hoogan-et-beaufort-sept-2016Revisiting Hoogan et Beaufort, a table that I do consider in my top restaurants in Montreal. Service and ambience as superb as I remember it from my two previous meals. The food I was having  on this evening (Saturday Sept 17, 2016)  was more “casual” than what I came to be accustomed to from Chef Marc-André Jetté’s cooking  (more casual in comparison to  the fine dining aspect of Chef Jette’s meals when he was at Laloux/Newtown as well as what he was cooking in the early days of H&B) , therefore  less elaborate in  its work of flavors and textures (a good example being the duck magret (pictured above)  which, on a previous visit, came with a dazzling sauce, some first rate purée and some grilled veggies, whereas, this time, only some fine purée and a pleasant piece of peach complemented the protein),  consequently it dazzled less. But everything was executed correctly (just not as  dazzlingly as it used to be).  Hoogan et Beaufort, Type of cuisine: Contemporary French, Addr:  4095 Rue Molson, Montréal, Phone: (514) 903-1233, URL: http://hooganetbeaufort.com Overall subjective (obviously) rating –   Food: 7/10, Service: 10/10, Dining experience: 9/10

bottega-sept-2016Bottega on St Zotique has oftently delivered consistently superb pizze throughout the years. The pizza on this evening was a shadow of what I had on my last  visits here: the superb crust that I was accustomed to…was thin, as it should for a Neapolitan pizza, indeed, BUT  almost..shall I say …”limpy”  …this time. The once dazzling puffy edges were on their way to be puffy, but that was it. Hopefully just an isolated slip, though, to be fair, it was not the same Chef as on my previous visits that was in charge on this particular evening. The nice ingredients are still there, but the pizza needs to dazzle as it used to. Pizza Bottega 65 Rue St Zotique E, Montreal, Phone:(514) 277-810, URL: http://www.bottega.ca  Food: 6/10 Service: N/A  Dining experience: N/A

Petite Ya quartier (Mtl) cooks exquisite Congolese grilled goat – A Congolese foodie has recommended a new place in Mtl to try grilled goat meat (Congolese style)  and her suggestion was spot on: exquisitely seasoned and expertly grilled goat is exactly what I had here. The flavors genuine. As ever, most debuts at restaurants  look oftently promising, especially in Montreal, so only time will tell (how good on the aspect of the consistency this restaurant really is),  but the grilled  goat on this visit (Sept 2016) was one of the best I ever had in Montreal. Petite Ya Quatier, 4509 Beaubien E, Phone: (514) 257-6060 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Restaurant-petite-ya-quartier-339413376183374/  Food: 9/10 The best Congolese grilled goat I ever had in Montreal in a long while. Just hope they keep the goat this great in the long run. Ambience and service : N/A  ( BE REALISTIC ABOUT what you SHOULD BE looking for as this is not a  gourmet restaurant, but an African casual Dining eatery) Experience: N/A
tonys-pizza-williamsburg-sept-2016Tony’s is a  celebrated pizzeria of Williamsburg, Brooklyn (NY), serving pizze since 1950. I sampled the pepperoni/mushroom pizza as well as another one ganished with bits of pineapple. Nicely baked crust, tasty pizza indeed. It is surprising how this pizzeria is delivering pizze almost as –if not ..MORE — satisfying  than at some  … who are investing tons of $$$ in sophisticated imported wood fired ovens (which Tony’s  does not have).  Hail to king  Tony!  Tony’s Pizza, Addr: 355 Graham Ave, Brooklyn, NY Phone: +1 718-384-8669 Food: 7.5/10 (very satisfying North American/Italian Pizza …some say Sicilian style, but I was in Sicily recently, and we would need  a debate about that …;p) Ambience/Service: it is a laidback old school eatery,  so not much in the way of ambience.

