Showing posts with label Mediterranean. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mediterranean. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Manhattan's Finest: The Nomad

When I stepped into the Nomad restaurant at the Nomad Hotel with its nostalgic and upscale vibe, that was when I felt like I was a true grown up.  It was busy, with 40's + crowd, and everyone seemed like they'd been here before numerous times. Loud chatters filled the atrium as people sipped from their wine.  Dressed up parsnips seemed to be the  popular snack as they were flying out all night.  We were on a mission; to try their famous roasted chicken.   However, I ended up falling in love with other few dishes on the menu instead.

First off, we could not get enough of their artisan flatbread.  It was baked crisp and topped with sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary, garlic, and white beans.  It was hard to not fill up while waiting for the courses to arrive.

As you can see, I had no idea the marinated fluke would be a stunning art on a plate.  And yes, it tasted as amazing as it looked. The basil oil brought out natural sweet flavors of the heirloom tomato while the subtle acidity complement the fluke, making it the star. This was my favourite dish of the evening.  

Out of all the things on the menu, there's always a soft spot for poached egg, no matter what time of the day.  And this time was no different and it had to be included.  A perfectly poached egg peaked through a cloud of foam and brown butter with asparagus and crispy quinoa. When it comes to food porn, there's nothing that's more visually tantalizing than cracking a perfectly poached egg and watching the yolk slowly oozes out. Only this time, the yolk dripped down to a cloud of foam clouds. Although the sauce was a bit too high in sodium, it was an awesome comfort food no less.

Looking at this dish, comparing with other items we just had, we were not as wowed by the seemingly humble appearance.  However, the king crab tagliatelle with Meyer lemon and black pepper proved to be the underdog.  Frankly, it was a well executed dish.  The tagliatelle pasta, made in-house, had the perfect texture. It was lightly seasoned with lemony flavor, but it was enough to make an impression. Topped with succulent king crab meat, we gobbled it up the entire plate within minutes. 

When the suckling pig confit with pears cabbage and mustard showed up at the table, we already knew what we expected out of it; ultra crispy skin, a fatty layer with moist and tender meat.  

The star of the show, and what many come to the Nomad for, was the $79 whole roasted chicken with foie gras black truffle and brioche. It was the most pricey and fancy roasted chicken we have paid for.  It was presented to us fresh out of the oven before being carved up and prepared 2 ways (like a Peking duck).  It looked gorgeous with golden brown glistening skin with arrangement of fresh herbs.  But aside from that, the only other thing I seemed to notice was how small the whole roasted chicken looked compared to the size of that gentleman's hands holding it!

The different meat of the chicken was prepared two ways. Accompanied by white bean truffle puree, the breast, served skin on, was very tender but the truffle essence was very faint.   

Meanwhile, the dark meat had a more rustic take, served in a skillet with green beans and mustard seeds with a touch of acidity from vinegar. The crispy skin bits were a real treat.  Overall, the chicken was good, but in my opinion for $40-50, not $79.

Our food journey at the Nomad ended with 2 modern desserts.

I loved the artful presentation and play on 2 contrasting textures for "milk and honey".  You get the crunchy harder bits from short bread brittle with the sweet, yet mellow honey ice cream.

When it comes to taste, I thought this plum dessert was more unique than the rest.  There was a lot of flavours and textures going on in this dish; from sweet to tart to salty from the corn sabayon, spongy to rich to creamy, even temperature ranged from warm to cold.  While it was yummy altogether, I had a great time dissecting each component with each bite and trying to figure everything out.  It was unique, distinct, and special. A dish you wouldn't find at just about anywhere.

I would love to come back to the Nomad again for their creative takes on snacks, appetizers and desserts.

The NoMad on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cute Pig's guide to best food and wine of Okanagan

Like Napa Valley, Loire Valley, and Tuscany, the Okanagan Valley is no less and one of the most beautiful places Canada has to offer. Frankly, I can't think of a better place to be around here during summer time.  Dry climate, picturesque scenery, and abundant in vineyards and orchards.  The fresh fruits from the Okanagan are some of the sweetest and best tasting you'll ever find.  I recently made my second trip this past May Long weekend and hope to come back for some fresh peaches and cherries.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Todd English's Olives at the Ballagio, Las Vegas

One of Todd English's most well-known restaurants, Olives, located at Bellagio resort & casino, offers refined Mediterranean inspired dishes at reasonable pricing and extremely generous portion. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tapenade Bistro

As fall may be quickly approaching, my (food) partner Merh, along with her actual partner J, and myself sought out for the ultimate patio-dinner experience to enjoy one of the very few days of summer we had this year.  This led us to Tapenade Bistro in Steveston where we all have heard numerous reputations.  Located just across the street from fisherman's wharf, the restaurant specializes in Provencal influence cuisine blending with a West coast flare.  With an extensive list of scrumptious sounding appetizers and entrees, it would be a while until we can finally make up a few choices.  

