Meat – Old Strathcona

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A group of us had a craving for mountain-loads of salty delicious meat and decided to indulge ourselves in a visit to a restaurant that serves just that. Meat, as the name suggests, is a smokehouse with a wide selection of BBQ, house made sauces, and a great selection of local beers on tap. Meat takes no reservations so seating is prioritized on a first come first serve basis. We arrived with a party of 6 at 5:30 pm on a Saturday evening, and the restaurant was already full. We had to wait an additional 40 minutes to be seated, which was expected given its popularity at the moment. While we conversed over beers in the waiting area, I admired the contemporary, clean, open layout of the restaurant and a nice use of a blue/white colour scheme.

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As we were finally seated at our table, which was designed to look like a large outdoor bench, we browsed through the simple, well organized menu. The types of meat were clearly laid out as were their sides and beer selection. We wanted to try a bit of everything, so we decided to try the Meat Platter and added a half pound of extra brisket, extra order of sausage, and a few extra sides.

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Meat Platter: 1/2 lb Brisket, 1/2 rack BBQ Ribs, 1/2 lb Pulled Pork, 1/4 Smoked Chicken, Fried Chicken, and 1 link of Andouille Sausage. Sides: Mac And Cheese, Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash Chicken Stew, Creamed Corn, Large Garlic Fries, 2 Pickles

Let’s start with The MEAT:

Beef Brisket – Tender, slightly dry, nice crispy charred crust, and medium smoke flavour. Overall, quite enjoyable and paired extremely well with the cherry and bourbon BBQ sauces.

Pork Ribs – Tender, slightly dry, blackened outside, and medium smoke flavour. The smoke enhanced the flavour of the ribs and paired well with the spicy and bourbon sauces.

Pulled Pork – Soft, moist, and medium smoke flavour. Paired well with the bourbon sauce.

Andouille Sausage – Flavourful combination of spices and light smokiness. They were excellent and we were glad we ordered an extra serving. Best enjoyed without any sauce.

Smoked Chicken – Tender and moist inside with rich smoked outer crust. It can be had without sauce or with the spicy BBQ sauce.

Fried Chicken – Very crispy outside with a moist inside and not greasy. Definitely memorable fried chicken. Best enjoyed with no added sauce.

The Sides:

Mac & Cheese – Creamy but not cheesy enough for my taste. There was nothing special about this dish.

Garlic fries – Crispy fries with rich garlic flavour. These fries were phenomenal.

Brussels Sprouts – Shredded and served like a warm salad. This was definitely an interesting new way to enjoy brussels sprouts and it was definitely good.

Creamed Corn – Infused with subtle dill flavour. It was a little on the watery side, but still a very enjoyable side dish.

Butternut Squash Chicken Stew – Shredded chicken stewed in a creamy butternut and tomato sauce with spices of cumin and coriander. The descriptions sounds better than the dish tastes. The butternut squash was very subtle and the dish tasted more like a weak version of Indian butter chicken

Overall, the meat was good, but not outstanding. It was not too dry, not too salty, and not too overly smoked. The BBQ sauces that accompanied the meat were great though. We enjoyed the Cherry and the Bourbon sauces the most. The sides, however, were hit or miss. The Brussels Sprouts and fries were a definite hit. I wouldn’t recommend the chicken stew or the mac & cheese though. Overall, if you are looking for a place to eat BBQ meat and to relax over a few local beers with a group of friends, Meat is the place where you want to be.

Service: 3.5/5
Food: 8.0/10
Atmosphere: Contemporary, Smokehouse, Relaxed
Price: $30-40

~Thomas

Meat on Urbanspoon

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Cibo – Edmonton (Oliver Village)

Cibo is quietly located in Oliver Village just north of downtown Edmonton near the Macewan University City Centre Campus. It offers excellent Italian food made from fresh local and in house ingredients. The result is an excellent food experience that satisfies the palate. DSC_0768

Inside, is a cozy, candle lit environment, which can be intimate, yet casual enough for gathering with friends. Tables are wood finish with a central modern looking bar and an open concept kitchen. There is also a large table tucked away in a semi-detached room giving you more privacy for a larger party. The servers were friendly and knowledgeable.

