Posts Tagged ‘Restaurant’

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

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

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

At Gallagher’s Steakhouse,  I ordered:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Rezdôra Osteria Emiliana
Phone: +1 (646) 692-9090
Email: reservations@rezdora.nyc
Addr: 27 East 20th Street, New York, NY 10003
URL: https://rezdora.nyc

On various recent visits  of New York, I went back to Peter Luger, the one in Brooklyn, for my fix of North American steak. PL’s porterhouse steak continues to be the steak against which I judge all other North American steaks. Whether PL is touristy or not, I could not care less. What matters to me is the dazzling steak they keep delivering, tourists or not in sight.  I returned to another place that seems to have attracted its hordes of tourists as it is a legendary eatery: Junior’s in Brooklyn. Junior’s remains one of my preferred eateries in New York, eventhough their celebrated cheesecake is not my cup of tea. Other restaurants that I tried:  LeñaSpanish Diner (among  the most exciting Spanish-style eateries of NYC right now…I know, not a revelation given how weak Spanish food is in NYC, but those are good by NYC Spanish food standards at this moment) of famous  Chefs Ferran Adria, Albert Adria and  José Andrés . I tried  Sorbillo NYC (easily one of the finest Neapolitan style pizze in NYC – My honest suggestion  to  the food journalists who seem to overlook  this gem of a Pizzaria: stop comparing  apples to grapes, stop! stop! I mean, most of the crap    you write  about pizze in NYC is seriously nau·se·at·ing. You know nothing about Neapolitan pizza..your comparisons of   pizze in Italy vs pizze in the US are worrying  signs of your total ignorance of basic things such as the importance  of the geographical environment   in your assessment of the pizza you are reviewing and btw….most of you are reviewing pasta dishes at a  pizzeria…c’mon!!??  ). New York ‘s restaurant  scene continues to be genuinely world class.

This time, I paid a visit to Rezdôra. A local reliable and knowledgeable foodie in NYC did  inform me about the opening of  this small Italian restaurant in Flatiron.  According to the media, the  Chef of Rezdora is Chef Stefano Secchi, a Chef who has honed his skills at some serious venues in Italy such as 1 star Michelin All’Enoteca (Canale), Hosteria Giusti as well as  3 star Michelin Osteria Francescana (the latter two establishments are located in Modena), and that he is  inspired  by the food of  the region of Emilia-Romagna , which food has been aggressively marketed as Italy’s best (for more, on that, click here).

 

 

 

Food in Emilia-Romagna does benefit from its local stellar ingredients, but there are some limitations to what you can do with that sort of food, oceans away from where it originates: to start, egg-based pasta (which local diners in Emilia-Romagna are accustomed to) is obviously more expensive to make than flour-based pastas. And  North American palates may not appreciate the difference.

When I went to eat at Il luogo di Aimo e Nadia and  Dal Pescatore, I took the time to broaden my knowledge of the traditional cuisines of Northern Italy (food from Emilia-Romagna, Mantuan food, etc) and I recall that one of the tests I did was to see how my palate would appreciate the difference between their local egg-based pasta vs the flour-based ones we are used to outside of Italy. I do, when time permits, make my own pasta at home and have tried both versions. But a trained palate will not fail to notice that flour in Italy, their water, the flavour of the dazzling eggs found there — all of that is different from what you will find in North America. My palate found their egg-based pasta to be more exciting, flavour-wise, but I can’t imagine one single restaurant trying to import the water and eggs from Italy. It will go bankrupt. This applies to the superb vegetables of Italy. Consequently, I went to Rezdora with the expectation that they do as great as it is possible to make food of Emilia-Romagna in North America.

 

1-Tagliolini al ragu. As expected, the tagliolini having the right thin shape and the right texture to soak up the ragu. The ragu made of pork shoulder, mortadella, ground pork and prosciutto simmered with parmesan sachets for 8hrs and finished with Italian olive oil. As one should better know, the environment (water, soil, etc) plays a massive role in the taste of both your pasta and your ragu. Therefore if you expect this dish to taste/feel/smell exactly as in Northern Italy, you have skipped those basics of the science of food. That said, this was freshly made tagliolini  (which doneness I would have preferred al dente – it was served a bit beyond that stage), the taste and texture of the ragu  having proper depth (the rich flavour of the meat is adequate, the sauce timely reduced –  and you do not feel any excess of fat in the sauce, which is what you should be looking for), with perhaps a tendency to put a bit more salt than I would have loved — salt enhances flavour, indeed, but in this instance, it went past that stage and was almost on the verge of starting to diminish the flavour of the overall dish — but that can be easily fixed. I generally prefer when the ragu is made of beef, pancetta and veal, but this was still good.  7/10

 

2-« Grandmother walking through the forest in Emilia » is the name of a dish  that consists of cappelleti verdi (homemade spinach infused pasta) filled with roasted leeks, baby leeks on a bed of black mushroom puree. In the ‘poetic’ naming of that dish, you  can see the influence of one of their Chef’s mentor, namely Chef Massimo Bottura of 3 star Michelin Osteria Francescana in Modena – who loves giving poetic descriptions to some of his dishes. This showcased a fine deal of technical precision in shaping the texture of that pasta. Too bad green peas are not in season right now, as great quality peas would have paired so well with them and brighten that dish. 8/10

 

3-Pappardelle verde, spinach pasta with ragu di cinghiale (boar ragu) and porcini. The dense pasta is, as usual, always great for sauces, sticking properly to the boar ragu. The first two dishes are classics of the house. I purposely added this dish and the next one to my meal as they were fresh new additions to their menu. Some kitchen brigades are somehow more excited/motivated when cooking new food items. But in this instance, the motivation was the same whether the dish was one of their classics or a new addition. The same fine ragu as with the first dish was there, only it is made of boar this time. The pasta’s texture properly rendered. Good. 7/10

4-Dolce scherzetto, roasted squash raviolini, burro rosolato and amaretti crumbs. Freshly made pasta (the case of all their pasta), with fillings of roasted squash and mostarda (a condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard-flavoured syrup), coated in sage-flecked brown butter sauce. Dressed with amaretti crumbs. I had variations on this during my last foodie tour of Northern Italy. Was this a serious challenge to what I had in Northern Italy? Was this up there with what a nonna would do back in Emilia Romagna? If you ask yourself such questions then you did not understand the basics of the science of food: Not the same terroir, not the same soil, not the same water. So, forget that. Can’t compare. Even the amaretti crumbs, as fine as these stood, could not compare to the stellar amaretti crumbs you may stumble upon in some parts of Italy. And regarding any comparison to la nonna, well…last time the media checked, their Chef was a young gentleman. So, he can’t be and can’t beat la nonna, lol.  The taste was pleasant rather than dazzling, the expected sweetness (coming obviously from the squash, mostarda and the amaretti crumbs)  not overwhelming. 6/10

 

5.Torta Barozzi – Dense, flourless cake made of rich, dark chocolate. The original recipe from Vignola (outside of Modena) —you can still enjoy the original TB at Pasticceria Gollini — remains a secrete, but if you have tried it (I tried it during my last  visit in Northern Italy), it has hardly any sugar, which is one thing I loved with this one version they made at Rezdora (it tasted of dark chocolate, which it has to, rather than of added-sugar to dark chocolate). The pastry Chef made a rendition that is quite  close to some of the versions (there are  a few, though)  that you can find in Italy,  and served it the traditional way, which means  to serve this cake all on its own (without any adornment), and that is appreciated.  However, I would have preferred a consistency that is moist and tender inside the cake (it was a bit tough, at serving) as it is usually the case with most incarnations of this torta in Italy. 6/10

My hats off  to their marketing team as it is currently a hot ticket in NYC. Extremely popular, indeed.

