Recently in Food Category

city'super!

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Let's go back to 2005, on my second stay in HK, and the longest (for about four months)...

When I miss home, I go to City Super. One time, I went home with three pieces of swordfish to cook for my "adoptive" family, which set me back for around 120HKD (20CAD). The time before, I craved for food we didn't even have at home, the U-shaped French saucisse sèche (80HKD/12CAD) (and with it, a freshly baked baguette (15-20HKD/2-3CAD)). Which is fine, because the saucisse lasted for a whole month (which never happens at home), and the baguette almost as good as the one we get in Canada.

Now, I've done it again. Tonight, went crazy at City'Super, and got myself a French saucisson (HKD$90), a baguette (HKD$20) and olive oil (HKD$80 for 250mL - Australian, no less). [The exchange rate is roughly HKD$7.5 for each Canadian dollar). I also got a small stick of Danish butter (200g) for around HKD$35, which makes it twice as expensive as it would in Canada...

In photos:

Saucisson français (à HK)

Australian olive oil

Lurpak Danish Butter

These are the things you can get in a truly international city (or in a city that can sustain a fancy place such as city'super). Mind you, I'm going back to forced-vegetarian menu of noodles with Chinese veggies or plain rice with soy sauce for the rest of the week...

I also got pasta. So yes, no-meat, no-cheese (but yes-olive oil) garlic linguine, here I come...

And in the weird packaging ploys category, low-sodium sea salt:

Low-sodium sea salt, lol

L'autre choix, mini marché, 330A avenue Victoria

A new grocery store on Victoria Avenue just opened its doors last week. The half basement shop offers a variety of organic (and non-organic too) produce. It may fit the look of a Westmount upscale boutique, but the prices shown for the basic stuff (tomatoes, apples, lemons) are at market price (similar to PA's price, comparatively lower than the nearby Metro).

On top of that, you also find a unique offering of Asian products (the owner Clara happens to be a food-loving Canadian Chinese) such as soy milk, bok choy and ramen noodles. They are also importing a type of pasta from Italy.

334A Avenue Victoria, Westmount

L'autre choix, mini marché, 330A avenue Victoria

L'autre choix, mini marché, 330A avenue Victoria

L'autre choix, mini marché, 330A avenue Victoria

Speaking of young entrepreneurs, I found out that the newest my cup of tea shop is just next door:

my cup of tea #2, 344A avenue Victoria

Ramen at Sumo Ramen

Pork in ramen at Sumo ramen

Sumo Ramen, 1007 Boul. St-Laurent

A new ramen restaurant opened in Chinatown last week, following in the footsteps of Ramen-Ya (also on St-Laurent, but just a couple of kms north). The name of the restaurant is Sumo Ramen and took place in what used to be a skate shop.

One of the owners is Anthony, a stylish Cantonese-speaking 30-something. He originally rented the space, and for siz months, did not know what to do with it. When his friend came back from living in Japan for several years, they decided together to start ther ramen business.

The friend who I went with said that the place reminded him of what restaurants in Asia look like, a far cry from stuck-in-60s Chinese restaurant of the old Chinatown.

2008-09 has seen the arrival of an impressive number of new restaurants in Chintown, one trendier than the other. It started with Little Sheep and things moved on with Hanashima (a Japanese-style fondue restaurant), and two new bakeries, Harmonie and Callia. I also saw a Sichuan-style restaurant and another "spicy" joint.

Linguine on my balcony

Linguine

Simple food. This is just linguine with a sprinkle of pancetta and old cheddar. The linguine was also pan-fried with olive oil, butter, quite a bit of garlic and dried parsley. I added some fresh basil leaves.

An ode to blue drinks

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Bluegrass

You can definitely try this at home... My inspiration came from La Distillerie, a Montreal pub whose trademark is to serve colourful drinks in glass jars. The time I went, I had a boring red-couloured drink that was, I think, rhum-based. I noticed that many people in the pub at that time had a bright blue drink, with a branch of rosemary in it.

Not having noted the recipe at all, we were set to improvise something. The base would be Blue Curaçao, a orange-flavoured drink known for giving mixtures their fluorescent blue tinge. We added dry gin (Bombay Sapphire) and Perrier water. For the flavouring: fresh lime juice, frozen lemongrass and a branch of rosemary. Put lots of ice.

Blue curaçao & rosemary drink + ripe papaya

Drink it with a bowl of papaya for the extraordinary colourful effect. You can sprinkle salt and lemon juice over the papaya -- that's for the explosion of tastes.

Black bean spare ribs

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Black bean spareribs

It's a little weird that I did not post for over a month on Smurfmatic. But here it is, this is my latest food obsession: black bean spare ribs. The result is unfortunately a little too "nong", so I hope that when I eat it tomorrow, the soft tofu that I will add will make the taste a little thinner.

It's a pretty simple recipe to make. Check here for the ingredients:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/smurfmatic/sets/72157613298521626/

The Lee Kum Kee black bean sauce is the main ingredient. You should add something sweet to compensate for the overly salty taste of the sauce. This can be done with brown sugar, honey, just plain sugar or oyster sauce (which is what I did). In fact, my mother called me as I was making it to suggest that I add the latter. Sesame oil and rice wine can be added to the mix. Chopped chili peppers is optional if you like it spicy.

I first fried a little bit of minced garlic (it was not really necessary with the sauce containing garlic already) and a few large pieces of ginger. Then I added the pre-marinated bundle of ribs. I fry/mix and left it to simmer for an hour. I'll then let it cool overnight, store it in the fridge next morning, and have it for dinner tomorrow. =) I will beforehand add tofu and a few strips of scallions.

LKK Black bean garlic sauce

Macaroni au fromage (and friends)

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Mac 'n cheese

(The Flickr photo has notes - click on them!)

I made macaroni and cheese several times, and it seems to work the best with older types of cheddar. It's still a more commercial type that I get from my local Metro grocery store, but one day, I should fork out a little more to see if it's really a question of older / better quality cheddar.

In a saucepan, melt the cheese that you previously cut in cubes (for easier melting). Add some butter too. Then add milk and flour to obtain desired consistency. Throw in the cut macaroni.

Also, I made salmon on the BBQ. I let it sit on the counter with lemon juice, salt, fresh ground pepper and olive oil. Then had it on the grill, on one of those aluminium plates to prevent burning and falling in the grill.

Fried baby bok choy

It's a new wave of food obsession which started in Toronto (see these posts). Of course besides the craving for warm food for the weather, like mac 'n cheese - and I'll attempt to be fine bouche in my choice of (Cheddar) cheese, I am also looking at the Chinese dishes that I can make easily and well.

How about a stir-fry to start things up? I have a bag of bamboo shoots, written in Japanese characters all over, but with the noticeable characters for "China". If I get some pork for mincing and throw in some scallions, this would make a delicious stir-fry.

I also have some bok choy left in the back of the fridge from my veggie buying spree (despite that they do not vary much in quality nor price with Montreal's supply). Not the nappa or Shanghai type, but just the bok choy. In fact, the explanation of this nomenclature on Wikipedia is quite priceless. I could fry them with lots and lots of garlic, peanut oil and salt. It's how I like it - pure, with some bak fan (plain rice). If I need a meat dish, I can have the pork that I would use for some Chinese soup mix.

Hm, my grandma also gave me frozen tilapia slices. When she said fish, I thought she meant codfish or haddock. But tilapia is fine too - although the seng mei is more intense / hard to get rid of. Grandma suggested to fry some gai lan (or was it just choy sum?) on the side, and then the fish along with the quintessence of Chinese flavours, green onions and ginger. Adding the corn starch for a sauce.

Alright.

White cut chicken, which the Hongkongers call bak chit gai, but which we Overseas Chinese rather call bak zam gai, is also a dish that needs salvaging from parents' recipe. It read that you don't actually let the water boil when cooking the chicken, but rather let the residual heat do the job. Well, also, one day I'll be able to make a zui gai (zui ji, drunken chicken) that's acceptably the same thing as the thing they serve you in restaurants. Oh yeah, and maybe a Hainan chicken qui a de l'allure.

Student life at U of T

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Wokking On Wheels

My main purpose in Toronto being the Reel Asian International Film Festival (review on CLC to come), I spent most of my time in downtown Toronto, near the University of Toronto campus, where the fest was held.

The friends who accompanied me happened to be U of T alum or quasi-alum, and brought me to the various eating places, drinking holes scattered around the neighbourhood...

The first picture here above is that of a Chinese food truck regularly parked on St. George, a street that crosses the campus.

Pizza Papa Ceo & Pizza Cora

Following are the two pizza places on Spadina's west side between Harbord and Sussex. I tried Cora's pizza: 4$ for a quarter of a pizza, thus the expected price of 2$ per slice masqueraded as a two for one.

The Green Room

Last but not least, a bar accessible through some back alley that gives on a parking lot named the Green Room, a cousin of its red namesake. Plays quite some generic indie rock music, and is quite your regular student pub.

Ramen at Ramen-Ya

Ramen at Ramen-Ya

Ramen-Ya opened three months ago and has already been reviewed by the Montreal Hour and Mirror. It's invisible at street level, perhaps because its signage is written in a very cursive font, as I passed on St-Laurent on bike, walking, by car for who knows how many times this summer, and failed to notice it.

Cutting short the chase, I have been talking about Ramen noodles in Montreal since at least 2006 (see my two posts). Ultimately, I prepared my own noodles from frozen goods.

I don't know if they also make their own noodles, but a brand-new Chinese restaurant in Chinatown does, although I am not going to be reviewing it today - I'm in La Presse, btw. The chef at Ramen-Ya spoke Cantonese, so I assume that the owners might also be Chinese, very unsurprisingly.

Homemade or not, it was absolutely fantastic. As good as it gets from Montreal. I had the Cha-shu, sort of roasted pork, on ramen, in a spicy miso broth. I'm not sure if they've the names right, as another "tonkotsu" is with a fried pork cutlet, whereas "tonkotsu"... isn't that for pork bone broth? I got an extra serving of noodles for 75 cents and did not regret it (a bowl of noodles might not fill everyone).

Dessert was fried banana - two generous bananas split in halves, served with ice cream. Service was a little slow. The place is tiny, furnished in Ikea, and you should bring the address with you: 4274 St-Laurent, between Rachel and Marie-Anne.

A bowl of noodles is somewhere between 8 and 10$ without the taxes and tips.

Ramen-Ya

Egg + beef cakes

This is the first time that I try this family recipe on my own. I don't know its origin, but it's something that my family has been doing since I was a child. I presume that it may be Chinese, but there isn't anything distinctively Chinese about it.

In a bowl, prepare some ground beef by separating it with very very little water. Add salt, pepper and some chopped green onions. Then add the eggs, and something like 50mL of milk for taste. Mix everything together, and fry it in a pan as seen on the picture.

For quantities, I had about a fist of ground beef for four large eggs.

Métro Boulot Resto

The Montreal food restaurant site Métro Boulot Resto that I am running with my friend Jen is now back up again. It was a long month of fumbling... In the meanwhile, MBR celebrated its first anniversary, just shy of a month ago.

Peking Duck pieces at Quanjude 全聚德

A chain restaurant operating throughout China and also Overseas, but based in Beijing, Quanjude (全聚德) is probably one of the most places to go for Peking Duck.

This week in cheese

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Bleubry

Last time that I went to Asia, I invited friends to a Greek restaurant on Prince-Arthur, as something suitable for large groups, but also as something likely not to be found in Asia.

This week has serendipitously one of cheese. Last weekend, I asked my parents to buy me a cheddar from Costco for macaroni and cheese. It was not the greatest cheese, but it did the work for a rich and delicious macaroni and cheese.

I had some grated Parmigiano Reggiano from PA, which I got for my various pasta dishes of the week, and which can presumably be kept for a month or two without (seemingly) going bad.

The next cheese was a new discovery, something called the Bleubry (see photo above), a Quebec cheese produced by La Maison Alexis Portneuf, that makes various kinds of cheese sold under an interesting branding scheme. It's a bloomy rind blue-veined cheese, extremely rich, and I ate 1/4 of it (w/o bread) in five minutes. On the same run, I had many pieces of a truly excellent cheese called the Champfleury, a washed rind made by Agropur, no less.

Then, on Friday, we went to the Fromagerie Hamel, an excellent cheese shop (and producer) in Marché Jean-Talon (Mentioning this to a colleague, I was told there is a better, although more expensive, place on Bernard called Fromagerie Yannick - they have "closets" to hold their cheeses, I heard). At Hamel, I had a Brie de Meaux, that is usually in the refrigerated counter seen in the last photo. I usually dislike Brie, because I always associate it with the infect Agropur kind sold in mainstream supermarkets, which surface constantly has a smell of plastic wrap. But each bite of this Brie de Meaux, in particular, sold to you wrapped in specially designed-for-cheese wrapping paper, tasted of creamy milk. It was a big hit with my friends too.

À la Fromagerie Hamel - Marché Jean-Talon

I then took a chance on the nearest inexpensive-looking cheese, a Saint-Guillaume. From what I found on the Internets, St-Guillaume may be the fromagerie, rather than the cheese itself, and the cheese is perhaps a cheddar. In any case, the piece that I bought turned out to be a fresh cheese, the kind you put in poutine, but instead of being in curds, came as a block.

Finally, not cheese this time, but rather saucisson! Saucisson sec is my péché mignon. Every time my relatives come to visit from France (my aunt who just arrived yesterday is no exception), they smuggle a saucisson or two for me, because you may not find the same quality in Quebec. Oh, how wrong I was! In fact, I limited my search to mainstream supermarkets, when I should've looked at Montreal's public markets. This land produces the best French stuff in the world outside of France (and sometimes better than, if you consider places like bakery Première Moisson), and we arguably make cheese on par with France's. Why wouldn't a decent saucisson?

By definition, it is to be hard and firm when you feel it, with a thick salpeter-laden white powder covering it, and a strong meat aroma. They were to be found at Cochons tout ronds, an artisan charcuterie all the way from Île-de-la-Madeleine. It took samples of saucisson freshly cut above the counter filled with saucissons of all size, to convince me that you don't need to go all the way to France (or Hong Kong - scroll down) to get good saucisson that tastes exactly like the real thing. I got mine "ménage", which is the cute way of saying "ordinaire" (as in pain ménage).

Saucisson de Les cochons tout ronds

Fruits & vegetable for the week

After going on an (expensive) cheese-buying spree on Saturday (at Costco, no less), I completed my groceries at the week at P.A. Supermarché on Parc. I already have relatively vasts amounts of meat in the freezer, that I have not been using, because I don't have the vegetable for accompanying. So, I went and filled my basket with only fruits and vegetable! Except for that pack of German rye flour crackers, this is what I got (most of which was on special - by how much, I dunno):

  • Bananas (~1kg): $1.26
  • Wasa Crackers: $2.39
  • Zucchini (3): $0.95
  • Organic cauliflower (1): $1.69
  • Yukon potatoes (5lbs): $1.99
  • Sunkist oranges (8): $1.20
  • Green pepper (1): $0.36
  • Bluberries (1/2 pint): $1.69
  • Red pepper (1): $0.41
  • Italian tomatoes (4): $1.12

Total: $13.06

That's enough plants for the whole week, I think...

Soupe aux betteraves

I had the brilliant idea to get beets at the supermarket, thinking that I could pull something Eastern European. But what do you do, when your roots (ha-ha) are elsewhere and that there is no such tradition for this in your family, besides your parents? Improvise. Just imagine what the Eastern European would be doing, and that would be imagining them cutting some beets, boiling them in water and broth with onions. Then, after simmering the thing for a couple of hours, get a bowl of it, and throw / mix in some sour cream.

Verdict? Not that great.

La Shangrila in Lachine, Qc

This was a restaurant called La Shangrila that we went to in Lachine, corner of Notre-Dame and 25e Avenue. It's owned by Nepalese people (judging from the flags that they have inside). Check out this eclectic menu.

3-4 servings. First, get a pouch of LLK's "Lemon chicken" blend from any regular Chinese grocery store (it's appx $1.50), five pieces of boneless chicken thighs, one orange, one egg and some corn starch. Follow the instructions on the pouch, and add half-slices of an orange to the stir-fry.

Dans l'allée deux

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Friskies

Waiting in line at Supermarché PA, Avenue du Parc, can be long and frustrating, but never boring with a camera...

The 200$ challenge

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I have 210$ (actually approximately $150, considering that I need to buy a bus pass) to live with for the next two weeks. This is because of my feeling that living on credit is the worse thing that can happen to someone in terms of personal finances. Therefore, once I got my pay yesterday, I paid my cellphone bill, and rent, and set money aside for mutual funds (markets in Asia went down), and had early Christmas gifts (unconscious of what I was doing, as it was Buy Nothing Day, and I was trying hard to be observant for once).

So, I am left with about $10/day. I guess that a lot of the money goes into restaurants, and spendings for outings.

The funnest part of living downtown is probably doing the supermarket. Because I am living to eat, every trip to the local grocery story (Supermarché PA slowly imposed itself as a personal favourite) is like a voyage to the land of wonders. I understand that savings are usually made on big extravagant purchases (on a latest iPod, say) than on stuff like groceries, and it is the nature of extravagant purchases to be unpredictable... In any case, I am a bargain hunter. Last week, I found that pineapples were 2$/each, which seems unbelievably low (but then, I never bought a pineapple myself before), and that Emmental cheese was noticeably cheaper than its usual supermarket price (for bargains on cheese, and not just the Kraft kind, go to Costco!).

Another favourite buy is bread from Première Moisson. Not just any kind, because a baguette is markedly more expensive there (proportional to its quality, we'd all agree on that), but rather the "carré blanc" variety. Sold at PA, but only sliced at actual bakery locations. The carré blanc is $2.65, a competitive price against commercial white breads of the POM, Weston brands, not as large, from the volume point of view, but it is surely heavier, denser (and of greater quality, arguably). It is a lot cheaper than the $3-4 breads of multi-grain omega-3 whatever types.

And then, I definitely like the instant noodles + Chinese vegetable + egg / Chinese cold cut meat combo. A portion of roasted pork for $5 in Chinatown can be good for three individual meals, including a lunch.

Speaking of lunch (and breakfast), packing your own is probably the single most valuable money saver. How about a pair of toasts for around $1, when you can get the whole loaf for just 2 or 3 times that price, and a trivial amount for spread?

