***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!

***The team of Kitchen Galerie has opened a Mediterranean bistrot called Briz. Those folks do deliver some of  the most delicious and better executed bistrot food in town, so I am looking forward to try their new establishment which has Chef Fabrizia Rollo at the helm. Briz, , 6950, rue St-Denis ***I recently tried three Indian restaurants in “Little India” (the area around Parc Extension): Indian Curry house, Flavour of India, as well as Bombay Mahal, which I have just listed in order of preferred to less preferred eatery. For my taste, Indian curry house had the most delicious sauces, the nan bread having also the edge for its enticing tandoor oven flavor. Nothing wrong at all with Flavour of India, I just found ICH to deliver flavors that are a tad more eventful. Bombay Mahal was just ok, for me, though certainly better than some of the Indian restaurants that are outside the Little India area. By now, I have also tried Malhi sweets (which I found to be surprisingly pricey for what I get….surprising as Little India features, usually, very affordable Indian food  – it is not hard to find as good, if not better Indian food, at a better cost performance, in Montreal), as well as India Beau Village (the food generally reliable, though, perhaps, a tad behind ICH in terms of the mouthfeel excitement, at least for my taste and I,at times, found their sauces to taste pretty much the same regardless of the featured protein element – still, great cost performance,here, and one preferred Indian eatery for sure ). Little India’s Indian eateries make some of the Indian restaurants of the rest of Montreal pass as amply overrated (except for nice little findings like Thali near the Mc Gill ghetto – I also heard that Sahib in Pointe-Claire was good but I have never tried it).

***In Laval, I did try a Haitian casse-croute called Wilou express (3278 Boulevard Saint-Martin O, Laval, 450 934-4666 ). Haitian food is well represented in Montreal and its surroundings, since the Haitian community is one of Montreal’s most important ones, so those familiar with Haitian food know exactly what to expect. Having spent 15 years enjoying it in all its mom and pops renditions, I certainly know what I need to expect. There are below average Haitian casse croute here, but Haitians themselves will tell you that the few great ones are as good as on their own land. Wilou Express has a lovely owner, but I need to visit the place again as, based on   my sole visit at his casse-croute,  the pork meat was way too dry to be enjoyable,  the accompanying sauce needed  to dazzle a bit more (as it is the case with its better versions at some other Haitian eateries in Montreal — this one, in comparison, was way too mild), and the pikliz  was not as vibrant, its piquancy and acidity not in evidence  as I am used to . Dry meat is a mistake that is hard to forgive in a Haitian pork griot (because of the cooking method –for eg, boiled for a long time  then fried — used to make griot, the meat is expected to be a bit dry, so there’s a certain  level of dryness that you need to accept with your griot. The trick is to get the meat not drying beyond that point. Passed that level, it is simply just way too dry,to be properly enjoyed,which was the case on that visit), but again, perhaps just an off day. I’ll give it another try. By now, I have tried most of the Haitian casse-croute in Laval, with most I find average (for eg, meats which cooking is not consistent, sometimes way too dry, sometimes ok, but most importantly food that is oftently not as flavorful as it is possible to find in the finer Haitian casse-croute in town), and one that is,for now, the one that seems  to stand out from its direct competitors: the casse-croute of the Salon de coiffure Complexe 1354 Curé-Labelle 450-934-2433 (virtually everything here tasted as good and was executed as well  as at the best casse-croute of Montreal, the pikliz, here, particularly fresh and vibrant in mouth. Only the sauce accompanying the griot felt a bit too light in density for my taste, but that is not a quibble, rather a question of personal taste. The only  issue I found is  that,if you want to order a dish of  fish, you need to call in advance so that they prepare  it for you.). As ever, a casse-croute is hardly your idea of some cosy and refined food destination, rather a moms-and-pops sort of eatery, obviously not an option if your are on a diet, quite an acquired theme for those not used to traditional rich  flavors,  and it takes time and years of trying Haitian food in various places, cooked by different people,  to truely know what to expect. It is, personally, in my top 5 cuisines alongside Chinese (Pan-China), Indian (Pan-Indian),  African (Pan-African), and of course Classic French cuisine.

