for June, 2011
For lunch, we went to the Yamato restaurant for some Japanese cuisine. Whetting our appetites with a plate of crunchy marinated burdock roots, we eagerly waited for the the deluxe sashimi assortment. It was a nice mix of different elements that are harder to find as fresh in places like Montreal. The squid was very tender and chewy, the tuna and salmon melted in your mouth. As for the tempura shrimp, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and asparagus, each item was deep fried to perfection. The tea kettle soup was one of my favorites of the entire meal – it was tasty and full of nutrients, being composed of the juices of clams and mushrooms and a hint of lemon. Served piping hot, the tea kettle is served with a miniature cup that rests on top – you flip it down and use it to drink the broth out of. I thought it was a compact way to serve the dish and an aesthetically pleasing one too.
Serving Hunan style food, 1010 is located on the 6th floor of the swanky Eslite building. We ordered Chinese cabbage with some pork strips, orange chicken (especially delicious), ribs smothered with cumin seeds (tender, falling off the bone goodness. You get a plastic glove to eat with and a wet towel to clean up with), grilled shrimp (bite off the head and tail, eat the rest of the body, including the shell. Crunchy!), Chinese buns done two ways, steamed and fried along with condensed milk sauce. For dessert, we had the black sesame ice cream topped with tapioca balls and a bowl of chestnut soup with longan (dragon eyes) inside. Unghh, so good. Personally, I never get really excited about Chinese food simply because I have it so much at home. 1010 did a great job of serving delicious Chinese food with a few interesting surprises here and there.
El Sombrero is very easy to miss or pass by. Not looking like much from the outside – one might even write the place off before walking in. But doing so would be a fools deed. Once you do get in, head straight for the outside terrace. It’s a really great spot surrounded by buildings but still gets sunlight into the evening. The menu is quite varied and extremely authentic – most of the dishes are listed in Spanish only with only the occasional English hints. The basic plates of 5 tacos cost around 10$ – We ordered the Chorizo Tacos with Coriander Herbs and Onions and the Marinated Pork Tacos as well as a bowl of guacamole. There are also a variety of soups, enchiladas, burritos, fajitas to choose from as well as some less common traditional Mexican fare. The food was delicious and I added extra spicy chili sauce to my tacos which was perfect.
In North America, the term ‘buffet’ usually brings to mind a low brow, sort of pedestrian dining experience. Here, in Asia, it is quite the opposite. Some of the best restaurants in Taipei are buffet style – Shin Yeh is a good example. Offering all-you-can-eat Japanese cuisine, there is a wealth of foods and drink to choose from. At the drink bar, there is Calpis (sweet white colored drink), white and red wine, plum vinegar wine, sake, Taiwanese beer, fruit juices, hot and cold tea and coffee. There is a sashimi bar that includes the largest oysters I have ever seen, trays of fried rice, tempura shrimp and vegetables, soba noodles, stir fried oolong noodles, tea kettle soup, steamed eggs, sushi… the list goes on. The pictures speak for themselves.
Mitsui is elegant, sophisticated and chic. With slick black granite floors and tables, stylish wood/glass partitions and an understated, minimalistic decor, the restaurant is known to cater to celebrities, mobsters and famous politicians as well as the local elite. The service is impeccable here. The ratio of the wait staff to the clientele is almost one to one – that is how well taken care of each individual at the restaurant is. Or at least that’s how it feels, and that’s what counts. The minute we sat down, we got bowls of tea, wet towels to clean our hands with and additional cutlery to match what we ordered. Our bags and jackets, leaning on the backs of our seats, had black bags put over them so as to ensure nothing would get dirty.
A few steps away from the Shida night market, Mo!Relax Cafe is a stylish meeting spot that acts alternately between a cafe, a bar and a snack dispenser. The walls are plastered with all kinds of colorful posters and CDs which are actually available for sale – much of the music they play at the restaurant comes from their physical collection. If a client happens to enjoy a track and want to purchase the album, they can! On the coffee tables, there are graphic design and architecture magazines, fashion lookbooks and photography texts lying about, creating an art chic feel. There are bookshelves full of Chinese literature and manga. Exuding a cool and relaxed atmosphere, the place seems to attract young twenty-somethings of the ‘creative type’. The layout of the restaurant is unusual – in this, several spaces/nooks for people to wander into are created and as a result some areas are more secluded than others, giving the place a little bit of mystery.
Downstairs of the Hankyu department store, there is a food lover’s paradise. One of the most famous sweet stands there is called Tsujiri – well known for their Japanese matcha green tea flavored products. Underneath the mountain of matcha flavored shaved ice, there is a mix of red bean paste and moji balls. On top is a dollop of soft serve green tea ice cream.
I don’t suggest eating this alone. Enjoy!
Our visit was to the downtown location on Bishop street just south of Maisonneuve – dangerously close to Concordia’s downtown campus.
Attempting to ease our bodies back into normalcy, we opted for a light breakfast which consisted of soybean milk and a variety of Chinese steamed buns. There are two types of soybean milk: sweet or salty. These can be ordered either hot or cold. I had the sweet cold version, my brother had the sweet hot version and my parents had the salty one which comes in a bowl with some fried dough, black vinegar, dried turnips and small dried shrimp. I had the taro flavored purple bun whereas the rest of my family shared the brown sugar bun, the traditional steamed bun (white bun) and a deep fried bun wrapped in baked flatbread with sesame seeds on top. (In Chinese, these buns are pronounced “man-to”). These are not very strong tasting and are some of the most inoffensive foods Taiwan has to offer. Man-to and soybean milk can be found almost everywhere in Taipei – these are staples of a typical Chinese breakfast.
A lot of the restaurants I will post in the coming future will likely be difficult for me to translate into English. Please bear with me! I’ll do my best with pictures and Google Maps to identify the places for you. The first restaurant we went to in Taipei city was a noodle shop close to my grandmother’s apartment. We ordered a beef tenderloin noodle soup and a pork turnip noodle soup. Food came out a few minutes after we ordered and tasted great too. Having gone with natives of the country, we didn’t think to give our bodies time to adjust to the local food. Either that or we got a bad batch of noodles. In this, both my brother and I had upset stomachs that evening and had to stay in bed for the entire next day. So my advice to you is to stay away from greasy/oily soups your first couple of days in.
Having just made it off of a 15 hour flight from Toronto to Hong Kong, we were tired, cranky and on the prowl for something tasty to eat. Walking around Inside the Hong Kong International Airport, we went up to the 7th floor and found a number of enticing restaurants though the majority of them were not open as it was 5 am. Lucky for us, one of the most attractive food stands was open – Ajisen Ramen. We each ordered a different ramen noodle bowl: one spicy beef bowl, one BBQ pork bowl, one garlic pork rib bowl and one vegetarian bowl. Service was fast and courteous – this was a given that we were pretty much the only ones there. If you happen to be stopping over at the HK International airport, Ajisen is a solid place to go. It is also entirely possible that we were just very hungry.
After boarding our flight, we finally got our meals … Just kidding. We wanted to let readers know that both Alex and I will be doing some traveling this summer so you can expect to see international food reviews on the blog very soon. I will be going to Taiwan and Singapore and eating my heart out – as the food is incredibly cheap in Asia – whether it be street food or night markets, while Alex will be traveling to Vancouver and San Francisco eating in a slightly more civilized manner (as opposed to gobbling up everything in sight, like I will). Stay tuned!
Almost every time I have gone to Chez Nick’s there has been a line up backing the place up from the inside out. This time, perhaps because it was a Monday, there was less foot traffic and we were able to get a spot immediately. One of the most popular diners in the Westmount area, Chez Nick’s is busy chiefly because of its historical past (founded in 1920) as well as its Kosher friendly menu options – the restaurant serves traditional food for a higher than traditional price. But that’s a given, considering the location in which it is.
Walking into Joe Beef, one immediately senses a kind of warm intimacy few restaurants are able to successfully achieve in terms of both physical space, ambiance and decor. The space out front is quite small; tables are set one next to the other with only a few inches separating diners from one another – for those who sit on the inner banquettes, tables must be pulled out for them to exit gracefully. Even in such close quarters, fellow diners have been the most friendly and cordial I have ever met. The owners have recently closed their luncheonette next door (McKiernan’s) in favor of expanding Joe Beef, creating an oyster bar in its place while at the same time increasing its capacity for more people to stop by. Due to the popular demand for the restaurant’s exquisite food, the terrasse out back has been opened up as well. I had actually never been in the area before and our lovely waitress Vanya was nice enough to show me around. The garden where ingredients are freshly grown and harvested lines the terrasse; adjacent to this, a separate plot of land is sectioned off by a fence – here they house a large metal smoker where they treat some of their meats and fish.
Qing Hua Dumplings has an unassuming looking exterior – to the average passerby, the place could be easily overlooked. Serving some of the most authentic, delicious soup dumplings I’ve had in the city (yes, even better than Chinatown), Qing Hua provides fast service, an approachable menu and great food.
Chu Chai is one of the few Asian vegetarian restaurants in Montreal, and a good one at that. Serving a fusion of Thai and Chinese influenced food, Chu Chai has the fine dining area of the restaurant along with the terrasse sectioned off from the Chuch bistro (variation of Chu Chai) next door, which offers more of a take out sort of deal. The latter also features a bring your own wine policy.
I love Olive and Gourmando’s. I almost want to eat there every day. Sigh. If only…
Arguably one Montreal’s best summer spots for lunch, Olive and Gourmando’s is always overflowing with people either waiting for a seat at a table or moving leisurely through the take out line. The look of the place is artfully messy, with pots and plants decorating the counters, colorful chalked up menus on the walls, and visually appealing fresh foods on display. As their menu is constantly updated according to the freshest ingredients available, O+G’s daily creations are listed on their site under the “What’s New” tab – inform yourself of today’s special here.
This was our first ever attempt at making risotto and it turned out great. We didn’t follow any formal recipe but were inspired by the presence of fiddleheads at the local grocer. Our recent trip to Lawrence also got us in the mood to try out fiddleheads in a vegetarian dish. Although we were at first tempted to use the California brown rice we already had, we went out and bought some Arborio rice to get that starchy creamy consistency. We began by sauteing the vegetables in a large saucepan and eventually added 2 cups of rice. From then all it took was constantly stirring and adding half a cup of vegetable broth at a time until 6 cups had been absorbed. Shaved Parmesan to top it off and some apple crisp and vanilla ice cream for desert.
Mundo Trattoria is probably the ‘hottest’ restaurant in the West Island – the place to see and be seen, if you’re into that. The outdoor seating area is limited (fits less than ten) but is quite pleasant to look at, what with an immaculately manicured patch of grass and perfectly trimmed bushes. The windows stretch up to the ceilings – at least twenty feet high, giving the restaurant the illusion of being bigger than it really is (not a bad thing).
If you’re looking for an alternative to your routine breakfast/brunch joint, you’ve found it. Byblos is an Mediterranean influenced Iranian restaurant that is one of Montreal’s best kept secrets. Located on the eastern most section of Laurier street next to Le Fouvrac (an amazing gourmet food store) and across from Frite Alors, this area of the city is beautiful in the summertime as the street is lined with trees and storefront flower beds. Byblos has high ceilings that give the place a lofty, open air feeling and wall paper that brings to mind a meeker, more subdued Pollock painting. Traditional Iranian swords, tea pots, plates and furniture are artfully placed throughout the restaurant further enhancing the authentic feel of the place.