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The Times And Trials Of Working in a French Restaurant

By Ashley of Curious Provence

I walked into the dining room to the sound of the repeated yelling of the word “merde!!” It was coming from the kitchen. The fear that had been a low rumble intensified as I was faced with the head chef/owner. All my French vocabulary escaped me. His face contorted as I began to speak, the same expression many French people adopt when I open my mouth. I’ve become somewhat accustomed to it. Minutes later, I was shaking as I was opening a wine bottle in front of a table of four french people. The more nervous I was the slower I was, the slower I was, the more nervous I became. At home I could rip into a bottle of wine no problem- and do so every night (when in France…) This was different. Drops of red wine dripped all over the white tablecloth.

French people take each job and turn it into a métier, or a trade. You specialise in what you do and you’re proud of it. The chef must have been desperate; I had never worked as a waitress before. Living in a rural village in France only gives you so many options.

provence wine

Shift work was not an option. As the team or as the chef called us, his ‘soldiers’, needed so much training, we worked both lunch and dinner service. I found myself in seemingly perpetual cycles of working, eating, sleeping and nothing else. My brain was exhausted not only to keep up with the French but the French slang that is so common with restaurant staff. Everything is abbreviated. On orders, cabillaud (cod) is KBIO, personnel is ‘perso’ a carafe of water is a circle with a line through it. My french vocabulary was incredibly slow to improve due to my inability to actually hear what anyone was saying. I tried to pick out words that I kept on ripped pieces of paper in my back pocket. Who knew there were so many expressions with the word fart in them?!

The clients participated in a constant guessing game of where I was from. Thankfully, there were exclamations of joy whenever I mentioned I was Canadian. This was swiftly followed by the interrogation of why on earth I would move here when all the young French people are moving there. I learned that being Canadian is oddly considered chic and la classe. Explaining the nationalistic difference between French Canada, where I’m from, and identifying myself as Canadian instead of Quebecois was a constant topic of conversation. This interest in my heritage thankfully disguised some of my inept shaky serving.

The drinks were tricky. The French love of sirops (syrups) meant that I had to learn, rather unsuccessfully, all the different names of sirops combined with water, pastis, lemonade and beer. For example, a ‘Monaco’ is a ‘panaché’ (beer with a little lemonade) with grenadine sirop. A gommé, or a demi acid, is beer with lemon sirop. Then, there are all the French and local specialties. How to serve pastis (aniseed liquor) with all it’s various sirops and their various names. Rinquinuin…what a name! Once, after the evening shift, the chef made me try Jet 27; it was like drinking toothpaste.

charcuterie board france

I had to learn how to say to say ‘non.’ As an anglo-saxon from a capitalist society, I had a hard time getting used to the fact that the customer is not king. Eventually, the long days and the lack of extra money for extra hours and the French inability to tip, allowed me to adopt some of the French waiter attitude. You want to eat at 7pm? The chef had no problem telling potential clients that we eat then, you eat afterwards. You want your beef well done? Impossible! Your want a special menu for your kid? Non. You want to eat lunch at 2:30 in the afternoon? Non. How dare you not order an entrée? How dare you not eat all of your meal. All this, along with the chef’s strong conviction that all vegetarians should be hospitalised, led to some interesting situations. Surprisingly, the French actually put up with this and indeed expect it.

A part of the job is getting to know the clientele. This is paramount in a rural French village. I’ll never forget the local olive producer’s exasperation when I made him spell his name for me on the phone for a reservation. You become adept at details. You remember to reserve the table next to the kitchen for the guy who comes every week with a different girl, you remember (after much tongue twisting practice) that 5A in front of the local sausage means: Association Amicale des Amateurs d’Andouillette Authentique.

provence france cafe

You learn that it’s rude not to do the 3 ‘bisous’ (kisses) with every single person in the kitchen when you get to work in the morning. You learn to keep a straight face as hot coffee spills on you. You program yourself, through sheer anxiety, to distinguish the ring of the bell from the kitchen despite the noise of a roaring restaurant. You can even tell the mood of the chef by his ring.

The pecking order of a restaurant is evident at all times. Everyone is asking something of you, even the dishwasher. You wouldn’t believe the effortless insults that can be utilised while amazingly still using the formal ‘vousvoyer’ form. You learn to jump at the chef’s exclamation of “Hellooo??” If you don’t stand up for yourself, you’ll be trampled. As you can imagine, defending yourself in another language is a constant battle. After shifts, in the early hours of the morning, I’d angrily punch into WordReference.com all kinds of words I wish I had known at previous moments during the day. I was exasperated that there isn’t a real translation of smart ass in French. In such a stressful environment you can be under attack at any moment.

After two months, I was replaced with someone who could handle six plates at once. I learned to carry only 2.5. I learned how to make foam for a cappuccino and the difference between a parmentier and a parmentière. I was able to have an insight into French peculiarities, such as leaving half bottles of wine and taking cigarette breaks between each course. I learned the incredible subjectivity of the restaurant experience and that, from now on, I’ll be leaving much bigger tips!

 


curious provence profile photoABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley is a Canadian living in Provence, documenting her life and experiences in the area on CuriousProvence. She shares her passion and knowledge of local food, wine, markets, festivities and other interesting cultural particularities. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

 


Top Ten Luxurious Hotel Suites around the World

If you had all the money in the world to spend on extravagant holidays, private jet trips and extraordinary hotels, where would you spend your dream night? It’s definitely a tough call but to help you narrow it down, we’ve put together a list of 10 of some of the most luxurious hotel suites around the world.

1. Sultan Suite at Ciragan Palace, Istanbul

The Sultan Suite at Ciragan Palace is one of the largest luxury hotel suites in the world at 1,050-square-feet.  You will feel like a real king or queen in this former Ottoman palace, which now stands rebuilt and finished in marble as a luxury hotel. The suite includes a private steam room and rain shower, a guest room with a Devon bathtub, two fireplaces, decadent chandeliers and more.

