Dishcrawl: Montreal’s Chinatown Secret Menu Edition hosted by Jason Lee

Michel Cluizel's Sardines au Chocolat Lait ~ ♥♥

I’m distracted right now.  All I can think about is chocolate.  Chocolate, feuilletine, caramel, crèmes, glaçages, chocolate (more chocolate), génoise, syrups, brittles, mousses, sabayon, pralines and biscuit and millefeuilles and butter and cream.  It’s all dancing around my head, maybe a sign of the upcoming christmas season (which becomes increasingly about what I’m eating rather than what I’m gifting more and more every year – and I would argue that celestial dining with your most beloved of loved ones is the greatest gift.  Evah).

tiny puffs to amuse the bouche

Buuuuuut.  Even with that kind of introduction, I’m going to be talking about a mostly sugar-free adventure.  A Dishcrawl even.  This is the plum-backwards way we do things over here at Bubble Tea.  When other people have covered an event already so thoroughly, all I can do is be honest.  And boy, I would really love a resplendent single origin 70% dark right now.. ^^;;;;

Buuuuuuut.  I can tie this in.  Watch this!  See, it was a dark and temperate November 1rst Dishcrawl night, hosted by the ebullient gastronome Jason Lee of Shut Up and Eat, and things were surprisingly void of dessert.  Well, we did start with an ethereal and nutty-crisp bang by placing that little puff of confection – DRAGON’S BEARD! – on our tongues and letting it dissolve into softly sweet toasted acorn of gritty tongue-wakening chewiness.  You might even imagine that this was my favourite part of the night, and perhaps if I had never experienced it before, this candy might have been.

Buuuuuuuuuuut.  No.  That was reserved for the peking duck pancakes we enjoyed over at Mon Nan.  (It is at this point that I’m realizing that this post will in no way be thorough, informative, objective or complete.  Boring!  This is kinda just to complete my Dishcrawl coverage collection and give a brief recap of the yumz ingested).  It was at these round tables that I learned the correct way to spread hoisin on the thin house-made pancake of flour (apply first, before the insane crisp duck pieces).  Mon Nan is evidently the only place in Montreal that still makes Peking duck the proper way, and they’ve only whetted my appetite for more.  Other things to mention:  The meal starts (Number One!) with a thin duck broth floating with soft tofu, shared around the table washed down with amber tea – savoury, sweet and delicate.  Then, the pancakes, wrapping ’round slivers of green onion, threads of daikon and carrot, BIG CHUNKS OF DUCK (oho!) and hot sauce if desired.  Inhale, Construct, Repeat.  Finally (Number Three!) out comes a quick stir fry of fat sprouts and duck meat, refreshingly crunchy and a textural contrast the rest of the meal.  Lovely!

adorable gesticulating owner of Kam Fung

And so, on we go.  Next stop was a one-dish wonder at Maison Kam Fung, which is otherwise known for it’s killer Dim Sum brunch on Sundays, and had a pretty lively dining room on that Tuesday night when our party of 50 (ish?) descended on them en masse.  We started simply with one of the best spring rolls I’ve had in memory – darkly crisp skin, generously porky but not obscene inside.  However, I don’t tend to eat spring rolls, so there’s some grain of salt you should take with my opinion.  What I DO tend to eat a lot of is mysterious Chinese food, so the next dish I can confidently say falls under my jurisdiction of “silly Canadian non-Chinese xiaochi addict”.

