***In June, the most popular (among the readers of this blog) reviews have been the ones on Le Louis XV, the one on the city of Nice, L’ Ambroisie, L’Arpège, Le Serpent , Kam Fung as well as my humble article on Montreal steakhouses (folks, it’s summer, enjoy a good steak in your backyard…far more fun, lol!).
***Shinji’s report, already the most popular among the readers of this blog – I have just updated this current post on July 17th and shall observe that I was surprised by the popularity of the recent post on Shinji (which can be found here). Published on July 3rd, so only couple of days prior, that post topped the charts on each day, since then. It’s rare that I see a restaurant’s review attracting that much attention on this blog as soon as it was posted — the sign that the web is googling Shinji a lot, these days (last time this happened, it was following the first review on Le Serpent — interestingly, the second report, which was more detailed and covered more meals, never got to enjoy the popularity of the first one. Even months later, the initial report on Le Serpent is the one that you have mostly perused and are still perusing). Great then for Shinji, which managed to pull off benchmark sushis (by Montreal standards), the second best sushis I ever had in Montreal, second only to Jun I.
***Jun I remains, for me, the standard that all sushiyas of this province should be aspiring to reach – I just came from enjoying another dazzling sushi meal at Jun I , a sushi meal that was a superb display of intuition and skill. It’s amazing to see them consistently perform with belief, years after years, days after days.
***Glad to hear that one of my all time favourite bistrots in Italy is still doing great: A cantina de Mananan is still as excellent as ever as/per the report of a very picky foodie friend who went there in early June 2014. I did recommend Cinque Terre to him, a place that’s simply a ‘ gift from the above ‘as far as its visually stunning scenery goes. While there, he also tried A cantina de Mananan upon hearing great things from my part about this little jewel. He was floored and ranked A cantina de Mananan as his favourite discovery in a trip where there was no shortage of great restaurants: he tried Osteria Francescana, Pipero al Rex , Piazza Duomo, . He stressed that A cantina does not compare, in terms of culinary sophistication, to all those places, but that in hindsight, the great cooking of A Cantina de Mananan is what blew away his palate because it was the most delicious food of them all. Well, I haven’t visited OF, PR and PD, but I certainly can understand such conclusion as I myself found the finest bistrots in Italy to be quite stellar. So, A Cantina, I hope you will be as great as my first date with you, next time I’ll go back to Cinque Terre, lol. My humble quick notes on my trip in Cinque Terre in summer 2012, here.
***Everyone should go and peruse the twitter account of L’Arpège: https://twitter.com/ArpegeLive. Once you do that, keep in mind that all the beauty your eyes will have the priviledge to espy is most likely backed by an exceptional work of flavors and a spectacular sense of creativity. Alain Passard, you are a Chef like we do not see anymore!
***La Queue de Cheval, Montreal finest steakhouse will open soon. Very soon. Check their facebook account for any update. For now, you can enjoy their burgers at QDC Burger (check that out here). The folks at QDC are also planning the opening of the Angry lobster bar (check all of that on this link).
***You remember Thursdays, Montreal iconic bar/bistro/club on Crescent? It is now reopened. The bistrot‘s Chef is Jean-François Vachon. I first discovered Chef Vachon’s cooking when he was at the helm of Club des Pins (now closed), then at restaurant M sur Masson, many years ago and at both restaurants, it was an instant success back then: food was delicious, cooking skills really sharp and both restaurants reigned supreme on my list of favourite tables of Montreal during Vachon’s tenure. Then he went opening restaurant Projet soixante-sept (now closed), which I tried but that I found less impressive compared to what he managed to pull off in his prime at Club des pins, then at M sur Masson. I have not tried Bistrot Thursdays yet but I hope I’ll find the Jean-François Vachon of the great old days. I’ve perused their online menu and found it appealing with items such as ‘guinea fowl cooked in hay’ (an old fashioned cooking technique that’s common in Europe and that I favor but it’s rare to see a restaurant doing this in Montreal) , ‘rack of lamb à la provencale’, ‘spinach malfatti”, etc. Thoughtful bistrot menu for Montreal as it seems to take seriously the concept of a true French bisrot (for eg, on their menu, I can see that they have days where they offer the bouillabaise, or the coq au vin, all French bistrot staples that few French bistrots in Montreal do mind offering – you’ll see this in the ‘promotions ‘ section of their menu) . In his prime, Jean-François Vachon is certainly one of Quebec’s most talented Chefs, so I’ll surely try his bistrot hopefully in a near future.
***Tapas 24 MTL will open to the public on July 19th 2014. It is a restaurant that is owned by Barcelona’s highly regarded Chef Carles Abellan as well as two other local Business partners (Journalist Sébastien Benoit and restaurateur Jorge Da Silva), so a sister of Barcelona’s Tapas 24. According to the facebook page, the Chefs are Haissam Souki Tamayo as well as another Chef who goes by the name Ildemar, both names sound unfamiliar to me, so this will be opportunity to discover their craft. I saw couple of Public relationship write ups on their pre-opening activities and have decided to not try it on its official opening first weeks. It would have been tempting to dine there while Chef Abellan is still around (he’s there, these days, according to the reports I’ve perused) , but I’ll wait couple of months and see how it will fare while Chef Tamayo and Ildemar will be in full control of the house. When I’ll head there, I’ll do it with realistic expectations, though: I still have fond memories of my foodie trip in San Sebastian. A year later, I had the good fortune to repeat the feature in Madrid and the tapas adventure was also memorable (low cost, spectacular flavors). I do not expect those dazzling tapas of Spain to be replicated the other side of the globe as the produce of the Mediterranea is hard to compete with, the value simply not something that can be matched this side of the world (especially those of the Pais Vasco where I remember having two divinely-tasting servings of tapas with a glass of txacoli for less than 5 euros (around $7). In comparison, a similar serving of tapas in Montreal would cost at least $16, and the glass of wine would range in between $12 to $15 on average, so my $7 tapas serving in San Sebastian (with the glass of txacoli included) would cost me around $31 in Montreal, and I am being generous here. Restaurants are there to make Business and I do understand that, but it’s tough to justify bite-size food of such price tag. I do not know the prices/menu at Montreal’s Tapas 24 since it’s not online yet, but hopefully, they will offer enjoyable food of great value (the point of tapas, in the first place). As for the flavors, I am confident that they can’t go wrong: the tapas currently served in Montreal are decent but nowhere close to the quality of the tapas of Spain.
***Abroad, one of France’s most brilliant Chefs of the recent decade, Chef Nicolas Lebec has resurfaced in Shanghai, China. Nicolas is incredibly talented, think world class skills, and it’s great to see him around after years of absence. Villa Le Bec – http://www.smartshanghai.com/wire/dining/villa-le-bec-is-finally-happening Xinhua Lu, near Dingxi Lu – Shanghai
On a non foodie subject, the world cup was full of surprises (Costa Rica and Colombia have impressed, Spain’s early exit) , but in the end it was a finale between two giants of the game, Argentina and Germany. I think Germany largely deserved it, but the title of best player of the tournament (Messi won it) was a big joke akin to believing in Santa ;p // The Dutch –by now, eliminated — had to attend a penalty shootout session in their semi finals against Costa Rica and their coach, Louis Van Gaal chose a substitute goaltender (Tim Krul) just for the shootout , which is a rare move for those in the know. As an analogy to the world of food, this reminds of what they have been doing for so long in Japan: you have a specialist of this, another specialist of that, etc. Just to master the slicing of a piece of fish, you spend an entire year or years focusing on that sole task. Then the same to master the art of cooking some rice. It gave what you’d have expected: artisan Chefs, and not just generic cooks, pulling off perfected crafts to be enjoyed and not just generic food to be washed down. So, Louis Van Gaal is obviously of that same mold, only he is transposing the theme into soccer. Simply amazing. //Brazil suffered an unbelievable defeat to Germany (7-1!), but that came as no surprise as their two main leaders, Neymar and Thiago Silva were not playing. I do not understand their coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari: I know he is a great coach and has won a world cup in the past, but it was hard to be appreciative of his decisions this time around -> the spectacular (and best replacement for Neymar) Willian coming on around the 69th minute (what the heck??) , Hulk as a winger rather than as a striker, position that suits him better (??). /// Last but not least, the now famous Luis Suarez bite has earned him national hero status in his country, Uruguay (check that out here). The jokes about the bite are funny, though.
Wishing an amazing summer to all of us!