Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ludger

Saint Henri has become one of my favourite neighbourhoods. Not only is it very close to me, it is also home to most of the cities hottest and best restaurant. From higher priced Joe Beef and Tuck Shop, to sandwiches at Campanelli's, these gems come in all shapes and sizes. One such gem on the corner of du Couvent and Notre Dame blew my mind. I had heard about Ludger's food, but never been nor seen the place.





Not knowing anything about the place, one could walk right by and never imagine that this happening bar serves up some delicious gourmet grub. Casual, almost dingy, would properly describe the decor at Ludger, but as the saying goes, “Never judge a book by its cover!” I am never one to judge restaurant by its looks, but I would have never believed the food coming out of their kitchen had I not been there myself. On a snowy February night, a few girlfriends and I set out to Ludger for a really late dinner.


Sauteed Vegetables.  I did not try them but my friends loved them


We sat at one of their banquet tables for four and waited patiently to order our drinks. Ludger has its menu on a chalk board hung high on the wall. I don’t mind this concept, however being half blind, not literally, it always takes me forever to piece together the menu. I really didn't even need to see the chalk board, our waitress knew her menu well and was able to not only tell me each item, she also suggested the perfect meal. My friends ordered a few dishes to share; polenta fries, a couple of orders of fried tofu and sautéed vegetables. After much debate, I decided on the bavette.





The fried tofu was really beautifully presented and perfectly delicious. The tofu was crispy on the outside and perfectly soft and firm on the inside. The spicy curry-Thai sauce complimented the fried tofu perfectly and added just the right touch of heat to the dish. Everyone at our table really enjoyed this dish, even though it was just tofu.




The polenta fries come six to an order and are accompanied by a light dipping sauce. Golden and crispy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside, Ludger’s polenta fries are a total must order. The creamy polenta was smooth and deliciously flavoured, these disappeared instantly at our table.





The bavette was served with a deliciously sweet yet savory onion confit, a bright Brussels sprout salad, pureed potatoes and a few delicious Jerusalem artichokes. The truly special element of this dish was the deep fried panko encrusted egg.  Set atop the bavete, this delicious crispy on the outside gooey on the inside egg added yet another touch that enhanced this dish and elevated it to a whole new level.  The bavette was cooked to a perfect medium rare and was quite enjoyable. Probably one of the best bavettes I have ever had. Tender and buttery are the only words that come to mind to describe this bavette. The onion confit paired perfectly with the tender flavourful meat. The side of Brussels sprouts was not what I was expecting. Shaved down into a cold vinegary salad, the Brussels sprouts were really refreshing and brightened up the dish. This really changed my outlook on how to serve Brussels sprouts as I enjoyed them much more than I ever thought I would. I loved every aspect of this plate and have been dreaming about it ever since. I think the success of this dish should not only be attributed to the flavours, but all the different textures as well. From sweet to vinegary and from tender to crunchy, this plate had all the right elements.



We finished up our delicious plates and decided to order a couple of desserts to end our meal. We decided to order the Beignet a l’erable and the butterscotch verrine. Both desserts were very appealing to the eye, however none of us actually enjoyed them. The beignet was very heavy and did not seem fresh. A little on the stale side and lacking flavour, we did not even realize it was a maple beignet. The butterscotch verrine was better than the beignet but still not as satisfying as we had hoped. I enjoyed the balance of texture but sadly the flavour of the butterscotch verrine was missing something.

The food at Ludger was so good that the disappointing dessert didn't even faze us. We all left full of delicious food and completely satisfied with our Girl’s night out. As we walked to our cars, we all agreed the Ludger was a hit, another gem in St. Henri.


Ludger on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 1, 2014

My Ceviche IS better than yours!!!

Whenever I have the opportunity to runaway to South Beach, I always prepare a list of all the restaurants I want to try. This past trip was no exception however My Ceviche wasn’t even on my radar until I arrived. Tucked away on Washington between 2nd and 3rd, this little gem blew me away. One morning on my walk of the marina, my mother and I decided to trek down Washington Ave., to try and find this tiny little place that Grace from the Miami Culinary tours had recommended. As we approached the small counter, I was given a menu and promised to return for lunch later that day. As soon as we got home, we headed to the pool and planned out what we were going to order. I knew exactly what I wanted, one of everything please!



