Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Schwartz's - Montreal's Finest Smoked Meat (Montreal, QC)



I know a lot of people rave about Langer's in Los Angeles and Katz's deli in New York City, but today, I'll bring another challenger to the ring: Schwartz's of Montreal.


Line Outside Schwartz's

Look at that line! On this particular Saturday afternoon, we nearly waited a hour to get into Schwartz's. Once I was in, I was ready to eat!


Can of Cherry Soda

I was told this is what most Montreal citizens order with their smoked meat, a can of cherry soda. Thus, I decided to go with what locals drink. It's cherry soda, tasty, but you get the picture, it's just soda.


Side of Fries (2.50 CAD) and Cole Slaw (1.95 CAD)

Neither were memorable, thus, I'd just pass on the fries and slaw and order an extra smoked meat sandwich!


Varies Shots of the Smoked Meat Sandwich (5.50 CAD)

A picture is a worth a thousand words, right? What about four pictures? For something under US$5, you get an amazing amount of smoked meat, with a healthy helping of mustard between two half slices of bread. Simply amazing! I know Katz's pastrami was fantastic, but this smoked meat in my opinion is better. Yes, it's different meat, a totally different thing all together, but hey, I just prefer this one more! Heck, the only regret I had that day we not ordering a 2nd sandwich, especially with the wait we had to endure. Thankfully, there would be a return visit! (future post)


Dining Room at Schwartz's

The atmosphere at Schwartz's was truly no frills: Just simple and delicious. The locals and tourists both flock towards this establishment since its opening way back in 1928. Something has to be right about this place!

Personally, I've yet to try Langer's, but I enjoyed Katz's quite a bit on my recent trip to NYC. However, it's Schwartz's smoked meat that has won over my heart! I know many may disagree, many may argue the Katz's pastrami cannot be beat, but take a visit to Montreal and let me know what you think of the smoked meat. In my opinion, a fantastic deal, and a fantastic sandwich!

Does anyone want to order some smoked meat with me? Yes they do deliver, and no, I'm not joking!

Final Rating 9 out of 10

3895 Boulevard Saint Laurent
Montréal, QC H2W1X9, Canada
(514) 842-4813
Official Website

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bottega Ristorante - My Favorite Italian Restaurant To Date (Yountville, CA)


Bottega Ristorante

When J, Umma, and I were discussing which restaurant to visit during our separate trips up to my beloved Nor Cal (Me, visiting my Alma Mater: UC Davis, and visiting the folks in Cowtown), the initial thought was TK's Ad Hoc. However, Bottega was never far off my mind, especially after watching Tyler Florence express his love for Chiarello's Egg and Pork Belly Confit on the Food Network show "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." After having issues securing a reservation for Ad Hoc, I was able to snag one at Bottega.


Bottega Ristorante

After touring the UCD Campus on its annual Picnic Day and going wine tasting (along with buying 2 cases of wine) with two of my former College roommates, we made our way to Yountville for some good eats. My friends and I met up with J & Umma and were ready to pounce on the food!

Bread w/ sea salt and oilve oil

Bread w/ Salt and Olive Oil

Those were some pretty tasty bread: warm and flavorful. We must have gone through 5-6 loaves of them, as we used it to also sop up those tasty sauces ahead....

Green Egg & HamGreen Egg & Ham

Green Eggs and Ham - Panko Crusted Soft Boiled Egg, Green Asparagus, Pecorino cheese pudding

Sadly, the Egg and Pork Belly Confit dish is seasonal and won't appear on the menu until the 2nd week of July, thus we ordered the Green Eggs and Ham instead. Honestly, definitely not a bad backup choice. Here we have a soft boiled egg, crusted in Japanese panko, and deep fried to perfection, yet the yolk remains runny. Pretty friggin amazing if you ask me. Along with egg, we have some perfectly cooked asparagus, matched with a Pecorino cheese pudding. Sprinkled on top of the dish were deep fried prosciutto bits. Fantastic!

Burrata Creamy mozzarella burrata with artichoke two ways, lemon braised and crispy

Burrata - Creamy mozzarella burrata with artichoke two ways, lemon braised and crispy

As some of you readers know, I'm not usually interested in cheese, but burrata is one of my favorites and I enjoyed the preparation of the dish. Here you have a generous portion of burrata sandwiched between a lemon braised artichokes on the bottom, and crispy artichokes on top. I enjoyed the texture contrast from the two preparations of artichoke and the creamy finish of the burrata. Very nice.

