Saturday, May 23, 2015


Recently, I was invited to try Branzino, the restaurant located in l'Hôtel Méridien in Downtown MTL. Actually, it was one of my old ITHQ peeps, who is now the manager, that invited me. Let me paint you a picture: when I started at ITHQ in restaurant management, we were around 65 in our class, about 35 or so graduated, half of which have left the business and I'd say about 3 or 4 have managed to get jobs as manager/boss. The rest are like me, fools! No, I didn't mean that. We are either in the kitchen or in the dining room. Ps: although I would love to be ZE boss (cause y'all know I can be bossy!), I do love my job :) I must also mention that this restaurant is at least 50 % ITHQ: the manager, the chef, the sous, the waiter. Talk about surrounding yourself with family!
Getting off track here. P-F invited me to try their new menu before the soft opening (which was taking place this week). How special am I? Yep! 
The place itself is located right at the corner of St-Mathieu and Sherbrooke. There's a huge sign in front of it so it's hard to miss. Let's just say if you miss it, you should get your eyes checked, seriously. It seats over 100 people, including the terrasse and has somewhat of a dark décor which actually fits really well.
Aight, so I started off with a nice drink, as every dinner should. P-F just read out the names of their cocktails and I chose the one I liked the most: Torreador! Good for me cause it turned out to be a sangria! I loves me some sangria! It was white wine, vodka, basil and watermelon. Hello refreshing! The basil wasn't too present which was a shame but the watermelon was just a burst of loveliness. Mmmmm, I can just taste it now! But not really. DAMN IT!

I asked the chef to decide what I would eat since, well, A:he was sitting right beside me and B:he knows what's good.
First off, the scallop. Wonderfully, wonderfully done to perfection. Crispy and tender and seared and raw. Basically, just what you want when you cook a scallop. You could just see that lovely char on it just begging to be eaten. Oh and I did! Accompanied by an edamame puree that was nice and smooth and some corn that added a great texture. And a lardon emulsion. AND a maple-y sauce that tasted almost fruity and paired really well with the dish. Hello! Basically, the perfect appetizer. I just might be biased because this is one of my fave things to eat, like, eva.
Second appetizer (that's right, I'm special so I get two) was the grilled octopus and pork flank. There were also root veggies which just scream out 'garden' or 'hello it ain't winter anymore'. The pork flank was the best damn pork flank I've eaten yet, in my long long life ;) It basically just melted in your mouth. No need for a knife there! Ah man and it tasted so good! Seasoned just right. The octopus was not as satisfying. I love octopus when it's well cooked but I have such a hard time eating octopus when it's not. It just became really tough to cut and although it had a very tasty charred flavour, the fact that it was so hard and chewy was really what mattered at that point. The radishes were awesome and fresh but the potatoes were just a tad undercooked. There are some things you could eat if undercooked OR overcooked but octopus and potatoes are not in that gang. 
The main course! Man, as soon as this was in front of me, my mouth started watering. Hake (think cod or haddock) was the main part but the star of the dish was surely the Israeli couscous. I think I had only eaten Israeli couscous once in my life. ONCE! I now think my life has been a waste. To live without eating this is just...SACRILEGE! It was like having little balls of goodness in my mouth. Mmmkay, I realise how that sounds, but still. It was like an explosion of flavor! The morels on and around the fish had a great texture (not much I like less than squishy mushrooms) and had pockets full of that lovely jus that was swimming on the plate. Asparagus were not shaved but were thin enough and perfectly cooked. Oh and there was this perfectly silky sweet potato puree. And then, there was the fish. Sadly, it wasn't the star of the dish and it should have been. It was a tad too flaky for my liking and quite dry. Tears ensued.
Oh, I must mention the bread! Deeeeelicious, home made by the sous chef who was inspired by one of my teachers at ITHQ, Julie Faucher (whom we all feared and loved) who made everything herself including tofu and taught spinning at 5 am and walked her dogs at 3 am.
Dessert. I was asked if I was too full and I responded by 'yes but I'll still have it please'. Spoken like a true pig :) This was damn didely good. Just looking at that picture...On the left, a lemon panacotta. Holy crap. I took only a couple bites and it was like I had a lemon in my mouth but not the sour kind. It was a tad on the thick side but I still enjoyed most of it before taking a bite of the next dessert. Ah yes, they called it the chocolate log. And man, if there would be a competition for the most chocolaty dessert, this one would definitely be amongst the top contenders. A crunchy base and a soft middle plus some Chantilly on top just made me see stars. I SO wanted to finish it but just couldn't. And last but certainly not least, a chocolate macaroon. Crunchy enough, soft enough, just like it should be. It was scrumptious.
Service was great, duh. I was sitting at the bar the whole time, chatting with some good peeps I went to school with a couple years ago. Twas nice.
And now, the much awaited scores!
Food: 8.5
Service: 10
I was highly surprised by my meal at Branzino. Highly. Don't know when I'll go back but if I have the chance, I shall!