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sh01Strip House Steakhouse is considered as one of the very best steakhouses of New York by the big majority of the city’s  most serious  steakhouse connoisseurs, some of them even  considering the steaks more flavorful at Strip House than at the legendary Peter Luger. It would be a nonsense to eat an average piece of steak in the Mecca of North American style steakhouses, New York, so I did a lot of searches and Strip House ended up ranking high on my list of steakhouses to try in New York.

West coast met East coast in a platter of perfectly well shucked quality oysters, with a dazzling mignonette, and an equally dazzling home made sauce, some tabasco. Oysters have to be great at a steak house of this reputation and they were. Where I needed them to excel was in their homemade sauce and mignonette. They did. 7/10

Lobster bisque , maine lobster, pearl couscous tasted enticingly of fresh lobster flavor, which it has to, indeed. It paled a bit, though, in comparison to the finer lobster bisque that could come from a fine French restaurant (its way-too-thick texture just not as refined, the flavor just not as complex) but that was to be expected at a steak house. 6/10

sh05Filet mignon was the pick of my girlfriend. She thought that the  char was not necessary for a filet mignon (well…honey, it is a North American steakhouse, lol!! Not a French restaurant …) but thought that it tasted fine enough. 6/10

 

sh02 The strip  is their signature steak , but I went for my preferred cut , the bone-in rib eye. The USDA prime meat is wet-aged for at least 21 days.  I usually prefer the effect of a 35 to 40 days dry-aged cut, which was not the case of this steak I was having.  They use a 1800 degree broiler to cook the steak and coat it with olive oil and pepper and that allowed for a nice tasty brown crust. I chose the 20 oz bone-in rib eye . Not much to say about my steak, as a steak house of this quality will usually get the requested doneness right (medium rare to my request), the meat certainly well sourced. Which is exactly what happened here. But the 20  oz bone in rib eye is wet aged, and for someone like me who has long embraced the hype of the dry aged meat, this wet aged piece left no impression (just not enough umami sensation on the palate, just not as meaty and flavorful, I find). Great char, nice  salt and pepper rub, though. Still…game, set and match: dry aged meat wins, for my taste. 6/10

sh03Crisp goose fat potatoes came in the form of a big croquette (6/10), quality asparagus retained a superb crunch (good, but somehow Wolfgang does a tastier rendition)

 

sh04Creamed spinach was fine, but I found the one at Peter Luger a tad more exciting in mouth. Still, this was tasty and had an enticing cheesy-alike taste that I kinda liked. 6/10

Ice cream and sorbet were good,  coffee (Rwanda single origin) was watery and not as flavorful as its enticing description (Silky body, lemon acidity, notes of pineapple and dark chocolate)  may suggest.

Pros: A classy steakhouse, with superb service and its own cachet
Cons: No serious quibble to raise, but as a diner you need to know that they have wet aged as well as dry aged cuts. If, like me, your ideal North American style steak is a 40 days expertly dry aged bone in 2″ inch thick 20 oz cut, then their 20 oz bone in rib eye is not what you are looking for. But they have other steaks that are dry aged such as the 14oz rib eye, 14oz new york strip, porterhouse for two.

Bottom line: a service and an overall dining experience that far surpassed what I have experienced at Peter Luger and Wolfgang. However, they need to fix the issue of the watery coffee. It is easy to make great coffee, so no excuse there. On the topic of the food, I was not blown away. True. But it would be accurate to underline  that no wet aged steak has ever impressed me, so,  obviously,  just a matter of personal taste. 6/10 as an overall rating  for the sides (fine sides, though a tad less impressive than at Wolfgang, for the sake of comparison). I won’t rate the steak – it was a perfectly well executed steak of the wet aged sort, but wet aged  steaks  are not my cup of  tea. 10/10 for the service and overall dining experience.

 

 

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Untitled The best ice cream in Montreal, as far as I am concerned is at Divine chocolatier. It is a chocolatier, selling some of the finest chocolate in Montreal, not an ice cream parlour, but their ice cream is artisanally made rather than designed for mass production, using the finest ingredients, with dazzling bold milky flavor.

