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Posts Tagged ‘bistro’

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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We chose this restaurant because it’s just across the street from Lincoln Center. It even has a prix fixe pre-theater menu and the decor is modern and sophisticated with outdoor seating during warmer weather and a sexy bar – everything one could want in a NYC bistro with a famous name. Unfortunately, the experience was overpriced for what it was, and we were all a little disappointed, especially since this was to be our Christmas present to our family.

Menu items had French names – and the bistro’s name is pronounced in the French way which I unreasonably find even more pretentious – but none of it seemed particularly French. There was numerous hostesses, servers, and busboys, but service was not as attentive as one expects from a high class downtown NYC restaurant. Water glasses were not refilled without prompting and the food service was slow – despite arriving at 5:30pm for a 3-course dinner and being rather fast eaters, we had to rush dessert and coffee and then sprint across the street in order to catch our 7:30pm opera (yes, after literally running across the square and up three flights of stairs, we made it to our seats with less than a minute before the curtain rose).

A helpful wine steward helped select wines to our taste. We were started out with a basket of bread and butter and some tasty gougères. The appetizer of velouté de poisson was a small cup of a rich, cream-based broth with a couple mussels and tiny cubes of potato. I wish I had gotten the merlu as my main course, which was tender and delicious. My own moules à la “Moracain” were good, but not as special. The chocolate mousse cake was inexplicably drizzled with unattractive strings of mousse, which didn’t add anything at all to the experience – the tiny slivers of poached pears were the best part of it. My hot chocolate was watery and too-hot.

The restaurant isn’t completely hopeless, and it had an intriguing – and expensive – special pork menu and truffle specials which makes me think that perhaps our dining experience would have been better had we been willing to explore more of the à la carte and special menu rather than the prix fixe selection. And perhaps had we had a reservation a half hour or even an hour earlier.

1900 Broadway,  New York, NY 10023, USA

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This is a busy bistro on the very edge of Old Montreal, just a stone throw’s distance from where the Occupy Montrealers had set up this fall. I usually go to this place when I forget where Boris Bistro is (a block down the street – they need a bigger sign). Neither is a bistro for which I would go out of my way, but if you’re stuck in the area, both are acceptable options.

The waitstaff are energetic and wear crisp orange aprons. The food is conventional bistro fare, with a couple soups, salads, tartars, and burgers. I’ve been sticking to the hamburger with cheddar, but the salmon tartar looks to be good, as well. These two dishes come with a large side salad in simple vinaigrette dressing and a generous portion of shoestring fries in a cup. The most memorable part about this bistro is the bit of wet maple sugar they serve with their tea and coffee.

Metro: Square Victoria

425 Rue McGill and Rue le Moyne

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One of our new favorite brunch spots is a popular bistro in historic Griffentown. It’s always busy, but also friendly and delicious. Located amidst a row of antique shops, it itself is charming and comfortable. The dining area isn’t large, and the tiny kitchen area in the corner is completely open – usually one sees at least two cooks working hard at the old fashioned-looking stove to pump out dishes and a frenzied barista manning the station in the opposite corner. We often have to wait at the bar for a table and once we ate at the bar area right in front of the cappuccino machine, which they dubbed “Niagara Falls.”

The brunch menu is fairly standard. My favorite dish so far has been the Huevos Divorciados, a soft corn tortilla topped with black beans, cheddar, optional pulled pork, avocado with sour cream, and poached egg. You don’t actually need the poached egg, because it’s fairly wet already and is served in a shallow bowl, but I guess that’s what makes it “brunchy.” The succulent pulled pork is a must. I don’t normally order alcoholic beverages, but decided to try a Bloody Caesar while waiting for a table at their bar. It was too heavy on the horseradish for my taste, and not as Bloody Mary-like as I’d hoped. At another time, I had a hot chocolate which was fine if ordinary.

Metro:Lucien-L’Allier

1378 Rue Notre Dame Ouest and Rue de la Montagne

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One of my favourite restaurants in Montreal is Brasserie T!. This contemporary, sexy bistro opened up just last year, and is a “little sister” to Toque! and Olives and Gourmando. Reservations are recommended, although it’s possible to squeeze in if one goes early.

Despite its tiny home right next to the contemporary art museum (Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal), Brasserie T! makes intelligent use of its space, and the decor feels a little like a minimalist airplane – first class, of course. Claustrophobia is averted by the large windows lining the walls that afford a nice view of passersby and the dancing fountain during the summer; during warmer days there is even outdoor seating. While sophisticated,  pricing is not outrageous. The service is smart and friendly, and the menu is a small yet sophisticated selection of charcuterie and contemporary Quebec bistro fare. It’s all delicious…well, maybe not the brandade, a bland mixture of cod and potato that I haven’t been in Quebec long enough to appreciate it. Last summer there was a tantalizing fresh tomato soup which was poured at the table over a waiting bowl of herbs, croutons, and spices. My favourite order is the salmon with dill, which is a delicately cooked and seasoned salmon filet with a fennel salad. My husband sometimes gets the burger, which is also good and comes with a gigantic mound of fries, which we split along with the vegetable of the day.

As for dessert, I have had good luck with the eclair and other baked goods; the fresh sorbets and gelatos tend to be too sweet.

metro: Place des Arts

1425 Rue Jeanne-Mance and  Rue Saint-Catherine Ouest

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On one hand, this cramped upscale mart/cafe/brunch bistro has identity issues, right down to the Rorschach-like artwork on the wall; on the other hand, it’s a youthful, pleasant place for brunch if you can get a seat and the food is reasonably priced for the quantity and quality.

Food first. Diners either sit at small tables along the wall, or at a long communal table down the middle of the narrow establishment. Service is friendly, but during peak times can be brusque. The energetic brunch ambiance seemed more conducive to dating couples rather than families. I spotted some of the diners enjoying their bacon and eggs straight out of a cast iron pan. My sizable brunch order came on a large plate. It included: a skewer of fresh fruit, a simple side salad, a mild cheddar-like cheese, scrambled egg on toast, a hot scoop of fried salmon and potato, and a ham and cheese croissant. It also came with a coffee and an amuse bouche, a small cube of what seemed like a cream cheese danish, both of which we got after the entrée after asking for them. My husband enjoyed his brunch atlantique, but was miffed that they refused to allow him to substitute bacon for eggs.

The tiny mini-mart section had a small selection of prepared foods and high-end olive oils, exotic salts and chocolates – the sort of gourmet items which could be put into a gourmet gift basket. And for those to whom this is important, they sell Illy coffee (as a non-coffee drinker this means nothing to me, but apparently some rate their eateries by the brands of coffee served).

Metro: Place Victoria

106, rue McGill and Rue Wellington

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