Monday, November 25, 2013

Pizzeria Casa Nova

I've been looking for a place to celebrate my departure. Well, celebrate is not exactly the word. Get together with friends before I leave. So far I haven't found what I was looking for because I have too many criteria : bring your own wine, made for groups, price range 15-25$, interesting choices, no group menu, not far from a metro station for easy access. I spotted Pizzeria Casa Nova, an Italian restaurant, and decided to give it a try with my sister.

The place would have been fine except for one thing. You'll know why soon enough.

So my sister and I got in. The place looked quite nice and cute (there was an awesome giant fork on one of the walls) and there weren't many customers (we went on a rainy Sunday evening). Since it's a BYOW they don't serve alcohol.

So we sat down where we wanted : on some comfortable white cushioned bench. The lady who served us seemed lovely, and I believe the man sitting in the back was an employee or a friend.

My sister was going out that night to see our brother's show, so she ordered entrées instead of a meal. She asked for fried calamari and onion soup when I ordered Casa Nova snails and seafood linguine.

Hey guys, a candle!

The waitress came back with a basket of warm garlic bread, the soup and the snails.

Garlic bread

Onion soup

Casa Nova snails

The garlic bread was rather good, crispy outside and soft inside. We found the onion soup broth too salty to our liking. Honestly I think onion soup is better with Gruyere or Parmesan cheese, but they used what I believe was mozzarella. Oh well, it does melt well under the broiler. The Casa Nova snails are basically garlic snails with mushrooms and cheese gratiné. It would have been good ... if it were less salty.

Then the waitress brought the fried calamari and my seafood linguine.

Fried calamari

Seafood linguini

The texture of the fried calamari was right and the seasoning was fine. However the marinara sauce and the salad ruined it. They were both too salty and the lettuce they used was iceberg ... come on. Some arugula would have been better to go with the seafood. As for my seafood linguine, I found the texture of the pasta was right, the plate was pretty to look at, but the sauce was a bit too thick and ... yes, too salty.

As you might have guessed, the amount of salt in the food was my biggest disappointment. Other than that, the location is fine, the restaurant is fine, the service is fine, the prices are fine ... but damnit please tell your cook to go easy on the salt. My sister is a smoker and even she found the food too salty.

Honestly I don't think I would come back. The customers that were there that night seemed to enjoy their time and food. Maybe it was fine to them and we're just too sensitive to salt. That makes me kind of sad because it seems like one of those restaurants help make a neighborhood more lively.

As you can see, I still have trouble shooting pictures in low lighting. But don't you worry, someday I will make awesome pictures even in the crappiest lighting.

For more information on Pizzeria Casa Nova and to order :

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Kashmir Restaurant + Getting used to my new camera

It's been a while now that my friend Phil and I were supposed to have Indian food. I bought a Groupon a while ago : 19$ for 40$ worth of food at Restaurant Kashmir, in the Old Port. We've been both busy or sick but finally we were able to go. We went on a cold and rainy Sunday evening.

The restaurant is located right above a souvenir shop and according to the sign outside it's also a lounge. When you get in you can see the kitchen (I have a feeling this is typical of ethnic restaurants) and there doesn't seem to be many tables. Lucky us there weren't many customers at the moment.

So we sat down. It wasn't exactly what I had expected, most probably because the photos on the website don't show much of the restaurant itself. It was a lot smaller than I expected (thus the reason why it's recommanded to make a reservation). The brick walls, paintings and small statues were lovely tho. Small tables so don't go eat there as a big group. Maybe the restaurant would have seemed bigger if the other "larger" part was open.

Phil was on meds so he didn't order any drinks but I asked for a beer. I wanted to try a Taj Mahal (blond) but they didn't have any left so I ordered a Cobra (red). We obviously ordered food too : butter chicken and lamb kashmiri with basmati rice and garlic naan bread.

Beer Cobra

I try not to drink beer often for not only I have trouble digesting it but it's also much better for my wallet. This one was quite good, with a creamy texture and a slightly bitter aftertaste.

The rice, bread and main dishes came all at once.

