Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Les Délices de l'Erable - Great Little Tourist Stop (Montreal, QC)

Les Délices de l'Erable

Les Délices de l'Erable

It's our last day in Montreal, and the last meal that awaited my buddies and I would be the main reason I had suggested Canadian trip in the first place, Au Pied de Cochon. Since we had to finish the smoked meat plate from Schwartz from the night before for breakfast, none of us were hungry and would rather save our appetite for the foie gras feast that awaited, thus we stopped by this rather lovely gelato and maple syrup shop while we were strolling around the streets of Montreal.

Les Délices de l'ErableLes Délices de l'Erable

Inside Les Délices de l'Erable

This was a very clean and neat shop. You were able to not only purchase the various flavors of gelato available, but also maple syrup to take home. I would have to say though, an French speaking Asian girl was pretty hot!

Les Délices de l'ErableLes Délices de l'ErableLes Délices de l'Erable

Various Flavors of Gelato

While it may not be the best gelato I've ever had, it was definitely very good. One of the flavor I chose was maple syrup and I love the flavors in the gelato. Even though the temperature in Montreal was awesome, there's never a wrong time for gelato. As we continue to stroll the city, I was eagerly awaiting the upcoming meal, but let's take some time to look at the sights around Montreal:

Places de ArmsNotre Dame by Place de ArmsQuartier Chinois (Chinatown)!Olympic StadiumMontrealMontreal


Final Rating: 7 out of 10

Les Délices de l'Erable
84 Rue Saint Paul Est
Montreal, QC H2Y 1G6, Canada
(514) 765-3456
Official Website

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pintxo - The Second Of My Three Part Montreal Dinner Crawl (Montreal, QC)



After our quick snack earlier at L'Express, we headed to our late night tapas reservation at Pinxo since our earlier walk in attempt was a fail. With the pleasant description on Lonely Planet Montreal and Quebec City we went in with pretty decent expectation of good food.


Cava Codorniu

Since we were at a Spanish tapas place, we figured it's appropriate to start off with sangria, but to our dismay, we didn't see any sangria options on the menu. After flagging down a server, we were told Pinxo does not serve sangria. "WTF??" I thought, so after going over the wine list, I picked out a bottle of cava. I liked the cava, it's refreshing, as always, but I wanted my damn sangria. Fail.

When people ask me, how do you manage to remember meals from a year ago? Usually, looking at the picture will help me remember the taste and my reaction to the dishes. Sadly, this was one of the few times I might have to go with a picture rundown of the meal my friends and I had at Pinxo:

Falsa Lasana de Sardinas

Falsa Lasana de Sardinas (Fresh Marinated Sardine Filet with avacado and peppers)

I enjoyed the flavors of the sardine, but the dish itself wasn't too memorable.

Foie Gras y Gazpacho de Fresa con Pimientos

Foie Gras y Gazpacho de Fresa con Pimientos (Foie Gras & Sweet Bell Pepper and Strawberry Gazpacho)

Definitely not my favorite preparation of foie gras.

Salpicon de txangurro del Puerto de Zumala

Salpicon de txangurro del Puerto de Zumala (Dual of fresh marinated crab and shrimp with peppers)

I really enjoyed the use of the crab meat and shrimp here.

Tartar de Salmon y Escalera de Verduras a la Parrilla

Tartar de Salmon y Escalera de Verduras a la Parrilla (Salmon Tartare & Quintet of Grilled Vegetables)

Salmon tartare, been there, done that. The grilled vegetables were nice, but nothing too special.

Vieira y Chorizos

Vieira y Chorizos (Scallop and Chorizo)

Quite a tasty delicious. Hard to go wrong with chorizo added to any dish, right?

Higo Relleno de Jamon Serrano y Queso Mahon

Higo Relleno de Jamon Serrano y Queso Mahon (Stuffed Figs with Serrano Ham and Mahon Cheese)

Wasn't one of my favorites, but it's probably due to the fact I'm not that keen on figs in the first place.....

Alcatxofas con almeja y jamon serrano

Alcatxofas con almeja y jamon serrano (Artichokes with clams and serrano ham)

Clams, artichokes, and serrano ham. Great mix of ingredients, and it was one of the favorites at our table.

Marques de Caceres Rioja

Marques de Caceres Rioja

After finishing the cava, we decided on a simple, and light rose to accompany the rest of the dishes.

Bakalao a la Bizcaina

Bakalao a la Bizcaina (Filet of Basque Cod served with a tomato and pepper sauce)

Another delicious dish. The fish itself was tender and I enjoyed the tomatoes and peppers used in the sauce.

Carrillera en salsa de Rioja

Carrillera en salsa de Rioja (Braised Beef Cheeks served with Mustard Potatoes)

Delicious. Simply delicious. The beef cheeks were tender and flavorful. Not much more I could have asked for.

Txori Morci

Txori Morci (Chorizo Sauce with Black Pudding Surroundings)

Sadly, I don't remember much about this one....

Morcilla de Burgos

Morcilla de Burgos (Black Pudding w/ Apple Chutney)

This one was quite good, but I'm a fan of black pudding, so it's hard for me not to like a black pudding preparation.

Although I was slightly disappointed with the lacking of sangria of a tapas restaurant, Pinxo was a pretty good spot to munch on some Spanish tapas in the streets of Montreal. While the meal has a few misses, it was definitely a good experience. Was it memorable? Probably not, but not all meals needed to be that way. Since we didn't get any dessert at Pinxo, we were off to the streets of Plateau Mont-Royal in search for some sweets. What did we get you ask? How about dinner #3? A large takeout plate of smoked meat for each one of us from Schwartz, to savor in the comforts of our hotel room.


Smoked Meat from Schwartz

Did we finish the smoked meat? Hellz Effing no. It did make for one helluva breakfast the next morning though! There you have it, 3 dinners in one pleasant Montreal evening.

Final Rating (Pintxo): 7 out of 10

Pintxo Montreal
256 Rue Roy Est
Montreal, QC H2W 1M6, Canada
(514) 844-0222
Official Website

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

Monday, August 23, 2010

Test Kitchen: Red Medicine By Jordan Kahn (Los Angeles)

Pimm's No.1

Pimm's No. 1 (Found at Test Kitchen: Red Medicine)

Recently, Los Angeles has been a mecca for pop up restaurants, highlighted by the Ludobites series that's been going on for the past year plus. Now comes a series of pop up chefs showcasing their talents, located at Test Kitchen, which is the brainchild of one Brian Saltsburg, whom I had the privilege of meeting on a trip to Tijuana last year. First up at the Test Kitchen would be one Jordan Kahn showcasing his upcoming restaurant venture, Red Medicine, a Vietnamese influenced restaurant.


1. RADISHES - coco-butter, lime, dried soy

A simple, refreshing appetizer of radishes mixed with a coconut butter to give it a much needed richness to the dish. The dish itself was fine, but I was ready with the next course.


2. cured AMBERJACK - lime leaf, french melon, nuoc cham, bird chili, mint

A much stronger dish than the aforementioned radishes dish. I enjoyed the sweetness of the melon mixed with the amberjack that was infused with the flavors of the nuoc cham. A balanced dish, and a definite winner in my book!

green PAPAYA

3. green PAPAYA - crispy taro, rau ram, fried shallots, peanuts

Given the success of the amberjack, the papaya salad was a huge letdown, especially after reading it on kevinEat's blog on the day of our meal. The taro chips was great, but that's pretty much it from this dish. It lacked the bold flavors I typically enjoyed from a papaya salad. Whether it's the lack of fish sauce or chili, or even both, the salad was quite bland in my opinion. The table was pretty much in agreement with this dish.

TOMATOES marinated in an infusion of their vines

4. TOMATOES - marinated in an infustion of their vines, silky tofu, crunchy tofu, herbs

This was a dish I really enjoyed. I loved the fresh tomatoes immersed into a bed of silky tofu sauce. With the addition of crunchy tofu bits, it also added a nice texture to this particular dish as well. With the tomatoes long gone, I went back and scooped up the remaining tofu "sauce." It was quite delicious!

saigon tartine- PORK belly

5. saigon tartine - PORK belly, pâté, coriander, carrot pickle, green chili

Think of this dish as an open faced (tartine) banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich. I loved the flavors and the crunchy textures of the pork belly. Think of this as a deluxe banh mi.

caramelized CHICKEN dumplingscaramelized CHICKEN dumplings

6. caramelized CHICKEN dumplings - lemongrass, scallion, bibb lettuce

I really hoped this dish was an aberration, and we caught it on an off night, as it was DRY! The extra sriracha sauce did not help with the dry chicken balls, which made me quite sad. If you're looking for great tasting chicken balls, try out Torihei, as the version there far surpasses the one I had at Test Kitchen.


7. bay SCALLOPS - pomelo, young ginger, tamarind syrup, puffed tapioca, charred friseé

Maybe I shouldn't say anything, but this was easily the worst dish of the night. First, I'll say I enjoyed the charred friseé, and that's about it. I didn't like the pomelo nor did I like the tamarind syrup used in this dish, but the worst thing in my opinion was the scallops. I would have much preferred 4 regular sized scallops in this dish, as the dish above was meant for 4 adult. All in all, I don't think the bay scallops meshed well with the pomelo and the tamarind syrup.


8. baby CARROTS - fermented black bean, star anise, coconut, tarragon

Thankfully the carrot was a nice bounce back dish after the scallops. I loved the bold flavors of the fermented black beans and the star anise that were used to cook the carrots. Since I'm not a fan of raw carrots, I actually enjoyed the soft textures of this carrot dish.

BRUSSELS sprouts

9. BRUSSELS sprouts - caramelized shallots, fish sauce, prawn crackers

Another strong dish. I loved the flavors of the fried brussels sprouts to go along with the shallots and the flavors of the fish sauce in this dish. I could have ate two dishes of this by myself, easily.