 

The pasta dishes were fine, considering the reality  of pasta dishes made freshly oceans and continents away from Italy. The limitation being that the soil, the water, the produce cannot be the same as in Italy, therefore no miracle is possible.

To be accurate, there are not stellar produce everywhere in Italy. As an example, most of the food that you will eat in big cities like Milan or Rome will taste as generic as anywhere else across the globe. What is accurate is that the best produce of Italy is ages ahead of the best produce that you will find in North America.

The only thing I hope they do at Rezdora  is to lower a little bit the salt input on some of the pasta dishes, unless, of course, most of their patrons are happy with that. The food comes in small portions, and it is not cheap, therefore they won’t win any award for « best value », but few restaurants in NYC would win that one anyways. At least the food is of quality, the wine list is well thought, and the next paragraph shows that they do nice things that do escape many of their competitors.

Bottom line: I arrived 30 mins before the opening in order to snatch a seat (they allow some few walk-ins for the seating at the bar, but the wait can be long, therefore it is better to arrive 30 mins before the opening and line up) at their bar considering that it was hard to book a table. Since it was a bit cold, they came outside and served us some sparkling wine. And no, there was no poster-diner (food blogger or food journalist promoting the food industry) lining up outside. Therefore that was a genuine gesture which appeared even more special given their already established popularity  (there are eateries with a lot to prove and yet they would never do this). A rare occurrence in NYC’s dining scene. Then when the door opened at 5hPM, the staff lined up to welcome the guests. I sat at the bar and the perfect balance between being Pro and Cool continued to be the trending pattern. A fine restaurant and an attention to details that most would not bother covering. Overall ratings (Category: Italian in NYC)  7/10 Food; Service 9/10.

 

Keen’s Steakhouse – New York, NY

Posted: July 6, 2019 in aged beef, best aged beef, best aged steak, best dry aged beef, best dry aged steak, best porterhouse steak, best restaurants in new york, Best steakhouses, best steaks, excellent service, High hospitality standards, new york, steak, steakhouse, The World's Best Steaks, Top steaks in the world
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Keens is an institution of NYC, a piece of restaurant  history that started in the  19th century (established in 1885). Its dark wood walls are covered with a tasteful  display of  memorabilia (time-honored paintings, photos, cartoons).   This restaurant could be an incredible shooting location for a movie.

The avid fan of history that I am  had to find himself in this charming old world  decor, espying what could have possibly been the pipe of Roosevelt over here (thousands  of clay pipes of  patrons who dined at Keens are on display on the steakhouse’s ceiling), climbing the same stairs as Einstein over there.   Nowadays, Keens is one of NYC’s most popular steakhouses, attracting tourists, locals as well as many connoisseurs of North American steaks (as you will see below, their steaks did not « rest on their laurels »). But, with legendary places like this one, I am on my guard, always ensuring that  the lore shall never be part of the lure.

On a previous visit here, over 2 years ago, I did try their fabled slow roasted lamb loin‘s saddle  chop (aka the ”mutton chop“). It is not mutton, anymore. It  is  lamb  that they do serve nowadays. The lamb is raised in  Colorado,  some of the  most sought after lamb  in the nation. Colorado does offer to its  free-ranging sheep,  vast swathes of vegetation to feed on, thanks to the numerous mountains and hills of the state. The sourcing of this piece of  pasture raised lamb was  of high level , its subtly earthy lamb flavor  (milder than, say the flavour of lamb from New Zeland)  dazzled. Boasting an enticing color, definely tender, this  was as great as your roasted lamb loin‘s saddle  chop  will be if served to you at a top tier  steakhouse. 9/10

Then last year I dropped by with a long time genuine connoisseur of North American steakhouses and we had the porterhouse.  For anyone truly familiar with beef aging, it was easy to enjoy the great effect of the dry aging (they dry-age and butcher the meat on the premises) process that went into that piece of meat (great concentration of beef flavor). The thing about aging meats is to think about the right effect for the right meat. Oftently, you see people dry aging then wet aging their meat (perfect recipe to cancel the benefit of dry aging that meat …), dry aging meat that has fat that is so delicate that it cannot  ‘age’  well (highly marbled wagyu as in this case at Dons de la Nature, one of Tokyo’s leading steakhouses. It is the sort of fat that is way too delicate to   benefit from dry aging — I will write, later on, a detailed article on what type of fat benefits from the aging process and why), dry aging fishes that have the taste of nothing if you age them (few fishes do benefit from the dry aging process, most do not…most fishes that are aged do simply fit in the ridiculous trend of aging the flesh for the pleasure of following a trend, as stupid as that – ). Not all steakhouses do master the dry aging of meats as  obsessively well as, at, let us say, Le Divil in Perpignan, but the concentration of flavor of that porterhouse steak  at Keens revealed some serious mastery of the dry aging of their meats.   8/10

This is my 3rd visit here, and this time I ordered the prime rib of beef  (king’s cut – meaning that it’s bone-in),  the  medium rare doneness that I wanted was precisely achieved,  and it came charred at my request ( I suggest that you do not order a charred prime rib. I did request it charred as I was looking for that specific  effect on that evening, but prime rib is better in its non charred version IMHO), served with au jus.  The loin end   rarely fails to be flavorful once cooked,  and yet, you realize how, in the USA, they have perfected its cooking  with no shortage of dazzling renditions of the  prime rib such as the ones you can enjoy at  establishments such as the House of Prime RibLawry‘s or   Dickie Brennan‘s  to name a few. But this prime rib at Keens was not out of place in that fierce competition, as here again, you had all the qualities of a stellar piece of North American steak (the quality of the meat really high as you would expect from a North American steakhouse of this reputation, the standing rib roast timely cooked, its delicious fat properly rendered, the seasoning competent, the steak craveable ).   8/10

I love Keen but I was NOT  in love with my platter of a dozen of oysters: all had their superb maritime flavour in evidence, true, but some of the oysters were served a bit too cold than expected at a restaurant serving seafood. The shucking could have been better, too.

Our sides of creamed spinach , sautéed mushrooms and cooked broccoli did not tantalize both the Missus and myself :  for both of us,  this preparation of their creamed spinach  did not  enhance  the taste of the spinach. And they did add a bit less cream than I would have preferred.  Still, their way of doing it is one legit classic way of cooking the creamed spinach and I am fine with that.  The broccoli,  I need them to retain a vivid fresh appearance  (I am not here to talk about cooking techniques but there’s a technique for that, there is a technique that allows your broccoli  to be nicely cooked while retaining its perfect crunch and vivid looks, a technique that is widely documented. There is no doubt that the kitchen brigade at Keens knows how to do that, but, again, their choice is to remain classic, therefore they did use a more classical approach  and that is to be respected. As for the mushrooms, they  looked and felt as if they were sautéed a bit too long  and served a bit too late,  the taste of the mushrooms not in evidence.

The crab cake of the Missus featured   fresh crab flavour, the seasoning well judged. The crab came from Maryland and it is in season right now, consequently its depth of flavour was remarkable. Of her crab cake, she said that it was about “”the full taste of the crab and not a lot of filler””, which was a good thing.  7/10

Bottom line: This article of the NY Mag had its author arguing that   « The meat isn’t first class anymore, especially by the standards of today » at Keens…another one of the absurd and senseless suggestions of our so-called food journalists. A steak is first class if the quality of the meat is great, the cooking accurate, the flavours on point, the extra steps to elevate the taste of that meat making a difference (for example, my pieces of steak, here, at Keens, did benefit from the nuances that an educated palate would detect as nuances that can only come from a competently dry aged piece of quality meat). And you do all of that better than at most other steakhouses, which is the case of Keens.  You stop being first  class the day your steak costs an arm and a leg only to have the taste and feel of a generic-tasting piece of meat that you  would buy at the supermarket (the case of one so-called legendary steakhouse right here in The old Montreal …). Keens has nothing to do with an outdated steakhouse.  For his  steaks, Keens is still one of NYC’s very best. I was not in love with the sides, but again, this was (more of) a matter of preference (at the exception of the mushrooms) rather than the sides being faulty. They need to control the temperature of those oysters, though. My number 1 North American steakhouse is still Peter Luger (the one in Brooklyn) , but that takes nothing away from the superb steaks of Keens. The service and ambience at Keens are  also  great. One of my preferred chophouses in NYC. I loved Keens steakhouse! Steaks (9/10), Appetizers (7/10), Sides (6/10 ), Service (8/10 ) –  Keens steakhouse Addr: 72 West 36th St. New York, NY 10018 Phone: 212-947-3636 URL: http://www.keens.com

Quality Meats NYC (Addr: 57 W 58th St, New York, NY 10019, USA Phone: +1 212-371-7777)   is a restaurant  backed by Smith & Wollensky, a steakhouse institution in NYC (that now has several branches across the US as well as abroad). It is part of a  group of restaurants that include some of the most successful eateries of NYC such as Don Angie, Smith & Wollensky, Park Avenue, etc. They do offer a contemporary take on North American familiar dishes  such as their take on the North American steaks . It  is hip and does have a social vibe. The decor features  several   elements  pertaining to the  neo rustic chic interior design, elements such as marble, wood, and stainless steel. Chandeliers and white ceramic tiles completing the decor.

I went there because not all steakhouses in NYC do offer great  bone-in rib eye steaks, my preferred cut for a steak. They do stellar Porterhouse steaks, at virtually all the great chop houses  in NYC. But rib eye steaks are either absent from their menus, or do come in meager size, and are rarely dry aged (it is pointless, for me, to splurge on wet aged meat, my palate oftently associating it with just a generic piece of steak).  On this particular occasion,  I was also looking for a steakhouse exempt from the usual  potential “”dry aged” or mixed  type of service (However great is the food, if the service has the potential to make me vomit, the food is worthless) . I heard that QM has fine  hospitality standards and that they  do  an excellent rib eye steak. I went  to find out.

My expectation was the usual expectation of any steak lover: I needed my steak to be a fully flavoured juicy slab of prime beef, exquisitely  seasoned, unleashing   a great deal of umami sensation in mouth. Did the steak meet that expectation? First, a description of the steak I did order:   a 24 oz. long-boned Black Angus Prime, dry-aged rib steak.  Aged for 40 days. My rib eye had a delicious seasoning, but it was cooked  past the requested medium rare doneness. Dry and tough here and there, as well. Disappointing 5/10

Other items that I did sample here :

With my steak, I took the creamed spinach, which was Ok (the spinach was fresh, its seasoning judicious)   6/10

The other side dish I did order was their popular crispy potatoes, which are blanched in duck fat, seasoned with garlic , thyme, and bay leaves and dressed at the last minute  with a hot sauce of butter seasoned with garlic , thyme, parsley, chives  and rosemary. Ok, though nothing to write home about.  6/10

Bottom line: I had mixed feelings about this eatery ….yes, the service, in the dining room was stellar, BUT  at the entrance, a  young lady with long straight black hair seemed to have suffered from some serious attitude problem, to the point that I thought that I was  heading into a  ghetto-style establishment. When I complained to their high Management, about that , I  received no follow up…which left me with the impression that they have no problem with that….So, as a serious long time diner who has indulged in flawless dining experiences in NYC, I can say that …NOPE… this eatery really DOES NOT  deserve  my hard earned money. It is a  NO REPEAT  for me, especially considering that NYC is a world class destination with plenty of stellar steakhouses offering world class service from the minute you push open their doors  up to every single second you will spend in the dining room..; Consequently, of QM…I would say…NAY….

 

 Okuda is a highly regarded kaiseki in New York. The restaurant’s owner is Japanese Chef  Toru Okuda who once had 3 Michelin stars in Japan for his restaurant Ginza Kojyu (that restaurant has now 2 Michelin stars).  Chef Okuda is a prolific Chef with couple of elite restaurants in Paris, Tokyo as well as this one in NYC.

A kaiseki meal relies on the ingredients (cooking skills  are also very important, of course) and I tend to avoid  kaiseki meals outside of Japan as it defeats the point of enjoying a meal which purpose is to showcase the glorious produce of Japan in its prime. So, away from Japan, if you understand the basics of the science of food, you can imagine that you cannot replicate the magic of a kaiseki meal. But I was curious to see how Okuda would still fare as a kaiseki outside of Japan.

In Japan, I tried couple of kaiseki meals, namely Kagurazaka Ishikawa , MizaiIwasaki and Sakurada .

You do not need to visit tons of restaurants to understand what a cuisine can taste and feel like at its best. You just need a genuine comprehension of  the basics of the science of  food (not many people do have that as many cannot understand that the environment  in a particular area affects the taste of the food in that area and makes it impossible for that same food to taste the same when cooked somewhere else), you just need to learn from those truly in the know (again, few people get this right. They follow the so-called online food experts, watch couple of youtube videos, try couple of random eateries and think that is enough to be knowledgeable about a given cuisine. Of the myriad of so-called food experts found online, I can guarantee you that few took the time to learn African food alongside an African Grandmother, Thai or Chinese food alongside a Thai or Chinese Mother, etc) ,  you just need to be passionate about all of that (Most are so busy making a buck out of the food industry that it shows that they are not passionate about what they are talking about ) and that is enough. From there, you go to the restaurants that you suspect are the best at what they do, and that is exactly what I have been doing for several decades and kaiseki cuisine was no exception to my modus operandi.