It took us about an hour to narrow down our choices, not too bad considering all the delicious sounding options! If you order online My Ceviche offers an awesome promotion. Free chips and guacamole with any purchase of $25 or more – pure genius! Not sure how long they will be running this promo but I highly recommend taking advantage of it while it lasts. For the three of us, we ordered one large mixed ceviche “tradicional,” three grilled fish tacos, three raw tuna tacos, cilantro quinoa and of course the guacamole and chips.




At My Ceviche they offer three ceviche options; fish, shrimp or octopus. For an extra few bucks, they allow you to combine two or all three options. We combined all three - best idea ever! We decided to order the “tradicional” style ceviche which is flavoured with a blend of citrus juices, avocado, jalapeno, red onions, cilantro and tomatoes. Fresh and delicious are the only words I can think of that clearly depict what My Ceviche is all about. The citrus and jalapeno flavours complimented the fish and seafood beautifully. All three of us could not stop eating the ceviche and finished every last bit, including the juices. The house made spicy popcorn that accompanies the ceviche enhances the citrus flavours of the ceviche and is truly addicting.



Mixed Ceviche plate



Mixed Ceviche plate


The cilantro quinoa was really simple and mildly flavoured. It was the perfect side dish to the ceviche as it absorbed all the delicious flavours and accompanied the fresh fish beautifully.





Next we dug into the tacos. We ordered three grilled fish tacos and three raw tuna ones. Both orders came with their house made chips and your choice of sauces. We ordered a couple lime roasted jalapeno mayo and a couple salsa roja to accompany our chips and tacos. I served each of us a fish taco and drizzled some of the sauces on top for us to try. The sauces were ridiculously delicious and complimented the fish tacos really nicely. The fish was grilled perfectly and really fresh – no fishiness here! We enjoyed the fish tacos but nowhere near as much as the tuna ones we had next.



Grilled fish tacos and chips


Tacos - Yummm!

The tuna tacos were fresh, light and delicious. The lime roasted jalapeno mayo elevated this dish to a whole new level. The spice from the jalapeno and the citrusy lime flavour meshed beautifully together and brought out the fresh flavours of the dish. The pickled onions and radishes were the perfect contrast to the tuna, both in flavour and texture. We all really loved these tacos and as we finished, decided that the next day we were going back for more!



Tuna Tacos

The homemade chips and guacamole at My Ceviche are just perfect. The guac was fresh and perfectly done with flavours of citrus and spice. Smooth and creamy yet still chunky, this guacamole was a hit and we had no problem licking the container clean. The crispy and delicious spiced chips served not only as the crunch factor, but as the perfect side to the tacos and ceviche.





As we gobbled up the last bits of our delicious lunch, we started planning what we were going to order the next day. Like clockwork, the next day at around 1pm, I was standing outside My Ceviche waiting to pick up yet another delicious order of food. Their slogan, “My ceviche is better than yours,” is so true. Who needs De Rodriguez Cuba at the Hilton Bentley when My Ceviche is half the price and just as good if not better!







Octopus is loved by everyone in my family. Ceviche style, grilled or fried, I will eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. That being said, I obviously had to order the charred octopus tacos for my second lunch at My Ceviche. The charred octopus tacos were very special. The charred smokey flavour and tender not chewy octopus was out of this world amazing. Drizzled with the salsa roja and lime roasted jalapeno mayo, these bad boys are not to be missed.





Along with the charred octopus tacos, we also ordered more mixed ceviche, guacamole and chips and of course tuna tacos – delicious! This time we opted for the Aji Amarillo style ceviche, just as delicious as the Tradicional but a tad spicier. Everything was just perfect. I also ordered three grilled shrimp tacos for my father the non-Mexican food lover. He liked them so much that before I could even ask for a taste, all three tacos were gone. I was thrilled he enjoyed them so much but come on, not even one bite for me?


If you love fresh ingredients and delicious flavours, then My Ceviche is the place for you.  Cannot wait for my next visit.  



My Ceviche on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Icehouse

Montreal is known as a food city. New restaurants are opening all the time and somehow there is always room for more. Granted, many of these restaurants struggle to make it, while the rest seem to become overnight hot spots. One such Chef who has seen success with both his restaurants, he did sell one of them though, is Chef Nick Hodge of the former Kitchenette and his trendy casual hot spot, Icehouse.


