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Everything posted by estufarian

  1. So, Metropolitan and Red Iguana. Anything else worth visiting?
  2. No - it wasn't their own brand. Sorry for the confusion. But still a great product.
  3. Nobody has yet mentioned their Truffle Honey. An astonishing product. Serve a teaspoon (or less) with cheese.
  4. Couple of things. According to Michelin, Hacienda Benazuza is closed from Nov-Feb (Ok just double-checked it's closed from Jan 1-Feb 28 - my original attempted reservation was for January). And the food really is fantastic - we enjoyed it slightly more than our El Bulli visit (just). But we had to order the 'Benazuza tasting menu' in advance - they do have a daily tasting menu, but it isn't as extensive as the special one. Our second best meal of last 10 years (El Bulli itself was #3 - and to pre-answer the obvious question, Akelare remains #1).
  5. Not a response (or rather a defence; obviously this is a response), more of an explanation: I have 'issues' with JK - it always bothers me that the aromas from dishes being cooked waft over the diners (a common problem with open kitchens - and perhaps why I'm not knocked out by Perigee, also a favourite on the board). So I don't get to enjoy the 'purity' of each dish, rather a combination of my dish with those being cooked. (Those with long memories may recall me raising this topic in the Grant Achatz Q&A - I have similar issues with burning leaves and pouring hot water on conifers). And the random serving order of dishes at Lee is another bugbear. Maybe next time at Kultura (assuming I can get a reservation) they'll do that to me also as most reviews comment on this issue at Kultura. But I'm still happy to recommend all 3 to visitors to Toronto - they're all good.
  6. It was Abac that 'failed to respond'. But they did respond immediately to my email.
  7. I was there once for an 'accidental' lunch (we were moving somebody and the van blew a tyre, so we had to wait for CAA). There were 5 of us - and we didn't finish a single dish. They were all bad. Mostly consistency (alternated between spongy and rubbery) - not a single crunch anywhere. We tried about 8 dishes. probably the worst Cantonese I've tried. But no flies - I believe they're crunchy!
  8. Interestingly, the UK Operation Top Table has attempted a push into Spain. Not that I want to compare necessarily, but my attempted reservation through their system failed because 'the spanish restaurant failed to respond'. I hope you take due notice of the cultural differences in Spain.
  9. Although a customer 'through and through' I had an interesting discussion with a restaurant owner about coffee. His opinion was that it was WAY underpriced. Typically customers sit and drink coffee for a long time (let's say 20 mins - he estimated longer). And that's time he, as a businessman, is without his asset of a table - that he could potentially turn over to a new customer. He raised the price of coffee to $5 and claims that his profit margins improved. Some people now pay extra and some don't order and leave faster allowing him to turn the table! I initiated a small test of myself - and indeed I do linger for longer when I have coffee, so maybe he has a point. [NOTE: Of course this assumes a continuing supply of customers].
  10. Last year it also took about 6 weeks for a positive reply for me. I believe they do declines first, then work forward by date with accepts from opening date.
  11. Actually - no. Elvers (that's baby eels) are caught throughout the year, but specifically through the winter months. ← I stand corrected! I was actually told it's the only time of the year that they're served at Etxebarri. Given his attention to detail, I speculate that is probably the time that they are best for grilling.
  12. I was told it was from Caspian Sea sturgeon (which could mean any of the surrounding countries). Didn't ask which one as I'm aware of the current political issues surrounding caviar, and I was there to dine not discuss politics.
  13. Despite the reported difficulties, if you approach the village of Axpe from the north (which is the normal approach from Bilbao), you can't miss the Etxebarri parking lot. It's well signposted (on the left). Coming from the other direction it's much harder as you can't see the sign and have to hope you see the chiselled stone marker above the door - which is difficult to see even when walking! Of course, figuring out how to approach from the north is the tricky part! And in November they are promising elvers. The only time of the year they're available. He had to design a special pan in order to grill them. Another hint is to arrive for the earliest seating. We were there earlier this month and arrived first, and were rewarded with a couple of wild turtle doves, trapped on the hillside, - they only had two and we got them both (we tried to be generous and leave one, but ordered a tasting menu and they won't do separate dishes for each person - they must be identical, so we had no choice (!!!!!) but to take them both). His current 'special dish' is grilled beluga caviar (which he's perfected after several trials - only the genuine beluga is fatty enough to be complemented by being grilled). Only just added to the menu. My fourth ever taste of Beluga, and this was clearly my favourite (in fact disliked two of the four). The caviar loses some of the 'pop' but takes on a smoky flavour that adds complexity. To counteract the loss in texture it's served on a bed of 'congealed' (my word - I'm sure there's a better Spanish one) crab blood - sort of oyster-like texture but much different flavour. By far his most expensive dish (of course).
  14. Just rechecked my email (received in July). And obviously I didn't recall it clearly enough. They are fully booked for all Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in 2006. And closed all-day Mondays and Thursday noon. So indeed there is potential availability on Tuesday & Wed (but my El Bulli res is for a Tueday, so both days are out for me - I "need" min 24 hours between blow-outs).
  15. Also if Lumiere is out-of-your budget, then just note that perigee is now the most expensive place in town (prix-fixe is $15 more than both Splendido and Susur). Also Sen5es in Toronto is 'between chefs' and not performing well (on my visit last month). RookieSensation (above) has some solid recommendations where you can stretch your budget further, and if you want to try the 'latest trend' in Toronto, give a thought to Kultura - sort of upscale tapas so you can graze several dishes at reasonable prices. Edited to add: Another place (20 min walk) is George. Upscale dining at fair prices.
  16. MUST disagree with this. Took out-of-towners there last month (after warning them about potential cost). It was superb (as always) - about $140 including taxes and tip (for 4) and we couldn't eat everything we ordered.
  17. No point. They're booked solid through to 2007! I contacted in July and couldn't get in at all for October.
  18. I recommend Chiado - nothing like it in Chicago. And be sure to order the Pata Negra Prosciuto w/ Confit of Figs (it's part of the bar menu) - it may be the only restaurant in North America where you can find this.
  19. Kultura is really a tapas-style place under the 'social dining' sleight-of-menu. Offerings are in a similar category to JK, Lee, Cava etc. The menu has 16 small dishes (and a separate dessert menu), intended to be shared, priced around $10-$12. There are about 50 wines - all available by the glass (6 oz) or 'terzo'(8 oz mini-carafe, suitable for sharing). In theory the dishes come out randomly (as at Lee), but we were there fairly early and the courses came in a logical sequence for the most part. That's the technical description, but the real question is how good is it? And there it's firing on all cylinders. I hesitate to rank a place on one visit - but you asked for feedback and it's all positive. The food is as good as it gets in this style. Better than Cava and JK, and certainly of Lee standard. As our dishes were logically progressed, I'd put it above Lee on this occasion. The servers were very knowledgeable - all dishes were fully described and questions answered. I didn't take any notes (just dropped by when in the area), but we shared 8 dishes and several were outstanding. My favourite was the pork 'chop' (which comes pre-sliced) but everything was pretty good. All presentations are interesting - often including a couple of dips. The wines were also well-chosen (as one would expect with Kim there) and fairly priced, given the location. The selection was definitely better than either Lee or Cava and comparable to JK. So overall, better than all 3 of the competitors (but only 1 try). Well worth a visit. Incidentally, the restaurant part is on the second floor, although you check in with the lounge which occupies the ground floor. There is no sign on the building. But it's a couple of doors away from Hiro. I'm certainly returning. EDited to add: Just checked their website: Also really liked the Mediterranean Chicken Samosa and Jamaican Chicken Risotto. The Tuna Tartare and Spiced Tandoor Beef were also excellent. The Chilled Pea Soup, Toasted Lobster Ravioli and Caribbean Shrimp were all good - we finished everything - but something has to bring up the rear. For dessert we tried the Vanilla Sugar Doughnut Holes (and thanks for the spelling here) which came with both a Caramel and Mango Dip; and the Apple Crumble with Plum/Walnut Ice Cream (and for vintage port lovers check out the price on the 1980 Gould Campbell).
  20. Keep the reports coming Andy! I have reservations at all 3 between now and beginning of October. Seems I should make sure to find these places before the appointed time, to ensure I can locate them! And I just don't have time for Akelare this trip - site of my all-time favourite meal 3 years ago.
  21. Good memory. It was released on Jan 22 2005 and was: 57448 MARASCHINO EXCELSIOR (Girolamo Luxardo) $ 25.95. It came in cases of 6. The Agent was VANRICK CORPORATION, but I think they're part of Schiralli Agencies. Any more trivia needed??????
  22. I tried Vertical when it first opened. Competent but unexciting. Haven't been back.
  23. For many restaurants, August is their quietest month - certainly many clients are out-of-town. Also, as proprietors often have school-age children it's a good time to take a break themselves and get to know the family (after all, they work evenings and weekends).
  24. From James Chatto (Toronto Life) Blog on July 24th "Rob Bragagnolo is also about to leave Lobby—a mutual decision on his part and the owners’. “They want to suit Lobby’s food more to the clientele,” Bragagnolo explains, “and I’m finding this place doesn’t quite match what I want to do.” Bragagnolo came here from Majorca, if you recall, but hopes to stay in Toronto a while longer, to finish what he set out to achieve here. He’d like to find a suitable venue and set up something with a backer and a talented front-of-house guy. John Gay, who brought him to Lobby in the first place, is now ensconced as manager of Rosewater Supper Club. I loved what he and Bragagnolo were doing at Lobby during the early months of the chef’s tenure there but, hey—sic transit gloria mundi. Or words to that effect." Not sure whether this is the change you refered to, or the Bragagnolo/Gay arrival mentioned above in this thread. It seems that 'molecular gastronomy' has been abandoned at Lobby. Some people (me included) lament this. Some never believed in this 'fad' anyway. I'm going to Moto (Chicago) this weekend, so it's clear where my heart lies. Unfortunately my one visit to Lobby was disappointing.
  25. It's certainly not as good (but few places are). But I wouldn't go as far as "poor quality" more "lacking in execution". And some dishes are very similar (e.g. the vin jaune dish seems a copy) but, equally, some I wasn't familiar with. So it is different - but not completely so.
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