Monday, April 9, 2012

Review: Dominion Square Tavern

How did it take me so long to get here? I remember working at CIBC across the street and seeing this place before, I think they used to have a sign that said they served pickled pig's foot or something like that. We were downtown Friday night and decided to try it out. My girlfriend had already been and told me she liked it. We get in and sit at the bar, which is seriously a beautiful place to have a glass and a meal at. Copper bar top, a nice rack of hanging cured meats, and a really good restoration job all around with old antique chipped mirrors and leaf shaped lamps. The bartender was very attentive to us even through all the complicated drink orders flying his way.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: Bocata

Bocata is a Spanish tapas wine bar in old Montreal that does it right. We were in the area last Friday and walked by this beautiful spot on our way to Venti hoping to get a table without a reservation. Thankfully we were unsuccessful in our try because we went to Bocata and got a nice little table. This was a perfect Friday night dinner for us and a great find. We'll be back for sure (and call for reservations this time!)

The place is nice and cozy, but yet there's still enough space for everybody without feeling like you're included in the conversations of the tables around you. The decor is very baroque and rustic with copper pans and iberico jamon hanging from the ceiling everywhere. One modern thing that is noticed when looking at the bar in but is very welcome is a cold storage for the "By the glass" bottles. This keeps all the bottles at a constant temperature and at the same time dispenses the exact amount (think of the donut system for drinks).They have a somelier on site that can help you go through the wine book (yes, a book!) and he helped us pick a Bordeaux that went well through our entire order.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: Joe Beef

Joe Beef used to be high on my list of places to hit in this city. Too much talk about it for years. Then the explosion, David Chang is talking about these guys and every NY chef mentions Joe Beef somewhere. We finally went last friday and I wanted to wait before writing this to see if my view would change once the dust settles. Basically, it was ok but I wouldn't really go back. 

Our reservation was taken at the right time, no tricky "Please sit at the bar while we get your table ready" BS move that we all usually go through. When we got seated, our very nice and helpful waitress (I didn't get her name) informed us that there's no paper menu, you have to read the chalkboard. This is fine and charming, but it was so dark that we had to get up and get near the bar to be able to read it (since the board's been erased a few times and is filled with chalk dust). The menu is a huge mess. Can't really understand what is a side dish vs an appetizer or a dessert. This part of the review might make you say "How old is this guy?" but i'm 35 and have better than 20/20 vision. I couldn't see it. When the waitress asked us if we had questions about the menu, I asked her about something, she looked up and even she had to walk to the bar to read it. So handwritten menus on the wall are nice and rustic, but make sure they can be read from further than an arm's length. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wine, cheese and coldcuts on the patio, that's living

This past Sunday was a gorgeous St-Patty's day, with 20 degree weather. Except Heather and I were looking to stay away from the green zombie crowds moaning "Beeeeeeeer" so that meant we couldn't enjoy the day like any normal Montrealer would, with a pint on a terrace somewhere. We decided to do our own thing and picked up some things, went back to my place and got the table out of the basement, plopped it outside on the back desk and enjoyed the warm sun.

Saturday we had picked up with fantastic loaf of bread from St-Denis street, corner of Cherrier. A place called Mammie Clafoutie or something like that. I can't exactly remember what it was called but the bread was excellent! Had a multi grain coating with a sourdough type of consistency. Very full flavour without being dry. So I pulled out my trusty cast-iron skillet, put it at high heat and waited to see some smoke. Put the slices of bread in the pan and put a heavy pot on top of it for a few seconds, just to make a nice little crostini. I can't believe I didn't have any garlic to rub on it. Oh well, next time! There's something so good about cast-iron grilled bread. Reminds me of the toast we'd eat on camping trips when I was growing up.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

David Chang's quick pickles

Momofuku quick pickles
This is the super simple Momofuku pickles that Chang uses in the pork buns. I make them at home and my girlfriend loves these things. We put them in burgers too. These are awesome when cold!

- Cucumber
- Salt
- Sugar
Recommended gear: Mandolin

He recommends getting Kirby pickles, but a standard English cucumber works fine. I slice about half of it on a mandolin. Leave the skin on, and do it super thin. Put them in a bowl and add sugar & salt, 3:1 ratio. Start with two tsp of salt, six of sugar. Mix it up. Put it in the fridge for 20 mins and then you can start to eat them.

Loosely taken from David Chang's Momofuku book.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How far would you travel for a plate?

Me hitting every street food vendor at a fair on 7th ave in NYC
We all have these crazy stories. Cross the city for a sandwich, road trip for a slice of pizza, whatever it may be. I've sat at Portugalia (on Rachel st near St-Laurent) which is a hole in the wall portugese chicken place and heard orders coming in by phone. People placing orders 3-4 hours in advance and coming in from Ottawa! Can you imagine driving 90 mins after work to come get a chicken to then drive it back another 90 mins and serve it to your family? That's pretty hard core and I love it! I drive back to my old neighborhood to get cold tomato pizza from the bakery I grew up next to. I thought this was common, but when I moved a little west of the city, I couldn't find anything as good as the tomato `za I grew up on. in high school we used to drive out east to Milano's cafe on Jarry to get a sausage sang'wich. It had to be from Milano's. Don't bother today, I think even the most hard core Italian in the city will admit it's just not the same as it used to be. For me it's the bread that isn't as good.

Then, with the same friends, we heard there was a Taco Bell opening in Brockville Ontario. That's 2 hours away. We didn't care. My friend borrowed his mother's truck and off we went in search of bad (bad bad bad) mexican food with Nirvana tapes blasting on the radio. We must've done this at least half a dozen times actually. It truly was a sad day for us when we got there and noticed that the TB had been replaced with a Tim Horton's. We drove around the town looking for it, in case it moved. It looked like two guys searching the streets for a lost dog.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: 40 Westt

Image from 40 Westt website
I love a good steak, but I'm very picky. My preference is to the rib steak, I love the extra flavour the bone gives it. I'm not a filet mignon fan, it's too easy to overcook. So my friends and I went to 40 Westt a few months back. It's a beautiful space, nice high ceilings, everything is spot on. Like a Vegas steakhouse minus the millionaire teenagers chasing the waitresses.The service was alright, not bad but not superb. Our waiter did the job and we'll leave it at that. The wine list was extensive and nicely varied. When I asked for a recommendation between two wines our waiter simply looked at the prices and said "I'd go for that one" pointing to the higher priced bottle. I asked why, and he said "I don't know, people seem to like it". So. Why did he not just call a somelier over? Why was my wine order taken by someone who doesn't know wine to begin with? I didn't push, I just shook my head and picked a completely different wine based only on the grapes.