Monday, September 1, 2014

Tuck Shop - Happy Dirty 30 to Me!!!

For my 30th birthday this year I decided I wanted a fun night out starting with a damn good dinner. As I searched through my list(s) of restaurants, I came across the perfect option for my birthday – Tuck Shop! It shocked me that I still hadn’t had the opportunity to try Tuck Shop, I had been dying to go for so long, so I grabbed my phone called them and left a message. Next thing I knew I was confirming my reservation – Success!

We arrived early at Tuck Shop on a busy Saturday night and unfortunately had to wait for our table to be ready. That is one thing I hate about restaurants that offer two different seating options on Saturday evenings; people who opt of the later seating will most likely have to wait for their table – Frustrating! Six of us stood around the front door for more than forty minutes waiting for our table to be ready. I would have thought the staff at Tuck Shop would have offered us a drink or something to appease our evident frustration, but no such luck! We were all very annoyed but I asked my friends to ignore it as I did not want this to ruin my birthday night.

We were finally seated forty five minutes after our reservation. Quickly, we chose and ordered a bottle of wine and began drinking away our aggravation. The wine continued to flow all night and so did the food. I started my meal with the crispy pork belly with an aged gouda and oyster mushroom sauce. I had wanted to try Tuck Shop solely based on this dish. it was everything I had ever imagined it would be. The crispy pork belly managed to keep its crispiness despite the thick and flavourful sauce. The earthiness of the mushrooms and Gouda cheese complimented each other beautifully. Paired with the pork belly, this sauce elevated this dish to a flavour level one can only dream of. I really hope they never take this dish off their menu. It has to be the best pork belly that has ever entered my mouth.

One of my fellow diners started her meal off with the Thai beef rib with a Tamarind glaze and a green papaya salad. I had to convince her to order this dish as she was very hesitant about the papaya salad and the Tamarind glaze. I know my food and I know what my friends like, so they usually listen to my suggestions. After her first bite, she exclaimed how delicious this dish was and thanked me for making her order it. The rib was tender and very well flavoured and the papaya salad was crispy and refreshing. We especially enjoyed the crunch from the peanuts.

We also ordered the grilled octopus served with tabouleh, hummus, baba ganoush, lemon labneh and chick pea croutons. A couple of others at the table started with the crispy fish tacos served Mexican style with a fresh pico de gallo and avocado puree. For some reason, mainly the amount of wine I consumed, I did not photograph these dishes but I can attest to their deliciousness. The octopus was tender, flavourful and just really damn good. The fish tacos were good too but I have had better.

After the apps it was time for another bottle of wine. We sat drinking and enjoying each other’s company. The staff at Tuck Shop were great and we quickly forget all about the long long forty five minute wait for our reserved table. The main courses arrived and I for one was ready to eat. I had decided to listen to our waitress and order the special of the night; baked crab served with a salad and French fries. The crab was picked and cleaned properly then tossed with peas and carrots and a creamy lightly flavoured sauce. Placed back into the shell to bake, this crab was everything the waitress promised. Topped with a bread crumb crust, this dish was flavourful and I really enjoyed each bite. The tender crab meat was delicately flavoured which allowed the fresh flavour of the crab to shine through. The dish was very rich and for the first time ever I understood how some can find crab to be too rich to eat. I still enjoyed this dish but after eating half, I was in crab overload.

The butcher’s cut was served with a generous portion of perfectly cut golden fried French fries and topped with a delicious chimichurri sauce. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium, just deliciously pink inside and oh so tender. The chimichurri sauce had the right balance of flavours and complimented the steak beautifully. The fries were damn good and added the perfect crunch element to the plate.

We ended the night with another bottle of wine and sat around drinking and talking for a while. The best meals always end late with a good bottle of wine and great company, this night was no exception. I do remember a dessert being ordered, but by then we were way passed the “sober” limit and of course I forgot to snap a pic. I think a sparkler was involved too ... It really was a great night!

Tuck Shop on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Moshi Moshi - More Sushi Please!!!!

When I’m in South Beach with my family, my youngest sister and I have a few special traditions that we always sneak off to do. One such tradition is going for a sushi lunch or dinner – sometimes even both! This last trip down south we hit up Moshi Moshi Sushi on Washington just past Espagnola way in South Beach.

We grabbed a table for two outside and sat down to enjoy the warm South Beach night. There were many options on the menu that we wanted to order and in no time we narrowed down our selection. We ordered the Moshi Moshi roll, the Special California roll with cooked fish on top, the shrimp tempura roll and the spicy tuna roll with tempura flakes. The waitress suggested we start with that and then order more as the rolls were quite large.