Untitled2My favourite is the rhum raisin one, but when ice creams are done this well, you can’t go wrong no matter the flavor you’d have opted for. We are blessed with some serious ice cream parlours in Montreal, but Divine chocolatier’s is one that leads the pack (just some few choices –stawberry truffle, french vanilla, oreo, creme praline, cappucino — but which outstanding quality can’t be denied). It is in the simple things done superbly well that I find amazement, and this place’s  ice cream is a perfect example of that.  The ice cream is available only during summer. Divine chocolatier, 2158 Crescent Street, Phone: (514) 282-0829 URL: http://www.divinechocolatier.com/

Casse-Croûte Notre-Dame (Pointe-Aux-Trembles) was a great finding. I took their griot on two occasions and it was consistently of really high quality (taste, quality of the meat were all on point). It is a place that understands the importance of “fresh food”, so they do not cook more food than it is necessary to cook, just enough to supply the demand,  consequently  the food (rice, meat) was never dry (sadly, the reality of plenty of casse-croûtes in Montreal) on my two visits. Pretty much everything is done well here: as an example, the pikliz was packed with an intensity of enticing fresh acidity that is not that common at most of our local casse-croûtes. The riz collé (faultless cooking, superb aromas) is one of the best I ever had at a local Haitian casse-croûte.  Easily in my top 3 Haitian casse-croûtes in this province. Casse-Croûte Notre-Dame, Addr: 1465, Boulevard Saint Jean- Baptiste  (Pointe-Aux-Trembles). Phone: 514-645-0523 URL: http://www.cassecroutenotredame.com/

 

restaurant-lambroisie-paris-6L’Ambroisie, Paris –  is a 3 star Michelin restaurant that transcends time. Here, following trends is the least of their priorities. They know what Classic French food should taste, feel and smell like and they deliver benchmark versions of such food.   They are who they are and are very proud of that. This is a very expensive restaurant to the point that they do not even bother revealing the price of their dishes. With Dal Pescatore, L’Ambroisie is my “ideal”  of  a  “best restaurant in the world”. I do not mind firing confidently  such bold statement as one should better know that this is utterly subjective. People who are not interested in Classic French cooking are obviously … not going to fall for such place, but putting down L’Ambroisie because one does not like Classic cooking is like electing one color as superior to another, the moon better than the sun, water superior to fire, that right is better than left, that eating is better than drinking ..meaning, as meaningless as it gets. L’Ambroisie will not win any prize for cost performance, which is not its intent neither, but this globe’s most serious food bloggers/foodies/food journalists (just google them if that matters to you) continue to admit it: this is Classic French food by which such food needs to be judged. Years after my sole visit there (there won’t be a second visit as the anonymous/normal diner that I am can’t afford a repeating visit here) –click here for my write-up on that meal — I am amazed to read about how stellar the Classic French food at this place continues to be a benchmark of its kind, considering that they have lost some of their major sous Chefs:  Aki who opened La Table d’Aki and Matthieu  Pacaud   who is now at the helm of Hexagone and Histoires  —  (So, ….Chef Bernard Pacaud has not retired or what??  ).

01Restaurant Hvor , Montreal – This is one of the rare restaurants in Montreal  that has a small garden that any normal /  anonymous diner can actually visit (as far as I know, Joe Beef is the other local restaurant where normal diners have access to the restaurant’s garden).  That,  alone, will pass as a beautiful  surprise for plenty of local diners and foodies. When I arrived, my table was not ready, so they invited me to go upstairs in the garden for a drink at a communal table to be found there, in the garden, which I opted for, with the promise that someone was coming to offer a drink..obviously..and that they will let me know when my table is available. This was going to have “””the same taste “””as the promises of most politicians: there  was indeed a young waitress who came at the communal table asking the couple who came after me if they wanted a drink, but I was invisible to her. Needless to stress that I was not going to rely on her in regard to the second leg of the promises (…”””we’ll come to see you when your table will be available””  – ). Fortunately, when I went downstairs to claim my table, the same young lady was able to realize that I was an actual human being that can be noticeable to a human eye, or two, or more, actually, because … to be fair, the rest of the squad offered a stellar service on this evening. And in light of what followed, we can forget  about that slip..,although..at those prices and with the stellar service found under this roof..that waitress may….if that is common practice in her world…pass as …an unpleasant feature of an evening that was actually really great.  It is always hard to explain why some ppl make mistakes that even a child would stay away from..I mean does it take a genius to understand that the first person who is there…at a table of just 3 ppl… a couple and one other guest…expects to be served his drink  (we are not talking about food, here)  first?? We are talking about the very  basics of hospitality services here.

On to the food (surprise menu concept):

02A kale-wrapped maki sushi roll made of avocado, omelette, smoked egg plant – excellent take on a vegetarian maki  sushi roll. Appealing  textural contrasts (the  kale  — this one not bitter at all, so presumably boiled as that is the way to make kale not bitter — vibrant to both the eye and the smell, but also in mouth. Its texture as superbly well rendered as the one of the rice, omelette and smoked egg plant). The avocado is one logical component of most maki sushi rolls, indeed, but the addition of the other ingredients added a lot  to this technically great  piece of maki. Sometimes a dish is not designed to wow but to reveal much more than the ephemeral: there are tons of takes on vegetarian maki sushi rolls… but what this piece taught me is that …this is a kitchen brigade that can successfully blend a considerable amount of ingredients with great ease…the sign of a skillful  kitchen. I won’t rate this dish as my rating won’t convey my real opinion about it, but the verbiage has all you need to know.

03Mustard ice cream, grilled leavened bread, green tomatoes  – few kitchen brigades in Montreal do master the textural contrasts of their food this well (the way the grilled bread complemented the green tomatoes, which in turn lifted both the flavor and the texture of the mustard ice cream is not your ordinary kitchen brigade’s attempt at juxtaposing this seemingly basic collection of ingredients). Let us just say that they made this look  so easy to do, but that most kitchen brigades would have hard time recreating this superb “symphony” of textures (the flavors, too, are worth of praises). Most just follow a textbook: warm vs cold, crunch vs smooth, salt vs sweet, but this dish was about stellar contrasts, not just dumbly applying the basic concepts of textural contrasts into cooking. Here, the cold in its prime, the crunch exactly where it should be but where many would not pull it off. What looks like a poached egg is actually what most would opt for, the poached egg, because that is the easy way out. Instead, here, what looks like a poached egg is your mustard ice cream and it dazzles, because your brain was expecting the warmth of a poached egg, but then it’s surprised by something that is an even better complement to the overall dish, the ice cream of mustard. World class skills!  10/10

04 Sturgeon from Cote Nord, sea spinach, orange confit – sea spinach seasoned excitingly. It is sea spinach, therefore already salty, obviously, so most kitchen brigades would be frightened of  the idea of seasoning it because most will inevitably overseason it!  Not an issue at all, here, a sign of … great confidence.  Confidence is also what it takes to pair some orange confit with a piece of fish if you do not want the diner to walk away with the observation that it is a piece of bread, and not a piece of fish, that he needed with his orange confit. But confident they were and it worked. Dazzling orange confit that went so well with the spinach and the fish because … instead of tasting of a vulgar fruit jam, it had a complexity of flavors  that  was designed to complement  the fish and the sea spinach.  I am usually not a fan of fish caught in northern waters, so I am  fonder of the subtropical  sturgeon, but this was high quality subarctic sturgeon, its mild flavor an indication that it was wild caught (which my palate finds more flavorful than the farm raised sturgeon). Enticing smoky flavor from the fish.  The overall is classic and yet not tired looking nor tasting, rather inspired!  9/10