Again, other people will introduce this with more depth than I.  Wor Siu Gai is a dish with depth, or at least Montreal specific history.  What was originally an ancient dish made with bird’s nest – an ingredient best enjoyed by the royal, the independently wealthy, and those with a taste for the dried saliva of cave birds – has been reinvented by Maison Kam Fung to become a glorious pink landmasse of ham, shrimp, crab, chinese sausage, wrapped in wonton skin, fried, served on a giant platter and covered with, and I quote, “Chinese gravy,”  yum yum.

cozy in the rice bowl

I’ve had more gastronomically sensational food – this went down like a bowl of perfect white rice and a block of seafood-tasting low-salt Spam – but gosh I don’t know if I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating so many different mystery meats in one mouthful before.  And the history!  I googled Wor Siu Gai and almost every rendition I could find called for chicken and not too much else, so this version really is a specialty of Montreal – try it at your next Maison Kam Fung gorging session!

the mystery, it oozes

Finally, I had my belly ready for the best part of the night.  The promise of dessert was ringing louder and louder with every step we took towards the Hong Kong-style bakery, Patisserie Callia.  I love me a squishy milky cool-to-the-touch sweetened bun.  LOVE IT.  The only hard part is deciding was the filling should be.  Mango custard?  Blueberry cream?  Red bean, sweet egg, lemon curd, sesame paste, or taro?  Eeeeek, I want to know!

Wait.  No wait.  *bites into mystery bun*.   Noooooo, I didn’t want to knooooooooooow!!!  :D

Seriously, poutine bun?  Wow, I’m suddenly welling up with all these mixed feelings ranging from inner giggling to mild sugar-deprived rage to disaffected cultural malaise.  Mostly just the yen for a real donut though.  At least, the accompaniment to “dessert” was panacea for the jilted sweet tooth – hot milky tea made with a blend of many different strong teas – highly aromatic, bittersweet, complex and roasted-tasting.  I think they were all black teas, I don’t quite remember  (as in, black and not green).  Each sip was slightly different, playing chimes at different places in the mouth, and in different harmonies with subsequent sips – definitely the most interesting cup of it’s kind that I’ve had, and I’ve had lot of Chinese milk tea.  Bubble Tea for Dinner is no mistake as a blog name.  I’d return to Callia in a second for another cup, bypassing even my beloved Patisserie Harmonie for a chance to dip my head in it’s swirling and very mature-smelling steam.

