Monday, June 24, 2013

Au Pied De Cochon

Its 7:57pm and my last night in Montreal when my phone rings. A slight feeling of trepidation washing over my head, I answer it. “Hello, is this Mr. Bennett?” “Yes, it is.” I close my eyes in disappointment to hear the bad news, to listen to the entire reason of my trip ruined by a few words. “Mr. Bennett, great news, we finally got you a reservation at Au Pied De Cochon for 930pm. Enjoy yourself.” I thank the man for his persistence and starve myself for the next hour and half – this meal with surely need an empty stomach.

Au Pied De Cochon. Chef Martin Picard’s work of love in the beautiful and vibrant city of Montreal, Quebec. Anyone familiar with any of Anthony Bourdain's shows knows exactly who Chef Picard is. The crazy and charismatic francophone with a large appetite and messy, tangled hair - no way to mistake him for someone else after you have seen him. PDC is just off downtown Montreal, slightly hidden on a nice little street with no real in-our-face sign of entrance. Probably for the best, as this place is incredibly busy as it is. And why wouldn't it be? Take one look at the extensive menu and you mouth will begin watering while your fingers unconsciously begin dialling for a reservation.

One thing I like about PDC's menu is under each item there is no description or details of the dish. This immediately indicates the calibre of preparation, ingredients, flavours and style that Chef Picard has worked on since first opening. If you're one of those hippie vegetarians or someone who interrogates the menu for what ingredients the chef is using, do yourself a favour and do not visit here. If you do, with no doubt in my mind, you will be greeted with cold, discriminating eyes from your server.

When I ordered the fois gras hamburger our waiter smiled, placed his hand over his heart and closed his eyes, nodding he heard my order. I wasn't sure if he intended to convey this was his favourite item on the menu or of an impending artery clog I would soon endure. My guess is that it was a little of both. Either way, this comforted me greatly in my decision.

Our meal begins with some Fried Pork Rinds as a starter. They're lightly crunchy, greasy and salted - a pork potato chip really - in the shape of a pigs tail. Possibly an ode to one of Picard's most treasured animals. These are very, very tasty especially if accompanied by a frosty beer.

While crunching on the pork rinds, our appetizer of Marinated Herring arrives at our table, along with some fresh bread. Three cuts of herring with the skin on are served on thinly sliced potatoes, with cuts of onions and assortment of greens. The herring had a strong, sweet marinade. Growing up on the East Coast with both my parents hailing from small, fishing-oriented villages my sister and I were both impressed with the freshness and quality of the herring. The sauce was simply something neither of us ever had either, usually fish being simply fried or barbecued. Very impressed.

Taking a look around the restaurant while our main course was being prepared, I wasn't able to spot Picard. I was hoping to even get a second's glance at the celebrity Chef after seeing him numerous times on Bourdain's show. Instead I took notice of how small the restaurant was and how very busy it was too, even at this time of night (around 1030pm). Caught a lot of people snapping photos of their food, I guess as equally excited as I was to be at PDC. Oh look, are mains are here!

The burger is cooked medium-rare which is perfect to keep in the juices, making the burger tender, juicy and not heavy on the stomach. The fois gras is extremely fresh, creamy, buttery, actually melting like butter in your mouth. The richness of the fois gras and smoky thin sauce complement the burger well. I'm a little sad to say I couldn't finish it, especially after all the appetizers. It is a very large portion in itself, but I did manage to get most of it down. I recommend trying this at least once in your lifetime and do it at PDC.

I'm stuffed. Like really stuffed. So when the dessert the menu arrived, there was no way I could cram in even more (and there's always room for dessert, right?). I elect to take some with me, choosing a bag of maple syrup cotton candy - another love piece of Picard's newest venture, Sugar Shack. When you pop a piece of fluffy sugar in your mouth, it initially tastes like a burnt marshmallow quickly switching to that familiar maple syrup flavour.My sister really enjoyed it – I always thought I had the bigger sweet tooth.