On a warm night, nothing is better than a crisp cold beer and that’s exactly what I ordered to go along with my sushi feast. My Sapporo arrived in a tall glass accompanied by our first plate of delicious sushi. The special California roll topped with baked fish and a delicious sweet glaze - out of this world delicious! The fresh lightly baked fish was so delicious and delicate, it really added a special "Je ne sais quoi" to the dish. I have had sushi rolls with raw sashimi on the outside, but never baked fish. It was a very different and quite a delicious twist. I highly recommend trying this roll.

As we finished our first dish, the next plate of sushi appeared. Spicy tuna with tempura flakes was a simple roll but the flavour was anything but. The red tuna, the spice of the sauce and the crunchy tempura meddled together to form one damn good piece of sushi. I especially liked how they spread a tiny bit of spicy mayo on each piece of the roll – love that!

The Moshi Moshi roll had the perfect blend of tunas, white and red, and salmon. The crunchiness of the tempura flakes, the zing of the spicy mayo and the creaminess of the avocado complimented the fresh fish so well and created a delicious and addicting sushi roll. I really loved this roll and so did my little sis. We ate it up quite quickly, and had I not been so full after finishing the rest of the sushi, I would have gladly ordered another of this roll.

The Ebi tempura roll was good too, nothing out of the ordinary, but still very good. I always find when eating sushi abroad, I mean outside of Montreal, the rolls and style of serving sushi is always different. There is always one roll I can count on, the shrimp tempura, and Moshi Moshi’s did not disappoint.

My sister and I finished up the last few bites of sushi; I could not believe how full we were with only four rolls. I thanked the waitress for stopping us there, she said that people always over order and that she would rather we under order than order too much to finish. I really appreciated that and thanked her again. We sat drinking our drinks and people watching for a while; south beach really has the best people watching and of course really amazing food too!

Moshi Moshi on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 9, 2014


I had been looking forward to my trip to Bethesda, MD., for quite some time. For one my friend lives there, and second I had been dying to try a few restaurants. One such restaurant was Jaleo by Jose Andres. I had heard a lot about the delicious tapas dishes at Jaleo and could not wait for the opportunity to go.

On a warm July evening, my friends and I found ourselves seated watching Fifa soccer on tv at Jaleo in Besthsda Row. We all ordered our drinks and my friends focused their attention on the soccer while I focused mine on the menu. I could not help but want to order almost everything on the menu, but I knew I would have to make compromises. My friend ordered a few certain dishes and then I was left to decide on the rest. After we placed our order, we sat back and sipped our delicious drinks.

If you know me then you know I ordered the gin and tonic, served “Jose Andres” style with fresh juniper berries, lemon zest and a cucumber. It was larger than I could have ever imagines. The glass was unbelievably large and the ice cube was inside the large glass was an iceberg. This drink was so good, i ordered six! We were watching soccer and eating delicious food, of course I was going to keep drinking!

The first dish to arrive was the sardines. Deliciously tender and cooked perfectly, these boney little guys were served bursting with garlic and lemon flavour. Really a delicious dish and we all certainly enjoyed them, despite the bones.

My friend then had the cone of salmon roe. She loved it and said it was her favourite dish of the night. I for one loved the plating of this dish but thought they could have made it more than just one cone.

The next thing I knew dishes started flocking to the table. First it was the cheese platter with three cheeses; Manchego cheese paired with compressed apples, an earthy flavoured goat cheese served with apricots and a soft semi-sweet goat milk cheese paired with figs. Of course before I snapped a picture, one piece of cheese got eaten. The cheeses were all delicious and perfectly paired with what they were served with.

The cod fritters were the next to arrive. I fell in love with this dish at a Portuguese restaurant in Montreal, so I knew I wanted to order them here. A plate of six round crispy fritters with a garlic aioli dip was brought to our table. I grabbed one, dipped it into the creamy aioli and took a bite - *sigh! The crispy exterior was not greasy at all, just perfectly flavoured and crisp. The inside fish was flaky and deliciously complimented by the garlicky and citrusy aioli. This dish was so good, everything I hoped it would be. 

We then had the noodle paella with shrimps and squid. A dollop of a creamy garlic aioli was placed in the middle of the dish. I honestly don’t even know if it was an aioli, it was very cream, melted instantly and kind of reminded me of a very differently flavoured Lebanese garlic mayo. I served myself some and made sure to place a small amount of the aioli on my plate. The paella alone without the aioli was amazing, the noodles were not overcooked, the seafood was fresh and delicious, but with the aioli the dish was elevated to a new level of flavour. I really liked this dish and ate a few servings, but then again so did my friends. 

Fried calamari is a favourite of a lot of people. I love it and was excited to find out that one of my dining partners liked it too. When it arrived at the table, we both served ourselves a portion and dipped into the aioli served with it. The tender rings of calamri were perfectly fried and not overcooked or chewy. The calamri was coated in a very light and crisp coating. No greasy mess on this plate, just delicious rings of goodness. My friend wished it was served with a tomato or marinara sauce Italian style, and after a few bites, I found myself agreeing with him. It was enough with the garlic aioli; it was on almost every plate. Nevertheless this dish was still really good and we definitely enjoyed it.

The flat crispy airy bread brushed with fresh tomatoes was the next and final dish placed in front of me. I was so full and could hardly move, but for some reason I saw bread and tomatoes and my hands and mouth started moving again. This bread was definitely crispy, a bit hard to bite through, but the tomatoes were fresh and delicious.

After eating all that yummy food, we sat drinking and digesting. The drinks at Jaleo were truly amazing. I could not get enough of their gin and tonic. I loved it so much that I decided to keep drinking until I could not possibly have another. The sixth one was my cut-off point! We left full and satisfied and a little drunk.

Jaleo on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 4, 2014

Crabs, crabs and more crabs at Phillips Crab Deck!

A few weeks ago, I hoped on a plane and went to visit my friend in Bethesda, MD for a long, long weekend. I arrived Friday evening just in time for a quick dinner and few too many drinks. The next afternoon, we headed toward Annapolis, MD., to be tourists. We walked around, shopped and then when dinner time hit, my friends took me to one of their favourite Maryland spots. Having grown up in Baltimore, my friend is a huge lover of crab and Old Bay spices, so naturally she took me for a real Maryland style crab dinner.

Phillips Crab Deck is right on the water in Annapolis, and their huge terrace overlooks the bay. Being the crab pro, I let my friend order us dinner, I just chose the alcohol. She ordered us a dozen crabs, corn on the cob, French fries and lots of Old Bay spices. I started with the oysters, a favourite of mine, served on the half shell on a bed of ice with lemons and delicious cocktail sauce. I shared the oysters with my friends, but they weren’t having any of it, so I enjoyed every last salty briny bite. They were delicious!

We all ordered the cream of crab soup over their chowder and I think we made the right choice. This soup was full of fresh crab meat and flavour – delicious! Spiced with the traditional Old Bay seasoning, this soup was the best way to start off our seafood feast.

The crabs arrived in a large paper bag and we quickly dumped them on the table. My friend’s boyfriend begged us to keep the crab to our side of the table as he was a bit squeamish – haha!! Maybe it was the mango Sangria, but I could swear there were way more than twelve whole crabs lying in front of me on the brown-paper covered table. We both dug right in and began pulling apart these delicious sea creatures. The Old Bay spice and crab meat was a delicious pairing; I really enjoyed the zing and spice of the seasoning mix. On a side not, I had the leftovers the next day with an Old Bay spice brewed beer, wow was that good too! The crabs were cooked perfectly; it was one of the best crab meals of my life. I cannot wait to go back.

The corn was delicious dripping in butter and generously spiced with Old Bay. I normally do not like my corn with butter or salt, but with butter and Old Bay that’s another story. It is now my favourite way to eat corn, so addicting!

The fries were really good too. Crispy fried and lightly spiced with Old Bay was how I ate them, but really I focused my attention on the pile-o-crab in front of me.

The outcome of this meal was instant food coma. I could not move! I’m pretty sure the two pitchers of Sangria had something to do with it too, but the amount of food we had just consumed was inhumane. We should have never ordered a dozen crabs to begin with, but we also should have never eaten as much as we did. I for one was very happy to have these delicious critters for leftovers the next day, but was not really looking forward the cleaning them all – ouch!

The aftermath!!

Phillips Crab Deck on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Irasshaimase! Kinoya Izakaya

Irasshaimase! The magical greeting that is very clearly heard as you enter Kinoya, a Japanese Izakaya in the heart of the plateau on St. Denis. Even pedestrians walking by the dramatically decorated restaurant jump when the waitresses and staff proudly and enthusiastically greet each and every customer. I love the warm and welcoming greeting, it makes the experience that much more authentic. I had been invited to try this Izakaya, Japanese tapas/bar food, and being a lover of Japanese food I could not resist the invitation.