The Ciragan Palace is said to host the likes of royals, fashion designers and Hollywood actors. This lavish suite provides guests with the best of today’s modern amenities.

Average cost:  $36,900 per night

sultan-suite-view-ciragan-palace

2. Ritz-Carlton Suite at Ritz-Carlton, Moscow

One of the outstanding traits about the Ritz-Carlton Suites are the unparalleled views guests experience high atop the city. The 2,550-square-foot suite is decked out in majestic Russian style furniture and decorative pieces.

If you love music you will admire the living room space which has a grand piano; while the bedroom features an ensuite with marble baths, separate rain shower and private sauna.

Average cost:  $18,000 per night

ritz-carlton-moscow-suite

photo credit: THE RITZ-CARLTON MOSCOW

3. Royal Suite at the Burj Al Arab, Dubai

The 8,395-square-foot of marble floors and mahogany furniture in the Royal Suite is one of the finest and most distinctive hotel suites in the world. Where else can you enjoy a private cinema, a rotating four-poster bed, a private butler and even the free use of a 24-karat gold-plated iPad?

Rich golds, purples and reds colour the room and its exotic features distinguish it from any other luxury suite, arguably on the planet. This sumptuous suite also has a personal elevator, library and lovely views of the Arabian Gulf.
Average cost:  $22,900 per night

burj-al-arab-royal-suite

Photo credit: Jumeirah

4. Ty Warner Penthouse at the Four Seasons Hotel, New York

A night at the Ty Warner Penthouse will really make you feel like you’re on top of the world! The Penthouse which is popular with the rich and famous is located 800 feet above the street in one of the highest hotel rooms in Manhattan, giving you fantastic views of New York City.

The luxurious pad is detailed with Italian marble and Venetian velvet, with 25ft-high ceilings and a balcony at each of the suite’s corners. Other amenities include a personal butler, and the exclusive use of a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce.

Average cost:  $40,000 per night

four-seasons-ny-library

Photo credit: Four Seasons

5. Bridge Suite at the Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas

Literally located on the bridge connecting two Royal Towers, the Atlantis Paradise Island’s Bridge Suite offers guests spectacular views of the holiday resort island. The suite’s unique amenities include his and her master bathrooms with oversized walk-in showers that are fit for a king.

Other luxuries you will find in the living room include a grand piano, bar and twin entertainment centers as well as a dining room capped with a 22-karat gold chandelier. The suite also offers guests a round-the-clock staff of seven butlers and helpers.
Average cost:  $25, 000 per night

royaltowers_bridgesuite_livingarea

Photo Credit: Atlantis

6. Royal Suite at Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris

If you’re looking to treat yourself to a one night of unrivalled luxury, then the Four Seasons Hotel George V’s Royal Suite is the place to be. Where else can you fall asleep in a plush bed under a sky illuminated by the lights of the Eiffel Tower?

The Royal Suite has a direct access to a private terrace overlooking the historic art deco fountain of the Three Graces. And apart from the fine art from the 18th and 19th century that adorn the walls of the suite, guests can enjoy a spacious marble bathroom with a steam room, sauna and a walk-in dressing room.

Average cost:  $24, 550 per night

royal-suite-four-seasons-paris

 

Photo credit: Four Seasons

7. Shahi Mahal Suite at the Raj Palace, Jaipur, India

The majestic Raj Palace is a restored ancient royal castle, so you can expect true magnificence from the opulent six-bedroom suite that is decked out with ivory and gold furniture, ornate mirrors and Italian marble floors.

The 16,000-square-foot suite has a dining room, a private theatre, and library as well as providing guests access to a personal kitchen staff over four floors.

Average cost:  $40,000 per night

PRESIDENTIAL-SUITE-raj-palace-india

Photo credit: The Raj Palace

8. Presidential Suite at the Mandarin Oriental in Pudong, Shanghai, China

This extravagant Presidential Suite is one of the most outstanding of its kind in Shanghai. The two-bedroom suite radiates with Chinese opulence and luxurious contemporary décor.  In the lovely bathroom which is larger than most Hong Kong apartments you will find an assortment of luxury bathroom amenities and plush bathrobes for ultimate comfort.

Enjoy a walk on the two private roof gardens which reveal incredible views over the city. The suite has a private meeting room, a fully equipped kitchen and a three-meter wine bar.

Average cost:  $26,450 per night

shanghai-suite

Photo credit: Mandarin Oriental

9. Presidential Suite at The Westin Cape Town, South Africa

Aside from the posh bathrobes and exquisite amenities that complete the spa-like experience at the The Westin’s Presidential Suite, the spacious retreat boasts full-length panoramic windows, affording guests incredible views of the Cape Town cityscape, Table Mountain and V&A Waterfront.

The suite, which features a soundproof entertainment and study room, is ideal for entertaining as it comes with a 42-inch flat screen TV and Sony Playstation, perfect  for the family.

Average cost:  $20,000 per night

westin-cape-town-suite-copy
Photo credit: The Westin Cape Town

 

10. Royal Penthouse Suite at the Hotel President Wilson, Geneva

This suite tops off the list as the largest in Europe as well as being the most luxurious suite in the world. The 12,917-square-foot Royal Penthouse Suite takes up the entire eighth and top floor of the hotel, giving guests a fantastic view over the city.

This exceptional suite offers guests pure luxury with unique amenities including one of the biggest TVs in the world, a grand piano, a private lift which takes guests directly to their royal living quarters as well as a private fitness room.

Average cost:  $83,200 per night

hotel-president-wilson-presidential-suite

Photo Credit: Hotel President Wilson

Whether it’s for your dream honeymoon or a one night celebration, these luxurious hotel suites provide an unforgettable experience. Why not make your trip to these, and other, incredible places even more glamorous by chartering a luxury jet to your destination for a complete on-top-of-the-world experience! And if you’d like to add more delightful getaways for your dream holiday escape, check out this Top Ten Most Extravagant Places to Stay list.