The first one was easy and I felt like I hit the jackpot.  Soup of the day was prawn bisque ($8).  It was a no brainer for me, I had to have it.  Served with succulent pieces of spot prawn, the prawn bisque was spot on (pardon my lameness).  The flavour was rich with natural sweetness of the shellfish.  I scraped the bowl until it was bone dry.

J ordered duck confit ($12.50) as a starter.  With the fried duck leg rested on top of chickpea puree grape tomatoes, and chickpea panisse, a fried chickpea flour cake made in the southern France.  The duck skin was crispy and the meat wasn't too dry. The acidity and sweetness of the grape tomatoes went well with the duck chickpea puree.  It was our first time trying a chickpea panisse, and texture wise, it was very similar to a falafel.
My appie-size mussels and frites ($12).  I had a really hard time picking one broth out of the three.  In the end, I decided to go with something soundingly simple, Breton, a creamy white wine broth.  I was happy with my option as the broth was savoury with a ending dry note. Maybe I was already getting full from the soup, but somehow the smaller portion of mussels managed to fill me up to a desirable level.   I was missing the fries that should have come with it, but the bread still did its job as a dipping substitute.  After trying out various places such as Twisted Fork, Salade de Fruits and Chambar, I couldn't help but compare mussels and frites among these places.  With taste and value in mind, I still reign Salade de Fruits supreme for their jumbo portion of moules et frites at $12.99 for lunch and $17.99 for dinner.

Truffle and pasta lovers would being calling for Linguine Boscaiola.  This rustic italian dish is made with ground striploin and mouthwatering creamy sauce with parmigiano-reggiano, cognac, and truffle cream.  The truffle was really fragrant in the dish and, thus, everything was cleared in a short time.  J went for an appie size ($12), but if you're hungry, order as a main ($20).

Merh couldn't pass on bouillabaisse ($28), one of the most well-known traditional provencal cuisine, and she was quite happy with the decision.  A large plate of seafood stew had almost everything from the sea, bathing in a light tomato broth topped with toasted baguette and rouille.    I'm guessing this dish would be great for a diet since its low in sodium, calories, and saturated fats, and it would fill you up.  Merh complimented how the broth was lightly seasoned and, thus, letting the natural seafood flavours come through.

It didn't seem like we had that much to eat, but we were all very stuffed.  The selections of desserts did sound promising, (pot de creme, creme brulee, white pepper panna cotta, it goes on...), and I regret passing on the offer.

Tapenade Bistro on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fine dining at 2 star Michelin restaurant, Picholine

Picholine, meaning olives, is accredited 2 star Michelin French restaurant in the upper west side New York City.  From the moment I walked in, I fell in love with the elegant setting of hanging chandeliers and soft lavender and cream colour tone.  It provides both great ambience and service that, if I lived in New York, this would probably be my favourite lunch spot. 

Their dining options include a tasting menu, prix fixe menu, as well as a la carte for dinner.  For lunch, we were tempting to order the 7 course tasting menu.  But since the menu is fixed, we each ordered the 2 course prix fixe for $28 with additional course for $12 to sample more food instead.

I sort of regret not ordering their cheese plate after learning that it is what the New York Times called "the best cheese presentation in the city".  Even the manager asked us, "no cheese today?" and I declined.  Why, what was I thinking? I obviously wasn't.

For the amuse bouche, we were given a plate of crispy parsnip and butternut squash panna cotta with chopped cocoa and almonds.  Although, I overheard a discrepancy that it was pumpkin at another table.  Anyways, it was light, dessert-like appetizer, but not too sweet.  

Served with "avocado marble and citrus caviar", the Hamachi Cru is similar to a ceviche or tataki.  It was creamy, and has a delightful refreshing taste from the citrus.  The hamachi was also very fresh that it melted in my mouth.  I didn't taste any spiciness from jalapenos that were supposedly in there though.

