Friday, 26 October 2012

Bijou Restaurant

105 Erie Street
Stratford, ON


In her opinion:
We managed to get tickets for 42nd Street penultimate Sunday matinee shows of the season! So I was pretty excited about that, but then Edgar thought it would be a great idea if we actually grabbed a great meal in Stratford before the performance. Now I was doubly excited! This of course was breaking with tradition as we always grab a burger before the show, but I was open to the idea! So 45 minutes before leaving for the show, Edgar called Bijou Restaurant and made a reservation for that Sunday at 12:30 pm. We were very lucky as this was the final Sunday that they were serving lunch for the season!

We got there about 15 minutes ahead of our reservation. We would have been there sooner but this little gem (excuse the pun) is not that easy to find if you don't know what  you are looking for. Erie Street is easy enough to maneuver but Bijou doesn't sit exactly on Erie Street. It is in the alley way behind the parking lot on Erie Street. Regardless, we found it. It is a nice room divide into the front and back. We sat in the front with the open kitchen along with other theatre going patrons. The hostess placed us in a lovely corner banquette. She mentioned how they are a blackboard menu restaurant and that we should have a look before sitting down. We did.

We both ordered wine to start. I got a lovely Cave Springs Riesling (I know predictable but I like to drink what I like!). We weren't sure about how much time the kitchen would take with our meals so we skipped ordering appetizers and went start through to main courses.  However, the kitchen sent out an amuse bouche of  "Butternut Squash Soup" with Monforte cheese and duck fat crouton with paprika oil.  This was so delicious.  The soup was sweet and creamy. The cheese added the right amount of sharpness and the duck fact crouton was crispy and flavourful.  This was truly delectable.

For my main,  I ordered the "Pork Schnitzel". It was served with confit fingering potatoes, sweet corn and a grainy mustard jus.

This was so delicious. The pork schnitzel was perfection!  It was crispy and juicy. The flavours were excellent.  I enjoyed the potatoes and corn...two of my favourite comfort foods but these were beyond ordinary. The grainy mustard jus was the perfect accompaniment...reminiscent of when I have schnitzel on a bun with mustard only refined and elegant.  

We had enough time for dessert...thank goodness! I opted for the "Banana Bread Pudding". This was served with sour cream ice cream and creme anglaise.

This desserts was so so wonderful. The banana flavour was just right in this creamy bread pudding.  Again one of my absolute favourite comfort foods. The sour cream ice cream added a bit of tartness that countered the sweetness of the pudding perfectly. The creme Anglais balanced everything out. 

Overall, I really enjoyed Bijou Restaurant. We vowed that we would return for dinner soon. This is a lovely French restaurant in Stratford and a real gem.

In his opinion:
To say that I'm a sucker for French bistros would be a bit of an exaggeration but I do fancy French food and contrary to popular belief, the best French food is found in small bistros and not really at high end French restaurants (Auberge du Pommiers excluded of course)!

On a day of contradictions that has me going to watch a "musical" in Stratford (musicals not usually my cup of tea), I decided to continue the contradiction and try to squeeze a meal in the very little time we had before the show.

Bijou has been on my scope for a while and because it's often regarded as the hardest place to get a reservation in Stratford, I sincerely thought that my chances were very slim. I called and low and behold I got a reservation. This contradiction day is off to a good start.

Somewhat hard to find, tucked in an alley way parallel to Erie Street, this place is truly a hidden gem. As you walk in the main door, you realize that this place is an understated diamond in the rough. The hostess/waitress ensures you are warmly welcomed and points out that the menu is written on a chalk board and you may want to check it before seating down.

The menu was quite extensive for a bistro depicting great dishes ranging from Japanese eggplant, to yellow perch to pork schnitzel with potato confit. The menu changes daily but some items reappear often on the board. For dinner you have the option of a fixed price Menu at 2 courses for $48 and 3 courses for $55.