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5 Best Filipino Restaurants in Metro Manila

By Angela Sibal of Foodicles

What is Filipino Cuisine?

Filipino cuisine is as diverse as its thousands of islands. Dishes vary from region to region with influences from almost everywhere in the world as a result of the country’s deep history of colonization. You can taste Spanish, Chinese, Indian, British, American, Malay, Portuguese, African, and on and on.

The country as a whole has signature dishes, such as adobo (chicken or pork marinated in a vinegar-soy base and then browned to finish) and lechon (roasted pig with cracker-like skin).

But, what else can you order if you aren’t hungry enough to eat a whole roasted pig?

Filipino food goes well beyond the meat. Local seafood is the star of many dishes, as well as vegetables rich in nutrients and antioxidants lesser known in western cuisine.

Basically summed up: Filipino cuisine is comfort food served family style, and over rice, of course.

If you plan on visiting Manila, here are five favourite and reliable restaurants that will help you taste the best of the country’s cuisine in a comfortable environment for locals and tourists alike and can safely be considered some of the best filipino restaurants in Metro Manila.




Best Filipino Restaurants in Metro Manila

Abe Restaurant

Abe Restaurant serves traditional Filipino cuisine with inspiration from Pampanga, a province north of the capital known for its love of food.

The owner, Larry J. Cruz, named the restaurant after his father, Abe Cruz. Abe was a respected writer, artist, and ambassador for UNESCO in the 1970s. The menu reflects his favourite dishes as well as old family recipes.

In Pampanga, “Abe” also means “friend”, “companion”, and “getting together” which perfectly emulates the restaurant’s slogan, “Where good friends dine.”

For a traditional Filipino meal experience, Abe Restaurant is the place to visit.

Highlights include a refreshing Kinilaw na Tanique, the Filipino version of ceviche, and Knockout Knuckles, also known as crispy pata – fried pork knuckles with tender meat under cracker-like skin.

Kinilaw na Tanigue. Ceviche

Kinilaw na Tanigue. Ceviche of tanigue belly (local white fish) washed in palm vinegar, coconut milk, and spice

 

Sinuteng Baby Squid

Sinuteng Baby Squid. Small squid sautéed in olive oil and seasonings

 

Chicharon Bulaklak

Chicharon Bulaklak. Homemade crisp fried pork intestines

 

Knockout Knuckles

Knockout Knuckles. Traditional fried crispy pata (pork knuckles) with blistered skin adding to the crunch of every bite

Where You’ll Find Abe Restaurant & Hours of Operation:

G/F Serendra
26th St
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig
+63-2-856-0526
11am to 3pm, 5pm to 11pm

2/F Entertainment Section
SM Mall of Asia
Business Park I
Bay City
Manila Bay Reclamation Area
Pasay
+63-2-556-0608
10am to 12am

3/F Mega Fashion Hall
SM Megamall
Mandaluyong
+63-2-631-4719
10am to 10pm

3/F Trinoma Mall
EDSA cor North Avenue
Quezon City
+63-2-901-5692
11am to 12am

Alabang Town Center
Lifestyle Strip
Commerce Ave
Alabang, Muntinlupa
+63-2-623-0899
Sunday to Thursday, 11am to 10pm
Friday to Saturday, 11am to 11pm

 

Manam Comfort Food

Manam Comfort Food offers the best of both worlds – classics and twists. Classics are the traditional Filipino dishes, while twists are the playful, modern interpretations of those classics.

Dishes come with a choice of portion sizes – small, medium, or large. This is perfect for everyone from solo diners to couples to large groups.

Manam is the place to visit that offers something for everyone.

Highlights include the Seafood Bounty Kare Kare, the local peanut stew beautifully presented with fresh seafood, and contrasting versions of the classic and modern twist of Pancit Palabok.

Fresh Lumpiang Ubod

Fresh Lumpiang Ubod. Fresh spring roll filled with ubod (hearts of palm)

 

Seafood Bounty Kare-Kare

Seafood Bounty Kare-Kare. Crab, prawns, tanigue, squid, and mussels with house-made vegetable ukoy fritters

 

Pancit Palabok

Pancit Palabok. Thick and savory house-made sauce made from rich shrimp stock, tofu, tinapa, and annatto poured over noodles and topped with house-made chicharon, crispy garlic, spring onions, fresh shrimp, and seared squid

 

Crispy Pancit Palabok

Crispy Pancit Palabok. Towering glass noodles topped with house-made chicharon, crispy garlic, spring onions, fresh shrimp, baby squid, and crab floss, all covered with thick and savory house-made sauce

Where You’ll Find Manam Comfort Food & Hours of Operation:

G/F Net Park Bldg
4th Avenue, between 26th & 28th St.
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig
+63-2-332-9390
Monday to Friday, 10am to 10pm
Saturday to Sunday, 11am to 10pm

G/F Greenbelt 2
Esperanza St
Ayala Center
Makati
+63-2-625-0515
11am to 11pm

SM Mall of Asia
Seaside Blvd
Pasay
+63-2-511-8401
10am to 10pm

1/F Ayala Fairview Terraces
Fairview
Quezon City
+63-2-625-4719
9am to 10pm

 

Milky Way Café

Milky Way Café opened in 2002 with its roots as a classic old school destination. It started in the 1950s as a dairy bar and soda fountain. It was then taken over by a local family who included native Filipino dishes and desserts to the menu.

The café serves traditional Filipino dishes that can be eaten at any time of the day – lunch, merienda, or dinner. In fact, merienda is a popular meal time in the Philippines to stop and have a mid-day snack, which usually ends up as a meal complete with dessert.

Highlights include Pork BBQ for sweet, savory bits of pork on a stick and Milky Way Halo Halo, the country’s signature dessert and frequently voted the best in town.

Pork BBQ

Pork BBQ. Skewered marinated pork, java rice (fried rice colored with annatto), and atchara (sweet pickled green papaya)

 

Crispy Daing na Bangus

Crispy Daing na Bangus. Marinated milkfish in vinegar and garlic, and then fried. The best part is the belly in the middle

 

Crispy Catfish

Crispy Catfish. Deep fried local catfish served with salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and mustard leaves

 

Milky Way Halo Halo

Milky Way Halo Halo. The best since 1962. Leche flan, preserved fruits, ube, pinipig, and milk topped with shaved ice and ube ice cream

 

Where You’ll Find Milkyway Cafe & Hours of Operation:

Milkyway Building
2nd Floor
900 Arnaiz Avenue (formerly Pasay Road), corner Paseo de Roxas
Makati
+63-2-843-4124
Monday to Saturday, 11am to 10pm
Closed Sundays

 

Romulo Café

Romulo Café is named after Carlos P. Romulo, a journalist and diplomat who was the first Asian to serve as president of the UN General Assembly. He was a notable historical public figure during the American occupation.

The restaurant serves traditional quality comfort food. It is ideal for large groups and families.

Romulo Café has even expanded internationally with a location in London presenting Filipino cuisine to locals in smart, elegant setting to elevate comfort food.

Highlights include the appetizers such as Chicharon, freshly popped pig’s skin, and Crispy Crablets, tiny crabs fried and eaten whole.

Chicharon

Chicharon. Freshly popped chicharon (pig’s skin) with pinakurat vinegar (spicy vinegar)

 

Crispy Crablets

Crispy Crablets. Tiny crablets fried until golden brown and served with pinakurat vinegar

 

Paco Salad

Paco Salad. Fresh fiddleheads, cherry tomatoes, and onions tossed in a spicy vinaigrette

 

Eskabetcheng Lapu-Lapu

Eskabetcheng Lapu-Lapu. Deep fried lapu lapu (local snapper) with sweet-and-sour sauce

 

Where You’ll Find Romulo Cafe & Hours of Operation:

148 Jupiter St, corner Comet St
Bel Air
Makati
11am to 3pm, 6pm to 10pm

32 Scout Tuazon St., corner Scout Lazcano, near Tomas Morato
Laging Handa
Diliman, Quezon City
11am to 3pm, 6pm to 10pm

Azumi Boutique Hotel
2205 Market St
Alabang, Muntinlupa
6am to 10pm

 

Sarsa Kitchen + Bar

Sarsa Kitchen + Bar presents traditional Filipino and Negrense (from the Negros Island Region) dishes with a contemporary touch.

“Sarsa” means sauces and condiments, a staple for Filipino eating. All dishes include pairings with sauces to enhance the flavors of the dining experience.

For a casual atmosphere with quality Filipino food, Sarsa Kitchen + Bar is the perfect destination.

Highlights include Inasal, grilled chicken parts of your choice, and Pinakbet, local vegetables perfectly cooked in crab fat and homemade XO sauce.

PakPak Inasal

PakPak Inasal. Grilled chicken wings with a charred finish

 

Tokwa’t Baboy

Tokwa’t Baboy. Fried Tofu on top of braised pork belly

 

Pinakbet

Pinakbet. Local vegetables with taba ng talangka, crispy tofu, and XO sauce

 

Twice-Cooked Pork Belly

Twice-Cooked Pork Belly. With peanut sauce on the side and ginamos gata (local shrimp paste sauce) and chili garlic sauce

 

Where You’ll Find Sarsa Kitchen + Bar & Hours of Operation:

Forum South Global
Federacion Drive, corner 7th Avenue
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig
+63-2-866-0912
+63-927-706-0773
11am to 11pm

109 Rada Street
Legaspi Village
Makati
+63-2-754-9943
+63-917-528-0115
10am to 11pm

2/F SM Mall of Asia Bay Side
Veranda
Pasay
+63-2-832-1362
+63-915-307-1426
10am to 10pm

3/F SM Megamall
Bldg A
Ortigas, Mandaluyong

UP Town Center
Katipunan Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City


All Of Our Articles From The Philippines

 


Foodicles profile imageABOUT THE AUTHOR

Angela Sibal, of Foodicles, is a Food & Luxury Travel Blogger who splits her time between Manila and San Francisco. She started traveling the world as a baby. Her first memories of travel were of luxury hotels and the high-end restaurants. Today, Angela continues to explore the world to eat and drink while enjoying the finer hotels and resorts in life. You can also follow her travels on Instagram and Snapchat.


 

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Moving To Canada After the US Election? Where To Eat Once You’re There!

With the impending US election, tensions are high and speculation is rampant, around the world, as to which of the (likely) candidates will be the next POTUS. For us neighbours to the north, the outcome in November may hold even more implications for the future. No, we’re not talking about the state of international relations or the suggested wall to be built between Canada and the USA. We’re talking about the many Americans who will apparently be fleeing, in droves, across the border. Since the most common phrase we as Canadians have heard from Americans is, “If so-and-so wins, we’ll be moving to Canada”, we’re anticipating the results this fall just as much as our US cousins. In fact, in one poll, 28% of respondents said they’d head to Canada if the candidate they vote for does not win. If you’re one of the many folks who are likely to do so, we’d like to pass on some important advice for when you’re here.

Sure we’ve got some decent healthcare, though you’ll be waiting longer than you’re used to, and yes we’re apparently incredibly polite so you’ll be hearing “sorry” a whole heck of a lot more. You’ll also have to get used to some of our lingo like, “eh”, which we use a lot less than most people think, and “pop”, instead of soda. There’s also “double-double”, a term used when ordering coffee with two creams and two sugars at our favourite coffee and donut shop, Tim Hortons. Don’t worry though, we’ve still got Starbucks aplenty!

But all this is eclipsed by a much more important fact. Canada has some of the most diverse and delicious restaurants you’ll ever find and with almost 6,000 miles from east coast to west coast, there’s a lot of places to go through to find the best. Rather than arrive and have to search for your next meal with belongings in hand, residency paperwork to fill out and an empty stomach, we’ve put together a list of some of the best restaurants in Canada that will satisfy any craving you have!

