Sunday, January 28, 2007

Al Porto Ristorante (January 2007)

[This review is by alyn. She is EXCELLENT!]

Reviewer: alyn

If I were to describe the food experience in this restaurant, I would say, "Very, very good!" So if you're considering a place to try out, then you should definitely put this place on your list!! I've tried all the food we ordered and I was very satisfied with each one of them! $25 is well-worth it!

Carpaccio di Manzo
Brandy mustard and shaved Grana Padano
-- or --
Insalata Caprese
Bocconcini & organic Roma tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil & balsamic reduction
-- or --
Tuscan Parfait
citrus red currant jelly & baby gherkins

I had the insalata caprese -- thinly-sliced tomatoes with the bocconcini on top. The balsamic was elemental in providing a nice contrast to the tomatoes -- it released the natural sweetness of the fruit. I loved that this dish was very simple yet refreshing.

Grace had the carpaccio. We were at-a-loss with the Italian terms in the menu and discovered that this was actually thinly-sliced beef over shavings of Grana Padano. I was reminded of beef sashimi but I'm not certain if the beef in the carpaccio was also raw. Regardless, I still liked it.

Most of our friends had the Tuscan Parfait or liver pate with a small serving of greens on the side. Although I don't really eat liver (don't really like internal organs), the small piece I had was tasty. It wasn't gamey, and not bad at all. I can have another piece of this, given the chance.

Pollo Cacciatore
Free-range chicken upon buttered fettucine
-- or --
Tournedos of Beef w/ wild mushroom demi-glace
-- or --
Frutti di Mare alla Casalinga
prawns, scallops, wild salmon & halibut in a Marsala sauce
-- or --
Penne with Spicy Sauce (?)
(not on the Dine-Out Vancouver menu on the web)

The menu on the web only provides three choices for the entree, but the restaurant actually gives its diners four choices. The parties at our table either had the fruitti di mare or the beef. I took a peek at the other tables and most of them also had the same things. Guess they also wanted "bang for their bucks." =)

I LOVE MY FRUITTI DI MARE!!! It was fantabulous!!!!

No scrimping because it's dine-out week at all!!!! The dish came with two prawns (not shrimp!!!), two humongous scallops, cubes of halibut and salmon, on a bed of vegetables -- green beans, carrots, brocolli, and sliced red pepper -- with a side of scalloped potatoes. Just describing it gives you an idea how huge the serving is! I loved the prawns -- very firm (so they're fresh!), not overdone, not "overdressed" so that one could actually relish the real taste of the prawns. I also appreciated the fact that we had a selection of vegetables on our plate. Not only did this give the dish more colour, it also gave the diners more variety. The scallops were also a mouthful -- had to slice them because they were big, even bigger than the loonie and about 3/4" thick.

As a whole, I liked that this dish was able to preserve the true tastes of seafood. The sauce used was not strong so as to overpower the innate sweetness of the ingredients.

Grace had the beef and it was very juicy. A picture says a thousand words and a clean plate says it all!

Zuppa Inglese fruit panetone pudding with Creme Anglaise
-- or --
Chocolate Ganache Torte w/ strawberry coulis
-- or --
Tiramisu (not seen in the Dine-Out Vancouver menu on the web)

I had the pudding because (1) I figured I would be too full to have the torte, (2) I only had panetone when they came in a box so I wanted to find out the difference if I ordered from a restaurant (hopefully, they didn't take it out of a box..)

(1) reason -- Not true. One can never be too full to have chocolate, esp THIS torte. The torte had a melt-in-your-mouth consistency and was heavenly! I've never had torte like this.. I was taking big swipes out of Grace's plate and someone even offered me half of their portion (Bless her, and I didn't say, "No.") Thank goodness I don't eat this everyday. Otherwise, I'll be as big as a barge..

(2) panetone -- Not at all "airy" like the boxed panetone I had before.. It was dense but not as dense as fruit cakes go.. If I didn't have the torte, I would really like this but the torte "ruined" it for me..

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Elixir (January 27, 2007)

Two reviewers: ts and cw

They also had a "Dine In" menu for $49, but it didn't seem that appealing. I don't remember what the items were.

This was the $35 menu.

Photos (courtesy of cw):

Waldorf Salade “Moderne”
Belgian Endive with Candied Walnuts, Pears and Blue Cheese Dressing
-- or --
Chestnut, Celeriac and Apple Veloute with Truffle Oil

I had the veloute (soup). It was all right. Earthy and such. I don't know if I tasted the celeriac; it was more chestnut-y.