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Polpette – veal and pork meatballs, tomato sugo, dried apricots, peperoncini, pine nuts, Pecorino

We started off with the veal and pork meatballs. The appetizer presented simply yet elegantly. There were three very large meatballs topped with microgreens and pecorino romano. To start, the sauce was a robust and spicy tomato, which packed a punch but was not overwhelming. The meatballs themselves were quite delicious. They were soft, moist, and flavourful. The incorporation of the dried apricot gave it a nice fruity sweetness that complemented the veal and pork flavours very well. Together with the tomato sauce, these meatballs were excellent. The serving size was quite generous as well. Overall, it was a very good start.

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Brussels Sprout – sautéed with garlic, shallots, fresh lemon, and pancetta

With our mains, we ordered a side of Brussels sprouts. The sprouts were sauteed with pancetta to add a buttery and peppery flavour. Although the Brussels sprouts were a little undercooked, they were quite enjoyable and was generously portioned.

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Pappardelle – braised lamb, sugo pomodoro, mint, Pecorino Romano

For our mains, we ordered the pappardelle and the gnocchi. The hand made pasta was cooked al dente and gave a perfect bouncy texture with each bite. This is how pasta should be done. It was coated lightly with a garlic tomato sauce. On the first initial bite, you taste the soft tender lamb and the warm tomato sauce. Immediately after that you notice a refreshing flavour of mint which fills your palate and nostrils, but not in an overwhelming sense. It adds freshness to an otherwise warm dish, which gives this dish such uniqueness. I have to say, it was an excellent pasta dish and I would highly recommend this dish to anyone.

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Gnocchi – Truffled cream sauce

My better half ordered the Gnocchi, which was excellent as well. The gnocchi was soft and tender and “melted” in your mouth. The filling was quite light and fluffy. The cream sauce is not at all heavy. The initial flavours are light and subtle hints of the romano cheeses and the gnocchi filling followed by the rich and earthy truffle. The soft gnocchi and the flavours of the romano and truffle make this a very comforting dish. If you are a fan of gnocchi, this dish is a must try.

Cibo is an excellent asset to Edmonton’s growing restaurant scene. Their ever changing menu provides fresh local and house made ingredients that cater perfectly to the season. Their dishes are simple, yet unique and creative, and focus on providing complementary flavours. I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for a new contemporary Italian restaurant and excellent pasta.

Service: 4/5
Food: 8.9/10
Atmosphere: Contemporary, Bistro, Cozy, Romantic
Price: $30-40

~Thomas

Cibo Bistro on Urbanspoon

Start of the young foodie revolution?

So I’ve been talking to my friends who love to try new food and experience new places recently. It appears that they’ve made very similar conclusions, and by similar I mean exactly the same, as tfung and I. We’ve reached the decision that it simply is just not enjoyable for us to go to very high-end, fine-dining restaurants anymore. Here are our reasons:

1. As mid 20’s adults, we’re still treated like utter crap and vermin when we walk into a high-end restaurant. Why do I have to subject myself to such poor attitude and service if we’re polite, considerate patrons? It’s not like we order any less than others. Occasionally we’ll open a bottle of wine. We generally order appetizers and mains for everyone. We generally tip 15-20% on top of the taxed amount, even after their not-up-to-standard service. So why?

2. I’ve had incredibly delicious food from restaurants that are at a much lower price point before. There are certain items on the menus that are of the same quality and cost, but the lower price point restaurants sometimes do it better than the high-end ones. 

3. It’s just too stuffy. If I want to enjoy food with my friends or my partner, I don’t need it to be so fancy that I feel like I can’t sit comfortably, or talk at anything louder than a whisper. Part of the enjoyment in dining out is the experience. coupled with #1, I just feel I’m much more at ease at a gastropub, if I’m to be honest. 

With all that being said, that’s not to say that all high-end restaurants are awful. There are definitely ones that are amazing with amazing service, absolutely fantastic food, and the decor and ambiance is magnificent. I’m just saying in general, for a lot of people my age, we find that it is much less appealing to spend our hard-earned money at a place that looks down on us, than spend it at a cool, hip gastropub.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think the restaurant service will ever be better for the younger diners? Are there certain things that you’ve noticed are do’s and don’t’s at high-end-restaurants?

