Finding yourself a great meal is a constant problem when you travel Canada. This country has no gourmet guides, not even a compendium of reliable greasy spoons. So Maclean’s decided to present its own nominations — the best eating place in every province, each one a restaurant that will surprise and delight you. We’ve searched for places that are not well publicized, sometimes off the beaten track. (We skipped Montreal: you’ll have no trouble finding great restaurants there.)
The test of any good restaurant is not lavish trimmings; its true measure is a loving chef — a man of taste and concern for every detail of a meal, a man who demands the finest quality for his clientele. If we found this noble creature in pleasant surroundings, so much the better. We passed by the flambéeverything restaurants, the kind of places , where the air pollution is thicker than the potage parmentlerf These horrors are strictly for the unwary tourist who wants something to show for his money, food be damned. And we assiduously avoided any establishment /‘that Indulged in menu-ese of the “succulent young spring chicken poached in a delicate sauce of country-fresh butter, herbs and exotic wines” variety.
The criteria in our search were passion and joy: passion for good food — not necessarily complicated or tricky — and joyous postprandial sensations. This is our guide to 10 happy meals — and the places where you’ll find them. Eating, after all, should be another form of sensual communication, like making love.
BRITISH COLUMBIA: The Swiss Restaurant, Victoria. Outsiders always think of BC in terms of Vancouver, but when It comes to restaurants it’s best not to be so narrow. In Victoria, underneath the surface of arbutus trees, clouds and endless blossoms, there Is dining sophistication. The Swiss Restaurant is
located in an English-style mansion, circa 1910, set in an attractive garden, and looks out on the entrance to Victoria's Inner Harbor. The ships, the lights, the water are enough to lull you into a good mood even if you hate food. There are two rooms divided by an open hearth where the chef-owner presides over your dinner. Two of the house specialties are particularly good: salmon à la maison, three dollars; and the braised sweetbreads, delicately herbed, $3.50. Unfortunately, salads tend to be soggy and the coffee is a travesty. The wine list is reasonable in price but not particularly distinguished. The owner has a superlative sense of Individual treatment, however, and this makes up for any inadequacies you may occasionally find on the menu.
Ambience: very good Service: excellent
Reservations: 383-8022 (a necessity — the hours are idiosyncratic)
ALBERTA: The Tower Suite, Edmonton. This city has so much new money that it’s difficult to find a good restaurant that isn’t hideously expensive and cluttered with the sputtering of entire dinners being flambéed to a fare-theewell. The Tower Suite is slightly out of the way and doesn’t have live entertainment or dancing. The surroundings are intimate, the mood romantic. Many of the tables have black-leather love seats, if you like dining close to the hand-holding position. The chef’s pâté, $1.15, and Caesar Salad for two, $2.80, are delicious. Filet à la Stroganoff, $4.90; and steak and lobster, $6.50 (a six-ounce portion of Alberta beef is complemented by a w.hole lobster tail and rests on a bed of rice) are two superb house specialties. One charming feature: after dessert, a complimentary fruit-and-cheese plate.
Service: efficient and friendly
Reservations: 424-3369 i
PRODUCED BY MARJORIE HARRIS PHOTOGRAPH BY
IF YOU’VE GOT A TASTE FOR KAISERSCHNITZEL, FROG’S LEGS IN GARLIC SAUCE, DIGBY CHICKEN OR A DRAM OF MUFFLED SCREECH, YOU’RE IN LUCK — HERE’S WHERE YOU’LL FIND THEM ALL
ASKATCHEWAN: L’Habitant, Regina, is one of those delightful small restaurants you won’t find out about unless you have a friend in the city who likes to eat. It’s a tiny place, seating only 25 diners at a time, and, though the specialty is steak, it’s incomparably superior to the usual run of western over-glossed steak houses. The furnishings are charming early French-Canadian, the walls are hung with paintings by local artists plus funky old landscapes, giving the impression of artistic chaos. There’s no entertainment, no canned music (five Maclean's stars right there), just food, and it’s the only place in Regina that offers such simplicity. The soup is fantastic: a thick, rich pea soup. The recipe comes from Quebec, but the chef can’t remember the precise origin and he’s been cooking it the same way since he opened 12 years ago. This is one place where you order a steak (four to five dollars) rare and it will actually come as ordered. Salads are pretty awful but there are just no local vegetables worthy of note. Kiyo for dessert (boysenberries, champagne and whipped cream), 55 cents, is a fascinating concoction and makes up for the dull vegetables.
MANITOBA: The White House, Winnipeg. Now this is the place to go when you’re feeling sensual and want to get into food up to your elbows. It serves the best spareribs in the country. The price is a flat three dollars, and you get French fries plus the most incredible cole slaw. The slaw is loaded with garlic and marinated to a palatable, burning perfection. Wine is available but, with ribs of this calibre, genteel sipping of the grape is out: wolfing pints of beer is more in keeping with the food. The restaurant is clean and casual. You’ll find yourself equally at home in blue jeans or black tie. Finger bowls are supplied along with huge paper towels, presumably to keep up the super-casual atmosphere. It’s perfect for that Tom. Jones-ish mood. Ambience: Early Arborite Service: polite
Kaiserschnitzel, $4.25; spinach salad with bacon and cream dressing, 50 cents; duckling or smoked pork in raisin sauce, four dollars. If you can’t stand confusion, wait until you can go to the Sunday family brunch (12-2 p.m.). Somehow the room is impressive enough to keep the kids well-behaved and the waitresses are very patient with them. The price is three dollars. It includes a choice of five dishes, plus beautifully prepared desserts, soup, salad and coffee. The room offers some excellent wines, even if they are served in a haphazard manner. Get to know the sommelier first thing and you’ll probably get the right wine with the right course. He’ll chat you up most charmingly and ignore anyone whose attitudes to his favorite subject are boorish. Ambience: fresh and unpretentious Service: maddening Reservations: hopeless
QUEBEC: La Saulaie, Boucherville, is about 12 miles from the centre of Montreal on the South Shore Road. Montreal is full of magnificent restaurants but this one will take you away from the traffic and the crowds into a completely soothing atmosphere. You are treated like a guest in an 18th-century seigneurial manor. Don’t let the fact that it was built in 1965 put you off; it’s all done with taste and style. The view over the St. Lawrence to the Montreal skyline is breathtaking and a nice touch of intimacy is maintained throughout an unhurried dinner (plan from three to four hours). On request, the waiter will provide menus without prices so your guest may order with no thought in mind but food. Specialties of the house include Frog’s Legs in Garlic Sauce, five dollars; Entrecôte Maître d’Hôtel, six dollars; Crab-filled Crêpes with Bechamel and Cheese Sauce, $5.50. For an exotic dessert try Le Sabayon, a delicious flambéed concoction of egg yolks, Remy Martin, Tia Maria, Grand Marnier, vin blanc and lemons, $3.50 for two. In spite of the cost (from $10 to $15 per person), La Saulaie is ideal for a romantic and languorous evening. Ambience: regal splendor Service: slow, but apt in this atmosphere Reservations: 655-0434
ONTARIO: Walper Hotel, Kitchener. This astonishing little hotel is right in the middle'Of the richest farm area in the country, so the quality of the meat and vegetables is magnificent. The dining room is an oasis of crisp linen, fresh flowers and bright airy spaces in what is an unglamorous hotel. In spite of increasing crowds, the dining room is open for just 2Vz hours for dinner (6-8.30 p.m.). Making a reservation just doesn’t count. If a crowd shows up, the serving staff has nervous breakdowns. If you don’t give up, the leg of lamb stuffed with kidneys in Armagnac, $4.25, will make up for a long wait. There is a standard menu of local specialties (it’s in the midst of a large Mennonite community):
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND: Dalvay Inn on the north shore of the island is about 17 miles from Charlottetown. This is a splendid Victorian mansion initially built in 1895 as the summer house of a wealthy American. The high ceilings, dark polished wood and massive furniture lend an air of stillness to any meal. The menuiat the Dalvay has four main courses: two fish; two meat for under four dollars. This includes excellent soup, hors d’oeuvres, homemade bread and simple but charming desserts.
Ambience: quiet and airy Service: courteous and swift Open: June 10 to September 15 Reservations: COvehead 15
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A really marvelous Island treat is the tradition of lobster dinners, usually sponsored by service groups and held in gaily decorated but otherwise drab church basements. They can be found everywhere throughout the summer. If you like lobster .au naturel and feel you never get enough, this is a must. A gorging-type meal for a family of four could cost less than $12. No booze.
NOVA SCOTIA: The Sea Shell Dining Room and Craft Centre in Annapolis Royal is the outstanding seafood restaurant east of Quebec City. The two sisters who run the dining room had their own vegetable garden until this year. But it proved too much: cooking, serving and gardening. Now a neighbor delivers the vegetables just before they’re required for your meal. The seafood chowder, made with lobster, clams, scallops, fresh cream and herbs accompanied by homemade bread is practically a meal in itself. Hors d’oeuvres include Digby Chicken (salt herring), dulse (dried seaweed). The most expensive item on a limited menu is a full lobster dinner for six dollars. It’s idyllic for sunset-gazing, coffee and brandy in the rose garden, and very subdued conversation.
Ambience: discreet sea decor Service: casual
Open: last week in June through Labor Day from 5.30-9.30 p.m.
NEW BRUNSWICK: This province has some of the finest food and the best cooks in the country, but they don’t open restaurants. Eating out is not a big New Brunswick thing. Cy’s Sea Food Restaurant in Moncton, however, is one of the few exceptions. It’s located on the banks of the Petitcodiac River and the tidal bore can be viewed through its spacious windows. The specialty of the house is a lobster-and-seafood combination platter, $3.95; and seafood casserole, $2.95. Both are first-rate. Ambience: nothing special Service: good
NEWFOUNDLAND: Woodstock Colonial Inn, is seven miles from St. John’s. The restaurant is in a converted homestead with a New England-y sort of charm: low ceilings, bow windows, some tacky fish nets and Atlanticana, but the atmosphere is conducive to conversation. The menu slumps into purple descriptions of the food; however, the cod tongues, $2.90, or Perfection Flipper Pie, $3.75, are indigenous delicacies and very good. The wine list is uninspired. You might try a Muffled Screech some time.Newfoundland screech combined with Cointreau and smooth cream.
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