Dalla Rose

24 Jul

Summer time in Montreal is a great time to be here – beautiful weather (for the most part), great festivals and outdoor activities to enjoy. Summer time also means ice cream and the need to have some great ice cream shops to enjoy. Down in the sud-ouest, there really haven’t been any creameries of note save for Glaces aux Havres by the Atwater Market, however that has changed with the opening of Cremerie Dalla Rose in St-Henri.

Started up by two alumni of Nora Gray, Michael Dalla Libera and Nick Rosari, Dalla Rose is located on Notre-Dame Ouest which may now be my favourite strip in Montreal food-wise – next door to Rustique, Tuck Shop, Adamo, Arthur’s (visit to come very soon!), Bar de Courcelles and Tejano. The parlour is a simple walk-in counter service – a sparse but bright room (liked the tile work on the floor to create the queue line) with no seating inside and a relatively small menu on the wall. You have the option of either ice cream by cone, by cup or inside a sandwich using in-house baked cookies. You can also just order the cookies without ice cream.

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Dalla Rose uses organic dairy products for the ice cream and the flavours apparently will vary from week-to-week and season-to-season. Regardless of the flavours I tried, I found the ice cream to be rich, creamy and very smooth in consistency. At the same time, it feels firm enough. When the ice cream is put in the middle of the cookies for the sandwich, the ice cream isn’t so soft that it melts away too quickly. You don’t have to rush your enjoyment of the sandwich. On my few visits over a couple of weeks, I tried a few different options. First, I tried a cup of both kaffir lime leaf and Quebec strawberry ice cream. The strawberry ice cream has a great flavour that feels both strong but natural. It doesn’t overwhelm. I really enjoyed the lime leaf flavour as well – the lime is tart but nicely subtle to the point of surprising me. Lime ice cream is often very overpowering but this was more refined. Very nice.

Kaffir lime and Qc Strawberries

On another visit, I tried the classic vanilla and chocolate flavours. The vanilla was very nice – the specks of vanilla bean telling you you’re getting the real deal – sweet and almost milky. The chocolate was nice and dark in color – tons of chocolatey goodness. A perfect pair as they should be!

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On my second follow-up visit, I decided to get a sandwich of cookie ice cream between a set of vegan peanut cookies. The cookies were stiff enough to hold the ice cream but soft enough to actually make it possible to eat the sandwich as an actual sandwich – instead of the usual “suck up the ice cream and then eat the softened cookies” afterwards. Liked the flavour of the peanut cookies and the cookie ice cream – great vanilla with pieces of cookie mixed in.

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Dalla Rose is a great addition to the sud-ouest. Summer still has a ways to go so when you are walking around the Canal or elsewhere in the Sud-Ouest, don’t forget to walk over Dalla Rose for a scoop. They will cool you off nicely!

Cheers!

Cremerie Dalla Rose
4609 Notre Dame Ouest

Dalla Rose Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maine 2016 – Earth at Hidden Pond

14 Jul

Every July, I spend a week in Maine. A nice relaxing time to simply check out mentally and enjoy the beach, the sun and the lobster of course! Every year, this week-off also coincides with my date of my birth – almost as if I planned it that way…. – so we always find a way to have a nice dinner to celebrate. This year, we made plans at a restaurant close-by in Kennebunkport at a little retreat resort called Hidden Pond. I had heard about this restaurant previously for its beautiful scenery and market cuisine and finally we planned ahead enough to be able to get a reservation, so we drove off to give Earth a visit.

Birthday Dinner at Earth in Hidden Pond

The restaurant is quite the looker – really playing with the “nature indoors” theme. The focus of the room is a tree lit up with string lights and there is constant use of wood logs for wall decor. Out back of the restaurant there is a pool with nice sitting areas and a little further you have a pond with fire torches and more seating. It is definitely a relaxing location. The downside of our visit was that it was raining which eliminated a chance to really enjoy that space. The final cool element is that Earth has a few private “shacks” along the pond for private groups. We reserved one of them and were not disappointed. The little cabin is decorated in a classic colonial look – ornate mirrors and fireplace, old artwork on the wall and ceiling, a chandelier, bookshelves filled with old books and a gorgeous varnished wooden table. There is a large window overlooking the pond as well. A very unique and intimate setting for a hopefully good meal!

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The menu is a market style menu focusing of local farmers and produce. As we were a group of 6, I got to try a bunch of different items. First up was their play on a caesar salad – baby Speckled romaine, coddled duck egg dressing, reggiano and rye crisps. A nice portioned salad overall with good flavour. The use of duck egg brought some extra richness and the use of rye crisps was a nice variant on standard breadcrumbs.

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Next was wood fired meatballs with sweet and sour peppers. The meatballs were nice and tender – firm enough but still able to come apart with a fork easily. The sweet and sour peppers brought a nice balanced flavour with the fatty meatballs.

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The split pea falafel with sheep’s yogurt, watermelon and Peekytoe crab was a pleasant and unique surprise. Nice crunch on the falafel with the earthiness of the split peas. The creamy sheep’s yogurt and the crab were very nice pairings to the main item.

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The last entree was the beet and turnip green kimchee. Excellent kimchee with just enough heat however I really didn’t pick up the effect of either the beet or the turnips. It could have simply been standard cabbage and I’m not sure I would have known the difference flavour wise.

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The main dishes kept the good times rollin’. First was my dish of choice – braised pork shoulder with Maine clams, Lola sausage, grits, garlic scapes and herbs. The pork shoulder, braised in cider and beer, was so moist and fall-apart tender. The creamy grit underneath added some richness to the dish. The clams were nice and fresh and the sausage bringing some heat. The portion was plentiful and left me very happy.

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The menu also included a cheeseburger served with a mushroom escabeche, steak sauce, pepper jack and fries. The burger was nice and juicy and the bun was great. Special mention to the beautiful crispy fries.

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The pasta dishes were big hits as well. The agnolotti served with ricotta, bee balm, Black Mission figs and smoked honey was a sweet and rich mixture of heaven. The Gnudi with English peas, pistachio butter, mortadella and reggiano were nice fluffy pillows of richness. The use of pistachio butter added an interesting earthy touch.

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Finally we also had one of their homemade Pizzas. Their classic Margherita with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella and basil was excellent. The crust was nice and thin with a nice crunch to it. The amount of mozzarella was generous and the tomatoes were cooked nicely over top.

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Desserts brought some lovely options as well. I went with the Brioche doughnuts with sarsaparilla and sassafras glaze and kola nut gelato. The two doughnuts were massive and the Brioche style made them wonderfully rich but light. The glaze was exquisite as well. The other dessert was equally as decadent. The peanut butter and banana ice cream sundae with salted caramel was exactly how you would imagine it except for the strength of the banana flavour in the ice cream. I didn’t expect to be as pronounced. Banana and peanut butter are great partners so no surprise that the rest of this was wonderful.

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Earth at Hidden Pond was a lovely experience. The food was excellent across the board, the service is quick and attentive and the ambience was wonderful despite the bad weather. The tab won’t be cheap but for a special occasion, it is definitely worth it. For a excellent night with family and dear friends for my birthday, I couldn’t ask for much more.

Cheers!

Earth
354 Goose Rocks Rd, Kennebunkport, ME 04046
207 967 6550

Earth Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Petite Maison (Brunch edition)

7 Jun

It had been a long time since I had tried a new brunch location so taking advantage of a recent beautiful spring day here in Montreal, my sister and I decided to go try a relatively new spot that I had heard good things about so far – Danny St Pierre’s Petite Maison.

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The long awaited Montreal project from Chef St Pierre is located in Mile End on Parc Avenue just north of St-Viateur. Its basement location is such that it is quite easy to walk by and miss it completely – we did as we were paying for parking! When you walk into the restaurant, the space is very clean and inviting. The use of white walls creates a much brighter space than you would expect from a basement. Simple decor accents and the stone foundation wall add some extra touches to the space. What is also not obvious when you enter is this room is not the whole space but simply the front of the house. A corridor brings you further back to the kitchen and another seating area. The divided rooms do create a more intimate feel though and help to reduce noise. Add some easy listening music and you have a nicely relaxed atmosphere for brunch.

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Petite Maison’s brunch setup is a fixed price menu – 24$ – which gets you a couple of entrees to share, your choice of a main dish and a couple of desserts to share again. A very reasonable price for the amount of food you get – I have not been that full after a brunch service in a very long time! A surprisingly good bang for your buck in that way. On top of the usual drink options, cocktails were available and I am never one to skip a good cocktail. I went with a Pimm’s Lemonade – a light refreshing drink for a brunch.

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Our first entree was duck rillettes served with onion confit, croutons, pickles and grain mustard. Fatty and rich texture as one would expect with duck. Strangely enough, the mix of the duck with the croutons and mustard – never pickles – created a very smoked meat-like flavour. The sweetness of the confit was a nice compliment to the rest of the dish.

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Our second entree was a watercress salad with green apple and nuts. A nice light healthy salad. Nice balance of acid and sweet with a bit of crunch with the nuts. A solid compliment to the previously rich dish.

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For a little extra, we also had the option of adding Chef St Pierre’s unique “Poutine Inversé” – poutine in croquettes. Very nice crunch to the outside and yeah….the initial hit you get is truly of a poutine. A cool way to present a classic Quebec dish in a different fashion. 6 wasn’t enough…. I could have eaten a basket of these babies!

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As a main dish, my sister went with the eggs Benedict with asparagus and shrimp. Classic eggs perfectly executed – the hollandaise looked thick at first but was surprisingly light in consistency which was a very pleasant discovery. The one weird element was that the shrimp in the dish were served cold which was a little strange in comparaison to the temperature of the rest of the dish. Otherwise, a very satisfactory dish that filled up tremendously – my sister was unable to finish it due to being too full!

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I ordered the pulled pork breakfast sandwich but through an error, I ended up with the fine herb omelette instead – not quite the same thing but the mistake was quickly resolved and we ended up with the extra dish on the house. The omelette, served with cream cheese and green onions folded in and some chicken fried potatoes on the side, was excellent. A soft pillowy texture but rich and flavourful. The combination of green onions and cream cheese added to the richness and brought some creaminess and sharpness. The potatoes were solid as well.

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The pulled pork sandwich came right after. Usually served with potatoes, we skipped that since they had come with the omelette. The savoury shredded pork was served over a hamburger bun with shredded cheese, arugula and a sunny side up egg. I loved the flavour of the pork. The egg made it pretty much impossible to eat as a sandwich without making a huge mess so I went open face instead. The one negative was the bun – just a un-toasted white bread hamburger bun. Given the quality of the rest of the meal, I expected something more. It was fine but just odd relative to everything else.

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Despite having pretty much no appetite anymore, we still had dessert to try. First was churros served with caramel sauce. Not served as hot you would expect but the texture was nice. The caramel sauce’s flavour was too burnt with my sister and I. The other dessert was the chocolate hazelnut torta. Also served cold, this cake was much denser than I expected but deliciously rich. Whole hazelnuts inside the sorta brought some crunch and really helped create that natural nutella flavour we all love.

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Petite Maison was a nice experience to try out – a worthy addition to Mile End. Other than the mistake on the order which they dealt with very smoothly, service was quick and attentive. The food, other than a few little issues, was on point and showed a nice level of technical prowess. La Petite Maison has dinner and lunch as well and this experience definitely has me wanted to come back and see Chef St Pierre and Co. have on tap in the evening – just another reason to visit one of my favorite hoods in the city.

Cheers!

Petite Maison
5589 Parc
514 303 1900

Petite Maison Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hoogan et Beaufort

1 May

Anticipation is a tricky thing. As you wait, you get more and more excited but at the same time, if you have to wait too long, eventually that enthusiasm dies down and you completely forget what you were anticipating in the first place. Then there is also the fear of what you are anticipating being not as awesome as you hope it would be. These emotions are always playing with one another in moments of anticipation – be it vacation spots, product launches and, for the purpose of this discussion, restaurant openings. Chef Marc-André Jetté, since his departure from the excellent Les 400 Coups in Old Montreal in 2013, has kept us waiting for his next project for some time now. And as the projects of his previous collaborator at Les 400 Coups Patrice Demers developed, we were left wondering more and more when the time would come, if ever. Finally, the announcement came that he and his partner William Saulnier would be opening up in the Angus Yards district in Rosemont – not quite the most vibrant of food areas but nevertheless it got me intrigued. Once Hoogan et Beaufort opened up in December and the excellent reviews came from all the big critics in the city a few months later, it left me pining for his cuisine once more and anticipating the moment when I would head out there to check it out.

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Located in an old factory in the Angus Yards development, Hoogan et Beaufort has a very appealing look – super high ceilings, open concept with the fire pit in the back of the house as well as the vine cellar and stacks of firewood visible to all, a nice bar area up front. The space uses the old industrial elements like exposed metal I-beams and the brick walls but pairs them with wood lats and more modern touches like a huge metallic magnetized wall in the kitchen area. Lighting is ample but nicely dim to get a nice intimate enough atmosphere. The downside to the high ceilings is that noise level isn’t perfect – music, when noticeable, was a nice mix that I enjoyed but when the space was crowded, it barely registered.

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Chef Jetté, prior to opening his restaurant, talked to Eater Montreal about doing similar cuisine as he had at Les 400 Coups but more accessible and less upscale. Fresh cuisine and soignée. His menu here consists of a few entrées, a fresh pasta section, mains et some desserts. The fire pit and the use of it plays heavily into the menu and in fact in the smell of the restaurant. A hint of smokiness throughout.

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For entrees, my girlfriend and I went with a plate of brunt focaccia bread and butter as well as a dish of grilled squid with ratte potatoes (both as chips and fingerling), olives and a burnt pepper yogurt. Saying that the bread was burnt is a bit of stretch but regardless the focaccia was nice and warm with that hint of smokiness you get from grilling it over the fire. The grilled squid was excellent – a lovely texture with some char to it. I like the creaminess of the brunt pepper yogourt as well as the slight sweetness that came from it. The potato chips provided a little crunch. This was an excellent mix of elements all coming together.

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Our first main was Gaspor suckling pig served with salsify purée, curls of sliced apple and an oatmeal crumble. I loved this dish. The pork was beautiful and cooked to perfection. I’d never had salsify before but the earthiness of the root vegetable pureed so smoothly paired nicely with the sweet apple, the oatmeal and the fatty pork. Another well-balanced and measured dish.

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Our other main was beef short rib served with celeriac puree, marinated onion, grilled Brussel sprouts and crispy bread. Another hit at our table. Beautiful char on the beef cooked beautifully with all its inherent fattiness intact. The caramelization on the sprouts brought such a nice flavour and eliminated any bitterness one often associates with Brussel sprouts. The onion and celeriac balanced themselves well and the bread added some extra texture.

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Desserts was equally as enjoyable. First up was burnt lemon curd with a Anicet Honey caramel, candied lemon peel and buckwheat shortbread cookie. A very bright dish – the combination of the sour lemon curd and the sweet caramel was so nice to enjoy. I liked how you picked up the burnt elements of the curd and how the honey came through in the caramel.

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Our second dessert was the cranberry charlotte – a pillow of vanilla mousse served over a cranberry compote and pieces of almond nougat. Another great contrast of flavours and texture – the freshness of the cranberries coming through to give a real bitterness but the mousse lightening it up.

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As mentioned before, expectations can be very high with anticipation but Hoogan et Beaufort met them completely. Chef Jetté and his team did a great job creating beautiful dishes of tastes and textures. The cuisine soignée he was known for is alive and well here – with excellent service and a beautiful look. I know to some that Rosemont is a little out of the way but believe me, it’s worth a try. I think Hoogan et Beaufort will definitely make it worth your while.

Cheers!

Hoogan et Beaufort
4095 Rue Molson
514 903 1233

Hoogan Et Beaufort Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Junior

24 Apr

Anyone paying attention to the Montreal restaurant scene has probably noticed the fact that between Griffintown, Little Burgundy and St-Henri, Notre-Dame Ouest has boomed restaurant-wise. The number of new and awesome places that have opened up over the past few years is staggering and difficult to keep up with. I’ve had my eye on Junior, a Filipino restaurant for a while now but hadn’t truly made the time to visit. Over the holidays, getting the Montreal Cooks cookbook – a great book by the way – and trying a recipe from Chef Dre Mejia made me more anxious to go. This month, I finally find my moment to give them – and Filipino food – a proper try.

A late bit with Felix and Renee after party at Vincent's

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I went both for a late night snack and then for their “Rice n’ Shine” brunch on the weekend. I like the overall visual style of Junior – a indoor street vendor. Very colourful elements all around and the in-house DJ is a nice touch. I enjoyed the selection of music both times I was there but it was a little too loud on my evening visit. When it is hard to have a conversation at the table, it’s not a good sign.

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To start on my evening visit, I went with the dish that brought me there in the first place – the Adobo Baboy – Soy-Vinegar braised pork shoulder. A nicely hearty portion of wonderfully tender and fall-apart pork. Perfect braised texture. The sauce is very strong on the soy so could be too salty for some of you but the vinegar helps to tone it down and creates a light finish. Add some sweetness, acidity and saltiness to the fatty pork. Very enjoyable – my imitation version just didn’t match up!

Pork Adobo

One of my friends chose the palabok – rice noodles with pork and shrimp gravy. This was sadly a big disappointment. It looked good but surprisingly had no real flavour – the noodles felt overcooked and only the egg served on top came through taste wise. The gravy provided nothing and the pork and shrimp felt brand and lifeless.

Surprisingly Bad Noodles

Our third dish brought us back on the right track. We went with the Daing na Bangus – Baby Milkfish marinated in vinegar and garlic, de-boned and butterflied and pan-fried. First thing that hit us was the texture. Moist and flaky, the fish came apart so easily. The use of vinegar and garlic provided some sweetness and a little kick flavour wise.

Milkfish

2 out of 3 wasn’t what I had hoped but it was enough to come back for brunch with my sister. We first had the Longasilog – fried rice, sunnyside-up eggs, sweet pork sausage, plantain chips and atsara. A solid dish all around – I really enjoy the sweetness of the housemate sausage and how it mixed well with the runny egg and the rice. The plantain chips provided some crunch and the atsara a little bitterness. Very homey and filling.

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We also had the fried chicken and waffles – jollibee-style fried chicken and coconut waffles with maple syrup. This dish stood out a little more. As much as I hate coconut normally, the little hint in the crispy waffles worked really well and the fried chicken was outstanding. Loved the crunch of the skin and the overall moistness of the chicken.

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I’m happy to have finally been to Junior. It was great to try some Filipino food and realize how I do enjoy it and would like to come back. On the flip side, it was really disappointing to have a dish fall so flat on us. Junior is a solid part of my neighbourhood and a cool addition to the culinary scene in Montreal. Nice to have a generally underexposed cuisine be brought forth like this. I will be back Junior – I just hope that one blip was just that.

Cheers!

Junior
1964 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 944 8636

Junior Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Khyber Pass

3 Apr

It is interesting to be taken out of your comfort zone food-wise. Not everyone appreciates it but it’s fun when I enter a restaurant of a certain cuisine and have absolutely zero idea what kind of dishes I can expect. This recently occurred for the event of a friend’s birthday where he brought us to Khyber Pass on Duluth street for a little Afghan BYOW and for no other reason then simply “finding the restaurant looked cool everytime I passed by”.

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And indeed, Khyber Pass does look rather interesting from the outside and equally as much inside. Our table was located in their basement space which has been modelled to look like an cavern. It is a little odd – and because of the use of polycarbonate on the walls, a little hot – but it certainly fits the overall theme. Being in a smallish basement space made for rather noisy acoustics once the space filled up but otherwise no complaints!

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I had never had Afghan food before, so I basically decided to work with their Table d’hôte and wing it! My friends at the table also having never had this cuisine before also decided to simply try stuff which allowed me to sample a bunch of dishes throughout the dinner. We are all curious to see!

First up, there were two soup options available – Mashaba soup and a house soup of red lentils and coriander. I went with the Mushaba. Composed of noodles, vegetables, ground beef, yogourt and fresh coriander, it was a nice way to start things off. A very hearty soup – tons of flavour through both the dark broth as well as the plentiful veggies and noodles.

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I had one starter as well – the eggplant borani. Consisting of fried eggplant slices topped with tomato sauce and garlic yogourt, the texture wasn’t necessarily as crispy as I was hoping but the flavour was all there. Lovely mixture of the sweet tomato sauce, the cool garlicky yogourt and spices overtop brought tons of levels to the party.

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Ashak was my main of choice – Steamed pastas stuffed with leak, served with tomato sauce, ground beef and garlic yogourt. Again, I wasn’t totally happy with the texture of the pasta – steamed but too soft and a little watery underneath – but flavour-wise, this was an excellent dish. The leak stuffing had a nice touch and kept the dish feeling light. Once again, the combination of the tomato sauce, yogourt and beef provided a nice addition and there was a healthy amount of rice and vegetables provided as well.

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Among the other mains I tried, there was the Teka Kebab – filet mignon brochettes – which were nicely tender and flavourful. The Sabzi Chalaw – lamb shank with spinach – was a lovely cooking display of the lamb. Fall off the bone with that lovely lamb gaminess, the spinach didn’t feel super necessary but it was delicious nevertheless. The last main was the Kofta Chalaw – beef meats balls in tomato sauce with afghan spices. A weirdly Italian dish to me but the addition of the middle Eastern spices provided just enough of a change-up to not make me wonder why I was not in a trattoria at that moment. All of these were served with the same amount of rice and vegetables as I got with my main so portion-wise, we all got our money’s worth.

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The last item for the night was our complimentary dessert of rose water pudding with pistachios. Now… I am not a fan of rose water as I have found that typically it is overused and just destroys any dish with its overtly flowery tones. However, in this case, count me as surprised to find that it was pretty good. Weirdly though, the entire table felt the pudding tasted like Fruit Loops! I guess I should check what goes into Fruit Loops. Anyway, texture was excellent on top of being a weird flashback to my childhood!

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Khyber Pass was a very pleasant surprise – huge flavours and nice portions all around. The decor feels pretty hokey to me but I get it and frankly if the food is still enjoyable, I can look past it. Add the BYOW element – and believe me we did – and you have an excellent option for a relatively reasonable night out. Khyber Pass… you showed me what Afghan food was and I am happier for it.

Cheers!

Khyber Pass
506 Duluth Est
514 844 7131

Khyber Pass Cuisine Afghan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hotel Herman

25 Mar

Special occasions require special settings. For the night of my girlfriend’s birthday, I wanted a lovely and refined experience with good service and atmosphere…. that also needed to be open on Monday. Not that easy given Monday is typically the Montreal restaurant off day! Looking through my options, I came to one that I had neglected from my to-visit list for a long time…. so off we went back to my favourite neighbourhood Mile End to go pay a visit to Hotel Herman.

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Located on Saint-Laurent just south of Fairmount, Hotel Herman is a pretty unassuming restaurant from the outside and similarly inside. The space is focused around a beautiful U-shaped bar in the middle of the room. Small tables all around that and the open kitchen in the back so you can see the staff in action. No big visual flourishes on the walls. Lighting is low and the music is of the smooth jazz and soul variety so the general feeling of the room is relaxed but intimate. On this particular Monday, it was very quiet – much to the surprise of our waitress who stated that normally they get 70 people on Mondays but they only had 20 on this night! I can imagine the atmosphere being more energetic normally but this was very suitable for my girlfriend and I on this celebratory evening.

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Drink-wise, I was in the mood for a cocktail, so I went with their Penicilline – scotch, honey and ginger. A nicely balanced drink. The sweetness of the honey dulled the scotch enough for my girlfriend to find it enjoyable but still leaving me for the scotch smokiness that I love. We also had some lovely glasses of wine from countries I’ve never associated with wine – Czech Republic and Greece. My girlfriend originally ordered a different wine which, after our waitress served it, she came back less than 5 minutes later and switched it – stating she wasn’t happy with it. My girlfriend hadn’t really been bothered by it but much appreciation to a staff that cares enough about those details. Throughout the night, the staff was friendly and sharp. Attentive but not overbearing which can be easy on the nights where there is no one in the room.

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The dishes at Hotel Herman are of small-to-medium size with emphasis on doing ingredients in different ways on the plate. Our first starter was trout served in a gravlax-style with onions, beurre blanc and crispy seaweed. This first dish told me everything about what to expect from Hotel Herman – beautiful presentation, simple in terms of number of ingredients but so subtle, so refined and lovely flavours. The trout’s texture was beautiful – firm but still delicate enough to come apart without much effort. Lovely smoked flavour that wasn’t too salty despite its preparation – much to my girlfriend’s satisfaction due to her hatred of salt. The inclusion of the sweet onions and the beurre blanc were nice compliments to the fish.

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Our second dish was beet root served two ways with juniper berries and hay. Another beautiful dish visually although we were not blown away this time tasting it. Flavours were nice but not wowing truthfully. I did enjoy the crispy thinner strips of beet texturally but my girlfriend was not as pleased by it. We also got some of the housemate bread with butter. The bread had a nice crunchy crust but the interior was soft and dense.

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For our mains, we started with the venison heart tartare with a porcini emulsion, spruce and breadcrumbs. Probably one of my favourite tartares ever. The use of the venison heart creates a more gamey flavour and texture. Also less fatty to taste. The binding felt minimal so there wasn’t a gooey texture either to the tartare and the toasted breadcrumbs added a nice crunch to the mix. We ate this dish up pretty quickly. A huge hit for both of us.

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Our other main dish was the veal sweetbreads served with parsnip gnocchi and mustard. Another excellent dish from the kitchen. The sweetbreads were nicely cooked and still had all that fatty goodness I love with sweetbreads. The real surprise to me here though was the parsnips gnocchi. A cool way to incorporate parsnips, the gnocchi had that strong earthy flavour of the parsnip all while keeping the pillowy soft texture one seeks in gnocchi.

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Dessert wise, we decided to split the honey tart served with sour cream and sponge toffee. Nice crispy buttery tart shell on the outside, I really liked the use of sour cream to cut the sweetness from the honey filling. The sponge toffee adds an extra texturally element to the dish. A nice way to finish off the meal.

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Safe for one dish, Hotel Herman met my expectations. There is a reason that this restaurant has been one of the best ranked in Montreal for three years and has made Canada’s top 100. There is a level of attention and detail present here throughout the entire service that leaves you feeling that you are in good hands. Great service, simple but nice decor and excellent food – Hotel Herman is another great restaurant that gives Montreal a good name food-wise.

Cheers!

Hotel Herman
5171 Saint-Laurent
514 278 7000

Hôtel Herman Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cardinal Tea Room

18 Mar

Free time is somewhat of a luxury for my girlfriend and I. Now…admittedly it is pretty much by choice as we like to keep ourselves busy but regardless, when we have some – especially on a gorgeous weekend like the one we had relatively recently – I quickly enter into date mode. We need to take advantage of the opportunity – and I need to win some brownie points with the lady of course! Prior to being completely embarrassed by my performance on the skating rink down in the old port later that afternoon, I figured this was a great chance to go visit a place I had on my lists for a while now, the Cardinal Tea Room.

Somewhat secretly located on the second floor of the Sparrow bar on St-Laurent in Mile End, The Cardinal Tea Room is exactly that – a tea room in the typical British traditions, serving a variety of teas with sandwiches, pastry and salads to enjoy at the same time. Open from 11 to 7 only 4 days a week, it is not a place for a big hearty meal but for a nice relaxed light brunch, lunch or snack.

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First thing, this tea room is certainly a looker. A beautiful open two floor space anchored by a huge glass chandelier in the middle, the room is flooded with sunlights from the large windows to give it a warm and cozy feel. The key to the space though is the attention to detail and the inclusion of so much decoration to really give it that tea room feel. The jazzy music. The use of bookshelves, racquets, artwork, all the way down to the china and the handwritten painted signs. The entire space really feels like a proper British tea room without the kitsch. A lovely space to enjoy a lazy weekend.

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As we shared a tea kettle of Pai Mu Tan white tea, we decided to try a few items food wise. My girlfriend went for the open faced smoked trout sandwich. A generous portion of trout topped with some marinated onions and chives served over some cream cheese and some nice bread. A solid sandwich – light but still satisfying.

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On my end, I wanted something a little hearty so I went for the Ploughman’s lunch – a plate of cured meats, campagnard pate, sharp cheddar, a soft boiled egg, roasted beets, sliced apple and fruit chutney. Served with some bread, the plate was a nice mixture of items – individually solid but that really worked well together.

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Still feeling a little hungry and of course having a sweet tooth, we were also in the mood for some dessert. There is a daily Cardinal cake which in this instance was a ground poppy seed cake topped with some cream cheese icing. Texturally, we were surprised but the moist and smooth consistency. The icing was a little too sweet however.

We also tried the Eccles cake – essentially a puff pastry stuffed with currants and served (if so desired) with some sharp cheddar. I really enjoyed this one – the puff pastry was nice and flaky and the currants added a nice sweet bite to the dessert.

It took too long to visit Cardinal Tea Room but I’m really happy we did. A super nice and relaxed spot where I can definitely see visiting for a regular tea. I liked the options food wise and was definitely happy with the quality of items. Mile End continues to be one of my favourites areas in town and Cardinal Tea Room just reinforces that opinion. Now go enjoy some sunday tea!

Cheers!

Cardinal Tea Room
5326 Saint-Laurent
514 903 2877

Salon de Thé Cardinal Tea Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thazard

1 Feb

When the holidays come around, you get a little lazy. That includes keeping up with the order of my posts…. so today I finally get to a meal I had before Christmas! We’re going non-linear with my reviews… at least only with this one. Anyway….My girlfriend and I with our friend Annie – the first friend of ours who said to put her name in here instead of just saying we were with “a friend” – decided for our little “Christmas” get-together to go to a restaurant that both me and Annie – a fellow restaurant enthusiast – had on our lists for some time now: Thazard. Located on the Main in Mile End, this restaurant originally had lots of buzz during its opening in November 2014 for its desire to do French-style guéridon service and for the fact that kitchen service would run until 2 a.m. The trolley service fell by the way side at some point but I had still heard and read enough good things to consider Thazard worth visiting.

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The restaurant was completely dead on this particularly rainy Sunday night…. other than two people at the bar, we were the only patrons in the restaurant until we got to our dessert course. As such, the ambience was dead – no energy, no discussion going on to create some vibe. It put a little damper on the beautiful space. The use of low lighting and candles on each table created an intimate setting. The rest of the room has a very clean and sleek look with the all-white walls, mirrors and wooden tables. At least the lack of a crowd allowed us to enjoy the music!

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Chef Hachiro Fujise’s menu is North American and Japanese fusion cooking served in a small plate format. First up was spicy edamame because I can’t help but order edamame when it is present on a menu. A nice kick on top of the usual salty edamame.

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Our first true plate was the papaya salad – served with turnip white kimchi, tomato, crispy shallots, peanuts and some octopus. A nice looking dish with good favours. Despite the kimchi, it wasn’t as hot as the typical thai variant. The octopus was nice and tender and a good addition to the salad.

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Next was seared baby scallops served with shiitake mushrooms, spinach and ponzu butter. A more subtle dish flavour wise, the scallops were nicely seared with the addition of the ponzu butter served under the scallops adding a little kick.

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The miso poutine was the first big hit for the evening for me. The mixture of kimchi, miso butter and cheese curds is not necessarily a combination you would expect to work but somehow it does. Super rich and fatty with a nice touch of heat from the kimchi. We polished off the plate in record time…. Our only lament was that the dish wasn’t bigger!

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The following dish was just as good: the chicken Karaage. The chicken was fried to perfection – moist inside but with a nice spiced crunch on the outside. Served in bite-sized pieces with a lovely garlic aioli and some kimchi which provided nice addition flavours to pair nicely with the chicken.

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The final main we tried was the tonkotsu ramen – pork stock, egg, nori, pork, soy, green onions and charred leek oil. This dish was a must as my girlfriend had never been exposed to proper ramen before. Some may say I’ve failed as a boyfriend for waiting 11 months but hey… a man has to pick his battles. The broth was of the thicker variety, very smoky and rich. A nice hearty way to close out the main courses.

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Dessert provided us with a couple of interesting options. First was a Genmaicha Creme Brûlée with matcha bee pollen. Again, an interesting asian twist of a classic. The texture wasn’t quite the same as the usual creme brûlée – not as firm – but still very enjoyable. Lastly, we had a homemade molasses and ginger cookie topped with candied orange zests and chocolate ganache.

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We walked out of Thazard nicely satisfied and having paid a pretty reasonable price on top of it. The food was good to excellent across the board without any major issues. It was too bad that it was a dead night atmosphere-wise but there is not much you can do about that. Despite my disappointment with the disappearance of the trolley service, Thazard’s interesting fusion play of Japanese and North American was definitely enjoyable and is worth your time if you’re around Mile End. And remember… if you are in need of proper food at 1am, they are open for you.

Cheers!

Thazard
5329 Saint-Laurent
514 802 8899

Thazard Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chez Tousignant

24 Jan

In Quebec, the casse-croute is a tradition. That little neighbourhood joint where you get a nice simple breakfast, a greasy lunch, dinner or even just a coffee and a doughnut. Nowadays for most of us, we think of casse-croutes as those greasy spots by the highway or the Belle Province you go to grab a bit after a late night outing. Not exactly the highest of quality.

As an unabashed fan of Michele Forgione and Stefano Faita – and their drive to make everything homemade within their restaurants GEMA and Impasto – All the “test” pictures of burgers, bread, hot dogs and doughnuts that Michele has been posting on Instagram for the past year or so have been killing me. When would we be getting this ideal old school casse-croute? Finally, just prior to the holidays, it finally arrived: Chez Tousignant run by Impasto’s previous chef de cuisine (and originator of the idea) Yann Turcotte. I was away for 2 weeks but as soon as I came back, it was clear that I needed to finally satisfy the cravings from all those pictures.

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Located on Drolet near the Jean Talon market, Chez Tousignant has a great old school diner look – the neon sign in front, the ceramic tiled floor, the metal-topped tables and counters, the stools. Everything even down to the menu signs fits the old style.

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Foodwise, this is a casse-croute through and through. On my first visit, I went classic – a Michigan hot dog and some fries. The fries were great – as you need at a diner – but right now, we NEED to focus on that hot dog. Homemade all-beef dog. Homemade potato bun. Topped with homemade meat sauce and cheese curds. Good lord this thing was amazing. Officially the best hot dog I have ever had and it’s not even close. The all-natural beef frank is such a change from the usual industrial variety. Cooked on the griddle, it had a nice crunch to it while still having a nice tender texture inside. And that bun….. oh that bun. Man, they nailed it. When you add the buttered grilling on the griddle, that dense yet soft bun gets a nice rich crunch to it. Rare is the time where one hot dog would fill me up but this one hit the spot. When you’re doing hot dogs with ingredients with this quality, that’s what you get apparently.

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The second time around, I went for some other classic casse-croute staples – cheeseburger and poutine. The cheeseburger – served with special sauce, lettuce, onion as well as tomato and pickle if you wish – was another hit for me. The potato bun was once again spectacular – god I need to learn to make these – with that same buttery goodness off the griddle. The meat was meaty with a nice crust, the cheese was nicely melted on-top and the sauce added a nice little creaminess. A classic yet spectacular burger.

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The poutine was a beauty as well. First off, curds at the bottom. Not just on-top. Big hit with me. A very nice touch. Anyway, we’ve got here a generous portion of fries with plenty of curds and some amazing gravy. This wasn’t some off the shelf St-Hubert gravy mix. So dark and rich, the gravy ties the whole thing together. It’s amazing how given all the ways that people feel the need to dress up a poutine now if you just use the best elements, the classic one is simply the best.

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On top of all this goodness, there is even more! Chez Tousignant also does a pie of the day and some doughnuts for dessert. I went with a doughnut because I couldn’t resist the beautiful stack of doughnuts on-top of the counter. An old-fashion cake doughnut with a vanilla bean glaze. The doughnut itself was dense but nicely chewy – sweet with a touch of cinnamon. The glaze though was the impressive part to me. The vanilla bean came through nicely and the glaze was firm – no stickiness whatsoever – but cracked nicely once you bite into it.

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Lastly, I went with a milkshake because of course I did. Chez Tousignant does chocolate or vanilla. I tried one of each on my two visits. Rich and smooth in both cases with nice deep flavour. You actually got chocolate or vanilla flavour – not just milk with a hint of either one.

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Chez Tousignant was a blast in the past in the best way possible. A true casse-croute where care is taken to make everything homemade because that is how you provide the best to your clients. All through the process of testing, chef Forgione labeled all his pictures with #ParceQueVousLeMeritez – that’s the essence of what Chef Turcotte and the Chez Tousignant team are about – it may be lots of work but as a client, you cannot help but appreciate the craftsmanship on display.

Cheers!

Chez Tousignant
6956 Drolet
438 386 6368

Chez Tousignant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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