~ kehwon

Bellwoods Brewery – Trinity Bellwoods

Meeting up with new friends is always exciting. Last Saturday, a friend and I decided to hang out and while I narrowed the choices, he ultimately picked this microbrewery. We drove down and I was a little concerned about parking, as Ossington seemed to be where everyone hangs out on a Saturday night. Driving down the street I was immediately drawn to every single one of their restaurants, bars, and late-night shops. It reminded me of Montreal and I really needed it, as I’ve been missing the hipster Montreal for a while now.

After securing a parking space, we walked over and there were (luckily) only a small group ahead of us. We were seated within 10 minutes of arriving and were situated at a cute table on the outside edge of the patio. The temperature and amount of breeze was perfect. The only downside of sitting at this location was the Ossington bus dropping passengers off right in front of us every 10 minutes, emitting putrid amounts of pollution.

The brewpub had the juxtaposition of slightly grungy industrial feel, with the romantic lights overhead and the white picket fencing around the outside. The place was busy but not rowdy, filled with interesting conversations and kept the mood light. It’s an incredible atmosphere that just brightens up your attitude about the harsh realities of the world, giving you positivity that you might have needed.

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Obviously, we ordered beer, as Bellwoods is a microbrewery. I ordered the Gotham beer and he ordered the Wizard Wolf. I normally don’t go for dark beers, but have to admit; I only ordered the Gotham because I’ve been obsessed with the Batman: Arkham City game recently, and I just couldn’t resist. Gotham was described as “Complex, bold aromatics of citrus rind and dark berries, lingering bitterness of orange pith, pine resin and dark cocoa.” The beer was quite bitter, but not very hoppy. There was a prominent but not overpowering flavour of citrus and berries. There was also the slight hint of earthiness from the cocoa. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.

For food, we ordered the Meat Board and the Smoked Fishcake. The Meat Board featured a variety of salumi, sausage, terrine, other sauces, and bread. It also came with a large scoop of lard which I did not touch. I thought the pickles and the mustard seeds were an excellent contrast to the saltiness of the meats. My favourite of all the meats was probably the capicola. The smoked fishcake was served with some cream aioli as well as a whole bone with marrow inside. I’m not a huge fan of bone marrow, so I only had a small taste of it. It was as slimy and unpleasant-feeling as usual, but a little saltier than the last time I’d had it. The fish cakes were quite moist on the inside with the smokey fried flavour on the outside. I couldn’t tell what fish it was, but there was not a lot of fish flavour, and in my opinion, there was almost no flavour other than the smokiness and the taste of “some sort of meat”. The cream aioli didn’t do anything for the fish cakes either, so as a whole, this dish was quite disappointing to me.

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Overall, Bellwoods Brewery is an amazing place for some R&R with close friends or loved ones. The beer selection they have is interesting and refreshing. The decor is absolutely at the peak of what I call casual perfection. The food is a little disappointing, but in terms of having some snacks, they are definitely better than the usual fries and wings combination. Definitely hit up Bellwoods for the night, as all along Ossington there are many other exciting restaurants that may peak your interest as well!

Bellwoods Brewery on Urbanspoon

 

Service: 4/5
Food: 7.6/10
Atmosphere: relaxed, romantic, industrial, microbrewery
Price: $30 with food, $15 for beer and snack.

 

My unhealthy love for cafés

I’ve never done a post about an espresso bar or café before, but I really think it’s time. I mostly frequent cafés in montreal, but on my recent trip to NYC, I’ve discovered just how much I’m in love with the whoel culture behind cafés and how terribly awful the coffee is at all the chain stores.

Back when I was completing my first degree in Physiology, I fell in love with Starbucks. I went there whenever I needed to study because I’m someone who can’t just stay home to study all day, everyday. My friends started to know me as an avid Starbucks fan, and I embraced that. I knew exactly what I wanted everytime I went, I knew their drinks well and opted for healthier options on a regular basis.

When I started my second degree, moving to Montreal was extremely difficult for me. I had no friends in this very foreign city where everyone hated me because I didn’t speak French. In the recent months, I’ve really grown to love Montreal with regards to the life in the city, the diversity of various cultures (ethnically related or not), and first and foremost, their cafés.

I’ve been café hopping for a year and a half and still haven’t tried the majority of them yet. I’d like to say I’ve tried half of the more popular and well-known ones, but what do I know!

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Currently, my favourite in Montreal is definitely Kitsuné. This is for several reasons. Firstly, they are quite close to where I live. Many of the cafés I’ve yet to try are situated in the Mile End, which is a big further for me and requires me to not be extremely stressed about exams (aka, Clinical Nutrition). The second is how easy their payment is. $4, $3.50, $2.50…no fussing with those cents, and the baristas are subsequently a little more at ease and “chilled out” with ordering and paying. They have a sleek iPad to card terminal system which I love and is definitely trending in NYC (from what I see). My favourite to order are their lattes. Be it hot or cold, it always hits the spot for me. Definitely not as rich and creamy as the next café I will mention, but I definitely think in my taste range. Last but not least, the croissants they serve!! The croissants are from a boulangerie called Regal Matinal. They deliver freshly made croissants everyday, and I’ve seriously contemplated having them deliver it to my house – obviously that’d be terrible news for my cardiovascular health and weight, so I restrained myself. Not to say they’re the best croissants I’ve ever had, but they’re the type I like: doughy, soft and only a slight crunch to it. It is the combination of all this that makes me love Kitsuné so much and regard it somewhere I will always come back to. I love the owner and the baristas he’s hired, I love that they’ve built a small outside patio in the back, and I love the industrial décor they’ve put in place.

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The other café I fell in love with is a little out of my reach. It’s La Coloumbe near Soho in NYC. tfung was looking for his tonic at a liquor store on Lafayette when I knew I needed some caffeine in me. I spotted a café across the street and decided I might as well try it. I ordered a latte for myself and damn. The latte was very smooth and creamy (evidently using a milk with higher fat percentage), but the richness of the espresso still pulled through without tipping the balance. The harmony between the espresso and the milk was near perfection. I hate to say something is perfect until I’ve lived my last breath, but I wouldn’t mind living off this latte for the rest of my life…

Other notable mentions in Montreal are: le couteau, st. henri.

~ kehwon

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Bouillon Bilk (Newly renovated) – Latin Quarter

Since tfung’s parents came into town, we decided to bring them to some of our favourite spots. On the second night, we brought them to the newly renovated Bouillon Bilk. I was quite excited to see their new decor, since I had caught a glimpse of it whilst walking back to the Grand Prix on Saint Laurent, and it had looked incredibly sleek and modern.

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The menu had changed quite a bit since I was last here, but definitely still had  the flair of the old Bouillon Bilk. They had refreshed the menu for the summer, which was great to see, and the desserts were completely new.

I started off with the linguine which was one of the specials. The pasta was done a little over al dente, a consistency I like, and was mixed in a buttery sauce that had hints of seafood flavours. Along with the linguine were chanterelle mushrooms, and garnish. Definitely a great dish on its own, I thought they were able to bring out the flavour of the chanterelle mushrooms well, without overpowering the sauce and the linguine. The slight crunch in the mushroom and its lighter consistency was a good contrast to the firmer, denser texture of the linguine.2014-06-21 19.43.39

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Lobster Soup

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Foie Gras served with Polenta

As for tfung, he started off with the asparagus appetizer, which came with asparagus purée. It was also served with veal tongue and a sunny-side up egg on top. To start, the presentation of this dish was fantastic. The purées were arranged nicely and was sprinkled with micro greens. The veal tongue was cooked very nicely. It was soft, but still had firmness in its texture. It was not overseasoned, but rather seasoned conservatively with salt just to bring out the natural flavours of the meat. Pairing it with the asparagus puree gave it that summer freshness that it needed. The egg on top was a nice addition to the dish, providing a bit more sustenance and flavour to the veal tongue. Adding the rich and earthy morel mushrooms was also a nice touch. Overall a very good dish in terms of presentation, creativity and combinations of flavours.

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Asparagus and Veal Tongue

I was able to taste a bit of the carrot risotto, and let me say this: definition of summer. I love how they’ve (in my opinion) a seemingly boring and over-done dish and freshened its colour and its flavour to fit the heat. The carrot base in the sauce of the risotto was light and slightly sweet. It was definitely a good start to the meal.

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Carrot Risotto

For me, I ordered the octopus with sweetbread. This was definitely the priciest of the dishes, but well worth it. The octopus was done to perfection: enough texture and chewiness on the inside without being difficult to chew, while retaining its true octopus taste; crispy on the outside, with an ever so slight smokey taste. The contrast in the texture and the flavour was great. The sweetbread was fried on the outside with a light batter, and retained a soft texture on the inside without overcooking it to a mushy consistency. To go with the fried sweetbread was a sour and slightly spicy, sriracha-based sauce. Finally, fiddleheads, mushroom and sliced pear as sides along with some greens for garnish.