I had the soup too. Didn't like it very much as it was a bit too sweet for my taste. The truffle oil was a little much for me too.

Petit Hen “Coq au Vin” with Sauce Grand Mere
-- or --
Pan Seared Trout with Creamed Leeks, Tomato Jam, Escargot Ravioli and Parsley Sauce
-- or --
Bacon Wrapped Petit Tenderloin with Pomme Pont Neuf, Peppercorn Sauce and Bearnaise

I had the fish dish.

The trout itself was nicely done: crispy skin & well-seasoned. The escargot ravioli was just "OK". The filling was OK, but the whole ravioli seemed a little dried out (dried out!). I don't recall the parsley sauce, but the creamed leeks were very good! It was very good, but a little rich, so eating it with a little bit of the tomato "jam" was a good combination. The tomato "jam" by itself was just OK: it seemed to lack flavor (and no, it wasn't sweet). I thought it would be more acidic and sweeter (I guess, more of a chutney), but that wasn't the case.

The petit tenderloin was good and was accurately named... very petit. Nonetheless it was good... well, probably because it was wrapped in bacon. The presentation of the dish however, didn't look that great. For some reason the fries reminded me of the Inukshuk for the 2010 Olympics. Didn't each much of my "fry logs" as I don't usually like fries anyway. I'd rather they have paired the tenderloin with some mashed potatoes instead.

Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding with Tahitian Vanilla-Maple Syrup Ice Cream
-- or --
Amaretto Creme Bruleewith Almond Glass Biscuit

Had the toffee pudding. What's with the proliferation of "toffee puddings"?

Anyway, this was nice, actually. The caramel sauce had a "burnt" caramel flavor which was a nice accent to the sweetness of the dessert. The ice cream was nice too.

Had the creme brulee. Usually not much of a sweets/dessert fan... but i actually liked this, even though it was a little rich. I finished it off. I liked the almond glass biscuit too. Maybe they should have put two of those for this dessert.

Overall: I don't think I'll be returning to this restaurant. For the price point of the food, it's not that worth it. It wasn't that special. I'd prefer one of the regular chains anyday. Last year, I remember going to Raincity Grill and the food there was absolutely divine for the same price.

The food here at Elixir was just a little too heavy for me and was swiftly hurled into the porcelain upon returning home. What a waste of $45!!!!!

All in all, this was not bad. I don't think I would go back anytime soon, though. If you look at the regular menu, it seems to be pricey for the type of food it is. It's supposed to be a bistro* or brasserie** (def'ns below). It was "not bad", but not especially good. For the prices they have, mishaps of any kind (see trout) can't be forgiven too quickly.

I've just been wanting to go here because the Opus Hotel is supposed to be nice; so we walked through the lobby, hehe.

A type of small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in an unpretentious setting, especially in Paris, France. A bistro may not offer professional service or printed menus, and it will usually specialize in simple classic dishes such as steak au poivre, French onion soup, and coq au vin.

An informal French café that serves beer, wine and simple, hearty food.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

LK Dining Lounge (January 2007)

Two reviewers: ts and alyn
(woohoo! alyn!!)

It sounds so Chinese, "LK", but apparently, they're the initials of the owner's grandmothers, Lily & Kate. Alyn asked the server at the end of the meal. teehee.

As TS pointed out, “LK” seems so Chinese-y. Because I didn’t want this to be another one of those “unanswered questions” that would forever go down our LA annals, I really had to ask the server what the initials stood for. Turns out “LK” stands for “Lily Kate’s,” the names of the owner’s grandmothers. Would that have led the owner in a quandary coming up with the right name for her restaurant years ago? Hmm, “Lily Kate’s Lounge” doesn’t seem so elegant/classy (sounds like one of those mom-and-pop diners) as to warrant a second glance from the bon vivants. TS suggested maybe Kate Lily’s would be better, but then KL didn’t go down as “smooth” as LK. We progressed to a discussion about Lilydale’s chicken (Lilykate’s … Lilydale’s…Lilykate’s.. get it?)

However, we ARE digressing and given the factors, personally LK Lounge seems to be the better choice.

We were served tortilla chips and tomato salsa at the beginning of the meal. There was too little salsa, I felt, and for some strange reason, it had only tomatoes! Perhaps there were other ingredients, but whoever spooned the salsa into the little ramekin didn't take care to include them. It needed a tad more salt & acid also.

Ceviche cilantro-lime dressed tuna, tomato, avocado, tortilla cone
Croqueta crab-plantain fritter, red pepper criolla emulsion
Pincho chipotle-glazed chicken skewer, avocado-lime aji verde

Tried the ceviche: it was just "OK" for me. The tuna was a bit mushy; probably in the acid too long.

Croqueta. It was "OK" too. The crab flavor was a bit too subtle. Grace & I couldn't figure out where the plantain was, but it turned out to be in the form of very tiny cubes inside the fritter. They were still quite firm, which leaves me to wonder if they actually needed more cooking time. The only strong "flavor" was from the "batter". Although, to its credit, it was very pillowy and nice.

Pincho. I actually liked this best of all 3. It was fragrant and the chicken was tender. Without reading the description, I would've been very satisfied. However, this was supposed to be chipotle-glazed; I don't think I tasted much chipotle there. The dip was nice, though. Very lime-y!

All 3 were "OK", with the chicken being the best, in my taste.

I had the ceviche. I haven’t had this before so have no point of comparison. The taste reminded me of negitoro roll (of course it’s tuna!). Eaten alone, it was ok. I didn’t taste the cilantro-lime in the tuna but maybe they were only supposed to kill any “fishy” smell, or perhaps that was how it’s supposed to be. The appy came in a flute of tortilla and eaten together, you get the crunch and that hint of salt.

Tasted the croqueta from Grace’s plate – I preferred my ceviche better. Probably because I don’t like batter-coated food.

Had some pincho from Glennys’ plate – Loved it! The chicken was nicely done and the dipping sauce of avocado-lime was a nice complement to the chicken!

Crisp Serrano-Wrapped Cod
blue corn polenta, glazed baby carrots, lemon-chile butter
Orange-Coriander Roasted Duck
chipotle-yam puree, spiced green beans
Risotto Legumbre
portobello mushroom, butternut squash, shaved manchego, fresh herbs, pumpkin seed oil

Nobody had the risotto because of that "bang-buck" problem.

Tasted the cod. All the different components of the dish tasted good. Only had a "forkful" of the lemon-chile butter, so i can't recall whether it was very lemon-y or chile-y. It was definitely buttery. The blue corn polenta wasn't blue! It was just regular polenta with some blue specks in it. Although, that polenta was very good: flavorful, with a nice crust balancing the soft texture within.

I had the cod. I wasn’t dissatisfied but wasn’t really impressed with it either. It was crisp wrapped in Serrano ham but I wanted something perkier. However, I guess I shouldn’t really expect much since it did say it came with lemon butter sauce. That should’ve clued me in – nothing unpredicatable with butter sauce. I did like the polenta though. It was crispy, firm, tasted good. Only thing was it wasn’t blue as indicated in the menu!!! Sure there were dark specks in the polenta but I didn’t think (still don’t think) we got the real deal! Is it because we are on Dine-Out prices and this entrée on it’s own costs around $25~26 (did I remember right?)? ;)

Glennys’ duck was GOOD!!!! I loved it – a far-cry from the barbeque duck of Chinese restaurants! It was tasty, juicy, and tender. The skin was crispy too. I’m not really a proponent of duck because my past experiences with this fowl has been foul (hee hee) – too tough, too salty, not-much meat, too fatty. However if they made duck this way, I would be a quick convert. How good? Glennys’ quote on the dish: I wish we had some bread so we can soak up the sauce…

I had the duck. Medium rare, nicely done! The duck was very tender, the skin was nicely crisped, the seasoning was spot-on, the jus was flavorful. It was very nice!! Of course, I like green beans, so that's good. I even liked the yam. Usually I don't like yam or sweet potatoes because they tend to be too sweet for me, but this was good.

To nitpick, after re-reading the description, I'm not sure how orange-y or coriander-y the duck was. Ditto for the chipotle in the yams. I guess I like more aggressive -- or, as LK themselves put it, "BOLD" -- flavors.

But, this was still very good and satisfying.

Crema Quemada de Coco
coconut crème brulee, pineapple confit, mango coulis
Torta de Chocolate
oaxacan chocolate tart, vanilla gelato, raspberry coulis
Helado Tropical trio of homemade gelato

Of course I wouldn't get the "helado"! Teehee.

The chocolate tart was nice enough. Tasted like chocolate! =) The vanila gelato was so-so; it was a tad too airy, it seemed. I don't know what made the tart Oaxacan; not sure if there was supposed to be some sort of flavor from Oaxaca or if they just meant that the chocolate was from Oaxaca.

The crème brulee was not bad. At first I thought it was a bit “hard,” but thanks to TS who instructed me to “crack” the candy crust on the top first, I was able to savour the crème.

The gelato was ok – trio of mango, coconut, and pineapple gelato on individual ramekins.

Chocolate tart – The slice was really small – it was half the portion you get when you order a serving of pie from any restaurants. But after eating it, I think the serving was just right. The chocolate was too rich and a big slice would’ve been too much. I don’t think the vanilla gelato was the perfect pairing for this. I would’ve preferred having a lemon gelato with the chocolate. That would’ve given this dessert the proper contrast. I want more of the raspberry coulis too!

The menu outside the restaurant boasted of “bold” flavours. Browsing through their regular menu, I think this could very well be more than a claim. It would have been nice if their Dine-Out menu showcased some of these flavours, though. As it was, I think the selection we had last night was pretty tame, too safe. For me, total food experience means an overload of the senses – not just the taste, but also the visuals, the smell. The lounge was so dim that I couldn’t appreciate the colours and any contrasts they would’ve provided in the food. I had to strain my old eyes to read the menu because we only had a small votive on our table. The chairs were pretty small too – couldn’t help sitting with my legs tightly closed. Otherwise, you get those “overflow” from the chairs.. (Heehee) Other than these, service was great! Wouldn’t mind going back to try their regular menu..

All in all, this was a pretty "successful" meal. I took marks off because the flavors advertised on the menu (orange, coriander, chipotle, etc) weren't really pronounced (if there at all) and for the not-quite-there appys. Otherwise, the actual flavors of the products themselves spoke out and the dishes were executed or cooked nicely enough. So, rating is a solid 7/10.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Figmint (January 2007)

Three reviewers: ts, csc and js

1st course
Ballontine of Duck Confit and White Beans & Green Bean Salad with Pumpkinseed Dressing.
-- or --
Mixed Greens with Figs, Goat Cheese, Reduced Balasmic and Lemon Dressing.
-- or --
Grilled Squid with Endive and Tomato Salad and Lobster Dressing

The squid dish was nice. The squid was tender (I actually don’t mind it if it were chewier coz I don’t mind chewing – more on this later). The endives, mint (or whatever leaves those were), sauce on this thing… normally, I would NOT eat by itself, but combined together (yes, all TOGETHER) with the squid… very nice. Gave me a whole range of flavor that you have to somewhat “figure out” (ie, that was the endives, that was bitter, etc etc).

I also had the squid. It was really good! The endive was fairly bitter. The lobster dressing was a "foam" type sauce; tasted like a lighter lobster bisque. The squid was very tender, and you could really taste the "grill" aroma/flavor. The tentacles were perfectly deep-fried. That was crispy, the endive as well, while the rest of the squid was tender and the lobster dressing was a little rich. COMBINED all together -- 10/10? This dish went very quickly.

Hearing from the two of them how great the squid is, I am disappointed with my ballotine of duck confit. For some reason, [ts] kept "directing" me to have the duck!

"You're getting the duck, right?"
"So, you have the duck, right?"

I was persuaded to have the duck. This dish was merely okay -- that is, I wouldn't recommend it, but it wasn't that bad either. The white beans and the confit were mashed together in one disk, while the green beans and the pumpkin seeds were just on the plate. It was a good presentation.

My quibble is with the duck. Mashing it together with the beans or shaping it that way turned the duck kind of mushy as well as the beans. In general, I don't like my food to be overworked. I mean, I can appreciate the transformative aspects of it -- oh wow, it was a duck now it's a disk -- but really, let the duck be. I didn't really eat the pumpkin seeds and I didn't really taste the pumpkin seeds in the dressing, whatever little of it is on the plate. (It was just a very thin line on the plate). It was more mustard-y to me than pumpkin-seedy. So I didn't really enjoy this dish as much. I mean, I can appreciate that it's a well-executed dish, but in terms of concept, I guess I just don't get it.

About me telling JS to get the duck: that was only because she kept saying she was going to get the "Leaves." Of course, the "leaves" wouldn't be "sulit" at all! Not really a "bang for your buck", them leaves.

2nd course
Saffron Braised Veal Cheeks with Wild Mushroom Golden Beet Puree and Pine Nut Butter.
-- or --
Crisp Rainbow Trout with Saffron Crushed Potatoes and Salsa Verde.
-- or --
Artichoke and Mascarpone Risotto with Lemon Oil.

