September 30, 2010

Kuma's Corner @ Chicago

In search of the perfect burger, we ventured out of downtown Chicago to the acclaimed Kuma's Corner. What's so great about eating away from downtown is that there is free parking! Sure, this area does not boast of breathtaking architectural attractions, but one sometimes must make sacrifices for good food!
I had read that the restaurant is pretty busy even on a weekday, so we arrived promptly after the restaurant started service. Sure enough, the tables filled up fast, but we were lucky enough not to have to wait. The grungy rock decor matched perfectly with the grungy rock music that blasted in the background. It was a departure from what I'm accustomed to, but I always welcome new dining experiences.
Having been warned of gigantic portions, we could only afford to order two items between the three of us. First up is the Mac & Cheese. We get to pick 2 toppings, so we chose onions and bacon. Generic, perhaps, but guaranteed to be a good combination! I don't think this picture does justice to how big the portion was, because we had to pack half of it home (to the hotel)! But indeed, it was delicious! Perfectly cheesy, just the way I love it!
Finally, we got what we came for: the burger! We chose the Neurosis Burger, with Cheddar, Swiss, Sautéed Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, Horseradish Mayo. In other words, heaven piled onto a burger bun, accompanied by waffled fries that I've never had before. I was extremely excited for this burger, and it did not disappoint! Juicy and well-seasoned, this monster burger was definitely a burger-lover's dream come true! I do have a tinge of regret for not trying the Kuma burger, but overall I was quite happy with my choice. The accompanying waffled fries were also a novelty that I enjoyed a lot, particularly with the creamy mac & cheese!
The burger was so big that it was impossible to cut it up and share. We ended up just taking a bite and then passing it around. Despite my best efforts to take a big bite, I could only make a dent.
It was an unforgettable meal, probably one of my favourites in Chicago! We managed to devour the burger and fries, but sadly could not conquer the mac & cheese. I really hope I will have the chance one day to go back and try another of their amazing burgers!
Kuma's Corner on Urbanspoon

September 29, 2010

Custom House Tavern @ Chicago

After a long long drive to Chicago, we were looking forward to a nice dinner to make up for all the fast food we ate on the road. My first destination- Custom House Tavern, a convenient 10 minute walk from my hotel in the South Loop. This actually turned out to be one of the more upscale restaurants that I visited on my trip. Although not terribly expensive, portions were on the small side. But I've always valued quality over quantity, so I can easily overlook the small portions.
The decor is modern and chic, with large windows that allowed in ample sunlight. I'm surprised that the place is not slightly busier on a Sunday night.
A wine shelf served as a divider that separated the bar area from the dining area. Although this was pretty cool, I still wish I got a seat by the window.
To start, we were served mini pieces of baguette along with whipped butter. Nothing extraordinary but since I love bread, these were a pretty satisfying start to the meal.
CRISPY VEAL SWEETBREADS- French green beans, vidalia onion, fig vinaigrette. Sweetbreads are actually culinary terms for the thymus or pancreas. The Chinese eat everything so I'm quite accustomed to eating various internal organs of animals, but those less adventurous ones might feel a little grossed out by the sound it. However, I thought that this dish tasted quite good, and more resembled the texture of fried chicken.
CUSTOM HOUSE BURGER: all natural ground beef, house pickle, wisconsin cheddar, sourdough brioche. All in all, this was not a bad burger, but for 10 bucks I expected a little more. Although I wished for a more intense flavour, I did love the melted cheese that coated the beef patty, keeping it moist (I really hate dry burgers). The fries were just mediocre at best, however, as I found them slightly too greasy and salty.
CURED PIG’S HEAD: pickles, arugula, grain mustard. I had no idea what to expect for this dish, but it reminded me of the cold dish 燻蹄.  Overall, I still prefer the Chinese dish more, but I did greatly enjoy the arugula and watermelon, which were refreshing additions to the dish. On a side note, the pickles were way too sour for my taste.
WARM POLENTA CAKE: mission figs, local blueberries, sweet corn custard. We ended off the meal with a great dessert. This cake was warm, moist, and had an intense corn flavour that I loved. I never knew that I would like a corn dessert that much, but I was converted by this cake. For this, I wished the portions were bigger as the three of us mopped up the entire cake in a mere few minutes. Overall, this was an excellent ending to an excellent start of my culinary trip.

