Archive | Tapas RSS feed for this section

Tapas 24

9 Nov

My trip to Spain last year was a wonderful experience through and through. Among the many things I enjoyed was all the wonderful food – especially the tapas “scene”. To be able to enjoy true Spanish tapas in Barcelona night after night was a thing to behold and made me realize that much of the “tapas” we have in Montreal isn’t quite up to snuff. Fast forward a year and we hear about Chef Carles Abellan and that his Tapas 24 concept is coming to Montreal. I didn’t get a chance to visit any of his restaurants while in Spain so the notion of trying his cuisine at home is quite appealing. The restaurant opened earlier this summer and finally, for the occasion of my grandfather’s birthday, I found a good reason to head over.

IMG_2861.JPG

IMG_2862.JPG

Being a new restaurant in Old Montreal, Tapas 24 certainly tries to make a visual impression and succeeds in doing so. With the front of the restaurant being entirely windowed, the major use of natural coloured wood on the walls and at the first floor bar, when added to the ample lighting, makes the whole restaurant pop from the outside. The second floor mezzanine allows for the high ceiling to be utilized and gives the room a big presence. Part of the kitchen is visible from the bar downstairs as is the prep kitchen/ grade manger on the second floor although that part isn’t as nice to have visible as the kitchen. The music was present but unremarkable. The noise level was relatively loud but nothing abnormal for an Old Montreal restaurant on a busy Friday. Conversation could still be had but I wouldn’t said this is where you would have an hugely in-depth talk with a meal. The service was pretty good for us throughout the night unlike some of what you can read elsewhere so I guess this can be hit or miss. In our case, we had absolutely no complaints.

IMG_2874.JPG

IMG_2863.JPG

Foodwise, we had originally planned to go for the MTL a Table menu but decided instead to simply order from the regular menu and share everything in order to enjoy a greater variety of dishes. These are the perks of being a larger group in this instance. First up, a few staple Spanish tapas. There was the Coca con Tomato – simply put tomato and olive oil on fresh warm bread. Simple but oh so good… especially since the bread comes from my favourite bakery Hof Kelsten. We then had the Iberian chorizo – freshly sliced and a perfect compliment to the bread dish. A spicy kick on top of the usual fattiness. The last of the staple trio was the patatas bravas – potatoes (in this case, french fries) with an aioli and the spicy tomato “brava” sauce. The fries themselves were nice and crispy but the key was the combination between the heat of the brava sauce and the creaminess of the aioli. These were so good that we had 3 separate orders over the course of the evening!

IMG_2865.JPG

IMG_2864.JPG

IMG_2869.JPG

The next set of dish were a little more unique. First up, la bomb de Barceloneta – a potato and meat croquette topped with the same aioli and brava sauce as before. Pretty good overall. Each individual croquette was rather big – lots of potato and meat stuffed inside. Great crunch on the outside without losing any moisture inside.

IMG_2868.JPG

Next up were the Gambas Al Ajillo – garlic shrimps with hot peppers. A solid dish but one that, compared to the rest, lacked any real punch or spark. Enough so that I even forgot to take a picture, so there you go.

We also have the strangely named Bikini Comerc 24 which essentially are mini grilled sandwiches of tramezzini, Iberian ham, mozzarella di buffalo and truffles. Extremely delicious – the combination of iberian ham and cheese is always a winner… and that is even before we add the truffles. The only complaints are these were how small they were. When a dish would need to be ordered more than once to purely satisfied hunger, you probably a sizing issue.

IMG_2867.JPG

The Atun con tomate y ponzu – or tuna with ponzu sauce – was a hit at our table. The tuna was beautiful – nice sized pieces well seasoned also. The ponzu added a nice hint of citrus to mix with the sweetness of the tomato. A light but well executed dish.

IMG_2866.JPG

Next were the alias de pollo con salsa “alegre” – boneless chicken wings with alegre sauce. Here, my camera failed me due to poor lighting but take my word for it, they are worth ordering next time you visit. The chicken was wonderfully moist and tender – simply fell apart using a fork. Great dish.

