restaurant-m-la-nuitRestaurant Mimi La nuit (Addr: 22 Rue Saint Paul E, Montréal, QC; Phone: 514- 507-5449 URL: http://mimilanuit.com) is located in the Vieux port. We sampled their kefta (on this specific evening, the kefta more refined and slightly less spicy than what you will experience with some of its traditional renditions, but the flavor is genuine), salmon tartare (Ordinary – It may sound exaggerate to expect more from a basic mix of salmon and avocado, but such basic combination can and did dazzle at other bistrots ), sausage (Ok, but sausages need to truely stand out in order to make an impression when dining out whereas the effect of this sausage was as fine as the numerous sausages that most ppl are grilling in their backyard), lamb chops (the quality of the lamb high), crostini (a safe bet as expected), crab cakes (a gourmet take on the crab cake, with the cakes shaped like ping pong balls / this was pleasant on the palate and pretty to espy).

All in all : 6.5/10 In light of what I am used to in the category “french/north american/ cosmopolitan bistrot food”. It is hardly the best or one of the very best in that category, but it delivered pleasant food and sometimes, the food was more than just pleasant (the kefta, their condiments).

ntNos thes (215 Rue Sainte-Catherine Est Montreal, Quebec Phone: (438) 289-0418)- Tried NosThes, a Taiwanese-style restaurant which speciality is tea but that serves food too.

Braised beef tendon slices in thickened spicy soy sauce braising broth is what I had here on a first visit, the overall tasting genuinely fine with well balanced seasoning. That was a lunch special which came with a starter of marinated carrots (excellent marinade which complex sweetness did lift the natural fruity-ness of the carrots in a way that not many cooks can do). Soup was made of seaweed and eggs and this, too, was a properly executed version of this popular soup.
All in all : 6/10 Above average Taiwanese food by our local standards, offering decent Taiwanese-inspired  classical fares. Seems like a place where you are unlikely going to stumble upon cooking slips such as dry food, overcooked rice, unbalanced seasoning. And if someone does not find this place Taiwanese enough, then locate the country where this restaurant is located on a map and ask that person to say loudly where NT is situated. Not in Taiwan, but in Canada. Exactly… But certainly as Taiwanese as your food is going to taste in MTL.

 

La Caye (Address: 35 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217, USA Phone: +1 718-858-4160 URL: http://www.lacayebk.com/) – I went back to my (current) preferred Haitian-style bistrot in North America, La Caye. Like many, I am not too enthused at paying a lot of money — La Caye is pricey—- for casual food (although, if you are not the kind of person who tends to overlook ethnic food, it should not be hard to appreciate that La Caye elevates this food to adequate restaurant quality) but there are few tropical eateries that are appropriate for a date (the reason I picked La Caye in the first place…but ensure you do not go there for a date during peak hours as it is small and can be packed).

akraAccra– most ethnic eateries will serve you their tired looking accras they could not sell the day before (apparently, based on reports of many North American foodies,  this is more common in Montreal than in New York) . Not here. Freshly fried, with superb golden texture. There are many types of accras (Haitians tend to favor malanga as the star ingredient for their accras), but this is one example of a benchmark accra (easy-on-the-eyes refined exterior, exciting  seasoning, not greasy at all) . 10/10

lanbi-boukanenLanbi boukannen ( Grilled conch) In some tropical islands, they grill the conch in its shell, paving the way to some great flavor enhancement. But that is, of course, not possible for a restaurant that is miles away from any tropical sea. So eventually, the texture and the taste of your grilled conch is different at a tropical eatery in a city like Brooklyn. And that was not going to be an exception at La Caye. However, the conch was as good as your grilled conch will fare at any Haitian restaurant in North America, just not of the exceptional ‘freshly snatched from the sea’ sort of conch (as one would expect). Seasoned and grilled adequately, but I am not a fan of grilled conch (I prefer eating it raw or in a sauce — it appeared at my table only because my girlfriend loves grilled conch).

lanbiLanbi (conch) in sauce was as great as on my last visit here, the sauce exquisitely prepared, the conch boasting a superb chew. As submitted earlier, the quality of the conch itself is the same as what you will find at most Haitian eateries in North America, but this is still as great as it gets in a Haitian restaurant this side of the world (I can think of, perhaps, 2 or 3 lanbi sauces that did tantalize a bit more, but they were cooked by exceptionally talented Haitian Moms). 8/10

goatGrilled goat (pictured above) and goat in sauce featured goat of fine quality, and seasoning that was — again and again — packed with punch. My preferred grilled goat remains the one from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Ntaba, but this was another example of flawless classic caribbean cooking. 8/10

Fried pressed banana plantain  is easy to make, according to plenty of Chefs, and yet it is oftently leaden at most   ethnic restaurants. Here, no such issue but  freshly fried press banana plantains of perfected texture (light and crisp)  and flavor (10/10).