Burritos, tacos, nachos really anything TexMex or Mexican is a must eat in my book. When you add seafood and Chef Nick’s skills to the mix, a new level of flavour is created. Icehouse is a small casual almost “Casse-Croute” style restaurant in the heart of the Plateau that serves up some of the best TexMex dishes in the city. I have to admit that I am in love with this place.





The restaurant was crowded when we arrived, as always, but we managed to grab two seats at the bar. The blackboard menu can be slightly overwhelming, but after a few minutes our waitress came by to help us out. Before contemplating what we wanted to eat, we ordered up some deliciously refreshing bourbon lemonades. The strong bourbon taste blended with a sour and refreshing lemonade is the perfect way to start any meal.







We started off our meal with a layered dip served with nachos. The dip was just what I expected, delicious. Nothing out of the ordinary though, just a really well made layered dip with fresh ingredients.




The jalapeno poppers were anything but ordinary. Nice large jalapenos stuffed with what I believe was a spiced cream cheese filling, breaded and deep fried, these spicy treats are a delicious way to start off your meal at Icehouse.




Personally, I had so much trouble deciding what to have, but thankfully our waitress was there to help. Crab cakes, fried chicken, tacos, burritos, I really couldn't decide. Our amazing waitress, she really was awesome, suggested I try the lobster burrito. She swore it is unlike anything I have ever eaten and promised I would love it. I listened and order one as my main. The massive wrapped burrito that was placed in front of me was nothing I had ever expected.



Grabbing the burrito in one hand and a napkin in the other, I took my first bite. I have to admit I was not immediately impressed, however as I dug in for the next bite, my mind was blown. Large chunks of properly cooked lobster meat, corn, black beans and other ingredients combined together with a sauce unlike any I have ever tasted, made for the best burrito I have ever had. Honestly, I thought it to be a work of art. Each bite was more delicious than the last – fantastic. I was not able to finish the large burrito, it is really huge, so my waitress suggested I take it to go. I was hesitant at first as I thought it would be too soggy to eat the next day, but I agreed and took it anyways. It actually was just as good the next day for lunch; boy was I glad I listened. 





My friend ordered the ribs. As I mentioned before, Icehouse is a very casual dining spot. So casual in fact, that as you sit down to eat, a waitress comes by with a clean slab of brown paper that acts as your plate. When the ribs arrived, the waitress dumped the bucket on the brown paper in front of us and we dug right in. The ribs were so tender that the meat just melted right off them. I really enjoyed the flavour of Icehouse’s ribs, and loved the touch of cilantro.



Coleslaw and potato salad was served alongside the ribs and to my surprise, I did not like either. I don’t know if it was the mixture of all the flavours I had already eaten, but I took one bite of each and they really were not for me.

We finished up eating and paid our bill. As we were walking out, I noticed our waitress grabbed a seat at the bar and she was wolfing down some delicious looking taco. I had to interrupt her and ask what exactly she was eating. Had I not been so full, I would have sat back down and ordered one myself. She referred to the taco as Nick’s special taco and advised me that it has not yet made it to the menu. Fried chicken, lobster, crab and other delicious ingredients all mixed together and shoved into a taco – speechless! I left the restaurant satisfied and excited for leftovers and my next visit.


Icehouse on Urbanspoon





Sunday, February 9, 2014

Restaurant Cho

A few weeks ago I bumped into an old friend standing in line at Wal-Mart. He mentioned to me that his brother had closed his restaurant and opened a new one with a few friends and suggested I check it out. I promised I would and we said our goodbyes as we both headed to different cashiers. Forgetting the name of the new restaurant, my best friend and I decided we had to check out Restaurant Cho. I called, booked a table for Saturday at 8pm and calmly waited for Saturday to arrive.


All week I couldn’t wait to try Cho as I kept hearing how amazing the food was and seeing all kinds of delicious pictures on Instagram. We parked across the street; parking is very easy on Notre-Dame, and trekked through the snowy street to enter the packed small and stylish restaurant. We were seated by one of the owners who turned out to be our waiter as well. I knew immediately that he was my friend’s brother and that we were in for a real treat.



