Sherman's Food Adventures: March 2017

Schwartz's Deli & Rotisserie Romados

So far for this trip, certain lineups at popular restaurants have eaten up much of our time.  For instance, we wasted almost 2 hours in the ridiculous lineup at Carnegie Deli in NYC for mediocre food (yes, this wasn't lost upon me, but whatever).  Then we waited and waited at Momofuku as well (also not as good as we imagined).  Let's not forget the almost 3 hour wait at Neptune Oyster in Boston too (but that was tasty).  So we were not willing to stand in the Schwartz's lineup in Montreal.  Rather, we got take-away and went around the block to Romados and did the same.

What we ended up with was the classic Smoked Meat Sandwich that was modest in side, yet at the same time, modest in price (under $10.00).  I found the rye bread to be on point for the sandwich as it was soft, yet still stood up completely to the mustard and meat.  Since it was a leaner cut, the smoked meat was a bit chewier and drier.  As for the flavour, it was really good with many different layers including a noticeable pepperiness.  I also decided to get the Smoked Meat Poutine as well.  This was a large portion of crispy fries (with a soft potato centre) smothered in a saltish gravy with a modest amount of squeaky cheese curds.  It was topped with plenty of smoked meat that featured a lot of the bark which meat it was even chewier and more peppery.

As for Romados, I got the 1/2 Chicken Combo that was completely stuffed with a large and meaty 1/2 chicken, salad, rice and a tonne of fries.  I got the peri sauce in mild as the kiddies were sharing the food.  I thought the chicken itself was nicely marinated and completely tender including the white meat.  The sauce added a nice sweet saltiness as well as a mild spice.  The fries were also very good, being even better than the one from Schwartz's with a crispier exterior.  Lastly, I had a Portuguese Tart which sported a crispy and thin shell where the custard in the middle was on the thicker side, but still smooth and creamy with a purposefully amount of sweetness.  Even though there were 4 adults and 4 kiddies, there was still a ridiculous amount of food (2 chicken combos, 2 smoked meat sammies and the poutine).  Good value eats with the only negative being the lineups.

The Good:
- Lots of food for the money (both places)
- Chicken was tender and flavourful
- Fries were on point (both places)

The Bad:
- Stupid lineups
- The lean smoked meat was rather chewy (should've asked for medium)  

Première Moisson

Our first full day in Montreal began very early as we decided to hit up the Jean Talon Market for breakfast.  When we arrived, vendors were setting up their booths full of various goodies including a bevy of fresh fruit and vegetables.  However, we were looking for something more substantial, so we walked all the way to the back where Première Moisson was located.  Viv tried her best to order in French and it turned out quite good, but she had a hard time keeping up with the reply from the staff.  In the end, we got what we needed as we were famished.

We decided to give the basics a try first with the Butter Croissant and the Cheese Croissant.  Flaky and shattering beautifully on the outside, the croissant was definitely buttery and delicious.  Inside, the buttery goodness continued where it was moist and slightly chewy.  A solid croissant to start the day.  As for the cheese croissant, the texture was different on the inside as expected  In addition to the chewy cheddar, there was more of a crunch near where the cheese oozed out of the croissant.  It was also more aromatic and salty due to it as well.

The double-baked Almond Croissant was softer thanks to the buttery almond filling. On the outside, it was crispy and had some laminating, but overall less crisp than the butter croissant.  As mentioned, the filling was buttery, while aromatic and appealingly sweet.  It was really heavy though and it was hard to finish.  Costanza didn't care it was 8:00am in the morning and continued with the sweets with the Eclair (both regular and chocolate).  We enjoyed the fresh creamy and light filling which was purposefully sweet while the choux pastry was also light, a bit crispy on the outside and completely moist and soft on the inside.

Viv and I shared a Croque du Jour which was focaccia with egg, bacon and cheese.  This was simple yet tasty at the same time.  The sea salt on top of the soft focaccia added bursts of flavour and crunch while the egg was fluffy and the bacon was thick and meaty.  In the end, the stuff we tried at Première Moisson was pretty good and reasonably-priced.  Not bad for a chain of stores.  Service was definitely hurried though, but they were very busy.

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Reasonably-priced
- Plenty of seating

The Bad:
- Service is a bit rushed (but they are busy) 

Dunn's Famous

As much as we have a Dunn's Famous in Vancouver, we decided to visit the original one in Montreal for a couple of reasons.  First, it would be a good comparison between the 2 and second, we really needed something relatively fast and casual.  Yes, it wasn't lost upon me that it was a really touristy thing to do since THE place would've been Swartz's (that's coming up) and also Snowdon Deli.  Remember, many of the places we have visited on this extended trip had been circumstantial due to the 4 kiddies in tow.