Macaroni aux quatre fromages

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Macaroni au fromage

Melt butter, and mix in flour and milk. Then, mix into some cooked macaroni. Then, throw in your four kinds of cheeses (mine were a Rosenborg, Jarlsberg, Coulommiers, and Parmesan), and gratin with grated Parmesan.

Cooking for grads and professionals

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I really liked recipes on Karen's "Cooking for Undergraduates" series, having again tried her linguine carbonara recipe a couple of weeks back, one of those dishes that are easier than they seem. Not with actual fresh Parmigiano Reggiano.

Yesterday night, I made a borscht based on the family recipe:

Borscht

We always made this beet-based soup, and forgot the origin of it (such that for the longest time, I thought it was Chinese, or French, as my father learned to cook from the family's cook). Having it was especially heartwarming, as November sank in. Typically, we did it with beets, carrots, leeks, potatoes, and a big beef marrow with the meat and cartilage around it. The idea of the soup came from the fact that I did not know how to use the tomatoes in the bottom drawer, thus my recipe would contain a number of tomatoes. Because PA was out of beef shank, I had to substitute it with a chicken carcass. In the end, the choice of meat did not influence the taste so much, as I think the leeks (and shallots that I added, in order to emulate my roommate Emilie's own vegetable soup recipe) contributed the most to the aroma, while beets and carrots gave the sweet taste to it (meat basically provides the msg-ish taste, I think).

Now, I've been thinking all day about making macaroni and cheese, to consume the ham leftovers in the fridge (sounds like a common thread, doesn't it?). It would be: butter + flour + milk, for a white sauce, and parmesan for the gratin. I just need to get macaroni, and actually some more ham...

I have wonton noodles in the fridge too, and I could make a variant of the za jiang mein.

Now, what do you do with a bunch of old smelly cheeses (Rosenborg Danish Blue, Jarsberg, Le Rustique Coulommiers), that does derive from three-cheeses pasta?

IMG_3368

Edit (2008-07-14): Last week, I tried bringing my friends to Restaurant Congee, just to find that it has closed for good, it seems! Just after a few months of existence - quel dommage!

Edit (2008-02-03): 豐衣粥食 is actually the Chinese name of this place.

After the singing contest last week, we got a bunch of cards for free dessert at this congee restaurant in Brossard. The name in Chinese is perhaps a little more meaningful, evocative, but I cannot read it. My mother said that she saw ads for this particular restaurant in Toronto - so we might assume that it is part of some pan-Canadian chain.

So, yes, there is a congee place in Montreal, and it is in the suburb of Brossard, where a fairly large Chinese/Asian community lives. The menu indicates countless possibilities of congee combinations, more than I've ever seen in Chinatown for the very least. The said congee restaurant might be in a boring strip mall, but the interior of it is certainly not bad, with its redwood and clean environment (we thought it might've opened recently, as the strip mall sign does not include them yet).

Mr Ma

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On an entirely different register, we went to Chinese restaurant Mr Ma, an expensive joint for business types, on street level of Montreal's business quarter landmark Place Ville-Marie. I've been seeing Mr Ma since forever, but only very recently knew that 1- Mr Ma indeed existed (and he is not an elderly cook, but rather the owner), and that 2- my uncle Bernard worked with him when both were of student age and had part-time jobs at Montreal's only Mr Sub in the late 70s.

I often discarded Mr Ma as being in the same category of Piment Rouge, as Chinese food for White People (namely a fest of General Tao-ish cuisine, and an orgy of sweet and sour flavours, over the more diverse, complex sets of flavours and aromas of Chinese cuisine. Both places happen to serve so-called "Szechuan" cuisine. I am not an expert, but my usual suspiciousness tells me that it is nothing like what's eaten in China's Sichuan province, where food is indeed really spicy, but characterized by the unabashed addition of dried chili pepper, and the use of the numbing type of Sichuan pepper (a flavour called "ma la"), a definitely acquired taste.

It was not wrong to associate Mr Ma with Piment Rouge, since both were formerly acquainted (and I cannot remember whether what I was told was told around the family table, or read in a newspaper). Last week, at Julie and Colin's wedding reception, Piment Rouge did the catering, and I was hugely surprised that they could do good authentic-ish (anything not Soup and Noodles - even if it's ideologically wrong / trashfoodingly good) Chinese food which included a lotus leaf-wrapped chicken with medicinal herbs.

Now for Mr Ma, same biases from a food snob, and cultural imperialist such as myself. But again, I discounted the fact that the chefs, being Chinese, presumably could make Chinese food for Chinese palates. He told us that it was Chinese food with Western influences (therefore, a CBC like myself n'y voit que du feu).

Pictures ahead:

La Banquise

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Famed poutine place on Rachel, on the north-west corner of Parc Lafontaine (next to bike shop, facing a police station), La Banquise serves twenty-something variants of the Quebec delicacy (and adopted by the rest of Canada, even found in expat areas of HK and China). I had a poutine with merguez sausages, while my guest, content with poutine served at Montreal Chinatown's L2 bubble tea cafe (!), took the original (fries, gravy, cheese curds). There you go for your Canadian/Quebecer-Chinese take on poutine! (When's the char siu poutine for? - eww)

I liken La Banquise to Crif Dogs, a place in East Village, NYC, that I visited in February and that serves hot dogs fried with a bacon wrap, as they are both late-night fast food joints with a specialty "dish" (La Banquise is in fact open 24 hours).

La Croissanterie Figaro

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You wouldn't know how good a Camembert and Ham sandwich can be until you've been to La Croissanterie Figaro. Not typically the type of place I can go to normally, not being a resident of the Mile End, since Figaro is on the corner of Hutchison and Fairmount, actually at Outremont's border. The bread was good, but not so much the butter (which tasted like margarine). Has quite a terrasse, and is pleasant on a mild evening of August, such as tonight. (I'd put it in Metro Boulot Resto, but it's far from any metro, actually)

L'Avenue du Plateau

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L'Avenue du Plateau: very close to the window

You will probably have to lineup for around an hour on the Sunday morning brunch rush hour, but the wait will be definitely worth it. We went to L'Avenue du Plateau, otherwise known simply as "L'Avenue", last week, and discovered that none of the five attending people went there before, despite its reputation as a premiere breakfast place on Avenue Mont-Royal on the Plateau.

While waiting outside, we were greeted by loud electronic music by a folk named Michael Meyer, on a compilation prepared by Londonian party venue Fabrik. The place is definitely for twenty/thirtysomething hipsters. Walls were decorated with various graffitis, customers seated in large comfy upholstered chairs.

After waiting for an hour, we ordered. Three of us had omelettes, each of which are prepared with four eggs, unknown (but indecent) amounts of animal fat, and a choice of filling. They were a delight, but made me wish of eating congee for the rest of the week.

922 avenue du Mont Royal Est, around 15-20$ per person, taxes and tips included.

Photos here below:

metroboulotresto1.png

Ms. Charlie Fidelman of the Montreal Gazette wrote an article (archived) on us (www.metroboulotresto.com) for their "Montreal from A to Z" series, under the letter "F", for Food.

I also went around the Plateau / Petite-Patrie / Parc-Ext area this morning to add pictures to a bunch of stations (special thanks to Mary for the camera!).

The metro to Laval is opening next Saturday, so I'll grab on to the occasion to launch this:

http://www.metroboulotresto.com/

For all transit system geeks who happen to be foodies (or foodies who happen to travel by metro), this is your ultimate destination for restaurant reviews! It's a reimplementation of xanawu's restaurant page (who will also be a main contributor of this site - once she gets back from HK, I suppose). We will be adding stations profiles eventually, but for now, please take a look and drop us a line if you have comments/suggestions/questions! (The site is also bilingual English/French, if you click on the sub-headers.)

Fried calamari

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With tempura batter.

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IMG_1342

Lu Mama

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Lu Mama

Went to Lu Mama, the new "in" place in the Concordia area it seems. Was told about it in two separate occasions in the past two weeks or so, and it opened just three or four weeks ago.

Lu Mama is the new occupant of the location that used to house Arirang, the Korean restaurant that had a fabulous Bi Bim Bap. Lu Mama is branded as "Asian fusion", and also, I don't know if I was told that, or saw it on a sign outside, as a Taiwanese-style restaurant. Indeed, it was "fusion", but in the sense that it served several types of dishes from all over Asia, from Japanese-style Curry to Chinese-style cold noodles. I think that the Taiwanese rice was the most noteworthy dish. The ingredients list was identical to La Maison Du Nord's famed pork sandwich, substitute the flat crispy bread for sticky rice (there is a variant on the menu with regular rice too), and namely pork fat, shredded pork and fresh coriander; with a soy'ed egg. Nothing special there, but you're talking to the same person who raves about Northern-style dumplings. XD

From recounts of friends, I preconceived Lu Mama as the type of upscale fusion restaurants they have in Asian metropolises where they sell you overpriced non-authentic, but still very good, Japanese-style food (it has raw fish). But no, none of that. Except for the Japanese menu that is as usual more expensive, the Chinese items on the menu were at prices more than reasonable, and a surer bet.

The chicken popcorn was had by the two groups of people who recommended the place, and we had it too. It was perhaps a rebranding of something I seemed to have had a million times at various bubble tea places, namely bite-size chicken (in mystery spice mix - I suspect ramen noodles soup base) fried with basil leaves.

The mussels grilled with cheese is also a novelty in Montreal, and not bad at all. I suspect that it is mayo mixed with something sour, but the taste is so familiar that I must've had this stuff (w/ or w/o the mussels) before somewhere. It is the closest that it gets to HK-style sai chaan grilled cheese langoustine.

The Taiwanese with garlic looked like an interesting pick for a next visit.

With the dim lights and lit tri-dimensional screens between tables, the setting is a tad intimate and perhaps upscale/intimidating. An entree, main meal (not Japanese) and dessert comes to 15$/person, all included.

Lu Mama is located on Ste-Catherine, near St-Marc. It's across the street from the Soupe et Nouilles with the little Nissin boy logo.

(Was told by Chris DeWolf, who had a chat with the owner (a twentysomething), that the restaurant was family-run, and that the mother runs the kitchen, thus the name of the restaurant.)

Magic Idea (Concordia branch)

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A second branch of the Chinese cafe Magic Idea opened in the heart of Montreal's Chinatown West. It is as trendy as the one in Chinatown, and goes by its acronym of "MI". Instead of the single telly that the original Magic Idea had, this one sported at least four, plus screens behind the bar. On both occasions I went, the staff didn't know about the wireless Internet code, although I was the only folk in the place to be accompanied with a laptop. The cafe was very empty at 8PM, but was rapidly filled with large bunches of young people (I give them not more than my cousin's age, who's turning 17) who seemed to be using MI as a meetup point before Friday night clubbing.

The food was your typical subpar Chinese eatery type. I had a fried pork chop; while the spark of sesame seed on the rice was eye-catching, the pork itself didn't have the fried crisp I expected, and the meat tasted like it stayed in the freezer for way too long. T's General Tao's (the ideologically evil Chinese food) was also a little soggy. Portions are small and basically ask you to order for another set of fried items if you wanted a full meal. I wanted an osmanthus tea (桂花茶), but they didn't have it, unlike the place right across, the classic Tapioca Cafe, and ordered the Oolong tea instead.

10$/person; the new Magic Idea is on de Maisonneuve, a few steps east from St-Mathieu, on the north side of the street (15 seconds from the St-Mathieu exit of Guy-Concordia metro).

El Jibaro

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It's a restaurant serving "Peruvian and International" on St-Hubert, a few steps north from Jean-Talon on the east side. Can't miss it. My colleague described the restaurant (actually it's a pair, very close by - the joke being that they probably share the same interconnected underground kitchen or something) as "le moins pire des quatres" in the area. Did not think it was bad, nor that it was overwhelmingly good, but it more for lack of references, as my specialty is apparently for oriental food instead. The South American genre is still very exotic, but I like to discover that it isn't just about peppers or corn-based elements.

We wanted to save cash, so went straight for the appetizers. But as we saw the other guests' orders (mound of shredded stuff, with a brochette of shrimp stuck into it) we soon felt deep regret. The shrimp soup was quite peculiar, being milk-based with shrimp juice, and rice and shrimp of varying sizes swimming around a semi-boiled egg buoy. The appetizers were cheese gratin shrimp and snails (not exactly special), and some potatoes topped with cheese that didn't look so much like your typical North American cheese (it was rather fluid and varying from gray to green in color). In the Latino-American food, I still vastly prefer when it's tamales or pupusas.

La Maison du Nord

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It's a Northern invasion! Well, as emigration from the Chinese Mainland accelerates, so does the increase in restaurants specializing in Northern Chinese food in a town near you.

Yesterday, we went and tried this restaurant on St-Mathieu between De Maisonneuve and Lincoln, apparently opened by people from Shanxi. Her colleagues mentioned that their pork sandwich was not to be missed, and it was so very true: how can anything with pork fat be bad when the appetite's in its right mind? The sandwich was made between slices of Chinese-style pancakes (probably oil-fried, but I'm not sure), and contained ground pork, bits of pork skin and fat, and fresh coriander ($5). I had the lamb soup ($4), which was really a sour-tasting broth with rectangular slices of old mutton meat patrolling the bottom of a deep narrow bowl (fresh coriander floating at the surface, probably to diffuse the foul smell of lamb fat). Also, they had fresh hand-made dumplings ($6 for a 18 bite-size ones) either made with shrimp, or with beef (no pork?). A tad expensive for dumplings on the world market, but it is as right as you get in Montreal, Canada. It's a must-try, if you are exploring the diversity of Chinese cuisine. Don't expect General Tao chicken or ethnic cuisine served with Western fancy.

I was also recently told of a place making real xiao long bao with soup in Montreal. Unfortunately, the place burnt down a couple of weeks ago. It was apparently on Ste-Catherine, a few houses west of St-Mathieu. "Sadness", indeed.

It's even more sad, because adding up clues from colleagues and friends alike, it was confirmed in a Mirror article that it was that restaurant opened by a former waiter at the Beijing Restaurant (京都) in Chinatown, who we knew growing up. I guess he saved up and opened a restaurant there a couple of years ago. I ate there last year out of pure luck with petronia, and he even recognized me, I think. (Also ironic that the only known xiao long bao place in this city was opened by a Cantonese guy, right?)

Xiao Fei Yang Montreal

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Xiao Fei Yang

It was well worth the lineup of more than an hour and a half for a group of seven people, as we were given the "VIP" room, serviced with individual hot pots. The experience of the hot pot is generally defined by the single communal basin where all participants throw and intermix their meat and vegetable. The lineup disappeared soon after 8PM.

I wouldn't say that it was an overwhelmingly better, or special hot pot (it wasn't), but then, it's all about the wrapping: waiters in that green uniform, floor boss in "traditional" "Mongolian" outfit, various weapons of lesser destruction hanging on the walls, and the feel of a modern-looking restaurant in Chinatown. I can't give up the fact that this same place was previously the permanently empty Cactus Cafe. My friends thought the old staff overlapped with the new one, and I speculate that the ownership also might.

It is an all-you-eat scheme for around $16 (haven't had the reflex to memorize the rather simple menu), and you will typically only be able to eat two plates full. Dessert and drinks (strawberry kool-aid, and soya milk) were also all-you-can-eat. I repeat for any Chinese restaurant: don't wear clean clothes. XD

Yu Hang

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Then, after flirting with the uber-full Xiao Fei Yang, we settled for hot pot at Yu Hang, a rather new non-Cantonese Chinese restaurant on the outskirts of Chinatown (400 Rene-Levesque W). Were told that it was a Sichuan-style hot pot, but then, I don't know how to distinguish between types of hot pot. I suppose that the fact that one half of the pot was filled with dried chili peppers made it more Sichuanese. *g* At $15 a person, the all-you-can-eat hot pot, and not on the regular menu (apparently), it is one hell of a good deal (better than, say, overpriced shabu shabu joints in Chinatown).

Xiao Fei Yang Montreal (preview)

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Montreal is a world city, because it now has a xiao fei yang. As far as I know, HK chains don't bother coming to Mtl, and one Taiwanese bubble tea chain appeared for the time of a summer (2003). We did not eat there tonight, but still attempted to get a seat. How did Cactus, one of the three bubble tea places in Chinatown, become this very nice and very Chinese-nice (there isn't another single Chinese-nice place in all of Montreal) is a question I can't exactly answer. I think of its opening as the tipping point for Mainlander dominance over the Chinese gastronomical landscape in Montreal (I am going to die if some restaurant chains like Din Tai Fung or Crystal Jade Palace, respectively Taiwanese and HKese, opened here). Upon climbing the stairs, you couldn't help but think that you were in China (complete with crowds and crowds of people that you only see in the summer, and almost exclusively Mandarin-speaking). Mind you, the tenants before Cactus (Chinese buffet "Nanjing"), I remember, also enjoyed large numbers of patrons at their beginnings. We will be finding the time in the next month to try it out.

While most, if not all, Chinese restaurants in Montreal are sort of family businesses, this Xiao Fei Yang is a serious corporative operation, competing in style with your usual family restaurant chain, like St-Hubert, but catering to the growing Chinese population. The heaters are electric and integrated into the tables; the decor is elaborate, yet very typical of Chinese restaurants in Asia or in other world cities (with folkloric items hanging on the walls - seemingly not innocently chosen); the staff dressed in non-generic restaurant uniforms. To say the least, very frighteningly Chinese for a city like Montreal (and I'm raving about it without having actually eaten the food - must say a lot about how shocked I am). Corner of Clark and De La Gauchetiere.

(Edit: Here's an actual review after going to Xiao Fei Yang.)

Chez Doval

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Chez Doval is an otherwise perfectly good place to try Portuguese food in Montreal (and Jano's, aka the place you go to when the Schwartz lineup is too full, and your stomach, too empty, is not bad either). We went there for our office's Christmas dinner this year, where I got the grilled grouper. For some reason, grouper is not my fish of choice on the grill.

Went back tonight with S. You are first served a metal plate with one compartment with butter cups, and the other with a number of small black and green olives, and a basket filled with two gigantic Portuguese bread.

She had grilled squid as appetizer, which size could've well made it a main dish. The squid was served in slices, and had absorbed all of the grill's smoking taste that was expected. I had a chicken noodles soup, with the noodles being rice grain-sized stars, and the chicken, being what looked like real chicken stock (I won't bet my wallet on it, but the bits of chicken made it look like it didn't come from the can). I also had garlic shrimp, which was puny in size (six pieces), but was soaked in some interesting sauce that had tomatoes, and maybe some wine or porto (one review says it's butter).

For the main dish, S got a Portuguese-style steak, which was basically steak with a fried egg on top of it. XD It was a very good steak, she thought. I was intrigued by the "pork and clams" from the meat section. I was expecting to get something grilled, but I realize now that I had "scallops" in mind when thinking of "clams", the former being more easily grilled than the latter. It was reminiscent of the Chinese vinegared pork, or "khoh zhu yok", by the strength of its taste, and its appearance (dark undifferentiated pieces of meat and fried potato cubes in a thick sauce). The sauce, filling the bottom of a round dish containing the mound of pork/potatoes/four clams, was certainly wine-based, and too salty. I did not ask what this "pork and clams" was, so I only have myself to blame. The grilled chicken that the neighboring table had sure looked good after my third peck at the pork/potatoes.

For dessert, we were too full. However, they had at least natas, from what I can remember of last time. Got out of there for a little less than $30 a person. Just don't take the pork and clams. If you stay with the grilled meat and seafood, and are with a bunch of friends, it should be a food-sharing extravaganza.

After work, I bussed down to Chinatown to pick up dinner for tonight. In about less than an hour, I walked around the quarter, and here's a summary of what I found out, or found was worth blogging about.

Cured duck leg

Cured duck leg hangs at the window of Sun Sing Lung, on De La Gauchetière, below Keung Kee restaurant, near Clark and St-Urbain. It sells for $9 a pound, and the leg piece I had cost $3.45. Cured duck leg, also called "air-dried duck leg" (or "lap ap pei" in Cantonese) is typically cooked in the rice cooker, so that the juices are absorbed by the rice. In restaurants, the rice cooker is substituted with an earthenware pot, and Chinese bacon, salted eggs and Chinese lap cheung may be added as well. This is generally called "lap mei faan", which is loosely translated as tasty rice. It is indeed very tasty.

HK-style milk tea

milktea.png HK-style milk tea is a metaphor for its namesake: it is a very strong Chinese tea, mixed with evaporated milk, like the Brits do. The concoction should be as bitter as coffee, and yet keeps the smoothness of its lactic parent. Authentic milk tea can't be gotten anywhere (at least in Montreal), because not all Chinese restaurants keep strong tea, let alone evaporated milk. In Chinatown, there are two places that I know which serves the real thing, both being two of Chinatown's "cha chaan teng", or tea eateries: the Unnamed Eatery Under Kam Fung (on St-Urbain, below René-Lévesque, and facing Complexe Guy-Favreau), and Legend ("Lai Tsing") on De La Gauchetière, between Clark and St-Urbain. Milk tea at bubble tea places like L2 and Magic Idea are too diluted to be considered HK-style milk tea.

Chinese BBQ (to go)

Char siu & Siu yok
It's meat, after all, and not really the kind that you soak up with saline water or gelatin to increase its weight. "Siu yok" is roasted pork. The best cut arguably traverse the ribs, as it is leanest (as you get real meat, you also get a lot of real lard). Two rib bones should be enough to feed 3-4 hungry people, and I got mine for $9.50 at Restaurant Hong Kong, on the east side of St-Laurent, below De La Gauchetière, in that cavern-like shopping mall. Other tenants there have changed hands at least three or four times each since my childhood, from fishmonger to Korean restaurants, while Restaurant Hong Kong stood there for over fifteen years. They are especially good for their char siu (Barbecued pork filet, and a semi-fat piece is good - for $5 a strip). Either have it chopped up in front of you, if you're planning to eat it the same night, or not, if you wish to eat it another day and preserve the meat's moisture (can be frozen and thawed in a bowl of hot instant noodles). For the same day, the best is to not heat it up in the oven, such that the pieces' don't become dry and gelatinous.

Generally, people prefer to eat it on rice with veggies, but it can also be served in noodles, or in a stir fry (where siu yok loses its crunch, and char siu, its flavour, however). My father thinks that the Chinese meat place under Kam Fung restaurant is also great for its siu yok, but not the rest.

Chinese green vegetable

Fried baby bok choy
You can buy Chinese greens, or "choy", about anywhere. "Bok choy", or White Vegetable, can mean a lot of things. It typically points to the Chinese cabbage, or Nappa, which is the same that is used by Koreans for kimchi. The variety pictured here is a lot different, but also called "bok choy", and more specifically "Shanghai baby bok choy". They are bulb-shaped, bright green upon cooking and bite-sized (the ones slightly bigger ones drop the "baby").

Prices vary depending on the season, and they now currently fetch for $2.69/lbs, a big pack for four people costs $4.25. I like going to the grocery store "Wing Cheong Hong" that opened in '05 on Clark, in the Ruby Rouge shopping mall, and with a door on the street too, because they are the only grocery store in Chinatown with a vegetable counter. The vegetable counter is just a table in the front store where the employees open up boxes of vegetable and pack them in transparent plastic bags in front of customers. It's a common practice in supermarkets in Asia and in Chinese Canadian supermarkets, like T&T and Hawai, but the concept still doesn't register with many older grocery stores.

Cooking SH baby bok choy well is art. Prepare about a garlic clove per person. I prefer finely chopping my garlic, as I think the flavour releases more evenly. You must heat up a fair amount of oil in a wok. The oil's the key to cooking good bok choy: the vegetable must be crunchy, yet cooked. The hot cooking oil rapidly transfers its heat to the vegetable, cooking it quickly and thoroughly. If the oil's not hot enough, then it extends the cooking for too long, and the choy become soggy. The other requirement is for vigorous stirring, or otherwise, the vegetable won't cook evenly, and you will end up with the inside of your bok choy left uncooked. Throw in the chopped garlic on the nearly-smoking cooking oil, but don't let it brown, or you will be stuck with a bitter garlic aftertaste. Then, throw in full baby bok choy, and fry while stirring well, until you get the consistency that you want (slightly more raw is better, because it will cook some more at rest, in the presentation vessel).

Of sausage and cured hams

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A particularly tasty article on cured meats in the special Holidays issue of The Economist.

We had prosciutto for the Christmas dinner, in its routine cantaloupe-wrapper usual presentation. I also really like prosciutto in my sandwich bought at the Italian bakery outside my workplace. The last saucisson I had was probably in July 2005, in HK. Quebec-made saucisson are typically too sour, which is probably a consequence of some food regulation asking for saucissons marketed here to be lower than a certain pH, in order to protect the consumer from pathogens (but it's really the type of topic I'd want to do investigative blog-reporting). Would really want to try out authentic European-style sausage. At the same time, artisanal Chinese-style preserved hams, salted duck and sausages are also very tempting (I haven't seen a salted duck in Montreal for a while - perhaps they never existed in the first place, or are just available, err, frozen? Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of curing...).

However, French saucisson is the single type of preserved meat which I am the most fond of. I remembered having some in a butter-filled sandwich at a branch of a sandwich chain on Les Champs-Élysées in 1992 (that was before Subway's invaded the world with its insipid, soggy, pinkish, pre-cut meats), but usually, it comes smuggled in the luggage of a visiting relative. It is at its best when perfectly dry, with a fair dotting of fat peas, and the casing covered with a thick white coat of mold. Well, if I didn't want to go to Asia so badly, I'd certainly be going to France to burn some Euros on marketplace and bistro food.

So, after looking up scallops in Wikipedia (because I've been used to calling them with their French name - pétoncles - and seeing them in their Chinese form - dried), I realized that sauteed in butter was some hell of a good idea for preparing scallops. So tonight, I rounded up together a few other ingredients worthy of participating in this wedding party, namely, spaghettis to make up the bulk of the dish, spinach for my good health, shrimp, just bicauze, garlic (a must in anything simili-Mediterranean), white table wine, quite some butter, et puis, black peppercorn brought back by Wee from Borneo.

It must've been the first time (it's a season of firsts, see cookies & "muffins") I used pepper not in its ground form, even if I've seen it in, like, everywhere. The peppercorn released a flavour not unlike the definition of spring, upon being crushed between my molars, hidden between the softened spinach leaves. The butter, wine and garlic are the inseparable trio of the mix, providing the aroma that goes so classically well with pasta and seafood. A bit of lemon wouldn't have been out of place right here.

Indeed, the scallops weren't bad at all with butter; the best part being when I threw the half-thawed scallops and shrimp over the sizzling mixture of garlic, peppercorn, butter and white wine. Fortunately, the spinach did not stain the whole dish green. Very satisfying, after an otherwise crappy day caused by lack of sleep. Quand l'appétit va, tout va!

Shoyu ramen

I cooked ingredients in separate batches of water, to insure the best taste possible, and indirectly, the best presentation I can afford. First, the vegetable; then the noodles and seafood; and finally the soup base in a smaller volume of water to maximize the taste, and not fill over your bowl (which happened on the first two tries). The picture doesn't pay respect to the relative quality in presentation I was able to achieve, which is probably the most refined it gets for me when it comes to noodles (I employ the mix and dump tactic, usually).

Nonetheless, gulped it in the time it took to say it, between two goals by the Habs in that magnificent, Stanley Cup hopes-boosting victory against the Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo Sabres. Seriously, we won four in a row now, and are five points within the top spot in the East!

Re: Best Ramen in Montreal

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Korean grocery store indeed sells a brand of frozen Japanese ramen (with shoyu seasoning). Three small packs for $4.29 (and how Chinese-made noodles, fresh or not, will always be cheaper, perhaps even better).

Cooked them along with extra ingredients from my mother's seafood and pork chop suey, as well as the 10th of a can of bamboo shoots. The pork could've been better not being seasoned for stir fry, and the addition of something green would've improved the aesthetics. I give myself a 8/10 over this meal cooked and consumed in less than 30 minutes. Cheers.

... is probably the one you make in the comfort of your home. Otherwise, you may head to Isakaya, Avenue du Parc, between Sherbrooke and Milton, and ask for the Japanese menu.

There are two choices of soup base for your ramen noodles: either shoyu (soya sauce) or miso (fermented beans). I look miso, while Wee had the shoyu. The obligatory piece of meat was laughable, but the rest of the ingredients made up for it quite well. It was surely the best bowl of Japanese noodles I ate in Montreal, hands down, because it was so complete compared with others I had from Japanese menus all around (Katsura, Sakura...). Of course, the piece of meat (tiny like a piece of char siu, freshly thawed from the freezer preserve) was far from the large, round thin slice of fatty pork, which I think is the norm (surely, the preparation of ramen noodles depends from a region to the other - and also, fatty pork in thin slices is perhaps not as readily in Mtl). The other components of the soup are as ordinary as it gets: (lots of) sprouted beans, a bunch of surprisingly green crisp for being in boiling soup spinach, bamboo shoots, sesame seeds floating around, scallions, a quarter of carrot... ok, it's not as impressive when you enumerate the ingredients like this.

Noodles on the Japanese menu is a bit more affordable, given that you ordinarily can't get out of Isakaya for less than $35. And we did, for $25/person, all included with sushi. $10.95 for a bowl of ramen noodles. Alas, no tonkotsu soup. Could be the next culinary experimentation?

--

I bought enoki mushrooms over the weekend at Marché Hawai, Montreal's only decent size Asian supermarket (T&T still kicks its ass, both hands tied up, inside its back pocket). By proxy, my mother is going to cook sukiyaki. So, i said, well, try using sliced beef, the fried tofu, and then add those fat noodles and baby bak choy at the end. Add scallions, ginger slices, and sake or Chinese wine if you can find any.

Empanada night

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Met up with Simon, and had food in the neighborhood. I was totally out of ideas, so previously decided to fetch out my valuable web resources. First, I checked MontrealFood.com, and Googled out An Endless Banquet (more specifically, its food guide), quite a ref in Montreal-based food blogs. Finally shortlisted Chez Jose, and La Chilenita, both of which served empanadas and were within the same area within the Duluth/St-Laurent/Prince-Arthur/St-Denis quarter; by chance, La Chilenita's kitchen was closed by 6PM, and we grabbed some empanadas to go on the way to Chez Jose.

The empanadas at Chez Jose were definitely inferior. This year's Mirror Best of Montreal voted them the best for soup, but the soup du jour was, perhaps homemade-tasting, but slightly on the bland site (potatoes and turnip based, with what seems like broccoli, etc.). They have a tomato and blue cheese (hm?) soup on Thursday, and seafood soup on weekends.

I took my "Chilenita" empanada from La Chilenita (beef and onions, and other vegetable, w/ a piece of hard-boiled egg) home to eat. The empanada from Chez Jose was not well-heated and its skin, way too thick. On the other hand, the empanada from La Chilenita was very good, its skin, quite thin enough, and the filling, quite tasty.

Affogato

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Made an affogato just fifteen minutes ago. Never heard of it before two weeks ago (I still keep calling it afrogado, adofrago, etc), but is like the infamous ice cream ball in a coffee (which I've been familiar with since early childhood... or was it ice cream in hot choco?), it's another arranged marriage of dairy fats and coffee. We have an espresso machine, and after having this afternoon's cappuccino, I remembered about Astrael's affogato post, and vaguely planned to buy ice cream. So, got myself some Quebon/Breyers vanilla sort (apparently, Breyers splits its branding image with Quebon for the vanilla flavour - I'm sure it just means Quebon has a license to make Breyers ice cream in Quebec).

For an affogato, first prepare some of the darkest possible espresso coffee and put it in the refrigerator for an hour or two in advance - freezer is ok, but better keep an eye on it. When the coffee has chilled, scoop out some ice cream in a plate with sides. Using a small spoon, try to coat the ice cream with coffee, and watch. At first, it may seem like it all drips down on the plate surface, but actually, what remains on the ice cream solidifies and gives a more of less thick crust to it. Coffee ice cream is miles ahead my favourite kind, so this recipe is a treat to me (my mother thought it tasted like bad ice cream you left in the freezer for too long). Other foodpics: 1 | 2 | 3.

Affogato

Salmon, sweet

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We love salmon, me and my brother, but my father hates it. My mom is okay with it, but dislike it sweet. Basically wanted/managed to alienate everyone's stomach (and mine, afterwards) with some salmon fillet served with a wine+butter sauce, mustard/brown sugar gratin. It was, how can I put it, a clash of flavours. The wine and butter sauce by itself would've been nice, say with some herbs. A little less wine would've been nice too (flavour diluted too much). It's basically melted butter, to which you added some table white wine, brought to boiling point and simmered for a while. Herbs like celery salt, bay leaves and very little cumin (couldn't find cinnamon) were added, and poured over the uncooked salmon, which was immediately put into the oven, pre-heated to 350C. A mix of various mustards we had in the fridge ("ultra-hot homemade", one with seeds, regular Dijon) were mixed together over a 1/4 cup of brown sugar (the resulting mix homogenates surprisingly well, into what's reminiscent of a honey/mustard dip for McNuggets). After cooking the salmon for ~20 minutes, I poured the fake McNuggets dip over the salmon, and top-broiled it for 5-10 mins. Served with rice.

We had oysters from Caraquet, NB. $15 from Cosco, for 18 of them... After the wine&cheese, an oysters fest with friends is in order (bourgeois reflexes kicking in). Who's up for it?

The Greek-style salad was more satisfying than the salmon. It's quite simple to make too. Take some iceberg lettuce ($0.99 at Adonis), a couple of diced tomatoes (not really affordable at this time of year), an onion in half-rings, and feta cheese (1/4 lbs is enough). When waiting for other dishes to cook, mix the lettuce, tomatoes, onions together; douse with an olive oil and vinegar (I took my mother's Xeres vinegar, although a regular white wine vinegar would've worked perfectly); sprinkle with feta cheese (the Greek variety, that is more solid than creamy), and chill before serving.

Keur Fatou

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So yeah. When you have high expectations for food (or for anything), you face the possibility of disappointment. To be fair, the food at Keur Fatou (St-Viateur, south side, between Clark and St-Urbain) was not bad - pretty good in fact - but it was their portion, and perhaps the catering to a bouche fine market?

The decor was attractive, in warm "African" colors (like a previous Ubuntu color palette perhaps; more red, I mean). I walk in front of it every day when I get off of my bus on St-Urbain and St-Viateur, and have always been fascinated with how it'd be to sit by one of the vitrines on those short knee-height chairs/coussins (the location was probably that of some fabrics shop in a previous reincarnation). If the restaurant wasn't so empty, being the only guests from 7:30 til 8, and if there were more people walking on St-Viateur, then it'd probably made the sitting experience more worthwhile.

It was an oral menu, and we were given the choice between chicken on rice, veal on couscous, and fish on rice. The portions were minimalistic, but very tasty. In the veal dish I selected, I had a few pieces of what seemed to be manioc. I always imagined manioc to be practically equal to sweet potato, and since I had manioc before sweet potato in this life, I basically hadn't paid attention to the former, as I were closer to the age of 5 than 15, and have thus overwritten memories of it with that of the latter. Nonetheless, yes, manioc, it's a sort of lightly sweet white fibrous tuberous root.

There was a small salad w/ exotic anonymous dressing, a plate of fruits with 6 pieces of cantaloupe, 5 slices of banana, etc, and then a half-glass of mint tea (4 oz, I think), slightly sweetened with a strong composed mint flavour. Don't know how to describe the dinner as a whole. It was good, yet not enough? $16 per person, tips/tax included, and we agreed that Les Delices was a better deal.

Well, I'll be damned. I called my grandmother up, and she said she didn't get them in Toronto, but rather in a ginseng farm around Toronto! :O

My grandmother was in Toronto not long ago and got sugar-coated almonds w/ ginseng flakes! The conception of this delicacy was probably the result of some happy mix-up (oops, was that the sesame seed jar?). Nonetheless, I am particularly fond of ginseng's bitter taste, usually in a chicken soup or a ginseng-based herbal tea. Almonds, I like; and sugar-coated almonds, I like even more. The resulting bitter-sweet candy is then simply the week's best edible novelty.

Korean BBQ on Queen-Mary

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Went with Wee to a Korean BBQ/restaurant, a semi-block away from Metro Snowdon (which would be contributed towards this metro/resto map of Montreal). The lady told us that this place opened over a year ago already, but have been trying the all-you-can-eat concept for two months only. Of course, it wasn't surprising that the ownership is Cantonese Chinese, for it's an all-you-can eat.

While Wee didn't mind, I didn't think the meat tasted perfectly fresh. But with an iron stomach (usually) and an advertised price of $15, I only minded for about five minutes. We stayed for more than an hour and a half. Not only the meat could be refilled, but you could also eat your heart's desire of Korean entrees, and drinks. While the social value of the all-you-can-eat and the as-long-as-you-want-to-hangout aren't to be neglected in one's appreciation of a restaurant, the food definitely makes or breaks a place. The rice was too dry, and had amalgamated centres (signs of standing there for a while after cooking), the kimchi was not always crisp, and the meat had some fridge taste (unless it was a subtle Korean-style marinade - but I doubt it).

Small shallow bowls littered the table after the lady served us all of the appetizers and meats at once. But I was in a rather good mood, so it was pretty comical instead of pretty awkward.

The chilled sweetened chrysanthemum tea (with cubes of ice that don't have a bubble in them? how can it be?) is a hit throughout the restaurant, as the nice lady ran across the length of the restaurant to refill demanding glasses. Soothes the throat after all this salty grilled meat and sour condiments. No, really, chilled sweetened chrysanthemum tea can be as good as that.

One thing to remember is to never wear clean clothes to a Korean BBQ... $20 per person for an all-included meal. 5248, Queen-Mary (towards the West from the metro - not to be confused with another one up the slope). Name of the restaurant in French is an anonymous "Les Nouilles", but in Chinese, it's 大韓燒毀, or roughly "Great Korean Grill".

"Chinese Cuisine"

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Cuisine chinoise

Re: cake and cookies

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Never mind, I got over it. Made muffin cakes (a bit flat) and the cookies are going to the oven soon.

As for the "muffin", not enough flour, and comparatively one egg that shouldn't have been, would seem to be the problem. I had assumed (wrong) that 250g is a cup, which is true for water, but not for a powder. My muffins are more like rounded, high crepes. XD

It was my grandfather's birthday in Chinese calendar, exactly on Mid-Autumn, which is (still) tonight. For the occasion, my father made a full chicken stuffed with a mixture of sticky rice and its own meat, and usual condiments (mushrooms, I think, but I did not take note). I barely saw the chicken, b/c I didn't eat it live, as it came out of the oven. The rice was soaked with the chicken's juices, which was also kept together with the solidified meat/blood of the chicken (it isn't as bad as it sounds).

No, instead I visited Tania after work, and she made improvised strudels. I have been on a last sprint over the book I got from Karen, Jeffrey Steingarten's "The Man Who Ate Everything" (to be properly reviewed at a later time). In every chapter, the man just raves about a particular topic of gastronomy, from things as banal as mashed potatoes, or shattering preconceptions over the presumed goodness of raw veggies. One of the recent chapters I went through was about fruitcakes, which I love to hate. I, like a lot of people, it would seem, cannot stand some elements of fruitcake, whether it be the dryness of it, or the unusual taste of the candied fruits (perhaps I am confusing it with the Italian cakes that people also eat during the Holidays).

In any case, the chapter made me think of making dessert again. I have *said* that I'd try my grandmother's recipe for cakes. Now, I've read about cookie (thanks to the chapter on box recipes) and fruitcakes recipes, and it makes for even more material to push me to get my act together.

The problem is probably that I don't have so much of an urge to make dessert. Our household doesn't typically make dessert. Only my grandmother (dad's mom) does, and the rest of my father's side (but they live in France). If I made dessert, it'd be useless - therefore, without the urge, or the sweet tooth (today, I went to buy myself an overpriced slab of Lindt 70% cacao during the lunch break), dessert would end up in the garbage can. So no.

OTOH, Tania had frozen Pillsbury croissants dough, and some apples. The dough started as a mess. From dough pieces the size of a large egg, she flattened them with a bit of flour, and closed the sides back over a right amount of apples fleshly cut. A little bit of cinnamon sprinkled on the top, and you've got one of those super easy recipes fresh out of the oven in less than 30 minutes.

Drinkable chocolate

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I was walking on St-Viateur after missing the 55, and stopped at Chocolaterie Geneviève Grandbois. There was an undecisive chocolate newbie in front of me in the two-people queue up. I was however already sold on the hot chocolate drink offering.

Judging from the sign at the door (a recto-verso "hot chocolate is served / hot chocolate is out") and from the small coffee thermos they serve it from, I think that only small quantities are made on a daily basis.

Surely, hot chocolate sold by a chocolate shop must be great - and it was. Not the syrupy sort of richness or sweetness, but rather what fine chocolate made into a drink would taste as. Sipping it on my way to the stop for the 80 Du Parc was heaven. And I don't know what it was, but by the time the bus reached the Georges-Etienne Cartier statue, I was almost in trance, admiring the usual unperceivable slope before Avenue des Pins that gives the Plateau Mont-Royal its appelation of "plateau". I think it must've been the single best hot chocolate I had in my life until now.

I kept the flyer for their collection of chocolate by the piece, which includes exotic choices that contain fleur de sel, hot pepper, and lemon.

$2.75 + tx for the tiny (4 to 6 oz) of chocopleasure.

Went to eat at the Uighur Restaurant in Chinatown with Wee tonight. The yan rou chuan (lamb skewers) are best spicy, and their usual self, which is very excellent (especially the fat pieces), but the other dish was sort of, well, bloating. It was a large dish of a chicken stew with potatoes, red peppers and a mix of spicy sauce reminiscent of the curry prepared in the southeast, quite a bit further away from the steppes of Central Asia.

Speaking of Southeast, it appeared that I once asked him what Malaysian cuisine was (other than the laksa noodles, which I first recognized in HK, at a restaurant between Wan Chai and Admiralty). And this would be a link to vast amounts of food pics.

Some of it reminds me of that festive evening at that special hawker centre on the Esplanade in S'pore, b/c it is after all in the same geographical area. I have yet to find anything Malaysian or Indonesian at a reasonable price in Mtl (the only place is trendy Nonya), but I have not looked very hard, nor asked a lot of people. You find elements of these regional cuisines in Indian, Sri Lankan (I know there are quite a few in Mtl - C-d-N and Parc-Extension, especially), or Indochinese, or Chinese cuisine. Hmm.

Les Délices de l'île Maurice

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Merci Monsieur Sylvestre!

Just came back from a very satisfying meal at Les Délices de l'île Maurice, a restaurant which serves food from Mauritius, a former British and French colony on a tiny island near Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. In order to discourage myself from going, I kept on reading these reviews saying that despite the superb atmosphere you would find, the food and service would disappoint you. But neither was the case. I tend to think that people who've heard about it thought it would of that brand of fancy expensive ethnic restaurant (in that case, they should go to Le Piton de la Fournaise instead :P).

After sitting down for five minutes, the waited brought in a plate of fried mystery vegetable, which was probably a mix of onions, potatoes and eggplant. The totally interesting part was that the restaurant doesn't have a written menu, anywhere! And the waiter or chef himself would just come to your table to tell you the menu! So, either it's a peculiarity of the house, or the chef improvises what's on the menu every night, or both! For entree, more fried stuff, just chicken. There were various herbal marinades (I'm guessing that one's diluted relish) on the table to dip your fried stuff. Came also, a tomato-based potage with coriander, and what S recognized as cracked corn.

The main dish was perhaps more remarkable. She had a saffron shrimp (heaps of them, yellowed by the saffron's teint, and perhaps a bit of turmeric too), and I had what looked like pot-cooked quails. I first heard "civet" (de cailles), and was, like, zomg, cats! But nevermind, quails are as good, especially simmered in what looked closely to a Chinese way of serving it, in a dark soya-looking sauce base, with peppercorns, cloves, and sprouted beans. White rice and salad on the side.

One of the reviews I read singled out the white rice as a reason to damn the chef, as if, savory rice would make sense with such savor-rich sauces each dish contain (always a combination of meat du jour - clams, shrimp, mussels, beef, chicken, lamb, etc, and a flavour, like curry, saffron, etc.).

Skipped the dessert (not sure if any was offered by the house), and paid only a ridiculous $13 per person, taxes/tips included, for a full-course meal. Did I mention it was a BYOW?

Bonus stage: as we left the restaurant, the chef picks a chat with us at the door, and invites us back in for a coffee. However, his coffee was 0% coffee, and 100% plum-flavoured rum. XD

272, Avenue Hickson, Verdun (metro De L'Église). The walk back to the metro on Wellington makes the infrequent Verdun visitor wonder if he was warped to a whole different city. Old 1950s-looking shop vitrines and sidewalk widths are probably in cause.

Birthday dinner party

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For some reason, have failed to blog about the birthday dinner of last week. I am turning 26, phew, so decided to have my friends over, for a dinner format that has actually not been done yet among ourselves (b/c we either have potluck + dancing parties at Tania's, or party's at Ced's with way too many people such that the host doesn't even know all guests beforehand!).

We took a lot of pictures with my camera, not of which came from my initiative. Sabina and Tania brought wine, Talal, chocolates (truffles, did not dare touch them yet), Alex, DVDs (did not end up watching), and Sayena + boyfriend Nick, wine from the Greek island of Cephalonia/Kefalonia from which Nick's family comes from. The place where we usually get our smoked salmon (cut in front of you from the fish! which is stored in a smoking cabin in the backstore!), on Victoria close to Van Horne, steps from Metro Plamondon, was closed due to Jewish holiday (but aren't the owners Greek? Greek Jews perhaps?), so I instead got "old-fashioned" smoked cooked salmon for my guests, from Délices de la Mer at Marché Jean-Talon, where my brother's childhood friend Mathieu works. I made my tomato & chick pea salad. The labneh mix with oven-baked pita bread slices was a hit, although Talal pointed out rightly that the proper way of doing it would've been with crushed dried mint, rather than fresh shredded mint.

Main dish was a leg of lamb, perfectly garlicky. To prepare it, I made slits in the meat, where I inserted whole branches of rosemary with crushed garlic. I bypassed the wine or beef broth. I added coarse salt to cover the fatty surface of the piece of meat. Cooked it for 30 minutes at 425C, and another hour for 375C. Microwaved veggies for decoration, and the health factor.

Any hope of healthiness would be destroyed by the time of the cheese platter. That day, I went to Fromagerie Hamel at Jean-Talon, and got a couple of cheese. I took a St-Agur (for Wee, his favourite), a goat crottin made in France but aged here in Quebec, a Maître Jules, and a 4-year old Cheddar. My father got a Spanish cheese from the Pyrenees that is made of ewe's milk, I think, but we forgot to open it.

Of course, the best was saved for the end, a delicious strawberry shortcake made with the freshest Chantilly cream. I don't know if it's just canned cream (I guess they would not dare do this), but it wasn't the same as the over-sweet creams of wedding cakes I promptly discard. No, it was light as a cloud, and had just a hint of sweetness.

On Friday, Nhi, Wee's Vietnamese friend, took us to Ong Ca Can, a Viet restaurant on Ste-Catherine, which also serves anything but Pho (the other one being "Harmonie d'Asie"; finally got the name right). It's another joint which our family had been to before - but a long time ago, when before the restaurant renovated to sort of become upscale-ish chic ethnic restaurant (like Nonya, Montreal's ever-nomadic Indonesian restaurant, say).

I don't remember the food so much, because we haven't been since I was in my early teens. Sweet barbecued meats wrapped in wine leaves and pork tripes are probably a specialty (and the only thing we had, which I remember having there before). For entree, we had a Vietnamese-style salad, which uses white radish and carrots as a base, and which also contained sliced pork ears. They served us individual bowls of soup, which was a cloudy egg soup for the boys, and Vietnamese congee for the ladies. It looked nothing like the congee they serve on that other restaurant on Jean-Talon close to Parc, because the one at Ong Ca Can looked like it did not contain any of the 'ugly meat', like pork stomach, blood sausage (which is sorta yummy, in a tofu kind of way) and other unidentified animal parts, but only had ground beef. Boring, isn't it? I am forgetting about other items, because the bill did add up to $30 a person.

The weekend in taste

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Roasted Leg of Lamb

Shortcake aux fraises

Food trip, the other part

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From McGill, I walked through the ghetto, and took the 80 Du Parc from Milton to Rachel (less than 5 mins ride, could've walked it). I walked on Rachel toward St-Laurent.

First stop was a random Portuguese eatery on Rachel corner of Clark, I think (in the heart of Montreal's Portuguesa Quartier), and got myself a pork chop sandwich served in Portuguese bread w/ hot spices ($3.50). It was so random, that the restaurant did not have a proper sign. They also served steak ($15), and had full chicken cooked on the grill that's good for take-out.

The second stop was on St-Laurent, just a few steps north from Rachel. Was a nice-looking bakery, with a generic French-sounding name, but which was in fact (probably) owned by people of Portuguese descent, where I got myself a nata for $1.15. Natas are the proper ancestors of the HK Egg Tart. It is somewhat more wet than a HK Egg Tart, its crust not being as sandy, but more of a flaky caramelized texture rendered wet (not sure if voluntarily) by the custard. The top is broiled, unlike HK egg tarts. I gulped it down w/o tasting anything after the first bite (it happened in two bites, basically).

Third stop was Epicerie Andes, where I had pupusas twice. Wanted to fall again for the deliciously simple Central American dish, but went for something different, #22 on the menu. What was it? It was a plantain, served with a red bean sauce, and sour cream. I had in mind a dessert, but in fact, the red bean mixture was salty, and the plantain quite neutral (surely, I think, plantains != bananas, and everyone except myself would know that). Quite surprising. I was intrigued by the preceding patrons' choice, which was something called "tamal" (plural: tamales). It's like a Latino American version of the Chinese zongzi or rice dumplings, but made with corn flour, and made of a combination of meats and vegetables, depending of the style (Columbian, and Salvadorean were among the national types on sale at Andes). I bought one for takeout, and will probably have it frozen, or eaten tomorrow at lunchtime.

Then, I walked to Mont-Royal, and took the 55 St-Laurent up to Little Italy. Bought myself a copy of Asian Wave, an Asian-Canadian magazine (Chinese-Canadian, if we consider that it's bilingual - Chinese Trad, and English) that I knew about, but didn't realize was so full of contents on food!

After that 15 minutes at Multimags Petite Italie, I went to Jean-Talon market. Took pics of a sunflower with honeybees sniffing away like drug addicts, unfazed by my presence. Got myself a medium cup of ice cream (flavours: matcha and ginger) at Havre-aux-Glaces. Was tempted by the Quebec-made raw milk cheese, which name evades me, that Qui-Lait-Crû (excuse the spelling) was giving away. Met up with parents shortly after. Kept walking around, between the buffalo meat and arabic deserts stands. My mother got a basket of fried calamari. We met an old friend of my brother's, who was working at the fishmonger Delices de la Mer (which also sold varieties of Western-style preserved fish). Expectedly, I went to Premiere Moisson, and got myself a Baguette Au Levain (we have leftover cheese - so I'm only going to buy new cheese next week).

Stopped by the coffee shop for a double espresso allongé, but it made me extremely sleepy for the next hour (I wanted to try Caffe Italia, per many people's advice).

Then, went back downtown to meet friends for food (Trois Brasseurs, but I only had a Blanche) for Tony Jaa's Protector, probably one of the most plot-less pretext for showing off martial arts mastery. And mastery, it was, especially that one-shot scene at the fake multi-floors restaurant / bordello. For some reason, the gangsterness of that scene's environment was reminiscent of Red Steel. The rest was just pretty blissfully hahaha stupid, but we had good laughs and hurt for the bad guys whose asses Tony Jaa kept kicking on. Finished the night at McLean's Pub, where we saw the Alouettes do quite ok in the first half (later at home, I heard that they collapsed, lost the game 36-20, fwa).

Tomorrow, shit, nothing at all, except finishing the books I have, I hope. Duck Lo Mein for lunch, and BBQ for dinner, my mom says.

Food trip, part one

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Hmm, I am out of luck. Of the 2000 bracelets that have been drawn, I am in the last 100 to getting my turn. Just in case I'd need to wait, I already brought with me that empty bottle I got when I took home spruce beer at Emile Bertrand snack bar, down the slope from Bell Centre, past the rows of condos. Alas, the place was closed, either for vacation, or simply b/c it was the weekend.

In the homemade spruce beer, I recognize the "Marco" spruce beer brand from various places, so I suspect it could be available at select places.

I am now at the McLennan Library, buying hockey tickets online, instead. Much more efficient that way. From the conversations overheard, it would seem that people are still obsessed about Sidney Crosby, and are willing to fork out many Lizzies to see the miserable Penguins (we hope they stay that way for a few more years - otherwise, who's going to crumble in the cellar of the Eastern Conf?). I want to see all three Canadian teams from the West, b/c they come only once every three years now, b/c of the new NHL. So far, so good. I got two for Calgary (mid-October), and have locked on to two more for Edmonton (start of November). I'm getting ticks from the cheapest section possible, and if "A" is the frontmost row, then I far overestimated the interest people would have for these tickets, b/c Admission just assigned A1 and A2 to me. *g*

Now off for the Plateau, where I'll be picking up something quick. Later, will be meeting my parents at the Jean-Talon market, after they eat at generic Vietnamese restaurant, Beaubien/St-Denis. There are nice cafes over there. Will need to indulge in a espresso w/ Italian pastry.

Went to try out Fusion Sushi, that conveyor belt place discovered by thericebowl. The lady said that they opened some two months ago, which was prior to the last time I walked past it to get a computer component from a shop nearby. At that time, I didn't think it had the conveyor belt, and was a rather anonymous Japanese restaurant (which, for some reason, I subconsciously believed that it was owned by Cantonese people - and it was - but then, what's the proportion of Asian restaurants actually owned by Cantonese-speaking people?).

The sushi was pretty ordinary. Not bad, but just very ordinary. Many of the makis we had lacked tightness. There was a selection of those mixed makis, like California, spicy salmon, soft-shell crab, and tempura shrimp. They didn't use tempura flakes, but rather puffed rice. For some reason, I thought that the quality is decent, given that it was a conveyor belt sushi, b/c Genki Sushi, the Asian chain of conveyor belt sushi, made me used to sub-par sushi (with pre-cut fish, and machine-produced rice balls - which wasn't the case at Fusion).

The patronage was extremely fobby. Fobby Taiwanese facing us, fobby Mainlandese on one side, fobby HKese on the other, and us, the odd ethnic Chinese Malaysian / CBC-or-QBC duo pretending to be fobby, and then the French-speaking FOBs who arrived after we were done with our respective tenth plate.

(The specialty of the house is a "pizza sushi", which is crab meat, tobiko, and J-mayo, on a fried rice cake - not so different from the idea I make of Taiwan's McRice)

Next to the Subway's, on Lincoln Street, that small street perpendicular w/ Guy, between De Maisonneuve and Sherbrooke. Opening special, for $2 a plate (the sign wasn't there last week, I think). Alternatively, there's a $23 buffet on Saturdays.

So, it was either Rockaberry's, or I suspect, the Chinese food I ingested before going to Rockaberry's. For some reason (nostalgia of HK), I like going to restaurants to order cold cuts served on rice. It's not something I've done awful lot here (twice), but it'd be one of those default meals (w/ Japanese noodles at Ajisen) I'd take when my imaginations ran dry, and my guts for jumping into a new restaurant by myself lacked seriously.

For some reason, I imagined Rockaberry's to be shinier - especially from pictures - but the impression I got was "sticky table sides", as I sat there killing time before the other guests arrived. And when they did, there was an awful lot of catching up, and random chatter, around over-sweet desserts. Tania had the Rockaberry Special, which is, to me, a big ball of cream. Sabina had the Toblerone cake/mousse, which was also a big ball of cream too, but sitting on a cake containing bits of molten re-hardened Toblerone chocolate. Talal was sitting at the opposite edge of the table (for four), so I neglected to ask/try what he had (the last time he was there, he mentionned that the Mille-feuille had none of the layers that Mille-feuilles would usually have, plus, you guessed it, way too much cream).

Very sweet desserts aren't my cup of tea, and the milk I ordered did nothing at all to help dampen the sweetness. My favourite cake is a strawberry shortcake that the bakery near my house (Privilege) makes. I will most probably order one for my birthday, which I plan to celebrate a half-week in advance, per cause of various friends' departures from town the weekend that's half a week downstream.

I woke up several times during the night, with symptoms usually attributed to spicy stuff or an intensely garlicky or oniony meal. It's 7:30AM, almost, and I so want to go back to bed...

And bingo, it's near Concordia... Take the metro to Guy-Concordia, exit on Guy Street, cross the street to the west side of Guy, walk up north, and turn on Lincoln, where there is this Arabic restaurant with a French name and the Dollar shop owned by Chinese people. This place is called "Fusion Sushi". It's one room with a conveyor belt sushi bar with, indeed, plates of sushi going around the isle. If the prices are the ones written at the door, then the prices are alright, but not exactly affordable. One will actually have to try - but we'd certainly be going for the conveyor belt, not the actual sushi.

(What I meant to say was that 1- the prices were decent for sushi, but then, conveyor belt sushi I had was always cheaper, b/c went in places where it isn't considered fancy-thus-should-be-relatively-more-expensive, or where you buy a lot with your CAD, and that 2- the restaurant is a counter with a circular conveyor belt, and it was a bit more than half-empty on a Tuesday evening, which I consider to be quite decent. Don't know, but I'd go on a Thu, Fri, Sat, per rule of freshest-during-weekends.)

Went to Keung Kee with Wee, supposedly the summum of Cantonese cuisine in Chinatown/Montreal. He chose mushrooms wrapped in beef meat, and I got the usual chicken bits and salted fish tofu pot. Baby bok choy came on the side, and it ended up quite expensive for Chinese food (20$ per person, all included), but come to think, not so bad, b/c you're eating out, and at a regular sit-down restaurant in a place where the rent could be expensive, I think.

The special item of the night was not the beef/mushrooms wrap (which was a good idea, but so messily cooked that it looked like nothing, drenching in its sauce), but the desert, known as 雪蛤, and which goes by sut-something, or xue3ha2 in standard pinyin. It also has the poetic name of hasma, in English, in case you wondered. This thing really looks like nothing out of the ordinary, and I probably had it many times when I was younger. It's served as a tong shui (Chinese soup desert), with lotus seeds and berries (mat jhou?), and is sweet. The ingredient of interest is the innocent-looking ooze-like structure floating around. In fact, I theorized that it was perhaps an algae. I've heard stories that one other soup which I thought was a mushroom was in fact a seafood. Well, turns out that this hasma is nothing else but frog's fallopian tubes.

... (Anyways, it didn't actually unfold like this, b/c I had knowledge of it by the time the order and disgust was passed.)

The Usual

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I cooked tonight, to the displeasure of my mother, ha-ha. I guess I didn't know how it felt to be exhausted after work and having to cook for a whole family, until tonight. There were the evenings this summer with my dad when I actually came home for dinner, and cooked, which gave me a taste of what it was, or what it could be, to totally not have the energy, but yet finding some, b/c you'd literally run out of it otherwise...

So, I couldn't be bothered, and cooked linguine with some of the tomatoes from the large box my parents got from Jean-Talon market this Saturday. Part of that box is supposedly for me to make tomato sauce in jars, which I can then give to relatives and friends (my uncle said that after I got fed up from the sauce-making, he'll come over to take one). I don't know how it'll actually turn out. I'll need lots of garlic, and a pot of basil I pick up from Jean-Talon market some day after work if I feel like it (they're so tall, even the 6$ ones).

For tonight, I added Italian sausages and zucchini, but it isn't standard. Should be tomatoes + garlic + olive oil + basil, and I should put some effort in peeling the tomatoes.

It was grandma's birthday, so we had relatives and friends over. I took a few pictures before the (relatively modest) dinner started. My contribution was some sort of chick pea-based salad I improvised a few weeks ago. I was probably inspired by the Arabic menu we feed ourselves with from buying most of our normal (not Costco-ishly portion-ized) non-Chinese groceries at Adonis these days. It's quite simple to make. A can of chick peas, some tomatoes (diced), chopped mint, lemon juice (from half a lemon), quite some salt to kill the blandness of chick peas and really enhancing the taste of tomatoes (I think that vegetable merchants at public markets do well in putting salt on the tomatoes they give for trying), and dousing with olive oil.

After taking the pictures (I should get myself a Flickr Pro account), I spent the rest of the night eating, w/o really thinking about what I ate. Guests talked about food for about half the dinner; usual family gossip for the rest of it. My uncle and aunt brought over some deliciously simple garlic chicken (lots of garlic and chicken), a sockeye salmon for broiling (wrapped in foil, sprinkled generously with fresh herbs), and an asparagus salad (asparagus, and tomatoes). My aunt left me for later what seems to be Vietnamese rice-based desserts that her sister brought over from Toronto. For pre-dessert, guests had a variety of fruits (yellow watermelon, maybe a "luk yao", and longans). We closed the eating part with a selection of artichoke tea (straight from Vietnam) and the usual espresso coffee, for serving with a custard tart topped with blueberries and raspberries or some sort of dry chocolate cake snack that shouldn't have been opened.

Beef Tongue

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Beef Tongue
Originally uploaded by Smurfmatic.


A few years ago, my father discovered such thing as beef tongue, apparently a French recipe, generally cooked for hours. And of course, he was preparing it for the family (my mother's family, which is more numerous in Mtl), and ever since, it's become a perennial meal for such occasions as my grandmother's or grandfather's birthdays. We, the "kids", find it extremely erk-*bites tongue*, so won't go farther than a bite. The meat is tender, and etc, but tongue, hmm.

Basically, my father is a resourceful improviser, and has been a monumental inspiration for my cooking endeavors. My mother's not bad at inventing things either, especially since she's got more time just working part-time, but it is usually my father who steals the show at family gatherings. My latest attempt, last month, which I think went undocumented so far, was so for a very good reason (I went to play Civ4 and it burnt - so instead of a "Spanish-style lemon chicken with lots of veggies", it became a ... chicken stew with an aroma of something burnt XD), but the family likes the perpetuate the myth that I can cook (and that my brother can talk). It's a reputation that I like to have, but I suspect it wouldn't hold the road, or at least would be seriously tested if cooking was a daily thing one has to do, versus being just the casually fun activity. One does need some interest in eating for eating.

Red red tomatoes

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There was so much traffic on St-Laurent after work today that I decided to jump off the bus in Little Italy, and make a hook by the Jean-Talon market to fetch a basket of tomatoes which I knew were on sale for very cheap. It was 20-ish crimson red Italian tomatoes for $2.50 (I think the large basket, large enough to make tomato sauce for a gathering of 30-something people must've been even cheaper).

I took ten to make a tomato sauce (with leaves of basil, and coarsely-chopped garlic), and improvised bruschetta (Toasted slice of Première Moisson Belgian bread, with a mix of the tomatoes, basil and olive oil...). With the congee (and random fruits) I ate for the rest of the day, am definitely sure I have my high-carbs for tomorrow. :D

Fridays along the St-Laurent are so fantastically pleasant, especially on days like today (back up to 29ºC, yes).

My mother's back from HK tomorrow night, which also means that after three months w/o a camera, I'll once again be able to photo-spam the www.

My boss insists that emacs is for n00bs, and that I should learn vi. Hm, vi.

(Convulsions from eating too much... reminds me of a few years ago, also with pasta and the cooked fresh tomatoes sauce. There's probably a lot of expansion involved. Last time, I literally passed out on the couch, thinking that I'd die there.)

Friday night stroll

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Hmm, let's see. After work, I had nothing planned, so quite out of the blue, decided to walk down St-Laurent. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, perfectly humid, etc, etc. I was at first going to do the usual Ste-Cath path, but thought it might be more interesting to do a segment of St-Laurent, starting from the Mile End, and crossing down the Plateau, all the way to the McGill ghetto.

One notable stop was the Andes grocery store, which is also a small cafeteria serving various recognizable latino-american fast food. I got myself a plate of two pork pupusas, which didn't look hot, were somewhat soggy-appearing, but which were surely enough the right temperature and consistency after cutting in them. I think pupusas are strange, not only because of their name (first exposure: "what, we're going to eat small squealing animals/insects?"), but because they look familiar (like small tortillas), yet not something that's widely popularized in the mainstream media (unlike tacos, fajitas). With coleslaw topping, and the hottest of both sauces, it made for a deceivingly filling dinner for $4.99. It's on St-Laurent, two or three houses south of Mont-Royal.

Second stop was at Cocorico, the Rotisserie, not for chicken, but for some natas. I got myself only one, thinking that it was overpriced (90 cents, plus tax, each) and that I could find another place that's a bakery and made them fresh, like, everyday. I recall Karen saying something about an address on Pine for natas, but alas, did not bloody explore. After hesitating for a bit, I finally decided against also getting ice cream from Ripples, just across. Now compensating by finishing off remainder of pistachio and hazelnut "oriental" (with rose water flavouring) ice cream from Adonis.

I then stopped by my grandmother, who was a bit more energetic, at some point making it known that young people eat unhealthy food, to which I counter that I am seriously looking out for my sugars and fats.

Then, kept going, and walked the rest of the way towards Guy-Concordia metro, where I set sail for home (while purchasing the Civ4 expansion on the way). Boring, isn't it?

Dream a little dream...

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Two things have kept me awake these days.

One of them is paddling technique. o_o Yeah, you've heard it here, I am thinking about how I should paddle, whether I sit correctly, push my arms forward enough, turn my shoulders fast enough. I've never thought so much about my own body (I spent my university years being totally amorphic). It's to be noted that we had our hardest practice on Monday, which included two (or three?) 1000m, three or four 500m, including a race with elite teams, and a 4x20secs, 4x40secs and 2x90secs somewhere before the race. I know I've claimed it's "the hardest practice evar"many times, but I think we can't go (much) further than this.

Overall, I felt really good. For the first time, I ran around the olympic basin (4.5km), with a few stops in the first 2km, and only once to tie my shoelaces in the last straight. It's not a question of breath, but more of energy. After paddling so much, you just can't feel your arms, even if your heart still wants to pump more blood into them. I think the key will be a good nutrition, and for that, I'm already planning a congee-based diet for Thursday and Friday, and I bought myself a bag of sultana raisins for snacking ($2.45 for two big scoops at the Arabic grocery store on Ste-Cath near Guy). Tomato pizzas at Italian-owned Boulangerie Clarke on St-Viateur/Clark are a pretty good, filling and cheap high-carb lunch. It's around a buck fifty for the ones with tomato sauce/oil and rosemary + other herbs, or tomato pieces; $2.25 for the cheapest and heartiest rectangular cold pizzas I've ever seen in my life - twice as thick as the ones at Pino and Matteo's around the McGill campus!

meh (3)

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My uncle and cousin are en route to HK, and my aunt and other cousin are to follow through (in some weird seat picking, my uncle wanted first-class, but he had to leave separately from my aunt).

Slowly depleting of family members in Mtl. The house is very quiet without my mom. My grandmother (who lives with my uncle) keeps on joking that I should cook coq au vin for them. To me, coq au vin is just a few chicken pieces, carrots onions, garlic and a bunch of herbs. Usually we only use thyme, and it has sunk in as the "default taste" when I cook Western stews. I planted marjoram, from that time I made duck. I should get my ass to the Jean-Talon market and grab a few herbs that are good with chicken.

...

It's very quiet. Sort of uninspired all of a sudden.

I was looking at Karen's food porn, when obviously my stomach got going. I fetched myself some simple non-instant "Beijing" noodles (but I swear they look and taste exactly like the other more fancily-packaged version that the company makes) with ground beef and a few pieces of cut lettuce I found in the fridge.

I planted myself in front of the TV, and found out that they were re-running this week's episode of L'Epicerie on RDI. B/c the radio frequently advertises TV shows to come, I knew that this show was going to have some very à propos story on Argentinean barbecues, and mint (full videos at the bottom of the page).

I've been complaining a lot about the state of Chinese food and not doing anything about it. Or rather, not trying very hard to disprove my thesis (as human beings, we do try to be positive, better people, sometimes).

So tonight, I actually tried, and before catching Seven Swords, went to some random Chinese eatery I encountered one previous evening erring in the neighborhood. This one was at the ground floor of a residential tower on St-Marc, between De Maisonneuve and Sherbrooke, and I don't even know the name. It's adjacent to a Viet/Asian fast food joint, east side of the street.

We were very hungry, or the portions are deceivingly small. Whichever, it doesn't matter, because it gave us the chance to sample about 1/4 of the menu already. XD Wee took a soup noodles and roasted chicken leg combo, and I took a variation on the theme of cold noodles with chicken and cucumber noodles and that famous peanuts/chili sauce (which was indeed really spicy: I was, like, here, can I have the spicy, and the guy looked at me, and said, alright boy, how about I make it mild spicy for you? XD), and didn't have enough and got a beef dumplings soup (can't not be homemade, but five/six pieces for $4: comes at a premium), and we previously shared a wonton soup (pork-only, an alternate way to make wonton which I haven't seen much in other restaurants... maybe b/c it's cheaper that way, haha, but I like, nonetheless). It was a pleasant surprise...

For some weird reason, I've been in the top ten Google hits when looking for "Odaki Sushi". Odaki is already an uncommon Japanese term (might even just be a typo from a real romaji). Anyways, there are not a lot of reviews on Odaki sushi, just people blogging about it within the Montreal-based blogosphere. My review is by no means a review. All I did was complain that the food wasn't good, and that while well-groomed, the staff was unexperienced, I haven't been back since then (January or February, I think).

To Kanda, either, since I heard rumours that they increased their price to something outrageous, like $30-something (which proved to be totally false - unless they backed off). Been yesterday, and it's as good as usual. However, paying $28 (taxes, tips, tea incl.) all-you-can-eat is only a few dollars shy away from a regular "high-class" sushi place. Kanda does offer sushi that, while un-original in flavours, is generally good. It used to feature a smoking section, where we were parked twice b/c the dining room was too busy, but that's a thing of the past with the new smoking law. Unlike Odaki, the side dishes are fully part of the buffet. At Odaki, at least when I went, one was limited to a certain number (ten?) of side-dish items (teriaki chicken/salmon, shrimp tempura...). Odaki had vegetable tempura, which Kanda doesn't have (but they added small fish, and squid), although they were not the eggplant or sweet potato you usually find, but weird stuff like from the frozen vegetable mix you get at Cosco (brocolli, cauliflower ... carrots? o_O).

Both places bear huge similarities. They are both run by Chinese, they charge $20 for the buffet from Sunday to Thursday, and have that trendy environment with the well-groomed staff. Among people questionned, Wee prefers Kanda, Tenzin prefers Odaki, and so do some people on the dragon boat team. I've really got to try Odaki again (although it will be b/c other people drag me to it), to decide whether I just had a single bad food experience.

(Are both the two only known sushi buffet in downtown, that I know of. I realized that the city keeps being bigger than I thought.)

And I cooked... kebab

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kebab.tabouleh.jpg

So I finally acted upon my urge to make something Middle-Eastern/Central Asian. Lamb skewers and kebabs (raw), and tabouleh with a few ingredients missing...

The lamb skewers were inpired by Manchurian and Uighur restaurants I went to during the past year. For the skewers, it was lamb leg meat, cut in cubes and marinated in a lot of ground cumin, a bit less paprika and some olive oil, because the cumin wouldn't, err, dissolve. I added salt and a bit of sugar for taste.

The kebabs were ground beef, with ground fresh parsley, ground scallions in bulb or germinated, very little garlic (nothing I cook ever goes w/o garlic) allspice/Jamaican mix, and a zest of lemon for taste.

The salad is tabouleh/tabouli, less the bulgur wheat. Very easy to make, and a fine alternative to lettuce salad. Use a wad of parsley (curly leaf variety) and have it chopped. Press the juice from a single lemon. Throw in two diced Italian tomatoes. Douse with olive oil. It was a tad sour, so I'd maybe try adding some sugar or something next time.

There you go. If I had a summer party this year, then I'd probably be serving this type of alternative BBQ (along with Vietnamese bbq stuff).

Bombay Choupati

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There might be a Little India in Montreal, and it's on Des Sources / Pierrefonds. Around the same corner, we can count at least three Indian restaurants. There are also other ethnic restaurants and grocery stores (Chinese, and Arabic/Mediterranean - as the Adonis Supermarket is just a bit down on Des Sources), which seems much less White as the area where I live in.