Three of us sat reading the menu while waiting for two more to join. I had a huge problem; literally I could not decide what to order and wanted everything on the menu. Sitting and waiting for our friends, the door to the restaurant kept opening while other diners left and more kept coming in. This was little annoying as we were seated fairly close to the door and the chill from the outside kept creeping up on us. The owner/waiter kept apologizing and even closed the door when people were taking too long to go in or out – we really appreciated that! The rest of our party finally arrived and we all ordered drinks; Jameson and 7Up, gin and tonic and white wine all round.



BRAISED BEEF BAO


Ordering drinks was the easy part, deciding what to eat proved a little more difficult. Cho is a Japanese style tapas restaurant and all dished are meant to be shared, keeping that in mind we began ordering everything and anything we wanted. After much thought, we decided on braised beef bao, fried tofu bao, edamames, Cho’s kimchi poutine, lamb chops, teriyaki beef bavette, and salmon tartare. Yes, we were very hungry!


The first to arrive was the braised beef bao. Little folded steamed buns filled with deliciously flavoured braised beef, onions and cilantro. The beef was very tender and melt in your mouth delicious. The onions and cilantro complimented the flavour of the beef perfectly creating a delicious dish. I would have eaten three or four orders, but that would have left me full with no room to try Cho’s other dishes.
   


The edamames came to the table at the same time as the braised beef baos and we dug right in. The edamames are a simple dish, but at Cho, they spice them up just right. We all really loved the edamames, even though they were a tiny bit greasy.



CHO POUTINE

Kimchi, golden crisp French fries, Quebec cheese curds and a very delicious dark rich flavoured gravy, what more can one ask for? The Cho poutine was a must order, but none of us expected to enjoy it as much as we did. The flavours of the dish complimented each other perfectly creating one of the most delicious poutines I have ever tasted. We literally licked the bowl clean and even considered ordering another, but we knew we had a lot more food on the way.




FRIED TOFU BAO

Next came a few orders of the fried tofu bao. Like the braised beef version, these little pockets of love were out of this world delicious. I for one liked the beef ones better and even wished that they had a pork belly version as well. I mentioned to our waiter that they should offer more variations of these delicious pocket sandwiches, hopefully they will soon.




SALMON TARTARE


The salmon tartare was beautifully plated and served with house-made wonton chips. The Asian flavoured tartare was really good but I thought it was lacking something but couldn’t decide what it was. The Sesame flavour of the tartare was delicious, I felt as though a touch of heat was missing though. The salmon was very fresh and the crispy wonton chips complemented the soft tender tartare beautifully.   






The teriyaki beef bavette and tatake lamb chops arrived at the same time. I dug right into my lamb as I was the only one at the table who eats lamb; I know my friends are really lame eaters! The lamb was absolutely delicious. I was so enthralled with the lamb that I totally forgot to reach over and grab a bite of the bavette. From the mmmmms and awes coming from the right side of the table, I knew they were really enjoying the bavette, but I was too into my lamb to care. The lamp was nestled a top delicious Asian greens, asparagus and a delicious chimichurri sauce. I cannot wait to go back and order more of the lamb, besides the braised beef bao and the poutine, the lamb was my favourite of the night.







We ended the meal with Cho’s large chocolate chip cookie baked fresh to order and served hot a gooey with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. The cookie was absolutely delicious, I mean a giant cookie what’s not to love. The cookie was cooked just right and so large that it was the perfect size for five of us to share. I highly recommend this dessert!


Even though Restaurant Cho has only had its soft opening and not even offering their full menu, the food and service was on point – very impressed. At the end of the meal, we chatted with one of the owners who told us that they are adding to the main menu as well as adding brunch on weekends. My friends and I were instantly excited as we love brunch and promised we would re-visit in a few weeks to try out their brunch menu – can’t wait!    

Restaurant Chō on Urbanspoon



Sunday, February 2, 2014

SoBe - My Miami Culinary Tour Tale

A few months ago I received an email inviting me to the Miami Culinary tour. I had heard of these tours before and always wanted to go on the SoBe (south beach) tour but never had a chance. Living in Montreal, I only get to Miami for a couple of weeks a year so planning a culinary tour always takes a back seat – not anymore!

