You’ve already heard the hype. You don’t need me to tell you that Jeffrey Finkelstein has an impressive resumé of work experience at world famous restaurants Noma, El Bulli and French Laundry and that he’s set up shop here in Montreal. You know that the bread from his Hof Kelsten has fed diners at likes of Le Filet, Club Chasse et Peche, Toqué, Dominion Square Tavern, Nora Gray, Joe Beef, Toqué and Les 400 Coups because you’ve already tasted it. Yes, you can breath a sigh of relief. We’re finally in on secret source of good bread in this city.
Frequently referred to as “that other pho spot on Ossington” by Torontonians, Pho Tien Thanh holds its own in a city where pho shops are a hot commodity. As most pho places are wont to operate, the food arrives quickly and piping hot, all to the ambient background sounds of slurping and sipping with minimal chatter to be heard. As per norm, cash only.
Toronto’s got a thing for elevated comfort food. Rose & Sons is at risk of being missed among the likes of Bestellen and Farmhouse Tavern. Everything about it feels overwhelmingly akin to Montreal’s Nouveau Palais. From the vintage diner style booths to the smart, focused cocktail menu. Walking into Rose & Sons felt right at home for two Montrealers.
As one of the most multicultural cities in the world, Toronto is home to a large population of new immigrants, most notably from East and South East Asia. Communities have settled across the GTA, setting up restaurants and businesses that fuse old culture with new culture, bringing elements of “back home” to Toronto life in surprising and delicious ways – cue the multitude of Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican restaurants (the list goes on) that define the city. It’s no surprise then that a wealth of top notch Japanese restaurants can be found in Toronto.
Le Serpent is Montreal’s newest restaurant from owners Hubert Marsolais and Claude Pelletier of Club Chasse et Pêche and Le Filet. Given the management’s pedigree – Le Serpent has a considerable amount of hype and expectation behind it already.
Another successful restaurant import from Vancouver, Kingyo has made it to the Toronto food scene, following in the footsteps of Guu Isakaya and Sakabar, Kinton Ramen, Ramen Raijin and others. Located in the East end of Toronto, Kingyo Isakaya has got a distinct vibe that differentiates itself from its competitors. Instead of the typically cramped quarters and loud, boisterous atmosphere found in many isakayas, Kingyo gives its customers breathing room and a little more leeway for a normal noise level of conversation.
Lil’ Baci Taverna is that sweet neighbourhood spot you wish you had. It’s got this comfortable low key, local vibe that makes you feel right at home. With the smell of freshly baked bread and eggs in the air, friendly servers that seem impossibly perky on Sunday mornings, it’s hard not to smile and feel at ease.
We first discovered Brasero Hardi during a winter Dishcrawl and the six hour marinated spare ribs on top of pork lardon mashed potatoes and house smoked salmon on top of horseradish panna cotta was definitely a highlight of the evening.
So, when you think of Liberty Village, what comes to mind? For me, the words “yuppie” and “bougie” take the forefront. You’ve got pricy home decor shops (fun to browse, I won’t lie), fitness gyms, smoothie bars and brunch restaurants all within a stone’s throw from one another. New residential condo projects surround the insular village and as a visitor, there isn’t much of a draw to the gentrified neighbourhood. One place that does make this place worth coming to is Mildred’s Temple Kitchen.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure everyone loves a good bowl of pho. It’s got this warm, comforting flavour that makes you feel right again, or at least helps you along the way to getting there (esp key in winter). The broth is usually made from simmered beef bones, oxtails and onions but unsurprisingly, every pho establishment ends up with a different final product, some preferring to use more onion for flavour, while others rely more heavily on spices like ginger and cinnamon. In terms of toppings and add-ins, the offerings are typically bean sprouts, Thai basil leaves, red chili and a selection of various sauces. I like mine with extra lime, extra bean sprouts and a touch of sriracha.
Since Alex and I now live in different cities, we decided to meet up in New York for a little weekend getaway. Where better than New York City to sightsee, eat good food and drink even better cocktails?
Well, I mean because Paris. And obviously Ladurée.
Electric Mud BBQ in Toronto is the BBQ counterpart to the legendary Grand Electric taco restaurant located around the corner. Holding the crown for the best taco spot in a city with no shortage of superb competition (see La Carnita) is no small feat. We have to admit that we walked into in Electric Mud BBQ with great expectations inherited from it’s elder sibling.
Don’t get it wrong – Chez Chegrouni is not just another restaurant coasting on the laurels of the popular UNESCO ordained cultural heritage site, Jemaa El Fna. In fact, it is one of the most visited restaurants in the square, and for good reason too. Serving simple Moroccan fare for very reasonable prices, the restaurant boasts sprawling panoramic views from a terrasse upstairs as well as ground level views on a smaller patio at the front of the restaurant. There is a no reservation policy in effect so as a result, you will most likely see a line outside the restaurant and believe me, people wait. According to Conde Nast Traveller, even Michelin star chefs wait their turn, which says something.
From the outside, the doors to this 17th century palace look worn and nondescript, easy to miss to the unsuspecting eye. Located amongst specialty herb stores, leather makers and fresh orange juice vendors, Dar Essalam is marked only by a small placard that means almost nothing to outsiders. During the day, shadows cast by the makeshift straw roofing across the path through to Jemaa El Fna or “the big square” as the locals tell us, keep its presence relatively low key. Tipped off by the internet and a few friends, we paid a visit to the historic restaurant and were very literally led into another world.
By day, Jemma El Fna is populated primarily by orange juice vendors, snake charmers and monkey owners who offer their pets up for photos in exchange for a few dirham. Our time in Marrakech happened to coincide with Ramadan and the hottest time of the year. Walking through the square during the day was like wading through a thick, hazy hot mess. The air literally felt like it was on fire – any moment bare skin was exposed to direct sunlight, it felt like getting a first degree burn. To give you an idea of what we were dealing with at the time, temperatures hit highs of around fifty degrees.
To be honest, we stumbled upon Café des 2 Moulins. As a big Amèlie Poulain fan, should I be embarrassed? Walking around the beautiful Montmartre area after seeing the basilique Sacré Coeur, we strolled around the area and found the cafe organically. After Amèlie came out in 2001, the café has become a huge tourist destination, somewhat of a homage spot to the film and the story itself. The café has a typically Parisian feel – as soon as you walk in, you notice there’s something special about the place, from the bar to the light fixtures themselves.
The falafel in Paris is legendary. Any mention of the word brings up Rue des Rosiers in the conversation and usually, L’as du Fallafel quickly follows along with the words “insane”, “best” and “ridiculous”, in no particular order. Let me explain.
Crossing the bridge into Montreal’s most prized summer event, Oysterfest, feels like the perfect way to culminate months spent tipsy and sunburnt. From afar, Ye’s N*ggas in Paris is heard fading into a remix of JT’s Suit & Tie. Before even encountering an oyster, there’s a sense of bougie aphrodisia.
Impromptu visits to pastry shops, unplanned scenic walking routes and people watching at beautiful cafes seemingly around ever corner has got to be one of the best parts of being in Paris. Eating expertly crafted, thoughtfully decorated and tasty desserts really takes the cake for me, literally. After visiting the Notre Dame cathedral, we headed towards the Eiffel Tower for some obligatory sight seeing. On the way, we stopped by the cutest Parisian choux creme shop called Odette.