Posts Tagged ‘steakhouse’

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 truely 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, 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 my girlfriend 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 my girlfriend  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. 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

 

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Le Divil (Addr: 9 rue des Fabriques D en Nabot, 66000, Perpignan, France Phone: +33 4 68 34 57 73)

 

 

According to  the international experts of the steak, the best restaurant of France, for meat, in 2017 is le Divil –  Franck Ribière and  Vérane Frédiani, authors of Steak in France as well as internationally acclaimed  experts of the steak have awarded le Divil with the title of France’s best restaurant, for meats, in 2017. Franck has also a movie  about steaks called Steak Revolution in which he documents his trips  around the world in search of the finest steaks possible.

Aging beef : an art or a just a trend? –  Beef aging is nowadays a trend in the restaurant world, but as it is the case with everything that is lucrative, many are aging their meat but rare are those who are delivering an aged beef that lives up to the hype. That is because it is not …lucrative enough to go through what it takes to get the job done properly: months of trial and error, matching the right technique….to the right cut of meat… at the right storing temperature, etc. It is a complex combination of know-how (that few can have because the most are busy running without taking the time to learn walking…) and genuine passion (the attitude of a true artisan, but that is too old school/too time consuming by the standards of the most, nowadays).

Aging beef is  also another strategy of the restaurant industry to ‘milk the cow’. But when done properly, I will admit that it’s a luxury (because …. obviously … properly aged quality meat will not come cheap) that is worth the hype.  Earlier on, I argued that it is rare to find people, in the food industry, that have the right know-how of aging meat, and that could not have been more accurate: just look at how, most of them, do store their aged meats and the lack of proper know-how is an evidence for those in the know. Another proof of the total lack of proper know-how: have you noticed that most restaurateurs do recommended the same doneness no matter the cut, no matter the marbling…that’s absurd as anyone with proper understanding of the science of meats should know that the doneness needs to be adjusted to, as an example, how marbled or not the meat is. Absurd is actually an understatement: many do mix wet and dry aging to…inevitably…an ordinary effect. Why? Well, again….the basic principles of ‘ science ‘ is misunderstood by most of those people aging meat: when you put something wet on something dry… guess what…the dry effect is cancelled. Aging beef is sublime when it is an art. Sadly, it is oftently  no more than  just a trend in the hands of the most.

What  I ate at Le Divil – I ordered a bone-in ribeye of Baltic Beef (tasting a bit of  nuts, saline), dry aged for 100 days days, from Poland as well as a 70 days dry-aged Montbéliard (France) bone-in ribeye (to the smell, before they cooked it, it had the smell of  dry cured ham) . Both were examples of world class dry-aged pieces of quality red meat.  Just remember that they do not serve them to you as  whole steak the  way that a steakhouse would serve it to you in North America, but as meat that is sliced  in pieces (a bit like how they serve your red meat at a Japanese teppanyaki). With meat of this quality, always opt for the default suggested doneness of the house as they know what they are doing (indeed, the doneness ‘bleu’, which the Chef did strongly suggest, was the best doneness for both dry-aged meats as the texture of the meat as well as its flavour were at their best).

Bottom line: Oftently, in the industry, many mix dry and wet ageing, and you are punished with a meat with no real beefy character. Both the Montbelliard and Baltic beef were dry aged meats (as well as all their aged meats at Le Divil), and it was obvious that the meat was aged in perfect conditions (finding the right temperature, and not just using the defacto recommended ones is key to a beautifully dry aged piece of meat, which is what was achieved here). And I am traditionally fond of red meat grilled on open fire, which is the cooking method they use at Le Divil. But next time I will go there, I will insist to get my 20oz bone in rib eye steak…The Chef finds it (a whole piece of 20oz of bone-in ribeye) too much, for 1 pers, but in North America, we are used to it. When meat is superbly dry aged like these, a chunky 20oz bone-in rib eye is what I am looking for. I will go back. Steaks (9/10), Appetizers (N/A), Sides (7/10 ), Service (8/10 )

sh01Strip House Steakhouse is considered as one of the very best steakhouses of New York by the big majority of the city’s  most serious  steakhouse connoisseurs, some of them even  considering the steaks more flavorful at Strip House than at the legendary Peter Luger. It would be a nonsense to eat an average piece of steak in the Mecca of North American style steakhouses, New York, so I did a lot of searches and Strip House ended up ranking high on my list of steakhouses to try in New York.

West coast met East coast in a platter of perfectly well shucked quality oysters, with a dazzling mignonette, and an equally dazzling home made sauce, some tabasco. Oysters have to be great at a steak house of this reputation and they were. Where I needed them to excel was in their homemade sauce and mignonette. They did. 7/10

Lobster bisque , maine lobster, pearl couscous tasted enticingly of fresh lobster flavor, which it has to, indeed. It paled a bit, though, in comparison to the finer lobster bisque that could come from a fine French restaurant (its way-too-thick texture just not as refined, the flavor just not as complex) but that was to be expected at a steak house. 6/10

sh05Filet mignon was the pick of my girlfriend. She thought that the  char was not necessary for a filet mignon (well…honey, it is a North American steakhouse, lol!! Not a French restaurant …) but thought that it tasted fine enough. 6/10

 

sh02 The strip  is their signature steak , but I went for my preferred cut , the bone-in rib eye. The USDA prime meat is wet-aged for at least 21 days.  I usually prefer the effect of a 35 to 40 days dry-aged cut, which was not the case of this steak I was having.  They use a 1800 degree broiler to cook the steak and coat it with olive oil and pepper and that allowed for a nice tasty brown crust. I chose the 20 oz bone-in rib eye . Not much to say about my steak, as a steak house of this quality will usually get the requested doneness right (medium rare to my request), the meat certainly well sourced. Which is exactly what happened here. But the 20  oz bone in rib eye is wet aged, and for someone like me who has long embraced the hype of the dry aged meat, this wet aged piece left no impression (just not enough umami sensation on the palate, just not as meaty and flavorful, I find). Great char, nice  salt and pepper rub, though. Still…game, set and match: dry aged meat wins, for my taste. 6/10

sh03Crisp goose fat potatoes came in the form of a big croquette (6/10), quality asparagus retained a superb crunch (good, but somehow Wolfgang does a tastier rendition)

 

sh04Creamed spinach was fine, but I found the one at Peter Luger a tad more exciting in mouth. Still, this was tasty and had an enticing cheesy-alike taste that I kinda liked. 6/10

Ice cream and sorbet were good,  coffee (Rwanda single origin) was watery and not as flavorful as its enticing description (Silky body, lemon acidity, notes of pineapple and dark chocolate)  may suggest.

Pros: A classy steakhouse, with superb service and its own cachet
Cons: No serious quibble to raise, but as a diner you need to know that they have wet aged as well as dry aged cuts. If, like me, your ideal North American style steak is a 40 days expertly dry aged bone in 2″ inch thick 20 oz cut, then their 20 oz bone in rib eye is not what you are looking for. But they have other steaks that are dry aged such as the 14oz rib eye, 14oz new york strip, porterhouse for two.

Bottom line: a service and an overall dining experience that far surpassed what I have experienced at Peter Luger and Wolfgang. However, they need to fix the issue of the watery coffee. It is easy to make great coffee, so no excuse there. On the topic of the food, I was not blown away. True. But it would be accurate to underline  that no wet aged steak has ever impressed me, so,  obviously,  just a matter of personal taste. 6/10 as an overall rating  for the sides (fine sides, though a tad less impressive than at Wolfgang, for the sake of comparison). I won’t rate the steak – it was a perfectly well executed steak of the wet aged sort, but wet aged  steaks  are not my cup of  tea. 10/10 for the service and overall dining experience.