The food came in two different metal serving dishes for us to spoon it over our plates.

Basmati rice and garlic naan bread

The basmati rice was very fragrant and the bread was simply delicious. I like garlic. I would put garlic in everything. They used fresh sliced garlic but the way they toasted it removed the stinging raw taste and left only a delicious garlic flavored bread. Hmm. Garlic. Did I mention garlic? Garlic!

Butter chicken

I think butter chicken is a classic. It's delicious, a safe value, and who the hell doesn't like butter chicken? When Phil spooned some over his plate and tried it he just went mad. It was written all over his face "I'm in heaven".

Kashmiri lamb

I asked for Kashmiri lamb because, well, I freaking love lamb. Also, I found the mix of ingredients very appealing : curry prepared with litchis, almonds, coconut and sultana raisins. The lamb was tender and delicious and the sweetness was perfect, not overpowering at all. There were actual pieces of litchi, which I happily nibbled on.

Overall I liked it. The service would have been much better if the waiter came back more often to fill our water glasses. It was quite filling for two persons and the ambiance was quite lovely and relaxing (especially with the music playing in the background).

We didn't want to go home right away so we went to Starbucks to get some tea and talk a bit. I'm a huge fan of London fog and so far the one they make at Starbucks is my favorite.

London fog

Now I'm not going to rate Starbucks' London fog, but it's just a way for me to show that I'm still trying to get used to my camera. I have acquired two lenses for now : 18-55 and 55-250. I know I should be reading the manual. I should go back to the notes I took 6 years ago in my photography class but I'm way too lazy for that. Instead I'll just keep on trying both automatic and manual features and compare the resulting shots.

So that's it for today! For more information on Restaurant Kashmir and to make a reservation :

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Modavie + Taking foodporn to the next level

An awesome food happening was being held from November 1st to the 11th : Mtl à Table (Taste Mtl). Basically, a bunch restaurants were offering a three course dinner for 19$, 29$ or 39$ (really worth it considering the fact that the main course alone is usually at least 20$). Too bad for me it had to happen during my mid-terms but my friend Daniel asked me if I wanted to try at least one evening with a few other friends. So last Friday we went to Modavie in the Old Port.

When booking up Daniel asked for seats on the second floor. While the first floor looked more like a friendly, chatty, let's hang out after work kind of place, the second floor had a more romantic feel to it ... and live jazz music. It was very funny since we were two singles and three in a relationship ... who came without their respective SO. It was awkward in a funny way.

Live jazz music 

Cute candle on our table

The table d'hôte was 29$.
Entrée : Goat cheese flake pastry with apple compote or fried calamari.
Main course : Oregano lamb chops or Sicilian penne.
Dessert : Maple tiramisu or chocolate fudge cake.

We started off with drinks. Martine and I had wine, Daniel an Americano (Campari, Red Vermouth, soda), Mengyang ordered a blue sangria (for Movember) while Diane drank only water. Mengyang's sangria was very sweet (Blue Curaçao and white wine) but all profits go to the prostate cancer foundation. It's a nice initiative but it's far from being a manly drink.

Movember blue sangria

Then we ordered the food. Obviously we all went "fuck it, let's have meat" so we all asked for the lamb chops. The girls ordered the goat cheese flake pastry while the guys had fried calamari for the entrée.

But first we had bread.

The bread was slightly warm but the butter cold (damnit, when will I get a warm bread and a room temperature butter?). The flax seeds in the bread gave it some crunch. The outside was crispy while the inside was soft and elastic. I usually try not to eat too much bread but I wouldn't have been mad being full on that one.

Goat cheese flake pastry with apple compote

If you have had goat cheese before you know it has a strong and naturally salty taste. The apple compote and berry sauce complimented very well the natural flavors of goat cheese. The ratio of goat cheese for puff pastry was alright (1:1) which is great because I'm used to having way too much puff pastry for not so much filling.

Fried calamari

I'm very difficult when it comes to fried calamari. This one was alright. Seasoning was good, the calamari was tender, even the texture of the batter had the right crisp and held onto the calamari ... but it was a little too oily to my liking. I would have liked it a little bit drier but that's my very own personal taste.