September 25, 2010

Schwartz and other random eats

There is a reason why Schwartz is so famous in Montreal. When I arrived on a rainy Wednesday, the line was so long that I decided to get take out instead. At first, I was skeptical of how good a smoked meat sandwich can be. After all, it is just a smoked meat sandwich... but Schwartz has definitely convinced me otherwise.
Schwartz's smoked meat sandwich was definitely the culinary highlight of my trip. It is HEAVENLY GOOD! The meat is just bursting in smokey flavours and has just the right amount of fat to make the meat tender but not overly fat. The bread and mustard were perfect accompaniments, but the star of the sandwich is really the meat. I can't wait to go back to Montreal to eat this again.
Maple Syrup ice cream... yummm... maple syrup is really popular in Montreal. I wish I lived in Montreal because I just love maple syrup.
Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Au Pied de Cochon @ Montreal

Au Pied de Cochon is the single most raved about restaurant in Montreal. My sister had visited this place and highly recommended it to me. Being an idiot, I made reservations too late and was only able to score a spot at 10:30. Well, I usually eat dinner at 6 at home, but of course I'm willing to sacrifice a lot for good food, so 10:30 it is!
Even at 10:30, the place was super busy. There were still a lot of people waiting for seats. The restaurant was narrow but had a charming, rustic feel. I particularly loved the bustling open kitchen. On a side note, the washroom was somewhat creepy. In front of the toilet, there was a TV which projected what I presumed to be a (black and white) live feed of a barn. Are we to observe the pigs that are to be slaughtered before consuming the meal?
Typical French restaurant, typical bread, but this time with olive oil. This bread was not as good as the one from l'express, but I had a piece because I was simply starving by 10:30!
Foie Gras Cromesquis: We were told to wait two minutes before popping the entire thing into our mouth. Unfortunately, I think I waited a little too long, and the cromesquis was not as hot as I would like it to be. However, I do love the foie gras's intensity and the way that it just melts in your mouth. Definitely a great start to the meal!
Pied de Cochon: I ordered the restaurant's titular dish as my sister had highly recommended it. It was sinfully delicious, thanks to the mustard sauce that I absolutely fell in love with. Although I wasn't a fan of the layer of fat beneath the pig's skin, the meat itself was very tender and juicy. The onions and mushrooms that topped the meat were perfect companions to the dish. With every artery-clogging bite I took, I wanted even more. I almost wanted to lick the plate clean!


Plogue à Champlain: This isn't a great picture, but the dish essentially compose of mashed potato, buckwheat crepe, bacon, cheese, and foie gras, all drenched in decadent maple syrup. I love the sweet and savoury combination, although the maple syrup made the dish taste like breakfast. But really, who can get enough of breakfast?
Dark Chocolate 'Pot de crème': We tried ordering the molten lava cake, but instead they mixed up our order and gave us the dark chocolate pot de crème. Oh well! I'm all for trying new things, and I rather enjoyed the creaminess of this dessert Although I still think I like molten chocolate cake more. After the meal, it was already after midnight, which confused me because the restaurant's website said that it's only opened till midnight. When we left, the restaurant was still pretty busy... All in all, Au Pied de Cochon was a sinfully rich and delicious experience that I can only afford once a year for the benefit of my health,
Au Pied de Cochon on Urbanspoon

Jardin Nelson @ Montreal

In the heart of Old Montreal, I chose to dine at Le Jardin Nelson, right at le place Jacques-Cartier. The restaurant was literally a garden with a lovely ambiance. There was also a live band playing soft jazz music, which was quite enjoyable. Of course, the main reason why I chose this restaurant was because I had 15% off with the VIP card that my sister signed up for prior to her trip to Montreal. Hahaha!
French onion soup au gratin with emmental: This was possibly the best French onion soup I've ever had, although my hunger at that time might have rendered me biased. I usually love French onion soup anywhere, and this one was particularly memorable and well-made.
The cheese, the croutons and the onions worked in perfect harmony with the rich flavour of the soup. As a cheese-lover, I was quite ecstatic with the generous amount of cheese in the soup. This was definitely the highlight of my meal!
Newburg Crepe: Sweet batter, Newburg sauce, lobster, scampies, shrimps, scallops,
mozzarella and cheddar cheese. I usually like sweet crepes more than savoury crepes, but then I usually can't resist anything with lobster.
I did enjoy the Newburg sauce's intense seafood flavour a lot. I remember there being an abundance of shrimps and scallops, but I wished for more lobsters. On another note, the side salad was a perfect touch that provided a refreshing balance to the dish's heavy flavour.
Roast beef sandwich ''French dip au jus'': Slow roasted prime rib, thinly sliced on a parisian bread
with dipping sauce and roasted potatoes. Out of all of the dishes, this was the most ordinary and uninteresting one. I'm not a fan of this kind of bread, and I thought the "jus" was too much like commercial gravy than a rich meat juice that I prefer.
Pouding chômeur maison et sa verrine de glace vanilleet sirop d’érable pur: Homemade «Pouding chômeur» and its verrine of vanilla ice cream and pure maple syrup (a Quebec favourite). A pouding chômeur literally means poor man's pudding that is similar to bread pudding. This dessert is rich and delicious, but is slightly too sweet. Eating half of this became a little too much. I also wish there was more ice cream, as it was a refreshing contrast to the sweet, dense pudding. Nevertheless, I really loved the ice cream and I'd love to eat this again in the future.
Jardin Nelson (Le) on Urbanspoon

