Saturday, May 7, 2016

Jean Georges Steakhouse - A perfect first dinner in Vegas

There are two types of people in this world; serious meat eaters, and non meat eaters.  Now, do not think for one second that I am being pretentious as to assume this is really true, but in my food vision, it is.  I am a serious meat eater.  I love fish and seafood, but my first love is steak.  At the ripe old age of three, I used to devour a full 8-10 oz rib steak and sit there begging for another.  If you knew me at that age, you would be amazed as I was what people call a terribly skinny kid.  People would watch in amazement as this little pisher would devour the entire steak and lick the bone clean.  With this love affair with meat in mind, I made two amazing reservations at steak houses in Vegas.  The first was Jean Georges at the Aria.

I had sent the guys from my work here last November when they were in Vegas for the SEMA car show, and they ranted and raved about the meal they had.  When I heard all the mouthwatering descriptions of their dinner, I had to make sure I tried it for myself.  Dinner was set for 9 pm and I for one could not wait to sit, order and dig in.

It took them a few minutes to seat us, which was fine, but as we walked through the restaurant to our table, it was empty.  What had taken 10 minutes to prepare?  I could understand if the restaurant was busy, but there was literally no one in the place.  A few at the bar, but only about 4 tables of people in the dining room.  We were seated right next to a group of drunken rowdy business men who ordered half the menu and really had no idea what they were eating or doing.  It was quite annoying as we could barely have a conversation, but it also was a plus as we overheard what they liked and didn't like.  They really disliked the Kobe, but loved the Wagyu.  My mind was set.





We started our meal with the tuna tartare.   The plate was very elegant, and so was the plating.  I liked the tuna, light, fresh and nicely flavoured, but didn't find it to be very special.  Nothing very memorable about it, but we still enjoyed the dish.  





Then our mains arrived, grilled rare Wagyu topped with seared foie gras, a side of truffle mashed potatoes and a slew of sauces.  My mouth started to water as I took pictures of this feast.  I snapped pictures very quickly so that I could taste the delicious smelling food as quickly as possible.  Their meat is always served with four or five sauces, depending on what cut of meat you order.  We had all five; chimichurri served directly on the plate in a dish that resembled a bone marrow, house-made hot sauce, Bearnaise sauce, soy-miso butter and finally the JG steak sauce.  The chimichurri was light, flavoured and delicious, it complimented the steak well and I really liked it.  The hot sauce was also very good, but I found it took so much away from the tender buttery steak.  I love hot sauces, and liked this one, but I didn't find it went well with the delicate meat.  The soy-miso butter was outstanding.  This was by far the table favourite.  So flavourful yet complimented the steak rather than overpowering it.  The last sauce was the Bearnaise, a total classic.  This sauce was also a favourite of ours and we ate up every last drop.  



The steak was cooked to a perfect rare and oh so flavourful.  I was so glad we ordered the Wagyu as it truly was special.  I agreed with the table next to us that this piece of meat was perfect.  The seared foie gras added that extra special touch.  Seared to perfection so that when you cut into it, it melted like butter right on the steak, yet still added texture.  I love foie gras and this was one of the best I've had in a while.    






The black truffle mashed potatoes was the perfect dish to accompany the rich meal we were indulging in.  They were more whipped than mashed, this I really liked as I hate lumpy potatoes.  The truffle flavour was perfectly balance, not too subtle nor overpowering - Just right!  Mixed with all the sauces on my plate, and the steak of course, these mashed potatoes were delectable.  I am wishing I had some to snack on right now as I write this post.  Ok and some foie gras too!

As we finished every last bite, I fell deep into a food coma.  It may have been the late hour, or the fact that I had just arrived in Vegas and was still running on Montreal time, but I could not manage to order dessert.   I needed to digest and start drinking to continue the party that was our first night in Vegas.  We paid up, headed over to my favourite bar, the Chandelier bar at the Cosmopolitan and partied the night away.  Jean Georges was a good meal, not one I would run back to, but still very good and enjoyable.  
Jean Georges Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

RM Seafood - Seafood at its Best!!!

The world of restaurants has become increasingly difficult to navigate through.  With so many restaurants opening and closing, it's tough to know what's worth trying and what to stay away from.  I have a few rules that I follow; no chain restaurants, no "all you can eat" places, stay away from tourist traps, go to places that have been opened longer than any other, and ask locals.  I took these rules into consideration when choosing where to eat in Vegas, and my first stop just happened to be my favourite.  

