Category: Reviews


This time we had to try an Italian place that we had been ”warned” about: we had heard things such as ”oh, that is such an expensive place” and ”oh, it is not worth the price that it is…” – and what did we do?  We couldn’t refrain from trying it out and find out the veracity of those critiques all by ourselves! We are talking about IL BOCCALINI on De L’Èglise, in Ville Saint-Laurent. We simply had to test it ourselves…

And, you know what? We shouldn’t have bothered.

With our Portuguese mindset, we were convinced BOCCALINI refered to the mouth: but if it were a Portuguese joint, it would translate as Os Bocais – not As Bocas!  (Podia ter sido pior: podia ter sido Boçal!) Literally: boccalini would be all about… hoses then?  Say it isn’t so, Italianos…! (Admittedly, it cannot be: it must be referring to the jars in which spices are contained – something like that!)

Thus, we half-expected something akin to DANS LA BOUCHE (another resto place we’ll focus on soon enough here…!) or a cross between that and a fine ristorante…!

IL BOCCALINI‘s owner (Fabio) and original Maitre D (and co-owner; Aldo) are somewhat legendary now: the restaurant does double as a conference site for its loyal clientele and catering service too – since circa 1988, no less.

On their menu: pasta (of course) pizza (of course) and… VEAL.

This resto is most definitely some sort of cosa nostra indeed – not in the organized Sicilian complete-with Omertà sense, but in the sense that it is a family-business; with all its charms and pratfalls.  It was a tad alarming to learn that the chef was the Papa – not even the Mama…  Sort of reminded me of my uncle Giuseppe…!  But we caught a glimpse of him heading out of the kitchen to greet a quatuor of regular customers from his age group, and he seemed alert and in a good disposition on that night – so all fears of finding things over or undercooked dissipated immediately.  Even better, we could stay in the restaurant at ease, too, as we no longer expected the kitchen to burn down incessantly. The staff didn’t seem predominantly Italiano though; which seemed a tad odd.  Every single one of them could wish you buon appetito at a drop of a hat though…

When the entrée arrived, we saw the Italiano stratagem very clearly for all it’s worth: the so-called bowl for the soup is as flat as it can be, so one gets less soup! The antipasto was an ordeal to go through; only nice surprise was the slices of melon hiding underneath – nice touch!  One could swear that they actually count the capers disposed in the rectangular plate… When one is done with such an entrée, the bread on the table is so very appreciated.

The main dish was sort of the same deal: we had been enough good sports to trust what the waiter had told us, and so we went all fishy there (well, it was a Friday evening!) with the results being quite fishy indeed…  The catch of the day seemed well-cooked and just fine: but why a side-dish of spinach resting on top of two measly slices of potatoes?  Me, I had the misfortune of falling for the sound of ”stuffed calamari with pasta and parmagiani” – it sounds good, does it not?  Well, I am still unable to identify the nature of the two infinitesimal foreign objects found in my first piece of stuffed calmar; although it looked like two very short toothpicks placed there in order to aid the stuffing process… The waiter could have warned us of their possible presence!  Let’s just say that it is a good thing I do not simply bite into my food without care…!   I took out these two thingies and left them on the little plate for inquiry, but the busboy took away the incriminating evidence before I had a chance to broach the subject with waiter-man there; or to even snap a picture!  Too bad…

Come to think of it, I was equally unsure about the nature of the very stuffing there: it tasted like something form the sea, but it was fishy for other reasons, too – alas.  And the pasta accompanying it wasn’t anything to write home about either – or even blog about, here, really…

Coffee, tea and desserts were somewhat better: but how hard is it to make coffee or tea, really?  An Italian place has to be apt to make the best cappuccinos or espressos anyway – it’s a pre-requisite!  We’ll give to Caesare what rightfully goes to Caesare though: that Tiramisu was something else! In fact, it was exceptional, due to the fact that it was different, too: it was all cake, all the way to its base, which is normally some slightly crispy fixture that holds the entire thing together! For this, we must say… Bravo… Bravissimo – for putting back the *all-cake* texture into the Tiramisu (when it was really never there) … !

If only the entire dinner had been so skillfully handled…!

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Happy B&G… in BG! You gotta love it!
Truth be told, there is at least one more Happy Bar & Grill venue in existence in Europe – no, we haven’t been there, not that one – in Spain, of all possible places… Why aren’t there any in England, Ireland, Portugal, Greece, France, Italia…? Probably because the market isn’t so sure there…? But it is so in Bulgaria, where it was founded in fact (Happy being the brainchild of a local business entrepreneur – da!)  and it is firmly established there with eight main restaurants as well as ”roadside venues” across their land, overall.

For our part, we visited the one located in the capital itself, Sofia, at 4, Sveta Nedelia Sqr.

Not much else to say about it, other than what follows: it truly is that piece of the Balkans’ answer to the USA’s Friday’s and Canada’s Nickel’s…! Read on…!

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They say it isn’t fair to compare – but after all the bistros in Paris, one simply has to measure them up against those places in Eastern Europe; places like this one, in the capital of Bulgaria (a mere two-hour flight away!) And, to be honest, I prefer this: a sort of TGI Friday’s or Nickels of the Balkans! What’s NOT to love about it? Starting with the menus – menus you can actually read (!) and each and every dish is even pictured, too, so that every foreigner and visitor can have an extremely accurate idea of what he or she is ordering! Great salads – which is a must in Bulgaria, of course! Those trademarked ”Happy Potatoes” are something else: try them! The beer is great – Tuborg and company are all there, as well it should be – and the decor is just what you need to feel right at home and comfortable when gathering up with your friends. We didn’t have dessert (no room for it, that time!) but from the looks of it, we will – next time! Now, as for the service, though provided by smiling waitresses in alluring outfits, was only okay – neither too fast nor too slow. I would say that you do get your levs’ worth going there – but it isn’t extremely healthy food, evidently!

I’ll still go there again, whenever I am back in Bulgaria…!

Le St-André – à Paris! Au coeur du quartier latin, ce charmant petit bistro convivial et chaleureux charmera tout le monde; grands et moyennement grands!  

Now, for this particular review, we will post do as we did for reviews 2.0 and 3.0 – post here first, proofread, and then post it on TripAdvisor as well!  Hence, perhaps this is the main frame for these reviews and we’re truly backing them up on TripAdvisor!  That will be the preferred method of this wordy pundit blogger from this moment onward anyway!

As an added feature, we had the time, for this one (et nous avons eu la présence d’esprit, aussi) to make a little video of the place – but only as we left and looked back at it…!  You will excuse us for wanting to enjoy our break, our meal, our drinks… Without any camera-handling of any kind… hmm?  The video is on YouTube and here it is, too:

And so, without further ado, the proper review…!

After a few hours of exploring Paris and its many attractions, what can be better than finding a nice little place where you can satiate that worked-up appetite with quality food at a satisfying, reasonable price? We found that place immediately at… le Saint-André! The waiter was actually outside -for whatever reason- and invited us in to check out their menu. Some will say it is another example of hawker-at-work, brow beating the cattle into their snack shacks… Me, I’ll just say… What proactive ingenuity! And so we did and found the place cozy, above all; for, as far as the menu went, it was pretty much the exact same thing as we’d seen everywhere else. There definitely is such a thing as some kind of consensus, a standardization of the menus in Paris: for each and every ”resto” or ”bistro” offers the same basic things and virtually all of them have their lunch hour special for anything between 11-to-15 euros, all-inclusive: a little entrée or a dessert, the main dish and a drink. Now, to get back to our main attraction today here, le St.-André is clearly labeled as a ”brasserie” first and foremost – just one look at it and you will notice that the bar is well-garnished and stacked with everything you may desire. But since we were there around lunchtime, and not in the evening, all we had was beer – and coffee! The food was served hot and within a reasonable delay. Whenever we needed anything else, there was someone available to get it for us – eventually! I cannot speak for the rest of our party, but *me* I was willing to go back there in the evening, on some other day, and to make exclusive use of the bar this time! It would have been really easy to find our way back there, seeing as it is practically right in front of the St. Michel metropolitain station! But we ran out of time in our short stay in Paris – and couldn’t return there, not even for a digestif. It’ll be for the next time we drop by ”la Ville-Lumière” then…!

The best from the North End of fabled Boston, Massachusetts!

When in Boston, make sure that you stop by La Galleria 33: whether you do it for lunch, brunch or dinner, you will be delighted!  We know we were…!  😉

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This photo of La Galleria 33 is courtesy of TripAdvisor – or one of its reviewers, really!

The full review is to be found there – of course – on TripAdvisor!

Still pending, as it is, at posting time here!

UPDATE: Oops – no, my bad – it got approved with flying colors and here it is in its entirety right now!

What a palatable delight and what an exquisite evening we spent at La Galleria 33, the last time we were in Boston! We were delighted to get a good table just by walking in and being greeted on the spot by Lisa, whom we’d gotten a glimpse of on that famous HDTV show there… Pressed by time and mainly preoccupied with the simple task of just enjoying the city of Boston, despite the cold, we elected to go to La Galleria 33 pretty much on the last minute: and we did not regret it one iota! Great soothing food, piping hot off the stove and/or freshly taken out of the oven, with a Samuel Adams on the side – what more can one ask for? The veal paradiso is aptly named, I can guarantee you! The bruschetta was satisfying too. And I can vouch for the great sense of humour and witty repartee that can be exchanged between you and the staff: I would have expected nothing less from Bostonians true and true!

I applaud the slight changes that have improved this establishment even more since their appearance on that certain TV show: but I will respectfully disagree with Gordon Ramsay when he stated that this fine place was becoming a ”restaurant of convenience” and nothing else beyond that. What he dubs convenience I call comfort – and La Galleria 33 is one of those fine comforting places where you will find comfort, traditional food at very reasonable prices. Comparing the menu now from what I’d seen in the past, I’d say they never lost their groove – they just amped it up an extra notch, perhaps due to Ramsay’s ”in your face” style, most probably…? If it is to be attributed to him, then surely the addition of brunch to La Galleria 33’s offerings certainly can be declared laudable indeed and, for that, we must be extremely thankful then!

Nota Bene: Yes, folks; we will use the space here to palliate to a problem encountered on another site (that is unworthy of even being mentioned by name! No; not TripAdvisor!) – thus, we will back-up all of our restaurant reviews (and even add to them) here!  WordPress is the ideal home for that!

Sempre Por O Melhor!
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TROPICANA – CUBA!

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Truth be told, when we signed on for a tour of La Habana, this was part of the package and so, whether we wanted to end up there or not, we would.  The overall price included a drink, a bottle of RUM per table and a coke per person! Plus each gent was offered a complimentary cigar at the entrance – I have kept mine as a sentimental keepsake and do not plan on smoking it anytime soon!

Now for the show itself: as the stage is so huge, you can easily be overwhelmed by it all (our friend RON can help in that too, admittedly) as there are girls everywhere, on three levels, the music is very nearly deafening and the spectacle dazzling to say the least. Even if it wasn’t so complicated (and somewhat costly) to take pictures of the show, it proves to be pointless as you cannot possibly do it justice and capture the entire magnitude of it on any given shot.  We didn’t even try, in fact, as our package promised us a DVD of the entire show we were going to see and even on it the full splendour of that evening is not as evident as it should be.  Truly, you have TO BE THERE in order to truly appreciate this and enjoy it at its fullest!

One word of advice though: when going to the washroom, have a peso or five handy, for tipping…!

Many thanks to our guide to the show and the city; Joel!

(No, that’s not him, below…)

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Tropicana Club – All Rights Reserved

Image   Located at the heart of everything -which is ever so interesting come summertime and Festival season- this trendy and classy place will please anyone who wants to dine in style; or simply take a much-deserved pause amidst the urban chaos that Montreal can muster any day of the week – and a hundred-fold during Festival season, to tell the truth! 

This gem of a Café is located on Peel street, truly close to everything therefore, and is but the cornerstone of the conquista (as I was joking with the staff) initiated 17 years ago already – during the 300th anniversary of the city they set up shop in. Since then, the Café Vasco Da Gama and the F Bar -among other ventures- have joined the ranks of the Ferreira brand which continues to grow and prosper, bringing the flavors and refinement of Portugal to the economical capital of the area.  They’ve expanded in every way: on top of the delights you can find on their menu (we highly recommend their grilled salmon with kalamata olives!) they offer their clientèle a chance to bring home the wines, olive oils, Piri Piri hot sauce, ”vintage canned goods” and even full dining set (or piece by piece) in the Ferreira boutique…!

Desserts are also au rendez-vous as it should be expected with a Portuguese cuisine specialist: seriously now, you cannot deprive yourself of one or several delectable pasteis de nata – I know I don’t!  😉

All in all, the Ferreira Café and F Bar are the places to be if you want something out of the ordinary and within walking distance of la Place des Arts, Cours Mont-Royal and le Quartier des Spectacles…!

Le Bistro Sutton Pub

Now, this one wants to be it all: a bistro, a pub, a sports bar, a diner, a restaurant… The one-stop place, in the center of it all, in Sutton, for all the hikers, skiers and so on…!  We know that location is everything and it is hard to discuss the location of this one: why, it is NUMBER ONE: on the main street too!  (You may have guessed it, if you didn’t know it already: they are located at 1, Rue Principale Sud, in the Sutton village that is surrounded by mountains and lakes – pittoresque, je vous le dis! Mais quand même…)

20130525_141309   On a hiking trip, we arrived there exhausted and were told that they didn’t expect  to see anyone anytime soon – that ‘s nice…!   You see, it had been raining that day (which didn’t discourage the hiking-maniacs and nature-lovers that we all are, in our little group there…) so we persevered and only gave in and headed for the PUB here when we were really soaked up!   Once there, we wanted what anyone in the area would call ”un p’tit remontant” – and they were actually out of brandy! Qu’à cela ne tienne… the pub was well-stacked with cognac and so we had that, in our tea!  Next up: grab a bite!  We look at their menu (which we practically had to beg for, oddly enough…?)  and nothing jumps at us as a ”must try” – except, maybe, the sweet potato fries…?

There was something else funny about that menu: the French side lists some chicken dish as ”amélioré” – upgraded and enhanced, in other words. On the English side, it is not the same dish but the one listed below it -some hamburger steak- that is clearly listed as ”upgraded” – what gives?!?  We were so in doubt (and the waitress so, ah, shall we say all over the place?) that we simply ordered salads for everyone!  Personally, the spicy salad hit the spot just fine – coupled with those sweet potato fries, remember them?  A cold lager on top of it all, and I was satiated – at long last!  But there was no intent whatsoever on our part to inquire about possible desserts… All in all: reasonable prices, no offuscation if we forget to tip (but, fear not, we did tip!) – service ”courtois” as they say – ”sans plus” though; unless you’re a regular patron of the sports bar section, which comes complete with its little gambling machines, pool table and giant screen!

I then took to proceed as I always do, whenever I stop by some place for the very first time – I went picture-hunting!  And here are some of the results of that…

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Isn’t it appreciable that the establishment feels the need to further ostracize their clientèle from ever wandering behind and beyond the bar…?

20130525_124648 20130525_133048     Right: Rickard’s is good – but hardly ”divine”…  Left: now that was creativity (in recycling) that I had to underline here and applaud as it is quickly noticeable that they turned Heineken bottles (and far more colorful Corona bottles too; not pictured) into salt and pepper dispensers.

Priceless!

Bravo!

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The sports bar aspect is enhanced by a permanent display of sports memorabilia: including vintage hockey masks and trading cards featuring several of the ”greats”…!

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From the outside, the Bistro Pub looks like a Victorian house recently renovated for a quick re-sale!

Must be fun to sit on that elongated porch, come summertime…  Going there in late May, we thought we were close enough – but no…

It actually snowed on Sutton that day: after all the downpour of rain (but no hail, mercifully) the hiking trip ended with snow…  Ugh!  Emmerdant – as André Arthur would say!  😉

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Another place to try, maybe…?

”Au Coeur Des Saisons”  – wow!

We felt like we were in-between two of them right there…

Lest we had a mixture of three out of four…!

The name of that place makes me think of a song though… not the happiest of songs either…  This one. 

Unless it is this one it should make me think about…?

Anyway…

Sure, we’ll try it, too – next time we stop by… Sutton!

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