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We met a friend for afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal. I was actually glad that they only had seatings left at 4:30pm, because that’s close enough to dinner time for me and I always found 2pm or so to be an odd time to eat such a large meal. Fortunately, the Palm Court, where they serve their tea, is straight ahead from the front entrance, so it was easy to find. It’s a surprisingly small space, so I’d imagine that during peak times it might be difficult to get a reservation for tea. The lounge area is decorated with sofas and luxury seats around coffee tables, which was nice. A fire burned in the fire place, light glittered off the chandeliers, and in addition to the palm fronds painted onto the high ceiling, there was indeed an actual little palm by the entrance. There was also a tray advertising the tea service, and I wondered at the fancy tea pot featured there, as we were served using serviceable plain white pots.

We selected our teas and received our own pots with our selected tea bags, which were refilled after a while with hot water. They did not have a decaf option. The tea refreshments were served on tiered dishes. I have to say that the scones – plain and cranberry – were the best so far I’ve experienced for afternoon tea. They were large, warm, light, and delicious. Perhaps we could have done with a little more of the jams, which included a delightful rose jam and current jam in addition to devonshire cream. Then came the tiny finger sandwiches, which while nicely seasoned and constructed, seemed to have been sitting around a little too long as the bread was a bit hardened and stale on top and a bit damp on the bottom…perhaps leftover from the first tea seating. My favourites were the tomato sandwich and the cucumber sandwich, though the egg salad sandwich and salmon sandwich were also good. The pastries, a selection of various things, could have been better, I think, but at that point in the meal we were all mostly full anyway. The carrot cupcake was dry and flavourless, the chocolate layer cake soaked in an orange liquor I didn’t care for, but the cream puffs were ok as was the round pound cake with the dome of cream and jelly. Odd that they did not provide us each with our own pastries, but instead had a selection so that we had to divvy them up ourselves or split them so that we could try each.

Overall, this was my second favourite afternoon tea experience in Montreal. The ambiance and decor were quite satisfying for the whole business of afternoon tea. The scones were the best, the finger sandwiches pretty good, and the pastries disappointing. The price was the most expensive thus far for afternoon tea, at $32/person before taxes and gratuity. It’s hard to find the number to call to make reservations – I found it by looking it up on a blog – and there’s virtually no information on it on the hotel website. Service was somewhat perfunctory, though I suppose with afternoon tea your main need is refilling the tea pot and cream pitcher.

1228 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest and Rue Drummond

metro: Peel

Bus: 24

tel: (514) 842-4210 ext. 1222

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The menu of this small corner resto has many of the expected classic Korean dishes, but also some that don’t quite seem right, like spring rolls and a bunch of salads. Korean food tends to be quite uniform, so any deviations are quite obvious. The only complimentary side dish that came with our meal were little bowls of an odd sort of cabbage kimchi which was mostly sesame oil. Usually Korean restaurants provide more of these little dishes.

The food was just ok. I did not care for the vegetarian pancake, which was an odd thing, perhaps made with…potato?… completely saturated with oil and probably deep fried. It wasn’t like a latke and resembled more like a drowned hashbrown than anything else – usually this pancake is made with flour and is lightly panfried. As it was, it was hard to taste or see anything but fried oil.

The bibimbap was fine, though as a pregnant woman I was a little taken aback that the egg was cracked in completely raw. Often the egg in this dish is presented sunny side up at least. The hot stone bowl and hot rice helped to cook it, but the presentation was a little odd. Bulgogi was served sizzling on a hot cast iron skillet and came with some large lettuce leaves, a little bit of sauce, kimchi, and rice.

Service was not terrible but also not great. I think this is the first Korean restaurant I’ve ever been in with all non-Asian waitstaff, though it looked like most of the people in the kitchen were Asian. Our water glasses were never refilled. When we asked about dessert, the waiter brought the menu back to the table and said that there was only one thing on it that they had left. We declined, paid, and left.

Overall, I was a little disappointed with the food and would not crave anything on their menu. If we get desperate for Korean, we might come back, but otherwise it lacks any great pull to bring a diner there. And I did not approve of the forks on every table, nor the wide chopsticks – Korean chopsticks are usually the bamboo disposable kind or very slim stainless steel.

177 rue Bernard Ouest and Avenue l’Esplanade

Bus: 160

Metro: Outremont or Rosemont (but not close)

http://restaurantomma.com/

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Since we’ve left Old Montreal, now seems like a good time for a review of our culinary experience there.