And NO, I do not review every single restaurant that I do visit as I do not always have time for that. What I do, though, when I have a moment, is to seize the opportunity of a review like this one  to educate ourselves through the knowledge that I have gathered from eating at those  restaurants and the long years I have spent studying the  cuisine in question.

On with my meal at Okuda NYC:

Napa cabbage soup, kuruma prawn, caviar, Yuzu . The “soup” was actually a “potage”. As it is the intent with some Japanese food items, the goal is to allow your palate to dig deep in the nuances of the inherent taste of the ingredient. Non Japanese have to train their palate for that, which I did for the past 25 years. And I am now rewarded with the capability  of enjoying very subtle flavours as much as their bold/strongly flavoured counterparts. That was useful, in an instance like this, because nothing was used to hide the inherent taste of the cabbage flavour. It was all about its very own and sole flavour, apart, of course, a very subtle,  barely noticeable contribution of the yuzu citrus. The prawn was of top quality ,  the case with all their ingredients, as you would expect. 8/10

Alaskan king crab, dashi vinegar, Japanese apple, daikon – The quality of the crab high, its freshness remarkable, the seasoning very enjoyable with the dashi vinegar featuring a  fine balance of fresh acidity. A first-rate nibble. 9/10

Dashi broth, Tilefish (amadai), carrot, radish, spinach, tofu, chrysanthemum. If you have trained your palate to the subtle nuances of some of the Japanese food items, you will thank it, as it was all about a maximum of flavour coming from the inherent taste of the quality ingredients. The homemade perfected soft texture of the tofu revealed some serious skills in the kitchen. As it is usually the case with high end kaiseki, every single ingredient is there for a reason. 8/10

Japanese grouper sashimi, featured a nice firm texture testifying to the utter freshness of the fish. I had more impressive versions of it elsewhere, but this was fine. 6/10

Spanish tuna sashimi was of fine quality as you would  expect at this level of dining, the tuna sliced then marinated by the Chef at the sushi counter,  and it came  with two mini ‘sticks’ of  mountain potato  from Japan. 7/10

Grated radish sauce, kinki fish (channel rockfish) , enoki mushroom – Again, top quality fresh fish with the fresh taste and smell of the ocean on evidence. This was grilled with its scales, a technique that enhanced the taste of this very delicious fish. 8/10

Matsutake, the prized mushroom. Fried and served with lime and salt. As expected, the sourcing is of top mention, and the way they fried it (zero sign of oil, the frying serving as an enhancer to the earthy flavour of the mastsutake — in a way that your palate simply would not think that it was fried) revealed some great understanding of the produce, which sounds like nothing, but then you have got to make that happen. Which they did.

Sea urchin, egg plant, miso, cod milt. Superb quality sea urchin from California. The cod milt preparation a true highlight as they made a rendition of it that would please the most, almost tasting like a crowd-pleasing cream dessert, but it was cod milt. 9/10

Wagyu, grated chestnut. Miyazaki Wagyu A5 tenderloin, cooked to precise medium -rare doneness, generously seasoned with salt. It tasted great. 8/10. The ”snow avalanche” of grated chestnut was not necessary, in my view, but it makes a good spectacle for sure.

Grated turnip, molded into a mini sphere shape with a piece of golden eye snapper (kindmedai) underneath. Another display of fine technique with the intentional gooey texture of the liquid in which the turnip and the fish were bathing nicely rendered. As you should know, before attending a kaiseki meal, for the Japanese, textures are as important as flavour. The fish of superb fresh quality and its cooking well timed. 8/10

Steamed rice  / ikura/seaweed/grated bottarga – this is where the importance of the proximity to the “terroir” makes a difference. Being close to the terroir means that you have access to the latest intel about what rice is at its prime at a given time, etc. This rice was good but not as dazzling as it can be at a high end kaiseki -ya in Japan. That said, this featured quality ingredients, as expected, and it tasted good 7/10

Miso soup had some dices of their superb soft tofu in it. The white miso (shiro miso) soup itself revealed a high level of technical skills as its delicate mild  flavour was remarkable. The Fresh exciting umami coming from that miso soup being another highlight of the tasting menu. 9/10

The dessert was offered as an assortment of mini creations such as a good lemon ice cream, with the fresh taste of the fruit at the fore. Even better was a pumpkin pudding with great luscious texture, some utterly fresh raspberry and blueberry encased in a delicious mini “dome” of jelly, a well made and tasty tiny piece of tamago underneath as well as some competently rendered sweet  red bean paste. 8/10

An elite Japanese venue in NYC, for sure. The above mentioned ratings of the individual food items are not to be compared to the ratings of my meals in Japan.

There won’t be an overall score for the food that I have just enjoyed at Okuda NYC as it will not convey anything: as a reminder, kaiseki is, by design, the cuisine that is the most “intimately linked” to the “terroir” of  Japan. It is its “raison d’etre”. Kaiseki is a cuisine which main purpose is to showcase the best of Japan’s produce in its prime (seasonality). Which means the proximity to Japanese terroir is of utter importance. And they had the courage to try to reproduce such “mission impossible” in NYC. Respect!

Overall rating for the service and dining experience is a 10/10 (hard to beat Japanese standards of service at the upmarket dining level). They stand predominate in that regard.

Bottom line: Proper 1 star Michelin. All the ingredients were there: the expected respect of seasonality, the assured technique, fabulous service, elegant interior, etc. It is virtually impossible for a Kaiseki that is outside of Japan to beat its counterpart of the motherland. If you find one, let me know and I will walk the equivalent of one tour of the globe, on my knees, to go and see that. But they did their best to get the job done. And that is already an exploit. Okuda, Addr: 458 W 17th St, New York, NY 10011, USA; Phone: +1 212-924-0017; URL: https://www.okuda.nyc

 

 

Vizantino taverna (18 Kydatheneon Street, Plaka, Athens Phone +30 21 0322 7368)
Stumbled upon this  taverna of Plaka while walking in Plaka.

Spinach cheese pie – not freshly baked, meaning reheated, consequently hard and dry

Veal with eggplant – delicious eggplant, delicious sauce BUT The meat was reheated, therefore…again, it was dry … and could not  taste as meaty as it should have been. 

Lamb lemon sauce – at first, it was available. Then 5 minutes later, it was not …anymore. Therefore, they asked if I would like some grilled lamb, instead, which I agreed on, only to discover that … even the grilled lamb …they managed to  reheat it…!!

Cooked to order is a notion they have NEVER heard of, at Vizantino …

Overall food rating: 0/10 Dear cooks at vizantino, how would you feel if reheated food was served to you at a restaurant? Chances are that you would find it insulting and you would confront the restaurant staff. I happen to be well behaved and I do not go to restaurants to confront anyone, but ….by respect to the hard work of the honest workers of the restaurant industry, I hope that  words will spread so that you start realizing  that what you would not accept to be fed on…well, you SHOULD NOT feed people with it.   Yes, you are popular, but in an instance like this, what I could not fail to observe is that there were just tourists at your restaurant, which, btw.. should not be an excuse …for a serious restaurant, I mean…to serve reheated food – On the back of this meal, you do not seem interested to be a serious restaurant. You are an insult to the hard working and proud professionals that I have met all along this trip in Greece, namely the folks at Argo, the Old tavern of Psaras, Avli Tou Thodori, To Ouzeri, Yialo Yialo, all true restaurant  professionals who are located in places far more beautiful and touristy than the “slum village” corner of Plaka where you are operating and could have rested on their laurels because tourists would flock to their restaurants, anyways,  but  herein lies the difference between you and them: they are professionals. You are not.

Fato a Mano  (Meletopoulou square Mykonos Greece, Greece Phone: +30 2289 026256) cooks Mediterranean  food (Greek, Italian), is located in Mykonos Town, and has the longest salad menu I ever saw at a restaurant in Mykonos. The place looks cozy with comfortable chairs and dominant earthy colours.

Feta cheese, honey, sesame and cinnamon / pleasant firm texture, fine produce . such typical Greek combination of honey and cheese tantalizes the palate, in general, as it happened right here, in Mykonos, the day before, but at Fato a Mano, it tasted  surprisingly  ordinary. This is the sort of window of opportunity that a kitchen brigade should seize to showcase wit, personal touch, skills. Greeks rarely fail to miss this one… 5/10

I also had grilled sea bream which was cooked properly, nicely seasoned. 7/10

Baklava was not the best I had, but not bad at all,  neither as it was tasty enough. That said,  this was not as flaky, crispy and tender as the far better baklava I had in Mykonos, Santorini or Athens during this trip. 5/10

Overall food rating: 6/10

Service is fabulous here. And Fato a Mano was a pleasant experience, but on the culinary front, I was not moved: yes, I liked my sea bream and indeed, it was nicely seasoned, but the grilled feta cheese and baklava were the true “tests” where the kitchen’s skills needed to shine, exactly like what  Avli did with a simple pita bread or Yialo   with a simple freshly baked pie. I am not asking the moon, just that little extra step that awakes the palate.

Time for a long break. I shall be gone till November. Leaving you on the following notes:

-My recent restaurant reviews: Thursdays, Tapas 24 MtlVertigo StkBar, Gia BaRestaurant Mercuri, Bar Mercuri, Le Serpent, La Chronique, Jun IL’Européa, Sushi Yasu, Kyo, Peter Luger, Kam Fung, FiregrillPatrice Patissier, Raku, Au cinquième péché, Au Pied de Cochon, Callao , Shinji, Mochica, Bottega .

La Porte, a restaurant that I have always regarded as Montreal’s #1 (click here for past reviews of my meals at La Porte ) has recently closed. Chef Rouye’s food has always fared, to me, as one of the very  best that  Mtl has ever been able to offer and he was pulling it off on a consistent basis. Couple of weeks ago, Chef Rouyé has opened a more humble restaurant in Val David, called La Table des Gourmets (https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-table-des-gourmets/1463806720537762). It’s, apparently, already a big hit overthere,which, knowing Chef Rouyé’s talent, came as no surprise. Check that out: La Table des Gourmets 2353 rue de l’église, Val-David, Quebec (819) 322-2353

La Queue de Cheval,  Montreal’s very best steakhouse,  has now re-opened. Lavish/luxury/pricey, whether you like it or not, it leaves no one indifferent. I’ll leave the debate over cost performance/price/tolerance to lavishness/perceptions based on price…  to your discretion (you’ll have a lot to say about it, trust me) and will stick to what matters to me: not one single steakhouse in Montreal masters the nuances of  its steak as well as QDC. Just remember, it is very pricey (though ,the Q is aware of that and is consequently also offering  affordable lunch and late night menus).   La Queue de Cheval 1181 Rue de la Montagne, (514) 390-0091 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/queuedecheval  .

I finally tried Tapas 24 Montreal, which is is affiliated with Barcelona’s reknown Tapas restaurant Tapas 24. I was very pleased with both the food and the experience, and if they pursue with the standards I found on the evening of my two visits, then Tapas 24 Montreal will easily rank among the few truly great  restaurants in  Montreal. Keep in mind that it is bite-size food (which is what tapas are), so obviously  not your usual ‘big eater’ destination .My review here. Tapas 24  420 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montréal, Phone:(514) 849-4424

I recently tried couple of places in Laval, a city North of Montreal: Enotecca Mozza did nothing for me, Pirate de Laval continues to be a decent restaurant by local standards, Le Cosmopolitain remains my preferred breakfast place in Montreal and its surroundings and my once preferred poutine place in Laval (Le Croque) is not what it used to be. You can peruse that report here.

Went back to my other preferred Isakaya in town, Kazu, after a previous meal that was average. This time Kazu was in top form with the best Japanese-isakaya inspired roasted salmon that I ever enjoyed in a restaurant of Montreal as well as a spectacular soft ice cream tasting of the raw fresh cow milk of my tender childhood. I could have a bone to pick over the fact that their omnipresent secret homemade sauce lessens  (a bit, I find) the enjoyment of the food, and the more affordable offerings are  generally not what you should come here for, but Kazu continues to deliver the most delicious Isakaya fares of this city.

Couple of places visited this summer: (1)Bier Markt 1221 René-Lévesque Boulevard West (514) 864-7575- I tried their hamburgers as well as silders which I did both rate with a 4/10 as, for my taste,they lacked the deep beefy bold flavor that such basic fares have no choice but to deliver. Furhermore,  the meat was overcooked/border dry  on both instances. The  variety of beer is amazing, indeed, for a beer destination in Montreal but I wish the food could be up to par. The welcoming, at the entrance, could be warmer.  (2)Le Hachoir 4177 Rue Saint-Denis, Montréal (514) 903-1331- It’s being a while that I wanted to visit Le Hachoir which  name aroused  the carnivore in me. Here, I tried their trio of mini burgers which was  certainly not bad at all, the quality of the meat really good, but I wish theirs had a beefier kick. The quality of the meat was also the saving grace of a nice fresh meaty tartare that I also enjoyed there, but the seasoning lacked  spark. I get their point though: they want the main ingredient to shine through, but in both cases a beefier kick for the trio of mini burgers as well as an exciting seasoning for the tartare, as long as it’s judicious…they would have brought those items a long way. A 5/10 for me,  but this place is popular, fun, the service amazing so consider this to  be a NO sour 5/10 (you can see that they are capable of better). (3)-Reubens Deli 1116  Ste Catherine  continues to impress me. It is the only other restaurant in Montreal, alongside Bottega on St Zotique, that you can rely on, in my view, in terms of consistency.It has been consistently good,for me, year after year. This summer I   had my share of sliders in town and theirs simply blew away any other serving of  sliders I have enjoyed in town. The beefy flavor as well as superb  moist meaty consistency of those sliders were ages ahead of the rest. Their 10 oz “famous super sandwich “continues to be the most refined smoked meat in town. This is not refinement sacrificing flavor, to the contrary it’s technical prouesse in demonstrating that you do not need messy smoked meat to pretend that it is good or authentic, you just need one that’s deliciously meaty, the meat of top quality, the seasoning exciting. Their Montreal-style cheesecake  is also one of the few tastier and better executed ones out there,with strawberry of spectacular fresh ripe /wild flavor. Overall, a 9/10 by Delicatessen standards. Reubens Deli’s refinement may hit on the nerves of those who believe that delicatessen should taste,look and be served in rustic settings –which is pure BS as food is well done or it is not, delicious or not…and nothing else—  , but ultimately it  is one excellent Deli, one of my few preferred Delis anywhere around the globe.

 

On a non-foodie subject, the habs have signed Pk Subban for 8 years worth $72 million. This is little money for one of the greatest athletes of our decade, an exemplary ambassador of his sport  . I think we are lucky, in Quebec, to have such inspiring  athletes such as PK, Georges St Pierre and of course, our latest rising star Eugénie Bouchard.

Restaurant: Au Pied de Cochon
Type cooking:  Remake of rustic traditional Quebecois cuisine+ Misc French classic bistrot fares
Address: 536 Avenue Duluth Est, Montréal
Date/Time of the meal: June 13th, 2014 18:00
URL: http://www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca/

Recent reviews: Restaurant Mercuri, Bar Mercuri, Le Serpent, La Chronique, Jun IL’Européa, Sushi Yasu, Kyo, Peter Luger, Kam Fung, FiregrillPatrice Patissier, Raku, Au cinquième péché.

 

I went back to a long time favourite bistrot, Au Pied de Cochon. Sadly, this is the 3rd visit in a row that leaves me disappointed. I am one of the earlier fans of APDC, with amazing souvenirs of its brighter days. I do understand that not every cook can trade head to head with super skilled Chefs like Picard or Dufour (the earlier kings of this house) but there is no excuse for  subpar cooking….especially for food as easy to satisfy as classic-based bistrot  fares. It pains me  to write this about  Picard’s stronghold, Au Pied de Cochon (APDC),  as I had some of the  most interesting restaurant remakes of  rustic/old school hearty Quebecois and French bistrot  food,  there in its early days when both Picard himself and Chef Hugues Dufour were  still at the helm, but it now  seems, to me, far, and each time further and further, from its  best days. On this evening, I dined with a friend who knows his food well. His first time at APDC.  His opinion is that he was impressed by the great service and loved the concept but sharp cooking skills is basically what he was missing.

 

AU PIED DE COCHON, CRAB SALAD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crab salad – Basically, well sourced fresh crab flesh mixed with a salad of cucumber. Not bad, but an $18 salad of crab certainly calls for a sign or two of ….restaurant quality effort. This was basically as decent  as any salad that  anyone would have made at home with quality crab and cucumber in his/her hands. Casual cooking does not mean easy / basic food….And btw,  most bistrots would deliver this with a bit more creativity, a witty touch. Want more? Ask Chefs Dufour and Martin Picard if they would have deliver this salad in such uninspired fashion (simply toss a mayo-based vinaigrette with cucumber and crab meat..the effect was as basic as that)   5/10

 

AU PIED DE COCHON, SEAFOOD PLATTERSeafood platter – Summer at APDC has the seafood platter as the star of the house. APDC seafood platter comprises of a mix of raw (oysters, clams, conch , whelks, mussels, calamari) as well as fried items (sometimes fish, but on this occasion, well…anyways, we’ll get to that later), served with condiments such as tomato sauce, aioli, spicy yoghurt. Everything was well sourced on this platter, but sadly…everything was overdone and in a nonsensical fashion: whelk was drowned in a sort of mayo-based concoction that I did not bother inquiring about since it killed the appreciation of the whelk with its heavy creamy overwhelming dimension. Poor whelks, one of my favourite seafood items…. – The brigade on duty this evening seems to really love anything that  pivots around  mayo or cream-cheese or whatever yoghurty look alike dressing:  the oyster not escaping from this pattern  as one of those nonsensical dressings did escort my oysters,   an aigrelette cream sauce   accompanied the oysters this time . Good lord, … that is a perfect recipe to turn the oyster serving into an unappetizing bite both texturally and palatably (the effect being exactly the same, on this instance, as pairing cream cheese to oyster…certainly, that was not going to do anything good to the oyster).   Mussels came in the form of small mounds of heavy-loaded brunoise of veggies mixed with mussel flesh, introduced within the mussel shells…so heavy on the stomach that I would hate mussel forever had this been my lifetime first mussel bite.  Calamari, were drowned in what looked like a squid-ink based concoction that managed to be cloying, …poor calamari!  As for the fried item..well, it  came in the form of what looked like tiny pieces of fish (??) tempura sitting atop  some of the sea shells offerings, and shall be remembered as yet another element too many in an already confusing seafood platter (this was the $60 seafood platter).  For me, this was nothing more than just a  waste of well sourced ingredients  2/10

 

AU PIED DE COCHON, LOBSTER RISOTTO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lobster risotto featured rice that was properly cooked to the bite but the overall texture was   ‘cloying’ rather than creamy.  I do not expect them to compete with the finest Italian risotti in town but for me, this was cloying, not creamy and cloying is not the texture I need with a risotto. And at $42 the plate, I need the lobster morsels to benefit from more inspired work than just featuring as morsels of boiled lobster laid atop the risotto…  5/10

AU PIED DE COCHON, VEAL TARTARE

 

 

 

 

 

Veal tartare was the best item of this meal, the veal seasoned judiciously, its taste really appetizing. The ‘asian’ touch of wrapping them in a nori sheet is an idea that never fails to entice as raw meat and seaweed sheets is one of those combinations condemned to pair well.  7/10

PROS : Popular, boisterous, it is never boring here. The service really great as always.

CONS: This (a remake of rustic traditional Quebecois cuisine) is one kind of food that I am very familiar with (by very familiar, I mean about 2 decades of enjoying it…) and to which my palate tends to be partial to, therefore easy to reach out to my expectations, BUT their current cooks really need to  draw the line between enjoyable rich food (what made Au Pied de Cochon a widely praised foodie destination)  Vs overwhelming fares (what I have experienced all along the recent  3 visits). Today, I saw plenty of dishes, served at other tables, and that were lost amidst an unreasonable amount of ingredients and condiments. My past two visits starred a lamb shank confit that was so over garnished to the point that I could not tell the difference between the meat and its garnishes. On that same visit, a piece of delicate fish suffered from the same problem (why, on earth, do you associate a delicate piece of fish with that much reduction on the plate??).  As for the current meal, same old problems….

Overall food score for this meal: 4/10 You have all you need to know in the description of each of the dishes. Needless to add more … – I hope they improve because they used to be sensational.

Conclusion: Once upon a time, under this very same roof, the exact same items that failed today … were better conceived, and came with a very personal touch, because whoever was crafting them had a better sense of flavor combination, in my view and for my taste. APDC remains ‘unique’ / ‘original” by local standards, but, for me, the soul of this house has moved to their sugar shack (the souvenirs of the inspired rustic food that Martin Picard or Hughes Dufour were once crafting … they seem to have somehow resurfaced at their sugar shack). I do not  know if there is an  urgency of hiring a Chef of Picard’s or Dufour’s ilk, I just know that ADPC  seems, to me, to fail to thrive well.

Post thinking: I usually have a section called ‘what I think a week or a month later”.  With a meal like this, there’s no need for such section as it’s not a performance I want to think about. There are many things in life that we learn to cope with, and a forgettable meal is just part of life, even when you pay as much as what you would have paid at  a 3 star Michelin restaurant….  for a poorly executed bistrot performance, but I   have a friendly advise, just a friendly one:  seafood are a gift from the above, whoever cooks has no other choice but to  be gentle with them (the seafood), respect them (the seafood) because they (the seafood) are unforgiving when you treat them badly….they bite! (wink).  I know that, because I have yet stumbled upon a kitchen that cooks well without paying utter respect to them (the seafood). Seafood is the mother of all ingredients, trust that one….On an aside note, I’ll conclude by suggesting that as an old fan of Martin Picard, and knowing how proud and passionate this man is, I can safely presume that Martin would not be proud of what I was left with in the course of  the underwhelming past 3 visits.  The past 3 meals had more to do with testing my patience rather than getting the job done…Now, can we resume with  serious cooking???Is that too much to ask?

WOLD CUP SOCCER 2014On a non-foodie subject, the magic of  the soccer world cup is now in full effect. So an exciting summer for us, fans of soccer. June 12, July 13, let’s play!  My WISH : a final between Brazil and Germany! ;p Though, I have a soft spot for Italy (would love to see Pirlo with the world cup in his hands, he’s my favourite soccer player ) as well as the UK (I grew up admiring Steven Gerrard). Regarding the recent games, my opinion is  that the defeat of Spain against the Netherlands should not be taken seriously. Spain knows how to win and their next games will reveal an unbeatable side. I really do not see Brazil going that far eventhough my wish is that they face Germany for the cup. Yes, they have some of the players that I do admire a lot, like Oscar and Willian, but I do not sense, from their part,  the fire or strong and deep passionate commitment  typical of a team that is on mission (It’s of course a bit too early to talk about such, but Costa Rica seems to have that fire up to now). I also think that the South American teams will surprise many during this WC! Ah, soccer, the beautiful game….

 

 

 

 

Restaurant Tre Colori
Cuisine: Italian
Date/Time of the dinner: January 29th 2014, 19:00
Addr: 1696 Avenue Bourgogne, Chambly
Phone:(450) 658-6653
URL: http://trecolori.com/
Other Mtl & suroundings Italian restaurants reviewed on  current blog: Le Serpent, Pasta Casareccia.

TRE COLORI, CHAMBLY 2

I was southshore Montreal (in Chambly, 32 kms from Mtl), eating with some friends and seized the opportunity to visit a place that was highly recommended by many ppl I know.

It’s  an institution down there in the city of Chambly, opened since 1967 with a generation of Italian families (from Calabria)  at the helm. As always, I like reading reviews before going to a place, but most of the bad opinions sounded like personal vendettas against that place, whereas most of the glorifying reviews sounded over the top for a place of this caliber. So I quickly erased those from my memory. After all, your best judge is your very ownself, lol The place has a classic Italian elegance interior décor (minus the pricey material like marbles), white tablecloths, paper napkins on the tables (although, those were of good quality).

TRE COLORI, CHAMBLY - MARGHERITA

The ppl who did recommend TC to me  have raved about the Pizza, so I ordered a Pizza Margherita (as always, it’s in the simple and authentic  little things that I want to see you walking the walk..never with the  flights of overdone /overloaded pizzas…lol) . Being a long time fan of Pizza, particularly the Neapolitan ones, I do naturally favor wood-fired pizza ovens (At Tre Colori, there’s no wood-fired pizza oven on the premises), though it’s of course not  synonymous with  a better pizza (you have the tool, but then you need to use it skillfully). Tre Colori’s Pizza Margherita is certainly nowhere close to Bottega’s levels –but again, who does in Mtl??   Everytime I hear about a Pizza place in Mtl that’s supposedly better than Bottega, I  try it…and time after time, the suggestions turned out to be sad jokes!!!!! and NOPE…I won’t start un-realistic comparisons to what’s done in Italy, at say, a place like  Da Michele in Napoli. We are not in Italy!  — but for a Pizza that does not benefit from the advantage of nice wood-fired aromas (they use the deck oven you’ll find at most Pizzerias in town) , it was actually good:  it still featured some of the characteristics that gets close to a Neapolitan Pizza, such as a tender center, nice puffy crust edges, the proportion of dough Vs sauce pretty much well balanced,  the mozza of good quality and the homemade tomato sauce as good as you’ll get from most  good pizzas in town .  This fared  actually way better than plenty of Pizza places that oftently appear on most rundowns of top 10 best Pizzerias in town. 7/10 by Montreal  & surroundings standards.

TRE COLORI, CHAMBLY - spaghetti a la calabrese

Then Pasta (spaghetti) alla calabrese – Here using capicollo and homemade tomato sauce, though using  sardines in place of capicollo would have somehow imparted a much more Southern Italian/Calabrian touch to that pasta (listen, I am not saying this to sound interesting or ‘connoisseur’, I do not trade on those grounds. This touch would have provided that dish with more genuine flavors, which would have elevated it from a standard pasta dish to something more ).  Still, tasty enough, the doneness of the pasta to the bite as it should and the homemade tomato packed with superb tang of fresh acidity.  By Montreal standards, a proper 7/10.  Good.

TRE COLORI, CHAMBLY - Tiramisu

Went for their Tiramisu, $6. YEP..I know, some find it  too cliché to stick to  the T at an Italian eatery, but ‘cliché’ is not part of my vocabulary. Those simple items that have been around for so long, I like them because I’m interested to see how far you can get them to shine. Tiramisu is indeed easy to make, but a startling one will always be hard to get by. I realized that when even one of my favourite Italian tables in Montreal, Bottega, had a Tiramisu that was indeed good, but not stellar. And god knows that Bottega’s kitchen is not your average / ordinary kitchen. Presented in a glass, Tre Colori’s has the relevant mascarpone/eggs mix blending appetizingly with the coffee flavor, and this was as good if not even a tad better (though not conceived the same way: this one had a first creamy layer, then you had the cake part in the middle, whereas the I had at bottega was mostly a cake) than  the one I had at Bottega.  Among the better Tiramisus you’ll get in  Mtl.   8/10   PS: The well known ‘Italian lobster’ dessert, widely found in Southern Italy, would have brought a  ‘special’ dimension in that otherwise safe list of desserts (essentially composed of the Tiramisu and couple of chocolate-based desserts – you can see that menu online).

One companion picked the $39 special daily menu, which comprised of a minestrone soup, lamb chops that came with pasta simply sautéed in olive oil and garlic  +  a lemon granitée (he shared  some of his soup, lamb chops as well as granitée with me) . The minestrone soup  was  an average one (5/10), but the lamb chops pertained to a standard you won’t get to enjoy that oftently at any restaurant level in town and one that would make a great Michelin star restaurant really proud. It was a lesson on  how flames, exploited dexterously,  can lift up the taste of meat to levels that our palates tend to ignore  because most do not bother about taking ‘the granted’ (no one should miss grilled lamb chops …) and turn it into the  ‘not that granted‘  (…but few can make one this delicious). There’s certainly no scarcity of lamb chops in town, and I do not know if they do it this well on a regular basis, but those we were enjoying on this evening were simply sublime in all accounts (the meat enhanced by superb grilling flavors but in an exciting palatable  way that few can achieve, the seasoning bold and perfect, even the texture of the cut/quality of the chop  was flawless), exciting  lamb chops that will be remembered as long as my memory serves me right (9/10), the accompanied pasta achieved to proper al dente doneness though a tad too garlicky according to the person who ordered the lamb chops (I did not sample the pastas, but  this buddy knows his food so I trust his judgement) , then a lemon granitée  of great finesse (7/10) –  the third person  took a small  all dressed Pizza $11  (6/10 They call it All’Americana , dressed with pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, bacon, brick cheese — not bad at all, from bites that I have sampled,  BUT I found the Margherita to better showcase the good level of skills of this kitchen)  as well as some cheese au gratin French bread $5 (again, surprisingly average considering the skills displayed on the better dishes of this evening 5/10).

Service:  Service (by two young ladies) was flawless, though I had a booking experience (over the phone) that I thought  pertaining to ancient times. The gentleman who picked the phone left me on hold for 5 minutes, acted as if he was seriously taking my reservation (name, phone number, etc), but when I arrived at the restaurant, the waitress told me that there was no reservation (she actually never looked at the reservation book) for that evening. Basically, the dude over the phone knew that for a wednesday evening, they do not take reservations but instead of informing his customer, he preferred enjoying his moment of smartness. As usual, no drama and there are certainly worst things in life, Amen, lol, but that kind of behaviour is certainly not what a customer should  be looking forward to. At the restaurant, the service was of great standards so that unecessary episode is long forgotten as well as forgiven.

PROS: The top flight lamb chops of this evening. I do not recall having enjoyed a better one in Montreal, the amazing service by the two young ladies.  The operatic Italian music and overall charming classic  ambience…Truly felt like being in an episode of the Sopranos (some may not like it, but I DO!) ;p Tre Colori is not the discovery of the year, far from that, but it does certain things better than plenty of places enjoying   far more visibility / credits.

 CONS: To me, it’s a place that has its strengths  (clearly, if you tell me that this is an average kitchen, then I do not want to know what you perceive as good, lol,  cause those lamb chops I had on this evening are everything you want, certainly not average. Same for the Margherita Pizza, the Tiramisu….simple items I know, but many still miss them whilst they did not),  but there were sparse factors that left me underwhelmed (but not to the point of dramatizing neither)  and that  I did not find  consequent with their fortes: the episode about the reservation as detailed in the ‘service’ section of current account, the  napkins –which although of good quality — took away a bit of the purpose of the beautiful classic tablecloth’d table, the average minestrone soup, the average  bread, the pasta that’s fine but a tad less impressive than elsewhere. At least, here, I can say that I was more satisfied than not and I can certainly tolerate what I’ve perceived as less enchanting (thanks to their better dishes which clearly would send many other supposedly superior kitchens to shame, thanks to that sublime service of those two young classy ladies, thanks to their pride and perseverance at remaining true to what they’ve always been instead of  running laughably after trends).

The list of wines  flows through several pages of a very pretty winebook, essentially Italian wines (on their web site, you can have a good idea of the wine offerings), with prices ranging from the very affordable (for eg, around the  $30/$40) to its far opposite. There was already a bottle on the tables, apparently the restaurant’s ‘coup de coeur’ of the moment, according to my waitress, and you are free to opt for it or not. I chose their  ‘bottle of the moment’, a 2011  Apaltagua Envero  Carmenere  from Chile (online retail price around $16, sold $45 at the restaurant), one  kind of red wine  I favor for its fine medium body of dark fruit aromas (the plums, in particular,  coming through nicely towards the end of this evening’s tasting with an enjoyable round mouthfeel). The bottle of wine opened perhaps at 1 degree under room temperature, though I am confident that  this was just a rare minor  omission, and I can’t really complain because my  waitress was very classy in  asking if  the temperature was to my liking. To which I replied that it was fine since I did not want to pass as the  ‘’’smart ass of the moment’’ in front of friends who were there to simply have fun and not bother about such details. Again, the waitress and the  house are not at fault at all as those things happen even in grander houses and it was up to me to let them know.

TRE COLORI, CHAMBLY 3Conclusion: Conclusion: Montreal having a big Italian community, we are lucky to have plenty of eateries doing really well. I do not understand the recent report  of a local food journalist suggesting that there are RARE authentic Italian restaurants in Montreal. So what is Tre Marie then? Da Enrico? What is Pasta Casareccia ? Villa Armando? Di Menna? And there are actually a good dozen of other ‘authentic’ Italian restaurants that I could add to that list!  I am not even mentioning my favourite Italian places here. All those places providing flavors as close as possible (for a restaurant that’s several continents and oceans  away from Italy)  to their genuine versions in Italy.  And YEP, guess what, it’s a country that I know well, too!  Do those places stop existing as soon as there’s  a new trendy restaurant in town (that food journalist was reporting about a new Italian table ) ?? LOL. Now, you’ve guessed it:  Tre Colori’s 40 years in business with real experienced Italian Chefs at the helm commended that I go there with, in mind, the expectations that their  local peers have already set. In that regard, my meal here was  of really good  level by local standards. 7/10 as an overall score,  the  pasta dishes of this meal were almost (almost, I wrote)  as good as it gets in Montreal/surroundings, the lamb chops I was having on  this evening will be the new reference against which I’ll judge other examples of those in town. I’d have sampled only the lamb chops + Pizza Margherita + Tiramisu  and the overall score would be higher than a 7/10. The only reason I am not scoring the whole meal higher has to do with the weak minestrone soup + au gratin French bread (the heights attained by the lamb chops of this evening, as well as good standard of the Tiramisu/Pizza Margherita suggesting  that it was reasonable to expect a bit more from even simple items like that minestrone soup and the  gratin French bread (it’s not un-realistic expectations: startling minestrone soups do exist), and, I found the pasta  perhaps a tad less impressive than at, say, Pasta Casareccia (though, let’s set this straight right away: they are NOT  bad at all neither).    Next time, I want to test their risotto (it was not on the menu, but the waitstaff told me that you  can ask for it and they will oblige)  as well as other varieties  of the pastas   to get a more complete impression of this house.  Prices are fair, portions generous.  Certainly a genuine  finding for me  (just skip the items that are usually too mundane like the minestrone zuppa, or else, I am afraid you’ll miss the point), though not one that blew me away, but  ”to Ceasar what pertains to him”:  what matters most  to me is that they’ve proven how far they can go, which answer came in the form of  the exciting lamb chops, really good Tiramisu and Pizza Margherita.