Black mushroom rice (Diri ak djon djon) expressed enticing aromas (8/10), the condiments were all first rate items.

All in all: 8/10 Consistently great Haitian / Caribbean cuisine by North American Caribbean restaurant standards, but La Caye is not cheap and at those prices, I need the litchi of my litchi sangria to be of the non-canned sort and to be available only when it is in season. Furthermore, La Caye really needs to make more exciting cocktails (the prosecco/ mango juice cocktail as well as Litchi sangria that I had were not exciting drinks).

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gaGracia Afrika has a lovely Congolese (RDC) Mom at the helm. She cooks some staples of her native RDC (grilled coat?? goat in sauce), digs in other cuisines (The Ndole of Cameroon, the Haitian riz colle), and will feed you with some of the most popular African/Carribean casual food items (fried tilapia, etc). Things went exactly as expected: since I told her that I was African and given that I was alone, she asked me if I would kindly accept to give my seat (ideally positioned by the window) to the group of clients that came right after me. Hospitalité Africaine oblige, I obliged. Then came the food: it is a tuesday evening, quiet evening, so hospitalite Africaine oblige, I was the one who would have to eat the reheated goat en sauce of the day before. The group of clients that came after me,  are, of course, going to be fed on the fresh food of the evening. Frustrating? No, not at all. It is typical, it is cultural. Can the lovely Mom cook? Yes, of course: the dishes at the other tables looked freshly prepared and seemed well done. Furthermore, the chilli condiment and the fried banana served with my goat curry were proof that this lovely (because, truth be told, she is lovely) can do well. Any problem? Well, the lovely Mom and myself agreed on feeding me with charcoal grilled goat. I saw no sign of charcoal in her small kitchen, no sign of a grill neother, so not sure how she can grill on charcoal. Anyways, charcoal grilled goat was never going to make an appearance at my table, it was goat in sauce and goat in sauce that was reheated from the day before was never going to excite, as expected. So, will I go back? Yes, but on a saturday evening when this lovely Mom is so busy that only fresh food can come out from her kitchen. Gracia Afrika 3506 Rue Notre-Dame O, Montréal, QC  Phone:  (514) 713-1061 URL: http://www.graciaafrika.com/ang/accueil.html

 

Quick little tour in Ottawa, with a foodie whose palate I highly regard. Her “not to be missed” suggestion, Host India was  spot on. I did not take any pictures as I was dining with ppl I just met for the first time, and who have nothing to do with the foodie world,  consequently starting shooting pics of my food would have passed as odd.   Their relative weakness at Host India would perhaps be  the chicken kababs (I had more flavorful kabab elsewhere).  Also,  why that confusion between a dal makhni vs a dal tadka..?? …it is not the same dish at all. Anyways,  all things considered, I cared enough for Host India to  look past its minor flaws.  Not to be compared to  any of the best   Indian restaurants of Toronto (Toronto  has the very best Indian food in the nation), but definitely as fine if not better than our best Indian restaurants in Montreal. Some of the finest Indian    flavors (delicious sauces, the beef madras as well as butter chicken particularly well executed) I ever  tasted in Ottawa. Host India, Addr: 622 Montreal Rd, Ottawa, ON Phone: (613) 746-4678 URL: http://hostindia.ca/

