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What is HOT and what is NOT right now in Montreal : Right now, ONLY the few eateries with artisan Chefs (Chefs REALLY working in their kitchen) worth a detour, in town, namely  Le Serpent, La Chronique,  Nozy, Marconi. Pay big respect to Toque! as well as Le Club Chasse et Peche!  I went to Toque! twice. The 1st time was superb, the second just Ok but Toque! is certainly a destination restaurant by Montreal restaurant standards. LCCP was amazing under Chef  Claude Pelletier, not as stellar as in those days, anymore,  but it remains a top tier  table for Montreal.

BIG UP to the best poutine (but NOT the one at la Banquise…Nah!!))  and smoked smeat (Reuben’s Deli is still one of the very best in town) in the world, their  happening is right here in YUL! Ou bagels, our cheesecakes are also the best in the world.

According to the latest local buzz, Manitoba/L’Express/Impasto/Le Vin Papillon/Cadet/Lawrence/Le Mousso/Hopkins/Bar George and Tuck Shop  are doing a fine job lately. I have not been to Kitchen Galerie in a long time, but most foodies I know seem to continue to find it good.

At the end of the day, whatever the local hype is  trying to sell to you, the wisest thing to do is to remember that the restaurant  scene in Montreal  continues, in general,  to be a pale copy of what was done, at least 2 to 5 years ago, in the true foodie destinations found abroad. That is the TRUTH!  You know…when you manage to convince an International list of restaurants like the “San Pellegrino’s top 100 best restaurants in the world”  that your best restaurant is that one that’s selling spaghetti found at the supermarket, served with some lobster (I just came from Greece and most  casual eateries do serve  lobster spaghetti because it is easy to sell, but somehow, in Montreal that was enough to be a revelation ), you truely are a joke! And it is not even funny…

Anyways,  the Montreal foodie scene is hardly going to be a serious foodie scene for at least another 10 years, easily, as our best Chefs have long abandoned their stoves (Martin Picard) or  have simply deserted  Montreal (Jean-François Bélair, Hughes Dufour, Jean-Paul Giroux). Of that generation of gifted Chefs, there is Martin Juneau who is still around, especially on TV, but Martin is not the brilliant Chef that he used to be in his heyday at La Montée (in those days, Martin was easily a world class Chef…BUT that was 10 years ago!!!).

When you look at the restaurant reviews on this blog, my reviews have  covered restaurants that are mainly abroad . There are actually 10  times more restaurants reviewed on this log that are not located in Montreal than there are from Montreal. On a blog which focuses on what’s supposed to stand out in Montreal, that speaks for itself.

 

Being a critic is NOT as easy as some may think. Far from that. I am not talking about the common restaurant-friendly food write-ups wildly found online.  I am talking about serious ppl who are willing to say things the way they are, and most importantly, who bother about knowing what they are talking about.

Not to sound pretentious (btw, as explained elsewhere on this blog, I do not have the pretention of being a food writer or food blogger. I am not. I am sharing my dining experiences of an anonymous/normal diner with foodies who help me find eateries abroad when I travel and this is just sharing back with them. As it is easier to simply put that on a website, it was all natural to post my experiences on a blog. That is it. Nothing more, nothing less), but my 20 years of analyzing the restaurant industry helped me composing the following list of the characteristics of  a great food critic (again, as I just mentioned, I am not a critic):

1.Are you capable to separate your analysis of the food from your feelings of the dining experience?  On MY blog, an amateurish blog, written by someone who is not a food critic, I gave a 9/10 for the food of a restaurant of which I hated the dining experience. In my post, both feelings were clearly expressed while avoiding being unfair to the kitchen (not their fault if the front house is amateurish). If an amateurish food blog like mine can do this, needless to stress that more is expected from a food critic.

