Finding Homemade Canadian Cooking in Taipei

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Being a Canadian who has lived in Taiwan since 2006, I can say with confidence that there has been a distinct lack of good Canadian fare available in Taipei. In other words, it’s tough to find restaurants in Taipei that offer ‘True North’ dishes like poutine, smoked meat sandwiches, and breakfast skillets. Thankfully, Whalen’s has had us covered since the summer of 2012.

Salad with Raspberry Vinegarette Dressing

John and I have eaten at Whalen’s in Taipei’s Daan District on numerous occasions, although we’ve yet to visit for brunch or just drinks. I’ve never had a meal at Whalen’s that I haven’t enjoyed. In fact, we like the food at Whalen’s so much, it has been listed on my list of favorite restaurants in Taipei since January 2014. It’s going to stay there for 2015, too.

They make a lot of things from scratch, so items like their homemade salad dressings and hand-cut fries really stand out. Have I mentioned value for your money? Yes, they’ve got that covered too. The portions are so big, I always find it hard to clear my plate completely. You definitely get your money’s worth when you eat at Whalen’s.

Last week I was invited to come by Whalen’s to try some of their new menu additions. John and I were pretty excited as we knew we were in for a great meal. The only complaint we had going in – and this isn’t really a complaint – is that the menu is massive, just like their meals. It’s hard to make a decision because it all looks great! Plus Whalen’s always delivers a consistent meal, so we know that our tried and true menu favorites are going to be just as good as the last time we visited.

The invite was the perfect opportunity to try something new…with the exception of Whalen’s gourmet poutines. The Canadian in me really, really loves Whalen’s poutines. All they’re missing are the cheese curds! Believe me, when you see the poutines, you’re not going to be thinking about cheese curds, though. You’re going to be wondering how you can possibly eat everything that’s on your plate instead!

Anyways, back to my complaint about Whalen’s massive menu.

We went in with a strategy, which didn’t turn out to be a very unique strategy since the people eating next to us adopted the same technique. (Or maybe they saw us do it?) John and I decided to order two meals to share. (This is one of the main benefits of being married, in my opinion!)

Main dishes on the menu include a choice of two side dishes and a drink. For sides, you can choose a salad, yogurt and granola, fruit, or hand cut fries. You can even upgrade your fries to a classic poutine for an additional NT$40. We started with side salads, and I was so glad I went with the raspberry vinaigrette dressing. It was a nice tart dressing that worked really well with my salad. I’d buy this in a bottle if I could! Unfortunately, they only make it in house. I hope they remember who to contact if they ever decide to bottle that recipe. Yum!

Of course, we both went with poutine for a second side dish. You didn’t think I’d skip that, did you?

Whalen's Lucy Juicey and Pulled Pork Poutine

As for main dishes, John went with the Juicy Lucy burger, which is something we’ve both been wanting to try for some time now. The burger was perfectly cooked with just the right amount of meat and cheese. The bun wasn’t a hot congealed soggy mess of grease either. (Nothing turns me off a burger faster than a soggy, greasy bun.) This bun was fresh and lightly toasted, so we gave extra points for that! We are both huge burger fans, and I’d put Whalen’s Juicy Lucy burger right up there with some of our other favorite burger restaurants in Taipei.

I ordered the Kebabwich, which is fairly new to the menu. I’ve been waiting to try it out, and I wasn’t disappointed. This Middle Eastern sandwich is loaded with fragrantly spiced meat and cheese. It had a really nice flavor, and it’s not as heavy as some of the other sandwiches on the menu.

Just like every other time we’ve been, we had enough food on our plates to keep us full for hours.Whalen's Kebabwich and Poutine

The desserts on the menu look incredible and I seriously thought about ordering something, but I was stuffed after my meal. They offer a nice assortment of cheesecakes, tarts, and waffles. I’d say that if the dessert portion and quality of the dessert is the same as other dishes at Whalen’s, you can expect more than enough to satisfy that sweet tooth.

In the past, we’ve ordered a number of classic items off the menu. The Roughneck Poutine comes loaded with fries, cheese, gravy, chili and sour cream, which makes it an instant favorite for me.

Whalen's Hot Turkey SandwichI also LOVE their homemade open faced Hot Turkey Sandwich. It’s one of my absolute favorite menu items. I’ve never found it anywhere else in Asia that’s worth mentioning. (It’s the best comfort food sandwich in Taipei, in my opinion!). John also really enjoys Whalen’s Philly Sandwich, which comes stacked with grilled beef, onions, and cheese on a giant hoagie bun.

The Whalen’s Food Challenge: Usually my husband likes a good food challenge, but even he did a double take when he saw Whalen’s Killer Whale challenge – 5.5 POUNDS of poutine-y goodness WITH chicken fingers, bacon, and mac and cheese. (I went into a food coma just writing that out.) If you can finish it, your photo goes on the Whalen Hall of Fame. With that said, if you do decide to take the challenge, Clint advises that you make sure you’re prepared. “Plan ahead, and don’t try it on a whim,” he warned.

Other than that, it’s enough to feed a party of four easily.

The customers seated next to us that I mentioned a few paragraphs back also shared their meals, and they happened to order two menu items that we’ve both been curious about. The quiche and Eggs Benny looked seriously good. It looks like we’ll have to go back to Whalen’s some time soon.

Whether you’re looking for Western style comfort food, a home cooked meal, easy family style dining, or a great North American style brunch in Taipei, you can trust that Whalen’s will have exactly what you’re looking for. The name is practically synonymous with homestyle North American cooking of the very best kind in Taipei.

BIG THUMBS UP!

Whalen’s Restaurant

  • Address: 145, Anhe Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (At the corner of Anhe Road and Leli Road)
  • Closest MRT Station: Xinyi Anhe Station on the Red Line
  • Telephone: (02) 2739-3037
  • Hours of Operation: 10am to 9pm
  • Details: Credit cards not accepted, 10% service charge

Images of Whalen’s poutine and hot turkey sandwich were provided by Whalen’s.

Carrie Kellenberger
Canadian expat Carrie Kellenberger has kept a home base with her husband in Asia since 2003. A prolific traveler, Carrie has funded her travels primarily as a writer, editor, travel blogger and photographer, but she has also worked as an educator, voice over artist, model and nightclub singer. She draws upon her 15+ years of travel experience to write about travel-related issues and the countries she has visited on her award-winning web site, My Several Worlds.

Her photography and travel articles have appeared in both print and online publications around the world, including Travel and Leisure Asia, Unearthing Asia and Hip Compass Escapes.
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