Ok, first off: I don’t like veal. Give me chewy steak anytime. But then it’s either that, the trout or the artichoke risotto… I didn’t feel like trout and I would never order vegetarian anything coz …there’s nothing to chew! Hahah…

So the veal… first bite, kinda sweet… and if you like your meats soft, then this one is for you. It does melt in your mouth…but really, I don’t like that. The taste was ok… nice, but then there’s nothing to contrast the texture and the “sweetness”. The vegetables were all chopped up… so again, nothing to chew. If perhaps that have given us the string beans in LONG form, or something to chew on for contrast, then there might be something better to say about this veal.

I had the saffron-braised veal cheeks as well. I think I would have to agree with CSC and found the dish too one-dimensional. It was veal, too much veal.

Granted, choosing the veal, I was kind of swayed by economic considerations (which dish would give me more bang for my buck), so it's a tad ironic that I would complain that there was TOO MUCH VEAL. It was ALL VEAL. I expected some mushrooms in it as the description said there were mushrooms, but I think somewhere along the way, it got pureed. There were supposed to be golden beets and again somewhere along the way it also got pureed. (See my comments about food being overworked.) The description also said there was pine nut butter but I didn't see it or didn't really taste it. All I could taste was the veal, all veal all the time.

Again, that being said, this was a well-executed dish. That's the thing: this restaurant I would probably return to because they do care about the food and they do know what they're doing. I guess I just didn't like this veal concept but it was a perfectly-executed dish. The veal really was melt in your mouth and had excellent flavour, like it's not quite beefy but beefy. On the verge of beefy.

Someone should've gotten the risotto just to see how it is. It sounds like it would be good: artichoke, mascarpone, lemon oil. But, again, see, no "bang." =)

Tasted the trout: it was really crispy and it was seasoned well. Just very nice. I didn't get to taste the accompaniments; don't know what those sauces were that they had. As for the saffron potatoes, they were all right. I'm not *too* big a fan of saffron.

The veal. Ah, yes, the veal. That dish really was ALL VEAL, ALL THE TIME. It reminded me of pork hock in that it had that "thick", really rich taste. It was good and very tender, but you really would get tired of it if you don't have something else to taste!

The golden beet puree was actually very nice, but there was too little of it. (And as per others' point, it, too, was soft, texture-wise.) I would've liked more of the haricots verts, and not cut up into such small pieces. I couldn't really taste the mushrooms in the dish; ditto for the pine nut butter. I'm assuming they were part of the sauce.

BTW, I ate Diner#4's ½ trout… and YUMMY. Don’t know if it’s because I wasn’t quite into my veal, but the skin of the trout was crispy and nice texture and flavor. So maybe I should’ve had the trout instead.

Fig Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream and Crystallized Mint.
-- or --
Pumpkin Creme Brulee with Gingerbread Sable

Toffee pudding: Sweet, nice… but I couldn’t finish it just because I ate Diner#4's main course. Hahah.

I liked the toffee pudding although again it was probably too much for me. That is, it was too heavy for me, too sticky. Probably because Diner#4 took my ice cream which would have acted as a good foil to it! LOL

Tasted the toffee pudding: very nice.

I had the brulee. It had a nice flavor. My only complaint would be the "cheating" re the sugar crust. Instead of caramelizing sugar on top of the brulee, forming a crust, they pre-made the "sugar crust" separately, and just put on a few pieces on top of the brulee. The result, instead of a delicate wafer-like crust of caramelized sugar on top, there were these THICK, hard-to-crack GLASS-like sugar pieces. I had to WHACK them hard and WHACK them many times to get them into smaller pieces and easier to eat. Even then, they were still too thick and sharp(!) and thus, hard to eat.

But, I would return to Figmint. It was too bad they didn't have their a la carte menu available during Dine Out (then Diner#4 could've gotten something else; like a steak or some such thing). I've seen their regular menu and would want to try several of the items there. Rating for the meal, I guess about 8/10.

Rating: about an 8. This is a restaurant that I would return to and I would like to try their other dishes. Hopefully I hit on one that's just right for me. It was good: I didn't feel they were cutting corners simply because it's DINE OUT -- seemed like the chef cares what comes out of his kitchen. Food of integrity: that I like and can't complain about that.

Oh, and as we were leaving, I saw right beside me on my chair, the tentacles from the squid appetizer!!! And TS was saying, is that why I didn’t even acknowledge her comment re: how nice the tentacles were coz they were crunchy and yummy… but I didn’t hear her and therefore did not go looking for my tentacles… which I guess fell off the plate as I took up my napkin. So, this one, the appetizer was nice, but the rest were… well…. Not super great.

LinkWithin Related Stories Widget for Blogs