Walking into Kinoya is a tad bit confusing. As you walk into the restaurant, the rustic wood walls take over and transport you to Japan. There are two doors and I was not sure where I should enter. A very friendly and energetic waitress greeted us with the traditional Irasshaimase, along with the rest of the staff, and asked us to walk through the first door so that she may seat us at our table.

We sat right next to opened front window on a warm summer night carefully and excitingly glancing at the menu. We asked our friendly and quirky waitress how many dishes she would recommend for two people and she quickly exclaimed four to eight. I thought that was a huge gap, but she quickly explained that some dishes were served larger than others. We decided on six dishes but somehow that quickly turned to eight.

The first dish to arrive was the grilled black cod marinated and served with a deliciously sweet yet savory Saikyo Miso glaze. The cod was cooked perfectly, tender and flaky. The sauce was a beautifully flavoured and paired perfectly with the delicate fish. We both loved this dish, but thought that it was very small for the price. I know that black cod is not the cheapest fish to serve, but still felt the fish portion should have been bigger especially since these dishes are made to share.

As we finished our two bites of cod, our waitress re-appeared with our second dish, red tuna wrapped around green onions and cucumbers, served with a ponzu sauce. The fish was tender and fresh, I liked how the chef served this as a play on a sushi roll. The cucumbers and green onions were the perfect filling and went perfectly with the fish and the citrusy ponzu sauce. My friend and I really liked this dish. Simple yet delicious!

Next came one of the dishes I was most excited for; seared scallops, shrimps and mushrooms in a garlic butter sauce. The dish was served with butter beans and a spear of asparagus. The scallops were properly seared, not overcooked, as were the shrimp. I just couldn't help the fact that I thought the scallops were previously frozen, the shrimp too. They were really good and flavoured properly; I just thought them to be not as fresh as the other fish served. I could be wrong though. The mushrooms were at the bottom of the dish and had had a deep dark sear on them; it added flavour and depth to the dish. I did not like the beans, the flavour was unnecessary in my opinion. The asparagus was delicious though!

We were then served the pan-fried mushrooms and cheese. When we ordered the dish, the waitress explained that instead of being melted cheese, the “cheese” element to the dish was more in the “B├ęchamel” sauce form. The dish arrived piping hot with enticingly delicious fumes. We dug right in and could not stop. The flavour of this dish was so good; the mushrooms were tender and we loved the different varieties. The cheese was not mild in flavour, there was a slight pungent factor that I really enjoyed.

The Chef sent over his Unagi Oniyaki; eel with Yuzu sauce, almonds, mayo, tobiko and avocado slices. The dish was deliciously executed and I really enjoyed it. The flavours were sweet and savory and complimented the tender eel. I love avocado but found it was not a necessary element. The sliced almonds were a delicious touch and I really enjoyed the contrast in textures.

The next dish to arrive was the Udon noodles and vegetables. This dish was very flavourful and we both enjoyed every bite. The one comment we both made was that the noodles were a tad too mushy, but the taste made up for that negative point. The sliced onions and bean sprouts added not only flavour but a perfect contrast in texture to the noodle dish – so good!!!

The last dish, well actually we had a dish in between but I forgot to take pictures of it – shame!! The dish was a seared white tuna on a bed of rice with a Mirin and sesame oil sauce. This dish was really good. Flavours balanced well, but did not impress as much as the other dishes. The last dish we sampled was a play on sushi. It was a bowl of rice topped with red tuna and salmon sashimi and chopped avocado. By the time we got to this dish my stomach was bursting. I still managed to eat a few really good bites before the food coma took over. The salmon and tuna were both very fresh and tasty. I enjoyed the deconstructed sushi roll feel to the dish, reminded me of my friend’s “Sushi Salad” that she had made for me the week before.

Kinoya Izakaya impressed me beyond belief. I cannot wait to go back and try their cocktails and more of what their Chef has to offer. The only part I didn’t enjoy was the desserts. I am not a huge lover of desserts so I give myself no authority to determine a good dessert from a bad dessert, but both cake pops I was served were in my opinion were not up to par with the rest of the food served. Even with that said, our dinner at Kinoya was more than enjoyable.

Kinoya Bistro Japonais on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 13, 2014

BBP - Bobby's Burger Palace - Miami

Bobby’s Burger Palace, aka BBP, is unlike any restaurant I have ever been to. Normally at restaurants you’re seated first and then you place your order, but not at BBP. At BBP you line up at the front cashes to place your order. Once your order is placed, you are given a number to put on the table of your choice, either inside or on their large terrace. The waiters and waitresses find you by your table number and deliver your food. A mix of old school drive through and cafeteria type of dining – neat concept!

Standing in a large line (they really should have more than one cash opened at a time), we had more than enough time to decide on what we wanted to eat. They display their concise menu on the wall for everyone to see, and they also have printed ones all over. Staring at the enormous menu hanging on the wall, we all changed our minds over and over.

I finally decided on the Buffalo Burger, my sister the Napa Turkey Burger, My mother had the same but with an Angus beef patty and my father ordered the Philadelphia Burger. We also ordered fries, sweet potatoes fries, onions rings, a vanilla milkshake, and chocolate milkshake and a couple of cokes. We were given our table number on a plastic place card, and two empty cups to fill at the self-serve machines.

We filled our glasses and headed to the terrace to grab a seat. Within minutes our shakes arrived. The front of house staff is more than friendly and really gets the job done well. 

I ordered the vanilla bean shake. I had always said I wanted to have a good shake and a burger, today was the day. My shake was absolutely delicious. The vanilla bean flavour was present and I really enjoyed that even though the shake was thick, I had no trouble drinking it through the straw. My sister had the chocolate shake and really enjoyed it as well. The chocolate flavour was delicious and not overly sweet which I really enjoyed. This being the first time I ever had a milkshake and a burger; I must say this combination is quite satisfying. 

The burgers and sides arrived shortly after. As I placed my top bun on my burger, I couldn't help but be slightly disappointed with the bun. Don’t get me wrong, a plain solid bun is awesome for a burger, but this being Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace, I thought I would be getting something a little more creative. Maybe even a brioche style simple bun. That being said, the bun held up to the burger quite well and let all the flavours of the meat and sauces shine through. My burger was doused in Red Hot sauce, topped with a cooling and delicious blue cheese dressing and crispy watercress – fantastic yet simple! Even though this burger was so simply done, the flavours together made this burger really delicious. The Angus beef was cooked properly creating a perfectly flavourful and juicy burger. I really enjoyed it especially for under $8.  

My sister and mother both had the Napa Valley burger served with goat cheese, watercress and a Mayer Lemon honey mustard sauce. My mother had the beef version while my sister had the turkey burger. Both were absolutely delicious, the turkey burger surprised us all. It was even better than the beef patty – truly delicious. Juicy and very flavourful, this burger was a hit at our table. 

My father had the Philadelphia Burger served with sauteed onions and mushrooms. He was not impressed with his burger at all. In fact he was disappointed as he was expecting something out of the ordinary from a Bobby Flay burger joint. I explained to him that for the price these were damn good burgers, it’s not like we were having $40 Kobe beef burgers with truffles and lobster mayo. I tried my Dad’s burger and it was good. Burger cooked well, topping very tasty, but I knew what he was expecting and understood why he was disappointed, he wanted a fancy pants burger. Not the right kind of burger joint Dad!

Now let me tell you about the sides at BBP. We decided on ordering three of them; sweet potato fries, regular French fries and beer battered onions rings. The fries and rings are served in small pails and each serving is more than enough for two people to share.

I started off with the French fries which had all the proper elements of a good fry; crispy, not greasy, soft center and flavoured very well. We all agreed that these fries were delicious.

The sweet potato fries also had all the right elements – really great fries!  Crispy on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside, these fries were absolutely delicious.  

The beer battered onion rings were huge. Actually huge is not the right word, gigantic is more like it. These colossal sized onion rings were crispy and delicious; a subtle flavoured exterior and perfectly tender onion interior. 

Each ring passed the “Onion Ring Test,” when biting into a ring, the onion did not get pulled out in one bite, it stayed intact with its crispy coating. I loved these rings and so did my mother, my sister and father however were not so convinced. They thought the rings were outrageously large and lacked flavour – Preposterous! The beer batter coating was packed with flavour but I guess that was just mine and my mother’s opinion. 

We finished up our dinner and left satisfied and extremely full. We all agreed that for the price, this was one of the better burger joints we have been to. I for one really enjoyed BBP and cannot wait to return and try his brunch burger – YUMMMMM!!!!

Bobby's Burger Palace on Urbanspoon