And that’s about it!  Whew, another Dishcrawl penned and ready to share with the world.  Thanks again to Jason Lee for being SO energetic and helpful and informative and friendly whenever I had annoying questions about the herb-using habits of the Vietnamese or how to properly wrap a peking-pan-duck-cake.

~~~~~ here’s where to witness the brilliance of topic-tying-in action ~~~ ……. \/

Alas, I don’t know if I can make it to the Chocolate Dishcrawl this Sunday, but I would love to, obviously.  If I can move my schedule around, I will see.  I also might just spend my ticket money on chocolate bars.  We’ll see.  (  It’s even – in some stroke of life-appropriate brilliance – hosted by chocolatier Olivier Piffaudat, who specializes in low and no-sugar confections, which would delight BF Cloudy to no end.  He’s on a sugar-cleanse!  Brave soul.  )

EDIT:  I am going!!!!  Yeehee.  Also, there are 2 tickets left.  Go go go!

Dishcrawl Coverage on Citeeze

Dragon Beard Candy on Urbanspoon

Mon Nan Village on Urbanspoon

Kam Fung on Urbanspoon

Patisserie Callia on Urbanspoon

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Dishcrawl Montreal – Crescent Street Edition (part 2)

Russian food, what do I know about Russian food…. ?

After this Tuesday, much more than I did. The limited response of “um, caviar?”  eradicated completely with a flood, a kaleidoscope of britesome and pickly-sweet & peppy flavours!  Russian tapas – the only way to be – at Restaurant Troika, the third and most fancy stop on the Dishcrawl train.

As soon as arranging ourselves along the stark black and golden-lit bar, the tiny plates arrived fast and with each one a new curiousity – could we recognize it?  Was it a familiar temperature or spice?   Was it authentic?  I think more than it might seem, yes, the plates were well Russian, AND well

1 blin, blintze, or blintz (Plural: blini, blintzes, or blinchiki). Cheese kind! Decadent and gooey and perfect with cold eggplant and garlic puree.

taken, at least by me.  I suppose the best way to describe the effect of the assortment of dishes (well over 15 in all) is to emphasize what was explained to us outside of the restaurant – this is food designed to be eaten with vodka, to keep the drinker going well into the night.  And friends?  This is fabulous vodka food.  Much of it cold and vinegared and cut in such a tiny way as to relate somehow to wee shots of the crystal clear spirit.  Beets in obvious attendance, as well as cream, onions, carrot, cucumber, fish, eggs, olives and garlic – food to survive long winters, things that can be preserved.  A serious toughness emanating from the cuisine, but with no lack of sparkle!

And my favourite dish of the evening turned out to be a most giddy-making surprise.  What I

PS….. fries. :D

thought was just one more piece of beet in a pink mayonnaise dressing turned out in fact to be a large and meltingly tender bit of smoked herring. HERRING!  Yums.  Yes, I like oily fish.  SO yummy, I stole a piece off of an untouched serving dish as we were leaving, not even believing my good luck that there were any left (the fact we were walking towards dessert momentarily forgotten).  The name of the dish is even totally whimsical – seledka pod shuboy, “herring in sheepskin coat”.  *grins*.  Want more….

Alas there is a moment of head-hanging here as I admit to not charging my camera batteries properly enough to last through a whole dinner through the OBVIOUSLY most important part… the sweet stuff, the end, the thing you wait through all that other munching to get to, to dive into, to gently (we’re adults here, after all) regress to the child self gleefully lost in a candy store with a pocket full of couch-found change and a tooth bent on gummie bears.  It is regretfully iPod resolution from here on in, at the gates of the carefree Swurl Frozen Yogurt.  Is this where I say something disarming like “Rock on!”?  Something like that. :)

And rock on one must, when faced with a wall full of sci-fi styled giant pulleys emitting frozen and ethereal gooey whipped fro-yo!  With a flavour assortment so assorted and so possible – Irish baileys, blood orange, chai, peach, chocolate, vanilla, cookies & cream, Original and pomegranate – I just had to try them all.  My favourites were definitely the blood orange (bright, rich, intense), the cookies & cream (super creamy, with that “ice cream sandwich” balance of chocovanilla), and the Original (just perfectly slightly tangy and smooth).  Of course, that’s just me, and I do suggest sampling them all if you get to do that.

