherwise the grain comes out a little tougher than most people like.
Good luck and enjoy!