 

05 Scallop from Cote Nord, spiced carrots puree/ celeriac, sea urchin sauce – classic flavors done superbly well. Nothing tasted tired here but flavorful / exciting.  The sea urchin based sauce being a benchmark of its kind (this was of top quality, as all the other ingredients they do use, but what was remarkable is the way they got the  natural flavor of the sea urchin amplified) . Again and again, not one single ingredient made no sense here… the sea (scallop, sea urchin) and the land (carrots, celeriac) so complementary (a piece of cake, you think? Well think twice because many kitchen brigades, using those same ingredients, will have hard time combining spiced carrots puree, celeriac and sea urchin sauce to such exciting effect)   9/10

 

06Canard de la canardiere, cerises (cherries), choux rouge (red cabbage)-  the least impressive dish of the evening, though nothing to fault as every single ingredient was there for a reason ..the sign of a skilled kitchen brigade. Some few of their aromatic leaves ,  pine seeds, cherries…an item or two too many? Not at all…rather some thoughtful add-ons  that many kitchen brigades would be scared to add to this dish!!!  My sole issue:  the main star of this dish…the duck! Whatever the cooking technique they did use to cook the duck (some cook it sous vide then pan sear it switfly, others pan sear it then bake it, etc), the genuine gamey flavor of the meat of the duck — one flavor I am particularly fond of– was completely gone.  This was just not as flavoursome as the better duck magret dishes I had at other local restaurants. Consequently, especially after enjoying  the other superb  items of this meal, I was kind of taken aback.  6/10

07Mille-feuille , bleuet, caramel salee (salted caramel in place of the traditional icing or fondant that is usually found atop a classic mille-feuille)   – A classic that I am fond of because it is so hard to perfect. Here, the classic French pastry did benefit from  the addition of a bit of caramel sauce (atop the mille-feuille) and some blueberries . The creamy filling as remarkable as what the finest pastry Chefs in France are capable of, the crisp of the puff pastry superbly well conceived . As it was the case, all along this meal, every single ingredient adds to the overall enjoyment of the  dish, so even the blueberry  was not a dull adornment. A pastry team that seems to be as inspired as the team that has cooked the savory dishes.  8/10

08And to wrap up this meal, some popcorn , salted caramel  ice cream – clearly, here , every single ingredient has a purpose. I know this because when you add popcorn to desserts, or any type of food, I am skeptical. But they turned my skepticism into real enjoyment.

Pros: in its prime…easily in Montreal’s top 3!
Cons: The duck magret.

Bottom line: 8/10. My current top 3 in Montreal  has two long time members (La Chronique/ Le Serpent) as well as a new one:  Hvor!  Hvor 1414 Rue Notre-Dame O, Montréal Phone: (514) 937-2001 URL: http://hvor.ca/

What I think days later –  In general, I do not share the enthusiasm  of most of our  local food journalists ( with Maison Boulud , Le Fantome or Lavenderia coming to mind as the most recent examples of such)  but in the case of Hvor, the local food journalists were absolutely right: Hvor, on the back of this meal,  is worth going out of your way for, and that … regardless of my opinion about the duck magret. The quintessential duck magret is traditionally one key food item by which I judge the skills of a kitchen because it is so easy to get  right, so hard to make a mesmerizing one and mesmerizing  duck magrets are normally what you do usually get at restaurants of the quality of Hvor. But I have no doubt that a table like Hvor can cook a first-rate  duck magret. The duck, on that evening, was perhaps intimidated by the beauty of the other food items. But as ever  with  most restaurants in Montreal, the right question to ask is one that is about consistency:  will Hvor consistently maintain those  high standards in the long run? Time will tell.