Unlimited toppings (!!) include assorted soft gummies, sugar cereals (cookie crisp and golden grahams, lucky charms among them), strawberry pop tarts, licorice bits, waffle cone pieces, smarties, white and dark choco-chips, potato chips, fresh fruits (strawberries, banana, kiwi, peaches and more!), syrups of all kinds, fruity caviar orbs that burst, aaaaaand…..

Just for Dishcrawl, Ramen Squares.  (think Rice Krispie treats but with uncooked ramen noodles and chocolate bits – chewy, saltysweet and super interesting).  *dies of awesome*

It’s only criminal that I was so stuffed at this point that I could only eagerly sample each flavour and topping once and then leave my yogurt cup aside to (thankfully) bicycle, ie: exercise all the way home.  Have I been thinking about returning to Swurl practically every day since, though?  Yes.  With the emptiest of stomachs, oh you’d better believe it.

Also… does this remind me of some sort of flipped version of the toppings-select procedure involved with Taiwanese shaved ice?  Yes.  Oh yes.  Deliciously so.  God I love having a myriad candy in front of me with a little scoop.  /sweet tooth.

Thanks again to Kristel, for making this Dishcrawl possible, for putting so much effort into it’s smooth proceedings, and for the free ticket which I did not expect to get.  I do plan to attend many more Crawls in the future, bolstered by the enjoyment of this one!  Cheers and here’s to surprise eats!

6327542753_10887cdec8_b

this is your inner 8-year-old’s heaven. just sayin.

Dishcrawl Montreal – Crescent Street Edition with Kristel Salesse (part 1)

Dishcrawling is a trip, an adventure, a party and a date with a room full of people who play with the intersection between real life and OnlineLife (twittering and blogging away!), swirled generously with more fat than is genereally advised to be consumed in sitting (YUM!!!), peppered with camera flashes, barely whispered with a hint of delightful awkwardness, and as always, a

Pickled pink turnips = “Torshi Left”. Easy to make at home, too, which is great if you find them addictive… which I do.

drink tab you didn’t expect.

Welcome to frickin’ Crescent Street. :D  Hurray!

Kristel of Kristel’s Kitchen rounded us up for an intro eat at Boustan Lebanese, a downtown institution that serves impossible concentrations of garlic in shatteringly crispy-wrapped pink-turnip-pickle-studded portable sandwiches that just MUST hit the spot like an old friend after too many drinks down the Crescent line.  A students dream, and crazy cheap too.

I admit, having grown up there I am spoiled on the wonders of Ottawa shawarma (one of our coolest claims to fame), and one of the main reasons I’ve wanted to try Boustan for a while is it’s promise of offering a righteous version of a chicken shawarma (Drunk Self: “omg all i want right

veggie shawarma – I spy potato, and …. fried chickpea chewy fritter? Anyone know what this is?

now is to nomcrunch/diveheadfirst into a chargrilled warmwrapped hunk of shredded veg and hyper-marinated chicken!!! garlic sauced everywhar!!!”   Ahem.  (okay, maybe not since I was 22.  hehe.).  Anyway, it IS a really good shawarma, and definitely the closest to home I’ve had in Montreal, well worth trying – but what was REALLY good was the veggie version.  (Yes.  I tried two kinds.  I AM A CURIOUS CAT.  Meow.)  None of us could figure out what was in it, which is maybe weird, but here is a picture of a whole pile of whatever that thing is, if anyone knows and can enlighten us less familiar with Boustan’s menu or Lebanese-American food in general.  It’s definitely not falafal.

Speaking of familiarity, the owner is adorrrrrrable!!  Such a friendly face, and he’s retiring in two months, awww.  Something tells me that it’s straight-up soul put into the food that’s kept people coming back to this tiny underground oasis with the late-night diner vibe.  I mean, that and it’s 4 bucks for a sandwich.  A GOOD sandwich.  Try finding that almost anywhere else!

After sandwich time came a short amble over to recently opened Burger Bar, whose burgers are (shock and surprise!) supposed to pretty much take the house down.  Fellow bloggers like Mechant Mangeur going crazy for “one of the best burgers” and Mr. Lew Burger Searcher supporting it solidly.

And the verdict?

Holy crap.  I mean, I’m a recovered vegan.  I have limited burger experience.  Cookouts with the family and fast food and the occasional foray into bison, boar and horsemeat.  But I haven’t actually inhaled a beef burger until last night.  The small size helped it jump into my belly, but more pertinently the taste was intense and the texture a riot of crispy and fatty and sweet.  What was involved?  Beef, blue cheese, tomato confit, some thick cut and heavily spiced potato chips, and drips all around of the nicest port reduction, sweet and hyper-sticky.  Plus, after sitting there cooling off for a minute or three as *everyone* pulled out their camera, it was still like biting into a juice-bomb, and totally completely pink inside.  Yumz.

The atmosphere of the place was pretty nice, too, actually – seemed to invite the outside night in, and there was a really casual mix of young and old. Oh, and they poured my whiskey generously. Super points for that!

And then what?  Part Two!

ps. fries

Boustane on Urbanspoon

Burger Bar Crescent on Urbanspoon

Montreal Dishcrawl, Cook & Date edition – makin’ it with the chefs

I have some outstanding news! I just won a ticket to the next Montreal Dishcrawl, thanks to it’s host and the writer of lovely blog Kristel’s Kitchen, Kristel Salesse! This is so random, I wasn’t expecting it at all, and until recently I was one of those “oh, I don’t win stuff” people. Well, colour my luck changed and ready-raring to go enjoy mysterious delicacies with a bunch of foodies next Tuesday, down on Crescent street!

What this does mean, however, is that tales of my second Dishcrawl experience have got to be blogged and now, lest the temporal police crawl out of a space-time dimensional wormhole and give me a flogging with a neutron star or a telephone booth or some such awful scifi punishment for messing up the order of important events. And so! Before the future was the past..……

It was January (dark and stormy) that I attended a very special Montreal Dishcrawl on the freezingest of freezing nights, one using a different sort of format from the usual – a Cook & Date version. Instead of wandering – outside! – from restaurant to restaurant sampling secret dishes from unrevealed chefs, we stayed in one building… and got to build the food ourselves! Now, I enjoy sitting down and being pampered and lushed upon with sculptural edifices of the edible kind as much as anyone, but there was something genuinely *memorable* about this night, something that made it all worth it. Perhaps getting kudos from the sushi chef on my rolling skills? Haha, we’ll never know.

So the setup was this: each station had a different dish and we split into three groups, rotating every 45 minutes or so. It was enough time to hear the chef talk about their food, divulge secrets, and give pointers on skillful preparation. As a chef (ISH) myself, I think this was where the theme of the night showed it’s truly useful colours to me. I sincerely got to ask real questions and talk shop with some colleagues, exploring topics like handling raw fish, how to make the most ethereal of gnocchi, why truffle oil is a total sham, and later while splitting cigarettes with sushi-man Mark Bermudez later.. well, you know. Kitchen gossip. Ha!

The food was of COURSE scrumptious, and indeed all the better for having made it ourselves. I only wish though, that there was any kind of ladylike way to enjoy ginormous pieces of sushi while trying to look cool in front of strangers, holding a plate full of spicy mayo while standing, and too-soon hearing a bell ring meaning it was time to switch to the next station… a small complaint, but…

“OmNomNomNmwah?Bwa???awdannnit.” *chew chew chew* *run*

The salmon tartar/fattoush salad from chef George of Terracotta was actually delicious to me and I’m not often blown away by salmon anymore. Perhaps that is because I got to Tinycubify it myself! Yrs truly on knives, teehee. But also, because I got to add as much lemon as I truly like and the pita crisps *were* a nice touch. Not fussy at all and texturally all shattery and perfect with the buttery fish. A really inspired match, really, Lebanese and tartar. And, he uh, offered me a job. :D

And OH THE GNOCCHI. Thank god the best was for last for my particular group. Executive Chef of Koko Michele Forgione and Sous Chef Takeshi Horinoue blew my little mind with some of the most meltingly tender, soul-bolstering angelclouds of perfectly Ragu-d olive-oil-swirled gnocchi puffs I’ve ever tasted. I inhaled my portion. True to form, they are a substantial food and I couldn’t have had more… but what was eaten glowed in me from the inside like a small sun humming with parmesan flares, making me smile all over not needing any wine to sport rosy cheeks. Hats off. I should chase down some more kinds of pasta from those guys…

Finally, almost stuffed but *never* too stuffed for dessert, (EVER), we were lucky to enjoy a demonstration on moulding chocolate by Larissa of Sweet Designs by Larissa, and got to sample our own decadent red velvet cupcake with adorable bugbug topper! We even got to paint on them ourselves. And… I only wish I hadn’t forgotten mine on the shelf above the coat racks because I tried a little piece of someone else’s and it was divine, but ah well, this is life, and I probably don’t NEED more sugar in my life.

*laughs maniacally*

Totally just kidding about that last statement. Of course I do. *grin*

And now… I simply can’t wait for the next Dishcrawl, going down in only 2 days, this time featuring restaurants on Crescent street. I’ve got my hunches we’ll be hitting Troika and maybe even Swurl Yogurt….. ! Eeeeeeeek, can’t wait at all! And I’m borrowing a much nicer camera these days, so even more happy-make. See you soon, and with a much more timely post about the goings-on. ;)

(more blogging about that January Night HERE)

Terracotta on Urbanspoon

Koko on Urbanspoon

Dishcrawl Montreal, “inspired by Mayssam”, perpetuated by ravenous lust for delish

DISHCRAUUWWWL!!!

I’m not usually one to enter a restaurant full of 40-50 people I’d never met before, let alone one involving surprise dishes and other surprises, as was promised on the ticket, but a bit of bravery and a large bit of foodie curiousity did me in good stead and I had an absolute blast of a time, trying random foodstuffs and meeting people who were likewise just as obsessed with the capacity of edible things to hold flavour as I was!  Pretty amazing.  A lot of people had cards with their blogs on them, and I think I might follow suit.

Although, I might handmake mine with sparkles, but that’s mostly because I’m silly, and prone to sparkles.  Anyway!

The evening started out at Ella Grill, a place most notable for grilling their seafood (and especially their octopus) well, a feat I heard from my neighbours at the table was something quite special.  And to my own tongue, delicious – tender and char-tasting to a perfect degree, with herbs and peppers and other things I forget.  The evening also started out with the right thing first – dessert!  A pastry chef – whose name I also forget (I’m terrible!), brought out these most lovely and indulgent eclairs to kick everything off.  A concoction of pastry, coffee cream, sculptural chocolate, raspberry, and apparently anise, to delight the senses and basically be an absolute specimen of it’s kind.  Eclairs may come and go, but this one was good.

Then, we crawled.  Not like pubcrawled.  More like dishcrawled.  And really, more like sauntered up the street only one block to another restaurant, Biron, a posh and laidback abode with the chef even there to oversea the enjoyment he was orchestrating.  I was pretty lucky to get the deconstructed sushi plate (it was a 50% chance of landing in front of you), and the whole idea of finally getting to eat something off a plate with a syringe of mysterious substance, well……….. this is what I live for my friends.  It’s space age!  It’s delicious!  It’s actually RICE VAPOUR.  And among other things, any plate with raw salmon on it will give me joy, so if dishcrawl wanted to seduce me better they couldn’t.  :D  Wee.

Hmm, from the actual website?

Maki éclaté; sashimi de saumon, riz vapeur, vinaigrette sésame maison, œuf de saumon, avocat et concombre….

Nothing off the wall, for sure, but seriously, couldn’t be better to actually sup on.  Plus, they even had those steamed sweet buns I used to eat in Taiwan, with some sort of wasabi creamy sauce for the dunking, so amazing!  Biron is allright in my books.

Of course, that said, I don’t know what this was, belying my foodie pedigree by revealing my absolute lack of ability to differentiate what might have been turkey from what might have been pork.  But hey – these things happen!  It was really tasty anyway, with bitter rapini playing off of sweet potato puree in a nice way, not being too filling and definitely being artful.  Yeah, so I’m a recent vegan and can’t tell my proteins apart, ha!  It’s a punchline at this point anyway, right?  And then, there were mignardises, as in little yummy puffy desserty things I was too drunk at the time to appreciate with a palate of distinction, but there is never a bad time for superfluous sweet bites of pastry, so yeah!  awesomesauce.

Will I be going to the next one?   You bet!  And hopefully with more on-the-ball reporting so I can actually describe things with a fresh mind and a memory for specific ingredients.  Until then, well, I can blog about a pastry workshop I attended at Depanneur le Pick Up with Laloux’s Michelle Marek!  Soon, soon enough.  I’m getting the blogging bug back and with it there will be posts, read, commented or not. :P.  til then!

Current music: Stereo Total – Paris <> Berlin

Restaurant Ella Grill on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Biron on Urbanspoon