Friday, August 06, 2010

Restaurant Bites

Sorry I’ve been offline so long. The Engineer and I have moved to Texas, where we are starting to settle in. We spent five days on the road, and there has been a myriad things to take care of since we arrived a week ago, hence my absence online. I don’t have the time to write full-fledged restaurant reviews right now, but I did want to mention a few nice meals I’ve had lately.

First, there was our anniversary dinner Au Pied de Cochon. I’d been meaning to go there for a while, and I got a nice gift certificate from my parents, so I had no excuse to put it off any longer. It’s a nice restaurant, with good food and an unpretentious atmosphere. We shared the duck Carpaccio as a starter – it was a revelation. We both enjoyed it tremendously. The meat just melted in our mouths, and went really well with the egg yolk and herbs. The Engineer followed it up with a foie gras hamburger and a (regular) poutine. While he raved about the poutine, with fries cooked in duck fat, the hamburger was a disappointment: it was smothered in a balsamic vinegar sauce, which was clearly the dominant flavour in the dish but wasn’t even mentioned in the menu. I had a steak with a peppercorn and mushroom sauce that was really wonderful. For dessert, I had the pouding chômeur, which is served searing hot in a big ramekin bubbling over with the sauce – absolutely delicious. The Engineer had a poached pear with ice cream, and he really loved it. We also took home a duck-in-a-can: while it was good, we were a little disappointed by it (but then again, we’re not big on foie gras and the ridiculous quantity of duck fat included in this dish, so that might explain it). We had a really nice meal with attentive service and hope we get to go back next time we’re in Montreal.

I also (finally) had a burger at L’Avenue. It was Kobe beef with shallots in butter and goat cheese, and it was absolutely delicious. The bun had been buttered and toasted, which really enhanced the burger. I had drippings running down my hand, sure, but it was worth it. The fries were crispy and wonderful, too. I think this place would round up my top 5 Montreal burger places, booting out Mr. Steer’s (the other nominees are m:brgr, La Paryse, Meat Market, and in fifth place, Gourmet Burger). Be sure to try L’Avenue’s burger (but be warned that it is not served during the day on weekends).

Then there’s Miso. We tried it once for sushi, which was quite good, but we’re actually fans of this place for brunch. Brunch at a Japanese fusion place might seem strange, but they actually have quite an extensive menu and there are American-style and continental-style brunches that we love. I usually have two poached eggs with potatoes, bacon, fruit and a mini-muffin, but there are a lot of other dishes (including, omelettes, pancakes, waffles and French toast). The Engineer and I have been there for Mother’s Day brunch on a few occasions, but it’s a great option for regular weekends, too – just keep in mind that it opens at 11:00am.

Our best discovery, though (unfortunately, right before we left Montreal) is Kazu. It’s a very small, reasonably-priced casual Japanese restaurant that usually has a line-up outside. It’s being touted as pretty much the only authentic izakaya in Montreal. It does have the best food we’d eaten in a while, though, along with THE happiest waitress I’ve ever seen in my life. I ordered the gyozas, which were delicious, and the tuna and salmon bowl, which was the Best. Thing. Ever. Really fresh fish that is so tender it melts in your mouth, served with rice so good it is addictive. The Engineer had chicken skewers and a seafood sampler platter, which had him raving. We didn’t get around to the 48-hour pork, which seemed really good, as well as the ramen. I recommend that you have a few dishes per person totalling about $15 (or a little more), since portions are small, and share with your fellow diners. Don’t forget to go off the printed menu and read the specials posted on the wall! Bar seats are great, as you can watch the chefs prepare the food. We look forward to going back!

As we were making our way to Texas, we had to eat on the road for five days. Two restaurants deserve a mention here. I’ll start with the Oak Park Tavern in Mansfield, Ohio. It’s a casual place that takes pride in the quality of the food it serves. We started with the soups of the day, which were a cheese-less French onion soup for me (delicious!) and a spicy vegetable soup for the Engineer, along with warm bread rolls. We then had a spinach salad served with a warm bacon dressing which was a little sweet, and the dish was surprisingly good. I followed it up with pork chops, while the Engineer had catfish. We were both too stuffed for dessert, but we really enjoyed our meal.

Then, there was Nick’s Bar-B-Que and Catfish in Carlisle, Arkansas. I thoroughly enjoyed the fried green tomatoes! I also had a barbecued pork sandwich, which was delicious. It was the first time I felt that I was in the South, with two dishes that had been mentioned in one of my favourite movies. Be sure to stop by if you’re ever in the area!

Finally, I wanted to mention Wendy’s. You see, it’s hard eating right on the road, because everything ends up being overly processed or fried and whatnot; even when you get a salad, you end up with iceberg lettuce and a rich dressing. Well, soon after my arrival in Texas, I ended up having lunch at Wendy’s. It turns out that they have a great salad selection, and the one I had was absolutely delicious! It was an apple pecan salad with grilled chicken, dried cranberries and chunks of blue cheese, along with a sweet pomegranate dressing. The lettuce was various shades of green (including dark green; not a shred of iceberg here!), and the chicken was not fried. If I had known about this earlier, it would have made eating on the road a little easier! I’d love to try the BLT Cobb salad next time. Keep Wendy’s in mind if you need something fast but good and healthy off the highway.

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