Tuesday, April 7, 2015

My Ceviche - My Happy Place

South Beach is not only known for hot weather and bikinis, the food scene is quite spectacular as well. There is a very diverse food culture in Miami, especially when it comes to Latin food. From Venezuelan empanadas to Columbian patacones and the delicious flavours of Cuba, Spain and Mexico, South Beach has it all.   That being said, My Ceviche has got to be the best restaurant in town!  Not only is the food consistently fresh, the flavours are what Miami Beach is all about!

For this trip to Miami, I was so excited to land, drop my bags off at the condo and run the 3 blocks to My Ceviche's South Beach location.  I wasn't able to do that as my flight landed pretty late, but the next day like clockwork I was at the counter picking up dinner.  

We ordered a few of our favourites, ok half the menu, and ran back to our place to devour our delicious feast.  Raw tuna tacos, mixed fish ceviche and of course my all-time favourite, charred octopus tacos.  We literally ran home with a delicious bottle of wine and sat and feasted for a good hour - we really took our time!

I am not sure if this is possible as I loved My Ceviche so much last year, but this time I swear the food was ten times better.  It is so refreshing to return to a restaurant and not only consistently enjoy delicious food, but to like the food so much more than you originally remembered.  With each bite, my sister and I felt more and more like we died and went to food heaven - no joke!

Every dish we ordered was fresh, delicious and oh so flavourful, but there is something so special about their charred octopus tacos.  Not only is the octopus always cooked to perfection, the charred flavour is so good I cannot even begin to describe it.  This is a must try dish and hands down the best taco I have ever tasted!  They offer different sauces to accompany your tacos, I always stick to my two faves; salsa roja and their perfectly spicy lime roasted jalapeño mayo - literally to die for!  The charred smokey flavour of the tender octopus harmonized with the pickled onions, radishes and queso fresco, makes for one perfect taco!  

I love raw tuna, it is one of my favourite sashimis and tartar, so I always order some raw tuna tacos at My Ceviche.  The fresh fish is always so perfectly sliced and so delicious.  The mild fresh fish flavour is never overpowered by the delicate toppings; they compliment each other perfectly creating the ultimate tasty treat.  

Ceviche is hands down my favourite way to enjoy fish.  I mean what is not to love?  Citrus, spicy peppers and tasty fish, what more can one ask for?  Aji Amarillo is a spicy pepper used mainly in Peruvian cuisine, but more recently, this pepper started to appear in more and more types of cuisines.  At My Cevishe, Aji Amarillo is the name of my go to ceviche; a mix of citrus juices (lime, lemon and orange), ginger and of course, Aji Amarillo peppers.  

I have trouble describing the flavour that this delicate combination of ingredients creates.  The citrus is not over powering, nor is the spice from the peppers; the balance makes for a perfect and oh-so-tasty dish.  I have eaten ceviches in many restaurants and I keep comparing them to that of My Ceviche's.  For some reason, My Ceviche always wins.  The freshness, flavour combinations and little extras, all work together beautifully creating a superb ceviche treat.

After we devoured each and every bite, it was time to relax.  We sat comfortably satiated from the meal we had just devoured and began planning our next evening's dinner.  Yes, we ate at My Ceviche for four nights in a row.  Must be some kind of record, no?  By my last evening before my departure back to the cold, I had officially become My Ceviche South Beach's favourite and most loyal customer - YAY!  Now if they would only allow me to open one here in Montreal ... 

My Ceviche on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Uniburger: What a Burger!

One of my fondest memories of my childhood is being up north at my parent’s country house playing on the lawn while my Dad BBQued dinner. We used that charcoal Webber like it was going out of style. I loved to help my Dad, but I always knew I had to stay far away from the fire. I would bring him the meat, or a clean plate to put the cooked burgers or steaks on, all the while staying far away from the actual BBQ. One of our favourite dinners, besides a good rib steak, was burgers. Oh how I love a good hamburger (or cheeseburger)!

I had heard amazing things about the burgers at Uniburger. Classic all meat patty, fresh topping and a killer bun what’s not to fall in love with? One night after a long tiring day at work, my friend and I headed over to the Cote-des-Neiges location and ordered up a couple of burgers, fries and drinks!

There is no real vibe to the grungy, casual decor at Uniburger, it just feels like a burger joint. We grabbed a seat at one of the bench tables, filled our cups with Orange crush and sat sipping our drinks till our burgers and fries were ready. It didn’t take long for two picture perfect burgers and crispy fries to be arrive, and as soon as they were, we dug right in.

This is the only burger place I can think of that takes such pride in executing identical and perfect burgers. The burger was picture perfect and tasted even better than it looked. The burger screamed fresh meat, the toppings were just perfect and the delicious potato bun that held it all together was on point – No soggy mess here!  I especially loved how each burger is made fresh and can take about fifteen minutes for your order to be ready.  The fries were perfectly on point as well.  Crispy and not greasy, just really good fries.  

I really enjoyed Uniburger, so much so that I have been back quite a few times since.  For a damn good burger and fries, Uniburger has become my go to place, and it's so cheap!  Next time, I got to try a shake!
Uniburger on Urbanspoon

L'Gros Luxe - dinner at the bar is always better!!

Grilled cheese, poutine, fish ‘n chips, what more could one want to accompany a damn good drink on a girl’s night? That is exactly what my best friend and I were hoping for on our last girl’s night before her husband returned from a business trip. We both had heard all the buzz about L’Gros Luxe and decided we had to head over and try it out for ourselves.

We decided to stop by the Bernard location and quickly grabbed two seats at the bar. We love sitting at the bar, not only is it fun to chat with the people sitting next to you, but the bartenders always make the night that much better. This night, we had two very entertaining men to the left of us and had a blast debating what to order with them. First things first, we had to order drinks!

I started the night with their “Brody Dalle,” a gin cocktail with Campari, lime syrup, raspberries and basil. My friend had “Le Pickle,” a gin martini with a dose of dill pickle juice. Both drinks were strong but still delicious. Despite having a tad too much pickle juice, my friend still enjoyed “Le Pickle.” Her only comment as she sipped her martini was thank goodness she loved pickles otherwise this drink would be awful. My drink was bitter, sweet and delicious, just the way i like it.

We then ordered up what we thought was going to be a feast. We had the evening special, tater-tot poutine, and crispy fish tacos. The plates arrived quite quickly and we both started to eat. The first thing I noticed was how small everything seems to be. The special that evening was a Portobello mushrooms slow-braised served on a brioche bun with an olive tapenade, melted brie cheese and arugula. My friend and I had decided to share everything and as I bit into my half of the Portobello burger I had high hopes for this meal. The Portobello was tender, flavourful and absolutely delicious. Paired with the melted brie, saltiness from the olive tapenade and fresh peppery arugula, this burger was really damn good. The side salad lacked a lot to say the least. Flimsy mixed lettuce, one little cherry tomato and maybe there was a dressing, but I definitely did not taste nor see any. Oh well, I thought, I definitely did not come to have a salad.

Next we sampled the fried fish tacos. First thoughts, where are the tacos? When I say there were small, I mean they were tiny. Literally a two bite taco – no joke! That being said, they were only $2.50 so I really didn’t have a real complaint. As I bit into the taco all I tasted was fried, no other flavours at all. No lime, no cilantro no taste of miso mayo and definitely no pickled veggies, nothing but fried. We were both shocked and disappointed. The cod was cooked perfectly though, tender and flaky with a nicely crispy fried crust, but no flavour whatsoever.

The tater-tot poutine was the one dish I had heard great things about and I was eager to taste it for myself. At first glance the dish looked perfect to me; cheese curds, crispy tater-tots, green onions and a perfect portion of gravy smothered all over. The tots were still very crispy and not soggy which I really enjoyed, but I found the gravy to be lacking flavour. The green onions were a nice touch but very overpowering, there were way too many of them. A small sprinkling would have been sufficient, but with each bite all I tasted was green onions. Again, we were both a little disappointed with this dish, but loved the idea behind it.

As we finished our first round of drinks, we ordered another. This time I went for the “El Diablo” a tequila cocktail with lime juice, triple sec and Pimm’s No 1 gingerale. This drink is now my favourite. Crisp, refreshing and absolutely delicious, I loved this drink!  The perfect balance of tequila, gingerale and lime – outstanding! My friend had the “Madame Luxe,” a gin cocktail with Lillet, basil, cucumber and soda. She too thought her drink was divine, and it was.

As we sat chatting with the fellows next to us, my friend was completely unsatisfied and wanted to order something else to eat. We decided on the plain grilled cheese and fries. The guys next to us also felt the need for something else and ordered up another dish. The grilled cheese arrived and damn it was good. The perfect blend of cheeses, crispy not greasy bread and delicious fries, we were both finally satisfied. The guys too seemed to enjoy whatever it was they ordered.  Of course by the time the grilled cheese arrived I was too tipsy to remember to snap a pic, you'll just have to imagine it!

Then it was time for dessert, not being a huge dessert lover, I let my friend choose what we should get. Deep fried cookie dough, of course! A slab of cookie dough battered and deep fried, what could go wrong? Well to me, everything was wrong with this dish. The fried battered was awful and the cookie dough was mushy – not for me at all!

We had a fun evening at L’Gros Luxe, and I will definitely be back for more drinks, but the food wasn’t too spectacular. There is so much potential, just needs a little tweaking.

L'Gros Luxe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Brunching on a whole new level at Suwu

Brunch has officially been re-invented. Pancakes, French toast and fried eggs have somehow magically transformed to elaborate dishes consisting of some of the most exquisite, and might I say expensive, ingredients. One such lover of re-inventing brunch is none other than Montreal based Chef Antony Nassif. I have been following this young Chef on Instagram and Facebook for a while and he consistently surprises me with his insanely creative dishes that he posts so often. The other day while glancing on Facebook, I noticed he was doing a brunch special at Suwu and I knew I had to have it.

My friend and I arrived on a busy Saturday morning and chose to sit at the bar to watch the action in the kitchen, plus the place was so crowded, we thought the bar would be the best option. As we sat down, menus were quickly provided and the friendly bartender made us feel welcome instantly. He let us know the specials of the day which immediately caused me some heartache; how was I supposed to choose between a slow braised breakfast lamb shawarma and a smoked brisket hash with foie gras and truffle?

We ordered the doughnuts to start while I contemplated what I was going to eat. My friend knew she wanted the All-dressed MTL bagel and that definitely didn’t help my situation. At the last moment I went for it and decided to order both dishes – Food coma here I come!

The doughnut arrived quite quickly and was stuffed with a delicious house made berry jam (I thought it was raspberry but not 100% sure), creamy peanut butter and topped with a deliciously sweet glaze and coloured sprinkles. Cut in half and skewered with a strawberry on top, this doughnut was divine. The doughnut itself was just perfect. Soft, chewy and creamy with the perfect glaze and crunch from the sprinkles made me really love this doughnut. The ratio of peanut butter to jam was just perfect; not too sweet nor was the jam overpowered by the peanut butter – heaven!

After we devoured the dessert, it was time for the real food and a second cup of coffee. First my shawarma arrived casual style and I dug right in. The first bite blew my mind. I guess Chef Antony really knows what he’s doing because I have never had a more flavourful shawarma in my life. The crispy slaw, the crunchy pickled turnips and a fried egg, all pulled together to elevate this shawarma to a whole new level. From the tender lamb to the rich not overpowering garlic sauce, I now see why this shawarma made its way onto Suwu’s dinner menu – minus the fried egg of course.

Then out of nowhere, the largest breakfast dish I have ever seen appeared in front of me. Terrified that I was going to pass out from all the food, I slowly put down the shawarma and reached for my fork. As I took the first bite from the gigantic cast iron pan, I started to feel weak at the knees. This breakfast hash was in a class of its own. The truffle, grand des champs cheese and foie gras incorporated with eggs, breakfast potatoes and brisket made this dish truly special. Each bite incorporated flavours from each element of the dish creating little bites of pure deliciousness. My only problem with this dish was how big it was, but that worked to my benefit as I took the leftovers home and it re-heated perfectly – Amazing!

We sat at the bar sipping our coffees and digesting the feast we had just devoured. The bartender kept us entertained and we really had a great time chatting with him. Sitting at the bar was the best idea ever, not only did we have a clear view of the madness going on in the kitchen, but the bartender let us taste his creations and the service was pretty damn good too. This brunch is really going to be hard to top, can’t wait to see what Chef Antony will come up with next!

SuWu on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Blue Ribbon Sushi - Las Vegas

Vegas is one of my favourite cities. Not because of all the parties or the fact that you can drink anywhere and everywhere, ok because of that too, but the food scene in Vegas is one of my favourites. From Bobby Flay to Mario Batali, this city is where you will find so many restaurants owned by so many acclaimed and “Celebrity” chefs. Right before I turned 30, one of my oldest and closest friends and I decided we needed a pre-birthday bash. We booked our flights, booked our hotel and headed to the airport three days later – Girl’s trip!

I arrived in Vegas at 5pm on a Saturday night and headed straight for my hotel. I checked myself and my friend into the Cosmopolitan and headed up to our room. My friend wasn’t due to arrive until later that evening, so I quickly showered and decided to explore and grab a drink. After about an hour or so of drinking and flirting with some really cute guys, my tummy started to rumble – Feed me!! I asked around and was quickly told to try Blue Ribbon Sushi upstairs in the hotel. I could not resist and headed upstairs to the restaurant.

I arrived at the restaurant and opted to grab a seat at the sushi bar, always the best spot when dining solo. I was greeted by the head sushi chef, a few waiters and a couple other patrons eating at the sushi bar. I quickly ordered a beer and chatted with my fellow sushi eaters. I grasped that this was going to be a delicious yet expensive meal as most of the sushi rolls were double the price of any place I had ever been to, but I was in Vegas and could not care one bit.

I ordered up three rolls of sushi to start; the California roll with blue crab, spicy tuna with tempura flakes and last but definitely not least, as per the chef’s recommendation; I ordered the special shrimp tempura roll with red tuna. As I sat at the bar talking and drinking, I realized that I was beyond drunk and desperately needed to eat something. As I looked over, a beautifully presented board of sushi was placed in front of me. The rolls were perfectly uniform and deliciously appetizing, so naturally I dug right in.

The California roll was the first bite I took. The blue crab in the center of the roll was delicious, fresh and plump. The crab elevated this simple sushi roll to new levels and the buttery and rich texture and flavour of the avocado complimented the crab perfectly. It craved some spiciness so naturally I ordered a spicy mayo to accompany this roll.

The spicy tuna and crispy flakes was just what I expected; fresh tuna, a deliciously spiced sauce with a zing to it and crispy tempura flakes. Spicy tuna is one of my favourite sushi rolls; this one was delicious.

The last roll I devoured was the special shrimp tempura and red tuna roll. This one was hands down my favourite, but had I not been in Vegas, I would never pay $24 for this roll. It was a classic shrimp tempura roll with red tuna and sprouts, really not worth the price tag but it was delicious.

I enjoyed my sushi and dining company for about an hour or so, and then asked for the bill. I walked out of the restaurant satisfied, the perfect beginning to an incredibly insane pre-birthday weekend.

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The New SuWu!

About a year ago I was invited to try Suwu. I went, I ate, I enjoyed. I visited a few times after my initial visit, but my experiences were never the same. Burnt food, thirty minutes for drinks, rude waiter and how about that time I ordered drinks and food only to be told forty minutes later that they closed the kitchen ... ??? When I heard SuWu was re-vamping its kitchen, I had high hopes, especially when I learnt who would be in the kitchen!

Brunch is my favourite time of the week. I am always looking for new brunch spots so a few Saturdays ago, my friends and I decided to give Suwu’s new menu a shot. We arrived and were seated quickly. The restaurant was busy but we walked in just as another table was leaving. I knew right away what I wanted to order, the MTL all dressed bagel, but the other options on the menu also begged to be ordered. 

The service was not the best, I think they need to re-train their entire front of the house, but the food was on point! The waiter seemed very confused as to how he should serve our table. We eventually were able to place our order but not before waiting for quite some time. 
The waiter arrived and we all ordered the exact same dish, the all dressed Mtl bagel, but I decided to order a side of their sausage of the day. We also decided to try the PB&J doughnut sandwich but without any bananas or bacon. We got our first cups of coffee quite quickly, but getting a re-fill was another story. The staff seemed frazzled and very confused as to what they should be doing. I have seen this a few times at SuWu, even the following Saturday when we went back for more, the restaurant was completely empty and we still had to wait and wait for a waitress to pay us any attention.

Brunch began with dessert; two soft and delicious Polish Pontchki donuts sandwich together with peanut butter and a house-made jelly. The donuts were light, fluffy and delicious. The house-made jelly was perfect contrast to the rich peanut butter. We liked the donuts but I thought they could use more jelly.

Our brunch arrived relatively quickly and boy was it good. The bagel was fresh and shmeared perfectly with their delicious house made pimento cream cheese and layered with tomatoes, red cabbage slaw, house smoked salmon, a fried quail egg and deliciously salty black caviar. The plate is served with their home-fries which are jam packed with flavor and soft yet crispy and delicious.  The house-smoked salmon was fresh and delicately flavoured, we all agreed that the salmon was one of the bests we've had.

We all really enjoyed our brunch and all agreed that it was the best bagel, lox and cream cheese we have ever had except for one fact, there was no onion! Maybe it’s the Jew in me but a true bagel, lox and cream cheese must always have onions. Next time I know to order a few slices on the side. Even with that said, the dish was absolutely perfect.

The house sausage of the day was pork shoulder stuffed with sausage and slow braised with fennel. The meat was a bit on the fatty side, but the flavor was outrageous. I can honestly say that I have never in my life had such a flavourful “sausage.” The meat was tender, the flavor and smells emanating from this juicy piece of meat were indescribable. The only thing I can say is you must order the sausage. You won’t regret it and you may never taste something like that ever again.

After having enjoyed brunch twice this month at SuWu, I cannot wait to go back and try their new dinner menu. Let’s just hope the wait staff is better next time!

SuWu on Urbanspoon

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