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Posts Tagged ‘dinner’

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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Reservations aren’t usually necessary during the week, but they are a good idea. Like many low-key Montreal restos, it doesn’t look like much from the outside, and it doesn’t look like much inside the spartan brick interior. Fortunately, the food speaks louder than anything else and some nights, when the lighting is just right and gently glowing off of the water and wine glasses, it can be a very low-key, romantic establishment.

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This is a small, simple French bistro serving two prix-fixe menus – the special and the  table d’hote. The special is a simple butter lettuce salad with walnuts, thin steak with mustard sauce, frites; the other menu will give you the same plus a soup and profiteroles for an extra $6.95, though I’ve never had room for all of that. My favourite dessert is the peche melba, which is a tall sundae goblet of buttery vanilla ice cream topped with canned peach halves, whipped cream, and toasted almond slivers. The traditional profiteroles are also good. Diners can look out the windows at passers-by in the bustling downtown area, or can look at themselves in the wall mirrors. We’ve never needed reservations.

2022 Rue Peel at Blvd. de Maisonneuve O.

metro: Peel

See my Sept. 2009 review here.

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Osteria Venti – or is it Venti Osteria? – is a small bistro, with a small bar area with flat-screen TV and small dining area beyond. It’s located on the quiet side of Old Montreal, but the noise inside is rather loud and I left with a headache after having to shout through my dinner conversation. I’ve been trying to get reservations here for a while, and finally, while heading to another place, we stopped inside “just in case” and got seated at a table right away. But then we sat for an interminable time waiting for service. Service was extremely slow once we were seated, whether it was to bring us something to drink, to take our order, or to bring our food. Fortunately, the food is delicious and has that delightful Italian simplicity that many Italian restos lack.

We shared an enjoyable yet forgettable eggplant mush on toast and a delightful caprese salad, which consisted of various sizes and colours of tomatoes with just the right amount of basil, olive oil, and salt. After another long wait, my husband got delicate ravioli stuffed with radicchio and rabiola cheese tossed in chervil butter sauce and I got wonderfully fluffy little ricotta gnocchi which were like little clouds of ricotta in a simple tomato basil sauce. Both were half portions, and were just the right amount. All told, two appetizers, two half portion main courses, and one latte came to over $50. We drank tap water.

This could be a romantic restaurant if it weren’t so loud inside, and despite the difficulty with getting a table, terrible service, and expense, this would still be worth a repeat visit.

Metro: Place d’Armes and Square Victoria

372, Rue Saint-Paul Ouest and Rue Saint-Pierre

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A comforting sign on the sidewalk bears the image of a cartoon sumo wrestler. Diners walk up a flight of stairs to the hole in a wall on the second floor. Multiple portable air conditioners and fans occupy every available window and at least one other one by the cash register, which displays a few Japanese snacks for sale, keeping the place reasonably cool during the summer. Diners sit at tables covered in plastic and peruse a menu with items ranging from the promised ramen (replete with helpful picture and labels), to edamame or eel appetizers and mochi ice cream dessert. I got #8, the beef ramen, the both times we’ve dined here. The large, satisfying bowl includes house-made ramen noodles (not the squiggly instant noodles, in case anyone was wondering), bean sprouts, half a medium-boiled egg, thinly sliced beef, corn, scallions, dried garlic stems. The miso broth was a tad salty and the soya broth less so. Prices are reasonable. The clientele seems to be mostly young people and families.

Metro: Place d’Armes

1007 Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Rue de la Gauchetiere Ouest

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