I was hoping to taste something new and different and this dish definitely delivered.  The Tuna Napoleon, only described as "the taste of Riviera" was the most unique and the delicious dish I've had in years.  Fresh tuna slices layered between two crispy crackers (I'm not sure what those were) served with olive oil ice cream over eggplant puree.  I had no idea how raw fish and ice cream would taste together.  But when I tried them all together, it was divine, thanks to the multi-leveled textures and aiding spices. The tuna pieces melt in your mouth together with the coolness of the ice cream.  More flavours came out as chewing is enhanced by crunchy texture from the crackers and creaminess from the eggplant puree.  The more you chew, the more you taste the spice from chili flakes, and saltiness from the seasoning.  But, in the end, they are all balanced in harmony by the sweetness of the creamy ice cream.  The great thing about this dish is how complex it really is in flavours and textures.  You start off with a flavour and end of in a totally different note, while going through 3 different textures at the same time.  It just blew me away. Truly an amazing dish.  The next dish to come had a lot to live up to.

I should've ordered something else I was less familiar with, but I'm a sucker for scallops.  So I ended up ordering Diver Sea Scallops which was served with curried squash, kale, shaved coconut and pomegranate.  The scallops were too cooked than how I normally would like them, but they were still tasty.
This following dish, the Pained Hills Farm Sirloin, also met the expectation but didn't go well beyond.  The sirloin was cooked medium rare, but it wasn't that well-seasoned.  Coming from Alberta, I have very high expectations when it comes to steak.  The BĂ©arnaise cloud was light and fluffy. The creamed spinach was much too salty and it had to be consumed at the same time with both the fried onion, and the steak to ease out the intensity. All that was missing was a bun and it would've been a really good steak sandwich.

The final entree was the Squid Ink Fideos (vermicelli) served with prawns and topped with Pimenton (spanish paprika) aioli.  I think I would've appreciated it more, if I wasn't born and raised in Thailand.  With my experience, this dish tastes EXACTLY like a thai street dish called "Pad See Ew" which is stir-fried noodles in soya sauce. Needless to say, I didn't love this dish either and was a bit disappointed at how "Asian" it tasted.  I'm sure it was more coincidental with the ingredients they used, but I was expecting a much more elegant dish.  As I think back, there is a place in Pattaya, Thailand that makes a killer creamy and spicy squid ink pasta.  It was much better there.

After the entrees, we were presented with house made assorted chocolates.  They were delicious.

Citrus tasting arrived in 3 parts; orange crepes, creamy citrus meringue, and grapefruit sorbet.  The orange crepe arrived in thin crispy biscuit forms layered with lemon diplomat and topped with "lime caviar".  The grapefruit sorbet was extremely refreshing.  I enjoyed this dessert much more than the squid ink fideos.  

Last but not least, Pear "Belle Hellene" consisted of sweet poached pear with chocolate soup and mascarpone sorbet.  The chocolate soup was quite thick and rich, but not too sweet.  

Overall, I love the overall elegant setting and attentive service.  Food wise, the majority of the dishes we ordered were good for a restaurant at this calibre, though we expected much more.  Even though the main courses didn't impress me that much, the Tuna Napoleon was really something special.  


Picholine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Delicious Mediterranean food: Nomad, NYC

The best way to locate the restaurant, if you've never been, is to look for the distinctively twisted Nomad sign that almost looks abstract (see website).  It looks like a bunch of shark fins hovering over water and a sun rise (lol).  Nomad offers quite a dining experience. Ethnic music blaring in the background, mosaic tiled tables, and Mediterranean artifacts and decor all provide for a uniquely exotic ambience. The washroom was fully decorated and I wish I took a picture.  It basically looked like I was transferred to the Mediterranean sea with artisan bins and other artifacts fully decked out.  The menu offers selections with Mediterranean, French and African influences.  

Frisse persimmon salad with beets ($9). I've never had persimmons in a salad before.  It was crunchy, sweet, and refreshing.  Although the apples and black olives listed in the menu were missing.  I didn't bother enquiring since I'm not a huge fan of olives.  It was already good as it was. 

Duck Pastilla a l’Orange ($9).  Basically, it's the tasty Moroccan version of a spring roll with a lot of filling. Seasoned minced duck meat, cranberries and chopped almonds are wrapped in fillo pastry and served with sweet tangy orange sauce and dusted with icing.  It was delicious; very nutty, sweet crispy, and savoury.  Definitely would get this again.

