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Restaurant: Ishikawa
Address: 〒162-0825 東京都新宿区 神楽坂5−37 高村ビル1F
Date and time of the meal: 18/11/2014 17:30
Type of cuisine: Kaiseki
Phone:03-5225-0173
Tabelog: 4.33/5
Michelin stars: 3
URL: http://www.kagurazaka-ishikawa.co.jp/

Ishikawa (1)Kagurazaka Ishikawa is a well known kaiseki house in the area of Shinjuku (Shinjuku is vast, though, so keep in mind that if you stay close to the Shinjuku JR station,  Ishikawa is really NOT in the vincinity….;p). They have been operating for 11 years now. Chef Ishikawa explained that he comes from a part of Japan where the rice is of exceptional quality (yagata?? I am not familiar with Japanese names but it sounded like that), so he plays particular attention to the handling and preparation of  the rice (at a place like Ishikawa, you realize that rice is an ingredient that we, in the West,should  take seriously as great rice is not … just rice, indeed). The service here is world class (couple of waitresses and some few chefs) and the decor tasteful.    I tried to discretely take the pics of my food, discretely I insist  as  Japanese do not like that sort of distraction, especially in such intimate settings (in some of the restaurants that I will visit later on, photo taking is banned— at Ishikawa they are so nice that they won’t tell you anything,  but play close attention at the behavior of the other patrons and you’ll get what I mean ) , so as I usually do, out of respect to the privacy of other diners, I refrained from taking pictures of the room when it was full of patrons.

Ishikawa (2)Kaiseki is my favourite type of Japanese meal for its strong focus on all sorts of seasonal produce. It is also the kind of meal that I do approach with a lot of anxiety (positive / constructive anxiety that is),  because I remember that I, too, come from a country with food of deep and extreme nuances/subtleties/complexity , therefore condemned to be oftenly  mis-interpreted / mis-judged because as diners, we  mostly have no time with how things are supposed to be,  rather interested to expect things to be what we want them to be . I remember, couple of years ago, inviting a long time food journalist/cook/experienced foodie to eat a dish of cassava leaves cooked in coconut milk. A dish of the kind that I like a lot since its description is ordinary, its execution pertains to a totally different registry. In facts, you need to find the proper cassava leaves, cook it for at least 6-7 hrs with the right amount of quality coconut milk (popular in some African cuisines ) and its final taste will depend on your palate and ability to keep enhancing the flavor with as little as coconut milk, water, garlic, onions, salt , your leaves and deep understanding of how fire can impart sublime taste to your food. I ensured that a long time experienced cook, a granny actually, cooked it, because I wanted that friend to start with a version of that dish cooked  by “hands and a palate ” of considerable  experience. That friend/foodie/cook’s verdict on that day was straightfoward: it’s bad, it is just leaves that he  would have boiled, nothing more and that all the attention to details and long time cooking was pure Bullshit. The granny was upset and accused that dude of ignorance.  Both reactions were expected, but  I simply asked my friend to try, as much as he could, to remember that supposedly ‘disgusting taste of simple boiled leaves’ but …since he loves food…. to keep his mind open and give a chance to that dish, wherever he finds it. But more importantly, to do it himself and try replicating that exact memory of taste. 10 years later, this is the dish that my friend admires the most, cooks the most, etc. Of course, this sounds like a fairy tale   — I know, i know …. we are ALL mostly pessimistic by nature,  and tend to be  bored with  nice stories lol — but there’s a reason I brought the “fairy tale” here:  Kaiseki suffers from the same faith…its complexity, its depth, its purpose  is not always  evident, especially for non Japanese palates/tastes.  Even for someone like me who has cooked seriously for almost two decades, and have  studied and practiced a lot with the nuances of Japanese fares for the past 3 years (it was  important for me to spend some time learning/understanding/practicising with one type of cuisine before starting to assess it) , I had to go out of my way in understanding one important element:  the work of the texture and exceptional focus on the details  is for the Japanese leading Chefs far more important than how it is valued elsewhere.

The food report:

Blanched blowfish tossed with Japanese herbs, grated white  radish sauce.  Basically a julienne of  veggies with morsels of blowfish. Tasty, but not a testament to high level kaiseki cooking  ( ordinary for a restaurant of this reputation) as it lacked a sign or two of restaurant quality brilliance (anyone could pull out this sort of ordinary flavors , in an effortlessly way ) . 6/10

Ishikawa (3)

Deep fried shitake mushroom with minced Japanese duck,sliced duck breast, dried shitake mushroom: the quality of both the duck and the mushroom was impressive, but there was more. There was technique (the cooking of both the duck and the mushroom superbly achieved in letting the deep meaty flavor of the duck expressing itself, the mushroom timely roasted so that its earthy flavor is left unaltered while the mushroom is cooked enough and nicely seasoned to spectacular mouthfeel ) and an inspired touch (it is easy to extract decent flavors out of  duck and mushroom, but harder to  get duck and mushroom complementing each other this well. Exciting 10/10

Ishikawa (4)

White miso soup with savory rice cake. The quality of the ingredients continues to be, as I’d expect from a restaurant of this reputation, of the highest order. Such comment also applies to the technical execution of the food: as mastered as it gets ,meaning the balance of flavors is spot on, seasoning judicious (never too salty, never bland). The beauty of great kaiseki cooking is to extract the most out of the least, and that is what they’ve accomplished successfully: deep ,  balanced, delicious  and complex flavors out of a simple rice cake and miso soup. Miso soup is one of those things that escapes attention when done well but which failure you will quickly notice, so it is easy to take such great work of this soup for granted . Excellent Miso soup like this one I was sampling is a rare treat,even in Tokyo, as I came to realise. 9/10

Ishikawa (5)

Sea bream sashimi . I am not too sure what one should expect from seabream. There’s no exceptional seabream flesh, there are just great and bad ones. This was of the great sort. The quality of the seaweed high. As great as ..great fresh seabream flesh tastes.

Ishikawa (6)

Seared Ise Lobster with vinegared soya sauce – quality lobster, one piece served raw (sashimi), the other seared. The quality of an ingredient is always half the battle/ the quality of this lobster was high. There was  a true fresh taste of the sea when eating the raw lobster, which was a reminder that no ordinary lobster was served. Then you had the charcoal grilled piece, which did not fail to remind that quality seafood cooked using a flavor-enhancing cooking method like charcoal grilling does ultimately water the mouth. Delicious as one would expect,the soya sauce is,of course, of the non ordinary sort  8/10

Ishikawa (7)

Charcoal grilled horsehead snapper flavored with salted bonito innards sauce is a technique that I will steal from them as I love charcoal-grilling fish at home (using a hibachi charcoal bbq grill) but I was looking for new ways to enhance the natural flavor of charcoal grilled seafood. Bonito innards sauce is exactly what I was looking for: a distracted palate would think that you’ll get the same palatable impact using just salt .Well,no…there is indeed an impression of  ‘that is easy to replicate’ when flavoring fish with salted  bonito innards sauce, but the level of the  complexity of the resulting flavor is not that easy to emulate. This sauce matched beautifully with the snapper.  Whether it is street food or fine dining, I do not have  unrealistic expectations when it comes  to charcoal grill seafood. I just expect an exceptional understanding of what makes a simple piece of fish ..tasting great! Which is what they did. Superb  9/10

Gluten bread with walnut and dried sea cucumber . The sea cucumber oceanic flavor, striking (in a very very good way). I am usually accused of being very conservative about drying / and or dry-aging seafood, but that is because I find that seafood drying   and/or drying aging is oftently misunderstood (you really need to know which seafood is truely enhanced by such process ). This sea cucumber was timely dried, the exciting mouthfeel and aromas are a testament to its high  quality and this is an instance where drying seafood  adds — rather than substracting — to the pleasure of eating food.  8/10

Ishikawa (8)

Fresh water eel was flawless in all aspects: top quality eel, the tsume sauce highly enjoyable both in texture and taste, the mashed taro packed with vibrant fresh earthy flavors. As it is the case with all the other offerings, the ingredients are complementary BUT in an inspired/thoughtful/witty  way (only the 1st offering tasted and felt like an ordinary assemblage of food items). Flawless. 9/10

Ishikawa (9)

Hot pot of snow crab, tofu and seasonal vegetable. That the ingredients would remain of very high quality was not a surprise anymore,  so it’s in the work of the broth that I had high expectations. They were met: the broth had depth/complexity, its taste exciting.  A world class hot pot, with a benchmark tofu (I am a huge fan of tofu as it is one of those little things that is easy to overlook but that can marvel when executed masterfully ….the tofu,here, impossibly soft, its taste not bold at all and yet so revealing in subtleties) . 10/10

Ishikawa (10)

Steamed rice, seabream paste and pickled vegetables. I won’t rate this dish as my opinion is sadly..biaised.Biaised because the seabream paste was reminescent of our canned tuna in the western world, therefore I am unable to appreciate that seabream paste as I wished … because I can’t genuinely get excited about flavors and texture of this sort. Needless to stress that there is no fault here (it’s one perfect legit version of a  seabream paste), just a clash with a personal perception. What I will do,though,is NOT to overlook the star of this dish, the rice. Again, the Chef seemed to have mentioned Yagata (???) — correct me if I am wrong — as the place of origin of his rice. This, to put it boldly, was spectacular rice with superlative flavor and texture. That he steamed his rice like a master at his craft is not the sole reason behind that incredible bowl of rice  (10/10 for that benchmark rice). At some point, they transformed the dish into their take of the ochazuke dish (combination of green tea/steamed rice) which, on this instance, combined the spectacular rice, a perfect broth, nori, the seabream paste and sesame seeds. The overall was tasty.

Ishikawa (11)

Sweet red beans,Yuzu citrus ager and cream cheese with toasted wafer featured quality red beans which sweetness is not overwhelming but judicious, the yuzu citrus ager flawless in texture and adding necessary acidic balance, the cream cheese is a far better version of the standard cream cheese as its soft consistency coupled with superb lactic mouthfeel did stole the show . It is easy to overlook simple ingredients like those (red beans, cream cheese) as  they are oftently taken for granted, therefore we tend to be uninvolved when we use them. This dessert was a reminder that doing so (underestimating such humble/common   ingredients) is a mistake as cream cheese/red beans/yuzu citrus ager  done this well and tasting this good can be exciting.   8/10

Overall food rating: 8/10 (Category: top tier Kaiseki in  Tokyo)  Kaiseki cuisine (in this case, Chef Ishikawa’s take on it) is very simple in appearance, thefore it can sometimes  gives the wrong impression  that it is hard to get excited about,  but  its  subtleties can  reveal a lot more than what its first impressions may suggest. Ishikawa was about that, and much more: great service , a sense of place, ingredients of the highest quality and more importantly …. a great sense of taste. Ishikawa has an understanding of flavor combination that floats my boat (always that little inspired touch that imparts either surprise or joy in mouth,for eg the rice cake of the miso soup –not the classic texture of rice cake, rather a texture close to marshmallow and it happened to be more effective than the other sorts of rice cakes in its intent to surprise/please. Or a zest of orange skin that tentalized and added a thoughtful kick to the snow crab’s broth ). I loved Ishikawa.

What I think weeks later: That rice, that rice …I do not know if their rice is always that stellar, but the one I was having was like no other rice.

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Takara, Montreal

Posted: November 3, 2014 in michelin star restaurant
Tags: ,

Takara
Cuisine: Japanese
Address: 1455 Rue Peel, Montréal, QC H3A
Phone:(514) 849-9796

Takara is located in the luxurious shopping mall of Les Cours Mont Royal. The restaurant has an elegant dark-wooden interior decor, certainly upscale for a Japanese restaurant in Montreal.

My food:

Takara, Montreal - Miso soup

A bowl of Miso soup (in its light version) was well made, the dashi (stock) of good quality, the seasoning flawless and its taste great, one of the better  bowls of Miso I ever enjoyed in Montreal. 8/10 by Montreal standards (as ever, not to be compared with what’s done abroad BUT this was properly achieved. PS: Miso soup has the reputation to be easy to make, and it is indeed easy, but as with anything that is easy …it is easy to make a decent one…hard to make a great one and that one was as great as a bowl of miso soup gets in Montreal) –

Takara, Montreal - Sushi

Then an assortment of nigiris and makis. Unmemorable, I am afraid: the makis poorly conceived (lacking in craftsmanship, the rice crumbling easily ). The seafood was not bad, not great neither. This was part of their lunch special, so probably this would have fared way better in the evening or outside that special. 4/10

Takara, Montreal - Eel

Barbecued eel (Unagi) was decent with nothing to rave about, no quibble to raise neither, though still nicely meaty in consistency and fresh tasting (no fishy-ness at all), the glazing sauce having great color while avoiding cloying texture. I prefer bolder chargrill flavor with my unagi, and a glazing sauce with extra depth, but this was   not bad at all.  7/10 by Montreal standards

Conclusion: 6/10 as my personal overall impression of this lunch special (they had couple of lunch specials, at  less than $20 /  my lunch special + 1 beer did  cost me slightly less than $30). I  have heard that they are doing better than this outside of that lunch special. As for the score of this lunch, it’s really the quality of the Miso soup that I was having as well as proper preparation of that unagi that weighed in the balance, or else it would more accurately have been a 5/10 meal in my assessment.

The Deli, Montreal’s forte (alongside other local staples like the poutine, cheesecake) as it is  virtually impossible to elect  the smoked meat by which you’ll  judge the other smoked meats in town:

You  need to try the major delis of Montreal, those most Montrealers usually consider as pertaining to their tier1 and tier2, which are the usual culprits: Schwartz‘s, Reuben’s, Smokemeat Pete’sThe Main, Jarry Smoked meat, Dunn’s, Snowdon Déli, Lesters, etc.

You have to try those since they can be really different from each other’s (the seasoning, the quality of the rye bread, some prefer rusticity, others opt for  refinement )  and the differences will tell you how inaccurate it is to hastily elect one smoked meat as the ultimate One.  As an example: isn’t that tempting to associate dry brisket with failure? Well, if you do so, you could be wrong because some have their dry brisket perfectly balanced by either seasoning or the perfect amount of mustard kick that would make the whole less exciting had that same  brisket been moist. The preparation can be completely different from a place to  another as some cover their brisket with spices, others do not, some have their meat easily breaking apart (considered as authentic to some), others do not (and that does not mean the brisket is less good..obviously),etc.  And examples of that sort abound and remind us  that you should not anticipate anything that sounds off-putting  as necessarily bad when it comes to the smoked meat.

I went back to one of Montreal’s major delis, Reuben (the one on 1116 Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest) after two years of no show. As soon as you enter the place, the attention to details jump to your eyes: this will be about refinement (for a deli in Montreal) all the way -> the art-deco inspired interior design is not overly flashy but  this is clearly Montreal’s best looking deli as far as décor is concerned, the staff looks good and is dressed well (again, by Deli standards).

ImageSliders ($20) rank  among the priciest sliders that I had in Montreal, but they  were also the finest ones I ever had in town since a long time. Amazing  textures and flavors, the bun beautifully leavened, the beef expressing flavors like few sliders in town do. Not one single flaw to be noticed: dry? NO, try ‘savourishly juicy’ instead! Tired looking bun? NO, more accurately of the ‘beautiful glossy golden’ color kind  with soft fresh risen dough. I had my share of sliders since the beginning of the year  (Le Hachoir, Bier Markt, Boccaccinos , etc), but those at Reuben’s fared far better to me. I have  no clue if Reuben’s sliders are always as impressive on a regular basis but  you’ll hardly get better sliders than those I was enjoying, even on gourmet tables, in town 9/10

French fries came with the sliders (you’ll be surprised by the laughable number of places that serve their sliders with nothing else), and their texture was great. They were not served enoughly hot, but that could have been intentional as to not burn your tongue ….I don’t know, I did not ask. Just guessing. Regardless, those were good French fries that would have been startling ones with extra heat and more expressive potato flavor. 7/10

ImageI went on with their 10 oz ‘famous super sandwich” (that’s how it’s called on their menu) – Ordering the smoked meat been obviously the main reason I came here. On their web site, they state that ‘’ Each plate is expertly hand-carved to order and served steaming hot”””, which was not just a statement but also an evidence. The quality of the meat, fresh rye bread,  and the genuine artisan skills at play are admirable here, but I found even more impressive the fact that they managed to deliver a gourmet-quality sandwich (great mastery in refining every aspect of the smoked meat: for eg, no bold seasoning at all, no aggressive mustard flavor, no overwhelming rich fatty brisket even with their fattier  smoked meats..AND YET, the balanced and controlled flavors are very enticing, tasting fresh and delicious)  without losing the soul of  its rustic version. I am saying this because many fans of the smoked meat do sometimes associate genuine smoked meat with messy fatty brisket or with dry over-seasoned one (try all the major Délis in town and you’ll get what I mean…but again, as I wrote earlier on, what sounds off-putting is NOT  necessarily a failure when it comes to smoked meats). Well, Reubens proves them wrong. Excellent  9/10

Last, I had their strawberry cheesecake (of the North American sort, of course), the strawberry not overripe nor undeveloped, served at timely ripeness, its  taste consequently savourishly fruity, its appearance of the fabulous deep red kind,   the cream cheese packed with a great kick of fresh lactic flavor, gorgeously sweet and tart sensations mingling together.  This is a speciality of Montreal, so many places are doing a great one but Reuben’s is largely one of the finest strawberry cheesecakes you’ll get in town. A flawless cheesecake in terms of the technical conception  as well as for the palatable enjoyment  9/10

Pros:  The refinement of their smoked meat generates a mouthfeel effect that’s as enjoyable as those of any  rich and flavorful rustic takes on the smoked meat. Another admirable feature is to observe that doing more than just smoked meat (steaks, burgers, etc …which WE Montrealers usually do not want from our  Delis…we want our delis to just focus on the smoked meat)  substracts nothing to the quality of those smoked meats. Furthermore, they don’t just do an excellent smoked meat but they also perform well when it comes to the non-déli items as demonstrated by sliders that had the edge over other versions found at  places specializing in burgers.  This is one of the few places in Montreal that seem to suffer from virtually no inconsistency.

Cons: The gentleman (40ish, relatively short, bald) serving us was polite, but I felt a bit rushed. Now, I live in Montreal  since a long time so I know where such thing should be treated as perfectly expected/normal, which was the case here. The reason I do mention this is because some people, especially from outside Montreal, could have a different interpretation of this. So here we go: there’s nothing wrong to that and I could have just asked him to slow down a bit.

Verdict – 9/10 (Excellent) in  its category (Deli). It’s being a long time that I live  in North America, and delis I have visited and re-visited. There will always be plenty of contradictory opinions about what the perfect Deli should be, and mine is that  Reuben’s is the  perfect all-rounder deli : refined and yet enjoyable, great cooking skills, nice décor, etc.      REUBEN’S DELI   1116 Sainte-Catherine W. Montreal, Qc 514.866.1029  http://reubensdeli.com/ – Visited on Wednesday March 19th 2014 18:00

***René Redzepi’s restaurant, Noma, is moving to Japan  for 2 months in 2015 http://noma.dk/japan/

***The revenge of the Sriracha sauce…- The Sriracha sauce, that sauce we thought condemned to humble oriental eateries…well, guess what..it seems to be the new trendy ingredient at many  restaurants   in town …  omg, who would have predicted that one? Next, I hope that the piri piri enjoys such fame too, lol. Anyways,  it is not my type to overlook /under-estimate  anything so I am not too surprised by the the Sriracha’s  rise to fame

***The Cabane à sucre of Chef Martin Picard‘s team continues to be an exciting of its genre. Many Chefs are now mimicking Chef Picard’s initiative but  whatever this man does …simply stands head and shoulders above anyone else’s actions because he is not interested to act different for the sake of being different, he is just different for real and this transpires in the very inspired form that his initiatives take. Any country needs a Chef like Martin Picard!

***Kyo maintains the bar high in regards to quality isakaya by Montreal standards, a surprise for me given that they do not benefit from the incredible popularity that some other restaurants are enjoying. My last meal there (click here) was another successful performance and their Chef, Chef Ding, is clearly one of the few genuine talents of this city.

***Another visit at Gourmet Burger on Bishop street (in Montreal)  and the Burger is still as delicious as I remember it from last time. Clearly my favourite burger in town. It’s a bit pricier than the average burger you’ll find in town, it is NOT t going to decrown any of the finest burgers that our US neighbors are munching on,  but it is certainly a burger that Montreal can be proud of.  My review of that  first burger there can be found here.

***Went back to my favourite ramen-ya in Montreal, Ramen Misoya and … this time the performance was inferior to what I’ve experienced on the last 3 visits, the ramen simply less pronounced in flavor and the texture less remarkable. Despite the less than impressive bowl, they remain, in my opinion, Montreal’s best bowl of Japanese ramen.

 

***Brazilian Chef Helena Rizzo named World’s Best Female Chef for 2014 . Chef Rizzo used to be a model and architect. She is currently at the helm of restaurant Mani Manioca in Sao Paulo, a restaurant balancing  contemporary innovative Brazilian fares with a deep respect of its traditions.  http://www.manimanioca.com.br/index.html

***World star Chef/restaurateur  Alain Ducasse has published a book on his favourite food destinations in London, UK . See here.  Monaco, Paris and New York also have also been covered by Chef Ducasse in other books already available in stores.

***A book on wines is making the headlines these days,  revealing lots of gory details about the wine industryIsabelle’s Saporta Vino Business.  Clearly the most controversial book (about wine)  since a long time. Check that out.

***Chef Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen nightmare  TV program is going to focus on UK Chefs around Europe. Click here, for more.

***Omnivore is a true revolutionary initiative  with fresh approaches/views on  the worldwide food /restaurant scene. Check out their latest publication.

Event: Dinner at Peter Luger
Addr: 178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211-6131
Phone: (718) 387-7400
Type of cuisine: American Steakhouse
Time/Date: Saturday Febr 23rd 2014, 18:00
URL: http://www.peterluger.com
Michelin star: 1

***NOTE – This meal at Peter Luger is listed on the left side of this blog among the other reviewed Michelin starred meals, since it is a Michelin starred restaurant at the moment of writing/posting this review. It goes without saying that the score that I did assign to it IS NOT to be compared with the score of the reviewed meals that  you’ll find there (PL is not a fine dining destination). That score reflects my appreciation of  PL  as a steakhouse delivering a North American Porterhouse steak of  world class standard, nothing  more, nothing less.  And in case you are the kind to believe that it is crazy to praise a place that  specialises in just one sort of  steak, then you are running straight into an instance where we’ll have to agree to ….disagree: for me, if  one thing is done better than anywhere else  (the North American Porterhouse cut of PL, in this case), then it deserves to be considered as highly as you’ll consider any other favourite food destination. Japanese people have got this since a long time (a specialist of pork cutlet, specialist of tempura, etc) and I’d rather admire a ‘specialist’ that does its craft beautifully rather than  … ‘a jack of all trades” playing it safely.

***Sorry, no pics – Just wanted to eat quietly with no hassle / distraction of photo nor note taking. After all, it’s a steakhouse, so the 1000th picture of their steaks or 3000th picture of their side of spinach won’t make those items look nor taste any better ;p

 

NY is not far from Montreal, so I recently spent a weekend in  NY to  see if  Peter Luger is still doing great especially after reports from some food journalists about PL losing a bit of its past glory (my 3rd visit here in 6 yrs).

Picked:
-The Porterhouse steak: The succulent beef flavor that shone through is a reminder that Peter Luger has mastered, for so long, the art of delivering the perfect North American porterhouse steak: this is one of the few great American steakhouses which dry aging technique of the meat is rarely paralleled. But there’s much more, of course: the right grade and the right cooking degree for the right cut. It’s a breeze to appreciate that they are genuinely obsessive about where that beef grew up, how well did it live, what was it fed with, how great and knowledgeable was the butcher behind that cut, how properly aged and hanged was the cut, etc. One of the few benchmark aged USDA prime Porterhouse (some complain about the sauce that’s underneath the steak…well, this adds to the character of that Porterhouse. If you can’t take it, simply ask them to serve it aside). 9/10
-Their legendary creamed spinach: deliciously rich as usual, though hardly something that anyone behind a kitchen should miss. Still, they do it well, it tastes good and it’s a perfect logical match to that Porterhouse steak 7/10
-Their old fashioned sauce: not too sure how that fares with their patrons, but their old fashioned sauce is not to my taste (I do not find that it pairs well with meat). Of course, a question of personal preference (anyways, the only time I am fine with sauce over my steak is when I eat it French-style as with steak au poivre) , especially since the sauce that’s underneath that Porterhouse largely suffices for me. I won’t score that sauce since this boils down to a matter of personal taste only (I am just not used to pair my steak with the flavor profile of this kind of sauce – a mix of sweet and savoury flavors which, for my palate, had following dominating aromas: horseradish/ tamarind/vinegar/molasse. There are, of course, more ingredients to the recipe, but those were the ones that my palate has primarily detected). I did replicate that sauce at home and after several tries, it now tastes almost like theirs, so that my palate gets used to it.  Yep, that is how food works lol: you do not like it, do not  ive up on it, just accompany your palate in gradually appreciating it and there will be more power to you ;p
-The fabled side of beacon, which I finally got to try this time (kept skipping that one on the past 2 visits): Decent thick slabs of porky meatyness, but beacon abound in North America, its preparation varying widely in quality and depth of deliciousness from one place to another, so it is hard for me to get excited over  their beacon. Certainly not bad, but there are definitely better beacon to be enjoyed across North America 6/10
-The dessert list here features typical classic American steakhouse dessert items (Ice cream, pecan pie, cheese cake, etc). This time, I tried  their Cheese cake (7/10) which was as classically well executed as it gets (as expected, New York style cheesecake that was and as I wrote, in its classic version), the schlag that I also tried being just Ok.

PL is what it is, not what you want it to be, which is exactly how things should work: it has its charms (the classic setting), its relative weaknesses (obviously, not a modern trendy fancy steakhouse so  if that’s what you are looking for, you’ve knocked at the wrong door + it’s not cheap) , its own character (old world charm). You learn to know what they are, if that pleases you, you go, if that does not fit, then you look elsewhere. I am delighted  to observe that  PL  remains as it is, which means at it has always been, regardless of the pressure that new trends put on our perceptions/appreciations: a classic house with personality.
I have read online arguments about PL being a tourist trap to some (100% pure BS! IMHO) , that they have suffered at some point from a shortage of Porterhouse, that they once had a matriarch who was second to none when it comes to selecting the finest meat and that perhaps her successors are not as diligent as she used to, but I have also spent 15 years in North America, enough time to familiarize myself  with most major NYC’s and USA’s steakhouses and came to the conclusion that if PL is a tourist trap, then the definition of tourist trap has evolved into a compliment. There’s no way a serious steak connoisseur  would confuse PL with a tourist trap. Has PL delivered the perfect Porterhouse steak on each of my 3 visits (I took the Porterhouse everytime I went there)? The answer is NO. On one particular visit, I could easily name  plenty of American steakhouses which Porterhouse was superior. But it’s naïve to attempt to convince oneself  about the definitive appreciation  to have of a  restaurant based on just one meal. You can judge the meal, which I do too and that is  fine, but not a restaurant. Which leads me to where I am getting at: on the two other visits, their Porterhouse outshone their major competitors by leaps with effective superior aging technique and far better sourcing of the meat. Are there steakhouses in NYC where I had more fun? Of course Yes. Are there better cost performance steakhouses?  Absolutely.  But again, ambience and better value have nothing to do with why I like Peter Luger: the quality of its Porterhouse!   I was impressed to see that PL continues to deliver some of this globe’s finest American Porterhouse steaks. The Porterhouse steak, their star item, remaining as glorious as ever.

Portehouse steak  (9/10), Appetizers (6/10), Sides (6/10 ), Service (7/10 )

Recommended: This  great article on America’s current finest steakhouses

For a long time, I thought Montreal could not resume back with its once exciting restaurant/bar scene (remember when the London bar/Altitude 737/Dome  were hot spots, the amazing food destinations like Le Cube,Bronté etc), but the city seems to be back on track with some latest remarkable openings:

***Restaurant Le Serpent seems to be a popular choice in  your Mtl restaurant searches. In one week alone, 152 people were looking for it on current web blog (see below table from the visitor logs  on my site).  For sure, most foodie web sites attract thousands of searches, but those are backed by money, agressive advertisements  and close relationship to the restaurant world. The most genuine  feel is always to be found on  a blog that advertises nowhere,  backed by no one, which is the case of this   unassuming blog of mine which only intent is to share with close friends/relatives.

STATS

***Montreal has now a new hip place in the form of Bier Markt (same location where la Queue de Cheval used to be, on René Levesque). Went there recently and I thought I was in New York or any big city with an exciting nightlife scene. The atmosphere there is second to none in town, at this moment: incredibly fun, full of people. I haven’t tried the food yet, but the bar offerings are top class and the quality of the beer simply exemplary. BM sets the bar in Montreal for this genre of destinations (bar/5 to 7 gatherings, etc).

***Chef Junichi Ikematsu of Montreal’s number 1 Sushiya (Jun I, that I have reviewed here) has  now opened Saka -Ba, a ramen bar on Le Plateau.  Here, for more infos.  Saka-Ba! 1279 Mont-Royal East, Montréal – Tél. 514-507-9885

***Remember Chef Joe Mercuri (from Ex-Bronté – Bronté used to be, easily, among Montreal’s top 3 finest food destinations)? He made his return recently and has opened restaurant Mercuri in the Vieux Port. Another stellar addition after the return of Joe’s cousin, Chef Michelle Mercuri (see my review of Le Serpent). Restaurant Mercuri 1279 Mont-Royal East, Montréal Tél. 514-507-9885

 

***New York: NY is not far from Montreal, so I recently spent a weekend in  NY and see if  Peter Luger is still doing great especially after reports from some food journalists about PL losing a bit of its past glory. I was impressed to see that PL continues to deliver some of this globe’s finest steaks. The Porterhouse steak, their star item, remaining as glorious as ever. PL is what it is, not what you want it to be, which is exactly how things should work: it has its charms, its weaknesses, its own character. You learn to know what they are, if that pleases you, you go, if that does not fit, there you look elsewhere. I want PL to remain as it is regardless of the pressure that new trends put on our perceptions/appreciations.

***Michelin France 2014: It’s published and France has a new 3 star Michelin, L’Assiette Champenoise in Reims. There are changes that I  did not quite understand like the 1 star assignment of Septime in Paris, which I did visit on past  trips in Paris and was so unimpressed that I did not even bother writing about, the demotion of Apicius, Auberge de l’Ill, Stella Maris. Anyways, there are always going to be happy and unhappy ones, so I won’t lose time on trying to convince why those places should not have lost their stars. I just hope that we find a way to avoid  turning the back to the past (classic cooking should not be overlooked just because new generations of diners find new-gen flavors more exciting).

***Legendary  French Chef Marc Veyrat becomes the first triple-starred Michelin Chef to launch a food truck initiativehttp://www.mesbocaux.fr/

***Catalan celebrity Chef Ferran Adria is back in  the news with a  new  restaurant (named ElBulli 1846??)  in 2016 – Click here to learn more.

 

***Legendary 3 star Michelin Maison Troisgros in Roanne, France will move to a new location (still in Roanne) in  2017.  Here, for more.

Major changes in today’s  Michelin France 2014 publication (plenty of action) :

***Following  ‘big names’ of France’s haute dining scene were demoted of their 2 stars:
Auberge de l’Ile (Lyon), Alain Senderens, Apicius (both in Paris) and Hostellerie Jérôme (La Turbie)

***Plaza Athénée (Paris) lost its 3 stars. Ok, this is not a shock per se, since they’ve closed it temporarily (will re-open in Spring)

***Stella Maris (Paris) lost its sole star. I know very well SM and actually ate there last year during my last visit to Paris.
All I can say is that the meal I had was of same level as plenty of 1 star Michelin in France that have retained their 1 star.  Other major restaurants that lost their 1 star: La Bigarrade (Paris), Michel del Burgo (Carcassonne), Le Divellec (Paris)

*** A new  three star (there are 27 in France): Assiette Champenoise (Reims) – Chef Lallement is also Gault et Millau France’s Chef the  year.

***Akrame (Paris) has now gained a second star.

***Es and Septime have now 1 star

My thoughts: Wow, that was an exciting publication. I am actually not surprised since new Michelin Director Michael Ellis has clearly opted for  fresh new views/approaches of the fine dining scene (such as encouraging younger Chefs). Michelin clearly adapting to new generations of diners (who would have thought that one day Auberge de l’Ile or Hostellerie Jérôme would have lost their stars??), the  newer  3 star  Chefs embodying the will of Michelin  to bring young Chefs to the forefront of France haute dining (Chef Lallement is 39, last year’s newer 3 star Chef Donckele is 36 ) .  As ever, the ‘existentialist’ character of what needs to be underlined or not remains a daunting task  doomed to be divisive: should we forget the highlights of the past?  If Yes, then we are wiping off an important part of our culinary traditions. Many might not care, but I do: what is life with no memory?  What is food if we do not know how it’s supposed to taste like?   What is running if we don’t take time to understand how to walk?  I am all for new discoveries, new talents, and there’s no need to panic for now (it’s not as if half of the classic French  restaurants have lost their stars and the latest young triple-starred Chefs have a solid base of classic French cooking backing their cuisine), but we shall never forget that food with no reference is like life with no soul.