Time for a long break. I shall be gone till November. Leaving you on the following notes:

-My recent restaurant reviews: Restaurant Mercuri, Bar Mercuri, Le Serpent, La Chronique, Jun IL’Européa, Sushi Yasu, Kyo, Peter Luger, Kam Fung, FiregrillPatrice Patissier, Raku, Au cinquième péché, Au Pied de Cochon, Callao , Shinji, Mochica, Bottega .

 

-I tried B1 bar, a new bar on Saint Denis. They are the first to introduce the concept of the frozen beer to Montrealers. It is hard for me to properly assess B1 Bar as I am partial to this type of place:  vintage looking, amazing relax service. My waitress, Laurence Godin, being a breeze in a world where fake / commercial looks predominate…she is at the complete  opposite end of the silicone-rubber spectrum , which is what I favor the most when it comes to hospitality standards. It was quiet on the evening of my visit, but it’s one of those rare places that genuinely deserve success because everything is so thoughtful and their passion for their work is truely felt. Over a decade ago, Montreal had an amazing bar/ nightclub called Bar St Laurent. To some, it was laidback, too simple,not chic enough  but for ppl like me, for whom the essence of a bar is its soul and potential of being festive, BSL was a star. BSL is still opened but it’s not what it used to be(it has nothing to do at all with the old BSL) . It took over a decade for a bar to remind me of BSL and it came in the form of B1 Bar. B1 Bar is new, though, so the ambience is not as dazzling as at the  BSL of the old days (1990/1998), but it deserves that same success. Loved B1 bar but I hope the crowd follows.

-I finally tried Tapas 24 Montreal, which is is affiliated with Barcelona’s reknown Tapas restaurant Tapas 24. I was very pleased with both the food and the experience, and if they pursue with the standards I found on the evening of my visit, then Tapas 24 Montreal will easily rank among the few truely great  restaurants in  Montreal. My review here.

-I recently tried couple of places in Laval, a city North of Montreal: Enotecca Mozza did nothing for me, Pirate de Laval continues to be a decent restaurant by local standards, Le Cosmopolitain remains my preferred breakfast place in Montreal and its surroundings and my once preferred poutine place in Laval (Le Croque) is not what it used to be. You can peruse that report here.

-Went back to my other preferred Isakaya in town, Kazu, after a previous meal that was average. This time Kazu was in top form with the best Japanese-isakaya inspired roasted salmon that I ever enjoyed in a restaurant of Montreal as well as a spectacular soft ice cream tasting of the raw fresh cow milk of my tender childhood. I could have a bone to pick over the fact that their omnipresent secret homemade sauce lessens  (a bit, I find) the enjoyment of the food, and the more affordable offerings are  generally not what you should come here for, but Kazu continues to deliver the most delicious Isakaya fares of this city.

Couple of places visited this summer: (1)Bier Markt 1221 René-Lévesque Boulevard West (514) 864-7575- I tried their hamburgers as well as silders which I did both rate with a 4/10 as, for my taste,they lacked the deep beefy bold flavor that such basic fares have no choice but to deliver. Furhermore,  the meat was overcooked/border dry  on both instances. The  variety of beer is amazing, indeed, for a beer destination in Montreal but I wish the food could be up to par. The welcoming, at the entrance, could be warmer.  (2)Le Hachoir 4177 Rue Saint-Denis, Montréal (514) 903-1331- It’s being a while that I wanted to visit Le Hachoir which  name aroused  the carnivore in me. Here, I tried their trio of mini burgers which was  certainly not bad at all, the quality of the meat really good, but I wish theirs had a beefier kick. The quality of the meat was also the saving grace of a nice fresh meaty tartare that I also enjoyed there, but the seasoning lacked  spark. I get their point though: they want the main ingredient to shine through, but in both cases a beefier kick for the trio of mini burgers as well as an exciting seasoning for the tartare, as long as it’s judicious…they would have brought those items a long way. A 5/10 for me,  but this place is popular, fun, the service amazing so consider this to  be a NO sour 5/10 (you can see that they are capable of better). (3)-Reubens Deli 1116  Ste Catherine  continues to impress me. It is the only other restaurant in Montreal, alongside Bottega on St Zotique, that you can rely on, in my view, in terms of consistency.It has been consistently good,for me, year after year. This summer I   had my share of sliders in town and theirs simply blew away any other serving of  sliders I have enjoyed in town. The beefy flavor as well as superb  moist meaty consistency of those sliders were ages ahead of the rest. Their 10 oz “famous super sandwich “continues to be the most refined smoked meat in town. This is not refinement sacrificing flavor, to the contrary it’s technical prouesse in demonstrating that you do not need messy smoked meat to pretend that it is good or authentic, you just need one that’s deliciously meaty, the meat of top quality, the seasoning exciting. Their Montreal-style cheesecake  is also one of the few tastier and better executed ones out there,with strawberry of spectacular fresh ripe /wild flavor. Overall, a 9/10 by Delicatessen standards. Reubens Deli’s refinement may hit on the nerves of those who believe that delicatessen should taste,look and be served in rustic settings –which is pure BS as food is well done or it is not, delicious or not…and nothing else—  , but ultimately it  is one excellent Deli, one of my few preferred Delis anywhere around the globe.

