Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A quick stop for poutine at La Banquise!

Wanting to grab poutine before we left Montreal on our last visit, we managed to find the time to pop by La Banquise, the 24-hour joint known by many as the best place for poutine! At around 3 in the afternoon it was packed with the line going out the door - I can only imagine what it's like in the wee hours of the morning when all of the clubs close down! It was much quicker to grab some to go, so that's exactly what we did.

Fries, gravy, and cheese curds...how bad can that?! Our order of the standard poutine was delicious and consumed in approximately 40 seconds. The fries were freshly out of the frier, the gravy just the right amount of saltiness, and there was no skimping on the cheese curds. I often wonder how this dish didn't become a hit in the states!

While I'd have loved to stick around and sample La Banquise's whole slew of poutine variations, with everything from bacon to guacamole added in, I guess I'll have to wait until my next trip up north!
Resto la Banquise on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Boris Bistro - Montreal

Last weekend we decided to make a little getaway to Montreal to surprise my sister and her boyfriend who were in Boston for the week. After poking around the web for somewhere that looked good, but that wouldn't break the bank, I settled on Boris Bistro, located in the downtown area not far from Vieux Montreal.

Part of the reason I chose Boris bistro was the atmosphere - tucked away on Rue McGill behind an old stone wall is a wonderful tree-filled patio with umbrellas and tables. With all of the birds chirping, Chris compared said it reminded him of the Rainforest Cafe, but only in jest of course. A large awning extending from the indoor-portion of the restaurant, which is open to the patio with a large window, extends over a small portion of the patio. I would imagine that with the trees, umbrellas, and awning, it would be no problem at all to eat outside while it was raining.

To get things moving, we put in an order for drinks as well as two appetizers. Pommes frites in duck fat served with a house mayonnaise? YES PLEASE. We also had the trio of tapenades, which included a spiced olive, a citrus-y artichoke, and a Liptaeur cheese tapenade. All three were nice and very different from one another, and the baskets of bread provided (plus a few crostini) worked well for spreading. Both apps were reasonably priced as well.

For my main dish the steak tartare was a clear choice, and I went the healthier route with the salad instead of frites after our appetizer of them. The best part about this steak tartare was the plethora of caper and cornichon bits throughout, as you can see in the picture. The salad was sizable and tossed in a nice vinaigrette.

My sister went with the duck confit sandwich, which would have been my second choice. Served on super moist nut bread, it came with a choice of frites or salad as well. The duck was almost pulled and loosely chopped into thick chunks, and it had pieces of thinly sliced celery, ample sprouts, and a spread of sweet mustard. No problem inhaling that!

Chris went with the duo of fish tartare, salmon and tuna. He wasn't a huge fan of the salmon due to the presence of pickles, but I was kind of enough to finish it for him. The tuna, on the other hand, was to his liking and topped with diced onion and cucumber. To accompany was a small Asian-style slaw and a drizzling of wasabi aioli.

Lastly was Phil's duck risotto with oyster mushrooms, sage and orange cream sauce. What immediately came to mind to both me and my sister was my family's Polish mushroom soup with imported mushrooms at Christmas Eve dinner. I would have devoured this even without the bonus of chunks of duck and nicely-done risotto!

Overall we had a really excellent meal. The only complain I might have is that the glasses of wine, averaging at 11 Canadian each, are a bit on the pricey side, and bottles are the same, starting at around 50. Next time I'm in Montreal I'd certainly consider dining here again, especially with items on the menu like grilled bison, duck rillette, and local Quebec cheeses that I didn't have a chance to try!

Boris Bistro on Urbanspoon

Artu Beacon Hill

To celebrate a belated birthday, a few of us ventured over to the ever-cute Charles Street for a dinner at Artu Rosticceria & Trattoria the other night. Walking down the steps guarded by a lethargic little dog, I was surprised at how small and cavernous the space was. There were some 8 tables, and a large fireplace upon which all of the wines and liqueurs were kept, which I found rather fun.

Since Artu doesn't stock bottles of bubbly, we started with a round of individual bottles of Prosecco. Fun! I had never had Collabrigo Valdobbiadene Venet, but it was nice - not too sweet but very smooth. Along with our glasses of prosecco, we shared plate of the "Cozze e Calamari Fra Diavolo" which was mussels and calamari in spicy tomato sauce with strips of Italian bread for dipping. I'm a sucker for tentacles, and this dish had plenty! Sauce wasn't overly spicy, but great to mop up with the bread.