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J1The other highlight of this quick foodie visit of Brooklyn (the other one is The River Cafe ) was Jordan’s lobster dock . They are in business since the late 30s and have been the very first  seafood suppliers of the state of New York. Like the River Cafe, this is an institution that is not resting on its laurels:

J2the seafood (as well as non seafood) is of great quality and the cooking well executed, the minimum that is expected from such casual food, perhaps, but they are doing it consistently better than at most seafood shacks in North America. Bottom line: 8/10 (in the category North American casual seafood eatery). My reference in this category of casual seafood eatery  (as far as seafood quality goes) remains the seafood found in the indian ocean, the caribbean and the mediterranea. But by North American casual seafood  standards, there is no doubt that JLD is one of the finest at what it is offering. Jordan’s lobster dock 3165 Harkness Ave, Sheepshead Bay – Brooklyn, NY 11235 United States; Phone number (718) 934-6300; URL: http://www.jordanslobster.com

River Café, Brooklyn
Michelin stars: 1
Addr: 1 Water St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, United States
URL: http://therivercafe.com
Phone: 1 718-522-5200
Type of cuisine: American cuisine (Essentially Classic French cooking technique using American ingredients)

RCThe River Café (near the Brooklyn Bridge) is an iconic restaurant which is widely known as one of the most romantic restaurants of New York city. I am usually not a fan of 1 star Michelin restaurants serving classic French cuisine in North America because their cooking hardly leaves any souvenir on my mind, but this was a special romantic occasion and River Café was the appropriate restaurant in this instance.

The meal started with an amuse of Citrus and Olive Oil Poached Squid with Saffron Panna Cotta and sweet pepper Gelee. Pretty to espy and an indication that, although using classic French techniques, the creativity of this kitchen brigade is hard to ignore: the variety of colors is thoughtful, a cube of saffron panna cotta  with some poached squid is not a usual combination of food items at most restaurants, and yet they were complementary. My only regret is that I have familiarized  my palate with strong flavors to the extent that I have hard time appreciating the subtle flavors of this amuse. I won’t rate this amuse as I just do not have the required palate  to appreciate it.
RC2Tuna of prime quality served as a tartare with a layer of thin slices of the fish atop. This showcased a great understanding of how to get the most out of raw fish (well judged seasoning allowing the quality of the fish to be at the forefront while lifting up its natural flavor – I did not ask the staff if they did age the tuna a little bit, so I am not too sure if they did, but that was the effect I had in mouth and it dazzled. Miso/valencia orange/ pickled chili vinaigrette brought necessary complexity. 8/10
RC3Jumbo shrimps, poached to ideal doneness (tender while retaining a nice chew) served alongside a faultless citrus Maltaise sauce. Another display of some serious seafood cooking (superb produce, classic flavor combination but mastered really well) 8/10
RC5Steamed (with meyer lemon) salmon with an inspired  oriental broth (a shiitake mushroom broth that was as vibrant as some of its original Japanese renditions) was delicious, the aromas of the broth exciting and above all, balanced. This was served with jasmine rice. 8/10
RC4Poached lobster was another display of superb produce and great mastery of classic French cooking as the seafood tasted great, its poaching well timed, the classic French flavors enticing. If cooking using classic technique done this well is one’s definition of boring cooking, then I’d rather get bored lol. This came with lobster claw, spinach gratin and lobster infused marinara, squid ink cavatelli pasta (tiny quantity, wished I had more as that was  some great pastas that would not be considered as average in a good Italian restaurant ). 9/10
RC6Milk chocolate soufflé (served with toasted marshmallow, hot fudge, Tahitian vanilla bean ice milk) was risen properly but milk chocolate needs to be exciting at smell and in mouth to leave an impression. As with everything at the RC, this chocolate was of top quality, admittedly, but the soufflé was unexciting for my taste. Furthermore, when I see the mention of “milk”, I want to be blown away by some bold fresh milky fragrance….which was not the case with this dessert.  6/10
RC7Blueberry tartlet was  a proper rendition of the tartlet, the fruits of stellar quality, but the pastry lacking a bit of the exciting buttery fragrance that I prefer when enjoying a tartlet. Actually, this was made of caramelized almond which does  normally express very appealing flavor, but that was not put in evidence  6/10
On web sites like Tripadvisor and Yelp, some reviewers considered that the food at RC was average. I beg to differ. I would need to be totally ignorant of classic cooking (the presentation is contemporary but the food is backed by classic French cooking techniques) or to hate it in order to reach similar conclusion. For sure, this is not Eleven  Madison Park but they both are not bestowed with the same number of Michelin stars neither!
Pros: One unique / truely special romantic restaurant with an exceptional riverfront view over Manhattan, and one that chose not to rest on its laurels as even the food is not an afterthought.
Cons: A bit more “pep” (milk should be packed with bold lactic fresh flavor, caramelized almond should have the almond and caramel flavors better expressed, etc) is to be expected from the pastry creations I have sampled on that evening.
Bottom line: 7.5/ 10 (Category: North american/french/international 1 star Michelin). It may sound harsh to score an overall 7.5/10 for the food after the series of really good savory dishes, but this is a 1 star Michelin, therefore the desserts needed to leave an impression too. They were good desserts, not great enough for a 1 star Michelin. That said, this is proper 1 star Michelin  French/international/American  cooking.  Same applies to the restaurant (in the classic restaurant category , obviously). It is pricey,should I repeat, but above all this is a world class romantic destination.