RM Seafood in the Mandalay Bay follows each of my rules for choosing the perfect restaurant.  Rick Moonen opened this delectable seafood restaurant over 11 years ago, and is still continuously serving the freshest, most sustainable seafood that he can get.  His passion for creating healthy oceans has led him to create in my opinion, one of the most amazing restaurants I have ever been to.

Lunch at RM Seafood is a great thing.  Their 3 course lunch tasting menu is not only very reasonable, it is absolutely delicious too.  It combines most of the best dishes they have to offer, at a truly spectacular price point.  At first glance I could not decide what to have.  I knew we had to start with a sushi roll, but after that..?  Our waiter quickly came to our rescue and offered his expertise on the menu.  He suggested the dishes this restaurant was known for and we narrowed down our meals with his help.  





Our waiter offered us drinks, so naturally I ordered a cocktail off their Bar Specialites menu. I chose the  Not Another Tequila Sunrise.  This drink was so good and refreshing.  The perfect blend of Patron Roca Reposado Tequila, Aperol (a bitter orange, rhubarb aperitif), berries and IPA.  I really loved this drink.  It was the perfect drink to start our Vegas trip off right.  




We started our meal off with the spicy tuna roll.  Tuna is one of my favourite fish, especially raw or seared.  RM's spicy tuna rolls was like no other.  Normally I find there is a lacking to the spice factor in this particular roll, however Chef Moonen and Chef Michael sure know how to bring the heat.  There was no need for wasabi or spicy mayo, as this roll had the perfect amount of spice.  The cucumber was the perfect crispy factor, it also helped calm the heat of the tuna.  This roll was fresh and oh so delicious.  I was hoping it would never end, and I even considered ordering a second, but our amazing waiter suggested I wait until the end of the meal as there was so much more food to come.






As my first course, I of course ordered the grilled octopus.  I have a serious obsession with octopus, I can never have enough.  I have had amazing octopus and terrible yet I keep going back for more.  When I ordered this dish, our waiter told me it was outstanding and probably the best dish at the restaurant.  Cooked sous-vide for 24 hours then finished on the grill, how could this dish not be perfect.  Well let's just say I never expected it to be this outstanding.  I literally almost cried after my first bite.  The octopus was like melted butter, tender and oh so soft, I didn't even need a knife to cut it.  I am not so keen on sharing food, but when a dish is as amazing as this, I had to let my friend taste it.  When food is this good, it is a sin not to let others share in on the goodness.  I slowly ate every last bite on the plate, making sure not to miss a single morsel of heaven.  As I sit here writing this now, I am dreaming of the next time I can taste this dish.  My father's 65th is coming up this year, trying to convince him that we should take a trip to Vegas and celebrate at RM Seafood - It's a long shot, but worth a try!






My dining partner started off his meal with the Organic local farm salad.  This was no ordinary salad!  Fresh, crisp veggies with a well balanced apple cider vinaigrette was set before my friend.  He dug in and immediately begged me to try it.  What could be so special with a salad, well I was about to find out.  I had never had anything that tasted like this and to be honest, if I could replicate it I would - Daily!!  I wish I was eating this salad now instead of this arugula, avocado and nut concoction I put together.  The star of the salad was not just the veggies, but the dressing - OMG!  It was unlike any I had ever had before.  The vinegar factor was there, but it was so well balanced with just a hint of sweetness at the same time.  It was truly a special dish and I immediately understood why the waiter suggest one of us try it.  




We both opted for the lobster rolls as our main dish.  Two plump and buttery brioche hot dog buns stuffed full of lobster that had been tossed in lemon and a fennel mayonnaise - Perfection!  At first bite I could not get over the bun.  It was so good, I could not stop talking about it and almost took away from the plump juicy and perfectly cooked lobster.  I was so happy I chose this dish, but then sad at the same time.  If this lobster dish was this amazing, what else was I missing.  I turned to my friend and asked if he wanted to switch all our reservations to this place and he quickly complied.  But then after further thought, the other places on my list were also must tries and I knew I would be upset had I not tried all of them.  