I graciously accepted the invitation and informed them that I would be in Sobe for the holidays. We set a date and on December 31, 2013.  I met Grace and the rest of my tour on 7th and Washington. Geared up for a fun day filled with food, we set out down the block to our first stop.


The Angler hotel is on Washington between 6th and 7th, set behind some trees and a beautiful garden. Grace my tour guide, informed us that Hemmingway used to frequent the bar at this boutique Sobe hotel. We all sat in the lounge/bar area and introduced ourselves. Before setting off on our tour, we all enjoyed a simple amuse-bouche of dates stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in prosciutto and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.


 I like dates, I love blue cheese and I adore prosciutto but this bite had no flavour except for sweet. The sweetness of the date over powered the blue cheese and prosciutto completely, even the balsamic reduction was too sweet. I really was not impressed.   
660 at The Angler's on Urbanspoon




We left The Angler and crossed Washington to enter Bolivar, an authentic Columbian-inspired Latin restaurant. Latin flavours are one of my favourites, so many to choose from in Sobe, but Bolivar turns it up another notch by harmonizing so many different Latin flavours. From authentic ingredients, Bolivar brings Columbian, Peruvian and Venezuelan flare to life. The first item served was an authentic Refajo, Columbian beer similar in taste to Heineken, poured with a delicious cream soda. This deep orange drink was not overly sweet nor did it taste like beer, I really loved this drink. I liked it so much that I had two refills – delicious and refreshing.




As I sipped my Refajo, out came a plate of three items. The first I recognized immediately as an empanada, the second was a spicy green sauce called Aji and the third item left me stumped. Thanks to Grace I quickly learnt that the third item was called a Patacone de pollo which is mashed green plantain deep fried and topped with shredded spicy chicken and Parmesan cheese.



The empanada was filled with beef and smoked mashed potato – incredible. This empanada was served Columbian style and deep fried rather than baked as some other Latin cultures tend to do. The filling was bursting with flavour and the dough was crispy yet not greasy at all. Grace informed us that the Aji sauce is very spicy and is to be poured on top of the empanada. Spicy and flavourful the Aji is enough to blow anyone’s socks off, but it was really delicious and added more depth and flavour to the empanada.

I love fried plantains, sweet or green there is something so comforting about them. As I bit into the Patacone de Pollo I instantly fell in love. Crispy not greasy the base of fried green plantains is the perfect complement to the shredded spicy chicken and salty Parmesan cheese. The Patacone embodied what Latin food is all about, fun fresh and spicy ingredients that blend beautifully together creating the perfect balance of flavours in one dish. I really enjoyed that about the food we sampled at Bolivar, everything was fresh and very flavourful all complimenting each other and not over-powering – delicious!  
Bolivar on Urbanspoon




The group seemed to really enjoy the food at Bolivar and soon we had finished it all. I left full and completely satisfied, the only thing missing was something sweet. This brings us to our next stop just next door to Bolivar, Manolo. Manolo is an authentic Argentinean restaurant and bakery serving up some delicious smelling food. We stopped here quickly just to grab a dulce de leche Churro to go. A churro is a latin version of a doughnut, well not quite, but that’s the easiest way to explain it.


Fried sticks of dough sprinkled with sugar that can be plain or stuffed with a filling. At Monolo’s, they make their Churros stuffed with Dulce de Leche. I had never had a churro before and was extremely excited to try one – boy was I surprised. To be honest I was not a fan at all. The dough was crispy on the outside and undercooked on the inside, I really did not enjoy the filling either. I found the Dulce de Leche to have absolutely no flavour, not even sweet. I guess a churro is not for me as everyone else seemed to enjoy it.        
Manolo on Urbanspoon



We walked eating our churros while Grace took us on a small tour of Sobe. She explained the importance of Art Deco and the history of Sobe. Even though I don’t consider myself to be a tourist in Sobe, I learned a lot from Grace and really enjoyed her passion for it’s history. We walked down to Ocean drive and up again towards Collins and 11th where we stopped for a traditional Cuban coffee. I myself am a huge lover of Cuban coffee and frequent Las Olas cafe every single morning when I am in Sobe, but had never had one at David’s cafe. Grace took us to the walk up counter, a sure sign that this is an authentic Cuban cafe, and ordered up some cafe Cubano. Cafe Cubano is a Cuban version of an espresso but in my opinion way more delicious. Served in a small espresso cup with several smaller “shot” glasses to share, Cuban coffee time is meant to be shared and enjoyed with all. If you have never had a cafe Cubano or a cortadito (espresso with some steamed milk) or a cafe con leche (coffee with milk) then you really are missing out! The coffee is never bitter and always served sweet, Cubans love their sugar. This coffee is not suggested for those who normally enjoy decaf or that brown water that some call “coffee” from Tim Hortons, only true coffee lovers will enjoy this coffee!
David's Café on Urbanspoon







After our boost of java, it was onto bigger and better things, a stop at Jerry’s deli for some authentic and delicious Jewish Rugelach. Rugelach is a cream cheese dough cookie that traditionally is stuffed with chocolate or cinnamon, very similar in shape to a very mini croissant. 



At Jerry’s Deli, we sampled their apricot raisin Rugelach. The Rugelach was one of the best commercially made ones I have ever had, still it does not compare to my Father’s Rugelach, but good enough that I brought my Father back there a few days later to sample them for himself.
Jerry's Famous Deli on Urbanspoon




Pizza is no stranger to Sobe. Every second or third restaurant on Washington is a pizza place or serves pizza. I have been a fan of a few pizza spots, however none compare to the next stop on my Culinary Tour. Blocks Pizza Deli is a family owned and operated dine-in or take-out resto that serves up authentic Roman style pizzas and sandwiches or pockets as they call them. 



As we entered this little pizzeria, I knew immediately that we were in for a real treat. Using 300 year old starter for their dough, the pizza at Blocks is different from anything I have ever tasted before. Fresh never frozen ingredients, they even have a sign stating they have no freezer, really makes their pizza, calzones and sandwiches stand out amongst others. 



The dough is crispy and full of flavour, really something special. Grace passed around their sun-dried tomato hippie pocket which is made on their pizza dough and filled with pesto, feta cheese, kalamata olives and fresh spinach – out of this world amazing! So good that a few days after the Miami Culinary Tour, I brought my family back with me and we enjoyed more of their delicious food. OK so we came back 2 days in a row, but isn't that what you do when the food is really good?
Blocks Pizza Deli on Urbanspoon





As soon as we left Blocks Pizza deli, I was so full that I thought I couldn’t eat another bite – oh was I wrong. Our next stop was a Venezuelan bakery named Charlotte’s Bakery. We entered the small bakery and were immediately served chicken empanadas. Different from Argentinean or Columbian empanadas that we had at Bolivar, this version was baked not fried and served with a delicious fresh avocado and cilantro sauce. That’s what I love about Latin food; each culture has their own individual spin on the same dish. 


I loved this version of an empanada even more than the fried version. The baked dough was crispy on the outside and soft and flaky on the inside – pure goodness. The chicken filling was spiced just right and was perfectly complimented by the delicious avocado cilantro sauce. The more sauce I put, the better the empanada was – my favourite of the day. The sauce was truly simple but managed to elevate the flavours of the empanada to a whole new taste level. I also re-visited this bakery with my family and they all agreed that these empanadas were scrumptious.
Charlotte Bakery on Urbanspoon





I finished my empanada and was offered another one, I would have loved to but I was so full I could barely even stand – food coma. I felt my body begin to fall into a deep food coma and the tour wasn’t even finished yet, we still had one last stop – Milani Gelateria. As authentic as you can get in Sobe, Milani Gelateria serves up some of the most delicious gelato I have ever sampled. Milani’s has a beautiful gelato rotating freezer that showcases all the flavours they offer each day. I would love one of those freezers in my kitchen! After all the food I sampled that day, a tiny bite of gelato was a must, even if I thought I was going to explode. I ordered up a sample of their Bacio flavour and was blown away. The creaminess and bold flavours was perfect and truly delicious.






We gathered outside and finished off our samples of gelato. I had a few minutes to chat with Grace and thank her for the amazing tour. I also took this opportunity to ask for more restaurant recommendations and boy did she have a few amazing ones. I highly recommend this tour to anyone who loves to eat – be sure to bring your appetites!

Milani Gelateria on Urbanspoon