Saturday, 16 August 2014

Bouillon Bilk

I'm eating so much this month it's quite scary.  Em's arriving tonight and we have a full on week of eating planned.  Excited.  I'm justifying this by signing up for a 5k run at the end of the month, it'll be fine, heh.

A spontaneous dinner last week happened at Bouillon Bilk, I've tried to eat here before, but they were closed for refurb.  The décor is nice, larger communal tables at the front and the bulk of the tables arranged around a central raised bar area.  For a Monday night, the place was really busy and the atmosphere was great, relaxed but it immediately felt like they have their shit together.  

We began with a bottle of fizz, the Sebastien Brunet Vouvray, I'd not heard of it before, it was great!  Very creamy.  Bread arrived next, it was the best bread I've had here so far, would love to know where they get it or if they make it in house.  You can basically eat as much of it as you want too, which I obviously love.  Held back and had just 2 bits each. 


I ordered an appetizer from the daily specials, the bone marrow with mushrooms, diced green apple, whelks topped with crisps and prettily served inside a massive bone ($18).  It looked so lovely and tasted great, the almost sour fruit really helping to cut through the fatty richness of the marrow.

 

The 'thing' here is that each dish contains a protein matched with a fruit, here marrow and apple, other examples on the menu were Hamachi (a Japanese fish served raw) with raspberries (which I tried, it was great), foie gras with rhubarb and lobster with nectarine.

For main, we both opted for the scallops with pear, fried courgette flower, yellow courgettes, mushrooms, pepper sauce and beurre noisette ($29).  This was really very very good, I was worried that the portions might prove to be a tad small but this was deceptively filling.  The sauces were incredible.


We had a bit of a break before moving on to cheese, we chose a couple of glasses of rioja to accompany.  All local Quebecois cheese, none of which were familiar to me, a selection of 5 for $20 came with some candied nuts, toast and some apricot jam.  The blue was the highlight.


 

We paid around $120 each which I think is fine value for the quality of cooking on display here by chef Francois Nadon.  Loved the flavours, the service, the vibe and the room.  Will definitely be back because we foolishly overlooked the sloe gin fizz on the cocktail menu.  Need those in my life. 

Bouillon Bilk 
1595 Saint Laurent
Latin Quarter
H2X
9/10
Bouillon Bilk on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Toqué!

Reading about Toqué! made me think it's probably in the 'La Gavroche' category of restaurants, somewhere that's widely regarded as one of THE food destination in the city, with a loooong history of happy diners and a busy reservations book.  Those things all being true of Le Gav, but my meal there was a bit of a disappointment food wise in 2013.  Could Norman Laprise and his team at Toqué! prove me wrong?  (Not sure what the exclamation mark's all about).
 
I was actually pleasantly surprised by the meal, me of little faith.  It began with a tasting of champagne, 2 glasses, not just one, as an aperitif.
 
I would say that the service was a tad lacking, we waited a full hour before we got something to eat, and I had to ask for bread, or it would have been longer.  I was starving!  We opted for the seven course tasting menu which is a complete surprise, there is no list to read from so you need to wait until the dish arrives to know what's coming, this annoys me.  It's $117 which is good value, you can opt to have it with or without foie gras for the same price.  I went with.
 
The bread was decent, nothing special, 2 options, sliced seeded bread and then ciabatta buns.  Unsalted butter.
 
 
First up was an amuse, marinated scallops in sour cherry water and lavender mousse.
 
 
Next dish was Bluefin tuna.  So so pretty.  I instagrammed this pic and Lizzie asked me if it's now deemed acceptable to eat Bluefin.  It did surprise me when it arrived and the components of the dish were described by the waiter.  I'm pleading ignorance (no menu), but I believe they are still at risk from overfishing, so not cool.  Served raw with corn, almonds, mushrooms and a wasabi vinaigrette. 
 

Continuing the unethical eating, the foie gras dish arrived next.  I not going to launch into a defense about eating this, there's no argument really, it tastes good, I like food.  A slice of foie gras terrine was served on toasted brioche with peach and pistachio.  Very good. 
 
