Friday, October 23, 2015

The New Cafe Boulud, Toronto.

Cafe Boulud in the Four Seasons Hotel was completely redesigned, the menu re-conceptualized, the kitchen refitted with some new equipment and a new chef hired, Sylvain Assie. The theme is an unpretentious French bistro. A new Rotisol rotisserie, one of the finest machines for this purpose, imported from France, will be used for legs of lamb, quail, duck, pineapples and the esteemed Chantecler chickens raised in Quebec (Canada's finest).

Grilled kale and romaine salad with shaved carrots, cumin, black olives, golden raisins, with a spiced yogurt dressing.

Bouillon pho, a spiced beef broth with rice noodles, ginger and herbs.

Beet salad with quinoa, orange slices, watercress and goat cheese. 

House made saffron linguini with saffron, clams, arugula, fennel and lemon.

 Beignets de calamar, beer battered calamari with pickled hot pepper.

Rotisserie chantecler chicken with potatoes and watercress salad.

Fletan Grenobloise, pacific halibut with cauliflower, capers and parsley lemon butter.

Thin apple tart with tahitian vanilla ice cream and candied pecans.

Rotisserie golden pineapple with rum-caramel raisins and coconut sorbet.

My overall impression? Nothing sparkled but the meal was fine. The service was very good. It is a resto where one can have an enjoyable bistro style meal.

Friday, October 16, 2015

New Orleans: Cochon Restaurant, Cochon Butcher, Boucherie, Willie Mae's Scotch House, Revolution, Jacque-Imo's Cafe

Willie May's Scotch House

Willie Mae's was voted as having the best fried chicken in America by the Food TV Network. The Travel Channel voted Willie Mae's as one of the 101 best restos in America and the one with the best fried chicken. So, I figured I better take a taxi the 5 miles to try this chicken! 

First, let me advise that they open at 10am. Don't even think of coming any time between 11:15 and 3pm as they will have a very long line and it takes a long time to be seated because once you are sitting down, things move slowly, southern style, but, to give the resto credit, the fried chicken that you order is made from scratch and one can't make fried chicken in just 10-15 minutes!

Now, let me tell you about the people here. 

I arrived by Uber and planned to do a take out order because of the very long, very slow moving line. I walked in to the take out area and placed my takeout order. Ten minutes after I placed my order I suddenly realized that I had left my wallet in the hotel safe! I spoke to one of the floor managers and asked if I could get the chicken and come back later. She was not comfortable with this despite my offer to leave my credit card and business card, and then to also leave my cell phone with her. So, disconsolately, I left and went back to see if my Uber car was still there, and it was. I told the driver what happened and asked her to take me back to my hotel. The driver offered to give me $25.00 to cover my bill.....can you believe that !!?? This has been the way of kindness and courtesy I have experienced with every Uber car I have used in the past 10 days (I was recently in Paris, experiencing the usual taxi frustration and immediately signed up with Uber......that changed my life.....Uber is quick. The longest I waited for a call when they were contacted, was 8 minutes and most waits were about 5 and when you look at the map on your phone you can see the proximity of the car and name of the driver). The car interiors are immaculately clean and fresh smelling, the drivers are remarkably courteous, even getting out of the car to open the door for my life partner, and often myself as well. The driver knows where you want to go (because one types in the location one is going to when setting up the ride) without the need to converse, so there was no language issue. Finally, when arriving, there is nothing to pay. Everything is automatically charged to your credit card.

Just as I was leaving the Uber car to go in and pay, I  noticed the waitress who had taken my order, running out of the resto and looking around. I asked her if she was looking for me. She said she was. She had felt badly for me and wanted to pay for my order.....again....can you believe that!!?? And apparently one of the owners of the resto had overheard my plight and encouraged her to do so.

Butter beans flavoured with bay leaf and thyme, accompanied by white rice. I would come here just to eat the butter beans. Very good texture but terrific flavour. Such a simple food made fabulous.

Red beans with white rice. These were good and had a bit of a nip but did not hold a candle to the butter beans.

The perfectly cooked fried chicken. Very crispy skin with very good flavour, a touch too oily but not excessively so. This was very good fried chicken, but, not sure I would drive 5 miles in a taxi/Uber just to try the chicken. But also, I can't say that I have tasted better fried chicken. Loved the ambiance of this resto....even though one can't eat ambiance.

Cochon Restaurant at Dinner

Gulf shrimp with potatoes, olives and fermented black beans.

Paneed pork cheeks with mushrooms, fried lemon and wood roasted eggplant puree.

Fried liver with house-made pepper jelly and toast. This rendition of pepper jelly was so good, I bought a few bottles next door at Cochon Butcher.

Smoked ham hock with gold rice, field peas and pickled peppers.

Very good lima beans.

Louisiana cochon with cabbage, cracklin and pickled peaches.

Hummingbird cake was surprisingly delicious. Pecan, pineapple and banana cake layered with cream cheese frosting. I hate to say it, but, I ate the whole thing!

Cochon Butcher

Cochon Butcher is right around the corner from Cochon. It is both a very well stocked butcher shop and short order bar/ sandwich resto. All meats are house cured and smoked. These sandwiches make for a terrific lunch and the place is worth the visit.......BUT......"HOLD THE CHEESE", unless you are a cheese freak. Virtually every sandwich has it, unannounced, including the pastrami, so....if you don't want cheese in your sandwich ( I never like the taste of cheese with meat because it interferes with the flavour of the meat) tell them to HOLD THE CHEESE! This cheese thing with every meat sandwich is mostly an American tradition.

Smoked turkey sandwich. This was my favourite. The turkey seemed freshly made and was delicious, tender and very juicy. The turkey was topped with avocado, sprouts, tomato and basil aioli.

Muffaletta with house cured meats (house made mortadella, capicola and genoa salamis) topped with gardineria (pickled, shredded cauliflower, carrots, celery, onions, olives and pepperoncini all flavoured with garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves).......AND.....HOLD IT AGAIN!!!....ANOTHER CAPITAL CRIME!!! CHEESE!!....there was no mention of the cheese in the list of ingredients with the sandwich, on the menu. I would have returned the sandwich if I had been eating in the resto. I removed the cheese myself and lost some of the meat in the process. But it was a tasty sandwich.

This is the pastrami sandwich, beautifully smoky making it one of the best tasting pastramis that I have enjoyed anywhere. The pastrami was topped with sauerkraut.

Sweet and spicy brisket slider was juicy and tasty and topped with relish.

This duck pastrami slider was completely ruined by the cheese, as you can se how much there was in the photo. On the menu there was no mention of it's inclusion, which should be a capital crime. Since my order was takeout, i was stuck with this mess. It should have been called a cheese slider and no mention on the menu of the duck (which as you can see was a very minimal addition). if I had been eating in the resto i would have returned it and had them make me the slider with no cheese. 

Lunch at Cochon

Smoked pork ribs with watermelon pickle. The ribs were a bit dry and somewhat overcooked.

Wood fired eggplant with olive oil and lemon. The eggplant had a nice smoky flavour, the flesh was white inside and perfectly cooked. 

Wood fired oysters with chili garlic butter.

Chicken and andouille gumbo. This soup was delicious, having very rich tasting broth, some pulled chicken and rice all topped with diced scallions.


 Tamarind and crab soup with spaghetti squash and boiled peanuts.

 Fried boudin balls with garlic aioli.

Collard greens and grit fries. This was a remarkably good dish. Crispy fries and a really good umami imbued sauce.

Smoked wagyu beef brisket, delicious, tender and very juicy with garlicky, parmesan dusted fries.

Krispy cream bread pudding which my friend ordered. I had the smallest taste and just knew it was toooo much!! It had all of the oil of a donut and perhaps more. Tasty though.


To begin, Revolution, a resto in the French quarter, has a great wine list.....but also great prices so that even good wines are really not that accessible. That's not to say that there are no reasonably priced wines. 

The resto has a casual elegance. Most patrons are very casually dressed. The staff, friendly and formally dressed, is highly attentive and knowledgeable but there is a slight element of pretension. The cuisine is very traditional with a strong local flavour. Most everything is extremely well executed.

 Fire roasted oysters with smoked Bienville butter.

Death by gumbo: Roasted quail stuffed with andouille, oysters and file rice. The broth was remarkably rich and extremely satisfying.

Linguine and manilla clams with sliced garlic, scallions, thyme, cream and chili oil. This is a dish that would appeal to many, quite tasty but personally, I am not overly fond of cream.

Creole bouillabaise: gulf fish, shrimp, mussels, lobster and andouille, in a lovely, rich, intense tomato saffron broth. The stocks and broths here are to be admired.

 Smothered greens, including swiss chard and kale.

Petit fours as a gift of thanks for coming to the resto. I did not enjoy any of them really. I also skipped dessert because I found the selection uninspiring.... for example, too many dishes made with chocolate that was not white chocolate (which has never appealed to me). But the meal itself was very enjoyable.


Shaya is all about modern Israeli cuisine. Now, being in New Orleans, you might ask what brought me here. Shaya is considered one of the very best examples of modern middle-eastern cuisine in North America. I must say that I was not disappointed. Chef Alon Shaya was raised in Israel and sees modern Israeli food as a grand mosaic, drawing influence from North Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Turkey and Greece.

Zatar dip, provided with a pita.

Avocado, smoked whitefish, red peppercorns and sliced onions on toasted rye. One of my fave dishes.

Top: lugenitsa a Bulgarian pure of roasted red peppers, roasted eggplant, garlic and tomato. Left: baba ganouche, a a slightly smoky puree of eggplant and tahini with olive oil. Right: wood oven roasted okra with sliced re onions, tahini, duqqa and olive oil.

Matzoh ball soup with slow cooked duck, local greens and fresh herbs. The broth was very concentrated but a bit too oily. The matzoh balls were very light and flavourful.

Felafel and cabbage slaw accompanied by cucumber labneh with olive oil. The felafel was as good as one could ever have it: thin crispy skin and light textured and highly fragrant interior.

Nicely caramelized roasted cabbage with muhammara and toasted hazelnuts. A very good dish.

Milk and honey: Labneh cheese cake, mixed nut granola and burnt honey ice cream.


This resto was packed. we arrived at 5:40, and they open at 5. When we arrived there was a 1 hour wait. I thought by arriving early we would avoid the lineup. One expects that when a resto is packed like this and (as I was told) the lineup is like this right through till about 10 at night, that the resto would be fabulous. Well, as I always say, one cannot account for taste.

Fried grits with white corn, crawfish and taso. Rather underwhelming but nice flavours and textures.

Duck and andouille gumbo creole jumbalaya. This dish was seriously lacking in flavour compared to the gumbo I enjoyed at revolution.

"Austin Leslie's fried chicken" with butter beans and sauteed red cabbage. The fried chicken was tasteless, the breading was somewhat soggy but the chicken cooked adequately. Quite a disappointing experience.