Archive for the ‘best in the world’ Category

Pursuing my tour of some of the finest steakhouses of New York, having tried Peter Luger, Keens, Strip House, Quality Meats  and Wolfgang.

Dropped by Gallagher’s Steakhouse, a historical steakhouse, which, during the days of the prohibition, was the first illicit establishment selling alcohol where gamblers and stars of Broadway would meet.

In the incredibly competitive steakhouse market of NYC (perhaps, the steakhouse mecca of the world – I mean, do you know any other major city with that many world class steakhouses? Do you? ), you know you have reached the enviable status of a historic shrine at whatever you do when the NY Times writes romanticized write-ups with eye-candy photographs of this sort about you – .

At Gallagher’s Steakhouse,  I ordered:

Platter of 12 oysters – Dabob bay from Hood canal (Washington) and Canadian lucky lime. Nicely shucked quality fresh oysters. The lucky lime had the advertised citrus-tone finish in evidence. The intertidal beach cultured  Dabob bay oysters, quite briny for an oyster coming from the Pacific. The mignonette properly done. A platter of fine oysters. 7/10

The 20 oz rib eye steak (Grade: USDA Prime), dry aged for 28 – 32 days on premise in their glass-enclosed meat locker ( You can see it from the street – a sight to behold). The meat is grilled on hickory coals, a rarity in a city where most steakhouses do broil their steaks. Grilling meat over an open fire has always been my preferred grilling method for meats. The requested medium rare doneness achieved with utter precision. It delivered on flavor (the seasoning, exquisite –  the steak  as delicious as it gets) and was superbly tender throughout. The great grilling effect of the open fire in evidence to the eyes/smell/palate.  Dazzling crust. My steak had its juices settled within the meat, therefore timely rested. A steak is not a moon landing mission and one can do great steaks at home, indeed, but what matters here is that this is a steakhouse and it is doing one of the better steaks in NYC. Easily the best rib eye steak I ever had at all the top tier steakhouses of NY. 10/10

The creamed spinach. Here too, the G seems to have the edge as the creamed spinach had superb taste and great balance between the cream and spinach flavours. Superb texture too. Just some delicious creamed spinach like few — surprisingly, indeed – seem to be able to pull out at the NYC steakhouses. Vibrant fresh and delicious flavours. 9/10

Even the crème fraîche to accompany the baked potato was not of the ordinary sort. The baked potato managing, somehow, not to be just an average piece of tired looking baked potato simply because most kitchen brigades keep such simple things for granted (as most diners do, actually), when, in reality, the sourcing of your potato and how you timed its baking makes a big difference. Here, they did care about that difference.

Bottom line: A very beautiful steakhouse (the warmth of materials such as  wood and leather never failing to entice) in the classic genre. But the food was as great. Where many steakhouses seem to deliver  tired renditions of classic steakhouse food, the G seems to find a way to make it a bit more exciting in mouth (even their homemade sauce to accompany the steak, made of tomato/garlic/Worcestershire sauce, was well engineered as far as balancing flavors go, its taste great ). A commendable steakhouse, indeed.

Overall rating: Food 9/10 One of the very best steakhouses of NYC.   The steaks are great here, but everything else as well. For my taste, the G and Peter Luger are my No1 steakhouses in New York, with the G being a better all rounder, for sure. Furthermore, nothing beats the appealing  texture as well as memorable grilling aromas of a steak that is grilled on open fire (a broiled steak looks unappetizing in comparison). Service 8/10 (superb service in the typical classic NYC steakhouse way). Gallaghers Steakhouse Addr: 228 W 52nd St, New York, NY 10019 Phone: 212-586-5000 URL: http://www.gallaghersnysteakhouse.com/

 

According to most connoisseurs of the Burger, New York has some of the very best burgers in the nation. It is an american food staple and you cannot visit NY without  trying its finest burgers. They have all sorts of Burgers from the gourmet to the classic ones. I know my classic burgers well, but when I go out it is to enjoy how far a Chef did push his craft. Not to content myself with a basic classic burger. Therefore, I maintained the focus on some of the elaborate burgers among the most celebrated burgers of  New York.

Admittedly, this is about the Burger. Not a landing mission on the moon. And we can all make world class burgers at home, too  . And Yep, prices are inflated as we came to expect from NYC. But this post is not about that. This post is about some of the best Burgers offered at the restaurants of NYC, which the below  mentioned burgers are reputed to be.

 

Emily – West Village‘s Emmy Burger Double Stack (LaFrieda dry-aged beef, EMMY sauce, caramelized onion, American cheese, & pickles on a pretzel bun – with curly fries).
-Did the house fulfilled the basic « ideal » requirement of having neither the bun, the patty nor the cheese being too disproportionate in quantity to one another? Nothing disproportionate (you take the bun and the patty -a big thick patty — and you put that in your mouth and you really feel the presence of the meat and the adequate quantity of bun that is necessary to call it a burger and not just a patty.
-Intensity of the flavour of the meat/patty when sampled with the bun and all the elements of the burger, without any condiments: ( ) barely noticeable ( ) Mildly beefy (x ) Densely beefy, and the flavor intensity is amplified by the delicious caramelized onions and aged Grafton cheddar cheese from Vermont.
-Doneness of the patty by default: medium rare
-How was the taste? Big chunk of patty that is more juicy than most of its competitors with a beefy taste that is at the fore. Amplified with their sweet caramelized onions and that cheese. Then the pretzel roll that contributes to the overall taste with its unusual (for a burger’s bun) pretzel flavour that’s actually adapted to a Burger in that sense that the bun is soft and the strong pretzel flavour that you came to expect from your classic pretzel is not in evidence (which is exactly what is required here as the normal pretzel flavour would have clashed with the taste of the patty) . So, as expected, lots of relatively (to your usual ‘white buns’) unique flavours.
-did it taste too ‘steaky’ for a burger given that it was dry aged? Well, it tasted of dry-aged beef, indeed. And I did not care about that. A quality  fresh meat’s taste is better, IMHO, than  the dry-aged flavour of meats used to make a burger’s patty. That said, this took nothing away from the top tier Burger that Emily’s Burger is. Indeed, one of the best Burgers of NYC.  Emily West Village Addr: 35 Downing St, New York, NY 10014, United States Phone: +1 917-935-6434 My full review, here.
Overall rating:  8/10

Red Hook Tavern‘s Dry Aged Red Hook Tavern Burger (American cheese, white onion, frites)
-Did the house fulfilled the basic « ideal » requirement of having neither the bun, the patty nor the cheese being too disproportionate in quantity to one another? There is just a big piece of patty with its bun. And Yep, here too, the burger is designed to have a reasonably balanced ratio of patty to bun.
-Intensity of the flavour of the meat/patty when sampled with the bun and all the elements of the burger, without any condiments: ( ) barely noticeable ( ) Mildly beefy (X ) Densely beefy
-Doneness of the patty by default: They did ask me what doneness I wanted. I told them to go with medium rare, which happens to be what they also recommend.
-Did the dry-aging of the meat led to a taste that is more adequate for a steak than to a burger? NO! And there was  no need for that, neither. Instead of annoying my nose and my palate  with that damn useless aroma of blue cheese (aka the ‘funk’ fragrance of dry aged beef  — yeah, I know, most want that nowadays), their dry aged meat  delivered what superb dry aged beef should focus on: some superb beef flavour!
-How was the taste? They did what needs to be done to intensify the beefy flavour of a burger: blending several cuts of meats. Dry aged New York strip and chuck, in this case. They did opt for the American cheese as the sole adornment of the patty, a cheese that had proven to be a fine companion to the patty. The result is that it was  flavour-packed with great pure flavour of beef enhanced by the fine slice of cheese. Apparently, this was inspired by the Burger at Peter Luger and the Burger experts of NYC do argue that the apprentice has surpassed the Master. I cannot talk to that because at PL, I always had the steaks. But RHT’s Burger had the bare essentials reviewed, covered and  perfected (a bun that’s a benchmark of its kind, a patty that is using prime quality beef, a delicious cheese designed to elevate the patty’s flavour and not overwhelm it, an overall taste that stood out among the finest burgers of the city). My fully detailed review here.  Red Hook Tavern Addr: 329 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn, NY 11231, United States Phone: +1 917-966-6094 URL: https://www.redhooktavern.com/
Overall rating:  9/10

 

Bottom line: All the burgers of this round-up fulfilled the basic « ideal » requirement of having neither the bun, the patty nor the cheese being too disproportionate in quantity to one another. Of course, this cannot be always respected in an obsessive fashion (for example to the mm), lol, but common sense was applied in their judgement of the ratio of those components as to avoid to bury the flavour of the meat. The meat was always served medium rare (the ideal doneness that allows the meat flavour to express itself at its best– as per my request), as it seems ideal to our North American palates, generally juicy and beefy and seasoned with the welcoming (not distracting, in these instances) flavour enhancer kick of salt most burger fans in North America are expecting from their Burgers. When there was cheese, it was always melting soft and adequately served as a enhancer to the burger experience. The above 2 burgers were created with an attention to detail of world class mention for a Burger. 2 world class Burgers. Interestingly, their respective restaurants do offer some superb non-burger items as well. The overall /10 ratings are to convey the level of joy that was invading my palate at the time of biting into those burgers.

 

 

(Pictured: Meiji Jingū 明治神宮 ) – Tokyo is fascinating and I truely got the most out of this amazing trip.  In restrospect, based on all my searches, I’d recommend Japan-Guide’s 14 days Travel itinerary for your 1st visit in Japan.  It’s really well thought.

Buy a good guide  like the Japan Atlas, the best of its genre if you ask me, buy a compass,  look for an affordable  local Japanese data phone package and use that device as your additional GPS when roaming around in Japan.

You should, at all cost, avoid putting food ahead of anything else. It would be a mistake: enjoy their landscapes, enjoy everything. Go everywhere  you can   and do not worry about the food: it will be generally satisfying wherever you’ll go!

All sorts of tastes and preferences abound, and I have many friends who are not attracted by Japan, but, for me, their culture and architectures, dazzling food scene and picturesque natural sceneries are life-shattering moments that I want to re-experience again and again.

Japan, to me, remains like an exciting open book with many chapters that I look forward  to peruse:  next time, I will not come back to Tokyo. Instead I want to cover Kyoto, its  kaisekis and its surroundings.  Then I want to visit Nagoya, Hiroshima, Northern Japan (Hokkaido) , the splendor of Lake Mashu , then head South (Okinawa, Nagasaki).

It’s fascinating how the best countries are those who have suffered the most: bombed, almost wiped off of the surface of earth, this   land stood against all odds and rose as one of world’s most fascinating destinations.

Hail to the land of the rising sun!

(Pictured: Omoide Yokocho, Shinjuku, Tokyo 思い出横丁, 新宿, 東京) This was my first trip to Tokyo . As a first trip, you do not have time to dig deep in their reality, so I scratched a bit of the surface by focusing on what are known as some of their most important edible joints.

Private clubs masquerading as restaurants
On the subject of their restaurant scene, this trip to Tokyo underscored that  publicity made some of their tables (for eg,Sukiyabaki Jiro, Sushi Saito, etc) unaccessible, therefore useless to enquire about. I was born and raised to enjoy other people’s success  and do consequently admire how well some of those tables are doing,  but I am not a dreamer, I am not a hunter of exclusivity, I do not see the necessity of ‘feeling immortal’ by attending events / or enjoying privileges that are not available  to the most, I can only care for  realities that the most can enjoy. My point is that most of those restaurants  are private clubs masquerading as restaurants,  and people should be clearly informed about such tease. To the sensation-seeking (the sensation of eating at a place that is useless to most mortals, in this case) ppl out there, that is fine, but if, like me, you care about the normal reality  that awaits the normal diner, then you are warned. It might be just another  drop in the ocean, as usual, but I did my part and sent an email  to the Japanese ministry of tourism suggesting that they invite restaurants (like S Jiro in Ginza) to stop advertising restaurant reservation availabilities  that are essentially inexistent. If I need to dream and run after imaginary sensations, it is certainly NOT to a restaurant  that  I’d go.

Local foodies Vs their opinion on Michelin: some of the local foodie friends I made here explained that many locals  do not really care that much about the michelin starred ventures. It’s the same old spinning wheel, found everywhere else:  some can’t stand what is popular, bragged about, known to count among the finest, but I could not careless about who likes what  as all tha matters to me remains the content of my plate. I went to places highly regarded by both Michelin as well as what most locals seem to like (based on the local tabelog restaurant  review site as well as some help for the local foodies I made friend with  ), but I have to say this:  many cities known  as great food destinations happened to me ‘manageable’ in a way  that I could easily and quickly spot what stands out (usually a good dozen of eateries and the rest is simple generic stuff simply presented differently), but Tokyo is clearly a giant because the best places just abound, here the best bunch of the soba, there many of  the finest isakayas, there several ones competing for the finest tonkatsu, hey look ..not just 5 ramenyas that stand out, but 50! One argument could be  that they have more of the great stuff because it’s an exceptionally populous megapolis, but I know plenty of cities around the globe who use the demographic advantage to serve crap because they know that there will always be people eating at their restaurants no matter what .  For plenty of Japanese foodies, there’s even better food to be enjoyed in Japan outside of Tokyo, but this visit of Tokyo has revealed qualities that most major gourmet cities of the globe do lack. Their obsession for the very best food, the high level of true competition, the incredible pride they manifest in their creations as well as their exceptional palate makes of this city a true champ of world class dining.

Why most of your restaurants are generally average in Canada? Yep, that’s the brutal question of one of the local foodies during one meal we were sharing during this trip. He travelled throughout Canada around 3 years ago and that is what strucked him.  First, there are average restaurants everywhere and I do not really agree that most of our restaurants are that bad.  That said, it is a fact that many  foodies who have travelled a lot around the globe came to the conclusion that there are far superior food scenes to be found elsewhere. Which, I won’t argue with. That said, comparing Canada’s food scene to its Japanese counterpart should be understood within some of the following facts: (A)in the West, oftently (there are exceptions, of course), a talented cook goes  through the process where  his/her talent is recognized, then he/she disappears from the kitchen to enjoy stardom and the fruits of the marketing trail   his/her  now legendary fame has generated. From an entrepreneur perspective,  it’s normal/expected/encouraged.  The problem is that, indeed, as ..expected, lol…from the diner’s perspective, it su*&#. In contrast, from what I’ve observed  all along this stay in Tokyo, their local talented Chefs seem to have taken the theme of being a proud Chef to another level:  yes, they want to make money, too. But they refuse to have their reputation backed by name bearers. They cook!  So right there, it’s a totally different world. (2)In the west, the perfectionist mentality that I could detect here in Tokyo  would  oftently pass as not worthy of the effort. Of course there’s much more: cultural parameters,the palate, the sense of surprise, etc. Talking about the palate: eventhough taste is a subjective matter, I was still impressed by  their deep understanding of the flavors:  whether the combination is simple or complex, it is oftently extremely well mastered. Oftently, in Montreal (to take the example  of the city which restaurant   I am the most familiar with), I stumble upon flavors that I find unachieved or simply fine but not great, and I’d still find excuses for them (lol) such as “”perhaps a lack of necessary time and/or the fact that most of the cooks are young and did  not take the time  to train alongside their elders (it’s the key in cooking: you learn from your elders, you master those basics, and you move  on with what you think is better from what you’ve learned).  But in Tokyo, even the most (not all, of course, but MOST..is what count, lol) humble eateries had cooks with a surprising  great palate and terrific sense of cooking. (3)In the West, you won’t fail to find it interesting that most  of the major / popular  Chefs are present in their restaurants whenever a food journalist is visiting. Of course, when there’s no food journalist around,  the star is spending most of his time outside of his /her restaurant. And naturally, the assistant is rarely up to the challenge and the food journalist helped buzzing up the  restaurant, so  hordes of diners will flock there since media coverage feeds, not talent.   I said this to a local foodie with whom I was dining  here in Tokyo and he replied ”if  a cook is not found in his  kitchen, if both his  assistant and he /she  would not be of  the same level, no one would spend a dine on them’….draw your conclusions! lol

So, what makes their food scene so special? For me, couple of major obervations: on the higher end, it shows that their  old generations of Chefs have embraced the kind of obsession for perfection which secret is only known to them. If you pick one of Mizutani San’s better pieces, it is packed with the kind of attention to details that can not  only be explained by skills, but also by culture, attitude, vision. Here, obviously, the culture to sacrifice everything for the glory of their craft, the attitude of persevering at all cost, the vision that the to be above, you need to pick one way, just one, and dedicate your life to it. And indeed, the produce is among world’s finest. This is what I willing to pay for  when dining out. On the lower end, it is the same thing as everywhere else: the younger generations do not oftently have the patience  of their elders, but their craft still benefit from the sense of pride and efficiency that the Japanese are known for.  That is actually what I do believe to be the secret of the Japanese food scene: those who cook are proud of what they do,  and would therefore not desperately just throw food for the sake of just feeding, but for the joy of sharing true cooking skills and the same great food they’d themselves appreciate to be fed with.

That said, based of what I kept hearing before coming here, he are things I found untrue:
-their low level sushis are better than our average ones. UNTRUE! Low level is low level, wherever you are!
-their seafood is the best in the world. For sushis, yes, indeed, you definitely need the type of seafood found here.
For example, they do have the perfect tuna for the kind of cuisine they are doing. But the best seafood in the world
will always depend on what your palate has recorded as being the benchmark to beat. For eg, I was born and raised
in the Indian Ocean, so for my palate, the best seafood come from warmer waters. I can appreciate a stunning  tuna from  Japan’s waters, would highly regard its finest version as one of world’s very best, but my palate  and brain will still perceive  the finest fishes of the Indian Ocean or the Caribbean as superior. That is why we say that taste  is subjective ;p
-there is even better than their michelin starred sushiyas: I could not try every top restaurant I wanted, but I have tried enough to observe that the michelin starred sushiyas are far superior in term of the overall refinement, precision of the cuts, selection of the produce. Whereas some of what the locals seem to favor  (Daisan Harumi, Sushi Sho  being two great examples) is of course godd,  but the creations are not as refined. Of course, if you could not care less about such details, it naturally means nothing to you,  but I go to restaurants for the sole purpose to see how far a restaurant can perfect its creations.

Why just focusing on sushis? Isn’t that cliché? nope, not at all.  It all depends on your perception of cooking and things in general.  When I started cooking, in my tender childhood, I already embraced the traditionalist Japanese philosophy that ‘tireless repetition  is what makes perfection‘, lol.  And that a lot of ‘the same thing’ should never be perceived as a chore.  To the contrary, it’s an opportunity to assist your mind in focusing on what it would have otherwise missed.     So, this trip was heavily focused on sushiyas (the next will focus on kaiseki meals only) . That said, I also tried other kind of food too.

Next time I visit Japan I’ll focus on their kaisekis, as well as their Iga Uenoregion  for its highly praised Iga Beef.  It is part of Mie Prefecture, where the   Matsusaka beef comes from, a beef that many Japanese value as even better than the famous Kobe beef. My palate is ready to dive in the nuances that  set those famous cuts apart from the rest.  Hida beef in Takayama as well visiting Ishigaki Islands for their Ishigaki beef. So, a very ‘carne’ agenda for my future visit in Japan. I’ll also try the kaisekis of Kyoto (Kitcho, Mizai, etc). Japan is a lovely land, so I can see myself going back there oftently and touring this fabulous country.

Conclusion: For me, this was going back to my childhood memories in the Indian Ocean where I was taught to differentiate a simple cut of fish from its immediate fresh taste (sampling it right upon it’s out of the sea), to the various  stages of its aging process. I had a Japanese local experienced foodie and cook who accompanied me at most of my meals (for me, it was important that someone paired some verbiage to what I was eating. Regardless of my appreciation of what I am eating,  it was fun to elevate the experience to an educational dimension. Does not mean I do not have my own opinion..rest assured  that I will always voice my own opinions no matter what) and he was telling me things that I was so familiar to: for eg, when you kill a fish,  there’s a whole world of nuances in the taste of that fish  within the minutes it’s killed, the hours, etc. Some prefers their fish at X  moment of that process, others at Y moment.  But knowing those differences help you better understand that it is rarely about good or bad fish,  but oftently about the effect   that a specific stage leaves on one’s palate. It was fantastic to see that the Japanese do care about such details  when their peers,  abroad, do care only about what’s trendy (it’s trendy to have chewy abalone, then that is good..Ok, now it’s trendy to tenderize it, so guess what..chewy abalone is suddenly bad — knowing a bit more about that abalone brings you a long way, and that is what did excite  me with the Japanese). The foodie / cook local companion hoped that Japanese seafood would convert the seafood admirer that I am,  but I think I broke his heart when I insisted — and what do you want..it’s in the nature of things — that I still found my seafood in the Indian Ocean to be superior, more flavorful, having a better taste of the sea, Rfaol! The best things are always what you grew up with, usually,  so he got my point, but hey, seriously, for the sushi and the cooking they are doing, the Japanese truly have the benchmark seafood that’s needed. Rest assured: this is, along with the seafood of the Indian Ocean and the  Mediterranea, among world’s finest seafood. But since my palate  prefer deep briny flavor that is easily elevated by char-grill cooking technique (one technique that’s of course extremely popular in the humble settings withing which I grew up), my brain keeps recording the fabulous Japanese seafood as second to the ones it flirted with in the first place. It is important to stress that none of those is better than the other:  the way we kill our fish in the Indian Ocean (we’d  need an entire post just for this, so I’ll just point out that the fish I was fed with in the Indian Ocean was perfect for the type of cooking found there: essentially charcoal-grill)  is NOT to be compared to  the care that Japanese invest in killing theirs (their technique of killing fish and the careful ensuing process is meant for proper sushi preparation,  a whole different world from straightforward charcoal-grilling).

風雲児  Fuunji > ramenya > 2 Chome-14 Yoyogi Shibuya-ku, Tokyo-to

Fuunji 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dropped by Fuunji, a shop regarded by most local ramen connoisseurs as a top tier ramenya of Tokyo, with a near perfect score of 97/100 on the major local ramen guide ramendb (http://ramendb.supleks.jp/s/12119.html).

Fuunji 4

 

 

 

 

 

The rage in Tokyo, for almost a decade now, is to have both the noodle and its broth served separately (tsukemen).

 

Fuunji 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

You dip the noodle in the broth and you slurp. The broth is hot, the noodles are cold (I do sometimes see online complaints about the noodles being cold…but that is the way  the noodles are in a tsukemen. Not a slip).  I can’t see Montrealers embracing this trend as the fear of the broth cooling too quickly could discourage many, though in Tokyo you are offered hot stones to keep the broth warm. The other problem is an issue of perception: I suspect that Montrealers may find the presence of two  bowls for 1 serving of ramen to be a bit too much on their table.

The tsukemen I picked featured noodles of perfecty mastered bouncy-ness, the noodles holding up just fine in the broth.  It’s indeed in the complexity (depth ) of the work of the flavors (At Fuunji, a mix of chicken and small dried fish) of that broth that a shop like this one does have the edge over lesser local ramenyas.  It also, naturally, takes a good palate as you won’t get to identical results simply by relying on the notion of slow cooking. That said, although this was perfectly executed ramen (I have to give that to them: there is depth, there is complexity, there is mastery, there is even a good palate because it is still tasty), the flavor was just fine…no more….not ‘licking good’ as experienced with some other ramens.

Fuunji 2Was this ramen one of the very best I ever had? Certainly one of the better executed as far as technique goes. Do I get  the raves? It’s food, therefore subjective by nature, so Yes, absolutely…nothing is bad, nothing is good, there are things you love, others you do not. Was this the most exciting ramen I ever had? Obviously,  Not! Will I recommend Fuunji? Well, they do not need my recommendation…they have hundreds of diners lining up in front of their doors twice a day! But Yes, I recommend you try it as it is one of the very best ramen you’ll get to enjoy in terms of the sophistication/technique. Hopefully, you’ll find the flavor dazzling too.

Verdict: 7/10  (Category: world class ramen, top tier ramen in Tokyo).  I am somehow having hard time with   some of the most successful food in Tokyo. It is not about expectations based on the raves as I do not have expectations when I dine out … I just want the food to storm my palate. Take this very popular bowl of ramen: it is certainly well done and it is rare to  have home-made noodles and a broth done this well in North America, BUT I can think of many bowls that have tantalized …right there in North America, whereas this bowl did not. Again, really  well done, tasty for sure, just not as exciting in mouth as I would have liked. Paradoxally,  YOU SHOULD NOT  compare my rating of Fuunji  to my ratings  of ramenyas outside of Japan. I was not excited by Fuunji, but the best ramenyas outside of Japan do not even get close to the shadow of Fuunji in terms of perfecting the ramenya as far as the technique goes!

What I think a week later: My ratings have nothing to do with whether a meal was great or not, they are simply tools to convey, in the best way I can, how excited the food fared to me. Which, as ever, is of course utterly personal/subjective. So, keep that in mind when you’ll consider the rating above. I hope you got this right, though: Fuunji ramen’s, whether it excited me or not, is a world class bowl. I insist on the later assertion because you won’t  oftently find such technically expertly conceived bowl of ramen even in Tokyo. This is a bowl that — whether you’ll enjoy it or not at the first slurp — will certainly grow on you.

SEE ALSO: the report on  Cinque Terre, Milan & Parma.

Your humble Montreal gourmand dropped by Venice on June 16th since my meal at Le Calandre was  relatively close. It’s not my first time in Italy, but my first in Venice. Instead of indulging in the common public relationship’s write-up style  that we all can profusely peruse over the web, I went with a more ‘down to earth’ straight-to-the point approach’. To each, their own

Usually, when you see a dispatch with such title as “is xxx overrated”, you would naturally anticipate frustration from the dispatcher and I would anticipate the usual reactions like ‘why don’t you just enjoy Venice..instead of nitpicking, Rfaol! Not to worry: wherever I go, I think about my enjoyment first and do fully appreciate my time however things go. You certainly do not invest your hard earned money in nitpicking. But for the constructive sake of guiding people in the more accurate way, I’d rather write about all sides of the theme. Do not judge hastily, my conclusion of this dispatch might not be what you thought in the first place, and with those carefully selected infos that I am sharing with you, your trip there might be optimized.

I have always maintained that if I had to write something, I may as well do it differently. And more importantly, my own way, regardless of what people might think. Therefore, I’ll spare you the same refrain about Venice’s landmarks:  the world already knows that you need to lose yourself in its canals, that it’s supposed to be one of the most romantic places on earth,  that there are two train stations  you need to be informed about (Santa Lucia Train Station which is the one you need to take in order to get to the most interesting parts of Venezzia –its name in Italian–,  the car-free historic center  with its endless canals and popular sites like Piazza San Marco,  and then you have a second train station, that is Venezzia Mestre which is the hub to the automobile-friendly part of Venezzia) and that Venice…well, it is also the  Venice that can make you dream, as well….

I am more interested to cover an aspect of Venezzia that over-optimism and unecessary need to make travel reports beautiful at all cost….do usually and sadly lure us away from: what if Venezzia was a big tourist trap? Is Venezzia overrated? Some people thing so, and yet millions of people flock to Venezzia. The following might help us a bit into unveiling  the latter dilemma.

Tourist  trap? All places that are popular with tourists do naturally suffer from this. It’s, to me, utterly normal and if you ignore that reality, then you’ll be hurt in Venezzia, because for all the buzz created around its image of one of world’s most romantic places, you might perhaps –SEE next section to understand why I am writing ‘you might perhaps’ as opposed to ‘you will’ —, once there, find the ideal of romance be replaced by a very busy ambience of hordes of tourists flocking in all directions, and  lots of people approaching you with the expected need to offer you services (come on my gondola, eat at my restaurant, but your souvenirs at my shop).

So Venezzia, not romantic at all? Of course, we all have our ideal of what a romantic place might look like. But I think that it is absolutely wrong to let  the busy nature of Venice and its  hordes of tourists make Venice appear as less romantic. What about doing this: (1) if you land at Venice’s Marco Polo Airport, take a mean of water transport up to Venice’s historic areas. Although it might appear overpriced at first glance (slightly more than 100 euros), you might get an initial enjoyable  perception of Venice this way (2)wander in Venice historic area’s canals and streets early in the morning, way before 9am. (3)I found Venice to be visually more enjoyable from its  waters, so perhaps this is how to get the best out of your journey in Venice. (4)I’d doubt that a gondola ride though the interior canals — as opposed to just the grand canal — late at sunset (not at night..since you just can’t see much anyways and it would make the ride as equally exciting to a night ride on any waters anywhere else) with your sweet half would not fit with the classic ideal of a romantic moment

What would I avoid in Venice? Eating at their restaurants, terraces in the historic area. It’s ..as you might expect…way too $$$ for what’s delivered. I would also avoid visiting Venice without having initially read a lot about its history and valuable architectures. Failing to do so make it worthless to visit Venice since you won’t appreciate the great depth of historical material behind what shall be displayed before your eyes. And if you can’t stand people…lots..lots…lots of people, well do not go!

Hope this helps in making your stay in Venice more enjoyable,
Aromes

Osteria con cucina ‘A Cantina de Mananan’
Via Fieschi, 117 – Tel 0187 821166
Corniglia, Liguria, Italy 19018
Email: mananan@libero.it
URL: https://www.facebook.com/cantinademananan/

One   highlight of my gourmand’s journey in Northern Italy was  a tiny stone walled  Italian osteria in the very touristy destination of Cinque Terre   called  A cantina de Mananan  :

The local gastronome  who brought me here did also introduce me to other  non touristy eateries that are popular with the locals in nearby  Lombardy as well as Emilia-Romagna . Therefore, when he told me  about this  spot located in the  touristy  ‘hamlet’ of Corniglia in Cinque Terre,  I had hard time believing him as Corniglia looked like a place where decent food would be hard to find.

 

I had their Piatto misto acciughe / Mixed dish of anchovies. Top quality produce that has been soaked in the sun of the Mediterranean sea, hand picked, kept away from any freezer or fridge. It is of produce of such  quality that the most ambitious Italian tables outside of Italy do dream about. There are Italian tables with Michelin stars, across the globe, outside of Italy, that would dream to serve ingredients of this quality. But then, it is not just about the sourcing. You also need to know what to do with that superb  produce and at that, they nailed it too: the seasoning was judicious, the flavours divine.  This was  an unusually well executed  dish and  would pass as NO ordinary at all, even by the standards of the finest osterias of Italy. 8/10

 

 

I also ordered   their gnocchi salsa di noci (gnocchi and walnut sauce) – Ethereally light gnocchi, featuring a delicious potato flavour, standing up perfectly to the walnut sauce it was served with, rendered in a way that some ambitious Italian tables, especially outside of Italy, would not  achieve this well (the soft texture of that gnocchi was that great). Superbly well executed potato dumplings paired with a flawlessly creamy, smooth and flavorful  walnut sauce  that could only come from combining quality ingredients (it is a simple sauce that relies on few ingredients, therefore the ingredients need to be of topshelf quality, and that was the case here) with a great know-how.  9/10

 

PROS: Great  Italian regional cookery (I am talking about the food I had there in summer 2012)

CONS: Do not come here expecting anything special as far as service goes. Do not get  me wrong: the service is not bad, far from that. Just remember that you are here for the food, though. After all, just keep in mind that it is not a ristorante, it is not a trattoria. It is an osteria (the most casual and laidback of the 3).

One drawback of  Italy’s lucrative tourism industry  is that  plenty  of subpar eateries  are competing with the few rare  gems like OCDM  to  feed the legion  of tourists . Therefore, for a foreigner, it is hard to locate the rare genuinely great eateries  that are silenced by the aggressive competition of the lesser ones.

Over a decade ago, there was great food to be found pretty much anywhere across Italy. To the contrary of what the Tourism authorities are trying to sell to us, that is not the case nowadays. Right here in Italy, a big city like Rome will offer mostly generic food that taste the same as it would taste in any other city in the western world.

Further down the boot, do not be surprised to be served fish that was frozen while eyeing at the Mediterranean sea.  Because that fresh seafood coming straight from the Mediterranean sea is way too expensive. Therefore, they will serve you the more affordable fish that came straight from the freezer, imported from afar. It is not like that just in Italy. It is like that pretty much everywhere alongside the Mediterranean sea .

Exceptional produce does exist, but you will have to pay through the nose to enjoy them at expensive restaurants. My first two days in Northern Italy were frustrating in that regard. On my 3rd day, I was lucky enough to meet with some knowledgeable local foodies and things went uphill from there as  I did enjoy some great  food and produce  at reasonable cost on the ensuing days as it was the case here at A Cantina da Mananan.

There were also some truely great celebrated restaurants such as Del PescatoreIl Luogo di Aimo e Nadia as well as Le Calandre that I did visit during this trip.  But food-wise,  few  left such a big impression on me as this humble osteria (there are 2 other osterias that also made a big impression on me – I just can’t remember their names, right now).

As for  A Cantina da Mananan, it would be interesting  to see how such eatery will fare in the long run: Corniglia is very touristy, therefore I hope ACDM does not, one day, turn into yet another eatery that just wants to cash in on its tourists. It certainly would be tempting. But I can talk only for what I have experienced and  those truely interested by / knowledgeable about genuine Italian regional cuisines would have found this meal at A Cantina de Mananan to be  one great example  of    Italian regional cookery that is hard to improve upon at an osteria  (great ingredients, superb  taste, excellent cooking technique).

 

 

A little tour of Northern Italy (regions of Liguria, Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy) by  your humble Montreal gourmand. Enjoy!

CINQUE TERRE – There many beautiful places across this globe, and Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful of them.    It’s a coastal area of five  eye-candy fishing villages of the Italian Riviera (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza,Corniglia,Manarola, and Riomaggiore).

Here is how my journey in Cinque Terre did unfold (if that can help you plan your next visit here):
Riomaggiore, the first village of the Cinque Terre. Walk around.
-Cinque Terre National Park: I walked the world famous “Camminata dell’amore” above the coastline from Riomaggiore
to Manarola (about 30 minutes walk).
-Boat trip down the Punta Mesco Promontory, viewing Monterosso, Vernazza, and Corniglia from the sea
-swim in the protected waters of the National Marine Park and visit hidden groves and beaches from the water.
-Travelled the towns (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza,Corniglia,Manarola, and Riomaggiore) by boat from Monterosso, which is much nicer than the trains (but pricier, of course).
The boats stop every village, but you can see all the villages from the water and decide where to hop off. (you can get on & off using a one day ticket).
-Visited Vernazza, which, according to many accounts (click here for one great account of it) , seems to be the most picturesque of the villages.
The 5 villages have heaps of stairs and you will have to walk a lot!
I certainly felt like eyeing at a very colourful postal card, when I was there.
-Using the boat, I went visiting Portovenere, a little medieval town – it’s the last stop and although not actually one of the five villages,
it was a must-see.
Here’s a great account of Portovenere: https://fullsuitcase.com/portovenere-italy/
She also have superb photos and descriptions of the best places to visit on the Italian Riviera:
https://fullsuitcase.com/italian-riviera-best-towns/
It is a full day doing the villages.
I suggest you stay either in Monterosso or Porto Venere. It will make things much simpler (to move around,  find food, etc).

This was my first time here in Cinque Terre, and despite a major mudslide that affected some parts of this area, I have to say, upon my visit here ( June 2012) that the place is as charming as ever: picturesque typical seaside Italian villages with colorful Mediterranean landscapes and lively ambience.

Touring CT was a breeze and one of the most fascinating experience as a traveller. It is  definitely on the top 5 of Italy’s must-see places). Just remember that it has a more laid-back, backpackish feel compared to the glitzy Amalfi coast (Click here for a great comparison between the two).  Cinque Terre is beautiful, pure and simple natural beauty.

 

MILAN – the city of fashion, business and the NEW Italy.This interesting article gives a fun introduction to Milan.For the gourmand that I am, it was also the opportunity to try their finest  iconic risotto à la Milanese. Outside of Milan, I spent  some time doing the same with the tortelli di zucca, a Mantuan signature dish. My modus operandi never varying: I always diligently knock at the doors of  experienced and picky local gourmands, twisting arms (I am kidding with the twisting arms;p)  in order to get as close as possible to their  hidden secrets. This brought some unusual …but much appreciated..moments such as enjoying the authentic food of some of their  nonnas (thanks to the Italian friends who made this possible: you know who you are!) in the Mantovan  countryside on at least 4 occasions.

PARMA – It is the temple of Parma ham and Parmigiano cheese, so naturally your Montreal gourmand had to stop by, Lol. Although manageable, I didn’t have time nor any interest neither to try all their places for Parmy ham and  cheese and tell you which ones stood  as my favourite, but as you would have guessed, any Parmy Cheese or Ham you try here is of course  among the very finest .With that said, there are naturally some who take the experience further in aging their  ham longer,  mastering its storage better than others, and using all kind of tricks and techniques to offer ultimate freshness and texture. One place that the locals kept suggesting for the perfected ham was  Salumeria Garibaldi. This is a salumeria well known and respected in the world of its top authentic  Parma charcuterie. They have a little table on the premises where you can seat and sample some of their finest hams and cheese. I asked for a tasting platter of their star prosciutti: culatello di Zibello  (culatello is a refined and aged prosciutto, the di Zibello kind being the top of the notch DOP kind), culaccia (another top prosciutto using production methods exclusive to the legendary nearby Salumifico Rossi). I also tried slices of  their coppa, along with …what a surprise..lol..their 30,48, and 60 months aged Parmigiano Reggiano. Top among the top stuff, indeed. You do not need to go all the way to Parma to taste those (I came to Parma for a combination of interest in both gastronomy and  architecture ), since you can also find those hams and cheese around Italy.

More to come….

 

I will be honest with you, I get bored reviewing restaurants. I initially didn’t even want to do this (read this on my 3 star Michelin web site). As a matter of fact, I am now reviewing just 10-20% of the places that I am visiting  because many of them are not offering food that would justify that I spend time writing about . When I keep saying to people that I am not a true foodie, I guess you have right there a perfect confirmation of what I am talking about (I respect foodies and believe that they are the best architects of the newly-found enthusiasm for exciting dining experiences, but I know myself enoughly well to assert that I do not have their genuine enthusiam. I am just a cold hunter for what I believe is food that stands out in my view, but I don’t get any satisfaction in eating out just for the pleasure of doing so). To find motivation in continuing to write, I will vary once in a while between restaurant reviews, interviews of the greatest Chefs around the globe and culinary reportages.

This is only my second interview with one of the grand Chefs of the globe. Previous interview was with Chef Corey Lee, Ex 3 star Michelin Chef who was at the helm of the French Laundry (CA) when this restaurant was among Restaurant Magazine’s top 5 best tables of the world. Chef Lee is now at Restaurant Benu, SF (I am planning a culinary trip to SF in  the future which will include Manresa, Benu, FL, Bouchon, Ubuntu, Saison, Atelier Crenn but Benu won’t be reviewed since Chef Lee was interviewed here. Sounds not cool, but I find it more important to remain loyal to my principles.). As a reminder of my strict code of ethics: the restaurants which Chefs I am interviewing will never be reviewed. This reaches out to the very 1st rule behind my decision of reviewing restaurants: never interacting with the staff of restaurants that I review. An interview is an interaction, so no review!

This time, I am interviewing Chef Luisa Valazza of 3 star Michelin Al Sorriso in the city of Sorriso. Her restaurant is known, in world’s finest dining circles, as one of the very best of the world. Chef Valazza is also the perfect choice for the  type of Chefs that I praise a lot: an artisan Chef, far from the big buzz, busy behind her stoves, the only place we need a talented Chef to shine. Before publishing the interview, I want to thank Chefs like Corey Lee and Luisa Valazza for being down to earth, open to answer any questions coming from any of their customers. This sounds like a small detail, but in a world where many Chefs forget where they came from, and what brought them to the highest praises, it’s touching to see Chefs, among the very best in their domain, finding time and humility to answer the questions of their real customers, you and I, anonymous Joes!

Last but not least, Chef Valazza being Italian and not British, I dearly hope that you will remain open minded and thankful to her efforts to express herself in English. I am myself French and I feel flattered (and am thankful to them) to see English people sometimes trying their best to share with me in my own language. So let’s remain open minded and get the most out of this constructive interview :

Question #1: Chef Valazza , you have been at the helm of your  3 star Michelin table for a while now. In retrospective, would you be able to pint point the exact evolution steps that made you evolve from a 1 star to a second then to a 3rd. For ie: have there been very precise actions that got you going from a 1st to 2nd star. Then from a 2nd to a 3rd? Did you make major changes to your cooking in between each of those steps? Or has this been the fruit of improvement in service, decor?  This is a question that I thought interesting to ask since many 3 star Michelin Chefs would simply respond that they got the 3rd star upon continuous hard work. Although that is surely true, it would be very informative to be more accurate about those steps of evolution.

 

My  first coming  in tu  the ciuisine it was on  November 1981  because  the   chef  we had  went away , so  i  decided  that  the  better  way it was to take  the  responsability of  the  Cuisine  , tu have a continualy  style.

Whit great work i had  the   first  Michelin  star on  1982  a Surprice,  and  continuing in to the pledge  and reserch i had  the satisfaction to have  the  2d star  even a  surprice. on 1988. i was crying .
I was feeling  more  responsable, bat  the  passion  and  thee desire of beeng  better geve to me the  sprein to  continuing  to reserce  the  best way  to an expression on my  plaite the  taste  and  the  parfum  of the Italian  cuisine.

all these bring  mee after  10  years  to have  with  a great  surprice  the  3rd  Michelin  star. with  great  and  hard  work  i crowned the  dream of  evry  chef.

 

Question #2: Italy has great produce and a cuisine that’s mosly glorious in its simplicity. But it slightly differs from region to region. What type of cooking do you offer: a recap of Italian cuisine from all corners of Italy?  Or Italian Cuisine from your  region of Piedmont only?  And how would you consider your cooking: a modern take or a personal re-interpretation of  Italian cooking ?

 

On  my  cuisine  thereis not only an interpretation of the  Piemontese  cuisine  but  i am looking in th the  region  around  Piemonte , introducing also even  fish from  the see , ( Sardegna , Sicily , Liguria  and everywhere there are better product. )  My  cuisine is  a cuisine of  reserce of the  traditional Italian cuisine in a modern Key.

 

Question #3: I have heard that you are a self-made Chef. So no trainning at all? Just going from home cooking up to 3 michelin star excellence?

 

Yes  I am professor of Italian Lecterture and  come  from University to the cuisine , on  my  family  my  mother  was also a professor  but she cooked at home and i never  tuch a pot before.

when i Married  my  husband  i  prefered  to do his job  , starting  first study  of  Italian cuisine book  from  old  and  new  cuisine  

 

Question #4: Many 3 star Michelin restaurants have some signature dishes that are the imprint of their culinaric work. For ie, the seabass/caviar at l’Ambroisie, the Eel toast at LeDoyen, etc.  I believe  this makes sense since at 3 star Michelin standard, the level of dining is so high that it needs to leave its imprints. To a first time diner at your 3 star Michelin restaurant, what can you recommend as signature dishes? What inspired you in creating those signature dishes and  what reflexion/message did you want to communicate through those dishes?

 

My  important plait are  1st  the  ”  patata  all’uovo gratinata  al  tarufo d’Alba ”     2d   ”  fungo porcino farcito con olio e aglio di Vessalico  ”  3rd   ”  The  green  ravioli  with Bettelmatt cheese and wild herbs  “

The  message i transmet to the  guest  is  the  semplicity, great product, great  taste.

 

Question #5 – Piedmont seems like the ideal place to open a restaurant: self-sufficient (wines, cheeses, meats, etc are found in this region). Was this the primary reason that led to the opening of your 3 star Michelin table in the beginning? What about your clientele: are they mostly gastronomic travelers to Piedmont? Italians? Foreigners?

 

The  reason we open a restaurant in  Piemonte  is  that we are  Piemontese  from Here  Luisa is  from SORISO  and  Angelo  From  BOCA  near SORISO

My  clientele are  gourmet and  people they like good Cuisine  , must of  them are foreigner  from all ower the Word .
Hope  you  cann understand every  thing i send you  my  best  regards

Luisa  Valazza

XO Le Restaurant’s Free Form Lasagna – It’s being a while since I tried this dish (Oct 10th 2009), so I do not know how it did evolve. But this one I had on that specificc dinner was one triumph of a 3* Michelin caliber meal over the highest standards of fine dining at any corner of this small planet. Here’s how I did describe it, back then:

Called “Free form lasagna”, this dish — I predict — will quickly become the signature dish of their chef, Michele Mercuri: although, at first glance, it might not look like your typical lasagna, it is  packed with all technical goodies of a lasagne: cheese, pasta and so on. But this is a unique luxurious creative version of the lasagna -> as you can see on the picture, it’s more of a “deconstructive” version of it. What the picture wont tell you (and that is why I do predict that this is a signature dish to come) is about the remarquable work that is done in terms of savourishness:  from the small tasty chunks of lobster, succulent braided sweetbreads, enjoyable lobster emulsion, fresh tender baby spinash and oh so lovely stracchino cheese….every little element of that dish was a blast in terms of taste. Impeccably delicious. 5/5 and more if I could!

Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/714228763/montreals-luxurious-tables-xo-le-restaurant/

What do I think, months later:  That specific one dish I had on that evening is still my top #1 dish in Mtl up to now, in the top #5 dish if I include top restaurants that I visited abroad. XO Le Restaurant, along with Toque! are Arome’s top choices for world class fine dining in Montreal at this moment. Currently, easily of solid 2* Michelin caliber based on my two dinners there.

 

Bistro Cocagne’s Braised Lamb/Risotto – This dish shares my 2009-2010 top #1 meal in Montreal with XO Le Restaurant’s Free Form Lasagna. If I include the top tables that I have tried abroad, it’s in the top #3 ever! Yep, as stunning as that! Bistro Cocagne is a market driven table,  so I was a bit sad when I recently found my favourite dish removed from their menu. My description of the dish:

that was a generous portion of fully flavoured, perfectly cooked (awesome braised caramelly textured on the outside, so tender — on the inside — that it would slide off the bone effortlessly). Heavenly! 5/5 for the lamb. So, as those who are used to me already know, I always eat the meat first, then it’s accompaniments separately ->   The accompanying risotto was very interesting and refreshingly different from my usual risottos: it had some fresh enjoyable crunchy corn seeds, pieces of carrots, a perfect lite creamy consistency with a subtle enjoyable touch of sweetness (there was also what looked and tasted like slices of tamarind. I think this was sun-dried tomato, but they did really taste like tamarind. Those were a well thought addition to that savourish risotto). The risotto was evenly seasoned with amazing little savourish crunchy grains of rice (looked like arborio rice, to me).

Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/711358238/bistro-cocagne-montreal—friday-sept-4th-1800/

What I think months later: Montreal, wake up! Put pressure for this dish to make a comeback! The laws of supply and demand can make this happen. Borrow my palate for free and it should work, Rfaol!


Club Chasse et Peche’s Braised boar/Brussels sprouts/hazelnuts/Caramelized fig
– I’ll let my description talk for it: ‘’’’Bathed in a very delicious light and flavorful meaty jus (the juice of the braised boar itself), this course has simply stole the show as my 2009 Mtl’s best main course (along with the Free Form Lasagna I had at XO): with a light amazing tasty crusty coating on the outside (basically a light elegant cheesy coating), perfect browny texture, ideally tender on the inside. This marvel-to-the-tastebud wonder was a genius workout of amazing flavorful meaty taste with accompaniments that were creatively so well thought: the hazelnuts in there were not just another ingredients to try…they were a perfect harmonious addition to the rest of this course. The caramelized fig was pure genius food work: intensely rich and tasty, it was the kind of tastebud amazement marvel that secured for good what I think of this cuisine: one of world’s bests. This, folks, would send even the best tables of the world (El Bulli, Fat Duck) to reflexion. Stunned!

Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/716460932/best-tables-of-montreal-le-club-chasse-et-p%C3%AAche/

What I think months later:  Forever stunned !!!….if only I could find more of this where  I do  expect it: at 2,3 Michelin star caliber restaurants.  Should I say more?

 

Chef Mario Navarrete’ s Tuna ceviche, Mango purée – Most of the dishes that this Latino genius has cooked for me, turned out impressive. I picked one of them, one that is of the next dimension.  This dish is a showcase of precision and exceptional skills. Why? Because in the hands of an average cook, a mango purée is the ticket to overwhelm anything that it is mixed with. In the hands of a genius cook like Chef Navarrete, it is a revelation. The purée, of outstanding light consistency and delicious taste, was of ideal combination with that fresh morsel of tuna (here again, a lot of brilliant work in balancing well the peppery/spicy/acidic marinated  taste of the tuna ceviche). Genius work to let each ingredient oozing in their pristine purity  and yet complementing themselves. This is easily of solid 2 to 3 Michelin star caliber.

Report of the meal: http://aromes.xanga.com/730124457/-the-new-restaurant-of-chef-mario-navarrete-jr-a-table–montreal/

What I think, weeks later: Speechless! Looking forward to more of the innovative cooking of Super Mario!

Chef Martin Juneau’s Butternut squash velouté, Chorizo – Oh my Lord! More of this overload of amazement and I’ll die happy!

The amazement here started with the exceptional textural visuals of this Velouté. In order to do justice to it, I am forced to pick a designation pertaining to the world of fashion/beauty: a glamourous texture! This one I was having on this lunch has a unique dense/glamourous/unique orange texture miles away from the usual orange pumpkin texture (We are all used to what a good pumpkin velouté looks like depending on whether it is deeply ripe or not, but this one’s exceptional texture was the equation of both the pumpkin itself + what the Chef made out of it). It was not too creamy, not too light but at ideal consistency. The work of tastes here was true genius: not only the taste of the velouté on it’s own was exceptionally moving/daring/unique, but the tastebud wonder concerto was not going to end there: couple of tiny slices of deep flawlessly cooked flavored chorizo added a supreme smartly well thought smoky-ness. The slightly-cooked tasty pumkin seeds found in that velouté added an extra dimension of welcoming nutty flavors to this Velouté to end all Veloutés. Note to myself: Finally the velouté that has stole the show from my all time world’s favourite haute fine-dining soup/velouté, Guy Savoy’s signature dish Black truffle artichoke soup! I always remind people that it does not take a myriad of meals to sense the exceptional greatness of a Chef. It takes one meal, convincing enough, to give you a definitive idea of the greatness (or not) of a Chef. This is more than ever the best proof of such statement. There was in that one single food item a showcase of exceptional talent, creativity, an passionate commitment of a Chef to it’s food. An exceptional  dish that pertains to the repertoire of the best food items at any greatest Three Michelin Star. As stunning as that!

PS: They change their menus oftenly, so that Velouté is not a Signature dish and may not necessarily be served regularly.

Report of that Lunch: http://aromes.xanga.com/723067367/best-restaurants-of-montreal-la-montee/

What I think months later: My personal experience with Juneau’s cuisine has evolved this way ->  (1)A spectacular close to 3-star Michelin caliber lunch on Friday March 5th 2010  (2)A just ok dinner on June 26th 2010 (3) A dinner on May 31st 2011 where I simply had enough and decided to give up on him!

 

Restaurant Toque !’s Fromage Comtomme, crème au piment d’Espelette, pain craquant, gelée de piment, pomme et graines de tournesol

Instead of offering the traditional plate of cheese, they brillantly concocted a cheese based marvel: caramelized apples with Comtomme cheese (turned into a slight cheesy fondue) might not be exciting on paper,  but this dish is, to my tastebuds, one of the best daring/exciting/tastebud pleasers I could think of this year.  From the nice crunchy mouthsome to the sweet and salty decadent balanced flavors and tastes, each bite of this tastebud marvel  was a decadent propulsion to heaven. Litterally! In terms of moving tastes (as if that was not enoughly decadent, the creamy slighly peppery touch of Espelette chilly was shining through the dish, not to mention the delicious and exciting gelée of chilly) , this was simply a blast!   Largely one item that all the world’s best restaurants would want to steal from Toque!.

Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/716627762/best-tables-of-montreal-toque-restaurant/

What do I think, months later: Cheese-based courses need more of that type of fun creativity.

 

 

Lamb Tataki at Restaurant  L’inconnu –  Perhaps, the best mastered cooking (preparation + execution)  that I sensed behind a meat since a long time. Enjoyably  spicy. That exceptional fresh upfront well balanced and yet daring spicy Soya/Ginger/Chili/Lime taste will mark my souvenirs for a long time. The meat was nicely marinated, of impeccable tenderness, with a depth of flavor that was pure heaven. Fresh fennel completed this amazing dish. Largely a dish pertaining to the level of the best 2* Michelin  tables. One that will set a reference to the most in all accounts: exceptional daring taste, exceptional work of the flavors, exceptional meat quality, genius work of the spicings. Simply an exceptional dish!

Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/725756742/restaurant-linconnu-montreal/

What I think: Quite a work to turn such  a common dish (lamb, beef, tuna tatakis are common these days on Mtl’s tables)  into an impressive tastebud marvel.

 

Restaurant Laporte’s Oyster tartare, truffled scallops, Parsnip Velouté  – Finally a mise en bouche that’s daring/moving on a Montreal fine dining table. I have always reproached the big majority of Mtl’s finest tables to not be enoughly daring when it comes to mise en bouche. That is not the case of this one mise en bouche: The creamy parnsip velouté was of perfect creaminess, sporting an enjoyable subtly sweet taste . It was topping a meaty flavorful tartare of impeccably fresh oyster. Even the chip you see on that velouté was remarquable: very tasty, enjoyably crunchy.A mise en bouche that is not only stunning to Montreal restaurants but also to world’s best tables. 5 star mise en bouche!

Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/719924847/best-restaurants-of-montreal-la-porte/

What I think: Along with XO Le Restaurant, Le Marly, Raza and Toque, this is my top favourite choice for upscale fine dining in Montreal. In another city, and on the back of that stunning dinner (never mind the 1 or 2 little reproaches I did address on that review. All great meals has its share of grainy edges. Look at the overall, and as such this dinner was of outstanding level) , La Porte would be a double Michelin Star table easily.

Foie Gras Poélé, Tarte tatin aux pommes, Sauce Caramel I go to restaurants for only one reason: educating my palate to potential new benchmarks of deliciousness. I go to restaurants only to experience prime palatability, or else..what’s the point of paying for food?  This course of pan seared duck liver  is my benchmark for savourish restaurant food of all levels, all around the globe. Euh..euh…yeah, I saw many talented Chefs trying this…but their creations never came close to half of the remarkable taste of this one dish I have sampled at KG. Now, do not run there hoping to reach the moon: it is  food, remember? All I am telling you is that this one pan seared foie gras, on that July 6th 2010  meal at KG, have blown my taste buds away and will be remembered (by me) for a long time as one of the tastiest dishes I ever sampled.

Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/722855124/kitchen-galerie-montreal—an-unforgettable-gustatory-feast/

What I think months later: Few Chefs, at all levels of cooking that I have experienced, have proven to be gifted by such a natural easy-ness to deliver food that delicious. Axel is a young gifted Chef and with food like what he cooked on this meal, he has left his culinary imprint on my best dining souvenirs.  If he keeps up with this standard, found on that reviewed meal, his talent will undoubtly seduce most palates.

 

Restaurant’s Toque! Pan-seated foie gras

Very elegant chunk of beautifully-textured (perfect soft unctuous texture) pan-seared foie. Evenly cooked, deliciously tasty with an impeccable smooth inside  consistency. It kept all  it’s fully inner flavors. Bathed in a light subtly sweet delicious  apple jus, with dices of apples and heavenly delectable dices of honey gelée. That apple jus is very distinct and lightens the dish. Simply, WoWed!  Largely among the best pan-seared foie Items I ever had on any of the finest tables I dined at in Canada and abroad!

Report of that dinner: Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/716627762/best-tables-of-montreal-toque-restaurant/

My thoughts in July 2019:    2009-2010  was the golden era of the restaurant scene in Montreal. At that time, Montreal had truely world class Chefs willing to work seriously. Fast forward 9 years later, and the restaurant scene in Montreal is not even the shadow of what it used to be in 2010. Back then, we had REAL Chefs who cooked like they got a family to feed. Nowadays, we have entrepreneurs who do not even care about the purpose of their own business: feeding people.  They just care about feeding their own pockets. The sad thing is that, abroad, REAL Chefs can do both: feed you with great food while feeding their own pockets. A logic that eludes the so-called restaurant world in Montreal. It is little wonder that Montreal’s restaurant scene will take centuries to reconnect with its once true world class glory!