BEEF bavette

10. BEEF bavette - bacon X.O., Chinese eggplant, Chinese celery, lime, palm sugar, sesame

Here, we closed out the savory portion of our menu with the beef dish. In this case, the beef was well cooked (medium-ish), and the X.O. sauce that accompanied the beef was tasty, though it was slightly too strong for me. The accompanied vegetables were delicious and it was a nice ending to the savory portion of the menu.


11. PEACHES - crème de cassis, raspberry, condensed milk, tonic water sorbet

I really dislike bashing dishes, but if the scallops dish from above was the worst of the night, this was definitely second. There were many components wrong with the dish in my opinions. The tonic water sorbet lacked any flavor and really didn't need to be in this dish. The peaches itself wasn't of good quality which was a problem, since this was a peach based dish. The dish itself may be pretty, but no one in our group enjoyed it.

COCONUT bavaroisCOCONUT bavarois

12. COCONUT bavarois - coffee ice cream, thai basil, peanut croquant, chicory

Thankfully we were served this last, as it was fantastic! I loved the different flavors and textures of each component of this particular dessert and made me forget the previous dessert that was served. Eating this reminded me of drinking Vietnamese coffee as the coffee flavor was a strong presence in this dish, but the peanut croquant was also quite memorable. A definite winner!

In the end, there were definitely some hits and misses during our meal. The saddest part was the fact not many of us were full from the family style dinner that we were served. Though I feasted on grapes at home post dinner, I strongly feel that the portions of the meal should be slightly bigger. Yes, my fellow diners and I could put away a good amount of food, but in the end the dinner felt like we were served 12 hors d'oeuvres. Vietnamese food should have more flavors, and I felt some dishes were quite lacking in that department. I know Jordan Kahn will be one of the biggest name that's going to hit Los Angeles in the coming months, but my first impression of him is lukewarm at best.

The Test Kitchen is a fantastic idea and many chefs will be showing off their talents in the coming weeks. The cocktail menu was also fantastic and Julian Cox of Rivera will be making some delicious along the way to match with the menu. Although I am definitely interested in trying other chefs in the Test Kitchen series, my first visit did leave me quite disappointed.

Although I'm not a fan of giving a mediocre review to a restaurant, as a paying customer, I felt it's only right to give my honest two cents from my experience. While it wasn't a failure, there's definitely dishes that needs to be worked on.

Test Kitchen
9575 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Official Website

Test Kitchen - Red Medicine in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Monday, August 9, 2010

Burt's Place - It's Like Eating Pizza At Home (Morton Grove, IL)

Burt's Place

Burt's Place

When one speaks of food in the Windy City of Chicago, the first thing that comes to mind tends to be its famous deep dish pizza. When one talks about the deep dish, Giordano, Ginos East, Uno, or Lou Malnati tends to be the popular picks. However, after watching the clip from Anthony Bourdain's trip to Chicago, I knew I had to try the deep dish pizza from Burt's Place. More so in fact, after hearing Burt state: "I'm 71 for christ sake and still working like a dumbass." He seemed to be a character!

After reading more about Burt's Place, I learned you MUST call in ahead (a day ahead would be best) and place an order (ie: size of pizza & toppings), otherwise they'll likely turn you away at the door, which I saw at least two times during my meal. With that knowledge in hand, I called and ordered a Large with spinach, sausage, mushroom, and onions. Since it's my first meal after landing at O'Hare, I eagerly awaited this meal!

Burt's PlaceBurt's Place

Large Mushroom, Onion, Sauage, Spinach Deep Dish @ Burt's

As the video stated, and from what I've read, Burt would get fresh ingredients daily, thus, they do require the pre-orders the day before so they could figure out the amount of supplies they need on a specific day.

The crust on Burt's deep dish was different, but I do like it. It's caramelized, but not burnt. The ingredients were fresh and flavorful. My favorite ingredients were the sausages and the spinach. It's a shame we weren't able to finish a whole pie, as a large was definitely enough to feed 4 healthy eaters!

Burt's PlaceBurt's PlaceBurt's Place

Dining Room at Burt's Place

Another part of Burt's Place I loved was Burt's wife Sharon, who served us the pizza tableside and chatted with us throughout the meal. She discussed the history of Burt's Place, her children that were out of state, and even gave us an Italian Beef recommendation. All in all, she was a lovely lady and made us feel at home during the meal.

Burt's Place

Post Meal Candy

The space in itself was quite homey and definitely has their own personal touch. The pizza itself was delicious, but it was truly Burt and Sharon that gave this place the extra pizazz. Burt's Place is definitely a place I'll revisit on my next trip back to Chicago/Morton Grove, and hopefully I'll bring some new friends there as well. If you're heading to Chicago or already living in the Windy City, give ol' Burt's Place a try. Just make sure you call ahead with your order and reservation!

Burt's Place

Signing the guest-book post-meal

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10

8541 Ferris Avenue
Morton Grove, IL 60053-2828
(847) 965-7997
Yelp Link w/Pictures of the menu