***In Montreal, I tried Lavenderia, the Argentinian inspired bistrot of Antonio Park. I salute Antonio’s courage as it is never easy to convince people that food that’s already stellar in its casual  version (the case of Latin American cuisine in general)  can also appeal when delivered with contemporary refinement. But again, there is no rule to what needs to be kept casual or not as that is basically an issue of perception, so I was curious to see how Lavenderia would fare. My meal at Lavenderia was certainly an above average performance, but for food that’s inspired by  Argentinian cuisine, even by equivalent standards in the Western world, I came to expect  more eventful flavors. The flavors here were fine, but way too refined  to be associated with Argentinian cuisine. The dessert I picked (Pan de naranja con truffas de café)  felt, in mouth,   more “contemporary Western” than “contemporary Argentinian” . I understand that Argentinian cuisine has a strong Western influence (obviously Italian), but it is no rocket science to make  some contemporary rendition of their desserts…taste exotical. Coincidently, weeks prior to this meal, I made, at home, this  pasta frola shortbread recipe  as well as couple of  contemporary desserts around the theme of the “Dulce de membrillo” and –despite my limited access to great ethnic ingredients –they all tasted far more Argentinian than the Pan de naranja con truffas de café.  That said, Lavenderia  is a successful concept that’s already attracting hordes of patrons (newer generations of Mtl diners and most local foodies and food journalists will certainly love Lavenderia). My review can be found here.

Restaurant: Lavenderia
Type of food: Argentinian  inspired bistrot/grilled food
Addr: 374 Ave Victoria, Westmount
Phone: (514) 303-4123
URL: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lavanderia/1510781562538390

02Lavenderia is the Argentine style bistrot of Antonio Park. I am a long time fan of Antonio and do have fond memories of some of his best dishes. A simple scallop bathed in a dashi-based bouillon was a world class highlight of a meal at his (other) restaurant Park. It sounds line nothing special, but plenty of very ambitious Chefs around the world have hard time pulling off the sort of texture and dazzling taste that scallop boasted .Not every dish, during that meal, did dazzle, and the meal ended on uninspired notes in comparison to its spectacular beginning , but the scallop proved that when Antonio is in his prime, he can be counted among the very best cooks of this city.

03Recently, he opened an Argentinian inspired bistrot in Westmount. What followed were impressive reviews from local food journalists: the critic from Le Journal de Montreal raving about an exceptional parrillada completa  (assortment of grilled items) , the critic of the Gazette showering the place with ratings as high as her  ratings of the better Chefs of this city (Lenglet, De Montigny), the critic of La Presse was not impressed by the service (actually the highlight of my visit, btw) but floored by the originality of the menu (sorry, but grilled meats,ceviche, tamal, empanada nah…that is not that  original. That is normal Latin American food).

04Fortunately, for us living in North America, Argentinian food is not a mistery. It would take a very close-minded person to find this type of food that unusual (especially in a cosmopolitan city like Montreal) as you do not have to travel all the way to Argentina to get an idea of how their food tastes like.

I started with :

A Tamal of duck, okra, crema con salsa — clearly  they want to put the emphasis on quality produce, as their duck is one from La Canardiere, a high end type of Quebecois duck. I am all about quality produce, but most ethnic food does not require the use of  high end /fancy meats because…however great is your meat, well… the reality is that the cooking methods found in the big majority of ethnic cuisines  (slow cooking/mijotés) will end up with food tasting great regardless of the quality of your meat . It is as simple as ABC: take a cheap quality of meat and let it cook slowly for hours. Then buy some top quality meat and do the same…the end result will be the same (actually, oftently, when compared to their  luxurious examples, some of the supposedly poorer quality ingredients  are  even more exciting  in mouth…) unless you try to force your imagination otherwise. The tomato sauce is one  of  which someone not familiar with Argentinian sauces would expect more flavor, but this is one legit example of Argentinian-inspired tomato sauces, so done properly, the tamal was a refined version of its more traditional renditions, the execution  good, the okra was also of fine  quality. Good 7/10