It was then time for dessert.  I was already quite full but our waiter laughed and said I better make room.  He explained the desserts, even offered us the ice cream sampler, but then he quickly suggested one tiramisu and one key lime pie.  I love Key Lime pie, love love love it.  The perfect size pie arrived plated so beautifully and drizzled with a cilantro lime syrup - Exquisite!  The light graham crumbly crust, sour yet delicious key lime filling and the perfectly creamy meringue topping put forth in front of me was devoured quite happily and quickly.  It was to die for.  The lime cilantro syrup was a great twist, not too sweet yet not over powered by the fresh cilantro flavour.  This was by far the best Key lime pie I have ever had.






My friend really loved his Tiramisu.  I tried it and thought is was perfectly delicious, but not as good as my tasty treat.  Maybe it was because I had the Key lime flavour in my mouth, but all I wanted to do was enjoy my dessert.  

After our meal, Chef Michael came out to greet us and see how we enjoyed ourselves.  I had no words to express my gratitude and enjoyment.  Not only was the food amazing, but our waiter and the atmosphere helped to create the perfect experience.  I had never enjoyed myself in a restaurant as much as I enjoyed RM Seafood.  It was spectacular.  The food is always important, but it's the extras that truly make a restaurant stand out.  
RM Seafood Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Otentic - A Delicious French Meal

There are so many restaurants in South Beach, that it is very hard sometimes to decipher the good from the awful.  In all our adventures of trying new places, I have managed to put together a damn good list of must eats in South Beach.  On our last visit, we tried a place on a whim and it happened to blow all of our expectations.  Otentic on Washington near fifth is a quiet little place away from the histle and bustle of Ocean drive, and from the outside looks nothing out of the ordinary.  



We sat down and ordered up four mains and a charcuterie board to share as a starter.  A gorgeous wood board arrived filled with delicious meats, delectable cornichons and tangy dijon mustard dipping sauces.  The charcuterie disappeared relatively quickly.  With each bite our excitement for our mains grew and grew.





As we finished up our charcuterie, we chatted and drank some delicious wine as we patiently waited for our mains to arrive.  The seared salmon delicately seasoned and served with a deliciously creamy basil linguini was perfection.  The linguini, creamy but not exceedingly heavy, complimented the delicate and perfectly cooked salmon beautifully.  Two of us ordered this main and truly enjoyed it.  



The roasted chicken with Porcini mushroom sauce was such a large plate.  When it arrived we never thought it would be devoured as quickly as it was.  The chicken was roasted perfectly and the Dauphinois potatoes were scrumptious, but the star of this plate was the Porcini sauce.  That sauce was one that I could never forget.  I still dream of the flavours today.  The sauce was heavy and creamy, but that deep earthy mushroom flavour  was 
exceptionally delicious.          




The last main we enjoyed was the Otentic Farmer's steak served with crispy French fries and Beurre Maitre d'Hotel.  The steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare, French fries were cut in house and oh so delicious, and that Beurre Maitre d'Hotel was absolutely scrumptious.  The light arugula salad complimented the dish well and lightened up the plate.  




We had a lovely dinner at Otentic and have recommended this place a few times.  It is so refreshing to find such a gem on a whim.  Sometimes being adventurous truly pays off.

Otentic Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, December 28, 2015

Lavanderia - A Tale of a Lunch and a Dinner

My sister works at Victoria Park along with my best friend, so on a random Wednesday, I headed to Westmount to meet them for lunch.  The casual warm setting of Lavanderia was very relaxing.  I loved the calming colours and homey feel to the place as it does pay tribute to Chef Antonio Park's childhood home above his parent's Lavanderia or laundromat - Hence the name!



We started our lunch with a coconut fish broth soup served in these adorable little cast iron bowls.  The broth was full of flavour, creamy and smooth.  The chunks of potatoes were tender and soaked up the flavour of the broth perfectly.  I can see why my friend claims this is her favourite soup!



As my main, I opted for the grilled calamari.  A fresh made corn tortilla piled high with calamari and a light delicious mixed salad.  I was excited for this dish and dug right in.  I have to say, I expected the calamari to be significantly tender and carry that delicious charred flavour and it did, just the tenderness was not there.  I happen to love grilled calamari and grilled octopus and order it at almost every restaurant that offers it, this version was good but definitely not up to par with others I have sampled.           



