Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

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Pied de Cochon: Decadence

June 3, 2007

Just a few pictures from latest visit to restaurant au Pied de Cochon:

Taragon Deer Tongue: Demi Glace, Béarnaise, Dijon

Lobster Roll:1 1/2 Pound Lobster with mayo and greens, melted old cheddar and Torchon Foie Gras, with a bit of demi glace on brioche bun.

Wonderful person who made the roll, much self-restraint was necessary to not jump the bar and give her a thank you hug for that decadent treat.

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Esca

May 31, 2007

Esca

402 W 43rd St
New York, NY 10036, USA

(212) 564-7272

 

This review took a bit of time to write if for no other reason that I was reflecting about the place of Montréal restaurants on the North American map and some of the comments the Maitre D’ said while at Esca.

 

We arrived for our lunch at the restaurant a bit in advance and waited a bit for our other companions to join us, the latter would prove fruitless as they didn’t show up. Soon after we were greeted in the almost empty restaurant and invited to leave our touristy things at the coat check (I know it sounds weird to mention that but you’ll understand later on.)

 

The Maitre D’ was beyond nice, having recognized our accents and my name on the reservation, he started conversing about all things Montréal. I guess he wasn’t that busy at the beginning of the shift and was genuinely loving our lovely city and was singing its praises, and no it didn’t look fake. Speaking of dining in Montréal, he was saying that Toqué! and La Chronique were as good as anything you’d find in New York. I was a bit skeptic and said, I am sure the -really- high end restaurants like Jean-Georges, Daniel or Per Se had to be of a higher quality. He insisted and said that he worked both under Mr Vongerichten and Mr Boulud and the two Montréal establishments ranked high up there according to him.

 

I have never been to Daniel or Jean-Georges, nor have I been to La Chronique (I am going there next week actually.) Although our friend might have been hyperbolic a bit, it somewhat justifies my earliest beef about Restaurant Magazine’s top 100.

 

After perusing the menu, I selected the crudo as appetizer and shad’s roe as main course, my companions going for a fish soup and grilled mahi-mahi and roasted chicken. The wine was bit more of a problem, after asking our server to recommend a quarter bottle, he presented me and my drinking partner with a couple of glasses of two wines to taste and choose. This nice touch made it easier to choose a wine that would fit both of our meals. What’s more the tasting serving wasn’t small so it permitted both of us to taste and give a proper acknowledgment.

 

We were presented with a cooked tuna salad on bruscetta as amuse-bouche, and it was an adequate freebie. After the passage of an awesome bread basket, the crudo came up. Three raw fishes, I really can’t remember what was what, I know there was red snapper in there, with different dressing, one with volcanic salt and olive oil, one with lemon juice volcanic salt and olive oil and the last with a bean paste, the salt and oil. The presentation, in a single, three bowled, plate, resting on crushed ice, the whole thing looked awesome. The fish was -very- fresh and all three were very subtle in flavour so the whole dish wasn’t overwhelming but very solid. My companion with the supa was a little more punch as he said it was the best fish soup he ever tasted, and the man knows his fish, he is Greek after all.

Crudo

As the restaurant got busier and busier, the service kept being deadly efficient, not stuffy and of continuing excellence. Soon, the main courses came up and I was greeted by something I had never eaten: Shad roe. I very often try new things in restaurants and this time I had no idea what to expect or how shad roe is cooked, or not. Well the plate arrived and was greeted with a fried lump of “something” and a few wilted vegetables. Upon researching the dish I realized that this was a fairly standard way of presenting it, and I believe it was very well done. The taste was subtle and the seasoning was perfect. It reminded me of an animal’s nasty bits, without the hard aftertaste, that I love, that something like liver gives you. I loved my shad roe but I think I would appreciate it more the next time.

Afer finishing my meal, I realized that I didn’t have a ticket for the coat check, as one of my companion had. Slowly walking to the counter the lady behind the desk smiled and picked up my things and gave them to me. This is a good example of the nice little touches and the incredible service we got at Esca, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the restaurant. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the cooking, it was solid but not incredible. None the less, I had one of my best experience in a restaurant. I would recommend Esca is about half a second. 