I can now officially cross PDC off my bucket list of restaurants but I wont be doing that. Because I know that even as happy as I was I got to visit before I left Montreal, I will no doubt in my mind be going back. And I'm already excited about it; I cant’ wait to hear what new specialities Picard will be slicing up. I hope even one day to meet the man himself, share a drink with the wacky chef.

Final words? I didn't have a heart attack and it was one of the best meals of my life. If what I have written above doesn't convince you, go eat a Big Mac!


Au Pied de Cochon on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 27, 2013

Japonais Bistro

We open the doors. The familiar smells of a Japanese restaurant catch our hungry noses. Instantly my mouth begins watering for the beef teriyaki sizzling on the grill, the octopus being prepared into sushi at the bar or whatever's in the steaming bowls passing by me as we sit. Needless-to-say, I'm excited.

I'm not huge on décor in restaurants because I could honestly not care what the place looks like if the food is fantastic. But this place doesn't fall in the dive category at all, after all it is a brand new restaurant. The owner's keep it simple and clean with the symmetrical layout, clean walls and modern colours and textures - wood panelling, light vs darks and exposed brick. Very slick.

Since it was cold as fuck in Edmonton that day, I decided to start my meal by warming up a bit with a steaming bowl of miso soup. I'm a huge fan of this cloudy soup filled with tofu and seaweed; there is absolutely no better way to start off a meal when you're having Japanese. 

My friend and I decide to order the Beef Tataki and Spicy Mango Prawns to start, then get into a platter of sushi.

The Beef Tataki arrives while I'm slurping down my soup and looks like a delicious piece of art. Thinly sliced, only seared, cuts of beef are arranged in a circle sitting in a pool of ponzu sauce topped with red & green onions and some daikon. Daikon is simply a radish for all of you who didn't know! Between the texture of the rare steak and pickled flavouring from the ponzu, the flavours are distinct and powerful - oh and very, very good.

Next arrives the Spicy Mango Prawns. This appetizer boasts large prawns and slices of mangos covered in a  creamy chili sauce garnished with roe and some greens. Again a very aesthetically pleasing dish. The sauce is absolutely delicious. I love mayonnaise - always have and always will. To me a spicy mayo-type sauce drenching one of my favourite shellfish and one of my favourite fruits - well...nothing can go wrong! And it didn't. It was a wonderful relationship/pairing. Definitely try this dish out.

We finish off with some sashimi and sushi. All I can really say about this sushi is that it is probably the freshest tasting I've ha in Edmonton and was really impressed. Since the menu is primarily comprised of rolls, sushi and sashimi try to plan your meal around that.

So if you're feeling hungry for Japanese fair and don't feel like having a chef throw knives and salt shakers at your face when they miss a beat (sorry Japanese Village, I do love you actually) go to Japonaise Bistro. They just opened so show them some good old Canadian love and go stuff your face.

Japonais Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Schwartz's - Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen

When you first walk into Schwartz's Hebrew Delicatessen you can easily tell this place hasn’t changed much since first opening its doors in 1928. And that’s not a bad thing at all. The deli is long and narrow, with stool seating on the right side and table seating to the left. It’s a very busy spot which means you’ll most likely be cozying up next to a complete stranger while you eat your meal. But don’t let this scare you – it’s one of the best smoked meat sandwiches you’ll ever taste in your life.

As I’m following our waiter the short walk to our seats, the smell of peppered meat lingers in the air equally occupied by the noisy chat of eaters. When I sat down I knew exactly what I wanted but didn’t know much about the different types. My waiter somehow knew it wasn’t my first time here – maybe it was my puzzled look while my eyes searched for an empty seat – and asked if I wanted my smoked meat sandwich either lean, medium or fatty.  Happily I order medium.