01BThen the fabled ‘parrillada completa‘ (assortment of grilled items, for eg sausage,beef, couple of veggies, chicken, etc  – the choice of the items is left to  the Chef’s discretion in this instance)  that you can only order for two persons. From my understanding of the review of the critic of the Jounal de Montreal, he had his grilled meats served in a plate but he saw nearby tables with their grilled meats laid atop a table top grill which felt and looked more exciting to him. So, I requested the table top grill as the idea appeals to me too (think of Japanese/Korean restaurant   food that you grill at your table -whether it is built into the table or laid atop a table top grill, the theme  remains the same ) but things turned out to be very different from what should be expected: the table top grill was empty,no charcoal, no fire, just the grilled meats atop. The point of leaving a tiny grill on a table is to enhance  the dining experience with the warmth of the fire, the fun of picking the food from the heated grill.I  understand that in Quebec, the laws make it hard to  do that…I understand   that the setting of this restaurant is not designed in a way to allow the experience of table top grilling…..BUT then, again, why bother proposing a table  top grill???  If your grill is not meant to serve any  purpose, you may as well leave the grilled meats on my plate! But the parrillada completa’s disappointments did not end  there: the chicken was of the very tiny type, and worst..only half of it was served!!! Which I naturally found frustrating as the parrillada completa  is a serving for two persons, btw! This was contrasting with  the notion of generous portions of meats that are typically associated with Argentinian asado cooking . I do not care how luxurious  that chicken was (it was of good quality, indeed) as only its taste matters! It tasted good, but it won’t be hard to find  tastier chickens in town. Same thing for the beef, pork chop, sausage: objectively good, tasty BUT I can get equally good ones at a fraction of that price, right here, in Montreal,cooked by Latin Americans (too bad the few Argentinian restaurants we had in town have closed by now, but their asado cooking dazzled more than what I was having on this evening). 6/10

01Queso  fundido (melting cheese) con Arepa (flatbread) – The cheese of good quality, its effect in mouth enjoyable but I had more exciting queso fundido cooked by Argentinians right here in Montreal  (most people would argue that there is a limit to how exciting melting cheese can be, as it’s generally always tasty anyways,and this one I was sampling was tasty, indeed,  but you still can suprise your host with this simple dish, as, in this example, it would take some cheese that our local palates are not used to in order to get to the necessary exotical dimension that such dish would benefit from). With the cheese came a refined rendition of the arepa (the arepa –not pictured —  was actually the best food item of my meal as its refinement took nothing away from the best aspects of most traditional versions of the arepa, meaning that it tasted as delicious and was executed really well).  In my subjective and imperfect assessment, a 7/10 for the queso fundido,  8/10 for the arepa.

01CThe dessert menu on the day of my visit. Of which,I picked the following:

01DPan de naranja con truffas de café – a sponge cake with some orange jam atop, a coulis of chocolate and some whipped cream.The advertised coffee flavor of the truffa barely noticeable.   For me, not really a restaurant quality dessert (the overall  was as uninsteresting as you would imagine a piece of basic sponge cake/some orange jam/some chocolate truffle and  coulis as well as  a bit of whipped cream could be — there are certainly some Argentinian desserts that  fare much better than this  ) ,especially at those prices and reputation. I can understand that this is a $9 dessert, but in the context of a ‘high end meal’ bill…..even a $9 dessert needs to live up to the expectation. Afterall, at way less than that, plenty of ethnic-inspired  desserts are mouth watering many palates.  5/10

Pros: I loved the service, the cool and festive /  recreative atmosphere, the fact that the meat is grilled to order  (the minimum that one should expect from grilling meat at a  restaurant, indeed, but which a frightning increasing number  of eateries  in town seem to have forgotten about…).

Cons: (1)A bit  pricey for what it is. It’s the problem of most restaurants, in town, nowadays…their staff thinks that the top quality ingredients are enough to  boost the prices, but hey..we are not in Tokyo or on the Mediterranean coast here!!! We are in Montreal, and however good is your produce, it is never enoughly good to justify its price tag!  (2)The absurdity of leaving an inactive tiny grill on my table …cry for me Argentina! (3)quality produce is good, but in the context of ethnic cooking..it is just an excuse to charge more!

Overall food rating 6/10  I am a fan of Antonio, but that is no excuse to rave when there is no need to. I know how good his performance can be, but  this meal I just had at Lavenderia can’t speak to that. The flaws of this meal are really not hard to understand: ethnic food relies a lot on slow cooking, so why bother with quality produce?? Whether the meat is from Jupiter or planet Mars…guess what…it is slow cooking….therefore not much of a difference in  its end result!!! Furthermore, right here in Montreal, the ‘asado’ spirit and flavor…eventhough we lost most of our Argentinian eateries…we are not that unfamiliar with it. So, if you want to take that path,`make the flavor as exciting …if not better…especially if you are going to charge me more for it!

What I think days later: Our local food jounalists,my preferred critics included,  should travel a bit more outside of the common destinations which food is already familiar to most Westerners (France,Spain, Italy) and/or to foodies (Denmark), or at least get some ethnic food prepared for them by  grandmas/grandpas of the country which food they are reviewing. From there, they will be in a better position to assess the revised/contemporary  takes of offerings like these  (At Lavenderia the cooking is generally a contemporary take on some Latin American food items). I am not even a critic, I am just sharing my dining experiences with relatives and friends, and yet it takes me years of familiarizing myself with a specific cuisine before I feel comfortable to share my opinions on  it. I therefore do expect more diligence from so-called professionals. That said, my perceived flaws of this meal are easy to iron out: the appeal  of  Argentinian asado grilling is to be found in its bold beefy / meaty aromas, but what I was having was some nicely refined grilling. Rest assured that I am not expecting a Latin American style eatery, in Montreal, to replicate the flavors found in Latin America (in some parts of Argentina, they roast their beasts alive as it’s supposed to enhance the flavor of the meat…obviously,you can`t do that in Canada – so keep such important details in mind before trying to compare what can’t be compared). I am just expecting  this kind of food to simply match what’s already possible to find in the western world (In Canada, the US, Europe …. plenty of Argentinian style eateries have been able, for decades, to convey a better sense of the bold beefy / meaty notion associated with Argentinian asado grilling  ).

He is back! One of Quebec’s better young Chefs is back behind his stoves. After working at restaurant Toque! for years , Chef Crête partnered with the team at restaurant Majestique. His new  venture (restaurant Montreal Plaza) is now expected to be opened this summer on Plaza St-Hubert. There is no denying that Chef Crête is a good  Chef, in his prime. That said, I found him to be at his best when cooking classic French dishes, and at times less convincing  in some of his  contemporary creative twists. According to what he said to the medias, his intent is to offer food that is affordable as, in his own words he “prefers having his customer back at his restaurant oftently instead of  dropping by for special occasions” –  Source: http://maplaza.ca/uploads/Communique_Final_Annonce_Montreal_Plaza_2015.pdf

IIn other news, Joel Robuchon has found an interest for Montreal. In my early years as a gourmand, I was lucky enough to have tried his food when he was cooking in person at Jamin (Paris), but his nowadays worldwide success as an entrepreneur is of little importance for me. His restaurant will be situated inside the Casino of Montreal. – Source:http://www.pourcel-chefs-blog.com/blog1/2015/04/29/un-atelier-robuchon-bientot-a-montreal/

Even most of the  Italians I know  have hard time recommending the right local Italian bakeries. There’s also the fact that different generations of Italians have completely different appreciations of what I am looking for . A good example of that happened when I started doing a little search on one of my favourite Italian desserts, the zabaglione (I am fond of  most  of the classic Italian renditions of the sabayon)…well, forget it, lol…. virtually every single Italian I spoke to  seem to have never heard of it and I have talked to  folks of different  generations. Once they knew what it was, or recalled having enjoyed it a long time ago, the dessert was simply not enoughly hip for them to care about…which was actually the other major dilemma I had to face: many think of food as a trend. So,what’s too classic is not exciting, and so on. I think that when you really like food, you can’t trade in such terms. You like food or you do not.You do not like it because it’s hip and stop liking it when it’s not hip anymore, lol. Anyways, I love classic rich bold flavors and two bakeries in town did teleport me as close to Italy as a bakery in Montreal can: San Marco and Tillemont.