 

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World’s Best Restaurants…

April 24, 2007

Well there you have it. Restaurant Magazine released their top 50 restaurants in the world. And check this out: NONE are found in Québec, not even one in Canada. I mean, I am not that surprised but you would think at least one would find its way in there. I would argue that Toqué! is at least close to what Charlie Trotter’s is doing in Chicago, not on par but close. They are of the same school of thought after all. And despite me not knowing them, I can’t imagine that Toronto and Vancouver is only filled with mediocre restaurants. Hell, even Québec city has a few very interesting restaurants. This sucks quite a bit. Maybe not in the top 50, but at least one in the top 100….

 Tunes: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Abattoir Blues…

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Café du Clocher Penché

January 13, 2007

Café du Clocher Penché

203, rue Saint-Joseph Est
Québec, QC G1K 3B1

Tel:(418) 640-0597

Before the holidays, I was left alone one particular night in Québec city. My brother having abandoned me to the loneliness of this city while he was up to a romantic evening with his girlfriend (can’t really blame him can I? I mean I am good company but she has boobs and she cooks his meal 365 days a year, I don’t think I can compete.) After a long afternoon of buying gift for other people (I tend to try to complete my Christmas shopping way in advance but the family decided otherwise in showering me with request while I was in Québec…) and taking tons of pictures around the city, doing the tourist thing in a city that you lived in for 6 years and you left 7-8 years ago is a bit strange; especially since so much has changed in the interim, I decided to treat myself to a good dinner. I had heard good things about le Café du Clocher Penché and I was about five blocks away at that point.

This “Café” is honestly more of a bistro than anything else and presents food that reflects that. I came into the restaurants and was pleasantly received and taken to a table despite my lack of reservation, although there was only two tables left on that Thursday night. I opened the menu to just about the simplest description possible, no hyperboles or supplier’s names in there: Tartare de cerf, Chevre en Brioche, Bavette de boeuf etc… The menu was also fairly compact so the choice was relatively small: a few meats, a fish, one seafood plate and that was it. appetizers were also limited. It also looked like the menu would be changing regularly depending on the availability and freshness of the products, something you always want to see. My choice was fairly conventional, I needed good comforting grub after all that walking in the cold (yes it was one of those 3 days of cold we have had this winter). Bavette de Boeuf (flank steak) as the main course and open with a Chèvre en brioche (Goat cheese in brioche).

As I know next to nothing about wines and that beer is one of my passion I decided to match the meal with a good pint of brew. The place is serving beer on tap from local micro-brewerie La Barberie. After thinking about it I decided to go with la Cuivré au Coing (Quince coppery beer). The beer had a very strong bitterness to it that would quickly disappear to leave a nice fruity finish and a nice acidity that I enjoyed. The tunes were a little more complicated to choose, I felt laid back but at the same time needed to be comfortable and not too sleepy. In clear: I needed to be entertained, not challenged. I decided to go with an old favorite: Tom Waits. He released a massive collection of incredible work called Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards, three discs of songs you have no idea why they didn’t end up on records before. I am incredibly amused by the man and he not only rewards me by with great music but also with incredible storytelling. Great, great stuff. I have seen the three disc thing for 35.99$ and that is more than reasonable, get it.

Chevre en Brioche

The brioche came to the table with a certain amount of wow factor in the presentation. Nice geometry and good looking plate to me I was more than ready to dig in. First impression wasn’t so great. The chèvre was lukewarm at best, could have used a minute or two more in the oven and the cheese in itself lacked punch. This is the kind of plate that could have worked very well had the chef/owner chosen a better and more tasty cheese. The brioche was good and complemented adequately the cheese. The brioche came with a tapenade and a little compote of cranberry. All nicely complementing flavour if only the cheese had any….

Bavette

The bavette came shortly after the appetizer plate was off the table and showed a fairly good portion of the bavette with roasted potatoes, garnished with olives and sautéed minced leaks with thyme and rosemary, and generously covered with olive oil The bavette was nicely grilled, a bit more cooked than I asked. While the meat was tasty, it could have been aged a bit more in my opinion. The execution of that plate was a bit clumsy but was none the less adequate. I mean, this is bistro fare so I am not asking for haute cuisine but this lacked a bit of the rigidity of the plating and overall execution that you see in classic bistro kitchens.

I was overall a bit disappointed by this establishment but from what I have seen, this is a place that definitely has promises, and I will come back to see if I caught them on a bad night.

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Holiday pictures

January 13, 2007

Tartare at L'ExpressRoasted RabbitConfit de Canard in Salad, L'ExpressChevre en Brioche, Cafe du Clocher PencheRabbit plate with roasted potatoe and green beansFoie de Veau, L'ExpressBavette de Boeuf, Cafe du Cloche PencheMore to come….

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Au Pied de Cochon

December 16, 2006

 

Sometimes, very rarely actually, a meal just transcends the plane of existence you think you a re living and you feel that you have seen god. OK, that might be a little much but you see where I am going with this. Last night I had such a meal. A meal so perfect in its simplicity and taste that even though I hadn’t planned on writing about it (I didn’t even bring my camera).

Perhaps it is a matter of circumstances, a beautiful series of events and spontaneity that brought me to this restaurant that made it even better. Circumstances are even bad if you think about it but it just happened. I guess my destiny was to eat there that night. That meal ruled the earth, and the rulers are Martin Picard and his staff at restaurant Pied de Cochon in Montreal (536 Duluth East, Montreal, 514-281-1114).

As I was coming home from work I had to do some purchases at this specific store that is the only one somewhat near my place selling the thing (not divulging what it is a Christmas gift).

Circumstance #1: Water main breaks in the train tunnel going to the store.

I have to make a decision fast, I decide to go out of the train early and take the bus to get to destination. I come out of the train station and it is insane:

Circumstance #2: There is a line across the block to take the bus and traffic is insane.

I am not going to waste any time with this crap. I am walking from here, its only 30-35 minutes away anyway. So I begin the walk. I get there do my little purchases and fill my sling bag full of goods. The bag is freaking heavy. I am hungry like hell. There is this cool café near by that I often go to so I decide to head there for a pint and a nice sandwich.

Circumstance #3: There is an office Christmas party in the café! Filled with people with ironic name tags!

I am getting out of there so fast. I am more and more hungry. There is sandwich shops, pizza places galore around but I just don’t feel like it. I am going home. I am barely 5 -10 minutes from the train station so might as well go home and make myself something good.

Circumstance #1 (repeat): Damn train line is -still- closed! They have not repaired the damn water main yet!.

Alright, I am walking home, some 35-40 minutes away. I am about to eat myself alive. Then I think, I am 3 blocks away from le Pied de Cochon. I am alone, it is early on a Friday night so I might be lucky and they might have a spot at the bar for me. I get in. I ask if they have some space. YES! They show me to the only chair at the bar wrapped in deer antlers. The bar is directly on the other side of the very open kitchen. While I am perusing the menu and calling a beer a number of the staff are right in front of me shooting the shit and peeling about 4 pounds of garlic. Martin Picard is walking around the place tasting everything and also shooting the proverbial shit. The atmosphere in this place is exactly what I am looking for: extremely laid back, yet deftly efficient and tons of fun. As I am waiting for my waiter to come back, one girl on the staff starts pouring little glasses of Champagne while the rest of the staff (I am asked to toast with them as they do the same with each other) is finishing up on their Mise-en-Place for the night.

I am ordering venison tartar for appetizer and a foie gras grilled cheese for my main grub. The kitchen is admittedly tiny, two large six burner stoves, one small (a foot and a half wide) flat top, one deep fryer and one warming drawer one one side and a second space with a wood burning oven and a couple of burners. seven people work on the main side and 3 on the wood oven.

My tartar arrives. A large portion of the beautiful meat is disposed as a large quenelle on the plate with a big slice of perfectly toasted bread and a simple mesclun salad with a mustard dressing. The tartar is the best tartar of my life, and I eat tartar all the time in restaurants and I make a few pretty awesome ones myself. The balance of flavour is incredible, the acidity is perfect, the capers are incredibly good, and the spice level is just where I like it, nor overpowering but has a good kick. Incredible.

My plate flies off a couple of minutes after I finished. The service is fast but I do not feel like I am rushed despite the fact that I am pretty sure I am the first of three people sitting in this chair for the night. I am reading while waiting for my grilled cheese and I call for another beer. I hear Mr Picard calling 180 covers tonight and all I can think is how are they going to do that in a kitchen as small as this. The staff don’t seem to alarmed by the warning and continue their work with incredible efficiancy.

The grilled cheese arrives. Now a fois gras grilled cheese is not something you see everyday, but Picard is known for the use of exceptional ingredients in a context that usually are not. I look at this and I have at least half a fois in there, the bread is dense doesn’t look heavy, the cheese is pouring on all sides. I am saying to myself: no way I can eat that with my hands, it’ll spill all over the place. So I start digging in. Apotheosis. The fois is barely cooked, slightly browned on the outside and a deep shade of pinkish-red inside. The cheese is a soft-ripened non-pasteurized cheese with a strong flavour (my guess is something like a Sir Laurier d’Arthabaska or something like that). The combination is incredible, the soft and delicate taste of the fois is counterbalanced with about as much fat but with a much stronger flavour of the cheese yet none of the two overpower the other. Balance. Two bites in I felt like a fatty high and it took me hours to come down. The same mesclun salad also was with the grilled cheese but I didn’t care.

That night wasn’t supposed to be good. I mean I enjoyed a meal alone at the bar of a good restaurant, this is not exactly the best way to enjoy a meal. I mean I would have preferred company but the meal just kicked so much ass, I don’t care at all. And it wasn’t my first time there either, not was it my first fois gras experience. I don’t know why it was so good but once again, I don’t care…

55$ tax and tip in with 2 pints of St-Ambroise Cream Ale.

Tunes: This warrants some rock n’ roll and some punk. Let’s go with The Rolling Stones Let It Bleed [DSD]and Turbonegro Apocalypse Dudes. If you don’t have those two albums, then you need some help. Do it.

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Restaurant L’Express

November 10, 2006

L'Express

L’Express

3927 Saint-Denis.
Sherbrooke métro
Montreal, Canada

Restaurant L’Express

 

L’Express is traditional French bistro fare, in all aspects of the word. The food is French classics and classics revisited, of the simple, honest kind, the restaurant is open until all sorts of hours in the morning (they apparently serve food until 2 am) and the ambiance is professional yet laid back. This is a place equally adept at receiving parties for a quick afternoon coffee and sweets as with happy hour wine gorging at the bar than wonderful unpretentious dining.

 

As I entered the restaurant I was greeted with friendly smiles and promptly seated, despite my lack of reservation (this is a busy place but I was there at around 3pm, and the place was 1/3 filled, don’t drop in between 6 to 10pm from Thursday to Sunday because you might find yourself unable to have a table.) Looking at the menu, everything you would expect from a bistro menu, from Soupe de Poisson to Tartare and braised chicken. After a brief evaluation: Rillette L’Express and Agneau Parmentier.

 

Rillette

Rillette is a method of cooking either pork, poultry or rabbit meat until the fat becomes clear and the meat easily shredded. The meat is then shredded, mixed with its own fat and served cold with toasted bread. In this case, was also presented with Dijon mustard and homemade pickles. The first few bites proved to be a bit disappointing as the meat was less than flavourful and the Dijon wasn’t helping. Furthermore, the pickles were incredibly tart from a lot more vinegar content than I would have liked. I then realized that most people would probably smear some butter on the bread before spreading the Rillette on top. The butter changed the whole dish in about half a second. The Rillette became smooth and flavourful, as I’d noticed from a lack of salt throughout that the butter solved very quickly. The pickles became a lot more interesting as the fat of the butter became a mediating element for the vinegar’s attack. Still, I would have liked a little less vinegar. The Rillette were pretty damn good though.

 

Agneau Parmentier

Agneau Parmentier, or Parmentier Lamb (the real name for this dish would have been Hashis Parmentier a l’Agneau, hashis is a bit pejorative so it is generally left out in Quebec), is more or less a fancy version of a Sheppard’s pie. Named after Antoine Augustin Parmentier, a French Pharmacist and Agronome that more or less convinced the French that the potato wasn’t just cow’s food. The concoction is more or less some roughly minced meat, usually beef, layered between two stages of mashed or minced potatoes. In this case, thinly cubed lamb was disposed between and on the sides of the potatoes and surrounded by raw spinach and topped with a veal demi-glaze and mushroom sauce. The whole thing was an exercise in perfectly balanced flavours: the tart taste of the spinach with the sweet and savory sauce combined with the salty and hearty lamb. Despite the fact that the lamb was most probably a collection of nasty bits leftover from the week, the lamb was filled with incredible taste and the potatoes were perfect in texture and taste. This was a whole lot better than the Rillette.

 

The service was devastatingly effective and up to two runners and one server was making sure I wasn’t missing anything. Add to that a generally affordable, yet very impressive wine list (note that I am no expert but I saw wines on there that were only marginally more expensive than at the store) and you have a pretty good restaurant on your hands. I am looking forward to going back there in the future as its honest. yet tasty, cuisine is up there with the best in the city yet is fairly affordable in terms of fine dining. For the appetizer, the main course and half a bottle of Bourgogne for under 60$Can including tax and tip.