 
Onto main dishes, another tuna offering came next, not named as Bluefin in this instance, seared and served pink in the centre.  Accompaniments were beetroot sauce, several types of mushroom and lovage.  Nice but I was crying out for a meat course.
 
 
Which came in the form of lamb.  2 ways, rib and merguez.  This was my favourite dish of the meal.  Radishes, button onions, mushrooms and a random strawberry which I didn't eat. 
 
 
The cheese course was good (no Le Gav style cheese trolley unfortunately), 2 kinds of goatscheese, 1 hard, 1 soft, there were more bloody strawberries on the plate though.  Don't get me wrong, I like strawberries, but I don't want them with lamb, or cheese. 
 
 
The dessert was fine, I'm always least excited about this course, Toque's was flourless chocolate cake with sea buckthorn ganache, hay caramel and ice cream, also hay.  Pretty good actually, a solid end to the meal.  Pretty again (photo credit - Sarah, thanks!)
 
Now I wouldn't say this is the best food available in Montreal, my preference would be something more fun, modern and casual (though the dining room wasn't as formal as I'd expected it to be).  We drank red wine and the champagne to begin with and the bill came to over $200 each.  I was prepared for it to be expensive but for that money, it really ought to be head and shoulders above all else available in Montreal surely, you get what you pay for?  Well, they do offer valet parking....

Toqué!
 900 Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle 
Old Montreal 
H2Y
7.5/10
 
Toqué! on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Tapas,24

Open just a few weeks, Tapas,24 is the 2nd Montreal new opening that piqued my interest.  Ok 3rd, Gema probably comes 2nd but I haven't made it there yet.  Soon.  (1st being Majestique).
 
So Tapas24.  The launch was a pretty glitzy affair, based on their instagram pics, red carpet and everything.  
 

Chef Carlos Abellan chose Montreal for the 2nd site of Barcelona restaurant Tapas,24, never made it there on my trips to Barcelona so I'm extremely pleased to have the opportunity here.  And it's a 5 minute walk from work, score.  It's been quite tricky to get a reservation so far, but things should have calmed down a bit now, they also have a terrasse and save some tables for walk ins.
 
We were a large group so each wrote down what we wanted to try and ordered everything.  Tarmy took care of the wine, ordering a magnum of red.  The wines were great but I have no idea what they were, Spanish, most likely.
 
 
Things arrived is a steady stream beginning with the patatas brava, one topped with egg and chorizo, very good, simple, but pleasing. 
 
The bikini Comerc 24 was a disappointment.  I didn't taste any truffle, the cheese was pretty bland and it's really small.  Not a great sharing option.  Wouldn't order it again.  Fried aubergine was nice.  They provided plenty of veggie options for the veggie at the table.
 
 
The ham croquettas were also not up to scratch, potato based, not much ham, obviously not a patch on the Barrafina versions.  But I'm fairly sure these cannot be topped, I should stop eating any others really.  Pan con tomate was also a huge let down, barely any tomato, I guess it was authentic to Spain, akin to the one Bel and I tried at Cal Pep.  (Do excuse the arm, below).
 
 
The iberico ham was good, as were the boneless chicken wings with alegre sauce.  What I really liked was the salmorejo cordobés, a sort of thick gazpacho, which we hadn't actually ordered.  Topped with croutons, bacon, feta and olive oil, it's a puree made from tomatoes and bread, smoothie consistency, nobody else was convinced, which left pretty much the whole thing for me.  
 
 
We had a couple of portions of the watermelon, laced with sangria, strangely refreshing arriving mid meal.
 

My highlight of the meal was the fideua with aioli.  We ordered this and the arroz Barcelones, essentially paella.  They market this as surf and turf, but ours had no turf.  Still good though.
 
 
Onto desserts, I knew I'd love the chocolate based on these pictures of it.  Crunchy bread and olive oil with a sprinkling of fleur de sel (Spanish sea salt) sitting on top of a rich chocolate mousse.  So so good.
 
 
There was also doughnuts, I didn't eat these obvs, and more booze infused fruits.  Very pretty.
 
 
In all, I suppose I let my excitement run away with me, I was also jetlagged for this meal and the whole thing is a bit of a hazy red wine blur.  I'll say it again, for me Spanish food doesn't get better than Barrafina, but when I get a tapas craving, Tapas,24 is where I'll head in Montreal.  This is as good as it gets here.
 
We had all this, and a shit load of red wine for $85 each.  We were all pleasantly surprised when we got our bills.  So it's great value and the atmosphere was great on a Tuesday night, they were full and service was lovely.  I'll definitely be back.
 
420 Notre Dame W
Old Montreal
H2Y
7/10
 
Tapas 24 on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 31 July 2014

July Round Up

MONTREAL
 
My Canada Day celebrations included dinner at Le Club Chasse et Pêche.  This place has been mentioned a lot by locals as one of Montreal's top restaurant experiences.  I was surprised by how formal it felt, it's a small dark basement room, all leather and wood, it was a super hot day and the aircon was on full pelt, it's not the nicest environment to be honest.  But onto the food.
 

I made the stoopid mistake (again) of ordering a risotto for starter.  Portions in Montreal, North America, are out of control, so I should have known.  Piglet risotto topped with shaved foie gras($16) no less.  Ooooof.
 
 

My main was the chasse et pêche, sweetbreads with lobster and gnocchi ($40).  I was sooooo full.  The main was good, but the starter edged it.

I actually found the menu really difficult to choose from.  Though the waiter was brilliantly knowledgeable and helped inform us about all the dishes.  Some descriptions are very vague, chasse et pêche for example. Hunting and fishing....hmm. Oysters with charisma?  Please.   We drank German wine, because I usually insist that we do, it was great.  I'd definitely return, perhaps avoid the bread next time.
 
423 Rue st Claude
Old Montreal
H2Y
8/10
 
Le Club Chasse et Pêche on Urbanspoon
 
Ridiculous picture but this is the best pizza I've had here so far.  Need to check out Gema obviously, but Magpie is the current front runner.  I had the goatscheese, pancetta, rocket and basil offering ($16).  We were a big drunken rowdy group, showed up late and this was just what we needed.  Pub then pizza.  Will 100% be back.  Service was lovely, except when they sprayed us all with cava.
 
 
16 Maguire
Plateau
H2T
9/10
 
Pizzeria Magpie on Urbanspoon
 
I went to Lemeac earlier this year but didn't take pics.  On both visits I had the menu 22H which is served from 10pm until close, you can have a starter and a main for $25.  Right bargain.  This time I had the panko crusted goatscheese with apple and walnut salad to start.
 
 
Really generous portion (as is the theme in Montreal) and simple rustic dishes is the order of the day here.  I had a sudden urge for steak on this evening, I haven't found anywhere with meat the equivalent quality of the likes of Goodman and Hawksmoor in London.  Might start the search at Moishes, an Montreal institution apparently.  Anyway, Lemeac's hangar steak with fries hit the spot, thought I was well and truly beaten. 
 
 
They have really good baguette here, so I'd filled up on that.  Following the meal, we returned to Baldwin Barmacie, scene of a 9 dirty martini fuelled Saturday night.  I barely managed 2 on this occasion.  Definitely for the best. 
 
Really like Lemeac though and it's near my flat, wooo.
 
1045 Laurier West
Outremont
H2V
8/10
 
Leméac on Urbanspoon
 
Revisited Biiru and tried their ramen and chicken liver yakitori.  The tomato salad was ace as well.  Also their cocktails.  Love this place.
 
 
I go here for lunch at least once a week, and they have a cheese croissant that has to make do in the absence of Pret.  Had a breakfast here before a spa day with the girls (thanks Sar!).  Was slightly hungover, couldn't resist the 'egg on your face' Panini.  Scrambly egg, sriracha, comte (YES - COMTE!) and tomato, all toasted and gooey.  Delightful. 
 
 
 
LONDON
 
Bel and I went here for lunch the day after I got back.  LOVED IT!  Art claimed it to be the best souvlaki she's had in London, and it's certainly the best I've tried, though I'm no expert.  I went for pork, Bel went for lamb.  Every element was great, the bread, the meat, the yoghurt, tomato and onion.  I should have gone easy on the onion, regretted that all afternoon, ha. 
 

I'm sure Art would want chips in it, we got a side of feta and jammed some of that in.  Awesome.  Also they give you a complementary bread and tsatziki starter.  We drank tap water and paid about £8 each, bargain. 
 
Soho
W1D
9/10
 
21 Bateman Street on Urbanspoon
 
Bel and I had dins here last Friday after drinks in the new Clubroom at Bob Bob Ricard.  Let me begin by saying gorgonzola custard (£6) is a thing.  Just take a moment to look at it in awe. 
 
 

Served with brilliant seeded bread, it looks like a brulee type dessert, it's genius.  Get it, it's on the small plates menu served all day.


 
Zeppole (£4) were another favourite, these are like little dough balls stuffed with Nduja, again genius, love what they're doing here.  Crab and avocado was fantastic, served tien style with loads of lemon and bitter leaves sitting on top.  Really fresh and zingy flavours.  
 
Also enjoyed the octopus with chick peas and the anchovies and eggs.  There wasn't a disappointing dish.  We loitered (to the dismay of the waiters who very clearly wanted to leave) and sat outside finishing our prosecco.  Really enjoyable meal, I preferred it to sister restaurant 10 Greek Street actually.  Lucky East Londoners.  
 
Hoxton
N1
9/10
 
8 Hoxton Square on Urbanspoon
 
 
Art and I popped into Rotorino for lunch on my last day in town. 
 
We started off with cocktails of orange infused fizz.  The menu is separated into first, second and third categories, we went for a couple of dishes from each.  Thin crispy bread type things splashed with olive oil were presented while we perused the menu.  Odd by themselves really but we ate them all.  They're good snacks for drinks I guess, but they're not bread, I'm not fooled.
 

From the first section we chose the peach, tomato and ricotta salad.  This was crying out for salt, which we had to ask for.  The tomatoes were brilliant, bit of a mushy consistency on the whole.  Not the greatest start, the croque n'duja was much better.  Really felt the kick of the spicy sausage, served on bread with a fried egg.  Lovely.
 

My second dish of mussel fregola was incredible.  A rich tomato sauce and an ample serving for £7.50, I really loved this.  Best dish of the day.  Art's gnudi were nice too but the fregola pipped it for me.
 
Then we had the pork and veal meatballs (£9.50) with a side of fried garlic and rosemary potatoes which were really nicely done.  We were beaten and couldn't face dessert, a theme of my trip to London, and overall were perhaps not as happy as we thought we would be. 
 

There were some standouts and we really lingered for the afternoon, the bar is open all day, My friend Carly came to meet us for some cocktails, we sat out front sipping on lemon possets and negronis into the early evening.  Really liked the place and the casual vibe, would definitely recommend the pasta dishes. 
 
434 Kingsland Road
Hackney
E8
7.5/10 
 
Rotorino on Urbanspoon

The Palomar

I was keen to see what all the fuss was about at The Palomar during my next London trip so Nibs and I head there last Tuesday evening.  We hadn't booked so were expecting a long wait on the night as walk ins but were actually seated after about 10 mins, we'd just got our drinks.  Result!  

 
The waiter came to ask if we were ready to order after literally 2 minutes sitting at the bar.  I hadn't even glanced at the menu and Nibs was on the phone.  We told him we weren't, obvs, then he disappeared for about half an hour.  Didn't matter as we had plenty to catch up on, but I've heard similar reports from others. 

 
When the food started to arrive, were were chuffed to bits with what we'd ordered.  First up the bread.  OMG the bloody bread.   Kubanah (£5) actually, baked and delivered in a pot served with tahini and tomato sauces.  INCREDIBLE. 

This came at the same time as the Fattoush salad (£8), tomato, cucumber, onion and croutons with sumac, za'atar and labeneh.  Lovely and fresh. 



This beauty of a plate carried the seared scallops (£11.50) served with beurre blanc, swiss chard and an artichoke and hazelnut tuille.  Brilliant textures and tastes, I'm still obsessed with scallops.



The stand out dish for me was the Jerusalem style polenta (£9).  Served in a little tin pot (I was expecting a kilner jar as per the website pic but that's how the mini version comes) the polenta is topped with asparagus, mushroom ragu, parmesan and truffle oil.  For goodness sake.  It's wonderous. 



Final savoury dish was the labenah tortellini (£11).  Pretty prerry.  Labenah is a yoghurt cheese apparently, this was served on butternut squash puree with confit garlic, tomatoes and mange tout.  Dreamy.  We were getting full.  At this point the shots came, if you sit at the bar, you'll probably end up drinking with the guys behind the bar, excellent.



We managed to fit in a pud, a tahini ice cream (£7), that was not really an ice cream, more a solid cream, served with filo delight.  Nice end to the meal, but the dessert was not the one, it was all about the previous courses, all lovely.  I really liked the vibe too.  They open late, would love to have this as a late night destination, like Spuntino.  Would be ideal for after work drinks.  I'll be back one day!

The Palomar
 34 Rupert St
Soho
W1D
9/10

The Palomar on Urbanspoon

Monday, 28 July 2014

Le Comptoir Charcuterie et Vins

Le Comptoir has been on my Montreal restaurant list since my Feb visit.  I managed to scope it out in the snow and have been meaning to return since I made the move in March.  We sat at the bar arriving just before 8 and stayed pretty much til close.

I instantly liked the vibe of the place, there's a main bar area with stool and a few smaller tables, the place was full on both Monday and Tuesday nights, it's quite difficult to find restaurants that open Sunday and Monday, which is very annoying.  Will Travel for Food blog has a list of places opening, though it's a couple of years old....

We had a look at the wines by the glasses, the list is pretty impressive, we opted for fizz and had the Cremant d'Alsace, Andre Durrmann which was so smooth and almost creamy in taste that we stuck to it all night.


We began with the charcuterie board, all made in house.  I'm not going to pretend I listened and took in what each was, there was a smoked duck 'ham' a pate type one and 3 similar ish sausages.  All very good.  Came with little crisp breads, I was expecting the baguette I could see on the bread board on the bar.  This was the small platter $10, also available in large, $15.


First actual main dish to arrive was the shrimp ceviche with lardon and shallot confit ravioli with pine nuts, these were served on squash ricotta puree $16.  Liked the textures here, the pine nuts were really crunchy,  Really nice ceviche, they like their purees.  We were eating annoyingly slowly.


Next we had the calamari with tomato, olive and coriander $13.  The calamari was nicely cooked and the sauce was full of flavor.

 

My fave dish of the night came next, the pan fried cod with fennel and potato mouselline (basically mash) with clams, pepperone, pickled shallot and paprika oil.  The cod was brilliant, a nice mellow combination of flavours and a nice looking dish.  Some might be perturbed by the oil, but I like a bit of paprika oil.

Last main dish to arrive, about 3 hours after our arrival (good thing, we wanted to graze and gossip) was not actually one we ordered but we were happy enough with it.  The eggplant (oh god, what have I become) and ground pork mezza luna ($14), so named because their half moon shape resembles the chopping implement of the same name.


Looking at this pic - it actually looks nothing like a half moon, it was good though and probably the prettiest plating of the night.  A nice crispy onion ring, pine nuts, miso buffalo yoghurt and basil all combining, sounds a little all over the place, but it worked.


Then we had the cheese plate.  Obviously very nice!  This came with more of the crunchy slices of bread which I thought was odd, given that they serve the baguette with some of the mains.

Still liked this place a lot though, the main reason being the atmosphere, the music was brilliant, the service was relaxed and unstuffy and we never felt at all rushed.  Will definitely be back.

Le Comptoir Charcuterie et Vins
4807 Saint Laurent Boulevard
Plateau
H2T 1R6
7.5/10

Le Comptoir on Urbanspoon