I decided to order the "cheek to cheek" dish as it really stood out for me on the menu. Right after I put in my order, the chef sent us an amuse bouche that consisted of the "puree of butternut squash, served in a espresso cup with delicious local Monforte cheese and a duck fat crouton". The soup was creamy, full of flavour and the cheese was the perfect companion to this mini dish. Interesting and refreshing way to serve the mini-soup, I really liked the presentation.

My entree arrived and looked and smelled wonderful. This dish consists of "braised pork and veal cheeks, served with pearl onions, celery root in a goulash broth". The dish was very well balanced, the pork was very flavourful, juicy and tender, as was the veal. The onions and the celery root worked well on their own, but were elevated by the broth. Overall, a great dish and a perfect pairing for my Tawse Cabernet Franc.

For dessert, I was very traditional and predictable in my choices and opted for the lemon infused creme brulee, served with a caramelized sugar leaf and shortbread cookie. The lemon aspect of the custard made a great contrast to the sweetness of the sugar and the creaminess of the custard itself. It was a larger portion than it appears in the picture. It was a perfect dessert to go along with my short espresso which by the way wasn't all that bad, and you may know how fussy I'm about my espressos.

The Good: Great atmosphere, knowledgeable and attentive staff and a chef that clearly likes to take risks and fosters innovation and clearly understands the simple approach to French inspired cuisine.
The Bad: Hard to find the front door and only open seasonally on Sundays for lunch.
The Verdict: Amazing gem, literally hidden from sight and one of my favourite meals in Stratford, ever! 
Would love to go back and try their fixed priced menu for dinner and experience this place again.

I give it 3 1/2 out of 5 Olives as rating.

Bijou Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, 22 October 2012

Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill Waterloo

550 King Street North
Waterloo, Ontario


This restaurant has closed as of October 25, 2012.

In her opinion:
I always complain that there are no decent places to eat in our region. But that's not entirely true. If I'm honest with myself, I will admit that there are a few "decent" places in KW region and the Oliver Bonacini Cafe Grill in Waterloo is one of these such places. This cafe is a transplant of the Oliver and Bonacini empire which is mostly located in Toronto. We went for a late lunch on a Saturday afternoon and found the restaurant fairly empty. This simply meant that we had excellent service.

On the weekends, the cafe serves their brunch menu instead of their regular lunch menu that is served during the week. So after perusing the brunch menu, I decided that I wanted the "Smoked Salmon Pizza". It is described in the menu as smoked salmon with "Yukon Gold potatoes, rosemary, dill creme fraiche and capers".

This was absolutely delicious. This is a perfect brunch food. It combines pizza with potatoes, smoked salmon and capers in a tangy sauce. It's reminiscent of a bagel with smoked salmon. I really enjoyed this brunch pizza.

The pizza was huge and I managed to bring half of it home. However, I always leave room for dessert. And my go to dessert is  always the "Chef's Platter". It consisted of "chocolate marquis, carrot cake, butter tart and tiramisu". 

There is nothing more delicious then the "Chef's Platter" with a cup of coffee. It is important to note that this is a sharing plate. It is perfect for two people.

The carrot cake was topped with a refreshing lemon sour cream gelato. So delicious. The chocolate marquis is chocolate hazelnut heaven. Excellent. The tiramisu is creamy and delectable. They do this Italian dessert justice. Finally, the butter favourite thing on the platter. I know you are thinking, "but it's a butter tart". Yes, but the most delicious, flaky, incredible butter tart you have ever eaten in your life. So so good.

We had our son with us and we ordered his meal off the kids menu. Basically, for $9.95, he got a "crispy risotto ball", "fettuccine alfredo" and "Soma vanilla ice cream served with whipped cream and a chocolate chip cookie".

Let's just say that the bread basked came to the rescue where Ethan is concerned. Mom and dad ended up eating the "crispy risotto ball" which is stuffed with mozzarella and mushrooms and was served with a homemade tomato sauce. So good.  The fettuccine alfredo was excellent but not for my six year old since it was made with a Parmesan cream sauce and thus too pungent for our son. Finally, the ice cream was really delicious but too good for Ethan who would rather eat Hagen Daz then Soma! There's no accounting for taste!

