Thursday, November 18, 2010

La gourmandise: mon peché préféré

Au cinquieme peché has been on my Montreal restaurants to try list for quite some time now. I've only heard positive comments about this little bistro on Mont Royal, near Bily Kun, so I was very excited when Renata decided to go there for her birthday dinner last weekend. The menu changes frequently depending on what's fresh and all the wine is what the french call vins natures (basically organically made wine).

This place is small, seating about twenty, and very charming and inviting. Our waiter for the night was superb! He was very helpful in suggesting wines and just patient and pleasant throughout our whole meal even though we're quite an undecided bunch especially when it comes to ordering wine to suit all our tastes. By the end of the meal, he even knew all our names! He also brought us a little taster of a dip that I can't remember the ingredients of...

To start, we all shared appetizers which included oysters, croquette de brandade and salmon gravlax. All three were delicious but my favorites were the croquette that were lightly fried and just so wonderful I kind of wish i didn't have to split it six ways...

As for the mains, I decided to do something uncharacteristic of me and not order the fish. Instead, I opted for a steak, rare, with mashed potatoes and bok choy that also came with a 2 hour braised paleron de boeuf ( beef shoulder). To cut this delicate meat all I needed was a spoon. It was one of those melt in your mouth experiences it was so tender. Amazing. Renata ordered the wapiti and according to her it was a rich texture for game but with a dry tenderness, like horse meat. She seemed to have enjoyed it.

My sister went for the sweet potato gnocchi and goat cheese which was just perfect. Claire and Kristina were the ones to order the fish of the day: a dorade served crispy with a chickpea polenta on the side. Everything was good but I woud say the winning dishes were my beef dish and my sister's gnocchi.

Oh and the desserts!! So we ordered all three to share: the nougat glacé, a little chocolate brownie like cake ( was it called suzie?) and the marron cheesecake. I'm very particular about cheesecake because I'm used to the home made variety that I bake with quality ingredients and minimal sugar. However, this marron cheesecake was one of the best I ever had. The little chocolate cakes were very good too and were scattered with pomegranates and other fruit. The nougat glacé was another crowd pleaser and we basically couldn't decide which was our favorite because they were all so excellent.

Au cinquieme peche was a great dining experience. The food was creative and high quality and the service familiar and professional. The prices were fair, it was about 70$ per person including 2 shared bottles of wine.

It was a great place for an intimate birthday dinner!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

business lunch #5: Lunch at Birks!

So I finally found my new favorite business lunch location downtown: Birks Cafe!
This is the new restaurant by Europea in the Birks jewellery store on Cathcart and Ste-catherine. We didn't have reservations but luckily a reservation for 2 had just been cancelled.
There`s something about eating surrounded by pearls, gold and diamonds that`s just so glamorous! The dining area is situated in the back in the elevated area and is all white table cloths, nice silverware and glass cases with pretty items such as vases on display. Of course, my camera battery died when I got there so bear with me and the blackberry photography.

When we sit down they immediately offer us a taster of cabillaud mousse with some pretty edible gold thing on it. Quite tasty although mousse form is not usually the way I enjoy my fish... But I absolutely adore when a place offers their patrons little dégustations, it's just so classy and considerate and a little extra that clients really appreciate and it allows the restaurant to show off what they're capable of creating. Also the bread was whole wheat and the butter came covered in seaweed and rock salt and there was also some lemon infused olive oil and balsamic. Very nice touch.

Every dish on the menu has been reviewed by a nutritionist so its all relatively healthy and portioned properly for a one person meal. This restaurant proves that healthy doesn`t have to mean boring. We had the table d'hote and I ordered the beef gravlax which came with lentils and whole wheat toast. It was ginger honey flavored and delicious. My mother ordered the squash soup and it was a little spicy and contained cubes of tofu and squash. Both very good entrees.

Next, I ordered the papillote of sole which came served to me in a plastic wrapping that made it feel like I was recieving a present! The waitress cut open the package for me and in it was the rolled sole which contained tomatoes, olives and zucchini. It was served on quinoa and vegetables. I loved it. It was light but still flavourful. My mom's ricotta stuffed ravioli was also amazing. It was covered with beautiful delicate mushrooms and truffle shavings.

For dessert, I went for a litchi macaron which was not comparable to Pierre Hermé one, but good and not as sweet as the other ones I've tasted in Montreal. We had cappucinos (5.50$, the only overly expensive item on the menu!) and they gave us lemon madeleines.

Everything was amazing. The service, the food, the decor.
Even the prices were not offensive (a little less than 30$ each for an entree and main) considering the quality of the food.
Also the man who offered us dessert and gave us our bill really reminded me in his graciousness of the man in Breakfast at Tiffany's who allows them to get their cheap ring engraved. The whole experience sort of reminded me of that movie which is maybe why I liked this place so much!
Finally, my hunt for an excellent lunch location in the downtown core is over!
This is definitely my go to place from now.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

How I wanted to love you based on looks alone: Barroco

I had walked by this restaurant thats in the place of the defunct Cobalt and thought it looked cute and cozy. I liked the brick walls, the dim lighting and the nouveau Baroque theme they were playing with. I really really wanted to like this place. I really did.

I suggested we try it out so 8 of my favorite ladies and I decided to get all dolled up and have dinner there on wednesday night. There was lots of fur, good shoes, a few Blair Waldorf inspired outfits, some 90s. We have fun.

The cocktail list was enticing and the drinks were good. Kristina got a maple syrup, orange and bourbon that was delicious at first but the orange was overpowering after more than one sip. Alissa and I ordered a white wine, a Chablis, and for 68$ were not at all impressed. The whole menu was excessively expensive actually.

The menu was appetizing. Renata and Alissa ordered squash soups that came in little pumpkins which was a cute presentation. It was decent tasting, not mind-blowing.

Isabelle's endive and goat cheese salad was extremely bitter and uninteresting. Alyssa's coquille St-Jacques were actually well executed and for some reason reminded all of us how our mother's used to serve them at christmas parties in the 90s.

Kristina's octopus salad was chewy and as she so wonderfully put it, underwhelming. When she threw a piece into my plate for me to taste I asked her what it was forgetting what she had ordered and not being able to identify it. Jessie ordered the bison tartare and was horrified and incredibly disappointed. It was bitter and chewy and just plain gross. L'orignal a few streets away has a much much better bison tartare.

I ordered a 34$ main of ricotta stuffed dorade royale with green pea gnocchis and... green peas. First of all the presentation was awful. The red wine sauce was heavy and didn't go well with the fish. The gnocchis were pretty good. But for 34$ I was terribly offended.

I don't even understand how these people have the balls to offer such sub par food at those prices. It's a nice place, it looks great, but the food is not. The cocktails were their only redeeming factor. And the waitress was really nice.
That's about it.

Save your money and go eat somewhere where they care about the freshness and quality of the food and not just looks. There was just no love in this place.



Monday, November 1, 2010

Sunday Dinners are Sacred: Halloween edition

Halloween weekend I decided to be mildly festive and dress up as Margot Tenenbaum for my sunday dinner while i cooked a somewhat festive meal. I made a monkfish recipe from Philippe Laloux's amazing new cookbook Le bonheur de cuire which my mother gave me as a gift and I had also prepared a pumpkin cheese cake for dessert.

Philippe Laloux opened Laloux restaurant in 1988 but then left to do his own thing and travel. I know his cooking only from when he catered my brother's wedding and managed to dish out perfect magret de canard for 80 people in a really small and ill equipped kitchen. I don't know how he did it but it was the best magret I ever had!(much better than the one i tasted at the restaurant that still bears his name...)

So the monkfish recipe was relatively easy to make and the fish really isn't that expensive. We bought the clams and the monkfish at the fish market suggested by M. Laloux, Nouveau Faléro on Parc. It's sort of a thai influenced dish with coconut milk, green curry and saffron. The recipe suggests to serve it with basmati rice since there is a large quantity of the fragrant broth and it's so delicious it really should'nt go to waste! I also enjoyed eating it as a soup...

2 poireaux émincés (i didn't use any...)
1 red onion chopped
1 cup of chopped celery (i put more)
2 cans coconut milk
1 tsp green curry paste (i put 2)
1 tsp saffron
1 1/2 pounds of monkfish
2 cups clams
a little less than a cup of white wine
1 cup of green peas (i put 2)
2 tomatoes, chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. cook the onions and celery in some olive oil and then add the coconut milk .
2. Add the curry and saffron.
3. Cut the fish in pieces and place in broth.
4. Allow to sightly boil and cook covered for 5 minutes.
5. Rinse the clams, cook separately in the wine in a covered pot for 5 to 7 minutes or until they all open.
6. Right before serving add the peas, clams and their filtered juice to the fish.
7. Cook a bit longer.
8. Add the tomatoes at the very end
9. I chopped up some chives and added them at the end too.

paired with: a gewurztraminer

For the cheesecake recipe i basically followed the smitten kitchen one except for the crust in which I added cinnamon and I also made it thinner. I split the recipe in two because it was for a giant cake from what I saw in the pictures! Also I used fresh pumpkin instead of the canned version. Canned things scare me a little.

So the meal was a great success! The monkfish was simply delicious. The cake was a also a huge hit with my family and friends and was a perfect dessert for a Halloween night.