We were able to snag some seats quickly and got down to the ordering.  Of course I had to get the Super Combo Smoked Meat in medium with fries, coleslaw and pickle.  This was pretty good with hand-sliced buttery meat that almost melted-in-my-mouth, yet still had a certain meatiness.  It was flavourful and rich without being overly salty.  I thought the fries were pretty good but could've been crispier.  Viv ended up with Dunn's Famous Poutine which was similar to the one in Vancouver except for the fries.  I actually prefer the ones from Vancouver more as they are crispier.  The gravy was nicely thick and flavourful while the cheese curds were mostly melted.  Loved the amount of smoked meat on top.  Made the entire thing rather hearty.

My son went for his standby being the Bacon Cheeseburger that sported a really large patty.  We asked for it to be prepared medium-rare, but it came out to more like medium-well.  Despite this, it was full-flavoured and moist with an appealing meaty texture.  The bun, on the other hand, was a fail for us as it was cold, dense and overly chewy.  My daughter went for the Kid's Spaghetti and it was more or less a obligatory children's menu offering.  The pasta was a bit soft while the sauce wasn't overly flavourful.  It had a spicy finish tough.

Costanza ordered a Quebecois Pizza with bacon, cherry tomatoes and red onion.  Surprisingly, it was actually decent with all things considered.  The crust was relatively thin while the toppings were plentiful.  The middle was pretty soft though while the edges were crispy.  In the end, Dunn's served its purpose where we were filled with food when we needed it most.  The smoked meat was pretty decent wile the pizza was  surprise.  However, everything else was rather mediocre.

The Good:
- Lineup is not remotely as long as Schwartz's
- Decent smoked meat
- Large portions

The Bad:
- Other food mediocre
- Seating is tight   

Restaurant La Maison Kam Fung

There we were, fresh off our Holland America cruise and arriving in Montreal.  What is the first thing we did beside checking into our hotel?  Head for the closest Dim Sum joint!  Yah, we realized it was pretty pathetic, much like my Dim Sum for dinner in Boston prior to the cruise, but we just needed some comfort food.  Hence, our expectations were pretty low (especially since we have been spoiled by Vancouver Dim Sum).  With that in mind, we settled on La Maison Kam Fung a few blocks from our hotel.

Since they still employed push carts, we got almost all of our eats all at once.  I guess the enthusiastic (maybe a bit pushy?) Dim Sum ladies ensured we would fill our entire table.  I decided to try the Ha Gau (Shrimp Dumplings) first and I wasn't a huge fan of the thick and dough dumpling skin.  Inside, the meaty shrimp were aggressively seasoned while completely overwhelmed by the bamboo shoots.  As for the Siu Mai (Pork & Shrimp Dumpling), it was pretty stiff and dense.  Therefore, the texture was more meaty than the classic tender bounciness.  It was mildly seasoned where I could taste the bits of shiitake.

On the same note, the pork filling in the Bean Curd Skin Roll was very similar being dense and somewhat dry.  I found that it tasted rather porky with only a tad of seasoning.  Since the bean curd skin itself was also dry and mostly chewy, it further exacerbated the textural issues.  Compounding it all was the lack of sauce as well.  Arriving in a very dark red hue, the Phoenix Talons (Chicken Feet) were not bad.  Although a tad overdone, where the tendons underneath were on the verge of melting, the rest of it was tender, buttery and well-seasoned (being on the sweeter side).

One dish that was mostly a fail was the Steamed Bible Tripe.  There was nothing wrong with the seasoning as it was the classic ginger and onion.  Furthermore, there was no gaminess since the tripe had been properly rinsed.  The real problem was the texture.  It had not been properly tenderized and hence, the tripe was chewy and not in an appealing manner.  At the request of Costanza's son, we got the Steamed Spareribs on Rice.  The ribs were decent being a chewy tender while adequately seasoned especially with garlic.  However, the rice was too soft bordering on mushy.  Also, it didn't benefit enough from the flavours of the ribs on top.

My son really wanted the Donut Rice Noodle Roll which was also prepared to his preference without any greens nor dried shrimp.  Although the donut was a little on the denser side while not being crispy at all, the rice noodle itself was quite good.  It was thin and soft while retaining an elasticity.  That texture continued with the Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll as well, but the addition of green onion and cilantro didn't make much sense as it totally overwhelmed the shrimp.  With that being said, the shrimp was the beneficiary of a meaty snap though.