Overall, a delicious experience at a very good restaurant in KW region. It wasn't our first time and it definitely won't be our last.

In his opinion:

We are good devoted followers of the Oliver and Bonacini brand, where we have learned to treasure some of their top restaurants like Auberge du Pommier, Biff's and Canoe. The Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill brand does not represent the fine dining arm of the organization but has an important place as a cafe/bistro serving high quality food in a nice balanced atmosphere.

There are now 5 different locations, Bayview Village the original flagship cafe, Waterloo, Oakville Place, Blue Mountain and the Yonge and Front location. It is nice that they branched up to Waterloo and gave our sometimes dull bistro scene an injection of brightness.

We have eaten at many of their locations before and once at the Waterloo spot before this one. The food is pretty consistent throughout and the same obsession with super clean, spot free wine glasses can be found in any of the cafes.

We decided to stop by this time on a whim and were seated promptly by a very attentive hostess. Our waitress made her way to us and offered us some water while we browsed the brunch menu, the only one available early on a Sunday. 

I decided to have the Rock Shrimp and Bay Scallop Linguine with tomato, basil pesto, white wine and extra virgin olive oil. The shrimp tasted very fresh, the scallops were tender and perfectly done and the pasta was al dente to the bite. The combinations of the sauce were not your traditional tomato or oil bases but a combination of flavours that work well together and enhanced the taste of the seafood.

Top that with fresh parmesan and I was off to the races on that dish. Not being particularly a fan of the traditional tomato sauces on pasta, I enjoyed how all three ingredients came together to smooth the flavour.

For dessert, we ordered the Chef's Dessert Platter, one that we have had many times, but never disappoints. Consisting of four mini desserts, it is the best way to have a tasting of the Cafe's best desserts. It has the famous OB carrot cake under a fresh lemon sour cream gelato, beautiful combination. The next one was tiramisu, creamy and full of flavour. Next was the chocolate marquis milk chocolate torte with hazelnut praline crunch and last but certainly not least, the butter tart, equally as delicious.

The Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill is a great place to be out with friends, going out with just the girls or just stop in for coffee and dessert. I suggest the cafe afogado and the Chef's Dessert Platter to share if you are just in for a drink.

Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Crazy Canuck

845 Weber Street North
Waterloo, Ontario


Photo courtesy of Waterloo Region Eats

In her opinion:
So here's another one of those places that we found out about through word of mouth. Someone mentioned it Edgar a little while ago and he ventured there a couple of times before convincing me that we should try it.

We tried it out on one of those times where we didn't have a set place in mind. It's awesome. Not fancy. Not expensive. Just awesome. This is Canadian food with a few little twists. 

We arrived at the restaurant just before they closed on a Sunday afternoon. We were greeted by a warm friendly staff that were both engaging and informative. They quickly put everyone at ease and they make you feel welcome.

Edgar and I decided to get a few menu items to share. This allowed us to try a few menu items. We ordered the Buffalo Tuscan Pizza, the Curry Goat Cheese Poutine and the Baked Hot Dog with the soup of the day (Broccoli Cheddar).

Let's just say that I was very very impressed. The Baked Hot Dog was so good. It consisted of a soft baguette with chopped tomatoes, a foot long hot dog, bacon and cheese which is then baked. I love hot dogs...I know...but, I always have and always will. This one was out of this world good. It is served with jalapeno mayo which takes this hot dog from good to extraordinary  It was a gourmet hot dog for sure. The soup which came with it was creamy and delicious. So good.

The Buffalo Tuscan pizza is made fresh. It is exceptionally good pizza. It consists of roasted garlic puree, creamy Buffalo sauce, spinach and spicy chicken. This was one amazing pizza. It even tasted great the next day. I loved the addition of the spinach to the Buffalo style pizza. So good.

Finally, the Curry Goat Cheese Poutine was probably the most interesting. It was the bomb! It consists of fresh-cut fries, delicious British Columbia style curry sauce and goat's cheese. The flavour combination will blow your mind. It is so worth trying.

I loved this place. The album covers on the wall of all these fabulous Canadian bands made it feel so inviting. The decor is great and the food is truly fantastic.  Go and try it. You will not be disappointed.

In his opinion:

Many times our foodie searches takes us far and wide in search of that allusive great meal that is often complemented with great service. We unfortunately have to usually go outside our region to find those gems. Occasionally, there are some places that you come across nearby, and without any expectations, allow yourself to be positively surprised. The Crazy Canuck is such a place.

Started only 6 months ago by a couple of Conestoga College Hospitality Management graduates Jeremy and Freddy, this restaurant is a no frills, down to earth eatery where the food literally does all the talking. The restaurant concept took only 2 weeks from acquiring the property to opening day, a pretty amazing feat.

It is located in North Waterloo, across form the St. Jacobs Market on Weber 
Street North, conveniently just off Highway #85. It's adjacent to the Antique Market and seating is plentiful, especially in good weather where the patio can accommodate almost as many people as the inside. 

The decoration is very "Canuck", with one wall covered in vinyl album covers of legendary Canadian bands, and several Canadian artifacts throughout the restaurant. The coloured tennis balls on the feet of the chairs are also amusing, although not exactly Canadian that I know of.

The Menu: This is where you realize that it's not just your average fries and burgers joint. The menu has a wide range of items, from 7 kinds of poutines to a good selection of vegetarian dishes and also some real good meat options. The pizza options are also very enticing with options like Teriyaki Chicken, Taco Pizza, Old New Yorker and Buffalo Tuscan. Always ensure you look at the additional boards where the daily/weekly specials are depicted.

We decided to get a few items to share and even though the decisions are difficult when staring at all the options on the main , we decided to get the Buffalo Tuscan Pizza, the Curry Goat Cheese Poutine and the Baked Hot Dog.

The Pizza was great, full of flavour and toppings, featuring creamy buffalo sauce, spinach, spicy chicken, roasted garlic puree and cheese medley and feta. Perfect size for sharing and very tasty, these Pizza's are a world apart from your usual take-out places, and deserve your full attention.

The Baked Hot Dog was very good as well. It is a foot long hot dog served in a soft toasted baguette, covered with cheese and bacon and baked all together. The jalapeno mayo that comes as a dip elevates this hot dog to a new height. A must try for hot dog lovers.

The Curry Goat Cheese Poutine is unlike anything that I have ever had in my life. The perfectly hand cut home fries are smothered by BC pub style curry, topped with fresh goat cheese. The combination of flavours leaves you wanting more with each bite, and makes you want to want to try all the other options as well. 

The Good: What a gem of a restaurant, only minutes away from my work, and with a great selection of dishes for every taste. Great tasting food, great prices and a very welcoming atmosphere. 
The Bad: Nothing to report on this front. 
The Verdict: This is the kind of place that you want to support in your community, and that every city wishes they had one. The owners set the tone for the impeccable customer service, the rest of staff is very engaging and the food tells the story of how much thought and care goes into every dish. A truly hidden (but not for long) GEM.

I give it 3 1/2 Olives out of 5 as rating 

The Crazy Canuck Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 12 October 2012

Detour Coffee Roasters Cafe

Detour Coffee Roasters Cafe
41 King Street West
Dundas, Ontario


In her opinion:
We are on a constant search for new breakfast/brunch places and today was no exception. I decided that I would check out Urbanspoon's picks for the Hamilton area and stumbled across Detour Coffee Roasters Cafe

Their website focused more on their coffee then their cafe but once I found their menu and investigated what they had to offer, I was sold.  It read beautifully. I also loved the fact that they were located in Dundas, Ontario. Dundas is a great little town on the boarders of Hamilton that is quickly becoming an escape for Torontonians. I also loved Dundas because I'm a McMaster University graduate and would always drive through Dundas on my way to or from university. 

Dundas is hip in my opinion and Detour Coffee Roasters Cafe fits it perfectly.  As you drive down the main strip, you will see this beautifully laid out cafe. It has a certain street appeal. Once you walk in, it is much like any other cafe. There's a coffee bar showcasing their desserts and baked goods. The kitchen is through the back and it's open to the main dining room so you can watch the action taking place. There are even church pews being used for seating. This is a beautiful room. Comfortable and welcoming. There is also a large outdoor space which is lovely in the warm weather.

