***A Taste of the Caribbean was pure tropical fun in the beautiful location of the Vieux Port of Montreal. Food was delicious, people beautiful, ambience festive. My little ‘coup de coeur’ of the event went to the rum cake of Yum Rum cakes. Yummy, indeed, with refined texture and just the right amount of rum. The cake was   not soaked in rum, which is perfect for me. It is easy to see that they have perfected their craft for so long.

RIBFEST***The Ribfest is  an instant success with thousands and thousands  of people attending the event. As expected, ribs, exactly  like steaks, will always be crowd pleasers in North America.

01There were so many people at the event that I managed to try only (up to now, June 30th) the ribs of Camp 31 (Southern style bbq.  I wished there was more meat around the bones, and that the meat would be  tenderer and a tad juicier,) from Alabama as well as Bone Daddy  (Colorado. the sauce boasting a perfect balanced sweetness, which is my preference, the meat cooked longer therefore tender, alas the flavor not as meaty a I came to expect from my preferred ribs).

02UPDATE 1/7/2015 : Tried Texas Rangers and Uncle Sam’s  on July 1st. TR pulled off my preferred  ribs of this event, with delicious caramel-tasting sauce with a touch of fresh acidity behind. The meat boasting tender consistency and nice meaty mouthfeel. This was even better than the finest local ribs that I have tried.  I did sample Uncle Sam’s mainly  because he was the only one using wood-fire. That  made a difference, indeed, as the smokey wood-fired flavor is always a hit for me. I found the sauce a tad less dazzling than at TR (less complex), but the sweetness was not overwhelming, rather nicely controlled. The meat not too tender , not tough neither, just the right balance between tender and firm.

This is  a very popular event, indeed, and my only (friendly) quip is that with such crowd, the organisers need to think about  better ways to let people moving around (make the way clear to the various stands, so better queue and customer flow management). It was really hard, especially on the first day, to identify the right queues and move from one stand to another. It is their first event, so no hard feelings, and hopefully this will be long fixed on the next edition.  It was fun to converse with our Southern neighbors about their passion for the smoked rib and I will remember the ribs of Texas Rangers for a while..the Rangers dazzled during this fest!

***I went dining at Cirkus, opened since October,  and already considered as one of this city’s better restaurants. Its Chef, Julien Doré, has honed his skills  at some of the major food destinations of this city. The food is North American/French bistrot-gastronomy  with possible International influences (for eg, Italian). You have a mix of clotheless tables and some few tables with tablecloths, the restaurant simply but tastefully decorated.

01The starter comprised of some homemade gnocchi (not the superlative pillowy textured gnocchi that can sometimes come from an Italian kitchen, slightly chewier than I would prefer, but admittedly decent  by French restaurant standards)  made of black cod, gently seared and sautéed in butter, the rich mouthfeel balanced with the fresh acidity of a  vinegar called  Xipister (pepper flavored vinegar). We are not used to that vinegar, in Montreal restaurants , so the element of  surprise was present and added to the enjoyment of that dish. A bit more complexity came in the form of thin slices of  wood ear mushrooms, mixed with the pasta, and  which seemed, to my palate, to have been marinated (I did not ask if it was, but it felt like it) and stood as  complementary to the dish – the flavor of the mushroom superb. All in all, a  delicious dish with the richness of classic French cuisine and a great sense of flavor combination.  Exciting mouthfeel. 7/10 (had the texture of the gnocchi stood out – again, it was fine, but no more – I’d not hesitate to rate  this dish higher, but consider this as a very strong 7/10 as it’s becoming rare, nowadays, in town, to sample dishes expressing  classic joyous flavors as ‘NOT tired’ and as beautifully mastered as what I was enjoying on this evening).

02Duck Magret (slightly less rosy than I normally prefer, with my duck magret,  but eventful in mouth) was served with one glass of red wine that I enjoyed a lot, a Chateau Ste Anne 2009. The duck magret came with a faultless  purée of chestnut, a flavorful grenobloise (when was the last time a grenobloise – although not that hard to make as it is basically a mix of  pasley/capers/brown butter / pieces of lemon — did taste this great at a restaurant in France, North America or elsewhere? For me, it has been a while and the last time happened at a fine dining table in France. Since then, I had my share of grenobloise but most were poorly executed. Proof that many cooks have really lost touch with the basics of French cuisine and I am happy to see this kitchen giving a second chance to the grenobloise! An exciting grenobloise, here mixed with pieces of rebaked bread ) atop some fresh romaine lettuce. Again, beautiful classic French flavors that I highly enjoyed 7/10 (here, same thing as with the previous dish. A very very strong 7/10, and certainly a dish that would deserve a higher score, but I’ll cross that bridge when the work of the texture of that duck magret will be as glamourous as the 8/9 or 10/10 duck magrets I had elsewhere – the texture was fine, btw, just not as superb as it could have been with  beautiful rosy duck magret, though ……………who cares when food tastes this good!).

03Vacherin glacé, rhubarbe (as a confit of rhubarb), oseille (leaves of sorrel), babeurre (buttermilk as an emulsion, tasty enough) – In this instance, a meringue cylinder (of the dry featherweight meringue type, its texture technically fine) was filled with the elements that I have just described. I was not floored by this dessert as, although not bad at all, it was not as particularly joyous in mouth as some of its versions I had elsewhere, or as eventful as a simple classic  vacherin glacé dessert.

PROS: Delicious savoury dishes, great sense of flavor combination

CONS: I think that a classic vacherin glacé would have been a better  ending  to this meal  + I’d prefer softer/airier pillowy gnocchis  (even, if that means skipping the use of the black cod to make the pasta)..gnocchis are just much more enjoyable that way!!!!!!!

As ever with food,  the more you know, the better you appreciate (being familiar and enjoying classic French flavors would obviously help, in this case). Then  the closer the food to your finest souvenirs, the better. Food appreciation, one can’t stress enough, is personal. And indeed, for me, the savouries of this meal went beyond the simple fact that they were delicious: they brought back memories of the delicious classic French flavors of my childhood. Personal, subjective, I told you, lol! But not to worry: I can put emotions aside (the reason you see no 10/10 eventhough I was  highly pleased by the flavors of the savouries served on this evening) and try to be as accurate as possible in the assessment of my food.

Overall food rating: 7/10 No spectacular work of the textures (perhaps  not the intent neither, but hey…the pics of their glamourous-looking dishes on their facebook page  forced me to expect something a bit spectacular ;p) , but food that’s relatively refined and more importantly tasting delicious. Apparently, based on the accounts of two local food journalists, a dish of Venison/pear/beacon  as well as a dish of guinea hen were first-rate creations. Both dishes were not available on my visit, but on the back of what  I have sampled under this roof, I am  not surprised to learn that this kitchen can pull off an even better performance than this one. I loved Cirkus because it delivers what matters, to me, at a restaurant: joyous flavors and not pretention. The service, faultless (knowledgeable, patient). In my top 10 in Montreal,  easily and a restaurant where I would love to go  back.

What I thought days later: Only two major food journalists have reviewed Cirkus up to now. One Anglophone critic from The Gazette (experienced food critic, though not as experienced in French classic flavors as the other journalist) and a Francophone from Le Journal de Montreal (an Ex Chef of French cuisine, with plenty of experience with Classic French cooking). The former rated Cirkus with a 2.5 over 4, which is mas o menos pretty much close to my personal rating of my meal at Cirkus and underlined, that at its best, Cirkus can dazzle indeed. The latter, my preferred food journalist in town ,  was floored with a rating of 4 over 5, a bit more generous than the rating I deemed worthy of my meal. Either way, they were both right: as with any restaurant, expect the good, the great and the not so great. Restaurant kitchens have brigades (obviously 1 Chef can’t be alone cooking all the food himself for all his customers) and your mileage will vary depending on who cooked  your food and in what mood that person was. One thing seems certain though, Cirkus is among this city’s finest and Jean Doré is a talented Chef. Hopefully, one day, I will, in my turn, get to sample his very best food. With a Chef gifted with such good palate, I am confident that can happen!

****The only time I did eat at L’Ambroisie, Bernard Pacaud was the sole Chef cooking as there were just 2 tables booked on that lunch and he was still cooking at noon,no more in the evenings as retirement was approaching for him. I gather that we all have our own definition of what a grand Chef is, and mine is very simple: you take that simple classic food and you make it taste way better than anyone else and bingo, you are my hero! Lol. I do not need trends, I do not pertain to the new gen of diners, I just want my damn food to simply dazzle in mouth. For me, Bernard Pacaud did it in a way that few of nowadays best Chefs would do. I come from very humble backgrounds, I am paying my restaurant bills with my hard earned money, not on the back of society or a newspaper, so charging me that much (the $$$ are strastopheric there) and still leaving an imprint on my palate …well, your food better taste damn great.That said, you are not me and I am not you, so your best restaurants Vs mine might simply be as comparable as water and fire ;p. More importantly, L’Ambroisie has changed a lot, since then as the son was in charge, then went opening a restaurant called Hexagone. So who knows, perhaps the L’Ambrosie of my souvenirs are something of the past.Perhaps Not. I won’t know as it is way too $$$ for me to go back there, but no matter the way things are turning out for them, my meal prepared by Chef Bernard Pacaud during my sole visit under his roof will be remembered as an exceptional demonstration great classic French food.

****A Taste Of The Caribbean will take place from June 26 to 28. Their facebook page here, web site here. Of particular importance, for me,  the free live cooking demonstrations offered by  some Chefs from the Carribean (that is free) which work I will discover for the first time. I am a huge fan of Carribean varied cuisines and do look forward to Carribean food we do not get to sample oftently in Montreal,.

KINKA ISAKAYA 1Kinka Isakaya is one of the latest hottest additions to the Montreal food scene with real Japanese Chefs at the helm, pretty settings and festive ambience.

KINKA ISAKAYA 2I started with Maguro Tataki (seared Albacore, tuna sashimi with ponzu and garlic chips) – Albacore  tuna has a natural mild flavor, so you need to rely on your marinade to make a tataki preparation of such fish  worthy of mention, but the  marinade lacked enough acidity to make this dish exciting. 5/10

KINKA ISAKAYA 3Seaweed Tofu salad / marinated seaweed & tofu on greens – the texture of the tofu ‘normal’ / ‘standard’, with an Ok  balance between the firm and the soft,  but this was certainly not the result of long hours spent in finding the perfect balanced texture of a tofu neither. Since  it is a bistrot, not a fine dining destination,  I will  pass on this one, although in Tokyo and elsewhere, I had better tofu at  isakayas. Frying that tofu, in this instance, would have brought it a long way (again, nothing wrong here…just your usual/normal tofu type). The seaweed salad was tasty, the greens fresh . 6/10

KINKA ISAKAYA 4Deep fried chicken (Karaage) featured a nice crisp, but this Karaage was short of  the bold chicken fried flavor that I came to expect from fried  chicken at isakayas, in Tokyo or elsewhere (this tasted way too mild, defeating the point of fried chicken, at isakayas,  which rarely fail  to express bold, joyous meaty chicken flavor). 6/10

KINKA ISAKAYA 5Karubi (grilled miso marinated beef short ribs) – the grilling flavor coming through as it should, the meat not seasoned boldly but tasting delicious, the power  of the miso well judged (which was one of my main issue with the next dish). Tasty   7/10

KINKA ISAKAYA 6Grilled miso marinated black cod with yuzu miso sauce – one of my favourite fish preparations at  Isakayas in Tokyo and elsewhere. In this instance, the black cod tasting way too sweet to let the fish flavor standing…imparting, actually,almost a fruity note to the flesh of the fish. This, whatever the excuse, is just misjudged seasoning of the marinade of the black cod. I do not hate sweetness, but when your fish taste almost fruity, like on this evening, my boat won’t float. It’s the first time that this dish disappoints me at an Isakaya.  2/10

KINKA ISAKAYA 8Baked oyster with spinach, mushroom,garlic mayo topped with cheese is one of their most popular items, according to most online reviews as well as the opinion of their staff. Admittedly, baked oyster was  never going to be the favourite item of the old school seafood purist that I am as I simply can’t appreciate oyster that is cooked (I had no other choice but to try it as it was part of the tasting menu that I picked). My palate interprets the baking of oyster as a way to diminish the best aspect of the oyster, its maritime flavor. Therefore,you can imagine how the addition of spinach, cheese,mushroom, mayo… just made it harder and harder , for me, to get excited about it. Gratinéed dishes are usually crowd pleasers and they please me too, but gratinéed seafood tend to oftently  infuriate me, lol (why overwhelming the jewels of the sea in such manner? Lol…). I won’t rate this dish as it is not their fault if I simply can’t see baked oyster standing as an improvement over some nice raw oysters (at least, they did it right and indeed, restaurants cannot limit themselves to a minimalistic approach of preparing seafood, so long live to the baked oyster and to creativity ..but without me!).

KINKA ISAKAYA 7Unagi Bibimbap is their take on the Korean Bibimbap. Bibimbap is relatively easy to make,but what interests me with such a simple dish are the elements that sets it apart. Koreans go the extra mile in flavoring their sauteed veggies and a good Bibimbap is way more than just an ordinary mix of rice and sauteed veggies in part  because of the obsessive care that Koreans put in the pairing condiment of soybean or chilli pepper paste. What I was having tonight had none of the soybean or chilli pepper paste, so right there I was left with the Bibimbap in a much more basic form, with unagi that was of fine quality, indeed, but an overall flavor profile that was way too sweet for a Bibimbap to be enjoyable . 6/10

Black sesame ice cream was the best item of my meal, on this evening, with a taste that is a bit less lactic and rich compared to the one I had at Kazu, but texture was glamorous and the taste delicious. 7/10

Overall food rating: 6/10 – An Isakaya, with real Japanese Chefs: right there,  Kinka did boot with an advantage over most of its peers. And yes, indeed, most of the food tasted as Japanese as an Isakaya can taste in Montreal. My problem was elsewhere: the leading Isakayas , nowadays, may it be in Japan or even in the US, will push the work of the texture of their tofu beyond the ‘just standard/normal’, fried chicken will be the ‘window of opportunity’ to dazzle, a salad of seaweed will not content itself with just ‘the nice acidity of its seasoning’.  Bibimbap is a Korean staple, but in Tokyo, the US, Toronto, Vancouver, well…. there are Isakayas who are delivering startling takes of the Bimbimap…because such simple dish needs to stand out with either exceptional produce or exceptional Flavors. On this evening, I saw no evidence of what I came to expect from most Isakayas in Tokyo or elsewhere. For sure this meal was slightly above  average for Montreal, but it is not rocket science to do better with such  simple bistrot fares.  That said, this is a fun place, restaurants are  not consistent by nature,and they have a great variety of other items that may  float my boat. So to be tried for a second time.

PHO BANG NEW YORKPho Bang New York is a very popular Vietnamese Pho destination in Montreal. At their old location, the pho was richer in flavor, more rustic in presentation, the place cramped. They have now moved to a new location, cleaner and spacier, the service is now better and the Pho better adapted to nowadays trends (not greasy as it used to be, more refined in its taste and presentation while remaining tasty). I was not a fan of the old PBNY, but that has changed: their new place deserves its enviable reputation. Do not go there expecting their Pho to be what it cannot be, meaning keep the expectations real (for eg, we are obviously NOT in Vietnam, a Pho that wows is a notion that is utterly personal/subjective, etc ), but by Vietnamese Pho standards in Montreal, this is one Pho by which I’ll judge the other Phos in town.

*MONDIAL DE LA BIEREThe Mondial de la Bière  took place at the Palais des Congres. I tried La Pitoune (www.troududiable.com) from Shawinigan  / the Imperiale Ale (Brasserie les Deux Freres), the Houblon libre (Micro Brasserie du Lac St Jean), a white wine from Les boissons du Roy, called sa Majesté (my coup de coeur of this fest), L’Église Noire ( Microbrasserie Kruhnen). Clearly, Quebec offers some world class beers and that white wine dazzled.

PROS: the variety of beers, obviously

CONS: One can argue that paying, on average, $4 for a glass of 3oz of beer is hard to understand, especially given that such event is an opportunity for those merchants  to be ‘visible’ to the most,….

AU 5E PECHEAu Cinquième Péché (Translation: At the 5th sin) http://www.aucinquiemepeche.com/stdenis/  is a long time favourite bistrot. It has been a while since I last ate there, but with the beautiful sun out I went back and sat on their terrace.

I ordered:

AU 5E PECHE3Demi homard de Gaspésie, lard confit, polenta, , tomates confites – the lobster poached as I like it, meaning cooked to tender consistency while boasting necessary chew, polenta as fine as a properly executed polenta would taste and look like the ingredients of good quality as it has always been the case here. It is unfair that someone who swears only by the spiny lobsters of the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean (my case) –I am not talking about the frozen spinies that are sold at the super market, obviously, but of fresh spinies — would start telling you how he was not that impressed with  lobsters from colder waters as my perceived (as ever, such things are purely mental as,using the poaching or the boiling methods, unless the crustacean was snatched from the floor of the ocean just moments ago, is hardly the best way to compare the taste of crustaceans that are actually not even from the same species) superiority of one lobster over the other is just that .. personal/subjective (my palate just perceives tails from cold water lobsters, that is not grilled, as less tasty), so it would make no sense for me to assess this dish.

AU 5E PECHE2Terrine de foie gras. The terrine properly executed by classic French terrine standards, the fruity elements fine enough rather than dazzling (I have no clue how they did their confit, but I prefer a confit that tastes more of the natural sweetness of the fruit, whereas this tasted more of granulated sugar– again,not a fault, just what a matter of personal taste) , though, to be fair, the effort to make a fruit confit complex and dazzling is what I am expecting on a fine dining table, not really at a bistrot, but of course…dazzling it can also be at a bistrot. 7/10

-Deconstructed choco / lemon tart comprised of a tiny block of choco (good rather than great, for ie properly rendered, tasting fine, just not as exciting as some examples of deconstructed choco tarts I had at other bistrots), lemon cream (the best element of this dessert). I would take a classic choco or lemon tart, anytime, over this one. 6/10

In fine, I was not floored on this evening but there is nothing to reproach to Au 5e Péché neither: it is obviously not their fault if I perceive spiny lobsters as better than any other types of lobster. I did argue that the deconstructed lemon / choco tart could have been more exciting (to make it more sinful ;p), but here again…it boils down to what you are looking for, not necessarily to what is right or wrong: you prefer a choco tart with dark choco or not? You like the choco tart richer in taste or not ?Etc. As always, the cooking is consistently of reliable French bistrot standing at Au Cinquième Péché. The rare times I heard harsh comments on this place (I always read online reviews/comments on a place whenever I decide to visit it or revisit it), it was generally a matter of misunderstanding (For eg, diners assessing inaccurately textures and temperatures only because they basically are not familiar with what needs to be expected from certain type of food items based on some original French bistrots recipes – though, Au Cinquième Péché is not limited to French bistrot staples as they also cook North American bistrot food items). At least, with such a skilled kitchen, it can dazzle at times as proven on my last meal there (click here for that review ), and even on the evening of my visit, there is no doubt in my mind that I could have made better choices: the meat of Maitre Boucher Marchand du Bourg features on their menu in the form of a deluxe hamburger, the veal tongue / the sweetbreads (which have always been great here), the other daily offerings, etc.

The F1 grand prix week is in full effect. Check that out, here. This is the time of the year when Montreal is in its prime with people from all around the world invading terraces and partying all night long. I partied, this evening, under the sounds of Super Sonic (tomorrow on Crescent Street, this friday evening at Jardins Gamelin).It was free and the fun was mesmerizing. We are nowhere near the magic of a city like Tokyo, but at least it is the “relatively” fun Montreal that we all have heard about. Party on!

QDC BURGERA Cult Burger which cult I am not embracing, but that is just me  …. I finally tried the famous  QDC Burger of La Queue de Cheval, aka the Cult Burger.  I am a huge fan of  Peter Morentzos who went from a simple butcher to one of Canada’s most powerful restaurateurs and I do think that La Queue de Cheval, with or without its flaws, is Montreal’s best steakhouse. I heard great things about the QDC Burger and went trying it with great enthusiasm. It was not what I kept hearing about, for eg the best or one of the best burgers in town. Well, at least not in my books: for sure, the meat is of quality, the ciabatta-style bread too, but the kind of cult I am willing to follow, when it comes to burgers, is the one underlying big bold meaty flavors. This was ok, properly seasoned, cooked medium rare, and although decent … it would not be hard to replicate. Too bad my last burger at Goumet Burger did not live up to the highs established by my 1st burger there, but  my very first burger at GB did fit  with what I could comfortably elect as one of the best burgers I ever had in Montreal. Whether a burger is a  gourmet or not a gourmet burger…I could not give a  damn …I just want my burger to dazzle in mouth. The cult, in this instance, did not dazzle.

RED TIGER 1A tiger that did not fearsomely roar,but certainly charmed ….Red Tiger, a Vietnamese inspired bistrot,   was one of the most anticipated new restaurant openings in town. The floor checkered bistrot  is hip, its  staff is young and beautiful and they certainly know how to be cool / trendy. The big trend these days is to do like in Japan: no visible mention of the restaurant name. Come to think about it…when you have an address, why do you need the name too? Lol

RED TIGER 2I started with ‘cote de porc braisé aux cinq épices’, which boasted faultlessly braised pork, tasting fresh and meaty. The minimum that one should expect, indeed, but many eateries are sadly just reheating their braised meats, a laughable  mistake that Red Tiger did avoid during this visit. The  Nuoc mam  particularly inspired on this evening (great punch of acidity and spicyness, but perfectly balanced). Genuinely good 7/10

RED TIGER 3Pursued with ‘Boeuf et porc roulé dans des feuilles de bétel’ – the quality of the ingredients playing a role in the equation, perhaps, but cooking skills were also required and they shone through: the meat perfectly moist, packed with proper heat (not too hot to burn a palate, but enoughly warm to keep the meaty flavor alive),the taste delicious. Sauces are not an afterthought as the pairing sauce has an exciting depth of flavor, exquisitely sweet rather than cloying and uninspired. 7/10

Red Tiger is the ‘prescription.  to all the quibbles I kept finding with most Asian-style bistrots in town,lately : a grill that is too ‘shy’, food that is trying too much to please everyone, etc. Here, at Red Tiger,  the grill ..grills! The food tastes delicious. They may look young and beautiful, which are sometimes attributes that one would not associate instantly with serious cooking, but they made it happen: the cooking here is to be taken seriously. Imagine if they were allowed to grill on charcoal! Red Tiger is serious stuff (though, certainly not the cheapest Vietnamese-inspired eatery that I know in town). My problem is not with them, it is with our local standards…Montreal is a universe away from world class foodie destinations like San Sebastian or Tokyo..and yet  it is charging us 3 times more ..for food that is 3 times less exciting, and as to  complete the grand slam…portions have to be,  of course, smaller.. Better swallow that pill!

At the count of three, it crashed ……This was my 3rd visit at my favourite Haitian Casse Croute in Laval, Casse croute Casa Créole. Last time I ordered the Haitian bouillon here, it dazzled. Not this time as the bouillon was utterly salty. Who knows, perhaps the Chef was mad and poured enough salt in that Bouillon to showcase her hostility, lol. Regardless, Casa Créole continues to be my prefered Haitian Casse Croute in Laval as all the other dishes seem to be consistently well executed.

***Spring and summer seem to be the times  of the year when this blog is perused by an unusual  considerable amount of people. I do not need to thank you  as this blog is essentially for friends and relatives. Since it is on the web, it just happens to find itself in  your way as well. It is the food /wine/restaurant world that needs to thank you as food blogging  is ultimately some free advertisement for them.
So,  In April and May 2015, the most popular posts of this blog have  been:
(1) Montreal steakhouses- https://michelinstarfinedinings.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/montreal-finest-steakhouses/ -read by 28% of you
followed by
(2) Sawada, Tokyo – https://michelinstarfinedinings.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/sushi-sawada-tokyo-my-coup-de-coeur-but-not-flawless/ – -read by 23% of you
(3) Nice, Cote d’Azur – https://michelinstarfinedinings.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/nice-cote-dazur-carre-llorca-chez-acchiardo-chez-palmyre-la-petite-cocotte-bistrot-dantoine/ 16%
(4)Dons de la Nature, Tokyo – https://michelinstarfinedinings.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/dons-de-la-nature-tokyo/ 15%
(5) L’Arpège, Paris – https://michelinstarfinedinings.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/larpege-paris/ 13%
(6) Chef David Toutain https://michelinstarfinedinings.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/the-return-of-one-of-this-generations-greatest-chefs-chef-david-toutain/ 5%

Steaks are ‘high’ among your searches, Lol, as the posts on our local steakhouses as well as Dons de La Nature were actually the items that did consistently rank high among the most frequently consulted articles of this site ever since they were posted, but a year later (especially in the case of our local steakhouses),many things might have changed for the worst or the better…so take that into account. The surprise, for me, was the article on Sawada. Usually,on the web, the most popular articles are those with beautiful pictures and elaborate write-ups and this post boasted non of those enticing features (NOT my fault as Sawada fobids photo taking to normal diners,meaning those who are not linked to the food industry/food journalism, so members of the normal/anonymous 99% clientele ). As for the write-up, well I am not writing in my mother tongue and this is not meant to target any specific audience outside of close friends/relatives, so not much miracle that I can do here, lol. Anyways, good for Sawada and hopefully that article fulfilled its intent of trying to convey the appreciation of my meal at this sushi shop in a constructive manner. The posts on Nice and L’Arpège have always been very popular and a year later, that pattern has not changed.

 ***Montreal has now its Master wine steward (Master Sommelier) in the person of Elyse Lambert. This city has some skilled sommelieres and sommeliers, so it was a matter of time before a Montrealer would earn  the title of Master Sommelier . For those in the know, Master Sommelier is a relatively prestigeous achievement (Forbes qualifying it as ‘’ world’s most challenging wine examination “”) in the wine business. As most Montrealers interested in fine dining, I had the priviledge of enjoying Elyse’s wine pairings in the past and I will have to concede that I can see how she passed that exam: she is an exceptional  wine steward. What amazes me the most about  Elyse is that she seems more busy delivering consistent wine pairings of world class level  (which she never stopped doing wherever she stepped foot, for eg at XO Le restaurant, L’Eau à la Bouche, and now at Maison Boulud in Montreal) rather spending most of her time  parading on TV.  A rarity in nowadays food and wine industry.   http://elyselambert.com/

***World’s 50 best restaurants (for 2015) to be published this summer. We, once, had Michelin and Gault Millaut, running the show in the restaurant world’s review business, but the big trend nowadays is Restaurant Magazine’s World’s 50 best restaurants. In my imperfect subjective view, I think that there are just three restaurants that do truely stand out anywhere around the globe: The Fat Duck (tried around 5 years ago), Alinea (retried last year) and Noma (tried 3 years ago) are the restaurants that do truely set the bar. Does not mean they are my preferred tables, they are not actually, but they have perfected their craft in a way that the other top restaurants of the globe can just dream about mimicking. All the rest, however great they are, are setting no standard at all. As of the World’s 50 best restaurants listing, do not get your knickers in a twist about it nor about any review system or reviewer in general as you should know better that opinions on food/restaurants are subjective by nature. People try to find controversy about those systems, but at the end of the count, any promising alternative just ends up….tasting the same, lol. Which, of course, should not mean that we need to discourage progress/changes.

Anyways, here is (in French) a very interesting article on the World’s 50 best restaurants phenomenon as it covers virtually everything that needs to be learned about it.

***Joe Beef, in World’s top 100 according to San Pellegrino/Aqua Panna’s World’s best restaurant listing.   I am happy for Joe Beef, one of our most iconic tables if not the most iconic of them. But to me, this has more to do with popularity (it is extremely popular, indeed) rather than anything else. Do not get me wrong: the produce is generally of top quality (by our local standards), portions are generous, the cooking generally pleasant in its hearty/comforting style, but I am afraid the World’s top 100 feature will create further unrealistic expectations here.

***Recent posts: Some recent meals in Laval and Montreal (here), three exotical recipes using chicken meat (here), my review of restaurant Lavenderia in Westmount (here).

PHOENIX 01Finally tried a food truck in Montreal.….it took me some time to try a food truck in Montreal, because they are limited by laws that simply can’t make Montreal food trucks worthy of attention…for eg, you cannot cook the food in the food truck, you can just reheat it and serve … so that fire/smoke does not pollute. Which is, obviously, superb as far as the ecology-friendly theme goes…but unexciting for the foodie expecting big bold fresh flavors. I tried Phoenix, which offers sandwichs in nan breads. Because our local laws do not allow it to cook its food on the premises, they have no other choice but to assemble their ingredients, reheat their meats. So guess what…my braised pork was as unexciting as reheated  braised pork can taste like, the meat consequently dry, so defeating the point of enjoying some nice meaty braised pork,   the nan bread .. a world away from the exciting nan bread you can find in Little India — the area around Par Ex — (there was just not enoughly crunch, not enoughly heat, not enoughly aroma in that nan bread ….  ). PHOENIX 02I can’t blame Phoenix for this…they are just trying as best as they can within the laughable restrictions that Montreal food trucks have to deal with .  I just wished…that most local food blogs …could start underlying such evidences  instead of foolishly raving  about fairy tales……………..

My number 1 restaurant anywhere around the globe ……….is Dal Pescatore. Never mind trying to challenge me,you have done it already with far more serious restaurant reviewers and failed and should know…by now… that food is a subjective matter. After spending some time enjoying the fancy flights of modern cooking as well as trying some of the major tables of the world, I came to the very simple conclusion that one’s number   1 table is that one that reaches out to who you are as a person. I am someone who believes that great cooking is not about style or trend, but about great mastery of classic cuisine. DP nailed it on that aspect. Then, I believe that appreciating food is not about having tons of excited clowns  talking loudly around you. DP is a quiet, classy restaurant, therefore fulfilling that requirement. Last but not least. the setting: I am fond of the  Italian countryside and that is exactly where DP is situated. For me, DP is world’s #1 table.

The best Chef`s interview in a while…has got to be the interview of Chef Thierry Marx on Atabula. Chef Marx is an atypical Chef, but to the contrary of those Chefs trying hard to be different….Chef Marx is genuinely different! Plenty of Chefs babble about finding their own styles, but here is a Chef who made it happen! This interview goes beyond the predictable  speeches on how important the ingredient should be … or how we should encourage our local farmers –which are themes that we have long embraced and need no reminder of.

Most recent posts: -latest  meals in Montreal and Laval (click here), review of restaurant Lavenderia in Westmount (here).

01What to do with a whole chicken? Roasting it would be the simple answer. But one can do better than that, getting most out of that whole chicken.

First, learn to breakdown that whole chicken. Hey, there is no excuse..there are  plenty of howtos on the web on how to do that. Just go on youtube and type “breaking down a whole chicken“. They charge you the high $$ for boneless chicken, so why not doing it yourself. After all, It is easy and fun and you get all the tasty parts for yourself!

Today, I have 3 simple recipes for that chicken you just broke down (they require ingredients that are not $$$ at all)

02(1)An Indian-inspired recipe. Marinate your chicken in plain yoghurt, turmeric powder, Madras curry powder (or GaramMasala) , coriander, fresh thyme,ginger. Let it rest for  4 hrs in your fridge. Do not try to over-think this recipe…we are not trying to make authentic Indian cuisine here. Just inspiring ourselves from it. Once ready to prepare, take the marinade and a bit of water and heat it in a pot. Add some chicken and let it cook for 30 mins at medium. That is it! Like many people who are passionate about food, I took advanced courses, a while back, with Indian Grandmas/Grandpas  and the method is NOT  as straightforward as exposed in this recipe. But the idea,here, is to get a newbie (of Indian cuisine) going (later on,revisit the recipe with its more elaborate methods ).

IMG_1034(2) A Mauritian-inspired recipe. Marinate the chicken in a mix of  onions, garlic, chilly, red wine, tomatoes,salt, pepper, coriander, cinnamon, clove, parsley, thyme,coriander,water.Let it rest for 4hrs . Then, when ready to prepare,  sauté the onion,garlic and ginger in a pot. In this instance, in order to bring an element of surprise, the ingredients were sautéed with a bit of coconut oil in place of the commonly used olive or canola oils (it is possible that this is just a mental thing…as only the palates of your hosts will be the ultimate judge ;p). Once those ingredients get a bit of color, add the chicken and cook for 2 mins. Notice that I did, prior to cooking the chicken, marinate it in a mixture of red wine, onions, garlic, chilly, red wine, tomatoes,salt, pepper, coriander, cinnamon, clove, parsley, thyme,coriander, and garlic. This is not mentioned in the official recipe,but when you cook you should always think about enhancing the flavor…as you are supposed to have fun while cooking,lol…so I did some experiments and found the marinade to add ….rather than substracting to the recipe. After 2 mins, add the cinnamon, cloves , thyme, parsley, dry chilli , pepper and wine marinade mix. Well, here, forget the powdered renditions of cloves and cinnamom and use real cloves and cinnamon….it adds more peps to your dish. When you cook, always think “peps”, “peps”, “peps”. There is no other secret. Just let the dish simmer (in the marinade)  for 25 mins on medium. 20 mins before stopping the cooking, add slim pieces of potatoes and carrots to the dish.  Serve it with rice. PS: The neck of a chicken is very flavorful….so fry it and add it to that dish in the last 5mins of the cooking ………you know, when ppl talk about an inspired dish…it does not take a masters in Sciences for that…just this kind of little touches. Got it??? ;p .

06***Notice that I never mentioned  anything about  the measurements of the ingredients… The reason for that is to force you to focus on how far the quantity of an  ingredient should be pushed for you to call  it worthy of  serving to your hosts. When I cook, I always have one thing in mind….would I enjoy what I am cooking if someone else would serve it to me?  As soon as the answer is “YES”, I stop the cooking and serve it! So when I share a recipe,  I expect two things: (1) that you train with moms and pops who have long mastered the flavors of the food you are tryng to pull off..because after all,you need a point of reference and like to hear this or not…that point of reference should come from those who have been doing it for so long! (2)Serve food ONLY if you would enjoy it!!!

IMG_1062Whatever BS the foodie/restaurant  world wants to make you think, the true secret in cooking is YOUR PALATE. If you did not bother educating it, if you haven’t learned about how things should genuinely taste like..in the first place, then ..your food will taste GENERIC, SOULLESS!

As much as we may think highly of our world, we should never forget that other cultures have been cooking marvels for centuries before us. So, be curious / open-minded  and the effort  will be inevitably … rewarding ;p

A third recipe:

07Pour 1 cup of water and a can of 141 oz  of coconut milk in a pot, and marinate the chicken in that mix for 4 hours. When ready to cook, boil the mix (set the heat at medium). Add some  bay leaves around the 3rd  minute of the cooking. Around the 5th minute, add the chicken meat as well as a tomato that you may need to slice in half. Let it cook for 15  minutes, still on medium heat.  15 minutes later, add some peas and let the cooking continue for 5 more minutes (or till your peas have cooked, while still retaining their  pop and round shape). Add some coriander, salt, and pepper  towards the last 3 minutes.  Stop the cooking. Serve it around 5 to 10 minutes later. Press some a fresh juicy lime on the sauce at the time of serving (naturally, the number of minutes indicated in a recipe is an approximate measuring of the time, so if you need your chicken to cook a bit longer, do so).

IN THE NEXT episode of the   “Let us practise” series,   I will be back with a  Portuguese-inspired recipe from Chef Helena Loureiro, simple and yet so eye-opening as well as a a more complex Haitian chicken sauce recipe. The Haitian recipe is what excites me the most, though, because it hits on the nerves of those who think that too much flavor is confusion. Well, that is true ONLY if IT WAS NOT DONE THE RIGHT WAY!!!!   AS EVER, I think of recipes as an opportunity to deepen our understanding of JOYOUS flavor combination ;p, so join in and let our food tastes DELICIOUS!

LAST BUT NOT LEAST, we are ALL lucky to have relatives, sometimes close friends who are true great cooks cooking food that is surprisingly far superior to what is found at  most restaurants. SO, an upcoming series untitled ”’IT IS …TO BE HONEST …BETTER COOKED… AT HOME‘ will surface soon on this blog with the participation of friends and relatives whose food has impressed  me much more than anywhere else. STAY TUNED!