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Restaurant Gus

9 Oct

Sometimes the best nights are the ones you don’t plan for. After an caterer tasting felt through last minute, my fiancé and I found ourselves looking for a late night weekday dinner option. After looking through my ‘to-do’ list, we decided on a quick drive over to Beaubien street in Saint-Edouard at Restaurant Gus, ready to see what chef David Ferguson had in store for us. Formerly of restaurant Jolifou further down on Beaubien (now the crazy popular Chez Régine), Chef David opened up this small bistro-sized restaurant a few years ago now and has truly made it his own in style and cuisine.

Gus has a very warm and inviting look – the bright red walls really pop. The lighting is ample but subtle enough to create some intimacy. The bar is the focus of the room and is a great spot to observe the work being done by Chef David and his two sous-chefs. As you look around the room, you see tons of little touches that showcase what Chef David is about – the straw hats, the chilis hanging off the walls, the Habs artwork, the television over the bar showing playoff baseball through the night. Loved the space.

Foodwise, the menu is small – written on blackboards around the restaurant – and has a distinct southwest flavour to it. Prior to our meal, we got some great homemade sourdough bread to enjoy with a corn relish – sweet with a little kick. As our appetizer, we decided to share the marinated and grilled octopus and calamari salad with semi dried cherry tomatoes and marinated dried shallots. The salad was served colder than we expected but loved the flavours – tons of bright acidity with a touch of sweetness from the tomatoes. The octopus was very tender although my fiancé found it too soft personally. The calamari were grilled beautifully for both of us.

As a main, after having finding out that they had just run out of mussels, my fiancé went with the fish of the day, a grilled halibut, served with fried yuca and a tortilla soup. The fish was wonderfully tender and flaky, the broth was very flavourful and the use of the crunch of the tortillas and the yuca provided a nice contrast. Very nice dish.

On my end, I went with the bavette – marinated in a Asado-like sauce and served on a bed of potatoes en gratin with porcini mushrooms. Chef David is own for his grill work and you can tell why with this dish. The steak is perfectly grilled to medium-rare and the marinade gave the meat just a great deep flavour – a beautiful mix of heat, pepper and sweetness. The potatoes were rich and creamy and gave a nice counterpoint to the heat of the meat. One of the best bavettes I have ever had.

Gus definitely has the ‘neighbourhood steakhouse’ vibe down pat. An intimate but fun space. Friendly staff with Chef David holding court behind the bar. Great cuisine with that southwestern touch that makes it the Chef’s own. Gus is kind of restaurant one wants in their neighbourhood – a place that you would feel comfortable visiting daily but with food that fits for a special occasion. Nice combination don’t you think?

Cheers!

Restaurant Gus
38 Rue Beaubien Est
514 722 2175

Restaurant Gus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Knox Taverne

8 Oct

I love my neighbourhood. Pointe-St-Charles offers so much to a resident in terms of location, proximity to the market, the old port, downtown, etc. However, as a neighbourhood that is developing, the main artery, Centre Street, leaves much to be desired. Over the past few years, businesses have slowly been opening, restaurant-bars included. One of the more interesting ones is Knox Taverne. A taverne on the eastern part of the street, it has developed a nice following around the neighbourhood for the atmosphere and the interesting food options it provides. As someone who wishes that local businesses thrive, I have been enough times now to write something up food wise.

Knox is a simple but nice looking room that really enhances the nature of the old building that houses it. The brick walls, the exposed wood beams, the incandescent lights, the beautiful long bar – the space is warm and intimate. Windowed garage doors create the possibility of opening up the space in the summer on top of having the terrasse on the side of the building. The music is also great – tons of classic rock with some more recent hits. When I spend all night wanting to sign along, your playlist is working.

Drinkwise, Knox has a nice beer and wine selection that is very reasonably priced. They also have an interesting cocktail menu – their Knox Gin and Tonic with house tonic is nicely balanced with a more floral touch.

Despite its more bar-like setting, the food really steps outside of typical bar food. First off, they have fresh oysters on thursdays and fridays at a buck per before 8pm. A pretty nice deal – and the quality is there!

On the appetizer side, I’ve had a few different options. The fish tacos with red cabbage coleslaw, tomatillo pico de gallo and chipotle mayonnaise are excellent. A hearty portion of tender flaky fish with a nice combination of heat and sweet with the pico de gallo and mayo. The Knox fries – tossed with garlic parmesan – are exactly my kind of fries. Thin with a nice crunch but still tender inside. The last side dish to note is the brussel sprouts. Yeah… brussel sprouts! Didn’t expect that at a tavern did you? Sautéed with a maple sauce and served with some radish and shallots, this is a great subtle dish with a mix of earthiness and sweetness – exactly how I love to work with sprouts myself.

As a main, the big favourite is the Knox Burger – served with Coca-Cola Mayo, Caramelized Onions, Fried Pickle and Old Cheddar. Other than the pickle (not a fan as I have indicated many times before), the rest of the burger is excellent. The sweetness of Coca-Cola actually comes out in the mayo. The burger is cooked to perfection and I love the use of the classic potato bun. On the other end of the main spectrum, they have a beet risotto served with a walnut pesto and parmesan shavings. No picture of that one but the bright purple of the dish may throw people off but it is an excellent dish and again, a surprising inclusion to a tavern manu but one that appears very appreciated of the patrons the times I have been there.

Great atmosphere, solid alcohol options, surprisingly interesting and refined cuisine with good prices and very quick and friendly service to boot… Knox is a great addition to the neighbourhood that caters well to both ends of the spectrum that our neighbourhood encompasses. Very happy to support this PSC business and I hope that it is a sign of times to come for my hood.

Cheers!

Knox Taverne
1871 Rue Centre
514 933 3523

Maine 2017 – Eventide Oyster Co.

23 Jul

When in Maine, I seek third things food wise – lobster, oysters and clams. My seafood “trifecta” if you will. I have my personal preferences for lobster rolls and fried clams in Maine – check out the articles from my previous vacations for those but oysters not yet. For a while, I have had a certain well known spot on my list to check out for some fresh Maine oysters amongst many things. For part 2 of my 30th birthday in Portland, Maine, I finally went for Eventide Oyster Co. ready to enjoy some super fresh Maine seafood.

Eventide Oyster Co. is located ironically almost across the street from Duckfat (see the previous article in this blog). Eventide is known as the first true oyster bar in the area and as such, is very popular. They too also have the no reservation issue like Duckfat (well… sort of. They take one group reservation a night). However, thankfully, turns out they have a text message system so we were able to go have a drink at a bar nearby in the meantime. 45 minutes later, we came back to a table outside on the terrasse ready to go.

We started with some cocktails. My muddled Old Fashioned was exquisite and done with great care and balance. The standout though was my friend’s Celery Gimlet of gin, celery and lime – she spent the next 2 days lauding its praises. The level of smoothness and strong celery flavour was so surprising.

First round of food was of course some fresh oysters. Eventide offers 9 different varieties from Maine as well as a few options from PEI, New Brunswick and New Hampshire. We went with 4 different types from Maine and a couple of accoutrements – red wine mignonette and kimchi ice. The kimchi ice was very interesting – they take some of the pickling liquid of kimchi and add it to shaved ice. Loved how the strong fermented taste of the kimchi paired with the amazingly fresh oysters. Beautifully shucked and so delicious. A great start to our dinner.

Eventide, of course, offers many other dishes. First, the New England Clam Chowder with potatoes, salt pork and saltines. The chowder was not as creamy as we expected but the flavours were so wonderful. The lobster came through strongly. The large pieces of salt pork brought some saltiness and richness and then the potatoes were cooked perfectly and gave some texture. The joy of the lack of the creaminess was how the chowder wasn’t nearly as heavy as you could have expected. Just wonderful.

The fried Maine Oysters with Thai apple slaw, mint and pickled ginger was a very creative and asian inspired-style to serving oysters. The oysters were delicious with a nice crunch. The Thai slaw with the mint and ginger provided a mix of sweetness, heat and freshness that paired wonderfully with the oysters. We also ordered a side of coleslaw – very flavourful, fresh and not too creamy.

Eventide is also known for their Brown Butter Lobster roll served on a steamed bun – think Bao Pork Bun with brown butter lobster instead. Sold! For the price, not very big but simply wonderful. The nuttiness of the brown butter paired so well with the inherent fattiness of the lobster and the use of a steamed bun is an interesting decision that makes the roll seem a little lighter overall. Wonderful roll outside of the norm.

Lastly, we had dessert by ordering one of their Ice cream sandwiches – in this case, double chocolate cookies and praline ice cream. This sandwich was massive – we shared it four ways and all felt we got a good portion. The chocolate were rich and very chocolatey. The ice cream was excellent as well. A great sandwich overall.

Eventide is a great oyster bar and definitely a must-visit if you are going to Portland. Great drinks, amazing seafood and friendly service. Round 2 of my birthday tour was a big success and I was happy to finally visit. Eventide is setting the bar for seafood restaurants all around – not just in Portland.

Cheers!

Eventide Oyster Co.
86 Middle Street
207 774 8538

Eventide Oyster Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maine 2017 – Duckfat

18 Jul

We in Quebec are very protective of our “National” dish, the Poutine. Everyone’s a critic and we all have our personal favorites. When we encounter poutine outside of Quebec, there can often be some derision and automatic negative thoughts about it. No way can this poutine be as good as back home! For a few years now, I had heard about an apparently great poutine in Portland, Maine. As I have gone to Maine every summer for the past 5 years, I had always told myself I needed to try it at some point. That some point was this summer for the first part of my 30th birthday in Portland (the other part will be the next article coming) so we sat down at Duckfat for a late lunch ready to see how their poutine stacked up.

Duckfat is a small spot located along Middle Street – the terrasse sits 24 or so and the inside a little bit more. This leads me to a quick tangent if you don’t mind. Duckfat doesn’t take reservations and, given its popularity and small size, thus requires you to give them your name and wait within 1.5 blocks with a pager device. Why in god’s name do Americans seem to be okay with this procedure!? At minimum, it should be your phone number and then they call you. What interest is there to stand outside and wait for 45 minutes to eat? Especially when there is nothing really interesting within the block to visit…. very frustrating to see this approach did exist. Anyway… tangent closed.

The menu is small and focused on fries, milkshakes, craft sodas and panini sandwiches. We tried two drinks: first, the Roots, Barks and Sticks soda made with sassafras, sarsaparilla root, birch bark, ceylon cinnamon and wintergreen. If you love root beer, you will love this one. Nice sweetness but not too much. Very refreshing.

The other drink was the Original Duckfat milkshake – vanilla gelato with creme anglaise and fresh Tahitian vanilla bean. Rich, smooth, creamy with lovely notes of vanilla – just a great milkshake to enjoy! Always love to see the specks of the vanilla bean within the milkshake. Easily more a dessert than a beverage but I wasn’t complaining.

We got a couple of the paninis as well. The overnight duck confit panini with spicy napa cabbage slaw, miso mayo and cilantro was lovely – the rich fatty duck with the kick from the slaw, the creamy mayo and the crunch from the bread. The house smoked brisket with vegetable chow chow, cheddar and BBQ sauce was a big hit for me, The brisket was fatty and smoky, the sweetness of the sauce paired very well with the meat and the cheddar worked also. Great sandwich.

Finally we get to the homemade Belgian fries. Of course, at a restaurant called duckfat, they are fried in duck fat. How could they not….You can either get the fries with a speciality mayo or in a poutine, served with local cheese curds, chives and a homemade duck gravy. The fries themselves are amazing…. perfect size, great crunch, tender inside and of course that amazing richness and flavour you get from the duckfat. We tried the curry mayo with the fries and it was very good. Strong curry kick but not overwhelming. As for the poutine, is it my favourite?… no but it is much closer than I expected honestly. The duck gravy is rich and yet not heavy and pairs up so well for the fries. The locally sourced cheese curds are good but they lacked that classic Quebec squeak – really the one element that holds me back from calling this the best. The chives brought some freshness and worked well. Very impressed overall.

Duckfat was a wonderful lunch spot and owns up to its name very well. Other than the service issue I stated earlier, this was an excellent experience food wise and showed that Americans can actually make a good poutine 😉 You may get annoyed by the wait time but believe me, it is worth it for those sweet sweet fries. Long live the joys of duckfat.

Cheers!

Duckfat
43 Middle St
207 774 8080

Duck Fat 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

Grumman 78

12 Apr

Hard to believe but I have already reached my 10 year high school reunion. Time clearly flies when you are having fun…. or at least let’s hope that’s it anyway. As we approach the actual reunion, some of us decided it was worthwhile to have a reunion dinner downtown to catch up, eat, drink, laugh…. and then likely cry and drink some more. As the “foodie” of the group, I was tasked with finding a fun place with good food to host a large group on a Friday… not the easiest challenge but one I figured I could handled. Based on what was required, I figured now was a good opportunity to try out the restaurant of one of my favourite food trucks here in Montreal, Grumman 78.

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Located in what appears to be an old converted garage and in what used to be (and still is) their prep kitchen for the truck itself, Grumman 78 has a nice relaxed vibe eminating from its locale. Funky artwork, old arcade machines, white brick walls, large wooden tables, old Christmas lights and good music – this is definitely not a formal restaurant. Given the open nature of the space and the fact it was Friday, a little noisy for conversation but it’s the kind of room that I could see being enjoyment on a different night and time.

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As we were a large group, we were beholden to a fixed menu but one that had been proposed to me in advance and which I had the option of making changes to. Given that it was a combination of many of their staple dishes, I had no issues with what they offered us. At this moment, I want to take a second to discuss the service of the evening. Our meal got off to a bit of rocky start due to no-shows on our end which delayed the start of the meal by a good hour and caused some issues as our number dropped from what we had confirmed for the fixed menu. While it got sorted out, it was a little surprising to see how we weren’t offered drinks more quickly as we waited for those who ended up not coming or that we weren’t checked on again until we eventually decided to assume those no-shows were actually not coming. That followed a bit of a pattern throughout the night of decidedly slow service despite our waiter being very friendly. An entire order of drinks never came and the wait times between the different dishes was surprisingly long. Now, I noticed that there were at least 2 other large (i.e 10+) groups in the restaurant at the same time which may explain some of the issues but regardless it was a disappointment. And now on to what should be the main focus – the food!

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The first appetizer was a Mackerel crudo. A combination of brined Mackerel, citrus fruits, pomegranate and avocado, this was a very light and fresh starter. Great combination between the salty Mackerel, the sweet acidic fruits and the creamy avocado. Tons of flavours without being overbearing.

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The other appetizer was a beet salad with apples, creme fraiche, croutons and herbs. Another interesting combination of items and flavours. The redness of the beets created quite a visually striking dish. The richness of the creme fraiche and acidity of the apples helped to freshen up the beets which are not a favourite of mine under normal circumstances.

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The next course was what made Grumman 78 in the first place: their soft shell tacos. In this instance, we were treated to two types: Bahn-Mi and Pimenton-Feta. The Bahn-Mi ones were comprised of pulled pork, hoisin sauce, pickled daikon and carrots. The Pimenton-Feta ones were Pimenton braised red beans, radish salad and feta. As we were a large group, there were served family style to allow you to build your own – although we had an issue in terms of quantity of tortillas. We eventually got extras but they were a little slow to come. Regardless, the tacos themselves were delicious – both were flavourful and texture rich. I had already had the Bahn-Mi before- it was the original taco I tried of theirs from their food truck. Nice combination of sweet and fatty. The Pimenton-Feta was a new one for me – not a huge fan of the beans themselves but the mix with the feta and the radish made it work rather nicely.

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The next service was the final main: Fried Chicken and Johnny Cakes (cornmeal pancakes) with coleslaw and Ranch dressing. I loved these – the fried chicken was crispy but still moist inside, the coleslaw was light and fresh, the ranch dressing added some creaminess and the pancakes were a perfect vehicle for the whole thing. I just wished that there had been more!

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For dessert, we got individual key lime pies. Now, I am a huge key lime pie fan so imitators need not present themselves to me at a restaurant. This one was quite good – a crunchy graham crust at the bottom and nice key lime filling. The key things for me are always the texture of the filling itself and the key lime flavour being strong but not overbearing. Grumman’s version hits these notes perfectly. A solid end to the meal.

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All in all, my time at Grumman 78 left me conflicted – the food was awesome as I had expected given my experiences with the food truck however the service issues on this evening left a slightly sour note for my dinner mates and I. I am generally more forgiving on these things but I suspect some of my friends won’t be based on our discussions at the bar afterwards. The food here is too good not to check out but perhaps I would recommend not bringing a large group firstly – a table of 2 or 4 should not run into the issues we did. At least visit the food truck when it comes out this summer. I certainly plan to.

Cheers!

Grumman 78
630 de Courcelle
514 290 5125

Grumman '78 on Urbanspoon

Wings n’ Things

2 Mar

Every year, Super Bowl weekend is, for me, a get together with friends and/or family to watch the big game. On the occasion, we usually pig out to the usual classic “game day” trappings – chips, beers, ribs, fried chicken, etc…. Sure it’s not very healthy but hey, something just seems wrong about eating salad and vegetables during the Super Bowl. You just offset with a couple extra days at the gym. It’s not so hard. Anyway, for this particular year, I was a guest at some friends who had dinner covered. However, that did not mean I wouldn’t bring anything over especially since I was heading over around lunch time to enjoy some Habs hockey beforehand. In keeping with the spirit of the day, I figured this was as good a time as any to finally try out the reincarnation of Wings n’ Things to grab, what else, some chicken wings!

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Now, I have no memories of the old Wings n’ Things as I am too young to have had the chance to try them or even remember it. However, enough people whose opinions I trust talked up its return in late 2012 that I figured it was worth a visit. Located on Royalmount just off Decarie in an industrial neighbourhood, the first challenge was actually locating the place! They actually share a space with Otago Cafe which threw me off as a newcomer as I drove back and forth along Royalmount unable to find the address! This would be a pickup so I really have no comments on the service there other than to say that I received my order quickly without much of a wait.

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Wings n’ Things offers a wide variety of wings – regular, boneless, breaded or grilled – with a number of different sauces. For this particular visit, I stuck with regular wings with honey garlic, Jack Daniels BBQ and parmesan garlic sauces. The Jack Daniels BBQ ones were probably the most disappointing mostly because I really didn’t get any hint of the Jack Daniels. As BBQ wings, they would be quite good but my original expectations let me down here. The honey garlic sauce was exactly what I expected – a solid mix of sweetness and some bite. My clear favorite though was the parmesan garlic – those ones surprised me with the nice mix of the cheese and the garlic without being overpowering. All 3 varieties were coated well – no lack of sauce here. I also very much enjoyed the wings themselves – they had enough meat on the bone without being so big that they wouldn’t be cooked correctly inside. As a chicken wing place, Wings n’ Things needed to make sure their wings were on point and thankful they were.

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Wings n’ Things has a host of other things on the menu but given this was also conveniently Poutine Week, I went with their special at the time which is not there normally but probably should be – a curly fries poutine with cheese curds, red onions, boneless wing meat and their medium buffalo sauce. Absolutely delicious across the board which also allowed me to try their buffalo sauce. I am not a big heat guy and this sauce was right on the edge for me – if they had put their hotter version of the sauce, I would have had serious trouble finishing it. As it was, I very much enjoyed it and would probably get wings in that sauce in the future.

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All in all, for my money, these were the best wings I have had here in Montreal. They are a little out of the way but believe me, if you are in the mood for good wings, this is the place you must go.

Cheers!

Wings n’ Things
5663 Royalmount
514 733 0765

Wings 'N Things on Urbanspoon

Florida 2013 – Albert and Victoria’s

15 Jun

Okay….time for a long overdue post. Over this past Easter weekend, we went down to Orlando, Florida as a family for some nice weather, a little golf and a quick trip to Disney World. While we were there, we decided to pay ourselves a little treat. Inside of the Grand Floridian Resort Hotel at Disney is the restaurant Albert and Victoria’s. This restaurant is a 13-year recipient of the AAA Five Diamond award and is renowned for their 6-course prix fixe menu with associated wine pairings for each dish. They label the evening as a “2-2.5 hour dining experience” where no kids under 10 are allowed and the dress code is dinner jackets and dresses. You show up in shorts or jeans and you are refused entrance.

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When you walk in, in that typical Disney immersion, you feel like you are entering a traditional Victorian dinner room. Fine crystal and china, ornate wallpaper, long drapes and tablecloths, a harp player in the corner – full credit for creating such a unique restaurant space. The other thing you notice is the attention to detail in the service. Each table has a duo of servers that takes care of you. In our case, we had a lovely elderly couple of New York and Maine that for the life of me I can’t remember their names anymore. Having reserved in advance and requested your name and any dietary restriction, they know your name and throughout the evening, they will address you as such. They also practice absolutely spotless serving etiquette. I was quite amazing to see them work in that manner with such timing and precision. Everything they did was for a reason. A very unique thing to see in today’s restaurant world.

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The menu is presented to you as there are different options for each course. Once you have made your selections, a personalized menu will be printed for you to take home as a memento of the evening. I went with the wine pairing option as well to really get the full experience. Once each course arrived, the gentlemen of our serving team recounted the entire description and story of each plate along the associated wine pairing as well as the bread to match. Yes, each course had its own bread pairing. Even for my father with his gluten intolerance. The ability of our waiter to describe everything in great detail and without any pause or mistake was mind boggling and truly a sign of a professional, someone dedicated to his craft. Truly a great thing to experience.

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Now then, on with the food. First off, an Amuse-Bouche with a Piper Heidsteck Cuvee 1785 NV Burt. The Amuse-Bouche consisted of a mini roll of crab meat, a piece of fresh salmon with some olive oil and a lavender-mint crudo. All nice and fresh options. Perfect set-ups for a meal such as this.

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Second course, I selected the Octopus “a la Plancha” with Black Garlic Aioli. Delicious octopus grilled nicely with some micro-greens, that wonderful aioli as well as some reduced balsamic vinegar for the option of some extra acidity. Great flavour combinations to experience.

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Third course, I took the Diver Scallop with Zellwood Corn Ragout. The scallop was perfectly cooked with a nice sear on the outside. The ragout had a wonderful sweetness from the corn. Once again, a perfect combination of ingredients.

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Fourth course, I had the Braised Oxtail and Cherry Ravioli with Roasted Red Peppers. The Oxtail was fall apart good and the roasted red peppers provided that right level of sweetness along with the Cherry. Quite good all around.

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I also got to try the other option for this course: Long Island Duck Breast and Sausage with Roasted Cauliflower. The duck was just perfect – great flavours and at just the right temperature.

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My main was Niman Ranch Lamb with Caramelized Turnips and Swiss Chard. Now, I just love lamb so it wasn’t hard for me to get on-board here. The lamb was rich and tender. The jus was perfect for it and the caramelized vegetables paired nicely here. Amazing dish.

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As a palate cleanser before dessert, I got the White Chocolate Gelato with Tableside Shavings and the paired glass of Muscato. Just a wonderfully sweet but light gelato. The shavings added a nice extra-chocolate element as well. The Muscato was a perfect pair to this. And this wasn’t even the actual dessert!

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The other option here was a plate of cheese with some port. The cheese provided was Gouda, Stilton, Parmigiano Reggiano and a Sottocenere Al Tartufo. All with very deep and complex flavours. Nice variety of textures as well. The Port created a nice combination from what I could try.

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Finally, dessert! The table ended up with 3 different selections: Caramelized Banana Gateau, Tanzanian Chocolate Timbale with Orange scented Milk Chocolate Gelato and a Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange Purse with Blackberry-violet Sherbet. The caramelized gateau was the big favourite – very nice flavour across the board. The chocolate timbale was quite chocolate intensive which I loved but that may not be satisfactory for everyone. The lemon and orange purse really depends on how you like the taste of blood Orange as it pretty much the biggest note that comes out of that dessert.

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The overall dining experience was almost certainly the finest I have ever enjoyed. The food was all amazing. Lots of variety throughout the meal, amazing use of great international products in different ways. I will not comment too much on the wine pairings as that is not a particularly strong area for me but from my vantage point, every glass I was served matched perfectly with each plate and added something to the meal. The Muscato with the gelato was a particularly high point for me but I love Muscato so that may cloud my feelings there. The service from top to bottom was superb. The setting was unique and quite enjoyable for a relaxed 2.5 hour service. Now obviously this meal wasn’t cheap – the website clearly states the prices upfront – but you don’t mind spending for a unique refined dining experience, this is absolutely it. There is an option for the chef’s table in the actual kitchen which we visited afterwards but sadly it wasn’t available during our visit. Based on what we saw, it is definitely worth trying to get if you can. That Disney magic continues to work….even when we are talking about Restaurants.

Cheers!

Victoria and Albert’s
4401 Grand Floridian Way
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Victoria & Albert's on Urbanspoon

Icehouse

24 Jan

Living downtown has a number of perks. One of the big ones on my end is the proximity I have to so many great restaurants. It hits the bank account a bit but when I get a craving for a certain type of food, I am usually close enough to a restaurant that can satisfy my desires. Last Friday, I had a serious hankering of some tex-mex BBQ. Luckily for me, I am a short walk away from one of the best Montreal has to offer. So I called up a buddy who I knew would enjoy the experience, we braved the cold and made our way to Icehouse.

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Icehouse is chef Nick Hodge’s second restaurant, he of Kitchenette fame. This small, probably 30 seat space in the Plateau serves up comfort food with a decidedly Texas flare. Tacos, Burritos, fried chicken, ribs. You come here hungry and you most certainly leave here stuffed.

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As soon as we walked in the door, we were given a complimentary cup of warmed Dr.Pepper with bourbon. Warm and sweet, the bourbon added a nice kick to it. Given the stiff cold we had to deal with outside, it was a most welcomed surprise. Once that drink was done, we each ordered a glass of the house Bourbon Lemonade. I simply love this drink. The perfect balance of sweetness and sour of the homemade lemonade with the punch of the bourbon. When I’ve been here in the summer, there is nothing better than ordering a full pitcher and enjoying it on the small terrasse outside. Regardless of the food you order when you visit, the Bourbon Lemonade is an absolutely must.

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As an entree, we ordered the queso fundido with chorizo. While I had expected a little more chorizo that we got, it was a very good dish. The consistency was good – thick enough that it stuck to the tortilla chips but not so much that the chips broke when you dipped in. Nice balance of the cheeses – slightly sharpeness but still mild enough. A good start.

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For the mains, my buddy ordered the Lobster burrito with pico de gayo, corn and chips. As a side, he ordered some fries. Now I am not a burrito guy. Really not. This one here may have changed that. Absolutely stuffed with lobster, so much so that my buddy was a little surprised, the combo of the lobster with the pico de gayo and the corn had a great balance to it. The fries were perfectly executed as well.

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On my end, I ordered the half bucket of HP sauce ribs that comes with coleslaw, smoked potato salad and a buttermilk biscuit. The biscuit was flaky and rich. The coleslaw is more of the creamy variety if we were to use the St-Hubert coleslaw scale but still light enough to offset the richness of the potato salad. The Ribs were picture perfect. Just fall off the bone good. The sauce had a nice smokiness and sweeteners that basically made you want to suck up every drop of the sauce that was on the paper towel laid below the ribs. It is so good that once the ribs were done (and believe me, that didn’t take very long), we dropped the fries into the sauce and finished them off that way.
Believe me, if you order the ribs, you need a few towelettes but frankly you won’t care.

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Icehouse is one of my absolute favorites since I discovered it last year. Note for couples, it is not the place for a quiet sit down meal. Despite its small size, it gets relatively noisy quickly pretty on top of the great music that they play throughout the evening. We walked out of there waddling slightly but very happy about the meal we just had – just like every other time I have visited.If you are looking for a cool, relaxed setting to enjoy a great meal, Icehouse should be high on your list.

Cheers!

Icehouse
51 Roy Est.
514 439 6691

Icehouse on Urbanspoon

New York 2013 – The Lambs Club

6 Jan

For New Years’ Eve, I had the opportunity to head down to New York City and experience the city for the first time. Now, the trip was relatively short and with that, the opportunity to make a serious dent into my NY culinary wish list pretty slight. We had to pick and choose a few selected spots to try while there. The big dinner of the trip took place at the Lambs Club, located just off Times Square at Broadway and 44th street in the Chatwal hotel.

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The draw for me to the Lambs Club was that it is run by Geofrrey Zakarian. If you watch any amount of the Food Network, Zakarian is a chef you have seen. He is one of the more recent Iron Chef winners and a chef whose style of cuisine really appealed to me. It is described as modern American and I think that it the right way to characterize it. This was definitely a meal I was looking forward to.

The restaurant is, according to the website, a 90 seat space but honestly it feels a lot smaller than that. The room has an amazing Art Deco look with red banquets, dark panel walls, beautiful standing lamps and a fireplace with black and white head shots of famous people from the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s all around the room. Add to that amazing jazz and crooner music as well as some low lights and it makes for a nice sophisticated and intimate experience. And I haven’t even talked about the food yet.

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The dinner service is a fixed price 3 course meal with options of additional sides for a price. Prior to your selection, you receive a small amuse-gueule – a marinated cherry tomato. Nice and sweet, a good way to start the meal. Add to that my drink of choice for the evening – a gold rush cocktail (12 yr old bourbon, honey syrup and lemon juice) and we have a good beginning.

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As a starter, I selected the Spanish Octopus a la Plancha with squid ink pain perdu, spiced short rib and black garlic. The octopus was perfectly prepared with none of the chewiness that you fear to get. The short rib was nice and flavorful and the pain perdu was quite good – the squid ink didn’t overpower the rest of the dish which can be a concern.

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As a main, I went with the Long Island Duck Breast with turnips, figs, huckleberries and coffee molé. Don’t the chance too enough to eat some duck so I jumped on the opportunity. The duck breast was perfect – the crispy exterior without the meat being dried out. The figs and huckleberries added a nice sweetness to the dish. Very well done.

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For dessert, the Chestnut Opera cake grabbed my eye. Nice, sweet and light cake to finish off the meal. The candied chestnuts provided a nice spiced element to the dish.

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The Lambs Club was a great experience and a wonderful to start my time in New York. The entire experience, from the food to the decor to the wait staff, was top notch and worthy of your consideration next time you visit NY. It may cost you a good penny but will be worth your while.

Cheers!

The Lambs Club
132 West 44th Street
New York, NY
212 997 5262

The Lambs Club on Urbanspoon

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