The final main tapas was actually a main that we added – the rabo de toro – oxtail stew with potato puree. The oxtail was amazing. The meat and fat was so cooked down that the two bones in the plate appeared to have never had any meat on them once we pulled the meat off them. Beautifully meaty and fatty goodness.

IMG_2870.JPG

Now, after all of the food, we may think that we were too full for dessert… and you would be wrong. There is always room for dessert, especially these ones. We went with three to share amongst the group. First, we had the molten chocolate fritters – bunuelos del tio nelo. Hot dark chocolate in a fried ball with some powdered sugar… what is there not to like!? They may be too tart for some as it is dark chocolate but delicious nevertheless.

IMG_2871.JPG

The second option was fresh ricotta and honey – Mel y Mato – a huge contrast when compared to the previous dish. Personally I loved the combination – a fresh and light alternative to standard dessert options. The sweetness of the honey worked very well with the creaminess of the ricotta. May not be everyone’s jam from a texture point of view but it worked for me.

IMG_2872.JPG

Lastly, we have in my opinion the best of the group – chocolate, pan, acetic y sal or simply put chocolate, bread, olive oil and fleur de sel. Milk chocolate mousse with a hint of olive oil, a touch of salt and a crunchy crouton. Simple but so wonderful in execution. Loved every bit of this one.

IMG_2873.JPG

All in all, with all the food and a few good bottles of wine, we left full and very satisfied of our experience at Tapas 24. The one stickler would be price point as this definitely wasn’t a cheap evening. This was a pretty penny for tapas. Be prepared to pay more than you probably expect. I saw a lot of negative reviews for this restaurant early on… other than the overpriced issue, I experienced none of what others have apparently faced here. In my eyes, Tapas 24 is definitely a worthwhile visit. It may not be Barcelona but I’ll take it. I suppose that your mileage may vary however.

Cheers!

Tapas 24
420 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 849 4424

Tapas 24 on Urbanspoon

Advertisements

The Bee’s Knees (Augusta, GA)

19 May

Last month I got the opportunity to fulfill a bucket list item: going to Augusta National Golf Club to watch the Masters live. It was a beautiful day and one I will cherish forever (thanks partially to the over 1000 pictures we took while there). This was my first time in Georgia so obviously I had great plans food wise for the time I would be there…. however due to certain circumstances, we were only there for 3 days including travel days so that pretty much left me with one dinner to work with. Looking for sometime in and around Augusta itself, I discovered a quirky place right off Augusta’s main strip that had some good buzz – The Bee’s Knees.

20140413-224845.jpg

20140413-224925.jpg

Labelling itself as a Tapas restaurant and lounge, The Bee’s Knees definitely has an eclectic feel to it. The building itself reminds you of a old store from the 50s with the recessed door entrance, tile walkway and windowed facade which has gone unchanged despite this now being a restaurant. Inside, the space is brick walls, funky artwork, concert posters, christmas lights and great alternative music. While the crowd at that moment was older due to the golf tournament, the vibe really catered more to my generation and I loved it.

20140413-224855.jpg

20140413-224904.jpg

20140413-224911.jpg

Sitting outside on their terrace, we were presented the menu by our waitress and offered some drinks. I selected the Ginger Old Fashioned – Johnny Drum bourbon, sugar cube, cherry bitters, fresh ginger, cherries and an orange. A nice play on a typical Old Fashioned – the addition of ginger worked surprisingly well.

20140413-224935.jpg

Food-wise, The Bee’s Knees goes for a global cuisine approach to tapas. For starters, we went for tequila-lime guacamole with fresh-fried tortilla chips, the house salad and the hand cut red potato fries with 2 of their sauces (dill feta and spicy aioli). The guacamole was of the thicker persuasion – the avocado not being pureed completely. The tortilla chips thankfully were thick enough to not break when scooping up the dip and the tequila addition came through just enough to add some punch. The house salad was okay – a good combination of fresh vegetables and a little light dressing – like most house salads. The fries were delicious – thick cut as I like them but with a good crunch to them. The 2 sauces were a good contrast – the spicy aioli provided some kick (likely from siracha) and the dill feta dulled that down.

20140413-224943.jpg

20140413-224951.jpg

20140413-225001.jpg

Coming to the mains now, the first one was from their usual tapas menu – sesame salmon tartare with a sesame-soy sauce, sticky rice & a fried wonton. Very flavourful fish although the sauce completely overpowered the salmon itself. The sticky rice was perfect and the wonton provided a nice vessel to combine the rice and the fish.

20140413-225010.jpg

The next dish was their market fish of the day – wild stripped bass with white wine rosemary cream sauce, garlic mash, roasted beets and lemon arugula. Just a knockout of a dish – well executed and great depth of flavours. The fresh bass was cooked beautifully and paired nicely with the creaminess of both the sauce and the mash. The rosemary cream sauce had great notes of rosemary and white wine without overpowering the natural flavours of the bass. The rest of the dish mixed nicely and brought some other elements to the plate – citrus and pepper from the lemon arugula and some earthiness from the beets. Wonderful all around.

20140413-225021.jpg

The final main was their daily bird – chicken and waffles with yeast gravy and maple syrup. I wasn’t planning on eating this here but when I saw it was the special, I had no choice. I wasn’t going to come down to the South without trying some fried chicken and waffles somewhere! The fried chicken was on point – cripsy yet moist. The waffle was the right mix of crunch and fluffy and thankfully they had actual maple syrup….

20140413-225031.jpg

Finally for dessert, i had their creme brûlée. Nice and sweet, it was very well executed but somewhat unremarkable.

20140413-225040.jpg

A solid 2 hours on a terrace in April… I really couldn’t asked for more from my one real dinner in Georgia. Loved the food and the overall vibe. I could definitely see myself spending time there during their bar hours if I were a resident of Augusta. It also helped that the service was solid and quite friendly. It always impresses me how friendly and chatty American waiters and waitresses are. They genuinely want to converse with you – especially if they hear you speak French apparently! (Note to the friendly waitress whose name I have sadly forgotten since I waited too long to write this: Trust us, if you want to practice your French more, come to Montreal first before you visit France – it will be cheaper, lots of fun and an easier transition towards your desired trip to France. You won’t regret it!) Service like what we got is what makes people come back to a restaurant on top of great food. Should I get tickets to the Masters again, I will definitely spot by again!

Cheers!

The Bee’s Knees
211 10th St
Augusta, GA
706 828 3600

The Bee's Knees on Urbanspoon

Le Bureau

22 Jan

Happy new year everyone! Yeah I’m know I’m 3 weeks behind but hey… this writing is a side project for me so how about you cut me a little slack, hum? Anyway, thank you everyone who reads these posts on a regular basis and who spread the word. I never imagined that less than 2 years into this little writing endeavour that people would actually be writing this thing! It is greatly appreciated. Here’s to an amazing 2014 of food and more culinary exploration within our fair city and elsewhere!

Now then, on with my last restaurant visit of 2013 – Hey, I did say I was a little behind didn’t I? – which brought me to the rapidly changing region of Griffintown. It is a part of town that I visit quite frequently. A friend of mine who lives nearby invited down to check out Le Bureau Tapas Bar for a little midweek drink and food. Now, Le Bureau has been on my to-visit list since the summer so I gladly accepted and away we went.

20140122-093609.jpg

Walking in on a quiet snowy evening, Le Bureau has a very nice relaxed lounge feel – slow lighting, beautiful wood bars and bar tables with leather banquettes in the end. Add some more industriel touches with the exposed brick walls and steel ventilation tubes and you’re left with a nice setting that perfectly suits a great happy hour or after work visit.

20140122-093622.jpg

The cocktail menu was pretty extensive – the right kind of options for a bar like this. Over the course of the evening, we had their Manhattan, Negroni, Old Fashioned and Tom Collins. All were executed well and enjoyable.

20140122-093737.jpg

As for the food, Le Bureau offers a menu of tapas style dishes of various cultural influences. We went for a wide variety of dishes for this particular visit – Patatas Bravas, Cod croquettes, pancetta-wrapped figs, beef skewers with chimichurri and grilled chorizo with onions. The Patatas bravas were served with a chipotle lime sauce instead of the standard spicy tomato sauce. The cod croquettes were nice and crispy, served with a amarillo sauce. My big favourite on this night was the pancetta figs – a wonderful combination of sweetness and saltiness. The beef skewers themselves were fine but the real star here was that chimichurri. The grilled chorizo was good but I felt the sausage itself lacked the usual punch of most chorizo.

20140122-093815.jpg

20140122-093825.jpg

20140122-093835.jpg

20140122-093845.jpg

20140122-093855.jpg

The food overall was solid however I personally found the portion sizes to be a little too small given their cost. Le Bureau strikes me as the perfect happy hour 5 à 7 location – it has a great look, a very relaxed feel, a great selection of drinks from their bar and tapas if you need a snack. I will definitely return here for a drink every now and then. However, if you are looking to have a complete meal, I don’t think the portions lend themselves well to that experience. Le Bureau is a great lounge bar experience and that’s perfectly acceptable if that’s what you are looking for.

Cheers!

Le Bureau Bar Tapas
1642 Notre-Dame West
514 903 1642

Le Bureau Bar Tapas on Urbanspoon

Barcelona 2013 – General Travel Log

24 Jul

Finally, after many distractions and false starts, I’ve have gotten around to this post!

A few months ago, as a vacation, I was in Spain for 10 days visiting both Barcelona and Madrid. There will be a few other posts on some specific culinary experiences that I had while I was there but I figured I would start with a overview post about my time there food-wise – specifically in Barcelona. When one talks about Spain from a culinary point of view, we think about Tapas, Manchego cheese, Iberico and Serrano Ham, amazing seafood and wine. Well… I got to enjoy all of that and then some while on this trip.

We made a concerted effort to try and follow Spanish timeline food-wise and get the true experience. We seeked out tapas bars, markets, cafes and terraces in order to try Spanish food. We weren’t in Spain to eat French and Italian. We didn’t do much research beforehand to plan anything. Starting in Barcelona, our hotel was located just off the Ramblas – the main tourist throughway – but more importantly, just a couple of minutes away from the Gothic Quarter, the old district of town where there are numerous small but amazing joints without any of the tourist-gouging prices or bad food.

In our first night in town, we tried a tapas bar just off the Royal Plaza (Playa Real). It’s called Bodega Biarritz and is insanely small. My apartment living room is almost bigger than the seating space here. Their menu is one of pretty “classic” tapas dishes so a perfect way to start the trip.

20130609-174952.jpg

20130609-175009.jpg

20130609-175034.jpg

We started with an order of Patatas Bravas, a stuffed puff pastry and Cod Fritters. Patatas Bravas are fried potatoes covered with a spicy tomato “Bravas” sauce. The sauce is really the thing here…. tangy at first but quite spicy in the finish. The puff pastry is good as well but nothing special. The cod fritters were wonderful – nice, fresh cod meat with a nice crispy exterior.

20130609-175051.jpg

20130609-175110.jpg

Next up, we ordered meatballs on top of a potato tortilla, grilled sausage and smaller meatballs covered in bravas sauce. Both meatballs were moist and tender. The sausage had a nice kick to it and the potato tortilla was great. Soft interior with a crisp exterior, the texture was much flakier than your usual corn or flour tortilla. Add to all of this some beer and a great Mojito and you have a wonderful introduction to true Spanish tapas.

20130609-175128.jpg

20130609-175142.jpg

20130609-175203.jpg

The following day, we went to the famous La Boqueria Market to check out Pinotxo Bar. This tiny bar counter located inside the market doesn’t look like much but it has been showcased in a number of publications worldwide including Food & Wine and the New York Times. Once we actually were able to grab some seats (there are only about a dozen stools present so expect to wait a bit), I was ready to dig in. Upfront, it amazes me the quality of food that comes out of a space that small. The pictures probably don’t do it justice enough. Every tiny inch of space is used to its maximal capacity. Somehow 5 cooks and the owner, the very jovial fellow in the pink and blue vest, fit and crank out great stuff.

20130724-101357.jpg

20130724-101437.jpg

First up, a chick pea salad with some garlic, parsley and a few other spices that I didn’t catch as the owner who ended up serving really doesn’t speak English. Amazingly fresh and flavourful, I am really not a chick pea fan but this dish turned me around. The chick peas were cooked to the right consistency and the mix of spices and herbs really enhanced their natural flavour. Great starter.

20130724-101509.jpg

Next up, a plate of snails cooked with a mixture of tomatoes and garlic amongst others. Once again, great combination of freshness, texture with simple but strong flavour. I have never eating so much snails at one time in my life and it was great to try them in a preparation other than one involving tons of garlic butter.

20130724-101532.jpg

Following that, we got a plate of fresh grilled squid with some chick peas, olive oil and a balsamic vinegar reduction. The squid was perfect, the chick peas provided a nice earthy balance to the squid and the balsamic added a nice touch to the whole time. Great plate of food.

20130724-101553.jpg

Lastly, we went with fresh langoustines boiled, slightly grilled and with garlic butter. Simple but perfect overall. As was true throughout my time in Spain, the seafood was amazingly fresh and of high quality, so the natural flavour of the langoustine shone here beautifully. All in all, a great experience that I highly recommend anyone who goes to the market check out. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

20130724-101617.jpg

The next day, we got to check out some more tapas places. First up, big props to the corner cafe that serves the following plate of Manchego cheese.

20130724-101649.jpg

Honey, pecans, fig sauce and huge pieces of Manchego…. there is a reason why we went back again a few days later. The quality of each component was wonderful and really made me wish I could get a similar plate at my corner cafe! For now, I will do so at home.

That evening, we did a mini tapas crawl. The first location was Euskal Etxea which specialize in pintos which are snacks like items usually skewed on a piece of bread. All the items were laid out on the bar where you make your selections. Once eaten, you keep the toothpicks from each and that is how they add up your bill. Totally a different set-up then I am used to. The items here were mostly meats, pates or cheese. All good but nothing really exciting.

20130724-101819.jpg

20130724-101844.jpg

20130724-101913.jpg

After that quick stop, we went literally across the street to a more typical tapas bar, El Xampanyet. This tiny bar was cramped, loud and had tons of paper napkins on the floor a.k.a a good tapas bar from all appearances. Once we wiggled our way up to the bar, we dove in. Ham on breadsticks, mini spicy sausages, roasted potatoes topped with cheese and tomatoes, marinated fresh anchovies and goat cheese stuffed mini peppers. All fresh and delicious. Add to that a couple of pints of beers and we’ve had ourselves a great night.

20130724-101939.jpg

20130724-102010.jpg

20130724-102033.jpg

20130724-102059.jpg

20130724-102124.jpg

20130724-102202.jpg

20130724-102225.jpg

I have a few more places to showcase but as mentioned initially, that will be done on a few separate posts that will appear shortly (I hope…). Having now had the true tapas experience in Spain, I found a nice appreciation for that style of dining. Every Tapas place we went to, I left feeling satisfied but never completely stuffed to the point of inactivity. Hopefully this mini tour has given you a sense of the kind of food one can experience in Spain. Now… I just want to go back!

Cheers!

Bodega Biarritz. Ciutat Vella, 1881, Barcelona, Spain. 08002
Bar Pinotxo. Mercat de la Boqueria, 466-470, Barcelona, Spain. +34 933 171 731
Euskal Etxea. Placeta Montcada, 1, 08003 Barcelona, Spain. +34 933 10 21 85
El Xampanyet. Carrer de Montcada, 22, 08003 Barcelona, Spain. +34 933 197 003

%d bloggers like this: