Monday, 11 June 2012

Panache- A Review

I'm very surprised by how pretty Quebec City was. I didn't expect much since Montreal seemed to be the IT city in Quebec. It's very European with many patio restaruants and bars along the streets. Small alleys made out of stone lead up to Chateau Frontenac and it reminded me of the walkways in Zurich.

Panache is located on St- Antoine street, one of those small alleys that you would miss easily. I'm starting to see a pattern with the location of good restaruants here.

I'm gonna have to apologize for the picture quality here. My camera ran out of battery and I had to opt out for my iphone instead. The picture above is taken from a window made out of a special glass. I'm guessing that it's a one way window or it would be too distracting for the staff. You also have to be standing in front of the glass to see into the kitchen; can't see anything from an angle.

 I was expecting some pretty amazing food when I saw the prices. I was disappointed. They didn't create any amazing flavours that made my pallet go "wow. The only herb that stood out was mint and they used it as the prominent flavour in 2/3 of our dishes. They closed the gap a little by serving "freebies" throughout dinner though. They presented us with a great bread basket containing 5 varieties of bread including brioche, sour dough, ciabatta, and another 2 I couldn't name.

Then came an appetizer of smoked sturgeon with roasted tomatoes and orange syrup. The sturgeon reminded me of smoked salmon. It was crispy on the outside and flaky inside. This may have been my favorite dish of the night.

I ordered raw shrimp with ravioli and chive flowers. It was served cold in a shrimp broth. The heads were fried and also served in the same broth. It was one-noted for me; I could only taste the mint and the salty broth.

My dad ordered the "piglet". It was cooked 3 ways: grilled tenderloin, roasted pork shoulder, and seared ham with a brioche crust, all served with a black currant sauce. The ham and tenderloin were both dry and everything ended up tasting the same with the black currant sauce. The pork shoulder had higher fat content so it was moist and perfect. 

The lobster was fresh, but once again overpowered by mint. 

We didn't order dessert but we got a complimentary from the chef. The big ones are toffee covered in chocolate then coated in peanuts. At first I thought it was a nut brittle but it doesn't cling to your teeth the way a brittle does. I could be wrong but I think it must be the use of a ton of butter. 
The candies wrapped in parchment paper were pieces of homemade caramel with lemon and ginger. It was very soft and sticky but I was extremely impressed by the choice of flavouring. The lemon cuts through the sweetness and adds a layer of complexity to the caramel. 

It's a nice restaurant but I wouldn't recommend it for the price. The dishes we ordered were good but clearly didn't meet the expectations for a $45-50 meal. 

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Le Bremner- A Review

This is my second time in Montreal and I was determined to dine at Chuck Hughes' new restaruant, Le Bremner. The menu looked really simple online and I must admit I had my doubts. Like Garde Manger, Le Bremner is very low key. It's located on Rue St-Paul along with other fancy restaurants, however, the store front is barely existent. The sign “restaurant” hangs at the entrance in red letters and an old set of stairs leads down to the restaurant which is located at the basement of a clothing store. If you didn't know about it, it would be impossible to stumble upon it.

As expected, the restaurant is almost at full capacity...Probably with reservations alone. It's small, simple, but elegant with dimmed lighting, chandliers, and old, rugged decorations. It seems like the decorations would clash, but somehow they work together. Separating the bar and the restaurant is a row of old windows with frames that look like they've been painted 20 times over. The bathroom counter is covered with a layer of dimes with the tail side up, the symbol of a sail boat signifing the food served at the restaurant: seafood. On the wall is a flower basket made out of 3 frying baskets stacked together. Brilliant.

The menu is set up in 3 sections: Things to start with, Foccacias to share, From the stovetop and broiler. Most of the items are in the $20-$30 range but the portions are fairly small so the server would suggest that you order2-3 dishes per person. We had just ate a couple of hours before so we were well fed with 5 dishes: 2 starters, 1 foccacia, and 2 mains.

As for drinks, they make all their soft drinks in house. My dad tried the “coca cola” . It was good but tasted more like plum juice than coke. I ordered the special of the night, Rhubarb Capanna. It's made with rhubarb puree, rhubarb bitters, a litle bit of lime juice and spiked with 2 ozs of cachac. It's tangy from the lime and rhubarb with a hint of sweetness. The taste of alcohol doesn't have much presence in the drink. I ordered my mom a cosmopolitan but it was too strong for her so we ended up making a trade.

The starter menu are all raw fish and meat items. We started with the Pork Cracking with Raw Fluke and Spciy Mayo. The Fluke is tossed with roe and a spicy miso mayo. A spoonful sits on a piece of deep fried pork crackling and topped with baby parsley. The strong parsley flavour acts as a refreshing balance to the warm flavours from the spicy mayo. The fluke is chewy and tender while the pork 
provides a nice crisp to the dish.

Our second dish is the Striped Bass, Pimienta, and Pistachio. The bass filet is marinated in a Asian sauce (somewhat Thai) and arranged in a single layer on the plate. It's sprinkled with pistachios and chopped mint and topped with crispy fish skin. It reminds me of pad thai but an upscale version. One other thing I'd like to note is that most of the dishes are influenced by Asian flavours to some extent.

The third is the Snow Crab Foccacia. It's very similar to a pizza but dryer. The foccacia is topped with mozzarella for the chewy and stringy texture and Parmesan for flavour. Then snow crab is piled on top and finished off with bitter baby arugula. I'm not a huge fan of arugula but it worked here with the sweet crab and mild mozzarella. 

Our fourth dish is the Hake and Clams with Maple Dashi. Dashi is a Japanese seafood soup base and it's used as often as we use chicken broth. I've used the powdered stuff in my cooking before but I'm not too sure how he does it at the restaurant. Hake is very mild, like cod. It's slightly sweet but doesn't have too much flavour otherwise. The soup is savory from the Dashi, sweet from the maple with a hint of dairy. The fish and clams are topped with bread crumbs and broiled. I thought it was nice and refreshing.

We probably should have had the Hake and Clams last as a pallet cleanser since this next dish had some pretty strong flavours. It was the Smoked Sardines with Sausage and Fingerling Potatoes. It wasn't my favorite dish. In fact I can't say I liked it at all. When I think sardines I think fishy and I don't think having fresh smoked sardines made a difference. To be fair, it wasn't a bad dish, just not my preferred way of treating fish. The sausages in the dish I loved. It was a course ground mix of Veal and Chuck in a sausage casing. It was like a mild Italian sausage with amazing texture because you can still bite down on chunks of beef.

Now, my favorite. The dessert. Nothing on the dessert menu stands out for me like the creme brulee does. This one was a Vanilla Creme Brulee with Fresh Pineapples. The custard was thick and creamy and full of vanilla flavour. You can tell when something is made with real vanilla beans because the flavour is much more complex. I sat there searching for words to describe the "other" ingredients he used when it hit me that it was just good vanilla beans.The pineapples act as a perfect balance both in terms of texture and taste. It's crunchy and tangy so the smooth custard is not over whelming. 

 We spent over $200 on the 3 of us, which isn't too bad considering the variety of food that we tried. I kinda like the tapas style although some reviews go against it. The food was worth every penny and It's definitely worth a visit for those of you in town!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Elgin Street Diner - A Review

I'm on a post-convocation grad trip with my parents, which is why I haven't been very active with the blog. Technically the trip is for my dad cause it's his first time being in Ontario/ The East. The plan is to make a big loop, hitting all the interesting cities on this side of Canada and the States. Kingston-Ottawa- Montreal- Quebec- Boston-NYC-Washington DC- Buffalo - St. Catharines - Toronto.

Of course this would be my chance to eat my way around these cities ( since my parents will be paying and all...). I've started the taste testing at Elgin Street Diner located at 374 Elgin street in Ottawa, Ontario. I saw it on "You Gotta Eat Here" and decided that I really wanted a gigantic plate of food: The Blue Plate.

Simply put, it's breakfast on steroids. Try not to have an heart attack with that amount of food. The blue  plate includes: 3 eggs, 3 sausages, bacon, ham, baked beans, and poutine instead of home fries. And since I'm here, why not put chili on my poutine as well!

In terms of taste, I don't think it's necessarily the best breakfast that I've had. The eggs were done perfectly though, I'll give them that. I don't like egg yolks so I judge by the whites. I like them fried until crispy, but not too oily as if they were cooked in an inch of oil.

The pictures above highlight some of the cool things they have on the menu. Apparently they have Ottawa's best poutine but I may have to think twice before agreeing with that statement. It's not the best I've had but the definitely better than the mass manufactured ones I've had at "Smoke's" . The fries are cut very thin and I thought they were a bit over cooked and dry. The chili was thick so it wasn't "ooey gooey" enough to be a great poutine. Nevertheless I finished everything on my plate and I would do it again.

My parents ordered the split pea soup and they said it was pretty good. I thought it was okay; it's hard to mess up a soup. 

The place is open 24 hours a day and I have a huge thing for places like that. It reminds me of an all-day breakfast place in Kingston called Tommy's. They have the best home fries.
Anyway, I do recommend all Ottawa visitors to give this place a try despite my reviews. You gotta eat here just for the outrageous portions, right?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Strawberry and Rhubarb Pie

I don't make a lot of pies but this one had to be made for Anna's boyfriend, Mike. They met through work and I remember that I used to always give Anna cookies or brownies to take to work but she always said "no one at work likes to eat those sweet things." Very strange, because it's what I eat to survive. Anyway, since then it's stuck in my head that Mike doesn't like sweets.

Fudgy Brownies 2.0

The brownies were too good that I had to make its own individual post. I also made some into those little muffin tins then filled them with peanut butter.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Mint Brownies

These have been described as " a really good After Eight bar". It sounds nice so I'll take it.

I've done 2 brownie recipes on my blog before : basic fudge brownies and peanut butter brownies. But forget about those. Honestly. They are nothing compared to what I'm about to share. I'm talking about the brownie base, of course. You can still make the peanut butter brownie from this base and end up with something fantastic. This brownie recipe is truly, magical -- as more than one person put it that way last night.