For my main dish I couldn't decide between the lobster ravioli special or the veal special, but luckily Chris agreed to split with me! The lobster ravioli was good, but I was somewhat underwhelmed - too much pasta, too little lobster/filling, but the sauce was nice and creamy and flavorful. The Veal Artu, as the special was called, was medallions of veal topped with smoked mozzarella, prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, mushroom, and something else that escapes me. Nothing to write home about (just to blog, apparently), but with that combination of things you really can't go wrong.

Bryan stuck with the traditional and chose the eggplant and chicken parmigiana, which was " exactly what (he) wanted in all its crunchy, cheesy, carb-ridden, comfort-y goodness. (He)'d get it again, but could do without the penne." Our 4th, per the waitress's recommendation, ordered the Pollo Arrabiata, which was chicken breast, mushrooms, anchovies, capers, in a hot spicy tomato sauce. He said it was delicious, with just the right amount of spice.

We washed down a meal with a really nice bottle of chianti (Rocca delle Macie Riserva 2006 Chianti Classico), and even ordered a second bottle in lieu of dessert. Everyone loved it! Lucky for us, our wonderful waitress, who had provided us with just the perfect amount of attention without being too much, brought us a round of little shortcakes topped with delicious cherries, blueberries, and whipped cream on the house!

While I wouldn't say our meals at Artu were out of this world, the food was solid and the atmosphere and service couldn't be beat! I think we'd all happily return to grab a bite to eat.
Artu on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lunch at Basho Japanese Brasserie!

Thanks to a Groupon, we mustered up the energy to venture over to Fenway and give Basho Japanese Brasserie a try! Walking in at 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon amid a torrential downpour, the place was pretty empty, and the sleek, dim interior with high ceilings somewhat added to the emptiness. The space didn't do much for me, but that was nothing a satisfying meal couldn't fix.

We were quickly seated and presented with the menus - quite extensive! There's basically about every type of Japanese you could want, not to mention daily specials, cocktails...To start we went with one of the appetizers on special, a refreshing ceviche with octopus, mango, and a number of other delicious things. We also threw in an order of edamame steamed in spicy garlic and ginger to munch on. How bad could that be?

For our actual meals we ended up with one of the types of lunch specials. I went with the Basho Lunch Set includes chef's choice of sashimi, sushi, yakimono, and agemono served with salad, rice, and fruit. Yakimono is a general category of grilled and pan-friend dishes, while agemono are deep-fried dishes.
I absolutely love the concept of bento, and this selection didn't disappoint! For my sushi I had a nigiri shrimp (kind of lame, but that's fine) and then red snapper - really fresh and delicious - and then two pieces of a roll with avocado, crab stick, some type of roe, and a fried mystery item! My sashimi was nice fat, pieces of salmon. Perfect! I honestly have no idea what my agemono was, but it was starchy and the consistency or sweet potato - perhaps some type of root, mixed with assorted bits of veggies. The yakemono was a nice skewer of grilled shrimp and veggies, and there were also a few pieces of chicken katsu. That, plus the salad, rice, and orange, is a pretty nice array of stuff!

The other lunch special, the selection bento, includes the choice of a sushi roll and main course, also served with salad, rice, and fruit. For the roll you can choose between Spicy Tuna, Alaskan, California, Sweet Potato, or Garden, and the main course is either chicken katso, salmon teriyaki, vegetable tempura, or a beef roll. Yum! Chris chose the spicy tuna roll - standard and well done, and the beef role, which is done as if it were maki in that the beef is pounded out and used to wrap, like nori. The beef was glazed with teriyaki and wrapped around asparagus.

All in all everything was really nicely put together. My only complaint is that I wish I had ordered more sushi and sashimi! I'll certainly be back for more of the sushi items, as well as more interesting dishes like smoked salmon fried rice and spicy lobster miso soup!
Basho Japanese Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Restaurant Week Lunch 2011 at Top of the Hub

With a view like this, who can resist a meal at Top of the Hub, especially during Restaurant Week 2011! Having made our reservations a couple weeks in advance, we were seated immediately at a table in the lounge area with breathtaking views of the city.
For a mere $20, restaurant week partakers are able to experience 3 delicious courses for a fraction of the price!

For the first course we had the option of two cool, refreshing appetizers, either a
chilled potato leek soup with herb croutons or a chilled beet salad with
whipped goat cheese, pistachios, and a red wine, oregano vinaigrette. The beets were nicely done and the whipped goat cheese was very mild and light. Together with the crunch of the pistachios and acidity of the vinaigrette I thought everything came together nicely.
I had only had the Julia Child warm potato leek soup in the past (which is of course rich and delicious), but I very much enjoyed it's chilled cousin and could definitely see myself making this in lieu of a gazpacho.

For the main courses we had three choices - 1) calamarata pasta al la Bolognese with
pecorino cheese, tomato, and basil 2) A pan-seared pork sirloin with creamy masa, white corn pozole, and a chipotle ham hock broth, and 3)Panko-crusted scallops with English pea and roasted tomato risotto drizzled in a lemon chive sauce.
The scallops were an obvious choice to me and I did not regret it - they were smooth and buttery but not too heavy with the panko breacrumbs. The risotto was very well done and all of the flavors came together nicely.

I was not quite as big a fan of the pork and thought it could have been cooked a little less, but it's accompaniments made up for this. No one opted for the pasta, but you can't really go wrong with a spicy seafood sauce over pasta!

For dessert the options were a coconut panna cotta with a summer fruit salsa and fresh "Lilikoi" passion fruit or a chocolate pound cake with honey cream, macerated strawberries, and Thai basil. The panna cotta was nice and light, with the coconut flavor hitting you at the end of your bite. Together with the stronger flavors of the kiwi and passionfruit I thought it was great. The chocolate pound cake was a little dry for my taste, but the honey cream was excellent and made up for the dryness.

All-in-all I had a fabulous lunch and wish I could dine more regularly at Top of the Hub without breaking the bank! For now I'll just have to take advantage of restaurant week!

Top of the Hub on Urbanspoon The

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kick*ss Cupcakes!

The other day we were walking to a friend's for dinner and couldn't think of anyplace down Columbus to pick up a little something for dessert. As luck would have it, right across from Mistral and ClubCafe was the Kick*ass Cupcake foodtruck!

Somehow we'd managed to never indulge in Boston's new obsession with foodtrucks, and it was right about time! There was a nice array to choose from, and everything was perfectly clear on the big menu on the side of truck. We decided on a "green monster", crème brûlée, cookie dough, and fluffernutter, with the "green monster" being a chocolate cupcake with a beer ganache center topped with Sam Adams Cream Stout frosting and cocoa nibs. How bad could that be?

A few hours later after finishing up dinner we were ready to dive in! Despite it being fairly late in the day, the cupcakes were still nice and fresh-tasting, not at all dry. The crème brûlée cupcake was a vanilla cupcake with a pastry cream center covered with caramelized raw sugar and a dollop of fresh whipped cream – really tasty and actually kind of light!

The cookie dough cupcake consisted of chocolate chip cookie dough in a vanilla cupcake and vanilla buttercream frosting with chocolate sauce. While good, I think it could have used a much bigger hunk of cookie dough, as I could hardly taste any. Nonetheless it was quickly devoured.

The green monster cupcake’s best part was the frosting – so rich and creamy and with just a hint of that Sam Adams cream stout taste! I’m not the biggest fan of chocolate cupcakes, but somehow with the rich beer ganache center I was able to choke it down :-)

Lastly, and actually everyone’s least favorite, was the fluffernutter, modeled after those horrifyingly unhealthy sandwiches of our youth. The chocolate cupcake with sweet peanut butter center and marshmallow frosting drizzled with Fluff could have used just a bit more of all of those things.

At $3 a cupcake, the tasty treats are a little pricey, but I'd certainly have another go and try some of their other fun concoctions like the Mojito, Cinnamon Chai Pecan Sticky, or the Ginger Peach Bellini cupcakes! There are certainly worse things than being able to pick up a delicious cupcake while simply strolling around the city :-) I’d be curious what their permanent spot on Davis Square is like!
Kickass Cupcakes on Urbanspoon