2.Do you know what you are talking about? It took me 25 years of familiarizing myself with Brazilian food before deciding to review a Brazilian restaurant. And by familiarizing, I meant eating serious mom and pop traditional brazilian food for 25 yrs. And that is food that is very close to the food I grew up with, btw! 20 yrs of eating serious / genuine Russian and Romanian food  are still not enough, for me to decide reviewing both cuisines. And we are talking here about someone who is cooking seriously since his tender childhood. Again, not to brag, but to make the point that if an amateurish critic like me goes to such extent, you can imagine what needs to be expected as the minimun  to be a REAL critic/ food journalist/food writer.  Most food journalists / food writers review Japanese food when the closest they got to Japan was to drink Sake. They are as clueless about most cuisines. I recall a food journalist putting down a dessert perfumed with rose, at an afghan restaurant in Montreal, because for her the fragrance of rose is just good for soap. A true ignorant disguised as a critic. Worst, most of them are known to the food industry, therefore you can easily imagine how the way they are treated has nothing to do with what the normal/anonymous diner will experience, making their opinions utterly useless to someone who wants to get a serious idea of the reality that he will face at the restaurant he chose to dine at

3.Do you feel the need to please an audience? Most do. But that is right there the very first sign that you are not a serious critic.

4.Do you really know what needs to be assessed? It is an important question to ask yourself as a critic. As an example, many so-called professional critics  do assess   classic food  as “tired” only because they do not know how to differentiate an average classic dish from its better versions. They basically just associate excitement with novelty, and do not have the proper knowledge to dig deep in anything that is not ..novel. There is also a lot of ignorance about textures/doneness/temperatures: your meat is tender? then it is good. Your meat has a firmer consistency, then it is not, etc. And they do that regardless of the type of cuisine they are assessing, which is the perfect recipe to spread inaccuracies.  A good critic SHOULD BE INFORMED about  the notion of doneness/textures/temperatures that is proper to the cuisine that he is assessing. Or else. what is he assessing??

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My last visit at le Serpent (Addr: 357 rue Prince, Montreal; Phone: 514-316-4666) was a long time ago. It was a big hit, when it opened, and their Chef, Michele Mercuri, is a Chef capable of world class cooking, but I was curious to see if it is still one of the better tables in Montreal. Past meals are reviewed here and here.

Remembering the dazzling all’onda  risotti of Chef Michele Mercuri, I had to order the seafood risotto again. Every Chef has his touch and with true focus on the matter, you won’t fail to connect a dish to his creator. I doubt Michele has cooked this one, as it was not as dazzling as only himself can make it. But hey…it was really good,  all’onda and delicious. Whoever has cooked this risotto did a fine job. 7/10

Lamb was cooked sous vide. Again, seasoned really well (meaning judiciously, with enough punch/excitement). Wild peas and a  very minty sort of “pesto” that both added to the enjoyment of the dish. Delicious and really well conceived. This was a daily offering, which I suggest you always order at any restaurant where the Chef is skilled  (the case here) as, naturally, it is the opportunity for his skills  to shine through 7.5/10

Strawberry mousse, white chocolate, rhubarb and strawberry sorbet tasted fine and  I can see, now,  that  Pastry Chef Masami Waki is  better than what I initially thought —  (she is a consultant here, therefore not present at the restaurant but the kitchen brigade did assemble her creations and they are of a good pastry standard).

Overall food rating: 7.5/10 A reliable standard of cooking that continues to deliver some of the better restaurant food in town. Seasoning/flavors, everything was on point. And yes,  Pastry Chef Masami Waki’s fans were right … she is more talented than what my assessment of her take on the Tiramisu (check that out here) would suggest. Eventhough Pastry chef  Masami Waki is some sort of “consultant” for this house, whatever she is asking that kitchen brigade to do/replicate/mimmick/assemble… sounds right (except for her tiramisu, it seems…). It will not dazzle, but it feels right.

Bottom line: I was  not floored, this time,  and I kinda found the bill a bit too “ambitious” for what was on display, but I will come back here before returning to plenty of popular local eateries that I tried recently, which is a comment that I have rarely appended to my restaurant reviews in Montreal.

What I think days later: It is against Chef Michele Mercuri usual standards that I assessed this meal and in that regard, it was good, not startling. But this kind of “good” is already a lot by our local restaurant standards, standards that are as laughable as that local restaurant that just opened and that I recently reviewed and that every single so called local food expert is raving about but that can’t even season its food correctly. Yeah, I know, lol, that’s Montreal: you can be a culinary genius here, without any knowledge of the basics of cooking. At least, of Le Serpent, I can say that I am not referring to them when I have to remind myself that we have an amateurish restaurant scene . Le Serpent is a great restaurant by Montreal standards. It could be even better, but in Montreal, that would not be necessary.

Greece
My first time in Greece. Particularly liked Santorini famous caldera view. Mykonos is perfect for beach parties and Delphi was a highlight for me.  On the culinary front, I need to ask: What’s wrong with those tourists who go to Greece and stick to gyros and souvlaki, lol? There is much more than that in Greece. I went there, and enjoyed plenty of decent food that have nothing to do with the gyros and the souvlaki. A recap of my hellenic journey here.
My Wall of fame of the 1st quarter of 2017: Nozy, Marconi (Montreal), Sushi Azabu, Le Coucou, Ichimura and Dons Bogam (New York), Argo (Santorini), and the old tavern of Psaras (Athens). Hvor in Montreal has been a highlight, too, but Chef Sarto is taking a break, so I’ll drop by and see how things are under the new Chef.

My wall of shame: my oysters at Docks Oyster House (Atlantic city), my meals at Miss Favela (Brooklyn) and  Taverna Vizantino (Athens).

 

Sushi Oono review is the most popular among the readers of this blog –  Based on WordPress stats, my review on Sushi Oono is extremely popular, these days. Second only to the one on  Montreal’s finest steakhouses. This blog is  meant for my own “foodie documentation” and as a FYI for close foodies, relatives, friends who love dining out. But I am also responsive in the sense that if the stats on WordPress lead me to believe that a specific article is very popular, then I need to go out my way and “shed some light” on what was written. Not that I care about the impact of my opinion (I do not…we no not live in North Korea, so I do not have to justify my thoughts. And honestly, I could not care less. But, listen,  in the case of Sushi Oono, since you seem to go crazy about it, lately, I do care a bit. I do, because Tokyo is one of the few REAL foodie destinations of the world. This would be Montreal, and I would say..let it be!! Let that overrated self-marketed foodie city deal with its own reality, meaning its fake reputation! But Tokyo does not deserve that. Really NOT!  Therefore, my review on Sushi Oono has to be taken in this very specific  context: Sushi Oono would be a top tier Sushiya anywhere around the globe. But in Tokyo, with their crazy competitive Sushi market, things are a bit different. That said, be careful: Yes, I have familiarized myself with high end sushi for a certain time, now. But I am not Japanese. Therefore, there will always be “certain things” that are ” lost in the translation”. At least, I do an effort to pinpoint my weaknesses, but YOU…as a smart diner, GO AND TRY and see for yourself. Food is subjective. No one is perfect. One good example is this: in my review of Sushi Oono, I was rude about the dry crab. Yes, but some Japanese love it that way. The same way as I love some dishes I grew up to consider as stellar but that others would find hard to love. That is the reality of having an opinion: the opinion is just what it is ..OUR OWN PERSONAL OPINION! The best way for you to identify what you like, it is to go and find out!!

When a tourist trap is a fabrication of the mind — I know people who see tourist traps everywhere. When I was in Cinque Terre, I even saw ppl confusing the fabulous cooking of A Cantina da Mananan (Addr: Via Fieschi, 117, 19018 Corniglia SP, Italy Phone: +39 0187 821166) with the food of a tourist trap. I have no clue if A Cantina da Mananan  is bad, right  now, but reducing the dazzling cooking that this restaurant  was pulling off in those days to tourist trap’s food just confirms that either your knowledge of food is concealed in some kind of limitation (limited to contemporary cooking?) or cooking is not your thing at all. Cinque Terre, when I was there, was actually the proof that tourist trapping has nothing to do with a place being touristy or not. Tourist trap is the demonstration of your inability , as an entrepreneur, to do things right, a lack of pride, the work of bums. In touristy locations like Cinque Terre and Santorini, the best food I had was a reminder that there are honest and talented ppl working seriously in touristy locations. Cinque Terre and Santorini were beautiful parts of the world where everything tasted far fresher and gloriously delicious than in many parts of Italy and Greece. The best food of Santorini and Cinque Terre were cooked on a beautiful planet that was ages away from the sad swathes of muddy lands of THAT  supposedly legendary seafood destination of Atlantic city that served me some gloriously frozen oysters OR  the equally life-shattering frozen fish I was fed on in Sicily while eying at the crystal blue waters of the mediterranean sea.

 

 ​MONTREAL – On the fine dining front, Atelier Joel Robuchon in Montreal was the major restaurant opening of 2017.  I went eating at AJRM in January. It  did deliver the type of cooking I  came to expect from the big majority of the celebrated restaurants in Montreal: some predictable/safe cooking, but of course…it can always be much more inspired when the food journalists or poster-diners have snatched a seat as  can be observed in the interesting difference between what I did experience Vs what stood as a life-shattering revelation to our  food journalists (just google what the food journalists have raved about and enjoy the bromance!).  At least, I can’t say that I did not know what I was getting into: as predicted  in my review of Atelier Joel Robuchon Montreal  ” Occasional local diners as well as our local food jounalists will  be impressed while well travelled foodies will be expecting more in light of the standards that AJR has set elsewhere” –  our local  food journalists were inevitably going to  have a blast, a totally different experience from anonymous /normal customers).

Fortunately, I also found, in Montreal, some restaurants that are cooking great food no matter who you are, and as it should be at  serious restaurants:  Nozy is a  gem I discovered this year, with a true skilled Japanese Chef cooking the genuine food of his motherland. I wish long years of success to this amazing true artisan Chef, and plenty of rewards for not running his restaurant from home (directed at  the myriad of pseudo cooks in Montreal, whose head got big, and are at home, watching tv, while their poorly trained assistants are left to themselves cooking food that should not be served at a restaurant).

Two other local restaurants impressed me during this first quarter, Hvor  with a brilliant  Chef at the helm, as well as Marconi of Chef Mehdi Brunet Benkritly, the last real  Chef that Au Pied de Cochon really had. Hvor, in particular, coming to the rescue right after my just correct / safe meal at Atelier Joel Robuchon in Montreal.

In little India , Maison Indian Curry House  has consistently delivered the best lamb curry  in town, but the lamb curry is not as consistently good as it used to be (sometimes, some of the chunks of meat are hard, while others are tender and  you need to ask them for the non spicy lamb curry, as the spicy sort is not that great). Their thalis and naan bread are not the best in town, all the rest is fine enough to keep MICH among my go-to places.

I also tried Gandhi and the Taj.  Gandhi is not bad, not the best in town, neither,  but  it is a way too pricey for what I was  getting. Le Taj is pretty, but I was not as satisfied, about its food, as much as at some of the restaurants of Little India.

I finally tried the very popular Escondite, which owners are very successful restaurateurs opening plenty of restaurants inspired from various types of cooking: japanese, hawaian and, in the case of Escondite, mexican. I am usually a bit sceptic about that formula (looking for the concept  that sells)  as it is, usually,  mainly about business (japanese style bistrot sells, so let us open one / tapas sells, so let us do the same thing),  rather than the type of artisan Chef cooking (a true artisan Chef who has mastered his craft his entire life and cooks with heart, first ) I deem worthy of my hard earned money, but hey… heart is not going to make you rich, lol, and the owners of Escondite are not promising artisan Chef cooking. Furthermore, they are opening pleasant restaurants offering enjoyable  food and that was the case of Escondite.

I was also curious to look into some of the major sushiyas in town, so I turned to the  local food experts (food journalists, etc), hoping that their recommendations could be useful. They seemed to have found world class sushiyas ran by exceptional itamae, so off I went to find out. Before I elaborate about my incredible findings, I just want you to know that sushiya/sushiyasan/itamae are generally terms that I use not just to enrich any vocabulary or showing up whatever kind of knowledge, but solely by respect to the true Japanese Craftmanship that we know as Sushi making. But in Montreal, whenever you see me using those terms,  keep in mind that it’s with the deliberate intent to be… sarcastic (rightly so, btw). Montreal is not making sushi. It is just molding rice and leaving pieces of fish on it. It could be whatever kind of rice, and anything that bears resemblance to a fish, does not need to be a fish — to be honest with you — and the aftermath (yep, aftermath is the adequate term, here)  will be the same. In case you think I am exaggerating, I will leave you with my reviews of the so-called (by our local experts) best local sushiyas of Montreal:  Jun I, Park, Sushi Yumi. Baffl.., baffled….I was.

 NEW YORK, on the other hand, is the world class foodie destination that we all know.

New York continues to dazzle, and their big gunz seem more concerned about being consistently great rather than waiting after a poster-diner to find some renewed motivation. Two of their latest “hot” restaurants are Ichimura and Le Coucou, both restaurants would qualify as  destination restaurants anywhere around the globe.

I did also visit Sushi Azabu in February, which  continues to be my preferred Sushiya in NYC.

Then a Brooklyn institution known for its cheesecake, Junior’s. According to the local medias, a rich sheikh had one of Junior’s cheesecakes flying over several continents and oceans to be savoured in his palace. I was not as impressed by that cheesecake, but Junior’s (reviewed here) offers some great food.

In Koreantown, I tried two korean bbqs: one that’s very popular, Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, as well as Dons Bogam. The former is a fun place, but it was disappointing on the culinary front, whereas the latter is an elite kbbq spot.

I also tried their most talked about ramenya, Ippudo, which I will review soon. I tried the one that is situated at 65 4th Avenue. Ippudo is not an elite  ramen shop, back in Japan, but in New York, it is doing enoughly well to rank among the very best at what it does. If you can detach yourself from the comparisons to Japan, then you won’t fail to appreciate my latest assertion…eventhough, like most ramen fans who happened to have tried some of the best ramenyas of Tokyo, I, too, would have couple of things to reproach to Ippudo NYC.

As with any major foodie destinations, if you let your guard down, you can stumble upon bad eateries, such as Miss Favella in Brooklyn (reviewed here),  but, overall, NY deserves its reputation as  a true world class foodie destination.

 ATLANTIC CITY – At approximately 2hrs drive from New York, you will find the coastal city of Atlantic city, famous for its picturesque ocean views as well as for its casinos. There, I ate at two of their most popular restaurants: Docks oyster house (seafood) as well as Kelsey & Kim’s (soul food). I will go back to Kelsey & Kim’s but not to Docks.

I​n May 2017, I hope I will be able to attend the burger bash in Atlantic city as some serious burgers will be available at that event. Traditionally, I do not take seriously foodie events of that sort, as the competitors are mainly present for promotional purpose, and it is always a joke to try giving your best miles away from the ingredients and tools that made you famous, but the best burgers of the burger bash event are known as some of America’s most serious burgers. You are on the land of the burger, after all. Of particular interest, during this upcoming 2017 episode of the burger bash:
-The Guinness Bacon cheeseburger from the Hard rock cafe. Atop the beef patty, Jameson bacon jam/Guinness cheese sauce/lettuce and tomato.
-The Margate dairy bar and burger’s The MDB Burger which is composed of a mix of short rib and brisket (from Pat LaFrieda)/lettuce/picles/tomato and American cheese. They will use a secret sauce for their burgers, therefore it will be interesting to see how that sauce would have elevated the burger.
-The Metropolitain’s steak au poivre burger (comes with bacon/gruyere cheese) as well as the Bocca coal fired bistro’s pepadew bacon burger (angus burger/aged white cheddar/pepadew relish/cherry wood smoked bacon/buttery brioche roll) are also on my list of burgers to try.
Event: The burger bash Url: acweekly.com/burgerbash
When: Saturday May 20th, 2017 from 1 to 4pm,
Where: The Deck at Golden nugget, Atlantic city

 

License IV (Addr: 1524 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, Phone 514-938-8084, http://licence4.ca) offers classic French cuisine. The restaurant has just opened a few days ago, and it is a foodie friend who notified me about its opening as no serious restaurant-related online source has mentioned it. Given the ever growing French community in Quebec, I am surprised there are not that many restaurants cooking classic French fares. Perhaps the newer generations of the French are not into raclettes and crepes suzettes? Montreal will find that out, soon, as License IV brings such beautiful memories back.

It’s actually because I kept complaining that there are not many places making crepes suzette in the beautiful old fashion way, and not many places doing great tartiflettes in Montreal, that my foodie friend has suggested that I try License IV. “You won’t believe me…there is that new place cooking French food and that has crepe suzette and tartiflette on its menu“… he submitted.

License IV does not joke about its French identity:  It has a brasserie feel  (cute french brasserie looks, btw, with dark wood and green tones), songs like ´enfants de tout pays‘ and ´mon manege a moi” , do proudly play through their quality speakers.  The wait staff is from France. A true feeling of being agreeably transported to l’hexagone, which is to  my liking.

Moules marinières, celeri, beurre, vin blanc, onion, roquette, tomate $13 – it was easy to see that the Chef was properly trained in classic french cuisine as the flavor profile was genuine. There are different recipes for moules marinieres, and theirs was tasty as it’s supposed to be when using flavor-enhancing ingredients such as onion, celeriac, tomatoes and butter, and yet that (the tastynes of moules marinieres) is not always a given as the Chef still needs to have a good palate (which was the case, here).  Well done! 7/10

Escapade d’escargot poeles , sauce tomate, poivron, estragon, oignons, pastis $11 – land snail cooked in tomatoes. Again, genuine classic French flavors. The only limitation I could see …having nothing to do with the kitchen: the same ingredients, in some parts of France, are better. Still, no complaint at all. This is one proper French-based recipe of a dish of cooked snail in the context of a city like Montreal. 7/10

Bouillabaise , homard, saumon, morue, crevettes, moules, fond tomate, pomme de terre vapeur, pastis, croutons, rouille $28 – If you had your share of bouillabaise in the right places in France, you surely have your preferred ones. Many recipes have their own twists. No matter the twist, my preferred bouillabaise had their bold maritime flavor at the forefront. This did not, though make no mistake, the seafood was of good quality and had flavor (their flavors  did not take a break as it was the case of the recent oysters I had at Docks Oyster House). I also would have preferred a bit more of the saffron. The piece of additional lemon confit was not a bad idea. All in all, a bouillabaise that was not bad, but it was a bit less eventful, for my taste, when compared to the best bouillabaises I had.

Wrapped up my meal with the crepe suzette. This is a bistrot, not a restaurant offering French haute cuisine, so no tableside presentation of your crepes suzette, as, say, at Taillevent (Paris) – which, is traditionally my preference. Regardless, I know what to expect from my crepe suzette. Both the crepe and its grand marnier/orange sauce were done properly. 7/10

All in all: 7/10 (Category: French bistrot in Montreal) – Condiments are well done, here. Classic French flavors are properly expressed, ingredients are as great as they can be at a restaurant in Montreal. Lifting up the maritime flavor of that bouillabaise would be, realistically, what they could have improved during this meal. Everything else was fine. I doubt the bread is baked in house (I did not ask them), mais putain qu’il était bon, ce pain baguette!   Service is perfect. This is a good addition to the Montreal restaurant scene. I will go back and see if they have the tartiflette  (it was not available the day of my visit). I hope they beat the best tartiflette I ever had in Quebec (One that Chef Anne  Desjardins had, once, cooked when her restaurant, L’eau à la bouche was still open in Sainte-Adèle).

Junior’s (386 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY;  Phone: 718-852-5257;  http://www.juniorscheesecake.com) is a popular restaurant of Brooklyn, widely known in NY for its cheesecakes.

I ordered:

Combo reuben – corned beef and pastrami, grilled sauerkraut, swiss on rye. – an insignificant part of the pastrami was a bit drier than what I am accustomed to with my reuben sandwich at other North American delis, but that was long forgotten and forgiven once I started eating it as its deliciousness and flawless execution were firm indications this was a serious reuben sandwich, truely packing a punch. Montreal and NYC have the best delis in the world and a reuben sandwich of this quality would not be out of place at a top tier deli in both cities. 8/10

Potato salad – rustic style typical to north american delis, no flaws, just good homey flavors. 7/10

Some sides came with my order: a coleslaw (not the regular one, but one with vinegar – nice fresh crunchy vegetables, all delicious) 7/10, housemade pickles that were timely brined and expressing remarkable freshness (a world away from its tired looking examples that can be found at some inferior delis) 9/10, a first- rate corn bread 9/10, as well as some tasty marinated beets 7/10. Simple, simple stuff that are exquisite here, but that many restaurants do not seem to be capable of.

Then, I ordered the world’s “most fabulous ” cheesecake (their words, not mine), which is the cheesecake that virtually everyone is raving about in nyc. This is made with philadelphia cream cheese, its bottom made of sponge cake (instead of a crust of graham cracker) and was a fine version of a North American cheesecake, but its cheesecake flavor paled a bit in comparison to the richer taste of Montreal-style’s best cheesecakes. Furthermore, its rustic appearance does not sit well with me: I love rusticity, but a cheesecake (especially, a strawberry cheesecake) needs to be easy on the eyes. In NYC, eventhough it’s not the same style of cheesecake as at Junior’s, the one from Ferrara bakery (195 Grand Street ) is the one that’s really knocking my socks off, for now. Still, Junior’s is artisanally made (they make a limited quantity, using artisanal techniques), it is a good cheesecake (just not as great as Montreal’s best) and you have got to sample it at least once if you happen to be in NYC. 7/ 10

All in all: Junior’s is oftently ignored in  most  listings of the great delicatessens of NY, but that is just because it has an extensive menu that  categorizes it as a diner, not a delicatessen. There are also little “technicalities” that keep Junior’s out of such listings. In the competitive delicatessen market of NY, whether the J is or is not the greatest samurai of the empire, it does not matter. At the end of the day, what we need to know is this: the delis at Junior’s are good. Really good. And that is coming from a Montrealer (Montreal is one North American city with world class delis, obviously)..

Bottom line: Junior’s can brag about anything they want (the word s “famous” and “fabulous” appear a lot on their menu), except for the cheesecake (sorry J, our finest cheesecakes in Montreal will beat yours, anyday!!) , I am down with them!

My foodie adventures were limited to New York and Montreal in 2016.

In Montreal, Hoogan and Beaufort started the year on a high note (my first two meals), but my third visit impressed less, which is also what happened at my long time favourite pizzeria in town, Bottega. I did not care for my meals at Le Fantome , Yakitori Otto and Tiradito, all regarded as great restaurants by our local food journalists and most local food bloggers. Hvor (in my current top 3 in Montreal) and Marconi were my two preferred local restaurants in 2016. I also enjoyed some genuine ethnic food at Petite Ya Quartier (Congolese), Casse croute Notre Dame (Haitian) and Hot Africa (Pan African).

01I did spend plenty of time eating in New York in 2016. One highlight was the superb savory dishes at the River Cafe (located in Brooklyn, near the Brooklyn bridge), a restaurant widely known as a romantic destination but which savory french gourmet dishes happen to be as memorable. I ate at Atelier Joel Robuchon Montreal in January 2017 and in comparison, the French based gourmet food (the savoury dishes, not the desserts)  at the RC had the edge. And I swear it is not romance that influenced my impression of the RC.

New York has it all has it all, so I took advantage of its varied food offerings and tried different types of cuisines. One of them is yakitori (Japanese gastro pub), which  is well represented in New York, but the yakitoriya that stands out  is  the 1 star Michelin Torishin, which  fed me with some of the best yakitori food to be found in North America, alas  they had, on the day of my visit,  two employees whose “exploits” would have led to the immediate demotion of their sole Michelin star if I was an inspector of Michelin. All I wanted when I was at Torishin was to build a wall between those two dudes and myself and have Torishin paying for it. The account of my meal at Torishin can be perused here.

New York is also the mecca of North American steakhouses and after trying some of their best steakhouses (Bull & Bear Prime Steakhouse, Peter Luger, Del Frisco’s double Eagle, Strip House), I have to say that for my taste, the steak I had at Wolfgang’s steakhouse Park Avenue‘s matches the sort of steak I like (essentially because they dry age their steaks and season it the way I like it), with true Chefs instead of just some dudes hired to flip their steaks on the broiler, the service starting really well but ending poorly. While reading online reviews on their various New York locations, I noticed  that many people complained about the exact same poor service I have experience at  the end of my  meal (basically, the waitstaff disappearing once the food is served). So, I will go back and adapt  (by, as example, asking for a bottle of water so that you do not have to wake up and try  finding a waiter when you need water, etc) to what seem to be common at some of the WS NYC locations, which  a diner should not bother about at a restaurant, especially   given the pricetag of your  bill at this kind of  steakhouse, I will admit. But for now, no other steakhouse in NYC has fed me with a steak that is dry aged and tasting like the one at WS (apart Peter Luger, but WS offers a greater variety of starters, main courses and desserts).

Of course, you can also find some great service at a pricey restaurant in New York, as proven by my meal at Marea which is a superb Italian restaurant by North American standards but could be even better with meat, poultry and vegetables coming straight from Italy. I am usually a locavore, but in the case of Marea, the produce from Italy is what they were missing during my meal there. Another good finding was La Caye, as great as a Haitian restaurant can be in North America, but a restaurant that badly needs to start serving some dazzling cocktails to be a perfect caribbean restaurant. Jordan’s lobster dock in Brooklyn is another place I would highly recommend: nothing fancy here, as it is basically a seafood shack, but I have not found a better  seafood shack in New York up to now.