fpAt footprints cafe, clarendon, brooklyn, we sampled    chicken wings (jerk) $8.25,  crab cakes $10.25 (one legit version of the crab cake, though …in a country where crab cakes is all the rage..this felt underwhelming for my taste and to my eye — this  crab cake needed more crab flavor / the the taste of the breadcrumbs was dominating the flavor of the crab ), curried goat $15.95  cooked with ginger and onions, salmon and shrimp combo (grilled) 26.95 (Grilled Salmon was executed properly, but not exciting – I had more flavorful caribbean-inspired grilled salmon dishes elsewhere).  All competent, exactly as the Jamaican friends who recommended me this place did suggest. The goat curry, the highlight of this evening alongside a flawless jerk chicken (both respecting the flavors of the Jamaican traditional recipes of the jerk chicken and goat curry).  FP was fine, the line up of Jamaicans at their door certainly a reminder that this restaurant feeds them with flavors that are as close to home as a Jamaican  chain restaurant can deliver in NY,  my (relative) small quips (??) having nothing to do with the restaurant but with some specific Jamaican dishes: the Jamaican dish of rice and peas  has always tasted bland to my palate (some well travelled foodies came to the same conclusion in this article ) , especially when compared to the far more delicious Haitian riz collé. And that grilled salmon and grilled shrimp is basic food, indeed, but  I swear, it dazzled … elsewhere! Sometimes I wished I had just discovered food just hours ago, lol, as  …the fact that I am  familiar with other types of  ethnic food ..does eventually affect my appreciation of certain dishes as that is exactly what happened with that crab cake and grilled salmon. Even the Jamaican lamb curry, although done the genuine Jamaican way here at FP, is not among my preferred ethnic lamb curries (I just prefer other types of seasonings with my lamb curry…but well, it is the way the Jamaican do, so I have to respect that as I was obviously at a Jamaican restaurant). Personal taste, for sure ..BUT at least..I have the decency of refraining from assessing it with numbers (which would be utterly inaccurate in this case). As for their rasta pasta (their signature dish), no thank you: I’ll fall for it the day you will make your own home made pasta. Or else, what is the point? Footprints Café, Addr: 5814 Clarendon Rd, Brooklyn, NY 11203, USA Phone: +1 718-451-3181 URL: http://footprintscafenyc.com/

fhsFuji Hibachi Steakhouse (NYC)  faces port authority, a few blocks away from Time square. They opened around 3 weeks prior to my meal (I ate there in sunday Oct 30th). Service was good, the small restaurant having a touch of relative elegance to it (its rest room, contemporary). The Miso soup and edamame I had were good,  but they will have to play attention at tiny details such as the proper doneness of their cooked meat (my girlfriend wanted her red meat to a certain doneness, I wanted mine to a different one but we both ended up with meat cooked to the exact same doneness) as well as lifting up the flavors (it was ok, but there are Japanese eateries offering this style of food with much more flavor). Given the not-so-high prices (relatively to NYC, especially in such centrally located spot) that they charge, it is normal that they do not use prime quality ingredients (veggies, for eg), though fine enough (veggies and meat are of the quality  you will find at most supermarkets) but that ultimately  took away from the full enjoyment of my food at FHS:  simple food like sauteed/grilled veggies or meat have always pleased me more than their sophisticated versions  but then you need exceptional produce and great flavors to get away with it. And that is what I was missing during this visit. Fuji Hibachi Addr: 321 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036 Phone: +1 212-757-1820

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-Chef Eric Gonzalez will be at the helm of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Montréal, which is expected to be opened in December 2016 – This is a major opening for Montreal and Eric is a logical choice for such venture given his past experience at other  Michelin star restaurants in Europe (he worked for well known Chefs Bernard Loiseau, Jacques Chibois, etc), Michelin star standard being generally associated with  Robuchon restaurants. I doubt Michelin will be interested by Montreal anytime soon (it takes consistency to impress Michelin, alas consistency is not the forte of the majority of our local   restaurants), but expect refinement and a culinary experience that has the potential to stand out. I ate Eric’s food in his days at Le  Cube (now closed) ,  then at Auberge St-Gabriel. There is no denying the fact that he has  really good technique (as an example, juxtaposing appealing  textures  is definitely one strength of his), but at times I felt as if he forgot that food should be “pure joy” in mouth (his food was tasty enough, just not as flavorful as it should have been). Hopefully, this is history and joyous flavours will be at the heart of whatever he will be cooking for L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Montréal.  L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Casino de Montréal, Level A, Pavillon du Québec, 1, avenue du Casino, Montréal, Qc Phone: 514-392-2746  URL: http://casinos.lotoquebec.com/en/montreal/explore/restaurants/atelier-de-joel-robuchon

After a highly satisfying visit at Hvor, one that propulsed it in my top 3 in YUL, I went back, curious to see what they had to offer now that autumn is approaching.  I was a bit reluctant, though , after the non enthusiastic review of my preffered local food journalist, Marie Claude Lortie, who used terms such as “unaccomplished” to convey her experience at Hvor.
hvor01My second  journey at Hvor did boot with a home made prosciutto of local quebec lamb that was not a pale copy of what the finest charcuteries of Europe has to offer. Superb dry-cured charcuterie, indeed, though not surprising given that Quebec has some of the finest lambs your palate will ever have a taste of.  Still, there is some serious technique to master, if you want to deliver serious charcuterie,  and that technique they nailed it. Superb!
Then a  mini, minimini miniature (as to convey how mini that was)  veggie tartlet.  The Chef purposely not overwhelming his minimini mini miniature tart with seasoning as to allow your palate to enjoy every single ingredient  at its peak (as fresh as you’d have handpicked them from the garden just moments ago). Nice touch, but I am not a fan of miniature food (which was fine, here, as it was the only miniature item of the tasting menu and it was part of some amuses….I know some restaurants that would serve it to you as the sole amuse!). Still, I considered that miniature veggie tartlet  as a perfectly well executed clin d’oeil to Alain Passard’s  tartlets. In the medias, only Marie Claude Lortie did mention that the Chef had, once, trained at Alain Passard’s L’Arpege. Passard’s touch could truely be felt in that miniature tart of veggies which intent was to mimmick a pizza. Mission accomplished as it tasted of the better aspects  of a pizza.
hvor02Choux bruxelles, fourees au foie gras torchon, reduction vin rouge, crumble cacao. this was amusing: only couple of brussel sprouts were stuffed with their home made foie gras au torchon, but what a foie gras au torchon that was! A benchmark of its kind (I am talking about the foie gras au torchon)   9/10
hvor03Then foie gras de lotte (burbot fish’s foie gras),  Yuzukoshō  – first rate  burbot fish’s foie gras. The Yuzukoshō  condiment showcasing outstanding skills (the effect of its heat  entincingly complex) as it was as genuine as your reproduction of  the Yuzukoshō   will feel and taste out of Japan.  8/10
Then another first rate item, a tartare of duck that did benefit from Japanese accents (mixed with rice, seasoned with Japanese seasonings).  Then a dazzling piece of  kinmedai  fish elevated by superb seasoning  and condiments.
hvor04Grilled guinea fowl  (pictured)  was also excellent, and, clearly ahead of what most would do with their guinea fowl in town (meaning, dazzling taste,  accompaniments that were packed with superb textures) .
To wrap up the meal, some excellent desserts (sorbet au pommes, brioche a la canelle, Etc)
Bottom line: So, still in my top 3 in  Mtl? Absolutely. Enticing Franco-Japanese flavors (Despite the scandinavian-inspired name,  the Chef  is inspired by Franco-Japanese cuisine) on this particular evening. Just keep in mind that the way I assess the skills of a kitchen is by “micro analyzing ” some very specific aspects of what I am fed with. Here are examples  of just that: (1)the miniature pizza. Some may say ” ah, it was way too mini, so not much to talk about”, but I say “when it is miniature, but done with such skills, then why not? as long as you do not feed me with just that, which is a mistake that they did avoid at Hvor”. (2)the brussels sprouts of which some may say “hey, why that display of plenty of brussels sprouts, but only a few of them are filled with the foie gras” … to which my answer would be “it is one of those amusing tricks of the nowadays contemporary cuisine, found at plenty of contemporary restaurants around the globe, but what I do care about  was that foie gras au torchon and how well it went with the red wine reduction, that particularly great quality of brussels sprouts, a bit of cacao crumble… it is a lot of risks to accompany brussels sprouts… cuz they can be bitter..with cacao…another ingredient known to be bitter, obviously..to  foie gras  au torchon. But they nailed it where many would inevitably get either the cacao crumble or the brussels sprouts to overwhelm the foie gras. That (fabulous skills that allows my food to taste great, especially after NOT taking the easy road, which they do at Hvor) is all I need to know about the skills of a kitchen. I grew up considering great cooking as that ability to make what’s tough to get right (condiments, sauces) sublime, which, to my palate, is what Hvor delivered. This is a kitchen that has the potential to elevate franco-quebecois-japanese combinations of food ideas to another level. I can imagine some witty stuff with, say, a tartiflette, a six pattes, etc…but with Japanese accents. The ball is in their yard. All I know is that the skills are there. URL: http://hvor.ca/en HVOR 1414 Rue Notre-Dame O, Montréal, QC  (514) 937-2001 Subjective personal overall assessment for the food: 8/10, Service: 10/10, Ambience: 10/10
01Tiradito is the new kid in town. It is  a (contemporary) Peruvian bistrot bathed in an attractive contemporary interior. You basically sit at a long bar surrounding the Chef (another trend, in town,  nowadays).

Peruvian cookery is “en vogue” (to the point that a simple marinade like the “leche de tigre” is a very  trendy term) these days, thus a winning formula a bit everywhere in North America. As explained elsewhere on this  blog, I never review food that I am not familiar with or simply can’t appreciate for reasons that have nothing to do with the food itself.  For eg, you will never see any review of Romanian, Brazilian, Polish food on my blog. They are great cuisines that I do respect but my palate simply can’t appreciate them. So instead of laying down inaccuracies on paper (things like ´there was fish in my sushi’ or ´my neapolitan pizza had burnt edges, therefore it was bad’),  I always ensure to familiarize myself with the food first, then I will assess it. By familiarizing myself with the food I am assessing, I mean getting to taste how the food is cooked by those having the proper kno- how, understanding the genuine flavors of my food. So Tiradito was going to be a restaurant from which I knew what to expect.

02Tiradito de thon albacore ($12) would be the sort of dish to look for, here, as the name of the restaurant implies (tiradito is basically peruvian crudo).  This featured fine fresh tuna, and accentuated heat coming from the amarillo chilli of the leche de tigre. I appreciate the fact that the Chef opts  for the bold genuine spicy flavors of his motherland.  This came with bits of cancha corn. Fine
03Papa rellena $5  (1 papa rellena for 1 person is enough as the portion is sizeable) was properly executed – the potato flavor present, as it should, the taste of the ground meat enticing (which is a sign  of fine  quality meat and proper seasoning) the accompanying sweet sauce having its  sweetness nicely balanced.
04Empanada of blood sausage was also correctly executed, the accompanying coconut curry  went really well with the empanada  –
Bottom line: Expect dishes that are done as it should, in the spirit of a refined Peruvian bistrot, the flavors and textures properly rendered. Perhaps some nice grilled charcoal-grilled meat would have boosted my level of enthusiasm, but this place is not designed for that. So no charcoal-grilled  anticucho, at least not for now. In the category  “Peruvian bistrot” food, I had my share of dazzling as well as pleasant food and these were pleasant bites. Tiradito has  no issue with the fundamentals (seasonings are mastered –it will be spicy where it should, balanced where it needs to be),  which is a good start. It is also perfectly fine the way it is right now. I just need a little bit of wittiness ***  (though, to be fair, restaurants do sometimes have  menu items that do not feature on the standard menu  and those are generally more exciting — I did not ask for those. I think you should,  as, based on the pics that I can see on their facebook page, there seem to be  items that could be of better interest, under this roof, than what I chose ) to get this whole thing to spice up my enthusiasm (Tiradito is young, so it has plenty of time to switch from “perfectly pleasant” to “dazzling” ).  Tiradito 1076 Rue de Bleury, Montreal, QC, Phone: (514) 866-6776 URL: https://www.facebook.com/tiraditomtl/
***People oftently ask me “Hey, what do you mean by wittiness?”. I’ll answer, as truth  be told, we tend to “lay down” words but do not take time to explain what we truely mean. Everytime you see me using the word wittiness, I mean any of these : a work of flavors and or textures that went above an beyond what is usually found for the kind of food that I am assessing. Furthermore, food is about little details: If I bake something and serve it right away to you, it will never be the same as I bake the same thing and serve it 10 mins later. Flames tend to bring more enjoyment than by other methods of cooking. Crudo is generally fun, but it relies a lot on exceptional quality produce (which of course is costly, sadly) to make an impression. So when I talk about wittiness, it is the ability to bring all those little details together.

 

 

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***Marie-Claude Lortie’s write-up on Hvor is the best article that a local food journalist has ever written – Yes, she is one of my preferred food journalists of all time. No I do not know her. No, I am not in love with her. And I am sure I am not her type neither: I am ugly. No, I do not agree with every single statement of hers. And that is normal as we share nothing in common. But I know one thing, though: “suckling pigs” is not her favourite dish….my way of saying that she is not biased, not there to make friends in the restaurant industry. And she writes well,  she is  not your usual  “shakespeare wanna be”  or “I  feel smart” type of food  journalists.
Marie-Claude’s article on Hvor is a reminder of how this woman is capable of unusual impartiality, where many so-called  food journalists are just there to   serve as advertisers for their friends of the food industry.

You know that a food review is exceptional when the reviewer sees things that most did not (not  to be confused with …things that do not exist….sadly, the mistake that most food journalists make) at a restaurant that you really liked (Hvor is in my top 3 in Montreal alongside La Chronique and Le Serpent ).

Eventhough Marie Claude’s article has no impact on my opinion of Hvor,  I’ll concede that I had “flashbacks” (lol) of the duck magret I had there  when  she was  reproaching to Hvor… a feeling of unaccomplishment..a feeling that she did observe at times during her meal there.

But aside from that duck magret, there was no other sign of “unaccomplishments” during my meal. To the contrary, there was lots of finesse, a very high level of technique as well as some superb combination of textures and flavors.

Marie-Claude argued that  the desserts at Hvor are “deja vu” creations for her. Well  …Montreal is unlikely the place that one should look for when it comes to reinventing the wheel. Desserts at a restaurant in Montreal, however great they can be, they are certainly not going to be thought provoking!  And Marie Claude should know that. I do not expect restaurants to reinvent anything, anyways. I just want them to excel at whatever they do whether the food is classic or not.  And that is exactly what Hvor was about during my visit.

As for Marie-Claude’s review, that is a master piece (written in French) that you can peruse here.

 

***Le Tonkin as well as Pho Bang New York are (and still are) my preferred spots for Pho in Montreal. Not only is the pho good at the two restaurants, but cleanliness (especially in the case of Le Tonkin)  is another attribute you can append to their respective descriptions, which is not a common affair at our local pho restaurants. But I love phos, so I went trying some of the best picks of other local Vietnamese foodies (Vuong and Han,) that I know and trust. For Vuong, Ho  Guom and Tay Ho rule (he is from Hanoi, and unsurprisingly his preferred phos are of the Hanoi style). Han is a fan of Pho Lien and Lyla  (phos from her native south).

restaurant-lylaRestaurant Lyla 431, Jean Talon W, Montreal, 514-272-8332 http://www.restaurantlyla.com/    The broth a tad sweeter than at Pho Bang NY and Le Tonkin, (which is not a quip, rather a feature of this type of pho) as well as a tad less complex in its nuances but definitely one legit version of the Pho. The ingredients were fine, the quality of the meat good. Unarguably one genuine version of the Pho, but I’ll take Pho Bang NY (which uses  a tad more star anise than its local competition  in  the soup, but to great effect) and Le Tonkin’s more complex (meaning: having more nuances in taste, textures)  / therefore seemingly more exciting Phos anytime over this one.
ho-guom-montrealI then tried one of Vuong’s top picks, Ho Guom, which is a  stone’s throw from Iberville metro station.  Lots of depth/nuances of flavors (that are well balanced, btw) in that broth, and yet a broth that is very clear (what you should look for, the experts will tell you). Bring your own lime, though, as the piece of lime they did serve to me  was incredibly dry! And consider yourself as deprived from any sense of humor if what I did submit about that piece of lime is all you needed to know. Easily in my top 3 local phos (you know your pho dazzled when you can afford complaining about useless things such as a dry piece of lime ;)). Ho Guom, 2035 Rue Jean-Talon E, Montréal http://www.hoguom.ca/
Bottom line: you want your pho to taste/feel/smell like in Vietnam? Then fly to Vietnam! Lol. That said, Le Tonkin, Pho Bang New York and Ho Guom are making superb phos and despite the never ending list of decent phos in town, I have yet tasted a better pho than at the above mentioned  trio of preferred phos.
***Morgan’s bbq is touted as offering one of the finest texas style smoked briskets in nyc. Order them (the briskets) fat, not lean, as to savor your brisket in its more flavorful rendition – which is exactly what I went for. Can’t agree more about Morgan’s bbq reputation: their brisket is as enticingly smokey and tasty as your texan style brisket will get in NY. Coleslaw and potato salad were equally delicious. So did the chicken (you go to a Texan style smoke house for the briskets…yeah, I know, but my sweet half wanted to taste the smoked chicken).
Pros: briskets that would send the ones we have in Mtl to shame, though in the US..the competition is fierce, obviously. Still, some fine Texan style briskets, and not just the briskets as the smoked chicken seemed to have tantalized my girl friend’s palate, which is no light exploit as the lady is a picky eater
Cons: Not too sure if this was an isolated situation, but the brisket I was having was super salty.Because it was as tasty as it was salty, I did not make a fuss of it. I trust that was isolated….
morgans-bbqBottom line: 7/10 (categ: Texan style bbq) – Morgan’s BBQ may not be a standard bearer at what it does, but they are the next guy you are looking for when the standard bearer is not around. For the sake of comparison, our smoke houses in YUL are not there yet (in YUL, our finest texas style brisket’s taste is unidimensional – in comparison).  Morgan’s Barbecue Addr: 267 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217, United States  Phone: +1 718-622-2224  https://www.facebook.com/morgansbrooklynbarbecue/

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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/