(As an aside, the mini shopping strip nearby where I live does happen to have a "Chinese Restaurant", probably held by Cantonese, that serves the usual combo of "Thai-Szechuan", with a back kitchen that smells like any Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, but with prices and setting that is more suitable for business types and impressionable suburbanites. There's also a sushi restaurant.)

I went with my parents to eat at Bombay Choupati, which is located in the commercial strip at the opposite corner than the Super C's, and facing the Tim's, on Gouin-Des Sources. Went there a few months before for a small high school gang get-together, as my friends wanted something in the West Island, while I wanted something "special". But in the West Island, if you don't look, all you're going to find are Italian restaurants with servings that are too big and which make you feel as if you've eaten an anchor with diced tomatoes on it. So, while remembering eating at an Indian restaurants a few years ago (which was closed), my mother suggested "Bombay Choupati", which her coworker suggested.

Last time, we had stuff from the combo menu. It wasn't a very busy day - a Sunday maybe, 5-ish, and since my friends and I didn't know anything about Indian food, we got the usual stuff, combo-ified (butter chicken, curry, or chicken tandori). This time around, with my parents, the restaurant (maybe 30-35 seats at most) was fully packed, and we had to stand for 20 minutes. The good thing, is that we had the chance to visually sample what people took, which, besides the usu stews, also included giant folded pancakes, chip-like appetizers, and shells of various sizes. I forgot the name of the crepe, but according to this review, it's called a "masala", and it's lentils based! We ordered some of the shells, the bite-sized ones, which you have to break the top and put filling in it (potatoes, fresh coriander and chick peas) with a bit of tamarind water.

It's worth going back (the day I decide to pass my license - which is another story, but yesterday, I spent an hour or so in an Canada-Day-empty parking lot in my second time ever behind the wheel, practicing manual transmission...), as the lady cunningly points out, because there's always something new to try on the menu (perhaps a different shell, different combo of filling?).

For the main dish, I tried the chicken tandoori, while my parents went for the chicken and goat curry (I also had a veg curry on the side). The combos are served in those metallic trays, which I've seen at Jolee - a constant at Indian subcontinental restaurants? The naan bread was great, with what seems to be liquid butter spread on it for the addiction factor. I had a sweet yogurt drink - homemade (it's lassi).

Around $60 for three, with taxes/tips. Credit cards accepted, but no Interac.

Duck fat

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Oh yeah, I've collected a bowl of (orange-flavoured) DUCK FAT from yesterday.Hmm, what do you do with it?

Some sort of orange duck

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I was commissioned to cook for the family. We had a couple of duck magrets in the fridge, and my mother at first suggested to marinate them in random sauce and then barbecue them (weather is still gorgeous). I decided to more or less follow a recipe from Epicurious, for "Orange Duck".

First off, I swung by Metro for fresh herbs (IGA doesn't have those) and missing ingredients like oranges and fresh parsley. In fact, I picked up whole plants of marjoram and thyme to plant in the herbs pot in the backyard. We never cook with marjoram, but it was in the recipe, and I wanted to try something new. We never cook with parsley either, so maybe it'll go to kebabs or a tabouleh this week.

For an hour or so, I marinated the duck in a white wine, orange juice, a little olive oil, onion cut in wedges, marjoram, thyme, parsley, ground cumin, and coarse salt. then, prepared the sauce, which was basically a base of caramel (melt sugar in a saucepan), orange juice, and a little white wine vinegar, chicken broth for taste, and a teaspoon of flour and butter mixed together for perhaps giving body to the sauce. I overdid the caramel a bit, and it started tasting sour, but my parents didn't notice anything of that.

In the meanwhile, I cooked the magrets for 10 mins on each side, and browned the top for less than five. Half a magret for each person is so very little. It was served with carrots and onions (slow-cooked for 30 mins, to release all the sugar and to make tender) and a tip of parsley for an attempt to restaurant-ish presentation effect.

Magrets were purchased from Cosco for about 10$ each. Maybe you can find similar cuts from public markets or regular supermarkets for a pricier tag.

So today was the harshest day by far. I forgot how many 250m or 500m we did, but my technique's bad and it seems that physical coordination is not my strength, and that it's even worse when the instructions are given in English (despite being almost accent-less and practically fluent). Could not follow the rhythm at times, and even if the heart wanted (we had two simulated races against more experienced teams), the body could not follow, and I had to skip a few strokes, paddle with bad technique for the last stretches of the 250 or 500 metres. Painful, and I have hypertrophied biceps now. _O_ (I was told by Alex that shadow boxing, lifting weights with a frontward gesture is good training.)

After the training, our team went for a late-evening munch at Van Roy in Chinatown... which I haven't been to for the past ten years. Teammates were singing praises about the "pork fat" dish that is the pork chop combo (the champions' meal, complete with steamed veggies, mounds of rice, more than enough _deep-fried_ pork chops and a fried egg to finish off what's left of your monthly quota of cholesterol), but while three or four members of the team settled for that, the remaining eight or nine went for ordering our food "Chinese style". And it's obvious that large groups at Chinese restaurants is a ++, b/c it's basically a buffet on a turning table. :D

I was on the Plateau Mont-Royal this afternoon, so dropped by Fairmount Bagel to pick up some fresh out of the oven bagels. Unlike bagels you get from the grocery store (or anywhere, if not a bagel shop), those ones are crisp on the outside, doughy on the inside. A Montreal delight at its best (what are those NY bagels anyways?).

At the same time, I got a slab of matzoh, as I was intrigued by the menu sign, again. Got the sesame-covered matzah this time (last time, I believe it was garlic-flavoured), and finally connected the dots, realizing that this was the food item eaten by Jewish people during passover. Rob from CTF, and then non-Jewish people, understandably, occasionally brought some with them as a snack, with a dip too, perhaps. I've seen some at the Cosco last weekend (gawd, they even sell those bamboo-in-a-pot lucky charms), but it came in multi-family pack, so we didn't get it. However, the matzoh I had seemed darker (not white with a roast aspect, but just overall brownish) than the one I usually see. For $1.40 apiece, it's a premium, but definitely worth the try (it has roasted sesame, is slightly salted, and crisp, mmm).

During the weekend, my parents delegated me to cook for the family. I've never been so sollicited for my cooking abilities (:D) in my entire life, as, when I usually want to cook, I simply hijack the kitchen. So, I went for an oven-cooked salmon with lemons and rosemary... which is what it is: in a deep platter for the oven, place a piece of salmon, slices of lemon, rings of onion, salt, just a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking, butter for the taste, fresh rosemary, and water to prevent drying/burning. Put to oven at 400C for about 10-15 minutes, and voila! I chose rosemary, and it could've been tarragon as the herbs packaging suggested for fish, but I always remember the time my aunt used branches of fresh rosemary for a barbecued fish (white-fleshed) in an olive oil marinade that we had a few summers ago, which was so good.

El Zaziummm

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I knew the El Zaziummm way back in cegep, and haven't been back since (although, I was seized with episodes of deja vu of recently being there - so, man, my mind *already* on its decline). It was still at its old location, three or four addresses closer to Ave. Mont-Royal, quite smaller, but with the same trademark fancily-decorated dining room.

I missed the Beer Fest bout, but still caught up with the guys as they left the Trois Brasseurs, a micro-brewery chain from the north of France with a very aggressive expansion plan in Montreal/Quebec. I went there before on several occasions; their "Flamm" is what stands out from their food menu. It's basically a thin-crust pizza, but they call it "Flamm" and it's from Alsace, and I throw a guess that the original recipe is far from what Trois Brasseurs serves (despite all this, it isn't bad at all, when washed down with a very large tasty beer, and a typical resto-bar with plenty of flat-panel TVs).

One recognizes the El Zaziummm by its giant shark figure bursting out on Park Avenue. Indoors, many tables (as many as the old Zaz had) are in fact a shallow glass-covered compartments filled with sand, Latin American bills and random Spanish-language newspaper clippings. There's even a bathtub at one end of the room, which serves as a low table to rest your sangria or margarita upon (and formerly, ashtrays).

Smoked Salmon

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I was looking for this, but instead got to this article on smoked salmon, and it reminded me that I could get freshly sliced smoked salmon at some fishmonger on Victoria (appended with a Greek restaurant), a 1-minute walk south from Plamondon Metro. The last time we went, the vendor passed us some smoked, but cooked, salmon (I believe the term would be "hot smoked salmon"). There was a lot left over on the counter, cutting "waste", that they gave us to try, and I kept on sneaking over that counter to get more pieces as we waited for our number to be called. And the NYT Magazine article then points to a recipe suggesting the use of the smoked salmon fat to aromatize salads, etc. Hmm...

Mother's-Day-O-rama

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For Mother's Day, we went to this restaurant called "Tratorria Mundo" in the middle of the Pierrefonds-Kirkland residential area. When I mean residential, I really mean residential as the restaurant in question is located in a tiny out-of-place shopping mall, with only a gas station, a depanneur, a dry cleaner, drowned in a forest of upper-middle class residential houses. As its name implies, it's an Italian restaurant - one that is chic, yet homely (with decorative bags of fresh vegetables dangling from counters, portraits of stern Italian men in post-modern style, candle-lighted ambiance). I had the cheapest thing on the menu, b/c not feeling fancy at all, and it was a spaghetti bolognese. My brother took the same thing. It would've been better made if I made it myself. The pasta was supposed to be fresh...

On the bright side, my parents and grandparents took much fancier stuff (which is not fancy at all, considering the simplicity and availability of the ingredients) like porcini risotto, veal parmigiana, and a linguine sauteed with porcini and dried tomatoes and perhaps eggplants and usual veggie fillers. All and for all, it was alright, but totally stuff that I can make at home for 1/10 of the cost! Such is the drama with Italian food in general: won't find something really out of the ordinary unless you go to Italy.

(I do want to go to Italy. If my schedule allows - if I remain a freelance - I will travel to France for my cousin's wedding, first to Paris to join her and fiance up, and then to Toulouse where my aunt resides. And probably from there, travel to Barcelona or La Côte-d'Azur, Milano and Turino.)

The interesting plus is that one of the waiters is an (amateur?) opera singer, and did a performance for many tables (it also seemed like everyone except us was Italian-Canadian) in guise of happy birthday or singing performance to commemorate Mama's Day.

Today, for lunch, we went to Kam Fung for yum cha. I ate three of those fresh-out-the-oven egg tarts and indiscriminately stuffed my face with other very usual dim sum. I need to be impressed - and thus on top of Europe, I crave for a trip to HK (and China - this time, I will have my train trip to SH). However, I will wait for my gramps to go, next winter. Actually, they are juggling with the idea to go back to live in HK...

In the meanwhile, I've uploaded pics to my Flickr.

The crabapple tree has flowered sometime between yesterday and Tuesday. It's now even more flourished that yesterday, and probably by tomorrow it will look more or less like a cloud of pink floating below my bedroom window. There are also pictures of a few things I cooked in the past month (the lamb couscous, and then the pork roast) and also when I visited my grandmother (and perhaps I should go again today - an occasion to take a breath of fresh air, go to the pool, get some work done, and not witness the Senators early playoffs elimination on TV).

This the second time I eat zongzi in three days. My other grandmother (my mom's mom) brought a couple of rice dumplings yesterday evening, on her usual post-dinner walk with grandpa. Extremely nice of her, despite that I got three of them at the same place on Saturday. Nonetheless, it must be the first time I eat freshly-made "zong" at home (we end up buying them or keeping them frozen), and not that I notice any real difference, but it's kind of neat to be able to steam them instead of boiling them away. Ok, it's beeping downstairs.

As for the domain, it's back to normal now. I've been relocated from their US server to one of them in Europe. One day down seemed like forever, can you imagine?

Oh great, a real tropical summer without having to leave the country. Those linen cloth shorts will feel very good in a month...

After watching the movie, I met up with Danica, had lunch and did a bit of shopping in Chinatown for the house: a pack of shanghai bok choi, char siu, half a duck and a few rice dumplings (zongzi).

Got the zongzi at a place my grandma recommended, on Clark, in the Furama restaurant building (formerly Taiping and then big-Mingdo), in the basement, more precisely. The zongzi are handmade by someone from outside (from what I understood, not a company), and are $1.50 apiece, cheaper (and much larger) than the frozen ones I bought in TO. They come in green beans or nuts flavour, with of course, the lady assured me, a piece of fat pork. Another thing I discovered last year was soya sauce grades... for zongs, one should use at least a dark soya sauce.

For Chinese cold-cuts, diverged from the usual Hong Kong place on St-Laurent, and went to that one in the building housing Kam Fung restaurant. The char siu wasn't nearly as good (has a smoky sort of taste), but my dad says that the roasted pork (siu yok) is especially good there. I'm not very difficult as to siulap: as long as the char siu's color is not bordering fluo red, and the siu yok's skin is crisp.

Went to see Chinese Restaurants: Three Continents, the third of five films where the producer/director Cheuk Kwan goes around the world and recounts the lives of Chinese diaspora members from the perspective of the restaurants they own. In every city, little town out of nowhere, there is a Chinese restaurant. Mr Kwan, an engineer by training, left his job ("mid-life crisis") to focus on his project, which took him to fifteen different countries.

The three countries featured in this film were Madagascar, Norway and Canada. I was particularly interested in the Madagascar one, because my dad was born there and grew up there. Many of the familiar places my father told me about are described in the episode, the very long staircase going up the hill in Tananarive and which my dad escalated twice every schoolday, and a Chinese school opened by Chinese business people (it could've been the one my grandpa helped funding - but then the one in the movie was built in the 40s).

And the colourful Jim Chow from Outlook, SK, Canada, had one of the most interesting answers when asked whether he considered himself Chinese or Canadian: "I am myself". And my own "myself" is probably in a constant state of flux, with varying amounts of pull and push, of resisting, of letting go.

A heck of a series, and if I had $100 to fork out for the DVD set, I would (if it were just half of this, I definitely would - hey, it has it all: diasporic identity, immigration stories, Chinese food - from that-which-fools-gweilo and fusion flavours!). Available at the NFB centre on St-Denis x Ste-Cath in Montreal (first time I go there - and it basically has a couple of screening rooms almost as large as Ex-Centris' smallest, and half a floor with multimedia viewing stations, and that cool robotic film selection thing).

I was thinking about food, and thought that I should perhaps attempt to make zongzi, those Chinese rice dumplings that aren't the same thing as the lo mai kai from dim sum. This seems like the most straightforward recipe found online, and could do, one day when my mother has her back turned and when I'll have assembled the ingredients (bamboo leaves?). Or perhaps, I should ask my own grandmother, who cooks Chinese exclusively, but never very fancy things, except those chicken legs stuffed with glutinous rice and shark's fin (an emulation of something she and grandpa ate in one of those trips back to HK, I may've heard them say). But as far as I know, recipe-keeping is not something we do in the family, and the cooking skill is not really passed on from one generation to the other (bare the BBQ) - as both grandmothers didn't really cook until they emigrated.

But I seriously lack motor skills, and it showed when I tried making xiao long bao with friends, and never quite managing to make the appropriate folds. So, I can almost predict that while making rice dumplings now sounds easier to make (seems like you need to hold the leaves to form a cone, and fill it incrementally with rice on the periphery and filling in the middle), I could manage to mess it up - oil leak, rice leak. Although it would also seem like a very fun lazy afternoon activity to sharpen my dexterity... Man, I'm hungry now. :/

After spending some time at McGill, decided that it was enough of a nice day to walk from there all the way to Concordia. Down on University, cross the lower campus from Milton, then south on McGill College, east on De Maisonneuve, south on Peel, east on Ste-Cath, all the way to Guy.

The goal of this was to get to the big dollarama in Faubourg, thinking that I would be able to find a cheap couscousière there. Maybe I'll just cook it in the rice cooker... Nonetheless, I stopped at that Middle Eastern shop on Ste-Cath next to the bank on the corner of Guy, and got myself another contingent of random spice (ground cardamon, and paprika - cuz the paprika we have at home is probably as old as this house), and some dry-roasted peanuts to quell the aggravating hunger. Then, on my way to the metro, decided to stop by another shop, the one directly on the corner of St-Mathieu and De Maisonneuve, and also got spices (ground cumin), pita, and zahtar pita, which I had the pleasure of discovering as an undergraduate, as it was sold by the student-run architecture caf, right on our way to classes.

We've been going pretty Mediterranean these past weeks. We've started buying the Pheonicia brand of yogourt which, at about 2$ for its 750g format, totally whips the mainstream brands (goes for about 3$ in the same format). The taste is surely different, and caters to a clientele that does not mind to mix in their own flavours. One of my favourite is a pinch of ground espresso coffee with a drop of vanilla extract. Others would be just a spoonful of fig jam; or sultana raisins and walnuts with a bit of sugar (unless you chew on the raisins, it gets a bit bland otherwise); or just honey.

Last week at Adonis, I was intrigued by the rectangular plastic bins filled with fresh (goat?) cheese, and what people actually do with it. If it weren't for the very long queue-ups at the cheese counter, I would've gotten myself a portion of that, just to dip the Lavash crackers we bought at Cosco into something.

Now I totally have spices in excess and will want to season any sort of meat with it in preview of any garden party I would happen to host this summer (which would either be plenty or none at all, since almost all my Montreal relatives, including those living in the same house, would be gone to Asia...). And in terms of meat, I would suppose that anything exotic has to come with the seasoning, b/c, what sort of other meat than beef, pork, chicken, lamb and fish do people actually eat? And now, I should try to finish pop novel Guns, Germs and Steel... I think I'll read up on spices.

Lamb, merguez sausages. Now maybe fresh parsley, onions, spices and ground beef for some easy kebabs?

Re-posting from an Angry Asian Man news story of yesterday, because the thing actually happened in the Montreal suburban area where I live: A Filipino second-grader in Canada has been repeatedly punished by his school for eating with a spoon and fork (link). A stab at my wronged belief that differences would be understood and accepted. Some things like these push me out of me. To a lesser extent, people who think that manga/anime is a marginalized sub-culture. Cultural misunderstandings take a pinch at my arm skin and twists it 360 degrees x 10. I guess it's because of how something so anodine as eating the way your ancestors have always eaten was singled out by a near-sighted educational system tool as a deviant behaviour, even after adults have been involved. >:O

Re: Food cravings

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I found some cheap lamb meat (so, mutton meat is inexistent, but cheap lamb is cheap enough :D) at Adonis, on Des Sources, that UFO-like supermarket in the middle of West Island. I'll be making couscous during the week, and I've figured that turmeric was one of the key spices to add (too expensive in bottle format, and sold-out/inexistent in other formats at regular supermarkets, as I still haven't listed it down prior to visit to Adonis), and that the stew part should include carrots, an eggplant, onions and chick pea (despite being a hater of the latter - I try it in the name of change; so I'm also wearing blue jeans today?).

I was going to make the lamb tonight (four leg parts), but my mother "convinced" me to make the French rack of pork. We usually cook it with any given type of squash or autumn fruits, but this time went for random assortment of what's-in-the-fridge (she obsesses about emptying the fridge before buying new food - no half measures), which was not even in the fridge as originally thought and had to be bought (russet potato). Hum. So, a frenched rack of pork, soaked in red wine, ceres vinegar, onions, garlic, olive oil and the remainder of fresh thyme from making last week's beef stew à la boring. Turned out fine, but way too much food. The problem with pork is that it is dry - reason why my brother hates it, and why I would usually hate it, if dry didn't mean that it is also (maybe) healthier. In any case, that pork cut is not dry at all. The meat closest to the bone is wet, juicy and greasy (that's what they use to make baby pork ribs after all), and the rest, well, is not dry unless you overcook it.

The thyme, I think, gave the nice taste to the potatoes (cooked along the pork rack, along with juice). Gave me a nice food coma (half-dead-looking, as I'm assured that I look like my father when passing out on couch) during the second period of the Calgary-Anaheim game, waking up right on time for Iginla's short-handed goal. But that Canadian team lost, so did Ottawa. The good thing is that Edmonton won. Also looking forward to tomorrow's Habs game.

I'll be laying tiles, and fixing gyproc tomorrow. Wuzzah.

[music: Yoko Kanno - Gotta knock a little harder]

Food cravings

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Paella, or some sort of bean-based dish. Perhaps even a couscous (if I can find mutton-not-lamb meat in Montreal - I probably should try my luck at that shop that sells merguez sandwiches outside its doors at Marché Jean-Talon). Makes me hungry, but cannot eat, or else won't be able to sleep; and I need to sleep, b/c the construction people are coming back at 8AM. >_>

Hung out downtown for most of the afternoon. Got a different haircut from this winter's trend of going longer. Walked from McGill to Concordia, and in circles until I bussed to Chinatown to get some siu lap for dinner tonight (one of those perfect cantonese meal: siu yok, char siu, oil/garlic sauteed bok choy quarters, and white rice).

Part of the second-floor hallway has been taken up by our new bathroom, but has overall been enlarged. I can now walk straight to the toilet w/o having to make a turn! Anyways - for now, looking out from my room, all there is to see are the house's frame, naked floors, and trash, in a way somewhat reminiscent of Labyrinth. But soon, I'm going to learn how to lay ceramic tiles, and stick new carpet (so I can do it myself, for my potential room renovation).

Allergies have started, soon after Wee mentionned he was currently being incapacitated by pollen & dust. It doesn't usually start before mid-May, but the weather in Mtl has been exceptionally warm (usually we even expect it to snow at this time of the year!).

Real hockey has also started. Exciting games all over the league, and I've predictably been glued to the TV screen all evening (the emotionally important series only starts tomorrow). What a shame that the Oilers lost that way after Roloson's performance. The Ducks-Flames game is tied, and will probably last all night for overtime (as we remember Anaheim's 2003 run to the Cup finals).

Been exercising, reading, and have felt very relaxed for the past month or so. The university pool has been closed for repairs during the finals stretch (until end of the month, that is), and looking forward to extend those arms into cool clear chlorinated water. Got to work on not dying after a single pool length. :\

Basically, through the Mind of the Hive (or its particular entry on American Chinese cuisine, full of answers to my identity-related questions spilling over to the topic of food - and it plants a dagger firmly over the fact that GENERAL TAO'S CHICKEN DOES NOT EXIST IN CHINA - that's productive North American Asian activism in action).

Through that, I got info about Chinese spices. It comes intuitively, that for any sort of food to have its distinctive taste, it starts with spices. So I went to get "Arabic spices" in order to make Arabic food - which was as simple as cinnamon, nutmeg and other things like that, but I didn't know that. I want to get cumin, eventually if I also find that low-grade greasy unexpensive mutton meat for cooking northern Chinese and more generally central Asian cuisine that requires it (all the mutton meat I find in regular supermarkets is super-expensive lamb from Quebec farms (in Charlevoix, available at public markets - they even make merguez!), and from Down There. We have star anise at home, I think, and put it in the curry, I guess.

But there's something called Sichuan pepper, which is not black pepper, and which could be that strange spice that was in my lamb stir-fry or fried spinach taken at Niu Kee, or made into a fine powder in its Japanese variety (to be sprinkled on ramen? is it this one?). The Chinese name of the stuff is 花椒 (huajiao/fatsiew?), and sounds familiar. This is something I definitely should ask any of the grandmothers one day - too much of basil/thyme in what we cook. -_-;

Marché Hawai

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(Edited pic: the previous was a bit crappy, I realize.)

Went with parents to Fu Kam Hua for a late lunch, which reminded me how generally much better Chinese food can be (b/c we were also discussing how both of them, plus brother, would be spending time in HK/Asia this summer...). Still, I tried some new way of serving congee ("three eggs", ie preserved, fresh, steamed), and stuffed my face with better-than-Montreal-average xiao long bao (still not worth going out of your way for).

And the real purpose of this trip was to pass by Marché Hawai, a real Asian supermarket (not the small crowded sorts found in Chinatown), and the largest I know in Greater Montreal. My parents heard about it a few months ago, and wanted to bring me there ever since, knowing that I would be delighted upon seeing the rows of frozen products, the refrigerated counter of weird meats only Asian people eat, and the walls of noodle products. It must be a reference for Asian food (at least for people with cars...). On our way out, we even bumped into my own grandmother, who was shopping with friends/relatives!

A Radio-Canada story on Marché Hawai indicates that they've been open since 2001 or 2002 already. The most remarkable thing wasn't that you could find everything in one single place, but that you could (also) find things you couldn't find anywhere else in Montreal (like, I think, frozen yellow-skin chicken). The store also feels much less ghetto than other Asian stores I've been to (Ying, in C-d-N; Kim Phat, South Shore flavour). The alleys are wide, and the counters, well-kept - there is even a stand in the middle of the vegetables & fruits where people unpack Chinese veggies from boxes and pack them back in bags in front of you! Not as large as T&T (now, why are they in Calgary, Edmonton, but *not* in Montreal), and didn't seem to have a fresh pastries, or Cantonese deli counter.

I am a supermarket tourist, so here's the Flickr set of today's trip.

I made lasagna

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So I made a four-layer lasagna. The bottommost was tomato meat sauce sprinkled with parmesan cheese. The next one was ricotta cheese exclusively (I ought to replace it with a bechamel before the end of this life). Then the top two layers were sauce with a three cheese cheese mix. All of it, topped with a thick layer of the latter cheese.

I don't know whether the Three Cheese was a good choice of topping, because it gave a strange smell during broil, and didn't brown as much as I would expect a cheese to do. Perhaps pure mozzarella would've been better.

I selected leaner ingredients: ricotta with 50% the normal fat contents (didn't notice the taste diff) and extra lean ground beef - I bet the thick layer of Three Cheese cancelled the effect. Before I forget, I saw a news story about cottage cheese on L'Épicerie, probably the best "reporting-style" show about food that there is on Canadian TV (I now also get the science of cooking potatoes). The result was judged to be "better than usual", by the non-lasagna-lovers of this household, and could've been helped with adding even more salt, and perhaps a variety of veggies, like mushrooms, or black olives (still leftover from the Spanish-style chicken).

The science of gratin... Surely has to do with the contents in carbohydrates, lipids or proteins, but which is it?

As I write this, the Canucks have eliminated themselves from the race to the playoffs. Last week, everyone would've thought instead that the race in the West would be settled only on the last game - now that the eight teams are known (so it's Edmonton, not Vancouver), all that remains to be seen is what position they'll be in. In the East, the Habs can still be out of it, if they lose all, and Atlanta and Tampa Bay win all, but they're playing ok-to-well against good teams, or at least better as a team than the Canucks. Toronto can still make it, and play, ha-ha, the Sens in first round. And then, we pray for both the Leafs and Habs to win their series and meet in the East Conference finals. :D

And btw, there's quite a bit of lasagna left over, because my brother skipped from coming home after work. :O I ate a food-coma-inducing third of the lasagna plate (covering about the surface of a legal-size sheet, and a good 10cm of depth). So, yeah, I know I am mostly conversing with myself ...but still making a realistic offer here!

The Joe Thornton who single-handedly eliminated the Canucks is not the same Joe Thornton the Habs buried under the ice during the 2004 playoffs (0P, -5, 7GP). "Moments before setting up Carle's game-winner, Thornton nearly scored a short-handed goal in the third period with two Vancouver defenders hanging on his arms." Woaw man. My Vancouverite cousin at McGill is now cursing the Canucks live on MSN. The World Cup experience, etc, etc, did good to the man, and now I can even start cheering for him, since he isn't playing in our division anymore.

Marinated for an hour time in vinegar, mustard and olive oil, seasoned with fresh (frozen) tarragon. Still cooking, more later. :D

Seven spices later

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Picked up spices from the Arabic grocery store facing the Faubourg. It was a mix dubbed "7 spices / Arabic mix" from behind the front counter - $1.50 for a pouch, and I picked up another one they use for making shawarma... Probably cinnamon, carmamom, nutmeg mixed with some other things.

It was meant for making kafta (ground meat with onions, fresh parsley and the "7 spices"), but I instead used the shawarma mix to season the lamb chops. Also prepared half of the merguez sausages I bought - one and a half left for lunch tomorrow.

The seven spices went in the rice, as the aroma was clearly the same from the rice served at Lebanese fast food chains (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc). I cooked some round rice (the calrose kind that people use for sushi), as it reminded me of what we were served in Egypt (I came across an article where they say that the "Japonica" variety made up 95% of the rice production in that country) - which I now recall was probably in fact barley, or some sort of cereal with parts of the shell remaining. I added the seven spices mix, finely cut onions, a slab of butter and, the secret ingredient, a handful of sultana raisins (and also a very bad-quality saffron that didn't color the rice by a bit, despite adding way more than a pinch of it).

I should've added some salt - but making savory rice in our household is already a no-no (unless it's itself a full meal - as for beef rice, Chinese lap mei fan, or risotto). Go figure. No food pr0n, I was too preoccupied with eating.

(So, says my father, it's a Chinese thing -of course-, b/c for each meal you eat every day, you have to have plain rice. As a continuity thing - symbolism, you know? ... Other Chinese people for whom savory rice is a taboo?)

Beau bon pas cher

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Open invitation to anyone up for something exotic in the realm of food. Was told of this restaurant serving Mauritian cuisine in the middle of Verdun (approprietely metro-accessible). So yeah.

Spaghetti Meatballs

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My first time making spaghetti meatballs. First, it takes meat, but then you also have to put some stuff in to make it stick together and not be super-dry. That would be one egg, cream, bread crumbs and onion/garlic. Douse with olive oil, and sprinkle with oregano for taste. Fry the meatballs, place them over the pasta, and top it off with ground tomatoes (the can variety is perfect) seasoned with fresh basil, if you want.

Spanish-style chicken

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Spanish-style chicken
Originally uploaded by Smurfmatic.
When my mother used to own the Dunkin' Donuts in Eaton Centre, there was, for the first few years, a Spanish restaurant called "Paella" right next to ours (before it became La Friterie). I was so amazed with their chicken that I asked for the recipe... I don't remember all of it, but I tried re-creating it tonight. For sure it had olives, onions, and peppers, and most probably a tomato base. But what was it that made it so good? I am trying to find out - the paella last week (while I don't think contained any) points to lemon...

B/c that's what people do for stews, I also dumped a good 300mL of cheap white wine. The thing is simmering downstairs in the kitchen and all I hope is that the broth doesn't dry out completely and that the chicken is as tender as it was in my paella.

Simple food

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Somen
Originally uploaded by Smurfmatic.


Club Espagnol (encore)

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Went to the Club Espagnol, prior to Annie show, which was at this Club Lambi across the street. My second recent time there, after first visit in January. It turns out to be a quite good paella, served in its individual metal plate (b/c I have been used to eating fast-food paella in a gang plate). The thing is right precious enough to deserve recognition. The peppers scattered, the shrimp sprinkled, and the mussels guarding - not to forget the chicken pieces (one breast chunk, one thigh chunk) delightfully cooked to perfect tenderness. It's not so often I can be as poetic about my food. It didn't matter though, b/c I gulped it down, and it required a coffee, six hours after consumption of said paella, to wash it down.

It was a good paella, but it didn't look as good as last time. It's a shame that I don't have photos. I didn't have my camera last time, and this time I just assumed I had pics last time. >_> Anyways, the extra two bucks for squid ink is really worth it, b/c it really borgifies (the only imagery I can make about the change of color) the usual natural valenciana paella (I didn't have the vegetarian, but wouldn't a paella w/o seafood or meat whatsoever destroy the purpose?).

[I cannot think about the Annie show, but I have pics, and would like to make a complete post rather than something botched up. Just like for a honest commentary on the first novel I've been passionately reading during this past year.]

Le Piton de la Fournaise

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It's a Bring-your-own-wine, which would explain the out-of-the-ordinary prices. But it was well worth my $35 taxes and tips included, although I should've brought the wine. >_>

I had the cari shark. "Cari" is not the same thing as curry, even if we tend to translate it like this in French. Le Piton de la Fournaise is the name of the volcano dominating the Reunion Island, a territory off Madagascar belonging to France (in fact a French Département). It is also the name of a restaurant that serves cuisine from the Island, located on Duluth, near St-Hubert.

The entree (a watercrest soup) was forgettable (and a bit too salty), but the main dish was teh fabulous. A symphony of taste. The 'cari' is a spicy sauce, but 'spicy' is in the sense of flavour/herbs, rather than hot. I have some difficulty pinpointing the exact taste. It was along the lines of zesty and fruity; a sauce that coated beautiful cubes of shark meat that didn't remind me of what shark usually tastes like (was a bit on the soggy side, and felt more like rayfish - but I might be mixing shark with mahi-mahi). The rice on the side was topped with a delicated leguminous-based sauce, and the dishes were to be optionally seasonned with special spicy sauces (in the 'hot' sense, this time), which came in three different flavours - lemon bits, eggplant and tomatos.

The dessert was a rich and stomach-expanding sweet potato home recipe pie served with a fizz of fresh cream and freshmint leaves that I would pleasantly bite on between each bite of pie. This stuff was God.

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Restaurant Jolee

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Wee found this Sri Lankan restaurant off Victoria near Cote-Ste-Catherine metro called "Jolee" (means "joy"). I can't quite make the difference between Indian and Sri Lankan yet. And I feel almost guilty ordering butter chicken, curry or pandoori chicken, b/c it makes me feel as if I'm ordering General Tao chicken in a Chinese restaurant. So I didn't, and went with something called 'kutu roti', which is basically some meat (it was mutton), eggs, onions, and roti chopped together into a indistinguishable mess, and topped with herbs and hot peppers.

For entree, I took a plate of fried cauliflower. Wee saw bigger than his stomach, and ordered two main dishes. I was about to do the same - until I got to 1/3 of my kutu roti. Now I have lunch for tomorrow. The main dishes came in those typical metal trays (b/c it was like this at the last Indian restaurant - but I don't know whether it's really typical), with condiment-like items in each sub-compartment: a puree of yellow beans, some very spicy chick peas, and potatoes in a sauce... Now I realize that the spiciness of my main dish made me forget about tasting my food. It happens over and over, often even without an excuse, and must probably be something I should improve on: take it one bite at the time.

Anyways, incredibly cheap, just like yesterday night. It came to 25$ for both of us, tips/taxes and lunches for days to come included. But then, there was almost no meat in our dishes - minced mutton meat in mine, and a chicken thigh in his. The address is down here:

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Also, due to spiciness of food, I predict whipping nightmares tonight. >_>

Patati Patata

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Walked pass by several times, as it's located on the corner of Rachel and St-Laurent, right in the way of usual summer walking routes. i find it surprising how you make the regular 'roi de la patate-ish' casse-croute look so appealing just by changing the decor, adding salads and beer on tap. Actually, the fries in julienne are really good, for the low price of $1.50 for quite a large serving. I was amazed that all and for all (a cheese burger, albeit tiny, with fries and salad, an extra serving of fries *and* a 10oz Moosehead) it was only $10.06 with the taxes. The restaurant is in fact a counter, and there are exactly 15 sitting spots.

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And then, we went for another beer at Le Reservoir, on Duluth close to St-Laurent, that place I walked past by a few months ago looking for that authentic Viet restaurant called 'Harmonie d'Asie' (which was ultimately too expensive for our wallets - on top of being full house). I think the menu at Le Reservoir was also too expensive, but this time it was only for their beer. It was $4.50 for a pre-20h pint, so I had some special German-named brew which I forgot the name, and then an Ambrée de Blé, which had a strong aroma that I couldn't identify, but which I approximate to... green peppers?

Niu Kee

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The Chinese restaurant for people who have enough of General Tao chicken (which, incidentally, I had last week), as the Gazette review coins. We sampled a spicy lamb, some kung pao shrimp (sort of sweetish fried sauce with peanuts, peppers and shallots sprinkled in it), and a dish of fried spinach. We were told the chef is from Henan and the lady managing the service was a Beijing opera singer - and are they obviously a couple, per the pictures on framed reviews outside the dining room?

I haven't been to the old location (St-Laurent, a bit south of De La Gauchetière), but the new one (on Clark, but north of René-Lévesque) is what you can describe as 'cozy'. The ceiling seemed lower, the walls closer, the tables tighter - but it's all good to me (why does its interior make me think of restaurants in Korea/Japan - probably Asia in general?). And it was the food that was we came for. I'm not sure if I can myself appreciate the difference, after complaining that Montreal was a town endowed with Cantonese, Sichuanese, and Cantonese and Sichuanese food, basically. Was it the peppers? Was it some sort of crunchy spice they fry the spinach with? (Maybe the garlic was just not cooked enough :P)

Some items of the menu were marked Szechuanese - I am not even sure what Henan cuisine is to be able to tell if it was really Henan-ese cuisine that we had. (I remember that there used to be a restaurant called "Hunan" on St-Laurent - it's either still there, or replaced by a Vietnamese restaurant, like everything else in Chinatown: pho soup pays rent so much more easily XD;; Anyways, Hunan is not even remotely bordering Henan - I'm mixing it up - Henan makes good ham I think.) In any case, I hail the diversity of Chinese foods. *shakes fish*

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The shrimp were good - at first reluctant to order shrimp, b/c in a Chinese restaurant, it stays in my mental book that it will invariably be dry. With that sort of sauce, it can be anything but dry. It actually reminds me of something I ate at the Nam Pak Lao (sorry, this OS doesn't have a Chinese IME) in Causeway Bay, which serves something like the Kung Pao shrimp (maybe it *was* Kung Pao shrimp - although I remember that Nam Pak Lao as serving Beijing food? - but with a twist of a stunt. It has the shrimp on a hot iron plate, then the guests are invited to hold their table napkin open in front of them - as to shield from the sizzling sweet and spicy sauce as it is being cast on the iron dish. This shrimp was less exciting, still 'good', but it didn't please my mood for light food in that case, one should have jiao zi, which Niu Kee also had on the menu).

Chicken congee, hmm

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I'm making chicken congee, b/c I can. :D If I could, I'd make something fancier, like pork fillet and thousand years eggs... and actually, what I don't find fancy is plain 'zhouk' with a random meat. We had this rotation going on for too long (ground beef, chicken thighs, fish pieces), that I am intrigued by what I could actually do with a good congee base. And it's not like I've never been to snack-bars serving only congee. There was one I disliked, with pork stew meat and peanuts. I think I had some with squid, but it doesn't add fancy, and is not something I actually feel comfortable having with congee. (I saw ... bacon in the freezer XD) Hey, so what about fusion? I mean, the Italians have risotto, don't they? Chinese 'shrooms are actually standard in congee, and we regularly put porcinis in our 'lap mei fan' (preserved meats rice - modified with, err, ground beef). (Must try to make this blog less of a conversation with myself - it screws up the connections indeed)

Oh, now that I remember it, we sometimes put choy in the congee (something I don't hear of in restaurants), and many times substituted the Chinese variety for rapini? It was so un-good.

Pâté Chinois

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I don't exactly know where I read this article of information on pâté chinois (it wasn't on L'Épicerie alright). The article (I don't even know if it came in paper, or electronically, but it was written for sure) had a few anecdotes on the Pâté Chinois, a French Canadian meal made of ground beef mixed with corn, and a layer of potatoes. Its deeper origins are probably not from this land (as every European nation seems to have their own dish mixing beef, potatoes and corn), and the closest cousin is probably the English Shepherd's Pie (was it made with mutton meat - I dunno), and it other closer cousin from New England. The article in question proposes that the first recipe of a pâté chinois came from a New England town called "China", where many French Canadians emigrated to at the turn of the 20th century. I always thought they are the exact same concepts (and for certain purposes - like producing frozen meals for the entire North American market - they are assumed to be), but there's something in the little things you add/tweak, and where you add/tweak them. Like carrots in the potatoes (I would put mine with the ground beef / corn), or cheese you put on top. Apparently creamed corn is also a variant.

(Actually the info got on Wikipedia (b/c I know it isn't from Wikipedia that I read it), so maybe I dreamt reading the article - which would be really weird)

Typically, I would use ground beef and creamed corn. Lest time I added carrots in the beef too. This time (yesterday night), I had the semi-bad idea (no one in the household complained) of using nibblets instead, which makes the thing awfully dry. Actually, my mother complained it was dry - which is a combination of using nibblets instead of creamed corn, and for once having more mashed potatoes than beef/corn mix. The mashed potatoes has been home-made in recent years. As a kid, I was too lazy - or actually *did not know* (-_-) that it was as simple as it was to obtain mashed potatoes and instead bought the Shirriff brand potato flakes - expensive, and not necessarily tasty.

I really made too much of the mashed potatoes, such that I had some left. I actually don't know, b/c I've been in a sort of food coma, and even "napping", since dinner time (7PM, now 2AM). Too much carbohydrates at once perhaps. It lacked "tasty", and could have used a lot more butter (but I prefer to restrain myself when it comes to particularly bad-for-health types of animal fat). Cheese was shredded swiss non-Kraft brand, but I would want to try with a Cheedar-ish variety (with its spicy spikes).

The Pho Controversy

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If you have a livejournal, answer this or that poll. XD

Personally, I can't think of the broth as something more than an accompaniment to the noodles. You have your bowl of noodles, and put the noodles in your spoon, and eat the contents of the spoon - which may also contain soak amounts of the soup. But that's it. Gotta leave house, cannot elaborate. But yeah...

Canard confit

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I never thought French confit duck could have its skin done as browned crunchy as this. I know it's total fat, but it's crunchy caramelized animal fat... Somewhat different from the Chinese version of a roast, which produces shiny skin with a redish tinge. Perhaps the result of the 'confit', I'm not sure.

Choco what?

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Woaw, do I tag this entry music or food? :D (Anyone interested? lol, it's in less than 24hrs...)

Coffee Yoghurt

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If ever you were hungry past 11PM.

- 'firm' yoghurt (versus the usual stirred kinds). A few large spoonfuls.
- one teaspoon of sugar
- a drop of vanilla extract
- half a teaspoon of freshly ground espresso coffee

Mix well. Enjoy.

Cannoli from Patisserie Roma

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They are death on a deep-fried pastry... If you've never had one, it's like a cannelloni, but with a dessert twist. Typically, they look like on this entry of Answers.com, and are a deep-fried pastry tube, filled with a mixture of fresh cream and ricotta cheese. It is very good, especially when you've just filled for yourself a giant *mug* of espresso coffee with foamed up half&half. Along with the cheese, bourguignonne and chocolate fondue I had for my parent's belated Christmas gift yesterday, I can say I deserve to die (of a horrible cardio-vascular accident).

Those cannoli were bought by my aunt and uncle Jean and Bernard, upon recommendation from my aunt's Italian girl friend. They would be Montreal's best cannoli, but I wouldn't know, from a pastry shop called "Roma", in Little Italy, 6776 St-Laurent.

Matcha milk

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In the green scheme of things: a glass of hot milk, with a generous spoonful of matcha. The mix could use some sugar, I think, to bring out the tea flavour. It reminds me of the pistachio cake I once had: a bright green colour, reminiscent of the first springtime leaves, at places least expected (namely food, that isn't a green salad or a spinach creme). I'm fabulating.

The Martians took over Schwartz!

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There are rumours going on (started by my friend's Jewish acquaintance) that Schwartz's smoked meat wasn't owned by Jewish people anymore (and for several years, perhaps decades). Which, to me, sounds like, a Chinese restaurant not owned by Chinese (Japanese is another story) - cuz smoked meat is a Eastern European meal brought to Montreal by Jewish immigrants of the... beginning of the century? Or was it the WWII period - I forgot, b/c it's a fact all attentive Montrealer should know.

No, that's not what I wanted to blog about. What I wanted to blog about is, godammit, they remade the walls and ceiling at Schwartz! Now it's got the same ceiling as in schools built in the 1980-90s! You know, that generically rectangular-shaped pieces of pressed carton held back with a white-painted aluminium grid? Yeah. At least, you don't see the tubes, and Schwartz's looks ... un-ancient.

The smoked meat is as greasy as last time; as I collapse a heart attack, a rigidification of my blood vessels, and diabetes (from the cherry pop). R.I.P.

Club Espagnol restaurant

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Hung out with governorgeneral, who was in town for his interview today. And as the weather allowed (Montreal was melting, even though ice and the gravel left from Wednesday's disastrous weather remained dominant), we walked all the way from the Duff, on the McGill campus, to the restaurant, which is located in the upper St-Laurent (4388), 'tween Marie-Anne and Mont-Royal (and to digest - walked from there, back to ... Lionel-Groulx).

The restaurant is the Club Espagnol. The Club Espagnol is the restaurant. Perhaps it is what it is: a social club for Spanish people, with one giant screen, and at least three TVs, showing futbol, but also has the RDS feed, with sangria being the standard group drink (which, 10 years ago when I came with family, we had, I recall). But certainly they have a very good paella. I had the one with squid ink, which is a standard paella - shellfish, chicken, peppers, rice in olive oil, first cooked on the fire for 5 mins, and I believe 5-10 more minutes in the oven - and squid ink to give the resulting dish its grey tinge. An extremely tasty meal, and more than enough, especially with fried ika, I mean, calamari, as an entree/tapas. A full array of tapas, but we stayed put, and what a chance. The squid ink paella was 20$, and the fried calamari, 7-8$, with taxes included (which makes it not that bad after all - remember it is seafood at a restaurant, that you are eating!).

The Club Espagnol was featured on last week's edition of Radio-Canada's darling epicurean affairs show, L'Épicerie.

Odaki sushi (on St-Laurent)

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Another one of those sushi buffets, at 20$ a head, and of course owned by Chinese. ^^ Nicely decorated, and located on St-Laurent a bit pass Schwartz, I think it fell flat on the nigiri (too much vinegar, perhaps, but I just think the rice was cold and too hard to be considered good for sushi). The makis were okay - what one would expect from any sushi place. No sashimi, and the entrees were *not* unlimited (unlike Kanda of across Concordia - but they increased their prices I've heard). Japanese food is a depressing scene in Montreal. And as Wee puts it, Montreal is a continental city, so what would you expect, really?

Arirang

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At first, we wanted to go to a certain Pho place nearby Metro Place-Saint-Henri, ended up walking the block around the Polyvalente without finding any trace of it. And as Plan B, expecting the expectable, was thinking that Quatre Saisons Korean place, also near the metro, but it was closed (temporily, permanently, dunno). Then took on to walk on Notre-Dame (perhaps to try a grease pit?), all the way to Lionel-Groulx... and with Korean food in mind, decided to go to the Concordia ghetto, to that Arirang restaurant on Ste-Cath.

I had the beef bibim bap, rice with beef and lots of veggies in a sort of stone-heated pot. No MSG, as advertised, and extremely tasty (I am a sucker for pot-bottom crunchy rice). A Korean pancake, reminiscent of Okonomiyaki, in entree.

Alpenhaus

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Exercising will be a useless thing if I keep on going to places serving cheese fondue. It was too pricey, and too loud. I suppose you would like it if you were 40 or above, and seeking quality time in couple after leaving the kids at your parents' home. But I guess I'm still not quite passed the age of feeling young and invincible. Piano and candlelights and Swiss chalet setting... I need some excitement! Some Mexican food! Carribean food! Middle Eastern food! Sunshine, not snow. Alpenhaus, still a fine (but overly pricey) place to eat Winter food, in a hidden caveau, on St-Marc, corner Ste-Cath, nearby the Concordia ghetto and its cheap Chinese eateries.

(On the other hand, per curiousity, I picked up a New Yorker (the Xmas issue) the day I went to see Brokeback Mountain, and have been keeping it in my strap bag ever since. Took it out tonight, and read the passage of the short story on a "B" character with his father in Acapulco, chilling, going to the beach, hanging out in bars - all to keep my mind warm, while freezing the exterior of my head waiting for the bus.)

Grandma's cake recipe

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Not her recipe per se, as she recounts how she learnt it from the baker's wife, she being the grocer's wife, back in Madagascar where my grandparents emigrated to (alike other territories in the Indian Ocean, popular places for coastal Chinese to emigrate to). The cakes are shaped like muffins, with a bit more butter/fat in them, and one can change the flavour as he wishes - my grandma puts vanilla tips, fruits confits, raisins, and/or roasted almonds in them (I will probably try with rhum...). There are two versions to the recipe, with the "western" one using butter, and the "chinese" one using vegetable oil. Both can apparently be steam-cooked, but that's the first time I hear you can make cakes like Chinese buns...

Style Occidental
----------------------
- Butter (100g to 120g)
- Sugar (200g)
- Eggs (4x)
- Flour (250g)
- Milk (180ml)
- Baker's yeast (3tsp)

Separate the yolks. Put the yeast with the flour. Mix the butter, add in the sugar, then the yolks, and the flour, and the milk, and then the white (uniformize at eachstep before adding the next ingredient). Add whatever "filler" you want. Pour it in. Bake it (and actually, I need to call my grandma up - she didn't say how long, and what temp!).

Style "Chinois"
---------------------
- Vegetable oil (120ml)
- Sugar (180g)
- Eggs (3x)
- Flour (240g)
- Milk (180ml)
- Baker's yeast (3tsp)

Same procedure as the western one. Eventually will try them out, distribute them to family, friends and whoever.

The belated Xmas food post

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...as you can see. Well, our family isn't very religious (or not at all), but we'll take Christmas as another excuse to gather and enjoy Good Food.

Ravioli de Manchuria (revisited)

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My fave Chinese restaurant, but I don't know why it's the case. Perhaps its un-Cantonese-ness, perhaps because it is new, perhaps b/c it is a refashioned town house. Or perhaps the speciality dumplings that one never really forgets about? But every time I go, I order dumplings, maybe mutton skewers (although we found better ones at other more specialized restaurants), and maybe the cong you bing (oily chives cakes?), and then some new random stuff. The new random stuff tends to be Chinese in the variety I am not used to. You can tell it's Chinese, b/c of the aromas, the looks, but it's not necessarily something I had before (maybe b/c of the vastness of "Chinese cuisine"). So tonight, went with Wee, and decided to tackle a few things picked up from the wall menu: dirty-inducing fried crab, fried frog legs (and now I die) but not spicy/lemon-ish style, and something that goes by "lao hu cai" ("tiger veggies" says the translation on the same ticket on the wall) (and of course some bai cai jiao zi to finish it off, or finish us of).

The fried crab was very dirty indeed. But that gives me the idea that some summer, or sometime around the season of mollusks (?), I shall have a seafood party, in the dirty-yourself genre, complete with the case of live crabs, and the pot of boiling salty water.

In all his Chineseness, Wee didn't know what those "tiger veggies" were. A mixture of cucumbers, coriander, and a few unknown herbs. And, oh, lots lots lots of chili seeds... Maybe... yeah. *g*

Ravioli de Manchuria, on the east side of St-Mathieu between Ste-Catherine and De Maisonneuve, right in the Concordia ghetto.

La Paryse

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Went with S to calm craving for a hamburger&fries&beer meal, and chose La Paryse, arguably the best in its genre in Montreal, and voted best by Montrealers. The meat is what's important. Ground beef, the right texture, not too dry-McDonald's-ish, but also not too fake-meat-patty-a-la-BK. In any case, this stuff is beyond the league of fast-food, but for 10-15$ tips and taxes counted, one can say it's a restaurant outing well worth it (by the poor student budget's perspective). I really should've had the double burger with bacon. So this was "La Paryse", on Ontario, a short walk westward from St-Denis, right across the corner where the Vieux-Montreal cegep is (and then, I remember that on the same corner, there was that hats & apparel shop someone mentionned to me a few years ago and which I should've checked if I really wanted to get that hat of mine...).

Le Paris

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Le Paris

Before Wee left for Toronto for the holidays (where he will probably be eating Chinese food for the next ten days), we went to eat at "Le Paris", a more traditional French restaurant in an area where French food is the last thing you expect. Located in the quarter adjacent to Concordia University, Le Paris has been a favourite in my family for many years, with its hearty meals and walls decorated with posters of museum exhibits and Paris plays that probably haven't changed since the restaurant opened. If it weren't for the oysters, it would've cost below 30$, for a meal that fills and entertains the palate. So, Le Paris, on Ste-Cath just west of St-Mathieu. Probably one of the best French restaurants I know (of the few I do - and I'm not a very difficult person) - and the other's the pricier Au Petit Extra, on Ontario, somewhat walkable from Papineau metro.

(Details on the food: A lettuce potage in entree (with the temperature, one doesn't order salad). Bavette steak for me in a red wine sauce, and zucchini 'n tomatoes and some extremely buttery mashed potatoes on the side. A pear in "red wine" for dessert. Quality French bread that just keeps refiling itself. :D)

Green-coloured crack

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This thing's like green-coloured crack. Like everyone knows, there was a common theme in the things I brought back: freakin' *tea*. And tea is not necessarily something I fetishize. This is some matcha, sushi bar style, and gotten from the single place where I had that variety of green tea in powder that I liked. I'm not sure why it's been so hard to find matcha, or sushi-bar-style tea (if both aren't the same thing, and I suspect they aren't) b/c it's so easy to make, and is such a clean alternative to teabags! And teabags for oriental tea? Pff, what a n00bish attitude...

genki.tea.jpg

Well, this is matcha, I think. Or not. B/c, and it took me a while to realize it, this powder tea from Genki Sushi (a conveyor-belt sushi place found in HK and Singapore - I thought it was HK-based, but I saw on their website that it was apparently Singapore-based, licensed from a Japan company, and has been around for decades?) has a clear smell of genmai-cha, or brown rice tea. Yes, and the powder is perfectly green. I don't know what it is (maybe this "sushi bar style" tea). Needs to be investigated. Gosh it's good. Hopefully there's another bag of it around.

L'Entrecôte St-Jean

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Went to eat at L'Entrecôte Saint-Jean with Steph, another classic of the Montreal foodscape on Peel Street near De Maisonneuve. Not as famous as Schwartz, but as one review points out, while you won't see "SMOKED MEAT" in thick black pen on a white sheet of paper as the only thing on the menu (b/c it isn't), you could think of doing that for L'Entrecôte with the only main dish they serve: steak frites (a tender one, was really good when served raw). And basically, that was the menu: a "table d'hôte", which consisted of a Soupe du Jour (a heavily buttery carrot cream), a minimalistic lettuce salad with a light oil & vinegar dressing plus walnuts, the steak frites, and chocolate profiteroles to top it off (you get a "special entrecote" version for 17 something, which is the aforementionned, less the soup and dessert). The restaurant looks like what one of those French bistros looks like, complete with the light blue and white meshed pattern tablecloth and high mirror-covered walls. Full on a Monday night. $22.40 for the Table d'Hôte, before taxes and tips.

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