On a non-foodie subject, the habs have signed Pk Subban for 8 years worth $72 million. This is little money for one of the greatest athletes of our decade, an exemplary ambassador of his sport  . I think we are lucky, in Quebec, to have such inspiring  athletes such as PK, Georges St Pierre and of course, our latest rising star Eugénie Bouchard.

 

Tapas 24 Montreal

Tapas 24 Montreal is affiliated with Barcelona’s reknown Tapas restaurant Tapas 24.

It is a restaurant that is owned by Barcelona’s highly regarded Chef Carles Abellan as well as two other local Business partners (Journalist  Sébastien Benoit and restaurateur Jorge Da Silva), so a sister of Barcelona’s Tapas 24. According to the facebook page, the Chefs are  Haissam Souki Tamayo as well as another Chef who goes by the  name Ildemar, both names sound  unfamiliar to me, so this was the  opportunity to discover their craft.

As it is always the case with tapas outside of Spain, the ingredients can rarely ‘speak for themselves’ , so sticking to items relying heavily on the ingredient is a bit like expecting the sun to shine at night .  However great the ingredient, it simply won’t reproduce the effect of its Iberian counterpart. So, I picked couple  items where the skills of the kitchen would have to ‘walk the walk':

Kicked off with

Tapas 24 Montreal - Bomba de barceloneta

-Bomba de Barceloneta (potato croquette) $6 is, of course, not a big deal as every decent kitchen will not fail to deliver a decent one. But unless someone is devoid of any ‘sense for  nuances’, the appreciation of that croquette I was having had lots more to reveal:  the technique in keeping the croquette low in fat while maintaining the taste delicious/rich is not a secret but few are delivering it this well.  A fabulous croquette of the sort that only a handful of  the finest restaurants of Montreal  can  pull off. The accompanied aioli and salsa brava simply perfect. 8/10

Tapas 24 Montreal - Rabo de toro, queue de boeuf braisée

-Rabo de toro – braised oxtail $14 was another display of assured cooking technique coupled with superb palate , the braising perfect, seasoning exciting.  The meat was covered with a layer of an impossibly light ‘moussy’ take on the potato purée, tasting delicious. 9/10

Tapas 24 Montreal - Arroz Barcelones

-Arroz barcelones $24 featured carnaroli rice cooked to the bite, as it should, with four big plump shrimps as well as several fresh mussels.  This is as close as you’ll get, at a tapas restaurant in Montreal, to what’s done in Spain. Only one Spanish restaurant in Montreal, Casa Galicia, had once impressed me with a paella that managed to teleport me to Spain but that was years ago and I haven’t revisited Gasa Galicia since then, so I do not know if CG is as great as it used to be. As great (by Montreal standards) as this paella stood,  it could have been even  better if cooked, imagine, on straw for eg…but that is a different story (that’s not allowed in Montreal, anyways).. Still, a superb  paella by Montreal standards 8/10

I took no desserts.

Before heading there, I have read couple of online comments on Tapas24 Montreal and some of those did mention the slowness of the service as well as meager portions, but I saw no problem in both regards: the pace of the service was perfectly timed, with meals that take longer to cook taking the relevant time it needs to be served. As for the portions, it was in line with the quantity of food that is usually served nowadays at most contemporary restaurants of this sort in big western cities. Furthermore, they bill themselves as serving tapas which is bite-size food (obviously).

PROS: If you ever find a tapas place you believe is better than Tapas 24 in Montreal and would like to share with me, do not bother…I won’t believe you!

CONS: On an evening like this, with cooking this assured, we can cover an aspect (not a problem) that is proper to most tapas restaurants outside of Spain…the genuine flavors of the Tapas in Spain. For eg, paellas oftently  taste a bit ‘smokier’ in general on the Iberian peninsula, seasoning usually a tad spicier. I gather that this is to  reach out to the most, and few places in Montreal do take the risk of insisting on such exotical flavors (Casa Galicia  is the only place comes to mind, but it’s being 7 years that I did not go back so I do not know how it fares nowadays), but those who  have tried tapas in Spain will have the feeling that there’s a little something that’s missing.  With that said, make no mistake…this is  as close as you’ll get, at this moment, in Montreal, to what good tapas tastes in Spain.

My personal verdict for the food: 8/10. Strong performance by Montreal tapas standards. What I did sample is all I needed in order to assess the cooking  skills at Tapas 24 Montreal, which were items forcing the kitchen to ‘focus on the substance': personal touch of the cook, his sense of flavors,  his palate, his ability in extracting the most out of the least (maximum flavor out of simple ingredients or from simple  flavor combinations which is essentially the point of tapas) . I doubt I could have done that with, let us say, the pa amb tomaquet which is bread  with tomato, a lovely item to be enjoyed as a tapas in Spain, but oftently …outside of Spain….it is delivered as a pale version of  its Iberian counterpart.

Conclusion: I love tapas as it forces a good kitchen to extract a lot out of virtually very little, which for me is what cooking should  be all about. Coupled with the stellar ingredients of the Mediterranea, those can oftently turn into mouthfuls of bliss. But we are not in Spain, therefore I substituted expectations for one reasoning: when Tapas are moved from their original humble conditions (as well as relevant pocket-friendly tab)  and priced as up-market food, I want to see where my hard earned money is going and what I ordered did not disappoint in the sense that  good ingredients were used and the cooking was diligent. Still, there’s always the question of cost performance when eating tapas at an up-market restaurant,  and my bill helped to keep that debate alive. Tapas outside of Spain, as good as they can be, they are simply pricey for what they are,  I find. At least, what I was enjoying on this evening at Tapas 24 Montreal had the edge over all other tapas that I have tried in town and they are doing it in the warmth of a hip and elegantly / cozily designed establishment, located in the enviable location of Old Montreal.

What I think days later: If they continue to cook the way they did on the evening of my meal, then you can count Tapas 24 Montreal among the few dining destinations that can truely standout in town…not because of buzz (which is sadly the case of a myriad of bars/restaurants in town), but because of effective cooking (cooks with a good palate,good sense of seasoning) and a genuine vision of what a restaurant should be about (serving good food, delivering an overall nice experience). It’s hip, fun and already very busy. Based on this visit, I’d say that it is an amply deserved success.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be gone till November!

Went back to Kazu, my favourite Isakaya in town, with my friend David who is curious about exploring all kind of cuisines.

KAZU, MONTREAL - roasted salmon bellyI ordered the $15 roasted salmon belly which continues to be the finest of its kind in Montreal, the quality salmon  belly packed with the typical layer of luscious fat that made this dish so popular among Japanese isakaya fans,  the timing of the roasting simply perfect, the seasoning judicious. As the years go by, plenty of Isakayas are opening in town and yet I still haven’t stumbled upon one single Isakaya that managed to get its roasted salmon belly as beautifully rendered as Kazu’s version. 8/10  by Montreal finest Isakaya standards. David was less impressed as he prefers salmon in its raw version.

KAZU, MONTREAL - lobster saladDavid has opted for the $27 lobster salad which he seems to have preferred over the roasted salmon belly. The lobster was served both in its tail (topped by some sort of patty which nature has so far eluded both of us –I forgot to inquire about it) as well as morsels of its flesh, timely cooked to ideal palatable consistency (meaning with proper chew), Kazu is always proud of dressing virtually  everything with their  secret homemade sauce –it works as it is generally pairs well with most of their food, so I won’t complain –, the lobster certainly of good  quality  by Montreal standards. David does not rate food, which I respect, but he said that he was surprised that such  unassuming place would pull off food of this sort. My rating: 7/10 (Good).

We rounded the meal with Kazu’s soft ice cream covered with a layer of wasabi powder (for me), black tea powder (for David). David didn’t appear very  enthused about it, observing that the powder was predominant with not much of the  other ice  cream’s flavor (the milk,for eg)  within his grasp. I forgot to ask him but I also suspect that he prefers hard to soft ice cream. I personally like both hard and soft ice cream. The soft ice cream fared much better to me: In my experience, Kazu’s soft ice cream has not always been  good  (sometimes mushy in texture, sometimes the wasabi powder too subtle  in flavor), but on this evening I found it, for my taste, to boast a spectacular depth of fresh milky flavor, the wasabi powder’s aroma  fresh and enticing. In my tender childhood I  used to drink  fresh raw cow milk (milk pasteurization was an unknown notion in that part of the globe) , therefore my palate and brain have always recorded that taste as their ‘ preferred One’. The soft ice cream that I was enjoying this evening tasted of fresh raw cow milk, the sort of  milky flavor that you’ll rarely get to sample in most parts of Europe and America nowadays. For me, a benchmark soft ice cream  10/10.

Personal overall food rating for this meal: 8/10 My  best Mtl isakaya meal since a long time and isakayas keep multiplying in town, so imagine.  It was reassuring to see Kazu back on  (almost) top form after my last disappointing meal under this very same roof  (last time I dined here, my  pork neck bbq seemed, to me,  reheated rather than grilled ‘on the spot’, the oftently exciting braised mono octopus leg  missing its  addictive chargrill flavor — in such conditions, the octopus leg’s dish  equates to an over-priced and meagerly  portioned offering).  On this evening everything was cooked to order and tasted delicious. Not Kazu in his prime, but  Kazu on a great day.

Conclusion: Despite disadvantages that could considerably weaken plenty of other restaurants (the inevitable line up,  the hole-in-a-wall decor, cramped ambience), Kazu manages to maintain itself ahead of its local competitors.  It is not a perfect place (some items are cheap but those are the insignificant ones, most are a bit pricey …which defeats the point of eating cheapily at isakayas, portions are less and less sizeable), but few are delivering better tasting isakaya fares in Montreal.  David still prefers Kyo, but keep in mind that both restaurants differ from each other in many aspects: Kyo is cozy, refined and  more importantly an isakaya-inspired initiative. Kazu is bold, rustic, entirely Japanese Isakaya (Chef and staff are Japanese,  the food benefits from contemporary touches — Kazu-san was working at restaurant Toque! before, so he brought some  of their fine dining’s contemporary aspects with him — , indeed, but it is, in its  essence, as Japanese as you’ll get from an Isakaya in Montreal).  As for Kyo, eventhough my  last meal there was a miss (Chef Ding was away on that visit) , they remain my other favourite Isakaya in Montreal. I personally can’t chose a winner between both of them as that would imply submitting one style as better to  a totally different one, a bit like saying — to draw an analogy to colors — that blue is better than red.

Went eating with some friends in Laval. Laval is a city located North of Montreal.
The food scene is not yet at the level of what most would consider as a culinary destination, but some improvement have been made within the recent years.

Our first meal took place at Le Pirate de Laval, an Italian restaurant that has been around since a long time. Read couple of reviews about it, prior to my meal, but my experience had nothing to do with few reports about overcooked and uninspired fares that I have read on the web. Unless you expect features of a different style of cooking to be transposed into Italian cooking, and if you know your Italian food well, then had you sampled the meal that I was enjoying, you won’t fail to observe that this was decent  Italian food in the context of Montreal and its surroundings.  That said, it’s a bit pricey we found and I’ll suggest that, since Montreal/Laval have no access to the stunning produce of Italy,  to not heavily rely on the produce alone (for eg, the straightforward cooking of the vegetable diminishes the enjoyment of the  main courses — simple boiled/baked potatoes,carrots, etc, that’s proper Italian cooking, indeed, but they speak for themselves when they are stellar, which is rarely the case miles away from  Mediterranea ).   All in all, I did enjoy my meal at Le Pirate de Laval. It’s not among my favourite tables in this province, but this meal was the proof that they can deliver proper classic Italian fares in view of the standards of Italian cooking found in Montreal / Laval (I had a properly executed Stracciatella alla romana with the necessary salty kick required to lift its flavor, the eggs tasting fresh, the soup tasty + as well as gnocchi a la romagnola which were homemade when I ate there, the texture not as pillowy as the grand Masters of gnocchi would,  at times , ambitiously pull off but again, done faily well as  far as gnocchi are made in Montreal and it surroundings).  6/10 for me.

Second meal was at Enoteca Mozza. The area where Enoteca Mozza is located is very hip, with plenty of luxury cars, bars, other hip  restaurants around and nice looking people. Enoteca Mozza has a large room with an impressive wood oven facing the entrance.  We found the service correct, but no more, which is typical of places that are busy like this. Correct but no more is also  how I would describe my food: a Margharita Pizza which tomato sauce flavor was rather subtle, the thin crust  timely baked   but it won’t be hard to find better versions of that in Montreal and Laval. My starter of calamari was…again…correct but no more,  featuring tiny calamaris as opposed to the more sizeable ones oftently found in town but I had more delicious fried calamari  in Mtl and surroundings. Enoteca Mozza was not bad, not great neither and I found the overall over-priced  for the quality of the food I was having   (almost a $100 for 2 pizzas, 2 glasses of wine, 1 nutella calzone). 5/10 for me.

Le Cosmopolitain, the one in Laval (they have another one  outside of Laval)  is a very popular breakfast place. As it is the case with the other restaurants, I read a bit of the online reviews with some observing that there’s nothing special about this place. I have no clue what  special food and  special places are supposed to taste or look like. I just know that there are good and bad food and Le Cosmopolitain certainly serves some good food, in general. If you go to this place and order basic breakfast fares, exempli gratia sausages and eggs, or some crepes, you won’t  get the  point of its popularity, obviously. It is in the more elaborate breakfast fares that you may better understand the buzz: a good example  are their eggs benedict which are the best I ever had in Montreal and surroundings. As ever, restaurants have their ups and downs,  so I have sampled underwhelming eggs benedict here (my 3rd visit at this place), in the past, but generally it’s great and above all a step up from the rest (for breakfast, I mean). Even their fruits benefit from better sourcing than at most breakfast places of Montreal/Laval. It’s a bit expensive though, and there’s a bit less than what I used to have on my plate (for eg, a bit less of the smashed potato, etc), yet I’d rather skip couple of breakfasts and occasionally enjoy a breakfast of this standing. Again, nothing special (doves won’t fly in the room while you are there …  ), but a breakfast place that can outperform most of its competitors.   8/10  by  breakfast standards in Montreal and surroundings.

I have also tried a long time favourite poutine place called Le Croque in Laval (545 Blvd Des Laurentides  Phone: (450) 629-3343). Couple of years back, I used to travel around the province of Quebec in search of the most delicious traditional poutine. I am a huge fan of poutine as I am always amazed by how delicious such a simple fare can reveal itself in skilled  hands.  Le Croque’s was,  back then, one of my preferred poutine destinations. Now they have new owners, very amicable and I wish them well, but their poutine  is , honestly, a pale shadow of its former glory. The sauce not as elaborate and as exciting as it used to be, the fries still homemade (when I paid them a visit, it was homemade) but gone is the deep potato flavour and glorious texture of its past version . Really folks, please make that  magic happen again!

 

***In June, the  most popular (among the readers of this blog) reviews  have been the ones on Le Louis XV,  the one on the city of Nice, L’ Ambroisie, L’Arpège, Le Serpent , Kam Fung as well   as my humble article on Montreal steakhouses (folks, it’s summer, enjoy a good steak in your backyard…far more fun, lol!).

***Shinji’s report, already the most popular among the readers of this blog –  I have just updated this current post on July 17th and shall observe that I was surprised by the popularity of the recent post on Shinji (which can be found here). Published on July 3rd, so only couple of  days prior, that post topped the charts on each day, since then. It’s rare that I see a restaurant’s review  attracting that much attention on this blog as soon as it was posted — the sign that the web is googling Shinji a lot, these days  (last time this happened, it was following the first review on Le Serpent — interestingly, the second report, which was more detailed and covered more meals, never got to enjoy the popularity of the first one. Even months later, the initial report on Le Serpent is the one that you have mostly perused and are still perusing).  Great then for Shinji, which managed to pull off benchmark sushis (by Montreal standards), the second best sushis I ever had in Montreal, second only to Jun I.

 

***Jun I remains, for me, the standard that all sushiyas of this province should be aspiring to reach – I just came from enjoying another dazzling sushi meal at Jun I , a sushi meal that was a superb display of intuition and skill. It’s amazing to see them consistently perform with belief, years after years, days after days.

***Glad to hear that one of my all time favourite bistrots  in Italy is still doing great: A cantina de Mananan is still as excellent as ever as/per the report of a very picky foodie friend who went there in early  June 2014.  I did recommend Cinque Terre to him, a place that’s simply a ‘ gift from the above ‘as far as its visually stunning scenery goes. While there, he also tried A cantina de Mananan upon hearing great things from my part about this little jewel. He was floored and ranked A cantina de Mananan as his favourite discovery in a trip where there was no shortage of great restaurants:  he tried Osteria Francescana, Pipero al Rex , Piazza Duomo,   . He stressed that  A cantina does not compare, in terms of culinary sophistication, to all those places, but that  in hindsight,  the great  cooking of A Cantina de Mananan is what blew away his palate because it was the most delicious food of them all. Well, I haven’t visited OF, PR and PD, but I certainly can  understand such conclusion as I myself found the finest bistrots in Italy to be quite stellar.  So, A Cantina, I hope you will be as great as my first date with you, next time I’ll go back to Cinque Terre, lol. My humble quick notes on my trip in Cinque Terre in summer 2012, here.

***Everyone should go and peruse the twitter account of L’Arpège: https://twitter.com/ArpegeLive. Once you do that, keep in mind that all the beauty your eyes will have the priviledge to espy  is most likely backed by an exceptional work of flavors and a spectacular sense of creativity. Alain Passard, you are a Chef like we do not see anymore!

***La Queue de Cheval, Montreal finest steakhouse will open soon. Very soon. Check their facebook account for any update. For now, you can enjoy their burgers at QDC Burger (check that out here). The folks at QDC are also planning the opening of the Angry lobster bar (check all of that on this link).

***You remember Thursdays, Montreal iconic bar/bistro/club  on Crescent?  It is now reopened. The bistrot‘s  Chef is Jean-François Vachon. I first discovered Chef Vachon’s cooking when he was at the helm of Club des Pins (now closed), then at restaurant  M sur Masson, many  years ago and at both restaurants, it was an instant success back then:   food was delicious, cooking skills really sharp and both restaurants  reigned supreme on my list of favourite tables of Montreal during Vachon’s tenure. Then he went opening restaurant Projet soixante-sept (now closed), which I tried but that I found less  impressive compared to what he managed to pull off in his prime at Club des pins, then at M sur Masson.  I have not tried Bistrot Thursdays yet but I hope I’ll find the Jean-François Vachon of the great old days. I’ve perused their  online menu and found it appealing with items such as ‘guinea fowl cooked in hay’ (an old fashioned cooking technique that’s  common in Europe and that I favor but it’s rare to see a restaurant doing this in Montreal) , ‘rack of lamb à la provencale’, ‘spinach malfatti”, etc. Thoughtful bistrot menu for Montreal as it seems to take seriously the concept of a true French bisrot (for eg, on their menu, I can see that they have days where they offer the bouillabaise, or the coq au vin, all French bistrot staples that few French bistrots in Montreal do mind offering – you’ll see this in the ‘promotions ‘ section of their menu)  . In his prime, Jean-François Vachon is certainly one of Quebec’s most talented Chefs, so I’ll surely try his bistrot hopefully in a near future.

***Tapas 24 MTL will open to the public on July 19th 2014. It is a restaurant that is owned by Barcelona’s highly regarded Chef Carles Abellan as well as two other local Business partners (Journalist  Sébastien Benoit and restaurateur Jorge Da Silva), so a sister of Barcelona’s Tapas 24. According to the facebook page, the Chefs are  Haissam Souki Tamayo as well as another Chef who goes by the  name Ildemar, both names sound  unfamiliar to me, so this will be opportunity to discover their craft.  I saw couple of Public relationship write ups on their pre-opening activities and have decided to not try it on its official opening first weeks. It would have been tempting to dine there while Chef Abellan is still around (he’s there, these days, according to the reports I’ve perused) , but I’ll wait couple of months and see how it will fare while Chef Tamayo and Ildemar will be in full control of the house. When I’ll head there, I’ll do it with realistic expectations, though:  I still have fond memories  of my foodie trip in San Sebastian. A year later, I had the good fortune to repeat the feature in Madrid and the tapas adventure was also memorable (low cost, spectacular  flavors).  I do not expect those dazzling tapas of Spain to be replicated the other side of the globe as the produce of the Mediterranea is hard to compete with, the value simply not something that can be matched this side of the world (especially those of the Pais Vasco where I remember having two divinely-tasting  servings of tapas with a glass of txacoli for less than 5 euros (around $7). In comparison, a similar serving of tapas in Montreal would cost at least $16, and the glass of wine would range in between  $12 to $15 on average, so my $7 tapas serving in San Sebastian (with the glass of txacoli included) would cost me around $31 in Montreal, and I am being generous here. Restaurants are there to make Business and I do understand that, but it’s tough to justify bite-size food of such price tag.  I do not know the prices/menu at Montreal’s Tapas 24 since it’s not online yet, but hopefully, they will offer enjoyable food of great value (the point of tapas, in the first place). As for the flavors, I am confident that they can’t go wrong:  the tapas currently served in Montreal are decent  but nowhere close to the quality of the tapas of Spain.

***Abroad, one of France’s most brilliant Chefs of the recent decade, Chef Nicolas Lebec has resurfaced in Shanghai, China. Nicolas is incredibly talented, think world class skills, and it’s great to see him around after years of absence. Villa Le Bec – http://www.smartshanghai.com/wire/dining/villa-le-bec-is-finally-happening  Xinhua Lu, near Dingxi Lu – Shanghai

WOLD CUP SOCCER 2014

 

 

On a non foodie subject, the world cup was full of surprises (Costa Rica and Colombia have impressed, Spain’s early exit)  , but in the end it was a finale between  two giants of the game, Argentina and Germany. I think Germany largely deserved it, but the title of best player of the tournament (Messi won it) was a big joke akin to believing in Santa ;p  // The Dutch –by now, eliminated  — had to attend a penalty shootout session in their semi finals against Costa Rica and their coach, Louis Van Gaal chose a substitute goaltender (Tim Krul) just for the shootout , which is a rare move for those in the know.  As an analogy to the world of food, this reminds of what they have been doing for so long in Japan: you have a specialist of this, another specialist of that, etc. Just to master the slicing of a piece of fish, you spend an entire year or years focusing on that sole task. Then the same to master the art of cooking some rice. It gave what you’d have expected:  artisan Chefs, and not just generic cooks, pulling off perfected crafts to be enjoyed and not just generic food to be washed down. So, Louis Van Gaal is obviously of that same mold, only he is transposing the theme into soccer. Simply amazing. //Brazil suffered an unbelievable defeat to Germany (7-1!), but that came as no surprise as their two main leaders, Neymar and Thiago Silva  were not playing. I do not understand their coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari: I know he is  a great coach and has won a world cup in the past,  but it was hard to be appreciative of his decisions this time around -> the spectacular (and best replacement for Neymar) Willian coming on around the 69th minute (what the heck??) , Hulk as a winger rather than as a striker, position that suits him better (??).  ///   Last but not least, the now famous Luis Suarez bite has earned  him national hero status in his country, Uruguay (check that out here).  The jokes about the bite are funny, though.