We ordered coffee to begin and a fresh squeezed orange juice for our son.  The coffee was bold in flavour.  It was very good.  For my brunch I ordered the Salmon Egg Benedict. It is described on their menu as "house-made chive biscuit, two poached eggs, Hollandaise sauce, Ocean wise smoked salmon with an oven-roasted tomato. 

This was so delicious. The biscuit was tender and flavourful. The salmon was delectable with the right amount of smokiness. The poached eggs done to perfection. Finally the Hollandaise was so good, completing the dish perfectly. The oven-roasted tomato was a pleasant surprise. There was a little spice, nutmeg and mace sprinkled on top. It was the perfect accompaniment.

We decided to have a slice of the carrot cake to end our brunch. I love carrot cake and this one was exceptional. The cake was filled with coconut and walnuts. The cream cheese icing was one of the best I have ever eaten.

Overall, our brunch at Detour Coffee Roasters Cafe was excellent. I was happy when I left. I love places like this. Go to Dundas and have brunch will definitely not regret it!

In his opinion:
Where can you find an amzing coffee place that serves pastries like you were in France, provides nearly fine dining type food and has great service and staff?

In Dundas, Ontario as it seems. This particular gem seems to be the best kept secret for anyone outside of Dundas. Located on King Street West, it is hard to miss and even harder not to return to it once you have experienced it.

It is primarily a coffee house with a tremendous selection of coffees and also teas. Along with your beverage you may enjoy a scone, cookies, muffins and a pletora of assorted pastries, all baked fresh daily in the premises.

We decided to try Detour for brunch and the more I looked at the menu, the more it looked appetizing. Great selections of breakfast sandwich, eggs benedict and house made bagel and lox to name a few. Also great choices of baked goods and side orders.

The decor is simple but cozy, effective in a Parisian kind of way and let's not forget the adjacent patio that looks very inviting in warmer days. Let me start by saying that the coffee was exquisite and I didn't have anything out of the ordinary, just the house blend. I do love my coffee and know a good cup of Java when I have it and this one was surely it. Must go back to try an espresso and one of the speciality coffee very soon

I opted for the Detour Hash for my breakfast. This consisted of red skin new potatoes, sweet peppers, sweet potato and baby spinach with red and green onions. It was topped off with salsa verde, poached eggs and Detour smoked meat. Everything was full of flavour, individually tasty but complimentary together through every bite. The presentation (below) matched well with the flavour and the taste of every item, making it an instant hit with me.

Everything is made fresh and on the spot, even the orange juice was freshly squeezed and packed a punch of flavour, something we are only used to in fine dining restaurants or Spain. I have heard that they do sometimes run out of some items on the menu but that's understandable given the "made fresh" complexity of the daily supply and demand. 

The Good: Great location, inviting cafe that just happens to serve excellent coffee, great hot food, as well as baked goods.
The Bad: Why isn't it located in my home city and why haven't I heard of this before?
The Verdict: Truly a gem in downtown Dundas, already a staple with the locals but out of town foodies take notice, this is a must try over and over. Super friendly, well informed and engaging staff makes the experience even better.

I give them 3 Olives out of 5 as rating

  Detour Coffee Roasters Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Veslo Family Restaurant

Veslo Family Restaurant
100 Arnold Street
Kitchener, Ontario


In her opinion:
One of my followers on Twitter (@SweetEnLow90210) suggested a couple of places that we had not blogged about in the Kitchener Waterloo Region recently. Veslo Family Restaurant was one of them and I kept that hint in the back of my mind.

I checked their website out when the suggestion came my way and liked what I saw. I have to admit that I have never tried Serbian food before aside from delicious Serbian cookies that a client once gave me and I was excited to try Eastern European cuisine. 

So when the question came of where should we go for dinner...I suggested Veslo and I'm really glad I did. It is located off Lancaster Street in Kitchener. The outside of the restaurant is nothing to look at and once you go feels welcoming and homey.

Having studied the menu before this visit, I knew what I wanted to order.  I wanted their "Mixed Grill Combo Platter". It's not described on their menu, but I think I know what was on the platter...grilled steak, Vienna Schnitzel, Karadjordjeva Schnitzel (a rolled schnitzel with homemade cheese inside), sausage, Serbian minced steak and cevapi. There was coleslaw, home fries and beans.

We decided that we would order the large platter since we were going to share it.  This platter could easily feed four people. Needless to say we had lots of leftovers to bring home. This platter was outstanding. It was well worth the price. The meats were all delicious. The sausage reminded me of Portuguese linguica. All the meats were flavourful and grilled to perfection. The coleslaw was the vinegary type. The home fries were rustic. But the piece de resistance were the beans. They were large butter beans in a flavourful tomato and onion sauce. They were delectable reminding me of Portugese baked beans.  This was comfort food at its best. I guess every culture has a similar dish.

We also ordered "Lepina with Cheese". This is simply described on the menu as "home-made bread with home-made cheese". 

It was very good. The cheese (kajmak) was buttery and delicious. The lepina or lepinja or Serbian flat bread's taste reminded me of a Portuguese papo seco. It was excellent as well. Okay, I know I have made a lot of comparisons but like I said every culture has similarities and I definitely found a few between the Portuguese and the Serbian culture.  

They were offering a box of dessert for $10. We bought one. It was filled with delicious little cookies and cakes. It was so so good. They were so amazing that I'm actually thinking of getting a couple of boxes to add to my own Christmas baking.

I really enjoyed Veslo Family Restaurant and would not hesitate to recommend this restaurant to anyone interested in absolutely delicious food.

In his opinion:

Eating at Veslo Family restaurant isn't very far from going over to your Serbian uncle's house, if you had a Serbian uncle that is. It is homemade style, comfort food with great taste and made and served with simplicity.

There are not a lot of Serbian restaurants around and I reckon that not everyone eating there was Serbian, so it only means that, this little hidden gem is both unique and a hit with everyone.

Arriving at Veslo is like pulling into someone's house because it really is a house just off of Lancaster Street in Kitchener. As you walk in, you will witness Bob the owner and his great hospitality and charm, welcoming you in. The decor is unique with a mix of Serbian artifacts and neighbourhood diner. They carry a decent choice of beverages, including Serbian beer and wine.

The menu is very Serbian oriented with a lot of choices. This being our first time in this restaurant, we opted for the "Grilled Mix Combo Platter" to share, as this would give us lots of choices to try. The platter portion was insanely big and could easily fed 4-5 people so we had to pace ourselves.

This platter consisted of Vienna schnitzel and karadjorjeva schnitzel which was delicious. There was also Serbian minced steak, sausage and cevapi. The side orders were coleslaw, bean and homemade fries. Only thing I wasn't too crazy about was the coleslaw but the rest was wonderful.

Everything is served as if it has just come out of a BBQ in the back, grilled, full of flavour and unpretentious. Special mention to the perfectly cooked beans, the fresh lightly battered schnitzel and the Karadjorjeva (rolled schnitzel with creamy steaming cheese inside). Needless to say we ended up having a lot of leftovers and made another meal of it, the following day.

We also ordered a side order of the Lepinja cheese bread. A soft, flaky bun filled with homemade cheese. Delicious and melting in your mouth as you bite into it. Again the bread size was big and just mounted to the already huge meal we were having.
We also decided to bring some desserts home, since it was impossible to ingest any more food. We purchased a box of homemade desserts (around a dozen), which consisted of an assortment of cookies and cakes.

The Good: Great homemade food, plentiful portions and wonderful hospitality.
The Bad: Not knowing about this place before is the only thing I can think of.
The Verdict: A breath of fresh air in a community of chain restaurants and "unauthentic food". Serbian food found a place in my heart and so did the wonderful "hosts" of the restaurant.

I give this restaurant 3 olives out of 5 as rated.

Veslo Family Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato