As the protégé to Top Chef Canada’s inaugural winner Dale Mackay, (and as the co-owner and executive chef of Saskatoon’s Little Grouse on the Prairie), Jesse Zuber has definitely had some experience with what it takes to serve up a memorable dish.
Of course part of that creation process comes with eating out at some of the city’s best hot spots to become better versed in what the competition is serving up. When it comes to restaurants that inspire him—as well as joints that are just plain old delicious—here’s where Jesse loves to eat when in Saskatoon.
Feasting on the traditional Thai dishes at Keo’s is akin to travelling all the way to Thailand. With offerings like tum salad, red curry and dancing prawns, the menu features updated Thai classics to warm you up from the inside out.
“[There are] great authentic Thai flavours,” Jesse promises. “[It’s] definitely worth checking out the thom ka kai.”
If you’re in the mood for generous portion sizes with spoonfuls of heaping flavours, this Szechuan house is for you. With offerings like deep-fried diced chicken with dried chili to Szechuan stir-fried pork, this is a place for celebration big, bold flavours with a traditional flair.
“[They have a ] huge menu with some incredible authentic Szechuan choices,” says Zuber. “My personal favorite dish is the boiled beef in chili oil. It’s like fire!”
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and so you really shouldn’t judge this dumpling house by its rough exterior. Although the façade isn’t the fanciest in the city, the food—particularly the famed dumplings, which come with a variety of fillings—are highly recommended.
“It’s not much for ambience, but the dumplings and steam buns are killer,” says Jesse.
Jesse’s fellow Top Chef Canada competitor Nathan Guggenheimer and inaugural Top Chef Canada winner Dale Mackay’s Grassroots Restaurant Group brings a blend of Japanese and Korean cuisines to the prairies with this eatery. The comprehensive menu features creative sushi rolls, steamed buns, ramen and other flavourful concoctions bound to impress palates everywhere.
“Nathan’s blending of Japanese and Korean flavours always hits the spot,” says Jesse. Plus, there’s a “great cocktail list.”
Traditional Mexican food graces the menu at this family-run restaurant, which claims to have been the first to offer such fare in all of western Canada when it opened in 2007. Traditional dishes like tacos and enchiladas that Mexican families “have been eating for ages” are both flavourful and filling.
“[It’s] fantastic Mexican cuisine,” says Jesse. “The enchilada verde is just the thing for a hangover.”