 

 

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WOLFGANG1***Wolfgang steakhouse Park Avenue (New York)

 

I dropped by Manhattan which is situated couple of hours drive away from Montreal and ate at Wolfgang steakhouse Park Ave which owner (Wolfgang Zwiener) was a waiter at Peter Luger for four decades. If,like me, you are both a huge fan of North American style steakhouses as well as Arts, then this place combines both attractions  under one roof as the artfully decorated ceiling is worthy of attention. On to the point, I could not order their star item, the Porterhouse for two , because my dining companion insisted on ordering her sirloin, which I did not taste, thus cannot opine on, but she certainly was not unhappy about it.

WOLFGANG2I ordered the Bone-in rib eye steak  which, although not the best I had in North America, was at least not far neither from the (rare) better  ones, the 28 days ++  dry aged USDA prime cut packed with enticing robust taste sensation, featuring a well judged char  (charred enoughly long for a proper crusty exterior while leaving the inside perfectly buttery tender and juicy), the steak cooked  to the exact measure of doneness requested (medium rare). I also  had some excellent blue point oysters from Long Island, big, plump and tasting marvellously of the sea. The sides are also well prepared here: broccoli was timely sauteed with chips of garlic, the french fries packed with fresh  potato flavor and boasting attractive texture, with only the mushrooms failing to be enjoyable because they were  way too salty.  My verdict (Benchmark>Great>Good>Above average>Average):  NY is a mecca for good steakhouses, so the fierce competition is obviously forcing  the chophouses to step up their game  and the diners to be particularly picky. But at the end of the day, at such  level of perfecting the steak, it boils down to personal tastes:  I like and I am perfectly able to appreciate the nuances of the “feel” of dry aged over wet aged meat, and this rib eye  steak met my expectations. I tend to perceive meat that is dry aged in between 35 to 40 days  to provide the mouthfeel I want, and the taste of that steak  had an effect on the palate that got  close to what I wanted  (perhaps short of  3,4 extra days of dry aging, for my taste, but I am nitpicking here).  There are perhaps two or three  exceptional North American artisan butchers as well as steakhouses that  did surprise me with rib  steaks that were a  tad superior to this one I was having at Wolfgang Steakhouse, but  WS  is a genuinely great North American chophouse.  That said, it is pricey and at those prices, I wished the service could be more consistent: it was not bad, actually really great in the beginning (not overbearing, very courteous) , but as soon as it got busy,  both my dining companion and myself  virtually stopped existing (our  glasses of water were  left empty for 45 mins…I can understand that you want us to  enjoy our meal and not be bothered by the  constant presence of the wait staff…but 45 minutes and not realizing that the glasses of water are empty…well, I can see no excuse for that) – Steaks (8/10), Appetizers (8/10), Sides (8/10 ), Service (5/10 ) – Wolfgang steakhouse Park Avenue , Addr: 4 Park Ave, New York, NY 10016,  Phone:+1 212-889-3369

Restaurant: Dons de la Nature
Address: 104-0061 Tokyo, Chūō, Ginza, 1 Chome−7−6, B1F
Phone:+81 3-3563-4129
Cusine: Steakhouse (serving only one type of meat: Purebred Wagyu)
Date/Time of the meal: 19-11-2014 18:00
Michelin stars: 1
URL: http://dons-nature.jp/

DLN is widely considered as a top tier steakhouse in Tokyo. Service (by the wife of the Chef)  was uneven for a 1 star Michelin restaurant: over-the-board friendly with some diners, decent with others…which, I gather, is ‘normal’  in ‘general life’ as this boils down to chemistry between people..less so  by the standards of  a 1 star Michelin restaurant. That said,  rest assured that the service is still really really good (you are in Japan, after all). The quality of the meat is the main reason that brought me here, and there is no denying it: the quality is, as expected, of top shelf mention. Sadly,  Wagyu is overrated, which is not the fault of DLN, indeed, but DLN …as a steakhouse…needs to pair  better red wine to their steak.  

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Dons de la Nature is widely considered  as one of Tokyo’s finest steakhouses. Which means that, here, you are exempt from the laughable mis-identification of the meat, a sad recurrent feature  at plenty of steakhouses around the globe. At Dons de la Nature, when they tell you they have Kobe beef, then it is the real one that  comes from Kobe in Japan (and not from elsewhere),  and when they say Wagyu,  then it is TRUE PUREBRED Japanese beef and they will tell you from what region in Japan.

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Traceability is taken seriously here. Wagyu beef is  usually (usually, I wrote, not always) fed on rice straw which is essential for achieving the high level of  intramuscular fat as well as whitening the marbled fat. The slaughter occurs in between 23 to 28 months.

THE FOOD:

I took no starter, fearing that the steak would be filling.

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The meat  available on the day of my visit was  Wagyu from the Oki Islands, (there was a choice of a highly marbled sirloin,  as well as tenderloin — for my taste, Sirloin features the  characteristics I am looking for when eating Wagyu as it’s not lean like tenderloin, the flavor certainly more expressive compared to tenderloin).

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Oftently, in Tokyo, steaks are cooked on an iron griddle (teppanyaki), but here, at Dons de la Nature, they grill it over charcoal (my  preferred cooking method for steak), no ordinary charcoal that is (they use the highly praised Binchōtan charcoal) ,  inside a kiln.  From such steakhouse, there’s not much to say about the basics (as expected, they get the requested doneness right, medium-rare in this case, the seasoning, although simple — a bit of salt — is judicious, the nice crust on the outside that most steak aficionados favor nowadays is achieved beautifully , and the kitchen  clearly knows how to delicately handle a meat of such extensive fat marbling ),

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so what I was looking for was how far the extensive marbling could impress in flavor. Unexpectedly,  the umami  kick  that the  media and plenty of online accounts have praised  continues to elude me (this was the 3rd Wagyu tasting of this trip, having tried Matsusaka a day prior, then Sanda) .Well, YES the umami dimension is  definitely there (afterall the effect of the marbling has to be ultimately felt)  but I get more exciting umami flavor from most   40 to 45 days perfectly dry aged corn-finished prime Black Angus cuts …that have less marbling.  I also do not get the comparision to  foie gras (a common comparison) that I oftently hear about. Do not get me wrong:  this is   quality red meat, that is for sure,  the fat much more delicate in taste and texture in comparison to a fatty cut of Black Angus, but at the end of the count …it is just not as flavorful.   I admire the  quality of Wagyu beef, but for the enjoyment part ..nah,sorry…I (my palate) just do not get it. This was a  6/10, at best, for me  (Grade: A5/  Breed: Japanese Black Wagyu from Oki Islands, 30 days of wet aging  + 30 other days of dry aging )

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The Chef’s wife has suggested to pair the steak with a glass of Camus Père & Fils Mazoyères-Chambertin Grand Cru 2001. This is a wine that scores high on paper: exceptional soil, exceptional vintage, too, as 2001 is one of the very best years of Mazoyères-Chambertin wine.  But the wine I was having had barely any structure (surprising for a wine known for its complexity), the wine devoid of the mouthfeel expected from a grand cru, the finish disappointingly short. Furthermore, this glass of wine was so dry that it clashed with the flavor of the meat I was having. Dryness is a characteristic of Mazoyères-Chambertin wine, but but this was way too dry to be enjoyable. This is an instance where you need a wine with silkier tannins/rounder palate.

Pros:  Wagyu is so praised outside of Japan that there are no shortage of marketing manipulations to call pretty much everything that looks like meat… Wagyu.  You therefore really appreciate the moment when you get to enjoy the real thing on its very own land, which is exactly what Dons de la Nature offers.

Cons:   Wine pairing to a steak is expected to be a highlight at a steakhouse. It has to.

 

Service: Very intimate, very very friendly. The wife of the Chef (she was the sole waitress on that evening) is very enthusiastic, perhaps more with some than  others, but I am nitpicking here. It is much more informal than at most of the steakhouses that I have been to.

My verdict and conclusion:  I won’t rate this house as I do not want my aversion to Wagyu to influence my opinion about Dons de la Nature.  But Wagyu, you my friend….even at the same cost as my favourite Black Angus steaks, there is simply no way I could appreciate you. I respect your legendary reputation but for me, it is clear  that your scarcity creates your value. Yes, you are beautiful to espy (I have rarely seen marbling of such striking beauty), but for my palate, you are not even half as flavorful as an expertly dry aged prime cut of Black Angus. And I just gave you 3 chances right here on your own lands! I even  ensured to lower my expectations (I had none, to tell you the truth) and I did erase  any notion of price from the equation so that the assessment’s  focus is on what matters most:  the flavor!!!.

What I think weeks later: That Wagyu is my all-time biggest disappointment on the aspect of food, that is life and I can deal with that. What struck me most was how the praises about its superlative flavor had absolutely nothing to do with what I have enjoyed. If the flavor of meat is going to be almost as subtle as the one of tofu….then I’ll take the tofu! Meat needs to be flavorful no matter how hard you have worked its quality.

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 truely 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.

Vertigo Stk Bar | Steakhouse | Addr: 1235 Univertsity, Montreal | URL: http://vertigostkbar.com

Went to Vertigo Stk bar, a  new steakhouse opened in downtown Montreal.

The interior of the place is impressive by Montreal steakhouse standards (at the exception of the Queue de Cheval, which, based on the pics posted on their facebook  page, seems to boast the most lavish decor of any steakhouse in town), with leather and dark wood featuring heavily. The  ‘pictures‘ section of of their web site has everything you need regarding the looks of their decor. Those pictures will show you how pretty the place is (it is very pretty), but it won’t tell you how those chairs were ergonomic (I have rarely seen chairs this thoughtfully comfortable at a restaurant in Montreal).

01I ordered their Certified Angus cowboy steak (rib steak) as that is usually one of my preferred steaks  when dining at most  North American steakhouses.  The superb condition of the bone (Yep, I know, some ppl could not care about this kind of detail,  but then…why bother dining out if there is nothing to be expected from a restaurant??) revealing how well  the beast was treated, the doneness achieved as  requested (medium rare) . The seasoning spot on. The most  important, when I eat a steak at a restaurant (on top  of the quality of the meat, obviously — the quality is fine here,fyi) is how the aging effect of the meat manages to deepen the meat flavor and helps  tenderizing it. I do not buy into the idea that a meat shoud be aged over 50 days…beyond 50 days, the effect is one that my palate stops appreciating. It should  not be too short neither (in between 40 to 45 days is the ideal for my taste). There’s of course more (to just the number of   days of aging) , as I prefer the effect of   dry aging over the one of wet aging, the flavor of corn-finished beef, barely no seasoning as to allow the meat to express itself (though  an exciting steak seasoning that is well done will achieve that same great impression, too). The meat here is aged with a minimum of 21 days by their (US as well as Western Canadian) suppliers then wet aged in between 7 to 14 days by the house, the beef corn-fed and finished (our North American palates tend to generally associate meat of corn-fed and finished cattles with enhanced beef flavor and indeed, this tasted more flavorful, to my palate,  than most of their grass-fed counterparts),  the steak grilled on infrared gas grill, served charred, the effect in mouth (of the steak I was sampling) underlining  the character that I came to expect from well sourced and timely  aged cuts, which means beefy enough in flavor,   though, in this case, not as delicately tender as I came to expect from the sort of  prime-aged rib steaks that I am partial to (dry aging that beef instead of the wet age method would have helped achieving that tenderness I was looking for, in my personal imperfect and subjective view). 6/10

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My wife ordered the beef tartare which was all about the quality of the meat: indeed, well sourced. It was hand cut and meat this fresh always make a good impression. Not  as boldly seasoned  or exciting as one would wish right from the first bites,   but bite ater bite it morphed into an enjoyable tartare. 6/10 for me, 7/10 for my wife.

03The fish tacos is an item that most online accounts have raved about. It was not bad, but two factors jumped to our attention: (1) the tortilla had a grilling  flavor that we  –surprisingly —  did not enjoy. It was not grilled  throughout (more accurately quickly laid on a grill ) , but the grilling flavor’s bitterness was a bit too present…so not   pleasant  for our palates. Taste is subjective though, so give it a try and see for yourself (2)the fried  fish that was in the tacos was of good quality, but the overall was standard/regular/normal western style take on the tacos..nothing more. The problem with tacos is that the Mexican influence is never far away, as we are in North America, so fine tacos is fresh in North American memories – for eg, while eating those tacos, I had the finer ones of El Rey del Taco (in Jean Talon’s market) fresh in mind, and the ones I was having at Vertigo paled a bit in comparison as they did not have the Mexican panache   I am expecting from a take on the tacos  –    5/10 for me, 6/10 for my wife.

I also enjoyed some first-rate fresh pickle point oysters,properly shucked,   from Prince Edward Island. These  were  beautifully sourced bivalves. The only minor problem is that this evening’s accompanying  mignonette sauce was sweeter than usual and that  clashed with the natural mild briny   flavor of  the pickle point oyster . Mignonette done this well (this starred the kind of vibrant fresh /exciting acidity that mignonette have long lost at most restaurants because the big majority of kitchen brigades are  in  auto mode  when it comes to execute it. This also revealed that even the quality of the lemon is not overlooked at Vertigo Stk bar ) needs nothing superfluous.

 

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Desserts went a notch above the performance of the  savouries,  with warm chocolate & croissant pudding of flawless execution and fabulous taste (superb classic pastry technique elevated with panache  in a way that even the new generations of diners will have their share of fun as,for eg, the pudding felt contemporary -meaning devoid from the heavyness of old fashion pastry — but kept the exciting rich flavor alive, and that was  also  the case for the crème anglaise). The donuts  featuring excellent  textures, their apple butter/lemon cream flavor not bold, rather delicately complex, which in itself is a sign of great technical mastery.   First-rate classically-based desserts.  8/10 in the assessment of  both my wife and I.

Pros: A classy steakhouse, a talented pastry team (no  gimmicks in its  game, but the fundamentals are  mastered really well).

Cons: (1)This evening’s tacos lacked the bold and joyous flavors of tacos  +(2)  this rib steak I was having should have been tenderer + (3) wine by the glass at most steakhouses is Mtl is priced agressively. There’s no exception here: 1 glass of a young (2013)  red Australian wine (19 Crimes, GSM ), costing $19.95 the bottle at the saq (see here) is sold $17   by the glass of 9 oz ……………..

Conclusion: 6/10 , Above average  by Montreal steakhouse standards. There are rarely  bad rib  steaks at a  steakhouse (unless the restaurant is really careless about the  meat),  there are just ones that get close to your ideal of a great rib  steak  or that simply distance themselves from that ideal. My ideal, these days, is one of a Certified Angus or USDA Prime corn-finished  (of course, there’s more to your steak than that, but this is in  summary) cut with effect similar to a 40 days dry aged meat. The one I was having on this evening at Vertigo  did certainly not distanced itself too much from  that ideal, though  in my personal subjective and imperfect view, it lacked a bit of the remarkable tender consistency of some  other rib steaks I had elsewhere.  I’d say that, for my taste, I find that  the one at  La Queue de Cheval has  the edge. Outside of steakhouses, an exceptional Steak shop like Le Marchand du bourg can sell you aged steaks which effect seems, to me, as being  even better than what I have sampled at La Queue de Cheval as well as here, at Vertigo. That  said, this was an enjoyable steak, the produce well sourced (even the vegetables are not an afterthought), the overall experience very pleasant, with great service, in a beautiful chic and modern interior.

What I think days later: The steak did not blow me away but appreciation of steak is identical to  judging colors, there will be  no consensus over the steak capable to please the most, so perhaps it will fare better with  you. What matters, here,  is that is  a classy steakhouse and it has great potential. It’s obviously not going  to be cheap when it comes to feast on their star items, but carefully study their menu and prices (they are available online), resist temptation  and you should  manage to keep the tab in check.