Our server recommended the grilled whole branzino marinated with charmoulla ($18), served with seasoned roasted sweet potatoes and green beans. I was glad we listened as he was right on the money.  Branzino is a European/ Mediterranean sea bass.  It has more fat than other fish and has more of a juicy buttery taste, similar to grilled thai catfish but with more of a silky texture.. It is able to hold flavors and not become so dry when grilled.   Charmoulla, a type of Moroccan marinade, was aromatic and flavourful.  Overall, the dish was exquisite.  

Nomad on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sabor Divino review

Located in downtown, Sabor Divino is another upcoming fine dining restaurant with a growing reputation for its contemporary European fare.  The restaurant has a cozy ambience with soft lighting, warm colour tone brick walls contrasting with cool green fabrics.  Live piano on weekends make added to a more pleasurable dining atmosphere.

My first time visit was somewhat of playing a game of Russian roulette.  I was planning for a stagette when I heard good things about this newly opened restaurant.  So after checking out the menu and pricing, I was sold and went on to make reservations.  Deep down, I prayed that it would be a good place.  

Basque Tuna Tartar

Once we arrived, I started off with Basque Tuna Tartar, which was served with lemon wedge and garlic crostini.  The tartar already had sufficient acidity by itself from sherry vinaigrette without needing anymore from the lemon.  The tuna was fresh and with added crunchy texture from red peppers and shallots.  It was a fair size for sharing. 

Squid ink spaghetti with prawns and scallops
I was recommended to try the squid ink spaghetti and so I ordered it as my main course.  I was delighted to see the jumbo sizes of the scallops and prawns.  Even more ecstatic to find that they were not overcooked.  It was a great ratio for seafood and pasta, as well a generous portion. I was impressed with the freshness of the ingredients, and how well they were cooked.  I was stuffed.

The second visit, I boasted to all my friends about what a great experience I had.  I came back again with 3 more friends who have never been to the restaurant.  Between myself and another friend, we decided to order the Fruits de Mer for two which comes with fries and salad for a whopping $96.  As I looked around, the sight of almost every table around us ordering the Fruits de Mer reassured me that it was going to be good.  

I was initially impressed by the epic pile of shellfish.  However, as I took a closer look to what I was eating, I could see that the shrunken mussels were the first indication that they may have been overcooked.  The giant prawns had a very rubbery and chewy texture.  The calamari was perhaps the only thing on the plate that wasn't chewy.  I was astounded that the scallop texture was the replica of fish tofu one may find at T&T supermarket.  The worst disappointment next to the scallop was the lobster.  The meat was basically stuck onto the shell with its claw conjoining onto the shell completely.   At first I was wondering where it went before feeling the flesh attached to the shell. I couldn't get it out unless i scraped at it with my knife.  Either the seafood batch was overcooked, or they were not fresh.  I thought about the delicious scallops and prawns I had last time and wondered where they went.  It was the worst value anyone can ask for $96.  I looked around and thought, "people actually enjoy eating this???" Even the garlic butter sauce couldn't save it. It was absolutely horrifying.
Home cut fries
To be honest, I had better fries at McDonald's.  They were hard and not crispy.  Most likely because they were thin cut so they cool down much faster.  Yet, I had better fries at Joey's.
I had nothing bad to complain about the salad.  It was refreshing compared to everything else I had.  The rest of my party ordered the Algarve fish soup, the duck, both were cooked perfectly, and tagliatelle with lobster and prawn, which were also overcooked.

We also ordered desserts.  If you want to sample different desserts, you can order them in sample sizes for $4 each.  They are still bigger than bite sizes and will give you more variety.  I liked the cheesecake with black cherries and port because it was light and not too rich.  The creme brulee was okay.  The cayenne chocolate mousse was the most interesting as it has a spicy kick, which blends in really well with the dark chocolate mousse.

Aside from the less than fabulous entree I received during my second visit, I've been fortunate to have received great services for both of my visits.  At both occasions, the servers were attentive and very professional.  As well, I enjoyed very much the live music offered on friday and saturday nights (without the entertainment fee!).  I would return to Sabor Divino again, but absolutely not for the Fruits de Mer.

Sabor Divino on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Food Tour: Mis Trucos Review

Mis Trucos:::Great food, but don't expect good service

It was my first time at Mis Trucos is a modern Mediterranean tapas bar located on Davie Street, Vancouver. When we got there around 5.30 pm, we were the first table there.  The ambience is very low key and casual.  It actually reminds me of someone's apartment.  The contemporary menu is intricate yet simply presented on black posters mounted on the walls.  The service is also very casual, laid back, and pub-like.  From what I hear, it's actually a hip spot to hangout at night on weekends.  