Waiting for my meal I was thinking back to some of the reviews I read about Schwart’z and the many complaint’s taking up space on websites. However, I had nothing but the good service. The waiters were friendly and funny, very helpful in selecting a sandwich and made us feel comfortable in the cramped joint. I do recognize however this type of experience isn’t for everyone – I just recommend trying it at least once before shrugging it off.

The sandwich arrives and it looks so glorious I almost don’t want to eat it – that’s at least until I rip a tender piece of the smoked meat off the edges and try it. The meat is stacked about four times bigger than the mustard smeared bread. The slight bit of fat riddled through the brisket shavings is great – giving it that extra flavour you expect. It’s a great size. Try it with a pickle and maybe some fries, and you’ll be stuffed. For people who like more fat, I would definitely recommend the fatty serving – the meat and fat would melt like butter in your mouth. 

There’s not a whole lot more I can really say about this place. If you’re craving a smoked meat sandwich and you happen to be in Montreal, get down to Schwartz’s – you won’t be disappointed. 


Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Next time I'm not going to be so lucky.

Once again I found myself making a last minute reservation at a popular restaurant. After being told there were no tables available for the evening, my friends and I decided to risk it and hit the lounge (we heard lounge patrons can order from same dinner menu – very cool). Entering XIX through the tall, glass doors into the dark modern décor entrance way, a hostess greets us who I ask with no hope if any tables are available. It just so happens that there's one table left - let's get to it.

Looking around if you're from Edmonton it will quickly remind you of similar restaurants like LUX, Joey's, etc - modern, dark lit, glass, wine walls and simplistic design. Here, the menu changes with the season as any restaurant of this calibre should. It was late March so the winter menu was in effect.  So we begin with a few appetizers - we ordered both the Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops and Gorgonzola PEI Mussels.

The three large scallops were cooked to a medium-rare finish leaving them tender and juicy with the prosciutto giving the edges that fatty, pork taste you expect. The mustard cream was ridiculously good; I ended up rubbing the truffle pierogi all through it to make sure it lasted. The apple puree and cauliflower were unique to the dish delivering a delicious palette cleanser.

The mussels were cooked with a Gorgonzola cream - an awesome pairing I have never tried, somehow missing this throughout my long maritime history. But how could steaming hot, cheesy mussels be a bad thing? They came with salt and peppered hand cut fries that were a delicious addition.

On to the main course...

I was fixated on trying the duck but when our server rattled off that the daily catch was Chilean Sea Bass I just had to sink my teeth into that. It turned out to be a good choice. A palm-sized portion of sea bass had a light, citrus crust on top that really complemented the fish well. The fish was very tender, almost melting in your mouth. Veggies on the side, I finished my meal too fast - a good sign.

I also tried my friends dishes – the Blue Crab Crusted Grouper and Brome Lake Duck Breast. Much like my dish the grouper had a delicious crust, this being crab, that really worked. The creamy mushroom fricassee was absolutely exquisite – just another really, really good sauce from the kitchen.

The duck was recommended medium rare, which is how I hope anyone would eat a duck breast. I just can't imagine how tough a well done piece would be! Juicy and tender, the taste faintly reminded me of liver. One cool thing about the dish was the addition of hoisin chicken confit ragout – kind of like pulled pork but with chicken and asian style. It was really, really good. 

This is not to say the entire experience was fantastic. I had to ask our server three times for our appetizers and he even said to me when I asked the third time that “we hadn’t ordered appetizers”. Luckily I had been about four pints of beer deep so I let it slide without saying some asshole remark. Other than that and that they need a few more beers on tap it was a great time.

Overall, Chef Andrew Fung is doing great things at Nineteen. His dishes are unique, decently priced and his flavours are amazing. Edmonton seems to be very pleased adding this restaurant to the roster. I simply cannot wait to try the new Spring/Summer menu.

XIX Nineteen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thanh Tam Vietnamese Noodle House

Pho: for those who have been so unlucky to have not tried it yet, pho is one of life's best indulgences. A mixture of rice noodles, fatty beef broth, onions, cilantro with an assortment of meat, tendon, tripe or other meat topped with sprouts, lime, chilis and your favorite sauce (mine is saracha). Originating from Northern Vietnam in the early 20th century, it's distinct flavours will, in no doubt of my mind, forever change your life. You will begin to day dream of it every other day and spend your hard-earned cash on it at least once a week. Luckily for you pho is relatively cheap and Edmonton has lots of spots to grab a steaming bowl of it. However, if I were you I would check out Thanh Tam Vietnamese Noodle House located on 156ST & 111AVE right next to the lovely St. Pete's peeler bar. By far, this is the best tasting pho I have found in Edmonton and one of the most reasonably priced. The restaurant is large and never too busy so getting a seat shouldn't be an issue. The service is friendly and the menu extensive, however, I sadly admit have not tried even 2% of due to the delicious pho combos available. So put your busy life on hold for a moment and enjoy a heavenly bowl of pho at Thanh Tam's.

A bowl of beef brisket and rare steak pho.

Thanh Tam Vietnamese Noodle House‎ on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Three Boars Eatery

Self defined as Plates & Pints, this is a much too simplified description of what Three Boars is. I have been there twice now, unfortunately the first time only trying one dish, the hanger steak amongst numerous beers. Although I had a beautiful date, neither of us were hungry, at least not for solid food. That being said, it was the first time in my life I experienced the delicious tenderness of hanger steak forever changing my palate. Anyways...on to the real story...

Three Boars is a tiny, gourmet style restaurant located off Whyte Ave on 109 that serves food in a tapas-like style perfect for sharing with many people. And that is where the real joy comes from - getting to fill your table full of many different dishes that appear in a perfectly timed manner. The restaurant's décor reminds me of a gastropub with a hipster twist. A bar downstairs to drop in for a few cold ones that boasts a large alcoholic menu - maybe even too big - but never an issue for me as I love trying new beers. Upstairs features a small dining area that would comfortably fit around 30 people I imagine. Nothing overly fancy about the atmosphere of this place but it works, its a cool spot.

Again I was graced with a beautiful date which I suggest you do too - double date, maybe even a triple date, this way you can try as many dishes as possible. We began the feast with Devil on Horseback - a bacon-wrapped date stuffed with creamy cheese. Very rich, very good. From the Rabbit Food segment of their menu, we ordered the carrots salad; raw and roasted carrots mixed with beets, arugula, crispy goat cheese, & almond emulsion. Next we ordered the Miso Braised Pork Belly. Served in oats cooked in dashi, pickled beech mushrooms and flying fish roe (tobiko) this is a delicious originally Chinese, but mainly Japanese dish that packs a full plate of flavour. The pork is tender falling off the slab of fat its served on, easily cut into pieces with a spoon. Anything miso, or Japanese for that matter, to me is delicious - always an array of distinct flavours that never overpower one another. The oats give good texture with the pork and offer almost a meal on their own as the flavour is powerful. The seaweed and roe give it that extra kick. After devouring the pork, we moved onto the Whole Smoked Quail which is served atop a potato puree that includes spinach, brown butter and horseradish. Another first for me, the quail was mildly smoked and very tender. Presented to us on top of creamy potatoes like a miniature turkey, the meat is best experienced by eating it like a chicken wing - you gotta get in there to enjoy it. To clean our palates we finished the night with a tangy dessert - don't quite remember what it was;
at some point in my life I left behind an uncontrollable sweet-tooth in favour of feeding my ravenous jaws with beef, bore, cheeses, really anything but just sugar and water. It was tasty though!

Overall, Three Boars tops as one of my favourite restaurants in Edmonton. They are doing a great thing there and I simply urge you to check it out.

Photo of the quail. Sorry that's all the photo's I took this visit. You will need to go see how good it is for yourself!
Three Boars Website:
Three Boars Eatery on Urbanspoon