 

VACANCES

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing an amazing summer to all of us!

Restaurant Mochica
Cusine: Peruvian
Dinner on tuesday July 15th 2014 18:00
Address: 3863 Rue Saint-Denis, Montréal, QC H2W 2M1
Phone:(514) 284-4448

http://restaurantmochica.com/

***Recent restaurant reviews:  Restaurant Mercuri, Bar Mercuri, Le Serpent, La Chronique, Jun IL’Européa, Sushi Yasu, Kyo, Peter Luger, Kam Fung, FiregrillPatrice Patissier, Raku, Au cinquième péché, Au Pied de Cochon, Callao , Shinji, Mochica.

It’s  my first visit at Mochica. The place is  simply, but prettily decorated. They have a terrace too, which is where I sat. The location is  on Saint Denis, in the Le Plateau area. The cooking here is Peruvian.

MOCHICA, MONTREAL - PEGASUS FISH CEVICHEStarted with a Pegasus fish ceviche ($12)  The fish, on this instance,  was of ok quality. Its leche de tigre (the marinade) was nice, having expressive fresh lime fragrance and a nice piquant to it,  done as it should (it got close, indeed, to what the  Grandmas of my Peruvian friends at whom I have enjoyed ceviche,  in the recent years, have offered to me). Sweet potato was not as  impressive as those I am accustomed to, certainly less enjoyable than the one I had last time I ate at  Las Tres Conchitas, another Peruvian restaurant of Montreal. Fried corn was Ok, but I had better corn of this sort at other Peruvian restaurants. All in all a 5/10 ceviche, for me, as I found the fish not as exciting as I am accustomed to  at some  various Peruvian eateries I ate at in Montreal, its marine robustness less evident.

MOCHICA, MONTREAL - ARROZ DE MARISCOSArroz de Mariscos ($21) was akin to a paella of seafood, the rice properly cooked in fish stock, turmeric and saffron were present but did not lift the dish with the usual aromatic dimension that’s expected from them. They were too discrete in terms of flavor. Not bad, not great.  5/10 for my taste.

MOCHICA, MONTREAL - LOMO SALTADOLomo saltado ($25) is a Peruvian beef stir fry dish.  This dish is one of my favourite Peruvian dishes as it is one of those dishes that lures you into believing that it is easy to cook, and in a way it is (stir fry beef), but in reality it relies heavily on the quality of the meat as well as the touch of the cook (for eg, on this instance, how far he can push the seasoning to make it taste genuinely Peruvian).  The meat (angus beef) was unfortunately  dry, not tender, and its seasoning not as distinctively Peruvian as I am accustomed to with the fine lomo saltados I had in Montreal within the past recent years.  There was also red and green onions, garlic rice (ok), huancaina salsa (mixed with parmesan  and goat cheese — this, for my taste, was unappetizing / the mix of parmesan and goat cheese stood, as expected, as way too pungent to match the french fries that came with this dish). 4/10 for my taste.

Overall food score: 5/10, for me, by the finest Peruvian cooking that I am accustomed to in Montreal. It was not a bad meal, but I had better Peruvian meals in Montreal.

Conclusion:   It’s a restaurant that I wanted to like as the decor pleases me a lot and the service was nice, Peruvian food is a cuisine that I like a lot (there’s just the Jalea that’s not my cup of tea) especially because they deal extensively with my lifetime sacred ingredient which is seafood, but my first rendez vous with Mochica  was unfortunately unsuccessful. Perhaps just an off day, so I’ll give it another chance.  Hopefully my next visit will fare better, but for now, on the back of this sole meal, I personally found Las Tres Conchitas and Solymar (equally Peruvian) to have the edge.

michelinstarfinedinings:

How to cook Wagyu – A very inspiring write up on how to cook Wagy brough to you by Aly’s Blog. Check that out!

Originally posted on Aly's Blog:

A couple of weekends ago, I had the luxury of being surprised with a dinner at Sage, at the Gardens Residences.

Now, I walked away from that memorable meal immensely satisfied, but with a question that has been plaguing my mind since the day I picked up an apron and a frying pan. How do you properly cook a steak?

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