L'Express @ Montreal

After reading numerous reviews of various French restaurants, L'express was acclaimed to be an authentic Parisian diner. So for the first night of my Montreal trip, I decided to go there for dinner. The restaurant is situated at Le Plateau-Mont-Royal and after spending a few hours climbing Mont Royal prior this this, I was absolutely starving when I arrived. The restaurant looked promising as it was the only jam packed one on a rather quiet street.
Upon getting seated, we were served bread with butter. I love bread and especially French bread, and this bread was the best that I had on my trip. I tried not to eat too much of it to not ruin dinner, but it was really hard. To my horror, after the first loaf was done, the server promptly gave us another one! I really struggled hard to not eat more!


We also had free pickle and mustard. I'm not a big fan of pickle so I didn't try any, but the mustard was simply to die for. It was so good I wanted to dip everything into it!


BONE MARROW WITH COARSE SALT: I'd thought that I had an adventurous palette, but perhaps I overestimated myself. Eating the bone marrow felt like... eating pure fat (albeit very flavourful fat). One is supposed to eat the bone marrow with the baguette slices topped with some coarse sea salt. Perhaps eating one would've been a pleasant experience, but after eating 3 of them, I felt like I was shortening my life expectancy. Apparently, a lot of people like this dish, but I think I will stray away from it in the future...
ROASTED QUAIL WITH WILD RICE: I love Chinese-style quail, so I was wondering how much I would like French-style quail. I was looking forward to trying completely new flavours. Well, it turns out that it tasted pretty much like Chinese-style quail, which means that I liked it a lot, but it wasn't anything surprising. The thing I did like was the wild rice, which I've never had before. You can see some of it poking out beneath the quail. I love the chewiness and texture of the rice, so I'll be seeking that again in the future.
SAUTEED DUCK CONFIT SALAD: I actually enjoyed this dish a lot and I thought it had great flavour. However, the duck tasted like... Chinese-style cured duck! Nonetheless, I think all the flavours worked well together with the salad. In the end, I was simply surprised at how similar the flavours of some French dishes are to Chinese dishes. I guess I was wishing for a more exotic experience.
L'Express

September 13, 2010

360° Restaurant @ CN Tower

On a rainy day, I had the chance to eat at 360 Restaurant on top of CN tower. Our view was obscured by clouds for the majority of our meal, which really sucked. Anyway, onto the food now...
CHILLED LEEK AND POTATO SOUP
Smoked salmon and celery root salad, chive oil
SMOKED ATLANTIC SALMON AND SPINACH QUICHE: Gruyere cheese and fresh dill
Sweet potato fries, butter leaf salad, cucumber vinaigrette. The quiche was alright, nothing extraordinary. The sweet potato fries were delicious, as most sweet potato fries are. I enjoyed this dish overall, but it was entirely overpriced!
MERLOT BRAISED CANADIAN AAA BEEF SHORT RIBS: Sweet potato horseradish mash, lemon gremolata. I think this was my favourite out of all the dishes that I sampled. Perhaps this is due to my love for short ribs
GRILLED CANADIAN AAA STRIPLOIN STEAK AND ONION RINGS: Buttermilk mashed potatoes, French beans, natural jus 10o. I didn't try this dish, but those onion rings don't look that appetizing to me...
PAN SEARED FILLET OF ATLANTIC SALMON,
Toasted almond and ginger vinaigrette, steamed baby bok choy, shiitake scented brown rice. I also did not sample this dish, but the portion was rather small for the price.
ORANGE RISOTTO WITH COINTREAU CRÈME FRAÎCHE: Passion fruit, dark chocolate, pistachios. This was awfully weird... I don't know how to describe it. The passion fruit was really sour. Although the risotto had an interesting texture, it wasn't really enough to save this dessert.
The cookie and ice cream dessert from the kid's menu. Well, you can't really go wrong with a cookie and ice cream, so I enjoyed this a lot. Especially since everything else was rather mediocre.
360° Revolving on Urbanspoon

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