Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Regina Flavours

What will I discover in downtown Regina? Gourmet cabbage, raspberry porter, a vegetarian coffee shop, an English library, and a bento box – not to mention a fantastic light display. 

Flip – Cabbage Goes Gourmet
Most restaurants have a vegetarian option on their menu, but it is frequently tacked on as an afterthought – boring and predictable. On the other hand, a talented chef will take mundane vegetables and turn them into an outstanding gourmet feast.

The Savoy Cabbage Ragout by Chef Dave Straub of Flip blew me away. It combined cabbage simmered in white wine, romano beans, lentils and leeks with roasted baby potatoes, grape tomatoes and a sprinkling of parmesan. The dish was a happy blend of textures and flavours. Who knew that cabbage and beans could taste so good! With a full wall of windows,

Flip (1970 Hamilton Street, next to Atlantis Coffee) is full of light with an open bar and kitchen so you can watch the chefs prepare your meal. Service was friendly, and the dessert was good (really moist lemon olive oil cake with caramel sauce). I’ll definitely be heading back to Flip on my next trip to Regina.

Beer and Theatre 
For a casual meal and an intriguing selection of beer, head to Beer Bros. Bakery & Cuisine. There are only a limited number of vegetarian options, but the lengthy beer list more than compensates, and the server kindly let me taste several before choosing a Raspberry Porter that was on tap from Tree Brewing in Kelowna.

I enjoyed an arugula salad topped with roast root vegetables and scotch ale mustard dressing. The food is locally sourced, and they have over 150 beers (16-20 on tap).

Beer Bros. is particularly handy if you’re heading on to the Globe Theatre, which is right next door. I went to a performance of Countries Shaped Like Stars by Mi Casa Theatre (Ottawa). It was quirky and delightful: mandolin playing, cookies shaped like monocles, and a heart-breaking love story. I’ll definitely be watching out for Mi Casa performances at next year’s Fringe.

100% Vegetarian
The Green Spot Café (1838 Hamilton Street) is a completely vegetarian coffee shop. It’s not fancy, but the fresh muffins and steamed milk early every morning were a treat, and they serve a variety of vegetarian meals at lunch time.

Monarch’s Lounge, Hotel Saskatchewan
After a busy day, it was a pleasure to relax in a comfortable armchair in the Monarch’s Lounge of the Hotel Saskatchewan. The green baize ceiling and wood-panelled walls invoke the very civilized surroundings of an English stately home. It’s a delightful spot to relax and enjoy a glass of wine, a pot of tea, or a full meal.

Koko Patisserie
The Koko Patisserie, with its elaborate display of delicate pastries and cakes, in the lobby of the Hotel Saskatchewan is a visual delight. Unfortunately, the flavour of the two items that I sampled didn’t match their exquisite appearance.

The hazelnut macaron had a lovely texture, but the apricot filling was too heavy for its delicate shell. The chocolate cookie was obviously made with quality ingredients, but it was more like a chocolate bar than a cookie; I would have preferred a more cake-like texture.

I’d definitely recommend trying Koko’s baking. They offer an extremely wide range of products, and I suspect some are more successful than others.

Hanabi (1950 Broad Street) is a quiet Japanese restaurant. I thoroughly enjoyed a Veggie Bento Box, with a variety of different dishes presented in a red lacquer compartmented box.

Night Lights 
The City of Regina has recently renovated the area around Victoria Park to provide space for a twice-weekly farmers’ market (in the good weather) and other outdoor events. It comes to life at night with a constantly-changing light display.

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