 

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03Planète Poutine & cie as well as La frite à Brigitte offered some of the very best classic poutines of Le Grand PoutineFest.

The difference between the two boiled  down to personal taste as one was not necessarily superior to the other. At such level, do not expect disaster (for example, bad quality ingredients, lacklustre gravy, burnt potatoes, etc).

planete poutinePlanète Poutine & cie classic  poutine featured bigger chunks of potatoes, which I prefer, with a really nice  gravy sauce (sauces of poutine are always secret recipes as the secret is in the sauce..) and a nice tasty crunch. PP & Cie suprised me a bit as it is a chain, therefore I was not expecting much from them, but clearly their classic poutine is one of good standard.

Brigitte In comparison, I found la Frite à Brigitte gravy sauce a tad more delicious. However, both places did master really well  all the aspects of their poutine using  quality homemade potatoes  (La frite à Brigitte particularly proud of the  Yukon gold potatoes from St Roch de L’Achigan that they were cooking during the poutine fest as proven by the display of their quality potatoes pretty much everywhere on the premises),  superb fresh squeaky big chunks of cheese curds (left unmelted , just the way I like it!!), and where many poutineries hide behind the excuse of “authenticity” to offer soggy tasteless fries, both La frite à Brigitte and  Planète Poutine & cie  french fries are packed with great potato flavor and a well balanced crispy exterior/ soft interior .

The journey to Poutineland is a never ending one. Time and again, there is always a new spot that is recommended by my Quebecois friends. The suggestions are numerous, and this serves me well in my search for the finest poutines, but unless one does not understand what a properly executed classic poutine should be, there  was hardly anything to fault with both above mentioned poutines. I have no clue how it fares at their respective restaurants, but both classic poutines sampled here at the Poutine Fest were  better than the classic poutine I had at plenty of supposedly far superior poutineries such as  the legendary  La Banquise.