Chinese:

La Maison Kam Fung – dimsum everyday is ok, though dishes on the cart are sometimes cold or the carts don’t run very frequently later on in the service. Also has a sizable dinner menu, but the English translations of the Chinese menu aren’t always exact so the diner is best describing what they want rather than using names. Like Canadian-style eggplant (otherwise called hot garlic eggplant) and chicken with crispy fried spinach. Long wait for a table, though you can sometimes shorten the wait if willing to share a table with strangers.

Ruby Rouge – while the dimsum selection and quality here is not as good as La Maison Kam Fung, but there is much more seating in the huge banquet area.

Niukee – we stopped coming here because the food quality was variable and became more often than not not very good. Liked the green beans with pork stir fry and the crispy fried beef.

Mai Xiang Yuan – also known to us as the “Olympics dumpling place” because they seemed to always have a recording of the Beijing Olympics playing. No frills service, but the dumplings are very good – preferred boiled, not fried.

Qing hua Dumpling – not as good as the other dumpling place. Service slow, quality of food varies. Liked the spicy tofu appetizer. This resto has a sister resto downtown which is much better.

Korean:

Chez Bong – unfortunately, this hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown is the best Korean resto we’ve yet found in the city. The food is standard, but I find the kimchee to be a bit too sour for my taste and it is after all in a basement.

Ice cream:

Muki – our favourite artisan ice cream shop. The owner is always making improvements and the ice cream is very good if expensive. Excellent thin homemade waffle cones. Also offers waffle sandwiches for lunch.

Chez Catherine – our second favourite ice cream shop. Has soft serve ice cream as well.

Japanese:

Kagayaki – hole in the wall shabu shabu place in Chinatown. Service is very slow, but it’s fun to cook your own food in a hot pot.

Kyo bar Japonaise – new sake bar. Expensive. Service is good, small plate dishes hit-or-miss. Somewhat of a fushion place and not strictly Japanese.

Tatami – inventive sushi options with fish tanks for tables. The tempura usually comes out overly battered and burned, but the sushi rolls are interesting and we especially liked the “pizza” with avocado, salmon sushi, and shredded crab meat. Service can be slow, even during slow nights.

Tokyo – mediocre sushi restaurant, not really worth the effort. Quality of food is not that great.

Sumo ramen – if you want a big bowl of ramen, this is your place. I happen to enjoy ramen, and liked climbing up the stairs to the hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown.

Everything else:

l’Arrivage – pleasant contemporary bistro on the top of the archeology museum. Nice view of the Old Port and very reasonable brunch menu. Service can be a little slow.

l’Atelier Argentine – fairly new Argentine restaurant. Can be quite crowded, reservations recommended. We enjoyed the novelty when it had first opened, but thought the quality went down somewhat on subsequent visits.

Bonaparte – the food is somewhat old-fashioned, and I was disappointed when my entrees came out with boring little sections of plainly boiled or steamed vegetables on the plate. It’s all right if you’re just staying in the area for a few days, but it’s not a truly great dining experience, and the food unfortunately doesn’t match the romantic decor or service.

Boris Bistro – for some reason, we often had trouble locating the restaurant. The food is not that great, but we went back repeatedly for one reason or another and liked their small plates options the best.

Bourlingueur – only ate here once when we first moved in. Wasn’t impressed – felt like food could have come out of a can and did not want to go back.

Brit & Chips – somewhat greasy fish and chips place. Not bad, no frills.

Le Cartet – I never liked this place, as the line to get into brunch was always very long and I found the somewhat traditional Quebec brunch dishes overly large and not to my taste. Part of the bistro is a gourmet food store and the other part is a series of long tables.

Chez Delmo – oddly decorated seafood place. Food only ok and not worth a repeat.

Chez Queux – there’s something charming about such an old-fashioned restaurant, which seems stuck around the 1960s. Unfortunately, you can still hear the Old Port buskers through the walls, and the decor is horrible, but the table service is charming and you can enjoy sentimental dishes like sole meuniere prepared at your table.

Le Club Chasse et Peche – was taken here once. Food was only ok for the steep price. Decor is somewhat dim and almost dingy.

Dolcetto – we went here a number of times during the summer, but stopped going because the quality seemed to be slipping. Bread is offered with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Small plates. Can be noisy and crowded.

Eggspectations – unfortunately, the Old Montreal incarnations are never good – eggs are underdone, venue is dreary.

Epicier – we dined here once a couple of years ago, but I recall the experience with pleasure. One of those pretentious restaurants with single apples as centerpieces and decorated like a high end gourmet grocery store, this is a very nice fine dining restaurant with contemporary dishes and good food.

Europea Espace Boutique – high end takeout sandwich shop. When I really want to treat myself and if I’m home for whatever reason during the week, I go here for a takeout bag of sandwich – I liked the pomme et brie or the boeuf et chevre – beverage and dessert.

Restaurant Gandhi – ok but nothing special Indian resto. Nothing to draw us back there again.

Holder – noisy, boisterous masculine restaurant with equal room on the menu for alcohol as for food. But if you can squeeze in, the food is very good, though the menu does not vary.

Keg Steakhouse – unfortunately the best steakhouse we’ve been to so far in Montreal. Plates are sometimes greasy, service can be a little slow, and I think the bread is microwaved. A little expensive for what it is, too, though all right. Liked the appetizers like artichoke dip and shrimp cocktail. Bar selection is fine, too. Sometimes I felt like I went here just to stock up on their little mints with chocolate inside.

l’Arrivage – this bistro has a nice view of the Old Port on top of the architectural museum. The brunch menu doesn’t vary, but is a good deal for what it is. Service can be slow, but the 3-course experience is usually worth it.

Mechant Boeuf – one of those somewhat sleazy steak restaurants where the music is too loud and the other patrons are mostly older men dining with much younger women. Food wasn’t worth the headache.

Ming Tao Xuan – exotic-looking Chinese tea shop. Nice for an afternoon tea.

Modavie – the sort of mediocre steak and jazz resto that attract starry-eyed tourists. Food is only ok, music not so great (though I admit that I don’t care for jazz myself).

l’Orignal – pleasant little high end basement bistro.

Olive et Gourmando – our Saturday brunch ritual. Difficult to get a table, we often took our orders to go and ate them in a nearby cafe. The menu changes a little seasonally, and the service is a little odd – there’s a certain ritual to ordering in one place and then lining up in another to pay or order drinks. My favourites were the chevre chaud sandwich with homemade ketchup and the salty ricotta maison.

l’Orignal – went here once and always intended to go again but never did. A sort of upscale basement bistro with a lot of game. Felt very Quebecois for some reason.

Osteria Venti – it can be very hard to get a reservation here, but we rarely tried reserving a table in advance. The menu changes often. I especially liked the tender spare rib with creamy polenta and we long for the slice of bread spread with creamy marscapone, roasted squash, and fried sage.

Safran et Cannelle – the set up is odd, as you’re greeted by a nicely set up table setting when you walk in through the door…but are then directed to walk upstairs which looks nowhere near as nice. Not sure if anyone is allowed to sit downstairs, perhaps it’s just for show. Moroccan food was only ok, and nothing to really draw you back again and again.

Stash Cafe – the only Polish restaurant I’ve ever been to. Always get the borscht (which they spell differently) consomme and either the stuffed cabbage rolls or the placki. Avoid the fruit squares, which are served cold with sour cream. Service can be a little too laidback. Live inane piano music.

Titanic – popular weekday lunch spot. I didn’t care for it, mostly because my sandwich ended up completely drenched in mayonnaise and it was impossible to get a seat. The sort of place that you go to if you work nearby, but which leaves newcomers a bit lost due to the ordering system as you wait awkwardly by the cashier for your order to be ready.

Toque – I only ate here once, and had the tasting menu, but was disappointed by the over application of soy sauce to all of the dishes and the lack of artistry in the presentation. It’s supposed to be one of the best restaurants in the city, but aside from the imposing service regime and large amount of space between tables, the food did not recommend itself.

Vallier – we basically only went here when we couldn’t get into Holder, which is next door. Service is slow and inattentive, the menu never changes and is limited. Hamburgers are served on enormous bready buns with a sizable side salad and fries and the soups are never quite properly seasoned. My favourite part of coming here was eating the bit of wet maple sugar that comes with my husband’s latte.

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One of our favourite restaurants in Burlington is one we’ve come back to several times. It’s comfortable, the service is friendly and helpful, the menu is always full of interesting and enticing things from the region, and there’s plenty of outdoor seating when the weather is nice. At this particular time, the street air smelled like wonderful tree flowers. This time, we deliberately drove about half and hour out of our way on our way back to Canada to stop by the restaurant, and then waited around for an hour until it opened for brunch at 11am. It was worth it.

On the warm summer afternoon, we savoured our ice teas, which tasted brewed rather than from a fountain. After agonizing over the delicious menu, I decided upon a simple bowl of chili with some extra cheddar. It was a little spicy, full of ingredients, and just as flavourful as I could have wanted. I tasted my husband’s cup of cheddar and beer soup, which was also good. For dessert, I got what sounded like a homemade strawberry and rhubarb crumble, and ended being a thick-crusted, cold almost store-bought-like pie. I still ate it, and all the ice cream, though.

Reservations are recommended for both lunch and dinner and the place can get pretty crowded. Once, we waited for an hour in their downstairs pub for a dinner seat.

160 Bank St  Burlington, VT 05401, United States

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Just a hop away from the Raleigh-Durham airport is a large red wooden barn that houses one of the most revered institutions in the NC Triangle. The Angus Barn is much more than a mere steak house, and around Christmas time can be seen bedecked in lights, trees, apples, santas, and crowded with local families carefully dressed in their Sunday best for family reunions, dinner with Grandma, and milling about with chummy business associates impressing each other with their largesse. Downright impossible to get a reservation for the main dining area during these times, it’s best to go frightfully early, around 4pm, and set up camp upstairs, past the gun collection, in the no-reservations Wild Turkey Lounge, which has enough presence and Southern charm to satisfy any diner. Actually, due to the popularity of the Wild Turkey Lounge, a satellite area has opened up by the main entrance under some tents, which is open year-round.

This time we went in late April, which has a different, more homey feel to it than the pageantry of Christmas. Thanks to a reservation, my party was able to secure a table in the upstairs dining area, where we were greeted with a basketful of crackers and two small (or too small) crocks of cheddar and blue cheese spreads, and upon request was given a relish tray piled high with cucumber pickles, olives, pickled peppers, and celery. Forget the yummy twice baked herbed potato with cheddar or the huge “side” of Caesar salad and perfectly cooked prime rib with horseradish sauce and juice – one could happily munch on bottomless cheddar spread, homemade pita chips, and pickles all night with a glass of sweet tea. Expect a constant battle of the frustrating confines of ones own stomach, but just keep in mind that the portions (and service) are pure Southern hospitality and each additional course is worth sacrificing the previous course for room.

Don’t worry – the cheese spread and crackers are also available for sale in the country store by the exit.

9401 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, NC 27617, USA

See my December 2009 review here: https://rachelrecommends.wordpress.com/2009/12/27/angus-barn-a/

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Diners need to have either admission to the Biltmore Estate or a 12-month pass in order to dine here, but if you’re already in the area, it’s worth a visit to this laidback, almost California-style bistro. Don’t worry – the portions are East Coast-style. And it seemed family-friendly.

I was intrigued by the first appetizer on the menu, which was pickled shrimp with spring asparagus, green beans, tobiko caviar, and yuzu crème fraîche. It worked together, though the cold acidic shrimp had perhaps a tad too much vinegar acidity for my Northern taste buds. My main course of spring risotto with peas and mushrooms, tarragon oil and shaved parmesan was very good and something I might try to replicate at home; could not taste the tarragon, but didn’t miss it.

While I was full, I couldn’t resist the strawberry shortcake was mostly strawberry, with a very soft and somewhat spongey “shortcake,” topped with just the right amount of fancily swirled whipped cream; I enjoyed every last drop of it.

The Biltmore Estate, Antler Hill Village, Asheville, NC, USA

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a restaurant review. My husband and I have started to notice that we might have been patronizing the more mediocre restos in the area. Uh-oh. More research required!

Fortunately, this one isn’t one of them and we’ve been here many times in the past several weeks.

Holder does a satisfying weekend brunch. My Eggs Benedict came with a cute cake of Potatoes Dauphinoise and a nice fruit salad. On another occasion, their fish and chips were very nice – served hot, not too oily, and very tender and juicy on the inside.

For dinner, it’s important to get reservations or be told there aren’t any tables until after 9pm. It’s a bustling place with a sort of masculine energy during the week, as at least 60%-70% of the evening diners are groups of businessmen and the volume level is quite loud despite the lack of music. The bar has prominently displayed bottles and is well-stocked, seeming to have just about every whiskey imaginable.

The vegetable soup is fairly good, with rustic hunks of vegetables nestled in a tomato soup, which my husband says is like a minestrone without the noodles. The French onion soup is also very good, with a crusty top and dark broth soup that’s mostly onion. Tender fried calamari with just enough breading are also a good bet. I can heartily recommend the shepherd’s pie, which is a sophisticated mold of a very rich dish. Also, the unusually thick piece of calves liver. You get the idea – Holder is a keeper. The chocolate crémeux, coffee ice cream, cocoa and coffee sauce for dessert didn’t hurt, either.

Service is fairly good, though it is a busy restaurant. Pricing is reasonable for what it is.

Metro: Square Victoria

407 Rue McGill, #100A and Rue Saint-Paul Ouest

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