After our plates were cleaned out and taken away we got our lamb chops.

Oregano lamb chops

Each plate had four lamb chops and steamed vegetables (a baby bok choy, a piece of carrot, green zucchini, yellow zucchini, and a few small potatoes). I asked for rare and they got it right. The meat was flavorful, juicy and tender. There was a lot of oregano but lamb has such a strong taste it was actually alright (put this much oregano on beef and you'll ruin it).

Dessert time! We all ordered the maple tiramisu except for Diane who asked for the chocolate fudge cake.

Maple tiramisu 

Chocolate fudge cake

The tiramisu was really sweet and didn't taste too much like maple. Honestly I haven't had enough tiramisu in my life but I could tell that one was good. The texture of every layer was right but I had the feeling only the bottom layer tasted like maple (perhaps because it soaked through the cake). Diane's fudge cake looked good but I didn't dare asking her to try it because she had a cold.

After we were done we stayed to chat a little bit while listening to the band playing that night. Unlike the first floor, the second floor wasn't full so we didn't feel bad staying a little bit. Very honestly we didn't want to leave right away because we didn't want to go back out into the cold.

Overall I was very satisfied. The three courses were filling enough, not to the point where you feel you have to stuff yourself and then start hating yourself (like in Italian restaurants). I would recommend the second floor for a date (if your date likes jazz music) and the first floor for a night out between friends. According to Daniel's aunt, their 5@7 are quite good for both the ambiance and drinks. The service was also satisfying (not fast nor slow) and the waitress and busboy were really nice to us.

Now time to show off some new toy I just got recently. I think my blogging experience will only get more interesting from now on. Yes, I just got a new camera.

Though I bought this camera because I was tired of crappy pictures taken with a compact one (I love compact cameras in broad daylight but other than that it's more frustrating than anything else) I mostly did it because I am going to study abroad in less than two months. I really want to take awesome pictures I can proudly show to my friends and family while I'll be in France for six months.

So that's it for today! Go give Bistro Modavie a try, I think it's really worth it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Oh Dumplings

My sister moved out about a month and a half ago. I haven't had the chance to talk to her a lot so I invited her to eat out. I suggested we go to Chinatown because I wanted to try the new dumpling place, Oh Dumplings.

We came in quite early, around 4pm (she finishes school at 3pm so I didn't want to make her wait and do nothing until the evening). There were two other customers finishing their meals.

Since the temperature has been dropping the past days my sister ordered a won ton soup and I ordered a shallot pancake to start with. Our main dishes were pork ear and pork/shrimp/cabbage dumplings.

Shallot pancake

The shallot pancake was thin and crispy. It was good enough to be eaten without dipping sauce. Some places the batter is too thick or soggy. At least it was to my liking.

Pork ear

Pork ear is one of their cold dishes. Some people eat it hot. I like it both ways. They serve it with a daikon dipping sauce. My sister was impressed by the daikon rose in the corner of the plate. Way to make a cold and weird looking dish look appetizing (at least to people who have no clue what they're eating).

Pork, shrimp and cabbage dumplings

We ordered pork/shrimp dumplings because they didn't have shrimp dumplings. That was our little disappointment. They have fish dumplings, which we could have tried, but it's a bit pricier. When the dumplings came I was surprised to see how chubby and juicy they were ... to then realize they were boiled and not steamed. My sister didn't care but I did. The way the products are advertised you would think they are steamed. Maybe they didn't want to spend time making them. The reason why I don't like boiled dumplings is because they tend to lose flavor while cooking and absorb water, making the dough soggy and slippery. When I make dumplings at home I steam them most of the time, fry them sometimes, boil them when I'm reallllly lazy. At least the meat inside was good and seasoned enough (with actual pieces of shrimp).

In general I was satisfied. The whole thing came up to 30$, which is reasonable. The restaurant itself was well lit (big windows) and well designed, whether is was in the choice of colors, the furniture, the plates, or just the fact that your table is not right next to the bathroom. In other words, it doesn't look like a lounge nor like a sketchy restaurant. It's one of those places that even when crowded you still have room to walk around.