My friend had the charred salmon served with a corn salsa and papas bravas (a fried potato dish topped with a romesco sauce).  The salmon was excellent!  Beautiful char on the outside, perfectly cooked in the middle and very flavourful!  The corn salsa was refreshing and complimented the salmon very nicely.  I enjoyed the papas bravas as well, really delicious.



My sister had the Cornish hen served in a deliciously falvoured tomato sauce and topped with a light mix greens salad.  This dish was well prepared and delicately flavoured.  We both really enjoyed it.  

The lunch menu at Lavanderia is continuously changing. The chef may use the same proteins but he prepares them in very different ways.  I like that concept, the ever changing menu means one can never get bored.  The chef must enjoy this concept as well, as his creativity can shine through each day.  


One night after our lunch at Lavanderia, my sister called my mother and I and invited us out for dinner on her.  She was dying for my mom to try the food and had an excellent excuse, she won a gift card at work and wanted to spend it on us!



It was a warm August night and we decided to sit out on the small intimate patio.  We started the meal with delicious gin cocktails.  It was crisp and delicious, so good that we all had two rounds!  We ordered up a couple of different salads to start.  The watermelon, cherry tomatoes, queso fresco and mint salad was sweet and refreshing.  The small touch of pickled red onions added the right amount of acidity to the dish.  



The Kale salad with grilled peaches, house made maple bacon and Parmesan cheese was a great salad.  The salads were eaten up quite quickly and then the mains arrived.



My mother had the catch of the day ceviche with fried corn, aji amarillo, sweet potato puree and fresh cilantro.  The dish was deliciously balanced, flavourful and reminded me of my favourite ceviche in South Beach.  




I had the grilled octopus served with white beans, crispy fennel, sun dried tomatoes capers and red onions.  The octopus had a delicious char flavour and was very tender.  I really enjoyed it.  The beans and fennel were a nice crispy and refreshing compliment to the octopus.  



The third dish we sampled was the sweetbreads and veal meatballs.  I expected this dish to be one of the heavier dishes at the table however to my surprise it was very delicate and light.  Was not like any other sweetbreads dish I have ever had and that is a good thing.  



We got a side order of yucca fries to share and they were absolutely perfect.  I hadn't had them in quite some time and I forgot how much I like them.  The sauce served along side them was light and tangy.  I really liked 



We finished off our meal with a light dessert.  The soft delicious pudding chômeur and ice cream dessert was the prefect way to end our dinner.  We had a wonderful dinner at Lavanderia.
Lavanderia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Nice

The French Riviera during the summer is sunny, hot and filled with absolutely gorgeous people.  My favourite part is sitting and drinking on the private beaches of Nice and eating at yummy little restaurants.  Walking to the beach from our cute modern apartment, consisted of a short stroll through Old town Nice.  The small narrow streets lined with small shops, delicious smelling restaurants and bakeries, made me hungry with each step I took.  



The first morning as we walked to Ponchettes beach, we stopped at a small bakery to grab some breakfast.  I had the brie cheese focaccia style bread.  There must have been a proper name for it but I didn't care.  I saw it, I pointed at it, I paid for it and I ate it - Delicious!  The texture of the bread was just perfect, the spices and cheese on top were just perfect, I could have eaten 10.  



My friend had the same type of breakfast bread, however she opted for the one with smoked salmon.  It too was absolutely delicious.  We sat, drank our cappuccinos and ate our breakfast while watching the hustle and bustle on the small streets of Old Town Nice.  


After a quick and delicious carb and caffeine filled breakfast, it was off to the beach.  We sat, swam and vegged out all day.  It was the perfect beach day, even those pesky painful rocks couldn't put a damper on our moods!  


After a long day at the beach, we headed back to our place but stopped on the way to grab a quick bite.  As we were walking through the streets of Old Nice, I smelled something so delicious and followed my nose to the most amazing sandwich I had ever seen.  A deliciously warm and fluffy "Piadina" bread filled with thin slices and parma prosciutto, shavings of parmesan cheese and a generous portion of fresh peppery arugula.  


I grabbed the sandwich to go and ate it the moment I got home.  The bread was perfect, the prosciutto even more so and the Parmesan and arugula, perfection!  The sandwich was so large that I was only able to consume half and put the rest in the fridge for later that evening as the perfect drunken late night snack.  

Cannes

Visiting Europe has always been a dream of mine. I have always wanted to travel all over, from city to city, exploring the culture of Europeans through the food they eat. This past April, I got a call from my best friend in Washington DC, and it changed my life.  She, a marketing guru, was asked by her boss to attend the Lions International Festival of Creativity in Cannes, France and immediately called me to ask me to join her. I was floored! Really, the south of France – OMG!! I couldn’t breathe I was so excited! I immediately accepted the offer and my part of the trip planning began – where to eat?



We planned out our stops quite quickly and then the food planning began. Meeting in Nice, Cote d’Azur was our first stop and the one I was most excited for, at first, but as the planning continued, so did my excitement. Nice, Cannes, Monaco, Florence and Rome – OMG!! The research was done and we were off, of course all that research was thrown out as soon as I landed in Nice. Restaurant recommendations came from locals and boy do they know good food.





The first day I arrived in Nice at 9 am, dropped my bags off and headed out to explore. First stop, coffee shop in old Nice. We sat outside, ordered up some coffees and sat people watching. The tiny streets crowded with so many interesting people served as the perfect background for the morning. Sipping delicious coffees and nibbling on buttery crispy croissants, I was finally settling into heaven. We walked the streets, explored many little shops and finally ended up back at our condo. Jet lag setting in, we showered and napped for a few hours before heading off to Cannes for dinner.



After a quick cab ride, we were in Cannes walking by the marina deciding on where to have our first dinner. I obviously wanted to stay away from all the touristy spots, so as per recommendations we grab a table at Le St Antoine. Even though this restaurant was smack in the touristy area, the food, service and ambiance was absolutely perfect.




Sitting outside with views of the marina, we decided to order up a feast, starting with the foie gras. A beautiful plate of creamy deliciously flavoured foie gras arrived just as my bottle of Pinot Noir was being uncorked. Olive oil grilled bread, fig confit and a delicate yet tart salad was the perfect way to begin my European adventure. I ate up the entire plate and drank half a bottle of the Pinot Noir, just in time for my main course to arrive.





Steamed mussels in a white wine sauce with fennel and celery continued my first European feast. These small flavourful little critters were so well flavoured and deliciously steamed. Tender and not over done, each and every mussel was full of flavour and not overcooked. I enjoyed as much of this large dish as possible, it was literally never ending.







After dinner we strolled along La Croisette and all along the marina gazing at the most beautiful yachts I had ever seen. It was also the last night of the Cannes Lions festival, parties and people everywhere, even live music right on the beach. We watched and listened for a while and then continued our stroll down the beach. 







At the end of our walk, the sky was ablaze with the most beautiful fireworks. As we waited for a cab, we watched in amazement at the beautiful colours and sparkling sky – The perfect ending to my first night in the South of France.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

La Belle et La Boeuf - Grilled cheese heaven!!

 Comfort food comes in all shapes and sizes and everyone has their own variation that they run to when in need.  My favourite comfort food has got to be a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.  There is something so damn delicious and cathartic about greasy bread pan fried in butter with ooey gooey cheese leaking out the centre dipped into a creamy rich tomato soup - pure heaven!  When I heard about these delicious and funky grilled cheeses at La Belle et La Boeuf, I knew I had to try them.




My friend and I headed over to the St. Catherine street location on a Wednesday night, grabbed a seat and ordered up some drinks and the pogo appetizer to start.  Fried, battered and on a stick, these little hot doggies (as I call them) were absolutely delicious.  I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of greasiness and scarfed a few down.



As the empty appetizer plate was taken away, our greasy comforting mains arrived.  I had the onions soup grilled cheese and my friend had the patty melt.  Beyond the flavour of onion soup in my grilled cheese, I really did not know what to expect, but as I took my first bite, I knew right away that this was a special grilled cheese.  The onions were caramelized and slow cooked in what I assume was a rich onion soup broth.  The sandwich encompassed the onion soup flavour perfectly and the gruyere cheese was the perfect touch.  I loved this grilled cheese and was so sad to finish it.  I have been dreaming of this sandwich ever since.  




My friend's patty melt was greasy, cheesy and delicious.  The beef patty was very juicy and flavourful and the cheese melted perfectly.  I think an important part of these sandwiches is the thick cut white bread they use.  The bread can withstand all the fillings thrown its way,  and it fries up perfectly soaking up the buttery oily goodness from what I assume is a flat top in the kitchen.  Hmmm, or maybe they use cast iron like I do... 


La Belle Et la Boeuf Burger Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato