My first encounter with Canadian cuisine
I don’t often visit Western restaurants in Taipei, but Whalen’s on Anhe Rd. is one I will probably come back to.
Maybe it’s simply because it is a Canadian establishment, and therefore has a slightly exotic aura for a Central European like me, but Whalen’s does some thing rights that I tend to dislike about other Western restaurants in Taiwan:
- Interesting food options you cannot get everywhere
- A pleasant dark-wood interior design that doesn’t feel fake
- Prices that are not ridiculously expensive
- Laid-back, unobstrusive service
- You will leave feeling sorry that you were not able to finish it all
First, let me say that I probably would not have thought of visiting Whalen’s had the owner not contacted me and invited me over for this review. So, full disclaimer, I didn’t have to pay. But I probably would not have regretted it either. Anyway, kudos for recognizing the power of the blogosphere and online rep.
Whalen’s is strategically located on Anhe Rd., so everyone who regularly visits Carnegie’s (not me) or Zoca Pizza (that’s more like it) should have no trouble finding it.
On entering the restaurant, I immediately noticed the large windows letting in lots of sunlight, so despite the furniture being dark wood and leather, the place doesn’t feel dark.
The interior design is simple but tasteful, with just the right number of framed vintage posters. The hand-drawn menu boards and huge fresco painting (the place used to be an Italian restaurant) reminded me a little of what a 1950’s French train station bistro might have looked like.
So what exactly makes a Canadian restaurant special? Clint, the business partner of founder Alex Whalen, quickly introduced the menu’s highlights to us and lost no time in pointing out that there is basically one distinguishing feature of Canadian cuisine one simply cannot omit, especially when visiting for the first time: Poutines.
Meet the mighty poutine…
Poutine, I learned, is basically French Fries topped off with copious amounts of melted cheese, brown gravy, and whatever kind of meat you want to throw into the mix. That’s Rich with a capital R!
It can be a side dish or a main dish, with the latter in a price range from NT$150 (The Canadian Classic) to NT$230 (Bacon Cheeseburger Poutine). That one probably provides you with enough calories to swim across Sun Moon Lake at least twice and run back home to Taipei.
Being German, I am used to heavy cuisine, but those Canadians are trying heavily to beat us in the “stuff ’em till they give up” category, the poutine being their obvious weapon of choice.
…it comes with a sandwich
Not afraid of the challenge, I opted for the Country Club Sandwich, which Clint recommended as a customers’ favourite. It clocks in at NT$350, and like most main dishes comes with two side orders. Naturally I picked Canada’s national dish in the form of Pulled Pork Poutine, plus some Yogurt & Granola, which turned out to be the lightest part of my meal.
Behold the food:
Let’s take a closer look at that sandwich.
You see that, if put upright, it would be higher that it’s wide, which is probably what distinguishes restaurant sandwiches from the ones I’d make at home.
While the sandwich was exactly what you can expect looking at these pictures, I still need to get used to that poutine. I found the pulled pork variety to be just a little bit on the salty side. Make no mistake, I dug right in and finished it, as it was definitely yummy. (With all that melted cheese, how could it not be?) But I somehow have the feeling it’s also an acquired taste. So give it a try.
Always room for an omelette?
If higher blood pressure and a few extra pounds are not what you are looking for, Whalen’s omelettes are probably for you.
This is the Garden of Eden vegetarian option with a filling of mushroom, spinach, tomato etc. The fruit bow is another side dish option.
The filling had a nicely balanced taste, and if you find the egg omelette itself too bland, you can always add salt or whatever you need to give it more of a kick.
Make your way through the menu
Whalens just recently overhauled their menu, which you can check out on their Facebook page.
Skillets, Canadian style
Pay special attention to the skillets: vegetables, meat and eggs baked in a pan. Like the poutines, these are another Whalen’s specialty you will not find everywhere. I think I will try one of those next time I visit.
My impression is that at Whalen’s, you get a pretty honest deal: Copious amounts of North American comfort food, skillfully prepared in a pleasant restaurant atmosphere. Just don’t come here if you are on a diet.
I like that it doesn’t feel like a chain restaurant, or trying to pass off as one, and that there are plenty of options other than the usual “burger with fries” fare that is usually synonymous with Western food in Taiwan.
And I should not forget about this one: If it’s your birthday, Whalen’s will treat you to a White Chocolate Brownie.
A White Chocolate Brownie!
Just don’t forget to make up for it with extra exercise later!
Whalen’s ( 味鄰 )
Whalen’s Facebook Page
Address: 145, Anhe Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市大安區安和路二段145號)
Telephone: (02) 2739-3037
Open: 11am to 9pm
10% service charge