Posts Tagged ‘Osteria Francescana’

03Planète Poutine & cie as well as La frite à Brigitte offered some of the very best classic poutines of Le Grand PoutineFest.

The difference between the two boiled  down to personal taste as one was not necessarily superior to the other. At such level, do not expect disaster (for example, bad quality ingredients, lacklustre gravy, burnt potatoes, etc).

planete poutinePlanète Poutine & cie classic  poutine featured bigger chunks of potatoes, which I prefer, with a really nice  gravy sauce (sauces of poutine are always secret recipes as the secret is in the sauce..) and a nice tasty crunch. PP & Cie suprised me a bit as it is a chain, therefore I was not expecting much from them, but clearly their classic poutine is one of good standard.

Brigitte In comparison, I found la Frite à Brigitte gravy sauce a tad more delicious. However, both places did master really well  all the aspects of their poutine using  quality homemade potatoes  (La frite à Brigitte particularly proud of the  Yukon gold potatoes from St Roch de L’Achigan that they were cooking during the poutine fest as proven by the display of their quality potatoes pretty much everywhere on the premises),  superb fresh squeaky big chunks of cheese curds (left unmelted , just the way I like it!!), and where many poutineries hide behind the excuse of “authenticity” to offer soggy tasteless fries, both La frite à Brigitte and  Planète Poutine & cie  french fries are packed with great potato flavor and a well balanced crispy exterior/ soft interior .

The journey to Poutineland is a never ending one. Time and again, there is always a new spot that is recommended by my Quebecois friends. The suggestions are numerous, and this serves me well in my search for the finest poutines, but unless one does not understand what a properly executed classic poutine should be, there  was hardly anything to fault with both above mentioned poutines. I have no clue how it fares at their respective restaurants, but both classic poutines sampled here at the Poutine Fest were  better than the classic poutine I had at plenty of supposedly far superior poutineries such as  the legendary  La Banquise.

Osteria Francescana is the best of them all according to San Pellegrino’s Restaurant Magazine – On top of the roof of San Pellegrino’s Restaurant Magazine, there is OF . Then El Celler de Can Roca, then Eleven Madison. Then this, and then that. Then, there are those who believe in San Pellegrino’s RM. Others in Gault Millau, others in Michelin, etc. But that is irrelevant as restaurant rating systems, opinions of restaurant critics, etc…that is just opinions, subjective material. What I need to know, though, is this: if a restaurant is a “reference” at what it does, why not keeping it in the elite of world’s best restaurants. Alinea, Noma , the Fat Duck … what other restaurant in the world is offering a better experience and has a technically better kitchen brigade  in their respective  categories????   Eleven Madison Park, no 3 in the world. I went there. It is in NYC, just few hours drive away from Montreal. So Yes it is a great restaurant, but it is not a “reference’ at whatever it is delivering! Mirazur, no6: I never went there. But I do not need to, neither! A simple look at the pics of their  dishes shows pretty looking dishes indeed, but are we certain that Mirazur is as exceptional as Alinea, Noma or the Fat Duck? Are we really certain of that? There are two aspects of the restaurant world that  I insist on differenciating: A restaurant’s food can indeed fare déja vu…BUT if  that restaurant  remains the best at what it does, then there is no reason to ignore it. Then, of course, as humans, we generally tend  to be excited by novelty… which I can certainly understand, but novelty should not be confused with exceptional work . I am sorry, but choices like Osteria Francescana, Eleven Park Madison, Mirazur, etc….this sounds like trying to sound novel rather than anything else. BTW..talking about the best restaurants in the world: according to San Pellegrino’s top 50 restaurants of the world …. the best classic (French, Italian, etc)  restaurants do not deserve to feature among their best restaurants. Basically,  modern cooking seems to be superior to  classic cooking  I gather  that this whole thing is a matter of personal taste, but how on earth can you pretend assessing the best restaurants in the world and completely forgetting the best classic  tables of this world? – Even a die-hard fan of classic cuisine like me will acknowledge that the non classic food of Noma, the Fat Duck, Alinea  sets the bar for their respective categories of cuisine. SP Top 50,  you are  just laughable , to say the least! …

01The ribs, the ribs!!! The ribs are the big trend of the last 2 years  of the foodie scene in Montreal. In that short period of time, restaurants offering ribs have truely stepped up their game with some of this city’s  most serious contenders  being le Boucan, Black Strap BBQ, and  Le Fumoir Rubs Smokehouse. To be honest with you, I do not know how to assess the Montreal “ribs”scene. We are not in the US, ribs is not Montrealer –  obviously, so I am not too comfortable with the idea of  assessing our local ribs. I will always remember an online  comment from a connoisseur of ribs, an American gentleman who knows his American ribs as much as you know how you are feeling right now…and that gentleman stated that he has no clue if Montreal was doing good ribs, but that the “culture” of the ribs is so different from the US that he was afraid that his opinion of Montreal ribbers was influenced not by skills or quality, but by just that: the perception, the impression that Montrealers have a totally different idea of what ribs should be. Do not expect Montreal to compete with our southern neighbors when it comes to the ribs in a way that the rest of the world has no chance to  beat us when it is time  to excel  at  our food staples such as the poutine, the smoked meat, the hot dog, the bagel, the cheese cake, etc! That said, Ribs mania is hitting town right now in the form of  le Grand Ribfest, an opportunity for our southern neighbors to share their long experience at smoking their ribs. I am a huge fan of the Grand Ribfest but it is about time that they do an effort to invite many more new ribbers (they have the same ribbers as  on their last edition, which is fine  but some few new ” faces ” would not hurt. Still, they had ONE NEW ribber this time around, BIBBS BBQ, which ribs  I went sampling:

02Bibb’s Texas BBQ is at its first presence at the Mtl ribfest. They smoke their baby back  ribs for 4hrs using cherry wood, the sauce made of sweet tomatoes. The baby back ribs I had were unfortunately a bit dry for my taste, the sauce enjoyable enough but lacking the complexity of, say, the sauce that Texas Rangers (my preferred ribs of the 3 ribfests of Laval / Mtl) had served me on the 1st edition of this event (Texas Rangers did not participate at the latest 2 ribfests). This does not mean that you should expect the same issue from all their ribs (after all, it would be unrealistic to expect perfect ribs at every serving), but I can talk only for what I know.












***In June, the  most popular (among the readers of this blog) reviews  have been the ones on Le Louis XV,  the one on the city of Nice, L’ Ambroisie, L’Arpège, Le Serpent , Kam Fung as well   as my humble article on Montreal steakhouses (folks, it’s summer, enjoy a good steak in your backyard…far more fun, lol!).

***Shinji’s report, already the most popular among the readers of this blog –  I have just updated this current post on July 17th and shall observe that I was surprised by the popularity of the recent post on Shinji (which can be found here). Published on July 3rd, so only couple of  days prior, that post topped the charts on each day, since then. It’s rare that I see a restaurant’s review  attracting that much attention on this blog as soon as it was posted — the sign that the web is googling Shinji a lot, these days  (last time this happened, it was following the first review on Le Serpent — interestingly, the second report, which was more detailed and covered more meals, never got to enjoy the popularity of the first one. Even months later, the initial report on Le Serpent is the one that you have mostly perused and are still perusing).  Great then for Shinji, which managed to pull off benchmark sushis (by Montreal standards).



***Glad to hear that one of my all time favourite bistrots  in Italy is still doing great: A cantina de Mananan is still as excellent as ever as/per the report of a very picky foodie friend who went there in early  June 2014.  I did recommend Cinque Terre to him, a place that’s simply a ‘ gift from the above ‘as far as its visually stunning scenery goes. While there, he also tried A cantina de Mananan upon hearing great things from my part about this little jewel. He was floored and ranked A cantina de Mananan as his favourite discovery in a trip where there was no shortage of great restaurants:  he tried Osteria Francescana, Pipero al Rex , Piazza Duomo,   . He stressed that  A cantina does not compare, in terms of culinary sophistication, to all those places, but that  in hindsight,  the great  cooking of A Cantina de Mananan is what blew away his palate because it was the most delicious food of them all. Well, I haven’t visited OF, PR and PD, but I certainly can  understand such conclusion as I myself found the finest bistrots in Italy to be quite stellar.  So, A Cantina, I hope you will be as great as my first date with you, next time I’ll go back to Cinque Terre, lol. My humble quick notes on my trip in Cinque Terre in summer 2012, here.

***Everyone should go and peruse the twitter account of L’Arpège: Once you do that, keep in mind that all the beauty your eyes will have the priviledge to espy  is most likely backed by an exceptional work of flavors and a spectacular sense of creativity. Alain Passard, you are a Chef like we do not see anymore!

***La Queue de Cheval, Montreal finest steakhouse will open soon. Very soon. Check their facebook account for any update. For now, you can enjoy their burgers at QDC Burger (check that out here). The folks at QDC are also planning the opening of the Angry lobster bar (check all of that on this link).

***You remember Thursdays, Montreal iconic bar/bistro/club  on Crescent?  It is now reopened. The bistrot‘s  Chef is Jean-François Vachon. I first discovered Chef Vachon’s cooking when he was at the helm of Club des Pins (now closed), then at restaurant  M sur Masson, many  years ago and at both restaurants, it was an instant success back then:   food was delicious, cooking skills really sharp and both restaurants  reigned supreme on my list of favourite tables of Montreal during Vachon’s tenure. Then he went opening restaurant Projet soixante-sept (now closed), which I tried but that I found less  impressive compared to what he managed to pull off in his prime at Club des pins, then at M sur Masson.  I have not tried Bistrot Thursdays yet but I hope I’ll find the Jean-François Vachon of the great old days. I’ve perused their  online menu and found it appealing with items such as ‘guinea fowl cooked in hay’ (an old fashioned cooking technique that’s  common in Europe and that I favor but it’s rare to see a restaurant doing this in Montreal) , ‘rack of lamb à la provencale’, ‘spinach malfatti”, etc. Thoughtful bistrot menu for Montreal as it seems to take seriously the concept of a true French bisrot (for eg, on their menu, I can see that they have days where they offer the bouillabaise, or the coq au vin, all French bistrot staples that few French bistrots in Montreal do mind offering – you’ll see this in the ‘promotions ‘ section of their menu)  . In his prime, Jean-François Vachon is certainly one of Quebec’s most talented Chefs, so I’ll surely try his bistrot hopefully in a near future.

***Tapas 24 MTL will open to the public on July 19th 2014. It is a restaurant that is owned by Barcelona’s highly regarded Chef Carles Abellan as well as two other local Business partners (Journalist  Sébastien Benoit and restaurateur Jorge Da Silva), so a sister of Barcelona’s Tapas 24. According to the facebook page, the Chefs are  Haissam Souki Tamayo as well as another Chef who goes by the  name Ildemar, both names sound  unfamiliar to me, so this will be opportunity to discover their craft.  I saw couple of Public relationship write ups on their pre-opening activities and have decided to not try it on its official opening first weeks. It would have been tempting to dine there while Chef Abellan is still around (he’s there, these days, according to the reports I’ve perused) , but I’ll wait couple of months and see how it will fare while Chef Tamayo and Ildemar will be in full control of the house. When I’ll head there, I’ll do it with realistic expectations, though:  I still have fond memories  of my foodie trip in San Sebastian. A year later, I had the good fortune to repeat the feature in Madrid and the tapas adventure was also memorable (low cost, spectacular  flavors).  I do not expect those dazzling tapas of Spain to be replicated the other side of the globe as the produce of the Mediterranea is hard to compete with, the value simply not something that can be matched this side of the world (especially those of the Pais Vasco where I remember having two divinely-tasting  servings of tapas with a glass of txacoli for less than 5 euros (around $7). In comparison, a similar serving of tapas in Montreal would cost at least $16, and the glass of wine would range in between  $12 to $15 on average, so my $7 tapas serving in San Sebastian (with the glass of txacoli included) would cost me around $31 in Montreal, and I am being generous here. Restaurants are there to make Business and I do understand that, but it’s tough to justify bite-size food of such price tag.  I do not know the prices/menu at Montreal’s Tapas 24 since it’s not online yet, but hopefully, they will offer enjoyable food of great value (the point of tapas, in the first place). As for the flavors, I am confident that they can’t go wrong:  the tapas currently served in Montreal are decent  but nowhere close to the quality of the tapas of Spain.

***Abroad, one of France’s most brilliant Chefs of the recent decade, Chef Nicolas Lebec has resurfaced in Shanghai, China. Nicolas is incredibly talented, think world class skills, and it’s great to see him around after years of absence. Villa Le Bec –  Xinhua Lu, near Dingxi Lu – Shanghai




On a non foodie subject, the world cup was full of surprises (Costa Rica and Colombia have impressed, Spain’s early exit)  , but in the end it was a finale between  two giants of the game, Argentina and Germany. I think Germany largely deserved it, but the title of best player of the tournament (Messi won it) was a big joke akin to believing in Santa ;p  // The Dutch –by now, eliminated  — had to attend a penalty shootout session in their semi finals against Costa Rica and their coach, Louis Van Gaal chose a substitute goaltender (Tim Krul) just for the shootout , which is a rare move for those in the know.  As an analogy to the world of food, this reminds of what they have been doing for so long in Japan: you have a specialist of this, another specialist of that, etc. Just to master the slicing of a piece of fish, you spend an entire year or years focusing on that sole task. Then the same to master the art of cooking some rice. It gave what you’d have expected:  artisan Chefs, and not just generic cooks, pulling off perfected crafts to be enjoyed and not just generic food to be washed down. So, Louis Van Gaal is obviously of that same mold, only he is transposing the theme into soccer. Simply amazing. //Brazil suffered an unbelievable defeat to Germany (7-1!), but that came as no surprise as their two main leaders, Neymar and Thiago Silva  were not playing. I do not understand their coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari: I know he is  a great coach and has won a world cup in the past,  but it was hard to be appreciative of his decisions this time around -> the spectacular (and best replacement for Neymar) Willian coming on around the 69th minute (what the heck??) , Hulk as a winger rather than as a striker, position that suits him better (??).  ///   Last but not least, the now famous Luis Suarez bite has earned  him national hero status in his country, Uruguay (check that out here).  The jokes about the bite are funny, though.









Wishing an amazing summer to all of us!