As I’ve mentioned before on this site, I don’t really do restaurant reviews. There are countless other blogs dedicated to critiquing restaurants and detailing meals with photos and write ups. However, I get a lot of inspiration from trying new places and thought I would share some of my favourite recent discoveries.
XO Le Restaurant – Located in the Hotel St. James in Old Montreal, XO is a mix of old world charm and modern touches and the menu is sophisticated but accessible. Stand-out Dish: Braised Oxtail Risotto. The rice was perfectly cooked – slightly al dente in the middle with a creamy consistency. To make your own risotto at home, check out my post on Basic Risotto.
Le Petit Alep – This casual resto near Jean Talon Market is the smaller sister restaurant to Alep next door. They serve top notch Syrian-Armenian dishes, such as shish taouk and Armenian sausages. Stand-out Dish: Muhummara, a red pepper -pomegranate-walnut based dip that is delicious and addictive. You can make a version of it with this recipe from epicurious.com: Muhummara.
New York City
‘Ino – A small, casual panini restaurant in New York’s West Village, ‘Ino Cafe and Wine Bar takes the humble sandwich to a whole new level. The menu offers everything from grilled panini to amazing crostini with inventive toppings such as butternut squash. Stand-out Dish: Truffled Egg Toast. The recipe for it and other ‘Ino dishes are available in their book Simple Italian Sandwiches: Recipes from America’s Favorite Panini Bar but you can also find it on-line here: Truffled Egg Toast.
Freemans – This funky resto on NYC’s Lower East Side has eclectic decor and a creative cocktail menu. I was there with a group on Valentine’s Day so our menu options were limited but the choices we had were well prepared. Stand-Out Dish – Grilled Cheddar Toasts. You can check out my version here: Cheese Toasts.
Locanda Verde – Chef Andrew Carmellini was voted Time Out New York’s 2010 Chef of the Year for his latest venture. Located in TriBeCa’s Greenwich Hotel, the restaurant has gotten a lot of press over the past few months for its rustic and flavourful Italian cooking. Stand-Out Dishes: It’s a tie between the Beet Salad with Blue Cheese and delicate, house made Grandmother’s Ravioli. For a slightly different version of beet salad, try my recipe for Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Feta. You can also re-create some of Chef Carmellini’s dishes with his best selling cookbook, Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food.
Palm Beach / Miami
Palm Beach Grill – This casual resto is part of the Hillstone Group which owns the popular Houston’s chain in the United States. During peak season, the people watching is always entertaining and the valet parking area is filled with luxury cars. Luckily the food is good too. Stand-out Dish – the Cheeseburger. It may seem simple but a hamburger cooked to perfection can be surprisingly hard to find and Palm Beach Grill does it right.
Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink – Michael’s is often mentioned on lists of Miami’s best restaurants and with good reason – the food is fantastic. I joined my friends Judi and Robin for Sunday brunch, which is served tapas style. We shared a few dishes, which is a great way to try more of the menu. Stand-out Dishes: Everything we had was delicious but the highlights were the Burrata with local heirloom tomatoes and Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with blackberry compote.
Scarpetta – A Florida outpost of the New York restaurant, Scarpetta is located in the newly refurbished Fontainebleau Hotel. The space is stunning and the people watching can’t be beat. However, the food lives up to the scene. A starter of burrata with heirloom tomatoes was fantastic (clearly I love burrata!) and the house made pastas are delicious. Stand-Out Dish: The famous Spaghetti with Tomato-Basil Sauce, a simple but perfectly executed dish that is greater than the sum of its parts. You can make your own version using chef/owner Scott Conant’s recipe: Scarpetta’s Tomato-Basil Spaghetti.
Prime One Twelve – Located on South Beach’s Ocean Drive, Prime One Twelve is definitely a scene. There’s a good chance you’ll spot some boldface names (we were seated next to NBA star Dwyane Wade and actress Gabrielle Union). The food is pretty good as well (if on the pricey side). Stand-Out Dish – Surprisingly, it was the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, which was served with sweet corn relish and tartar sauce.
Lady Marmalade – This eclectic breakfast/lunch spot started in Victoria, B.C. and the owners recently opened a Toronto location in the Leslieville neighbourhood. There are creative options such as a ‘good morning poutine’ and various mexican-inspired huevos. Nothing is fried so the accompanying potatoes have been oven roasted, making them less greasy than many breakfast joints. Stand-out Dish: Baked Crepe Croque Monsieur, an oven baked crepe topped with ham, cheddar and a miso-scallion cream.
Weezie’s – This small and cozy bistro is a the perfect place for dinner, whether it’s a romantic evening for two or a gathering of friends. Chef/owner Constance Guitard’s menu features simple but well prepared dishes including a juicy hamburger, decadent mac ‘n’ cheese and excellent frites. Stand-Out Dish: Frisée Salad with Lardons and Panko Crusted Poached Egg. Frisée salads with lardons (basically a salad topped with bacon and eggs) are a staple in French bistros but Chef Guitard puts a delicious twist on it by coating the poached egg in panko crumbs and frying it, resulting in the perfect blend of textures and flavours. You can make your own version of the original classic with this recipe from Pastis in NYC: Frisée Lardon with Poached Egg.
Thanks to everyone with whom I’ve enjoyed these fabulous meals over the past few months. I look forward to many more!
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!