Osteria Francescana is the best of them all according to San Pellegrino’s Restaurant Magazine – On top of the roof of San Pellegrino’s Restaurant Magazine, there is OF . Then El Celler de Can Roca, then Eleven Madison. Then this, and then that. Then, there are those who believe in San Pellegrino’s RM. Others in Gault Millau, others in Michelin, etc. But that is irrelevant as restaurant rating systems, opinions of restaurant critics, etc…that is just opinions, subjective material. What I need to know, though, is this: if a restaurant is a “reference” at what it does, why not keeping it in the elite of world’s best restaurants. Alinea, Noma , the Fat Duck … what other restaurant in the world is offering a better experience and has a technically better kitchen brigade  in their respective  categories????   Eleven Madison Park, no 3 in the world. I went there. It is in NYC, just few hours drive away from Montreal. So Yes it is a great restaurant, but it is not a “reference’ at whatever it is delivering! Mirazur, no6: I never went there. But I do not need to, neither! A simple look at the pics of their  dishes shows pretty looking dishes indeed, but are we certain that Mirazur is as exceptional as Alinea, Noma or the Fat Duck? Are we really certain of that? There are two aspects of the restaurant world that  I insist on differenciating: A restaurant’s food can indeed fare déja vu…BUT if  that restaurant  remains the best at what it does, then there is no reason to ignore it. Then, of course, as humans, we generally tend  to be excited by novelty… which I can certainly understand, but novelty should not be confused with exceptional work . I am sorry, but choices like Osteria Francescana, Eleven Park Madison, Mirazur, etc….this sounds like trying to sound novel rather than anything else. BTW..talking about the best restaurants in the world: according to San Pellegrino’s top 50 restaurants of the world …. the best classic (French, Italian, etc)  restaurants do not deserve to feature among their best restaurants. Basically,  modern cooking seems to be superior to  classic cooking  I gather  that this whole thing is a matter of personal taste, but how on earth can you pretend assessing the best restaurants in the world and completely forgetting the best classic  tables of this world? – Even a die-hard fan of classic cuisine like me will acknowledge that the non classic food of Noma, the Fat Duck, Alinea  sets the bar for their respective categories of cuisine. SP Top 50,  you are  just laughable , to say the least! …

01The ribs, the ribs!!! The ribs are the big trend of the last 2 years  of the foodie scene in Montreal. In that short period of time, restaurants offering ribs have truely stepped up their game with some of this city’s  most serious contenders  being le Boucan, Black Strap BBQ, and  Le Fumoir Rubs Smokehouse. To be honest with you, I do not know how to assess the Montreal “ribs”scene. We are not in the US, ribs is not Montrealer –  obviously, so I am not too comfortable with the idea of  assessing our local ribs. I will always remember an online  comment from a connoisseur of ribs, an American gentleman who knows his American ribs as much as you know how you are feeling right now…and that gentleman stated that he has no clue if Montreal was doing good ribs, but that the “culture” of the ribs is so different from the US that he was afraid that his opinion of Montreal ribbers was influenced not by skills or quality, but by just that: the perception, the impression that Montrealers have a totally different idea of what ribs should be. Do not expect Montreal to compete with our southern neighbors when it comes to the ribs in a way that the rest of the world has no chance to  beat us when it is time  to excel  at  our food staples such as the poutine, the smoked meat, the hot dog, the bagel, the cheese cake, etc! That said, Ribs mania is hitting town right now in the form of  le Grand Ribfest, an opportunity for our southern neighbors to share their long experience at smoking their ribs. I am a huge fan of the Grand Ribfest but it is about time that they do an effort to invite many more new ribbers (they have the same ribbers as  on their last edition, which is fine  but some few new ” faces ” would not hurt. Still, they had ONE NEW ribber this time around, BIBBS BBQ, which ribs  I went sampling:

02Bibb’s Texas BBQ is at its first presence at the Mtl ribfest. They smoke their baby back  ribs for 4hrs using cherry wood, the sauce made of sweet tomatoes. The baby back ribs I had were unfortunately a bit dry for my taste, the sauce enjoyable enough but lacking the complexity of, say, the sauce that Texas Rangers (my preferred ribs of the 3 ribfests of Laval / Mtl) had served me on the 1st edition of this event (Texas Rangers did not participate at the latest 2 ribfests). This does not mean that you should expect the same issue from all their ribs (after all, it would be unrealistic to expect perfect ribs at every serving), but I can talk only for what I know.

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