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Octopus and Sweetbread

The rabbit was roasted perfectly. It was soft, tender and juicy. Wrapping the rabbit with bacon wasn’t really necessary as the rabbit was tasty enough, but the bacon certainly enhanced the flavour. It was served with a rabbit au jus that was sweet and savory, which complimented the rabbit well.

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Rabbit wrapped in bacon

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Scallops and Chanterelle mushrooms

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Side: Fiddle Heads with almonds

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Halibut

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Baba with strawberries, rhubarb and mascarpone

Overall, Bouillon Bilk had given me a refresh in terms of modern dining. I thought they did an excellent job in balancing delicacy with creativity and thinking outside the box. They were innovative, yet still incorporated elements according to the season, which I believe is crucial for a more modern dining experience. As delicious as a heavy truffle cream gnocchi is, it just isn’t as enjoyable in the heat of the summer. The service was quite good, not outstanding for the calibre of restaurant it is.

The decor was absolutely stunning. I love the bar in the middle, creating a more relaxed feel, especially for the younger clientele. There were three longer tables that were of higher elevation (a very popular setting now), which I personally love, but is not for everyone. Their washroom is extremely modern, with the style of communal hand washing station in front of 3-4 individual rooms solely for the toilet. This may not sit well with more traditional folks, but for me, I absolutely love it.

I highly recommend you to come try their summer menu. Make sure to make a reservation, and let them know of any delay or cancellations!

Service: 4/5
Food: 9.3/10
Atmosphere: modern, fresh, clean, white-table cloth meets industrial
Price: $40-60

~ kehwon and tfung

Eataly – Flatiron District

So my colleague during the month of June is a traditional Italian living in Montreal. Obviously we chatted during work and he had highly advised me to go to Eataly, because it’s simply amazing. And that it was, and more! I absolutely love this market and it was really only at this point that I was truly jealous of the people of New York City, wishing that I also lived in (or close enough to get to Eataly) in the City.

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To start, the market is incredible. Fresh pasta by the pound, amazing seafood, cooking utensils and endless ingredients for you to peruse through. I definitely felt that I could spend a whole day in there, reading about every type of pasta I could bring home. Sadly, I couldn’t do so, but maybe next time.

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We decided to situate ourselves in the pasta section after what felt like forever of going back and forth between deciding where to eat. It was a 25 minute wait, so I did end up buying some black truffle as souvenirs since they were in small enough packaging that I could fit in my suitcase.

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Pizza oven next door

We had a pasta each. First was the tagliatelle al Ragu di Manzo, which was a short rib ragu with parmesan cheese. Absolutely incredible pasta, the tagliatelle had the bounce and almost slight crunch to it that we love in noodles/pasta. The flavour of the ragu was just right; very slightly spicy, lots of meat flavour in a non-overpowering tomato flavour. Definitely the better of the two.2014-06-25 15.06.37

The other pasta we ordered was the Lamb Gnocchi. The gnocchi was a little stickier and more cheesy than I’d like it. The gnocchi had the heaviness it should have, and paired with the lamb, I thought it was a little too much. As a result, I had to swap with tfung. I’m a little disappointed by this dish for sure, as I do love gnocchi, but it is often not how I like it done. Perhaps I just don’t like traditional gnocchi. There isn’t too much extra flavour from the sauce of the pasta. It just added the moistness that the dish needed.2014-06-25 15.06.44

Overall, I definitely think that everyone should go to Eataly and experience the vast and sheer volume of products they offer. It really give syou perspective about how awful commercial supermarkets are in terms of giving you depth of a culture. We only tried the fresh pasta, and had mixed feelings about the gnocchi. But next time, I’d definitely try the pizza and the seafood. The only con to the market is that it’s not foodcourt style even though your group may want different things. For example, we wanted one dish of pasta and one dish of fish, but because they were in separate “restaurants”, we were unable to do so. They had a restaurant that serves all types of food, but we wanted to experience the excitement of the open kitchen.

Service: 3.5/5
Food: 8.9/10
Atmosphere: market
Price: $20-30/person

~ kehwon