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Chinese

Hot Dining

By Janice Hudson

KITCHEN ALCHEMYGio-Tea--024---Version-2-resized

Downtown at Gio on Market Street, Chef Bee Choo Chair gives traditional recipes an inventive new twist. Her version of poutine includes fried polenta fingers topped with duck confit, red wine jus, and blue “Cheez Whiz.” Open for lunch and dinner, Gio has a curated wine list and a creative mixed drinks menu.

SOUL FOOD

Photo: Timothy Richard

Photo: Timothy Richard

As the weather turns chillier, cozy up in a booth at Stayner’s Wharf Pub and Grill. The menu here has plenty to keep you warm, including steak and chicken dishes, plus local fare like pan-fried haddock and curry-crusted salmon. Most evenings offer live music, too.

SEASONS CHANGE

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There’s a new executive chef in the kitchen at Seasons by Atlantica on Robie Street. Chef Daniel Orovec is passionate about showcasing local ingredients on his new menu, which includes seafood favourites such as bacon-wrapped scallops and seafood linguini with saffron cream. “It’s about supporting local food and letting good ingredients shine on their own,” he says.

EDITOR’S CHOICE

Photo: NS Tourism Agency

Photo: NS Tourism Agency

On Lower Water Street, McKelvie’s takes fresh seafood to new creative heights. Try the maple-roasted bacon wrapped scallops or the lobster poutine with hand-cut fries. The crunchy haddock is another top seller, with creamy BBQ sauce and garlic mashed potatoes.

SLICE OF LIFEClam-Pie2-resized

Specializing in thin crust, New York Italian-style pizza for over 20 years, Salvatore’s Pizzaiolo in The Hydrostone has doubled its seating capacity thanks to a recent renovation. The restaurant kept its signature Italian-style décor and stucco walls, but it now has a sleek bar area serving local brews on tap.

GOURMET TO GOThe-Canteen-resized

With chef Renée Lavallée at the helm, The Canteen on Ochterloney Street in Dartmouth serves up a flavourful array of sandwiches, salads, and take-out meals featuring fresh local ingredients. The bread is baked on-site, including gluten-free options.

THE SPICE ROUTEFOOD_Wonton_Soup-resized

Specializing in Chinese cuisine since 1984, Great Wall, located downtown on Bedford Row, boasts robust Cantonese and Szechuan dishes such as Kung Po shrimp and Singapore vermicelli. Owner Patrick Wong also offers tasty Dim Sum on Sundays from 11:30am to 3pm.

Hot Dining: Viva Vietnamese

Watching Linh Tran expertly man a sizzling hot wok while simultaneously tending grilled pork, it’s clear she’s in her element inside Viva restaurant. Viva’s Vietnamese food, with its French, Chinese and Indian influences, has earned a loyal following. From bánh mì to deluxe vermicelli to sweet and savoury stewed basa, the 50-seat West End eatery delivers well-executed Vietnamese classics. Authenticity rules inside the family-run business right down to the herbs and spices, many of which are sourced directly from Vietnam. 505 Sargent Ave, 204-772-3167.

Travel Trends: Why Chinese Tastes Matter

The chef at Hilton Beijing Wangfujing serves Huanying breakfast items including congee, dim sum, and fried rice and noodles. Items like this are now available in 51 Hilton hotels in 13 countries.

China is richer than ever—or at least richer than any time since the Qin dynasty—and Chinese disposable income is on the rise. Savvy entrepreneurs have been eyeing this trend and scurrying to capitalize on it. Even not-so-private interests like public high schools have thrown their hats in the ring.

The travel industry is no different. In a recent interview, Ferragamo CEO Salvatore Ferragamo advocated a more exclusive shopping experience at airports, including VIP areas for, well, VIP travellers. To support this move, he cited the expectations of wealthy Chinese travellers who he says want high-quality European products coupled with as Asian-style customer service.

International hotelier Hilton recently launched Hilton Huanying, a hospitality program aimed specifically at Chinese travellers to make them feel at home abroad. For instance, the Huanying hotels offer familiar Chinese breakfast options like fish congee and turnip cakes and an in-room selection of Chinese teas; a Chinese-speaking front desk attendant is guaranteed around the clock. (As yet, the only Canadian hotels to roll out the program are the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown and the Hilton Toronto Airport Hotel & Suites.)

Those businesses—and nations, for that matter—who don’t consider the Chinese traveller may miss out. A recent New York Times opinion piece suggests that the U.S. is losing market share to countries like France with less-stringent tourist visa requirements and with shops scrambling to hire Chinese-speaking staff.

Hot Dining: A Taste of China

Lauded by Where to Eat in Canada as “the best Chinese restaurant in Halifax,” Cheelin is one of those rare restaurants adored by neighbourhood regulars and visitors alike. The Lower Water Street restaurant serves Szechuan and Beijing cuisine betwixt the worn stone walls of the historic Brewery Market building. The Friday buffet lunch is a favourite of the downtown business crowd.

February Editor’s Picks: Dining

Buca's industrial-chic interior (photo by Jessica Napier).

1. The rustic Italian heavyweights of Toronto’s dining scene have a new challenger in Buca, a supremely hip yet still homey restaurant that recently opened on King Street West. Brainchild of the owners of similarly stylish steakhouse Jacobs & Co., the industrial-chic space—exposed brick, iron girders, bare light bulbs—suggests tastes both modern and timeless, ably reflected in the daily menu of Italophilic fare conjured by Mark McEwan protégé Rob Gentile. The chef’s authentic offerings are priced in the $12 to $39 range, and could include fresh pastas like veal cappelletti or duck egg tagliatelle, authentically adorned thin-crust pizzas, and, in acquiescence to a growing trend, a variety of flavourful house-cured meats.

Sweet and sour pork at Zin.

2. The words “fine dining” and “Chinese food” are not always synonymous, but they mesh handsomely in Yorkville, where Zin recently took up residence in a turn-of-the-century home. Aiming for upscale, attentive servers proffer delicately plated dishes that add a French inflection to Cantonese cuisine. A smattering of traditional dim sum options (all $4) such as har gow and spring rolls lead into exemplary mains, from Peking Duck ($48) and slow-baked Ontario squab ($28) to sweet-and-sour pork ($14) and two pounds of lobster cooked any way you like ($42).

Prime restaurant

3. Frightful February weather shouldn’t keep you from a fresh and filling meal. You may find these restos are but an elevator ride away.

>> A mélange of classic dishes and seasonal, locally sourced fare comprises a culinary cornucopia at Annona, aptly named for the Roman goddess of harvest.

>> Yorkville’s One dishes out decadence courtesy of star chef Mark McEwan in a swank room adorned with smoked glass, cowhide leather and tiger-eye onyx.

>> Only top-quality cuts—like Kobe beef striploin ($115)—are served at modern steakhouse Prime. On Sundays, the prime rib dinner ($40) is a meaty value.

>> At Senses, chef Patrick Lin mixes French and Asian inspirations in such entrees as a crispy duck breast ($29) and a trio of crab with tartar sauce and black bean vinaigrette ($27).

>> A mountain-, forest- and ocean-inspired interior reflects the Canadian cuisine—such as birch syrup–glazed arctic char and foie gras ($34)—at Tundra.