Organic Prosciutto “house cured”, pasta fritta, LambruscoOrganic Prosciutto “house cured”, pasta fritta, Lambrusco

Organic Prosciutto “house cured”, pasta fritta, Lambrusco

Usually, I'd never order this dish, as it contains fried dough, which I truly dislike. However, I admit it was quite delicious. Here we have the fried dough (pasta fritta), our wonderful server Al (Ask for Al if you ever visit Bottega, he was a blast, in addition to being knowledgeable!) told us to make a hole in the fritta, put the mango inside it, then wrap the prosciutto around the pasta fritta and finally, dip the creation into the lambrusco sauce (made with Tuscan wine grapes). The sweetness of the mango, plus the salty prosciutto really masked the pasta fritta, which for me, was a good thing. An unexpected tasty dish.

Polenta Under Glass, caramelized wild mushrooms, balsamic game saucePolenta Under Glass, caramelized wild mushrooms, balsamic game saucePolenta Under Glass, caramelized wild mushrooms, balsamic game saucePolenta Under Glass, caramelized wild mushrooms, balsamic game saucePolenta Under Glass, caramelized wild mushrooms, balsamic game sauce

Polenta Under Glass - caramelized wild mushrooms, balsamic game sauce

Caramelized wild mushroom on top of creamy polenta, can it get any better? I just loved this dish, though the balsamic game sauce made the dish slightly on the salty side. Regardless, for me, I'd order this again! I'm a sucker for any polenta dish.

As we finished our 4 appetizers, we can move onto the pasta dishes.

Risotto del Giorno A/Q

Risotto del Giorno (Risotto of the Day) - Mushroom Risotto with Breaded Veal

We went with the risotto of the day, and on this particular day it was the creamy mushroom risotto with breaded veal steak. Delicious, absolutely delicious! I loved the cream mushroom risotto, but I loved the crispy veal steak even more. Just a fantastic marriage of flavors and texture. I don't think I'm quite the risotto slut like kevinEats, but I'm sure I could learn!

Garganelli, tomato braised Sonoma rabbit sugo, wild mushrooms & ricotta

Garganelli - tomato braised Sonoma rabbit sugo, wild mushrooms & ricotta

First, before even getting a shot in, Al instructed us to taste the ricotta. Fresh, creamy, and damn, I was worried my pictures would be ruined! Not to worry, this dish tasted better than it looked. As mentioned in my previous post at Toque, I have a keen interest in eating our "Thumper" friend, and the rabbit was cooked wonderfully in the tomato based sauce. The pasta was cooked al dente, the sauce flavorful, the meat tender. What could be better? You can bet we used the bread to sop up the leftover sauce.

Crispy Potato Gnocchi, english pea & tallegio fonduta, early spring vegetables, prosciutto crisp

Crispy Potato Gnocchi - English pea & tallegio fonduta, early spring vegetables, prosciutto crisp

I heard some good things about the crispy potato gnocchi going in and it certainly didn't disappoint. However, the thing that made this particular dish shine was the English pea sauce. If I had my way, I'd get a bowl of the sauce with a loaf of the warm bread. I'd be content! I loved the texture of the gnocci itself, one of the best preparation of gnocchi I've ever had!

Now, onto 5 different main courses!

Adriatic Seafood Brodetto

Adriatic Seafood Brodetto - monkfish, mussels, rock cod fresh Monterey calamari, forno-confit tomato broth, olive oil-crouton, paprika-saffron rouille

We first started off with the seafood stew, which were filled with wonderful pieces of monkfish, rock cod, etc. I enjoyed this dish, and in the end, we all went to town using the bread to soak up the wonderful seafood broth.

Jar of Heirloom applesauceCrispy Pork Osso Buco Confit with Grape Mosto Cotto & a jar of Heirloom applesauce

Crispy Pork Osso Buco Confit with Grape Mosto Cotto & a jar of Heirloom applesauce

The pork osso buco was fried to a perfect crisp and paired beautifully with the jar of heirloom applesauce. Did the osso buco taste better than it looks? I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure my buddy Morgan would agree with that, as I'm pretty sure it was his favorite dish of the night.

truffle-parmiggiano friesPiedmontese Beef Rib-Eye sherry vinegar-honey glazed shallots

Piedmontese Beef Rib-Eye sherry vinegar-honey glazed shallots with truffle-parmiggiano fries

Perfectly cooked rib eye (we went with rare plus) with some damn tasty truffle parmiggiano fries, do I really need to explain how good it tasted? No, I didn't think so. Get it! Or heck, if you don't eat meat, then just order a side of truffle parmiggiano fries for $6. Trust me.

Crazy Chicken

"Crazy Chicken" with a side of Arugula and Tomato Salad.

Honestly, for the life of me, I cannot remember what was so "crazy" about the crazy chicken. I remember Al was saying something wrapped this and that, but I have no idea what it was other than the fact this dish was quite pedestrian compared to everything else we had during the night. Was it bad? No. Was it tasty? Ya, it was good. Was it memorable? Definitely not.

Confit of Half Duck mostarda di frutta, wild arugula, pomegranate salad, red wine duck jusConfit of Half Duck mostarda di frutta, wild arugula, pomegranate salad, red wine duck jus

Confit of Half Duck - mostarda di frutta, wild arugula, pomegranate salad, red wine duck jus

I'll save the best for last. I don't want to overhype Bottega or their duck confit, and pardon my French, but FUCK this was good. That is all.

Finally, onto my favorite part of this meal the dessert. Also, it was around this time when David Beckham, his wife Posh Spice, and their 3 kids showed up to the restaurant and had a seat close to us. First thing on my mind, "dammit, can I shoot the food?" Thankfully, our awesome server Al used himself as a shield and that minor crisis was averted.


Zeppole - meyer lemon curd, black and blueberry earl grey fruit conserva

As mentioned above, I don't like fried dough or fried desserts. Churros, donuts, etc, eh..I'm just not a fan, sorry. In fact, the only donut that has won over my heart was the creme brulee donut at Doughnut Plant in NYC. While I didn't love the zeppole, it was damn tasty with the meyer lemon curd. The zeppole was fried, yet not too oily, and the tartness from the meyer lemon sauce knocked out some of the oily texture that I usually despise. I could eat this again....

Carnaroli Riso Budino

Carnaroli Riso Budino - forno roasted strawberries, sweet crostini, basil vanilla anglaise

I'll admit, like the crazy chicken, I've forgotten about this dish other than loving the strawberries with the basil vanilla combination. The flavor reminded me of the basil strawberry dessert I had at Toque in Montreal. I never knew basil and strawberry are so compatible!

Chocolate Bourbon Tortino

Chocolate Bourbon Tortino - banana brulee, roasted banana gelato, milk chocolate peanut butter bar

Best dessert of the night! I loved the banana brulee. I really enjoyed the banana gelato and chocolate tart combination. And yes, I even liked the milk chocolate peanut butter bar (not a fan of peanut butter usually)! Definitely one of the bigger hits of the table as we all enjoyed this one the most!


Patio at Bottega Ristorante

All in all, what a fantastic dinner experience at Bottega. I had high hopes going in and it exceeded what I had imagined. The food was fantastic, the service was top notch, the prices were fair, and hell, we saw David Beckham. I can't wait to go back and try the Egg and Pork Belly Confit in July while I load up on some more wine down the street. Michael Chiarello definitely impressed me with his cooking and the fact he's at his restaurant 6 nights a week. I'm trying to decide if Bottega topped my epic meal at Eleven Madison Park, but it's definitely up there. Try it out when you're up in Yountville. I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Group Shot

Group Shot (From Top Left: Morgan, Me, Chef Chiarello, Benny, Julian, Christine) Courtesy of djjewelz

Bottega Ristorante
6525 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599-1300
(707) 945-1050
Official Website

Bottega Napa Valley Ristorante in San Francisco on Fooddigger

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nakkara On Beverly - Thai, Made Right (Los Angeles)


Nakkara on Beverly

A Thai blogger dinner on a Wednesday night on Beverly? Coming from Pasadena, I always dread hitting traffic on the 110 or the 101, but since I haven't sat down with a group of bloggers for dinner in awhile, Thai sounded great! Joining me at Nakkara were: Kevin of kevinEats who received the invitation from the owners of Nakkara, Diana of DianaTakesaBite, Felicia of TheFoodLedger, Amy of The Roaming Belly, and Christina of Food, Je T'Aime.

Nakkara Mieng KhamNakkara Mieng Kham

Nakkara Mieng Kham

We first started off with an "amuse buche" of sort, and in this case, you have toasted coconut, cashew, dried shrimp, lime, ginger, Thai chili, and red onions wrapped in a leaf of lettuce, finished off in a flavorful sweet mieng sauce. You take this dish down in one bite and the complex of flavors hits your mouth, but in a good way. Quite a nice start to the dinner.

Spicy Filet Mignon Skewer

Spicy Filet Mignon Skewer

Here, we're presented with a simple skewer of wonderfully cooked filet mignon and bell pepper dunked in a green curry sauce. I heard the word "one bite" so I took the whole thing down again. Worried about being tough? Worry not. The meat was juicy and tender, and I loved the green curry sauce. I loved it enough to shoot the rest of the sauce and finish this dish clean. Yum!

Garlic Lamb ChopGarlic Lamb Chop

Garlic Lamb Chop

Next, we have one of my favorite animals....to eat, lamb. I started to eat this with a knife and fork, but ended up gnawing the bones with my hands in the end. I probably didn't need the accompanied bell peppers and fried garlic bits and it'll still be good. For those afraid of the lamb's unique flavors, it wasn't that strong, so try it out.

Peking Duck Rolls

Peking Duck Rolls

I think most in my group agreed, we weren't sure what part of this dish was "Peking." It was similar to a Vietnamese Goi Cuon, but with duck instead of shrimp and grilled pork. The dish itself was fine, as I enjoy the duck within the dish, but I probably would have preferred a more peanut based sauce instead of the hoisin & Sriracha sauce provided.

Big Surprise!Big Surprise!

Big Surprise!

Here, we have one of my favorites of the night, the Big Surprise. In the metal cookware we have a mix of crab, calamari, and some other seafood I can't quite recall cooked in a red coconut based curry broth. The result? Fantastic! I probably could have ate the whole thing by myself. It's no wonder the Big Surprise is one of Nakkara's most ordered items. Just as a side note, the metal cookware was meant to be used for a Thai dessert, but Chef Kevin changed it up and start using it for the Big Surprise.

Shrimp Tom Yum

Shrimp Tom Yum

Chicken Tom Kha

Chicken Tom Kha

Next we had the choice of either a Shrimp Tom Yum or a Chicken Tom Kha, so I paired up with D Takes a B and shared the two choices. The former, we have a hot and sour broth made from herbs, lemon grass, chili, and other Thai herbs, and the flavor of the soup was great. The latter, we have a similar base broth, but the addition of coconut milk made it much creamier and heavier. Which one did I prefer? Normally I'd prefer a cream based broth, but surprisingly, I'd go with the lighter Shrimp Tom Yum if I had to choose.

Green Papaya Salad

Green Papaya Salad

Here, we have a palate cleanser and one of the most famous Thai dish out there, the green papaya salad. Found almost at every Thai Restaurant to even the night markets in Taiwan, it's one dish I'm quite familiar with. Maybe I'm being slightly picky about this one since being a lover of spicy food, I'd prefer a spicy version, though I can see why they limited the use of spice. It's all about the client base, and I'm not sure if the normal diners there would appreciate "Thai Spice" like me. Other than that, a very well made version of the papaya salad!

Soft Shell Crab Panaeng

Soft Shell Crab Panaeng

Soft shell crab? Yum! Soft shell crab in a Panaeng curry sauce? It sounded like double trouble to me since I love both. Though I really liked the dish, part of me thought the curry sauce was slightly strong to be use as a compliment to the deep fried soft shell crabs. I do enjoy the crispy basil leaves, as it reminds me of some of my favorite Taiwanese dishes.

Crying Tiger

Crying Tiger

What can beat tender, well cooked rib eye steak in a tangy and spicy sauce? Well, I think this was our table favorite (along with Big Surprise!) of the night. Not much to add other than saying it's delicious!

911 Catfish

911 Catfish

Fried catfish, one of the fishes I rarely consume these days, flavored with a sauce made from young peppercorn, and red chili paste. Despite its name, it wasn't too spicy, though it had great flavors. This would be a perfect pairing with some jasmine rice! Like with a well prepared steak, it's hard to go wrong with fried fish.

Seafood Pad Thai

Seafood Pad Thai

Another one of the more known Thai dishes, the Pad Thai. Even though it's well known, it's something I'd rarely order at a Thai restaurant. Chef Sukcharoen definitely didn't skimp on the ingredients, as our dish was filled with shrimp, calamari, mussels, etc in a "chow fun" like noodles. I'm didn't enjoy the texture of the noodles, as it's quite mushy, but the flavors are definitely there, albeit sweeter than I'd normally like.

Surf & Turf Fried Rice

Surf & Turf Fried Rice

Between the two carb component part of our meal, I much preferred the fried rice, though I normally love a good bowl of fried rice. The ginger based fried rice was topped with succulent filet mignon and shrimp. A very nice ending to our savory portion of the menu.

Mango & Sweet Sticky Rice

Mango & Sweet Sticky Rice

Last, but not least, my favorite part of any meal: dessert. In this case, one of my favorite desserts out there, the mango and sweet sticky rice. A few years back, at the much hyped, yet pretty disappointing Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas, their mango and sweet coconut rice dessert was the ONLY reason that dinner was deemed a failure (though the place still sucks. Don't go!). So I digress.....sticky rice flavored with coconut milk and mango, accompanied by some awesome ripened mangos. I might be biased, but it was probably my favorite dish of the night! What a way to close out the meal for me!


All in all, what a fun night! Thanks again for inviting us: Paul Burachati, Toon and Amy Vinyuwonge, and Chef Kevin Sukcharoen, it was truly a wonderful meal! Again, thanks for the invite Kevin, and great meeting and seeing the fellow bloggers that night. The meal was honestly better than I had expected and it's a place I'd definitely return to eat (Maybe with D Takes a B? Since it's in her neck of the woods). Worthy of a drive from Pasadena or West LA, and just a few steps away from the famed Animal and Angelini Osteria, it's nice to know there are more dinner options in the area.

7669 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 937-3100
Official Website

Nakkara in Los Angeles on Fooddigger