When we were looking at the menu, we were surprised by the vegetarian choices. In particular the spinach and carrot dumplings : one is green and the other one is orange. I think it's a good thing to know there are vegetarian choices available and that you can tell them apart from the other kinds.

For more information :

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Maison Bulgogi

I have had a lot of Korean food this year (well more often than before). I've started craving for it more than I usually crave for sushi.

Last Sunday Rio, Sophie, and I went to Maison Bulgogi. In all honesty, until I try my Korean friends' momma cooking, I'll never really know what good Korean food is. But from my experience, Maison Bulgogi is one of those places that haven't disappointed me so far.

As I am writing this post I just realized I did not think about writing down the names of the dishes we ordered. Maison Bulgogi is one of those places you hear about through your friends or read reviews on the UrbanSpoon and Yelp. They don't have a website and so the menu is nowhere to be found on the web. I haven't blogged in such a long time I am not doing things properly.

First things first, the usual : appetizers. Most restaurants let you have as much as you want and don't charge you for them (they're included when you order a meal).

Then we ordered fried calamari as an entrée (though it came after we received our main dishes). 14$ for the big portion.

The batter was a regular tempura batter. Itself it was kinda bland but at least there was some dipping sauce (no offence but I like the fried calamari from Chez Bong better).

Rio ordered some stir fry homemade noodles with chicken.

It was quite a big portion. I never had noodles in a Korean restaurant (always bbq, bibimbap or soup) so I can't tell whether this is considered as good or not. For my part I liked it. The noodles weren't thick (like udon) nor thin (like vermicelli). Also I found it wasn't spicy at all. Or it might be that my tastebuds have been burnt out by years of abusing spicy food.

Sophie had rice with eel.

The eel was quite good but I found the vegetables too thick to my liking (but that's very personal). I found it was an interesting dish and I'm thinking about ordering it for myself next time and try to fully enjoy it.

For my part I had stir fry vermicelli with seafood.

I'm often scared when I order stir fry that it might be too oily. This was actually the right texture. The spices were the same as in Rio's noodles (they're probably the same for all noodle dishes). The seafood were basically calamari and shrimp (no scallop nor mussel). The portion was quite big so I ate half of it and took a doggy bag for the other half.

Usually when I go to Maison Bulgogi I have quite a pleasurable time. I don't know whether it was because there were more people than when I went the times before but the service that night wasn't so great. They filled our glasses of water only once and the waiter would pass by us so fast and barely look in our direction that calling out to him was sort of awkward.

Still I think the food there is quite afordable (we spent 20$ each, taxes and tip included) and it is a nice place for a date or an evening between close friends since the noise level is normal. It's not one of those fancy places neither so you can dress however you like.

Maison Bulgogi : 2127 Ste-Catherine West, H3H 1M6, near metro station Atwater or Guy-Concordia

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Le Saloon

I love going to the Village. The ambiance is relaxed, there is a lot of entertainment and you just feel free. Last week my friend Ryan booked a few chairs at Le Saloon for his birthday.

It's basically a restaurant/bar/club. The music is loud and danceable, there is a bar downstairs, tables downstairs and upstairs, the lighting is quite low, the waiters are hot, etc. If you know L'Assommoir Notre-Dame in the Old Port, picture a kind of gay version of it. I unfortunately didn't think about taking pictures of the place itself.

The first four pages of the menu are basically drinks. Then you have the food. All kinds of food. Tartares, fried stuffs, Asian cuisine, Quebecer cuisine, salads, burgers, etc. They have whatever suits your taste buds.

I ordered an Espresso martini and a duck Shepherd's pie.

Espresso martini

The Espresso martini is made with Cognac, Frangelico, Tia Maria, Bailey's and actual espresso. It did not taste like alcohol at all. As a coffee addict, I have to admit I might have drank this down a little faster than I should have. Well I just drink fast in general. I always have a Black Russian when I go out or a coffee when I eat out. This was just perfect for me.

Duck Shepherd's pie

I've been eating duck ever since I was a kid. Whenever I see duck on a menu, I am too tempted to try. This combination just seemed so weird I had to order it. My food came hot (I like it hot). The top of the potato layer was slightly crispy. Unfortunately the duck wasn't savory enough. The texture of the whole pie and the duck itself was right. I don't know how they cooked the duck but I found something was missing there. At least it was very filling (to the point that I had to take out half of it in a doggy bag).

I didn't take pictures of everyone else's food but I'll review anyways what I have managed to shoot and taste.

Beef tartare façon Saloon entrée

The beef tartare was really good. I think the truffle oil and the simple seasoning was what made it flavorful but just enough not to hide the taste of the beef. I hate it when I order tartare in a restaurant and it's drenched in dressing. The baguette crisps were good but a little too thick. For that texture I find it would have been better either really thin or half that thickness.

Steak New York

My friend was pretty surprised to see shrimp on her steak ... because it wasn't written on the menu. Fortunately she is not allergic and she was actually happy to get that little extra. I didn't try the steak itself but I had some fries. They were warm and just the right texture. They were also salted just enough. And yes, they give you a shitload of fries.

Overall if you're looking for a club ambiance with good food and good looking people, Le Saloon is just for you. I would come back again and try the other items on the menu. I think it's perfect if you go with a group of friends but it might be a bit weird for a date (unless you don't mind trying to have a conversation over loud music). The service was good and fast. I have absolutely nothing to say against it and I think our waitress did a great job.

For more information :

Friday, September 13, 2013

Burger Bar Crescent Take 2

I decided to take my friend Rio out for his birthday last week. We went to Burger Bar because I had told myself before I have to try every burger on the menu.

We got there around 6pm and were quite lucky. Burger Bar's popularity has been increasing a lot in the past year and on weekends if you're more than two persons you have to make a reservation ... or wait in the entrance for like 45 minutes for customers to leave.

So we were seated near the entrance (not exactly the most interesting spot honestly). The menus changed looks and they added new interesting items (I didn't remember having seen fish last time I went).

We started off with mozzarella cheese sticks.

They were crispy, spicy and warm. Easy to cut but they didn't melt. A little bit too salty, but we didn't mind. The ratio of breading to cheese was good.

Rio ordered a Goliath and I asked for a Hangover.

The Goliath has two beef patties, American cheese, double smoked bacon, banana peppers, lettuce, tomato, red onion and mayo.

Rio's Goliath

Just like last time our burgers were towers of stacked goodness.

The Hangover won the People's Choice Award for Best Burger in Montreal during Burger Week Mtl. It is made with one beef patty, American cheese, bacon, mini poutine, fried egg, caramelized onion, truffle oil.

My Hangover.

In all honesty, I was disappointed. First of all I remember the beef patties being larger and juicier before. Even when I look at pictures I have the impression they were bigger back then. My burger could have been very good if the fries were better. I'm very difficult when it comes to fries and there was something wrong with those. I found they were dry inside and outside. Fries are best when they're crispy outside and soft inside. I have to admit it's hard to make really good fries but honestly Burger Bar can do better than that.

As for the service ... I know it was Saturday evening and any place in downtown is full and busy. But our waitress either didn't care enough or didn't have enough coffee that day. She came to our table often enough while we were eating to make sure everything was fine. But at the end when she asked if we wanted coffee or dessert, Rio asked for a coffee and I asked for an espresso. It took a while (usually coffee doesn't) before she came back and handed me the bill ... which I didn't ask for (she also didn't ask whether we would be paying together or separate). When I realized there was no coffee on the bill I told her we were still waiting for them. She apologized and took back the bill. Five minutes later my friend's coffee arrived. I think I had to wait another 5 to 10 minutes to get my espresso. Also, throughout the evening, whenever we needed something and were trying to get her attention she simply wouldn't see us. You know how you have to keep your eyes open for all your customers everytime you walk past them so you don't miss anything? She wasn't doing that. So we basically had to wait for her to come to us to get to ask her something.

I would probably go back to Burger Bar at some point but not on a Saturday evening. Hopefully the food and service are better when it's less busy.
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