Check Out These Best Places to Eat in Canada & Come Hungry!

Fortunately for those moving to Canada from the US, we have three of the most livable cities in the world, according to 2015 rankings by The Economist. That means a great city to live in and some incredible food on a regular basis. So to make things easier for you we’ve partnered with Zipkick – an app dedicated to giving you authentic reviews from trusted sources like expert travellers, chefs and sommeliers – to give you a ‘taste’ of what you’ll find on the app and to offer you some of our top picks for restaurants in Canada, coast to coast.

If you’re looking for more great restaurant, bar and cafe recommendations from seasoned travellers and culinary experts, head over to Zipkick to learn more and download the app to see recommendations for great cities around the world!




Spring Sushi – Toronto, Ontario

shushi and sashimi

Situated in the centre of one of Toronto’s busy districts, Yonge-Dundas Square, Spring Sushi is a great All-You-Can-Eat restaurants in the city. With views overlooking the square, and patio seating during the warmer months, you can enjoy an unlimited amount of Japanese or Thai cuisine simply by ordering on a touch-screen device. A modern, trendy atmosphere and great location makes this a good spot to catch a bit of sushi, though we recommend leaving visits to the weekdays where prices are more reasonable.

Boustan – Montreal, Quebec

Boustan is our choice for Lebanese food in all of Canada. Whether you’re craving a shawarma, falafel or kebab, Boustan’s got you covered with mouth-watering options. Keep in mind, their main plates are bursting with food so come hungry or opt for a smaller portion like a pita. We also loved their grape leaves which sit inconspicuously among the rest of the sides and dishes and with four locations around Quebec, you won’t have to settle in Montreal for a taste!

Minas Brazilian Steakhouse – Calgary, Alberta

In the province of Alberta, a place almost synonymous with beef for those of us in Canada, you’ll find one unique and meat-filled restaurant – Minas Brazilian Steakhouse. Think tender, seasoned cuts of BBQ meat, perfectly suited sides including a salad bar and then, best of all, think all-you-can-eat!! You’ll find some authentic Brazilian dishes and delicious BBQ meat galore in a city that already does meat right. Minas is great for groups or just a romantic night for a couple looking to try something different.

309 Dhaba Indian Restaurant of Excellence – Toronto, Ontario

309 dhaba INdian restaurant of excellence Toronto

Fine dining serving authentic Indian cuisine is something you’ll find almost at the heart of the city at 309 Dhaba. With an incredibly talented chef, you really can’t go wrong with any choice as the menus are an array of delicious dishes from all over India. Dietary restrictions or preferences are covered if you tell your waiter as the chef will prepare the food to your liking. The atmosphere is intimate, the food on point and the experience wonderful from start to finish. As the restaurant has very limited seating (we did say the atmosphere was intimate!) be sure to book ahead or take that into account.

Guu Izakaya – Vancouver, BC

Perhaps one of our favourite restaurants, Guu (or Kitanoya Guu) has several locations and offers a unique Japanese dining experience. From the moment you walk in you’ll be happily, and loudly, greeted by the staff. Yelling orders to each other and shouting random phrases we haven’t yet deciphered, the experience is unlike anything else you’ll find. Add to that small dishes of deliciousness cooked to perfection and you’ve got quite the restaurant to go for drinks and some food or a full on meal. Our favourite dishes are definitely the beef tongue, the takoyaki and the steak with garlic sauce, though you really can’t go wrong with any of their dishes!

Seaside Grill – Rexton, New Brunswick

Chances are, if you’re from big city USA you probably won’t be making your way to a place like Rexton, New Brunswick, but if you’re looking to settle in a small town with beautiful scenery or are making a scenic drive through the province, Seaside Grill is a place you have to try. We stopped here randomly while on a road trip through New Brunswick and found some of the best seafood we’ve ever had. Being on the east coast, seafood is a given but this small nondescript restaurant will have your eyes rolling back in appreciation. The small town vibe, fresh food and desserts and friendly service will have you considering a move nearby!

Milestones – Nationwide

milestones

Though a chain restaurant Milestones is, for us, a constant you’ll find when heading to many a province. A pretty consistent menu, great quality and service and an atmosphere that makes it perfect for anything from a romantic dinner to drinks and apps with friends, it is one of our go-to restaurants when we just don’t know where else to go! For us, their burger is a highlight and the food is so good all around that we can never decide whether we like the vegetarian or beef  version better!

Fable Restaurant – Vancouver, BC

Exactly the type of restaurant you’d expect to see in the Kitsilano area of Vancouver, Fable Restaurant is a surprisingly affordable restaurant for the fresh, farm to table ingredients and wonderfully created menu items by chef Trevor Bird, a former contestant on Top Chef Canada. Though the atmosphere is laidback and casual, the food is anything but and you’ll find yourself on a pretty exquisite culinary journey whether you go for brunch, lunch or dinner. The food is made from scratch, sourced locally and cooked with care. Be sure to note that this restaurant is a popular spot so reservations may be wise on weekends!

The Holy Grill – Calgary, Alberta

Though only open for breakfast and lunch, and only on weekdays, The Holy Grill is a recommended stop at least once while scouring the country for a place to call home. With two locations in Calgary, and a pretty impressive looking menu, you’ll have ample chance to test out a few for breakfast, brunch or lunch. We’d recommend trying a panini or a burger if you’re not looking for a breakfast dish!

Schwartz’s – Montreal, Quebec

schwartz deli montreal

There’s an age old question you’ll discover if you relocate to Montreal: Which restaurant offers the best Montreal smoked meat in the city. There are arguments online and in person, rants about different restaurants and dissections of different menus. One restaurant however, tends to always be in the mix and is, in our opinion, the place to get Montreal smoked meat. That place is Schwartz’s Deli. Since 1928, it has been serving up some ridiculously good smoked meat sandwiches with a side of dill pickle. Everytime we go to the city we have to eat here. If time is of the essence, we pop over to their takeout section next door and bring some with us for the road. The only caveat about eating here? The line can get long quick so get there early, especially on weekends!

Ramen Gojiro – Vancouver, BC

If you’re looking for a taste of Japan’s Ramen shops after moving north, Ramen Gojiro is the place to go. Here you’ll find the ramen reminiscent of the real thing – fresh noodles in a tasty broth, tender chashu pork and even karaage (deep fried shrimp, chicken or fish) cooked crisp! You may even hear the slurping that is customary at any ramen shop in Japan. Our tips? If you’re not a fan of bean sprouts, ask them to go easy, and if you are a fan of gyoza, this is a great place to get some!

Icehouse – Montreal, Quebec

One of the more unique restaurants we’ve dined at, Icehouse is a trendy, hipster-esque restaurant and experience. Southern style food predominates their menu with fried chicken, po-boys, lobster burritos and the like. Interestingly, the food is served, well, haphazardly and almost rudely as paper is placed over your table and the food is thrown across it. This is particularly the case for the bucket of chicken. You’ll find the pieces strewn over the covered table in an almost medieval display of dining. We love it. Add some of their homemade Bourbon lemonade and the meal is complete. With dining inside or outside, depending on the weather, and delicious food to enjoy, this is one of our favourite restaurants to go to in Montreal and if you find yourself moving to the city, you’ll probably want to make your way there sooner rather than later!

Noble Seafood Restaurant – Toronto, Ontario

dim sum

We absolutely love dim sum. We eat it about as regularly as we do sushi… which means there usually isn’t a week that goes by that we aren’t chowing down on some kind of dumpling or bun, or a fried shrimp triangle. If you’ve ever been to Toronto’s Chinatown district, you’ll know there are tons of restaurants and many serve dim sum. How then do you choose between them to find the one offering the tastiest dim sum options? You let us tell you. Noble Seafood Restaurant may not have dim sum in the name, but they certainly know how to make it! If you’re moving to Toronto, or just visiting to scope it out, Noble is a must for any dim sum lover! A tip from us: though not a steamed or fried dim sum option, their General Tso chicken is out of this world.

Homestead Restaurant – Moncton, New Brunswick

This was our favourite breakfast spot in New Brunswick. The quaint, charming east-coast diner offers friendly service, a hearty breakfast (amongst other menu items) and homemade cakes and baked goods for dessert! If you’re headed for Moncton, or on your out way to explore more of the country, Homestead Restaurant is a great place to charge those batteries before you go! If you’re looking for an equally satisfying lunch or dinner, they also offer a great menu including some tasty fish cakes and some traditionally “east coast” dishes.

Ask For Luigi – Vancouver, BC

Italian food can be hit or miss, but in Ask For Luigi, a cozy restaurant in Vancouver serving fresh, handmade pasta you’ll find a list of standout dishes. Served family-style, the flavour profiles and combination of ingredients of the dishes offer a taste of Italy that will have you coming back for more. A go at their homemade ravioli wouldn’t be remiss and they even have gluten-free pasta, made in-house, upon request. As it is at a higher price point, dining as a group is the suggested way to go to share the dishes and the cost.

Salad King – Toronto, Ontario

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We had trouble finding great Thai food outside of Thailand until we found Salad King! A great variety of authentic dishes with fresh ingredients had us temporarily transported back to the country. This is definitely our go-to Thai restaurant in Toronto and with vegetarian and vegan options, it’s a great choice for all dietary considerations. Our favourite dishes would definitely be the cashew nut chicken and the pineapple chicken! Since the space is usually pretty crowded, you can opt for delivery or take out if you’re looking for a quick meal.

The Lakeview – Toronto, Ontario

A remnant of traditional diners of the past, The Lakeview has been a part of Toronto’s culinary scene since 1932 and is now one of the few 24 hour diners you’ll find in the chaos of the city. If you’re just getting to the city, this may be a great stop to take a break from unpacking, or you may find yourself visiting in the early hours after delving into the city’s night scene. Whether you choose a classic diner meal, like breakfast or a club sandwich, or adventure to one of their unique menu items like cornflake chicken or the B.E.S.T (Bacon, mElted havarti, Spinach & Tomato) sandwich, you’re guaranteed to find something to satisfy your hunger.

Cacao 70 – Various Locations Ontario & Quebec

Think chocolate. Chocolate fondue, chocolate drinks, chocolate covered crepes. Cacao 70 is the place to go to get your choco-fix. With locations in Ontario and Quebec, you won’t have to worry about this restaurant being the deciding factor between the two when you decide to move to Canada. The tricky part will be deciding what to order with a variety of chocolate percentages (from 31% to 76%) and a ton of dish options using those chocolates. When we last went, there was a churro special that we just couldn’t pass up though the chocolate fondue and chocolate pizza are always tempting items!

L’Avenue – Montreal, Quebec

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A thin narrow dining area, graffiti on the wall, and some of the most unique breakfast and lunch dishes. This is what you’ll find at L’Avenue in Montreal. French toast with peaches, granola and a peach reduction sauce and pancakes with cheddar cheese and bacon and an apple syrup are just some of the interesting meals you’ll be able to savour. Surprisingly, the flavour profiles of these ingredient combinations work beautifully. The only downside? Lineups form FAST and with limited seating, you’ll either want to get there before it opens or settle in for a wait.

Poutini’s House of Poutine – Toronto, Ontario

Of course, no list of Canadian restaurants would be complete without at least one reference to a great place to find poutine! Poutine is, essentially, the one dish everyone recognizes as Canadian. If you’ve yet to experience the sloppy, cheesy goodness, you’ll definitely have the opportunity when you move to Canada. Poutine, essentially french fries covered with cheese curds and then hot gravy (which effectively melts said cheese curds) originated in French Canada but quickly made its way around the country. Poutineries have popped up nationwide offering poutine varieties of all kinds but Poutini’s House of Poutine is arguably the best of those in Toronto with menu items like BBQ pulled pork poutine, roasted mushrooms and onions poutine and, because sometimes you’ve got to throw everything traditional into one, smoked meat poutine. Vegetarian or vegan? They also have gravy and cheese just for you. With two locations, you can take your pick but be sure to bring cash – it’s all they accept!

Download the Zipkick app for more restaurant, bar & cafe recommendations for some great cities worldwide and stay tuned for more cities & restaurant additions.

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15 Reasons To Love Vietnam

By Jolene Ejmont of Wanderlust Storytellers

We always wondered what Vietnam would be like. It was one of those sorts of destinations where we truly did not know what to expect but I think that travelling to a destination with an open mind and no expectations is sometimes the best way to go!  Never would we have thought that this place would change our lives and, in so many different ways, change who we were and how we looked at life.   It is a country that captures your mind, enriches your senses and teaches you about a new sense of appreciation for life.  A country that you will love exploring and, when you leave, you might find yourself missing the country, the people, the culture and the scenery more than you thought you would!

15 Reasons Why We Love Vietnam… & You Will Too!

local children in Sapa Vietnam

We fell in love with Vietnam for many reasons, the most important ones are a bit hard to put into words as it was something that we felt so deeply, some sort of connection that simply bonded with our souls, that created a little dance.  We fell in love with Vietnam over and over and we hope to return one day soon and spend more time there, exploring slower, soaking in all that we possibly can.

Whether you’ve yet to visit, or have already been, we’ve got some reasons we think Vietnam is a place that can touch anyone’s hearts and make them fall in love!

1. The Truly Spectacular Limestone Islands Of Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay vietnam

Ha Long Bay is a very popular tourist destination and typically one of the first places people think about when discussing a trip to Vietnam.  There are some pretty obvious reasons why Ha Long Bay is so popular, however even though we knew that the limestone islands would be amazing, we didn’t realize how truly gobsmacked we would be by this truly unique sight! Situated in northeast Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is best experienced by junk boat (an ancient Chinese sailing ship). We felt that the 3 day/2 night cruise was the perfect length to soak in all that the bay had to offer.  We do have a tip though, and that is to choose a cruise that includes Bai Tu Long Bay as part of its itinerary as this will allow you to venture away from the hoards of tourist boats into more peaceful and secluded areas.



2. The Beautiful People Who Live in Vietnam

The majority of the Vietnamese people live pretty hard working lives.  They have very little in terms of material items.  Their homes contain only the necessary items needed to survive and yet you will generally find smiling and friendly faces around Vietnam. Regardless of their grueling hours working hard, they seem happy.  Here in this country, you won’t find people walking past you with their heads down stuck in their phones. You won’t find people walking past you with headphones plugged into their ears.  People will notice you, people will smile at you, wave at you and acknowledge you.

Sure, there are going to be some pretty persistent hagglers out on the streets.  The people are pretty desperate to earn some money as with all their hard work, they earn very little and often live from one day to the next. You might feel the desperation as they try to push you to ‘buy from me’.  Keep in mind the circumstances they work under and how different their life is to yours!  That doesn’t mean you have to feel obliged to buy from them. Keeping your temper in check and affirming your ‘no thanks’ will be all that is needed.  We loved the people of Vietnam and we missed them when we returned to our technology-driven home country.

3. The Vibrant, Fresh And Delicious Cuisine

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The food in Vietnam was some of the best cuisine we have ever had!  You can taste the vibrancy of the fresh ingredients –  meals made with love and meals made with herbs and spices to tantalize your tastebuds!  Each region of Vietnam offers its own specialities together with choices of the more traditional versions of their cuisine.  Food in Vietnam is absolutely delicious. Our recommendation?  Just try everything!

4. The Variety In Products Found In The Local Markets

We really enjoyed exploring the local markets in Vietnam.  There are some pretty touristy markets around, selling the typical souvenirs and kids toys however, if you ask around, you will find more authentic markets which are much more interesting to visit. It is within those markets that you will find an incredible buzz of local activity. From flower sellers to fruit and veggie stalls, from spices and a variety of beans displayed in baskets to a selection of animals such as birds, turtles and cats and from dried fish to fresh fish, these markets are visited daily by the Vietnamese people, usually early in the morning before starting their own day of work.  It is incredible to watch and we highly recommend hanging out at the local markets to learn more about the local way of life.

5. The Regions That Are Truly Bursting With Colour

Hoi an vietnam ancient town

Hoi An Ancient Town’s architecture is really spectacular – a mix of French colonial, Chinese and Japanese. It is a town that is screaming with colour, charm and one filled with eclectic designs.  Awaken your sense of sight as you try to absorbs the sights: colours, lanterns, bougainvillaea flowers and patterns found in abundance within the town streets.  Hoi An is pretty touristy, but one can’t help but fall in love with the bright yellows from the walls lining the streets and alleyways, the colours of the lanterns strung above your head and the blues and reds of the boats lining the rivers.  The vibrancy of colour in this destination will be engraved on your mind for years to come!

6. Vietnam’s Choice In Adventurous And Unique Activities

A trip to Vietnam offers a variety of adventurous and unique activities. From exploring the countryside through local villages on a Russian sidecar motorcycle, to exploring the farming fields by bicycle. You can sign up for some treks through the mountains and rice paddies of Sa Pa and experience local life through a homestay or head out on a junk boat through Ha Long Bay. You can explore close by islands by speedboat or why not go camp out in some incredible caves? Whatever your heart desires, Vietnam has you covered!

7.  The Incredible Natural Beauty Of Vietnam

sapa hike in vietnam

One of the main reasons we loved Vietnam as much as we did was because of the fact that the scenery was forever and always changing.  From one region to the next, each had its own natural beauty to offer, each unique and each different from the region before. In Sa Pa we found the most beautiful lush green rice paddy landscapes, cascading down mountainsides down to the valleys below. In the northeast, we found the most incredible limestone islands protruding out of the Ha Long Bay waters. Central Vietnam offered some gorgeous beaches, marble mountains and gorgeous countryside scenery surrounding the villages, whilst the South holds the Mekong river. Your senses will always feel alive in Vietnam, always something new to take in, something new to appreciate.

8. The Fact That You Can Indulge In Luxurious Tours And Accommodation At Affordable Prices

hoi vietnam luxury

Like most families, we find it challenging to be able to afford luxury while on holidays in Australia. The beauty of travelling to countries located in southeast Asia is that you can afford to treat yourself with luxuries that would otherwise not be affordable!  That beach front suite might just be within reach now!  That cruise on a 5 star boat on Ha Long Bay, whilst expensive for Vietnam standards, is still very affordable compared to the prices you might be used to in your home country.  Who doesn’t love spoiling themselves with a bit of luxury every now and then?  Especially if that luxury doesn’t ‘break the bank’.

9. Delicious Choices Of Different Types Of Vietnamese Coffee

vietnamese coffee

The coffee is pretty unique in Vietnam and actually forms a large part of their culture. Here the Vietnamese coffee is part of socialising and as a result you can find this drink in different forms, formats and styles – something to suit most tastes and satisfy most desires!  Our favourite by far was the traditional Egg Coffee (Cà Phê Trứng) in Hanoi (trust me it sounds gross but it truly delicious!) and we simply could not get enough of the strong drip coffee with a layer of condensed milk. Served hot (Cà Phê Sữa Nóng), or cold (Cà Phê Sữa Đá), it always made us happy! There are loads of coffees to try out, including another favourite of ours – the coconut ice cold coffee!

10. Cheap Massages

I think we had a massage almost every day on our travels through Vietnam.  When massages are so cheap it is hard not to indulge in a special treat on a regular basis!  And when you have been walking and exploring all day long, it really just happens to be a perfect way to end the day! Sure if you want a quality massage you might have to fork out a few more dollars and go to a fancier spa, but you can also get really decent massage treatments for not much money at all if you persist and find the ones you truly like!

11. Authentic Vietnamese Touches Visible Throughout The Country

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It is true that some aspects of Vietnam have been very much geared towards the tourism industry yet, if you look in the right spots and you get off the typical tourist trail, you will find some beautiful authentic aspects of Vietnamese life. In Hanoi for example, we couldn’t resist going for a walk down the train tracks. Life on the train tracks may look amazing and somewhat romantic to us, as foreigners, but this is just everyday life here. A densely populated Old Quarter means that people live wherever they can, even if it means living in close proximity to the railway tracks.  People simply make the most of what they’ve got. Cooking, cleaning, washing, resting or enjoying the family gatherings with their loved ones, just like anywhere else in the world.  This is just one of the many examples of authentic touches still found in Hanoi as well as all across Vietnam.

12. Beautiful Palm Tree Lined Beaches

hoi an beach vietnam

Imagine golden, fine-sand covered beaches, all lined and filled with spectacular palm trees. Picture hot sandy beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see and a shaded beach bed to lay on with a delicious, freshly prepared refreshing cocktail delivered to you by one of the local cafe workers!  Sounds too good to be true?  Well in Vietnam this is the norm!  Sure these beaches might not be the most impressive beaches that we have seen thus far, but we can promise you that we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, indulging in laziness on some of the best beaches in Vietnam.

13. Having a Variety Of Cruises

Vietnam has a variety of pretty impressive cruises offered.  For a luxurious cruise, you can head out on a 5 star junk boat on Ha Long Bay.  Whilst in the South, you can explore a more cultural side on the Mekong Delta. Both types of cruises are incredibly different to the other, both offer very unique experiences and very contrasted natural scenery!

14. The Insane Scooter Bike Culture

scooters in Hanoi Vietnam

People going in all different directions, seemingly no rules on the road, but somehow it all comes together in a perfectly coordinated and synchronised manner. Beeping of the horns everywhere, locals and tourists talking all different languages all around you.  The only way possible to describe the atmosphere on the roads in Vietnam is CRAZY!  At first, the noise and the, what appears to be. ‘chaotic’ traffic is almost like an assault to your senses.  You might even be too afraid to even attempt to cross the roads!  But after a while, this little chaotic traffic ‘dance’ of the Vietnamese locals becomes the norm and with fluidity you can cross the road as if you belonged there all along!  I think this scooter culture is very much a part of our strongest memories of Vietnam!  What an experience!

15. The Ease To Hire A Scooter And Go Exploring Yourself!

Half the fun of visiting this country is being able to easily hire a scooter and explore life in Vietnam at your own pace.  By choosing to explore this way, instead of in a tour group, you allow for opportunities to get lost, and let’s face it, it’s usually when you are lost that you discover the real hidden secrets of a country.  We truly enjoyed exploring the surrounding areas of Sa Pa by scooter seeing waterfalls, taking short walks, and experiencing some incredible views and roads!  We also got ourselves delightfully lost in the countryside of Hoi An and met some great locals as a result!  I must admit we did stay away from scooter hire in the crazy busy cities of Hanoi and HCMC, but I know of many travellers that even braved those streets!

 

As you can see, there are many reasons why we fell in love with this beautiful Asian country.  Listing 15 reasons was super easy and I could probably add 15 more!   If you love Asian destinations and you haven’t been to Vietnam yet, I highly recommend you visit!  It happens to be one of our favourite countries in southeast Asia.  Vietnam, you stole our hearts and changed our very nature!

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wanderlust StorytellersJolene & Andrzej of Wanderlust Storytellers, live in Australia with their two girls when they are not travelling the world inspiring and enticing families to do the same! They are a whole family of wanderlusters, a family who loves to tell their stories, a family who wants to chase dreams! You can also follow their adventures on Twitter and Facebook!


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