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Monday, May 18, 2015

T & T Tacos and Tortas

I was invited, a couple weeks back, for a 'blogger event' at T & T Tacos and Tortas on Rachel in Le Plateau. I think they've been opened for about a year and I guess they wanted some good publicity from us bloggers. I just have to say that I'm always in for that. Hint hint.

I went with of my favorite people, my little cousin, who it so happens is only about 7 months younger than I am. Oh and she's taller. Little cousin my arse!

I've been to big openings and smaller openings but never a blogger event. Basically, we got there and I wondered if I had misread the date. There were maybe 2 other tables and that was it. Usually I have to force my way in... kinda :) Turned out great in the end: more time to talk to my cuz and my fellow blogger Val (from Juliette et Choco)! Plus, hello, more attention from the super cute waitress!
Gen had been there a couple times since her office is about 3 steps away and knew what she liked. I, on the other hand, know I love tacos but didn't know what to pick on the menu. Actually, I must admit that in the end, we totally forgot about the tortas! Bad blogger, BAD! 

But I obviously didn't forget about my drink! We could order one and then pay for the rest: good deal! I had me a mojito. But it wasn't just any mojito, it was the BEST mojito I've had... EVER. Ever, people! You know, minty but not too minty, sweet but not too sweet, perfect but oh-so-perfect? Ya, that was it. Good God I'd want one of those right about now!

We wanted to get an order of every taco on the menu (there are 6 kinds and 4 tacos per order) but the waitress strongly suggested that we calm the f*ck down. SO, what we did was narrow it down to 4 and got 2 of each instead of crazy 4. But first, there was the tortilla sopa!
This was a tad watery but it was the only bad thing about it. The flavors were great, the avocado was oh-so-good and creamy and there were little islands of sour cream that just popped in your mouth! Coriander was also present and as always, appreciated. I just LOVE coriander. I remember, when I was in my 'Découverte des aliments' class at ITHQ, we had to make something and present it in front of the class and then the students would eat it. I made coriander pesto. Because I love it that much. The tortilla itself was ok but could have tasted more.
Beef with grilled cactus taco was a tad disappointing. Basically it was thin sliced marinated beef with some onions, and grilled cactus. The cactus was special, cause seriously, when does one eat cactus, but the meat was dry. So dry that we needed to add some lime juice but to our very dismay, the lime wasn't juicy! *Sniff* There were some great salsas on the table that helped out: salsa verde, and two salsas rojas including one hot one that y'all KNOW I was licking off by the end of dinner.

The other tacos on this plate were the chorizo ones. You can add cheese for 1$ but when it's free you don't even need to think about it--just add the damn cheese! Unfortunately, they weren't much better than the beef tacos (enter sad face). The meat was also a tad dry--although not as dry as the beef. The coriander saved the dish-ish but again, we needed to put lots-o-salsa on it for it to taste good. Hey, at least the tortillas were good: crunchy but not too much, and flavorful!
Tacos el pastor should be renamed 'tacos al Maria'. Mmmkay, I see how that makes no sense but they are my fave. Just having pineapple on a taco makes my mouth water. This one was very nice: the juiciness of the pineapple and the tang of the onions made it heavenly. The pork was nicely cooked and well, you know, the coriander :) This was our fave by far. The last pair of tacos were the carnitas: pork belly, onions and coriander. The meat itself was a bit tough and chewy and lacked in spices. I love pork belly but this was a bit of a let down.
Churros!!!! The tacos may not have been up to par but the churros were riiiiiight up there! A set with chocolate and the other with dulce de leche, they were cinnamony, crunchy, yummy goodness. I was suddenly back in Spain.

Again, food may not have been extraordinary that evening but the service surely was! First off, there was the hotness of the waitress, of course. But apart from that, we always had water, we got our drinks in no time and she explained the menu to us and what we should order.

And now, the scores!

Food: 7.5 (those churros and drinks saved the day)
Service: 9.5

I think I'm gonna be bold here and say that I'd go back. I feel like this place has a lot to offer and that maybe, just maybe, it was a bad night.

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Monday, May 11, 2015


My bro's bestie, Erik, loves this place and swears by it and assured me it was THE best Japanese resto in MTL (that doesn't serve sushi). You have to believe him because he lived in Japan, goes back whenever he has time off, pretty much exclusively goes out with Japanese girls and well, lives and breathes Japan. Just like I live and breathe everything Asian.

I believe I'd been wanting to eat at Kazu for years. YEARS people. Do you know how long years are? OK, that's an easy question. How would you feel if you didn't have to just wait 5 minutes or 5 days for something, but freaking years! Mmmkay, you get the point. And it's my fault really: the thought of waiting in line to eat doesn't usually please me. A couple weeks ago, I made that leap with Lea! She went to Tokyo last year so she really wanted to try Kazu and since I'm almost half Asian (work at a sushi place, hang out in Chinatown ALL the time-it's basically my second home, buy all these Asian produce and make Asian food at home), we went for it.
Kazu is this tiny restaurant with around 20 to 25 seats MAX. Now you know why there is always a line up. Don't even think about going there early; there WILL be a line outside the restaurant. The menu is pretty much written on the wall... somewhere :) But they do bring you either the lunch or dinner menu... hand written... WITH corrections....which are stuck on with scotch tape. Love it.
I had my heart set on the Japanese Bibimbap (uh, hello!), but when the time came to order, I was told this was a dinner special. Noooooo! I didn't feel like ramen or a salad so I chose the 48 hour pork bowl. Pork? Good. 48 hours? Good. 48 hour pork? Hells good. Lea had the Tuna and Salmon salad bowl. Oh and we also had a tiny soup and an even tinier salad to start with. When I say tiny, I do mean it; two bites and donzo!
The salad. The crispy noodles on top made the plate look oh-so-good! I mean come on, look at it! And they were actually tasty; I've had my share of non-tasting crispy noodles. A big ass portion I would call it! There was rice in there, some veggies, dem noodles, and lots of flavors! Thing is I didn't taste the fish as much as I wanted to and it needed a bit of spice. Either that or I'm just a spice whore now; seriously, I put sriracha on everything, even my cereal. AND I'm kidding. Sheesh, I ain't that crazy.
The pork. Basically, pork with onions, green onions, and ginger. The flavors were there but they weren't necessarily in every bite. I dunno, I felt like one bite was better than the other and vice versa. What I have to say was that the onions were abundant and y'all know I loves me some onions. They tasted great too: perfectly caramelized to the power of 1000. The green onions gave a little kick to it and the ginger was nice too. The rice was unfortunately a tad overcooked. It was a sad moment for me. Japanese resto hailed for being one of the best (or THE best) in MTL and they f*ck up their rice. Mmmmkay, I'll stop it with the anger. What I really appreciated was the fact that even if there was still fat on the pork (not usually a big fan of fat), it wasn't squishy like it usually seems to be and it was full of flavor. Let's just say I gained 5 pounds of actual pork fat that day. Again, I could have used some kind of hot sauce to make everything pop a bit more. 

For dessert, we could choose out of many flavors of ice cream: basic vanilla + syrup. I had the wasabi one! Oh ya! This was exciting! And it tasted just the way I pictured it in my mouth ;) Wasn't too hot but in the end, with the melted ice cream left in my bowl, it reminded me of a little shot of wasabi. It wasn't too much and it was cool to try something different!

The service was, well, Asian ;) It's actually a good thing people: they know what they have to do and they are super focused. Plus, you know you'll get your food 10 times faster in an Asian resto than in any other type of cuisine in the city. Bam bam bam. Done. Sit, menu, drink, order, food in seriously, and I'm not even kidding, 2 minutes. Out. You don't really need to talk to your waitress cause you have no time. Ps, everyone that works there is straight from Japan, which is actually kinda great. Do me a favor and go on their FB page, you'll see what I mean! They write cute stuff like this: 'We'll closed to the staff meeting. It's to ensure the feelings don't forget forever when we began the restaurant.' How cute is that? 

And now, the scores!
Food: 8.5
Service: 8

I'm going back fosho. But next time I'm going for dinner, I'm ordering the bibimbap AND I'm going with Erik so that we can be Japanese together.