Even though we were the first to arrive, it still would take the server (who reminds me of Sweet Dee on It's Sunny in Philadelphia) another 15 minutes to come back and check on our order.  I ended up having to to go up to the bar counter and call for her attention while she was in the kitchen giggling and laughing with the chef.

I almost felt the decor of the restaurant didn't suit the sophisticated selection on the menu that you would find at other high end dining restaurants, places you dress up to go to.

Since this was the first stop of our food tour, we decide to order the 6 courses chef's inspiration for $35 / person and the crispy bread wrapped wild prawn with aioli. 

The first course
The first course that was served was a braised ox tongue with brioche and creme fraiche.  At first, I was slightly disappointed and sceptical with the size of the dish being so small.  However after I tried it, all was forgiven. Despite the small size, this dish just blew me away.  Thin tender slices of beef tongue were basked in the tanginess of citrus and balanced out with brioche and creme freche, contrasted by the crisp of the crostini.  It was unreal. I would order this again and again.

The crispy bread wrapped wild prawn in aioli ($2.50 each) is a simple comforting dish.  The bread was flattened thin and wrapped around succulent prawns before being fried to crisp.  I thoroughly enjoyed dipping the wrap in the creamy tangy aioli which complements the prawn.  Though some may find the aioli to be too acidic, I was quite happy with the flavour.

Second Course
The second course was the 3 way preparation of heirloom tomato salad.  Drizzled with olive oil and crumbled bocconcini and crostini, the salad offered a refreshing taste.  While in my opinion  and showcasing the freshness of the ingredients. The 3 way preparation, I'm guessing are one way being served fresh or lightly marinated, the second way as jelly, and the third way as roast tomatoes.

Tomato jelly
The tomato jelly is made up of fresh tomato juice mixed with gelatin. It was something new that I haven't tried before but it was still a bit bland with bocconcini in my opinion.  Perhaps infused basil or mint would add more complexity to the flavour.
Carbonated roasted tomato?!
Small roasted tomatoes had a very interesting twist with a burst of flavour.  While it was very acidic, there was also a fizziness in the juice as I bit into it.  I wish there were more of these in there.
Third course
The third course was a seared scallop over butternut squash puree topped with tobiko.  I must say that the scallop was cooked perfectly; tender, juicy, and easily pulled apart.  The smokiness of the scallop was enhanced by the saltiness of the tobiko, and balanced out by the subtle yet sweet butternut squash.
Forth course
The chanterelle mushroom risotto was very hearty and rustic.  The truffle oil complemented and  enhanced the earthiness of the mushrooms.  While the risotto was cooked just right and not soggy, I found it to be just a tad too salty.
Fifth course
The final entree course was the bison flank steak served with port cherry reduction and shallot puree.  The overall flavour of the dish is sweet and aromatic.  Though the steak was medium rare and quite tender, I prefer the first course over this one.

Final course: the dessert
I love the concept of the dessert presentation.  Vanilla custard is topped with peach puree and served in an empty eggshell on a bed of sugar.  Nothing fancy, yet warm and reminiscent of the countryside bed and breakfast. The custard was not too sweet and enjoyable with accompanying toasts.  It was creamy and contrasted with the sweet and sour flavour of peach puree.

As you could probably tell by now, my palette had a blast at Mistrucos.  Overall, the restaurant has an interesting concept, creative presentation and the food is great tasting.  What I disliked about it was constantly fighting for the server's attention while the place was empty as a dessert.  The wait time between each course is over 20 minutes, I guess due to presentation preparation.  Therefore, if you are planning on ordering the tasting menu, be ready to dedicate 1.5 hour to 2 hours solely to dining there.  

Last but not least, despite their lack of service and attention, the servers there "expect" their 15% tips.  To be specific, another server at the restaurant did not give us change and looked confused when we were waiting for it.  In another separate incident, after a patron has tipped 13% instead of 15% for a $15 bill, he was given a dirty glare with his debit card slammed on the counter.  While there is nothing wrong with being rewarded for good service, tips are up to the discretion of the patrons upon their reflection of the quality of service they received and dining experience.  If those aspects are not up to the customer's satisfaction, I don't see why they should be forced upon the gratuity.  In that case, it should have been indicated and automatically included on the bill.  When I think about tipping at Mistrucos, I think about the great jobs that the chefs have done, and completely ignore the less than mediocre service comparable to a pho place.

Reviews on other food tour spots in next post.

Mis Trucos on Urbanspoon