One of the larger dishes was the Deep Fried Smelt where some of them were filled with roe.  We were fortunate enough to score some freshly fried ones and they were pretty good.  Soft and moist on the inside while crispy on the outside, they were wok-tossed in a good amount of salt, garlic and chili. We were actually finished our meal when the kids noticed we had not ordered any Spring Rolls.  Since it was a push-cart operation, we had to wait until they were available.  It was worth it as they were hot, crunchy and filled with well-seasoned and tender chicken.  Yes, no shrimp here, but good nonetheless.  Considering that this was our first Chinese meal since Boston, we thought it was serviceable with all things considered.

The Good:
- Most items available within the roaming carts
- Serviceable
- Okay pricing

The Bad:
- Tight seating arrangements
- Pushy cart ladies  

Canaletto

We decided to forgo the main dining room for our last meal aboard the MS Veendam.  Instead, we decided to check out their Italian specialty restaurant, Canaletto.  We never got a chance to try this restaurant (which is essentially a cordoned off section of the Lido Buffet) on the MS Oosterdam, but we figured that we should satisfy our curiosity despite what others have said about it on the Internet.  To get a sense of the menu, we decided to order one of everything.

Since we ordered all the appies, they all came at once for us to share.  The first item we tried was the best being the Zuppe di Pesce.  It featured a briny and sweet tomato broth that was flavourful from the seafood without a high reliance on salt.  There was a bevy of ingredients including mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops and fish.  This tasted exactly how it appeared which was a good thing.  Next best were the Veal & Sage Polpettine bathed in a light, yet flavourful tomato sauce.  It was mildly tangy while completely seasoned including the use of fresh basil.  The meatballs themselves were tender and nicely prepared.  They featured a seared exterior while being moist inside.

Another surprising appie was the Eggplant Caponata with crostinis.  I found the tender nuggets of eggplant soft, yet at the same time, not mushy nor wet.  As much as it didn’t look particularly flavourful, it was very tasty sporting a tanginess evened out by a balancing amount of sweetness (from the golden raisins) and saltiness.  The crunchy and airy crostinis were the perfect textural compliment.  The Salumi Plate was pretty standard and simple consisting of buttery and salty prosciutto and sweet capicollo.  There were some olives to compliment.  We also had the Canaletto Salad (not pictured) that featured an overly large slice of Gorgonzola.

For our entrees, we were thoroughly impressed with the Rigatoni with Italian sausage as it featured firmly al dente pasta coated with a fresh-tasting tomato sauce that was tangy to start yet exhibiting a tasty spiciness to finish.  Even the sausage was on point being tender and bouncy with a nice salty meatiness.  The addition of Kalamata olives added a wine-type of saltiness.  A popular item with the kiddies, the Spaghetti Bolognese also sported firmly al dente pasta (which was to everyone’s liking) bathed in a meaty sauce that wasn’t didn’t have too much moisture nor oiliness.  Rather, it was rich and naturally flavoured with the light tang on tomato.

Although the Parpardelle was also texturally on point, the creamy sauce didn’t deliver on the promise of citrus.  With that being said, it was a solid cream sauce where it didn’t separate and was silky and well-seasoned.  The large prawns were excellent exhibiting a meaty snap and being naturally sweet.  Our last pasta was a hit with my son as it contained short ribs.  Therefore, he almost dusted off the Potato Gnocchi all by himself.  The pasta was soft with a bit of firmness, yet could’ve been softer.  The rich meat braising sauce was full of depth and appealing saltiness.  The dollop of mascapone made it even richer.  The short rib itself was mostly tender with some chewier parts.

Moving onto the larger dishes, the Sauteed Veal Piccata with angel hair pasta was excellent.  With nicely tenderized veal slices that were beautifully seared, the meat practically needed no chewing (it wasn’t mushy though).  It was topped with a rich and silky sauce that once again had an appealing saltiness and natural meat juices.  The angel hair pasta was buttery and tender while not mushy.  Although the Bistecca was merely a steak with a porcini mushroom cream sauce (not looking all that interesting), it was solidly prepared.  Tender, well-seared and seasoned, it was nicely medium-rare.  The mushroom sauce added a meaty Earthiness.

With a crispy and nicely salted skin, the Grilled Lemon-Thyme White Sea Bass was yet another properly prepared dish.  It was moist and flaky while completely seasoned enough by the skin.  Underneath, there were tender yet firm fingerling potatoes and on the side was a tart lemon juice tossed frisee and fennel salad.  Our last dish was a vegetarian offering in the Portobello Mushroom with zucchini spaghetti.  I was shocked how much I enjoyed this as the mushroom was buttery and flavoured by balsamic and olive oil.  On top the zucchini spaghetti was not mushy at all, rather it was crunchy while still cooked through.  Loved the texture and the flavours.  By the end of the meal, we were pretty stuffed, so we skipped dessert.  We were pretty surprised with the food as it was generally well-prepared and tasty.

La Buche

So our second-to-last port-of-call before arriving in Montreal was Quebec City just up the St. Lawrence.  Well, our luck ran out on the run of good weather as we arrived to find pouring rain.  Suffice to say, the first half of our day was pretty dreary and I got completely soaked.  Fortunately, they turned off the faucet and I was able to enjoy the rest of the day where it became rather warm.  Lovely, now we had to pack away all of our rain gear...  Oh well, it was time to eat and in Old Quebec City, we ended up at La Buche.

I decided to have the Tortiere which was not traditional as a meat pie per se.  Rather, it was prepared in a modern fashion with the meat filling in a large ramekin topped by puff pastry.  Hence, it was more a stew more than a pie.  I found it meaty and rich with soft potato and tender chunks of beef.  The flavour profile was on the saltier side, but still appealing.  Viv had the Cassoulet made of sausage, ham, bacon and cheese curds coated with a béchamel sauce topped with spinach and 2 sunny side eggs.  I found this super rich and meaty despite not looking like a lot.  There was an overload of legit cheese curds which made it even heavier.

Elaine and my son both had the Bacon Poutine that featured fresh cut fries that were potatoey with only a light crispiness.  The gravy was really tasty with a purposeful amount of saltiness accented by the sweetness of cooked down onions.  Again, there was an overload of legit squeaky cheese curds.  The literal cherry on top was the thick sliced and meaty bacon.  Costanza had the Sugar Shack Combo that featured beans, crepe, hashbrowns, tortiere nugget, croquette and bacon.  This was a lot of food where the croquette really stood out being crunchy with a tasty meat centre while the bacon was once again very good.  The crepe was tender and sweet.

My daughter went for the children’s Shepherd’s Pie that sported smooth mashed potatoes topped with sweet corn niblets and shredded beef.  Despite the unappealing visuals, this was probably one of the tastiest items on the table.  It was flavourful from the salty beef and sweet corn.  In the end, we weren't sure if this was truly representative of Quebec cuisine as this was the only place we visited while in Quebec City.  Whatever the case, it did the job and several dishes were tasty.

The Good:
- Loved the rustic decor
- Decent eats
- Good service

The Bad:
- A bit pricey
- Salty

The Lost Anchor

To be honest, I’ve never read Anne of Green Gables nor have I ever been motivated to do so.  I do realize it is a big part of Canadiana and something that is known around the world.  Maybe I should show more pride?  At the very least, we were committed in visiting the National Historic Site while we were in PEI.  So we did the 45 minute drive out there to look at the House as well as the grounds.  Pretty neat.  Somehow it reminded me of the PNE show home, but from 1908.  After that, we were pretty hungry, so we went to the nearest spot being The Lost Anchor.

We let the 2 oldest boys sit at a table by themselves which also meant that they could order whatever they wanted.  My son decided to start with the Pork Ribs with aioli.  These were rather saucy as well as being meaty and tender (and a bit greasy).  That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as it was appealing in texture and nicely sweet and savoury.  The dip was creamy, but not as flavourful as it looked.  For his main, he went for the Anchor Burger which featured a well-seared patty that was lean and dry.  It was definitely meaty, but not as tender as we would’ve liked to see.  The side of fries were good though being lightly crispy while very potatoey.

For myself, I went for another Lobster Roll which turned out to be a sandwich.  It featured mostly shredded lobster meat mixed with mayo and celery.  This was okay, but without large chunks of lobster, the texture was almost like crab (except just a bit chewier).  Flavourwise, I didn’t get big hits of lobster, but it was there, while there was a vanilla type finish.  I thought the scallion bun was not a good match as it was too robust.  Elaine had the Bully Forbes Fish and Chips that featured 2 pieces of flaky haddock coated in a crispy and light batter.  Again, the fries were excellent being naturally textured while still being a fry (as in not mushy).

Viv had the Deck Hand Fish Tacos which featured smaller pieces of fried fish which were predictably even more crunchy.  It was texturally on point and went well with the soft tortilla.  There was an interesting twist with a lime sour cream combined with fresh tomatoes and lettuce.  Okay, now don't worry, we also had the streamed Fresh PEI Mussels which were fresh and nicely briny.  They were buttery and sweet featuring only their natural juices (with butter on the side). Okay, for a random restaurant close to a tourist attraction, The Lost Anchor did its job for a reasonable price.  No, it wasn't anything life-changing, but we weren't expecting that either.

The Good:
- Comfy digs
- Friendly service
- Reasonably-priced

The Bad:
- Food is hit and miss