Archive for the ‘ramen’ Category

ACCORDING TO THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE,   THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED PERMANENTLY —THIS REVIEW IS KEPT ONLINE FOR HISTORICAL REFERENCE.

The same local foodie who did notify me about the recent opening of Tsukuyomi (visited and reviewed here) has also mentioned  that another Japanese  eatery   opened its doors on Avenue du Parc, not far from the corner of Avenue St Viateur.  The name is Cocoro (Addr: 5407 Park Ave, Montreal, Phone:514-303-0332 ).  I checked the web to see if there is any mention of this, online, but no serious/reliable online source has yet mentioned its existence as of the day of my 1st visit (Thursday Aug 17th 2017), with the only two pertinent online mentions of this restaurant being the restaurant’s Google profile and its facebook page,  so I went to find out.

Cocoro all black interior has the looks of a  simple bistro.  It also has a terrace that was not open on the day  of my visit. When you push open their glass door, you are immediately welcomed by a noren. The waitstaff explained that they do not have their alcohol license yet, but  that  it is coming soon.

Remembering the superb and genuinely Japanese donburi   as well as chicken karaage I had at Nozy — which are reviewed here (easily the most “genuinely Japanese” of any donburi and chicken karaage I had in Montreal), I wanted to see how they would fare under Cocoro’s roof.

I started my meal with their Tokyo ramen, which broth is made of  pork and chicken  (the noodles that are used are of the  thin wavy sort), light and yet  flavorful. For those in the know (people who  made ramen at a serious level for a long time), it was evident that lots of skills went into that broth (well judge timing, superb sense of seasoning, great work of the  flavor, etc).  The  waitress explained that the Japanese Chef (born and trained in Tokyo) has just arrived from Japan around 1 month ago and it shows: the seasoning of his broth was as genuinely bold as it is the case with most bowls of tokyo style ramen in Japan, with the necessary kick of salt present (I am insisting on this because lots of food journalists and food  reviewers do inaccurately report saltiness as a fault. They just do not know when saltiness is a lack of judgement and where it should be expected. Saltiness may be the pet peeve of the health-conscious world but culinary-wise, salt is what makes certain dishes great. It is therefore important to remind people that for certain types of ramen, a certain level of  saltiness is required. You take that away, your ramen will be something  else. I mean, if all you can taste in a broth of this quality is just salt, then you have some homework to do before talking about ramen: go, spend years enjoying ramen across Japan, then come back and see if  you are now  able to differentiate “necessary kick of saltiness” from the “oversalty”).  For a ramen bowl in Montreal, this was  impressive as  not one single detail was  spared: the yolk of the egg had the wet-appearing center that a serious ramen fan will look for as it helps the egg melting with the broth, an aspect that’s important as it just makes the ramen tasting better, the texture of the chāshū  チャーシュー  was the best I ever saw in Montreal ,  the noodles were precisely cooked to aldente doneness, the use of   julienne strips of the white  part of a Japanese leek (Shira Negi)– which they did use as a topping for the ramen —  is rare at our local ramenyas.  One benchmark bowl by LOCAL ramen standards. 10/10

Chicken karaage was another demonstration of the great sense of seasoning of the Chef. This time, the seasoning intentionally not strong (there is not just 1 way to make and season chicken karaage and this example was one legit version of a chicken karaage), but well balanced, with a quip, though: some pieces of chicken had a surface that was tough to tear apart. Given the skills on display during this meal and the ensuing one, I would not lose a sleep over that quip, as anyone familiar with advanced Japanese cooking techniques would not fail to observe that the Chef karaage technique is on point (again, regardless of that quip). The only limitation, for this  Chef, will come from the quality of our poultry (it is not bad, and Cocoro is using quality poultry, but it is not as great as the poultry in Japan) – but that is not the problem if this kitchen.

Talking about the quality of the ingredients in Montreal: the owner came to say hello to every client and when she dropped by my table, she said she would like, at some point in the future, to start importing ingredients  from Tokyo’s  Tsukiji market,  wagyu from Japan, etc. I appreciate her ambition but let us  be clear about this: the Montreal foodie scene is not ready for that. I gather that by reading my blog you may think that I dislike our local restaurant scene, and  that it was all logical that I would suggest that our local foodie scene is not ready for superb Japanese ingredients flown in from Japan, but thinking  that way is wrong: I am an untiring  advocate of the best aspects of our foodie scene in a way that I have always bragged about our smoked meat, poutine, cheesecakes.  They are the best in the world. Classic Quebecois cuisine is amazing, and I never miss an opportunity to mention that. In the heydays of Martin Juneau at la Montee, I did not hesitate to notice that he was (BACK THEN) up there with the very best Chefs of this globe. I did the same thing when Martin Picard was cooking. It was also the case for Hughes Dufour (Hughes is still an active Chef and he is now a star  in the competitive and  real world class foodie destination of New York), Jean-Francois Belair when he was working at le Marly and another world class Chef, Chef  Jean-Paul Giroux (who used to be at Cuisine et Dependance). Even today, there are still  local Chefs of which, I keep saying that, in their prime, they are are capable of world class cooking:  Michele Mercuri (Le Serpent), Olivier De Montigny (La Chronique), Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly  (Marconi) . So, NO…I do not dislike our foodie scene. What I cannot stand is the bullshit that surrounds this foodie scene: selling  Montreal as a foodie destination when any serious foodie knows that  it is everything you want..but  NOT  a proper foodie destination. Let us talk between  adults, here: Montreal, you managed to  convince San Pellegrino’s listing of the  top restaurants of the globe that an eatery selling lobster spaghetti should be in its top 100. You are certainly a hero  on the marketing aspect, a big zero foodie-wise. Marketing is important, but what makes a foodie destination serious is its ability of having an effective restaurant scene which performance can justify what is advertised  (which are what Paris/Tokyo/New York/London are about). Montreal has a restaurant and foodie scene that is, in general, at the opposite end  of what is promoted as evidenced by the never ending number of cooks who are more interested by opening restaurants to simply make a buck (when all you do is to parade on TV and you leave your restaurants in the hands of poorly trained cooks, that is the only thought that comes to mind, obviously), cooks who are celebrated as geniuses when the so-called geniuses do not even know how to season their food, etc. When Chef Belair was at le Marly and Michele Mercuri at XO Le Restaurant, they were both cooking world class food, but the Montreal foodie scene never knew what that meant… – Anyways, I like Montreal and do believe that when you like something, you have to be honest about it. And that is what I am doing. And to be honest, the great fish of the Tsukiji market +  best wagyu of Japan ..that  is not a good idea in the context of Montreal because the only two local restaurants that are selling the best fish and red meat from abroad are not “mainstream” restaurants, they cater to a “niche” of people driving luxurious cars and smoking expensive cigars… that is the only way they could “survive” in the context of the Montreal restaurant scene because the local foodie scene does not know how to appreciate that.

Back to the main topic, my meal at Cocoro. Impressed by the skills on display during my initial meal, I went back the following evening (there are currently just 4 food items on their menu. The 4 food items that are reviewed in my post. The staff explained that there will be  more items, soon,  in September):

Kaisen Donburi (sashimi rice bowl) is easy … right? Just rice, some pieces of raw seafood, some salmon roe, some basic toppings. Those in the know, those who really  did it, those people  know that is not that easy. Well, it is easy to make an ordinary bowl of rice, for sure. A bit more difficult to find Chefs who pull this  off brilliantly. What I was having was one of the best Kaisen Donburi I ever had in Montreal, the Chef’s skills so evident in the superbly well executed savory tamago (even in Tokyo, it does not always  look that refined and appealing to the eyes…)  he did cut in small pieces, dices  of fresh quality squid, salmon, tuna revealing great knife skills and lots of finesse in the overall execution. The rice was also tasty, which is not always the case at plenty of  Japanese restaurants across  North America.  This was a reminder that simple food like this can dazzle….only in skilled hands.  Even the accompanying sweet soya was of nice quality. Beautiful skills! 9/10

I also ordered their udon made in a mix of  bechamel sauce / dashi bouillon, a Franco Japanese offering that is right now trendy in Tokyo. You have your  proper classic French Bechamel, not as rich as your old school French bechamel sauce,  therefore “lightened”  and that works well with the dashi bouillon. In the dish, there were also some morsels of quality chicken that were cooked not too tender, not too firm (for proper chew).  As it was the case during the two meals, the attention to details was remarkable (the doneness of the noodles always well timed so that it is never mushy, never too hard, the noodles always holding well to their respective sauces or broths, the timing of the cooked vegetables was also well mastered, resulting in  vegetables of vivid textures/colors..not a common feature at our local restaurants). A successful dish 8/10

Overall food rating: 8/10 A TRUELY skilled Chef who masters the fundamentals of cooking well (salty where it has to, tasting mild or strong exactly where need be, great sense of timing, great sense of textures/temperatures/colors, great palate, etc).

Bottom line: Culinary-wise I now have two “preferred” Japanese eateries in Montreal. Cocoro and Nozy. Eventhough the Japanese presence is more serious than it used to be,  on our local restaurant scene, Nozy and Cocoro are, right now, among the rare restaurants that seem to deliver the flavors that will get you, in Montreal,  as close as it’s possible to the motherland (which is not a light  feature when you consider  that you are located at 10,383 kms away from it).

What I think days later: Let us see how Montreal will react to yet another good Chef. Are we going to pursue with that bad habit of trying to alter what others have been doing successfully for ages (Yes, Montreal, you know what I mean by that! Some  local Japanese eateries  were great   and you started complaining about the bold genuine flavors of  their  food. They  did adapt to you and  were not the  same anymore!!). So if one day this Chef is not who he  is anymore , you will have just our laughable clueless foodie scene to blame. And to the Montreal foodie scene, I have this to add:  you should start ditching your  “it is too good to be true” mentality as that is making your foodie scene “tasting bland” btw!!! … In Tokyo, Paris, London, New York, they think  that “it can truely always be consistently great”, no wonder why they are world  class foodie destinations! Mind you, they have the “collective” mindset to make that happen …and you do not!!!

Advertisements

Knowing my profound  admiration  for  Japanese food, a local foodie friend has notified me about the recent opening of two Japanese eateries in Montreal and I went trying both: Tsukuyomi (current review) was visited on Wednesday Aug 16   and I did dine at  Cocoro (reviewed here) on Thursday Aug 17.

Tsukuyomi (Addr: 5207 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, QC Phone:  514-273-8886) is located on St Laurent Street, almost at the  corner of Fairmount. They are essentially making ramen : a veggie tonkotsu Pork bone broth + veggie topping), Chashu tonkotsu (Porkbone broth + braised pork belly topping), which is what I picked, a chicken tonkotsu (Pork bone broth + boiled chicken topping) as well as a Vegan ramen (Vegan broth + vegetable topping). Each bowl costing $13. Sides are Edamame (salted green soya beans) $3,  a daily Vegan salad $4, Goma-ae boiled spinach with sesame sauce 4$, Tokowasa wasabi flavored octopus with nori seaweed 4$, Mini Chashu Don (Braised pork on top of the rice), steamed rice $2.  They also have Sapporo/La fin du monde beers as well as Kocha Japanese milk tea/Matcha honey green tea/Ramune Japanese soda/Sencha green tea.

The   woody  interior mimics faithfully the North American idea of a casual Japanese eatery, and   there are seats with partial views on the opened kitchen.

What I ate:

Takowasa – Wasabi flavored octopus with nori seaweed. Pieces of octopus marinated in a sugar/wasabi mixture. Had the wasabi be of the “grated root”  type  (which you will NOT  find at a  restaurant in Montreal, this would have been a hit. Alas, as expected, the wasabi paste found in Montreal, which was used here, is way too pungent to complement the flavor of octopus.

Pork bones based Tonkotsu ramen was   second to the one at Yokato Yokabai, with a broth that was not  as deep and complex in flavor as I wished, but certainly pleasant with some Ok  chashu and semi firm boiled egg yolk that I , as well as plenty of ramen fans, prefers with a wet-appearing center (which I was missing, here) for the simple reason that it tastes better when it melts with the soup (the main reason why ramen has an egg in it). Still, I prefer this ramen than what you will get at most   ramenyas  in town.

Overall food rating: 6/10 (Categ: ramenya in Montreal) The Chef is Japanese and it shows: the food has genuine Japanese flavor. That said, he should use better judgement (true, the wasabi marinated octopus is a great idea, but if you do not have the right wasabi, do not insist on it…).  I will go back as it remains one of the rare bowls of ramen I liked  in Montreal (behind Cocoro / Ramen Misoya / Yokato Yokabai).

 

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. 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 (mix of chicken and 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.

RAMEN MISOYA, MONTREALRamen Misoya
2065 Bishop St, Montreal
Phone:(514) 373-4888
https://www.facebook.com/ramenmisoyamontreal

I was, within the past 3 months,  focusing on the ramen in Montreal. The general level of ramen here is obviously not to be compared to what you can get in Vancouver  or in the US given that there’s currently no real competition and the demand is not that demanding neither. Of course, it will be ridiculous to start any comparison to ramen in China or Japan. So, I’ll stick the comparison local, which means between Montreal ramenyas.

I am familiar with the ramenyas in Montreal (there are no tons of them, and it’s relatively not that pricey…although I can understand the dissenting voices about bowls of ramen in Montreal  that are pricier than the finest ones abroad), but for this round up, I re-paid a visit to them to get a fresher opinion of their works. I won’t start a comparative exercise of ramenyas in Montreal since you have plenty of blog reviews that will let you do that. Instead, I’ll just tell you which ramenyas I believe stood as the finest of this roundup.

Two of them are what I believe to be Montreal finest ramenyas at this moment:
-Ramen Misoya (for the Japanese-style ramen)
-Yuki Ramen (chinese-style ramen)

***Ramen Misoya is a branch of New York’s Ramen Misoya. For what it worths, ramen fans in Montreal do consider it as one of the rare authentically Japanese ramen shops in town.What’s authentic? What’s real Japanese ramen? I’ll let that to the debate that awaits you over the tons of various examples of ramen out there in Japan, each promoted as being more authentic than the other, but good luck in explaining authenticity when it is that varied, Lol!. Something is sure, at Ramen Misoya they are clear about the ramen they are doing (which is not the case of many ramenyas in Montreal where simple question to the staff ..about the style and origin location of the ramen they are serving…was met with vague answers…it’s not as if I am asking you whether your noodles were handmade or not, which I never ask since I do believe only in what I see……..). They focus on ramen only, and on one style of ramen, which is miso ramen (hence their name), and that’s already a sign of a serious ramenya (avoiding the ‘Jack of all trades’ syndrome ensures greater focus/mastery in what you do). Even from people who loved RM in Montreal, I heard about possibility of the meat being either inconsistent or the broth too salty, so I went there at least 3 times with several weeks apart, to find out:
(1)On my first visit, I picked the Mame Miso, which my  waitress described as having a taste a bit reminiscent of beef bourguignon. It has a salty kick that’s less expressive than on usual Miso based ramen, so the choice to go for those who are sensitive to salt, a medium body texture which, by Montreal ramen standard, is simply the most perfected and concentrated ramen broth you’ll get at this moment in this city. Its flavor simply superior to any other ramen found in Montreal. Then there were the pork morsels themselves: packed with great flavor, boasting perfect meat to fat ratio, balanced between ideal firm to tender consistency, the noodle thin and wavy providing the right bite to chew on. Again, the pork morsels I had were ones that the other ramenyas in town do not get close to. Even the fried shrimp tempura laid atop had fresh deep shrimp flavor, its texture great, a successful piece of tempura.
(2)On my  two subsequent visits I focused on the Kome miso ramen, with 4 weeks between the two Kome miso soups. As expected from most miso-based ramen, the salt concentration is the highest of all ramen. My only concern, based on reading some reviews prior to visiting them, was that the salty-ness was  overwhelming which to me would have been a big disappointment . Well, after sampling this ramen twice, I can tell that anyone who has cooked seriously for a while will quickly realize that this is not overwhelming salty-ness at all.  Let me explain: you can’t get to such flavorful miso flavor full of character by trying to trim down the level of salt. Of course, you can lower the level of the salty-ness, but you’ll end up with a miso ramen that has  no depth (it’s  exactly why most of the other miso based ramen in Montreal taste like broths with no personality!! ). So Salty, Yes, indeed, as expected from a Miso ramen that has depth. Over-salted? Nope, not for a miso with this level of flavor concentration and great work of its texture. Any lack of consistency with the Pork morsels? Nope, to the contrary the texture, flavor, cooking of the morsels of pork were as balanced and well done as on any of the 3 visits. Noodles? Same thing: well timed cooking of the noodles, with a balanced chew (never too hard, never limpy neither).  If you have been seriously cooking since a long time and have developed a sense of detail for such things as perfecting flavor combinations and textures, you’ll admire the level of the cooking here, a level that is simply strong for the current level of local ramenyas.
My impression: I was impressed by Ramen Misoya (in regard to what can be found in Montreal). For sure if you are the kind of bragging about having seen it all with ramen, that you have known the best of them in Japan, etc then NO…stay where you are, Lol…you won’t understand why I am impressed. But if you keep your expectations realistic, which means comparing the comparable (Montreal ramenyas to Montreal ramenyas), then YES, you’ll get what I mean. You boot with a huge advantage when you can clearly express what you are trying to achieve with your ramen, when the customer clearly understands the style, the origin, the story behind that ramen. It’s right there  half of the fun and appreciation of what you are doing. They’ve covered that part without problem.  Then my years of cooking switched to their  other side, the technique, the work of flavors, the work of textures and here again, they continued to shine leaving all current competition in town, far behind.
My verdict, by the finest Montreal ramenya standards (Benchmark>Strong>Good>Fair>Weak): Strong.

***Yuki Ramen (Chinese style ramen):  the only place of which you can obviously say that the ramen is indeed made from scratch since there’s no place to hide, they are doing it right before your eyes and it’s spectacular. This, right there, gives YR a huge advantage in my books. As someone who has cooked since his tender childhood, part of the appreciation of my food are elements that I can see, efforts that I can really talk for.  Of course your food should be also tasty. On the aspect of tasty-ness, it’s important to understand that Chinese style ramen seem to have less daring flavors compared to most Japanese ramen, which could appear less tasty to someone not used to that kind of more classic ramen flavor profile. But their broth, toppings, work of the texture and flavors (picked their Pork ramen, they serve it with some hanjuku egg) at Yuki Ramen are as good as you’ll get from a Chinese ramenya shop in Montreal presently.
Verdict: Strong by Montreal ramen standards (of course, not to compare with Japanese style ramen places…it’s obviously not the same thing at all).