Brit & Chips – Old Montreal

So tfung finally came to Montreal to visit and we decided to try Brit & Chips as I’ve heard so many good things about it. We sat outside on so we could enjoy the sunshine, while at the same time avoiding the chokingly greasy smell of the store.

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We decided to just order two fish with chips, no drinks or other appetizers as we weren’t too incredibly hungry. The first was Sole in sour cream and onion batter. This batter was quite greasy. There was a very subtle hint of sour cream and onion flavour but it was masked mostly by the taste of heavy oil. The fish itself was a bit on the bland side but it was cooked quite nicely. Their tartar sauce was quite delicious and the chips were excellent as well.

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The second was the Fish of the Month, which happened to be a Cod fried in tempura batter with a sweet ginger sauce.  The batter in this one was a “tempura” batter. It was certainly lighter and less heavy than the batter on the sole, however it was definitely not “tempura batter”. At least, not the light airy and crispy tempura batter that Japanese restaurants use.  The portions were slightly smaller on this one, but we enjoyed this one a bit more because it was less greasy and heavy as the first. The tangy and gingery sauce went well with this fish.

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Overall, the fish was done quite well, not overdone. But it was the batter that we were disappointed in. Based on the description of the items on the menu which boasts interestingly flavoured batters in various styles, we were a bit dissapointed, since the batter was tasteless and very greasy. This restaurant will definitely do the trick if you are craving some fish and chips, but don’t expect something extraordinary.

Service: 4/5
Food: 7.1/10
Atmosphere: Fast food, fish and chips
Price: $15-25

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Model Milk – Uptown 17th Ave

I’m going to start off by saying that if you live in Calgary, you must book this place for Sunday Supper at once. I don’t think I’ve been so pleased with a meal in a long time! I say this because not only was the food mind-blowing, the price extremely reasonable, but it was so much food we had to pack some home! This is a true mark of an excellent restaurant. Not to mention all the other things that make a restaurant, like impeccable service and interesting decor.

DSC_0132   So this was actually our last stop in Calgary. We had planned it so that we’d make it to Sunday Supper, which was recommended by the reviews that tfung had found. Everytime we mentioned Model Milk to someone around the Alberta area, they responded with “My friend went there and they thought it was fantastic!”. We didn’t really think much of the menu at first because it really didn’t appeal to us. But we were sure glad we took the plunge in the end. He had already made a reservation, which I highly recommend, and the doors really didn’t open until 5:00pm. At 5:00pm sharp, we walked in, and were promptly seated. We were situated in a cozy corner, where we got a good view of the whole place. There were two sort of mezzanines between the bottom and the top floor (which were both for seating). The lower mezzanine was the bulk of the tables, and was where we sat. The higher mezzanine was where the kitchen was. You were able to somewhat see their quick yet controlled bustle around the kitchen to get our orders out. Sunday Supper is a set menu for everyone that night. It changes every week, which is a great marketing idea. Firstly, a new menu every week is enticing to foodies that reside in Calgary. Secondly, the fixed menu for everyone makes it easy for them to streamline production and serve in a timely and orderly fashion. Thirdly, it allows for a slightly reduced cost due to the purchase in bulk, and the streamlined labour and preparation. Absolutely brilliant.

Smoked trout with Potato Salad
Smoked trout with Potato Salad
Smorgasbord
Smorgasbord

For us, our starter was a Smoked trout potato salad and a Smorgasbord of wonderful things. The smoked trout was nice and pink, done very well, so that it has the full texture of the trout, with just a hint of smokiness. It was great for me, especially because I am not a huge fan of the smokey flavour, but do appreciate a small amount of it. The potato salad was out of this world! They had perfected the salad dressing and the firmness of the potato completely. The julienned onion made it more visually appealing, and actually made for a longer crunchy break between bites of the potato. Obviously the green onion was a must as well. As for the amazing Smorgasbord, which was served on a fitting milk bottle-design plate, it housed a fairly extensive variety of food. There were devilled eggs, with the yolk whipped quite nicely, with a bit of bread crumb to add crunch. They also served beets and cauliflower in a tiny mason jar, which was incredibly cute. There was 4 small “grilled cheese” stacked. They are not real grilled cheese, as they substituted bread for brioche, and the cheese is Jarlsberg cheese.  Adding some meat on the plate, there was bison charcuterie, served with a mustard seed mixture, which was very tender and flavourful. To finish it all off, there was some sort of cracker that I forgot the name of. It tastes like a perfected version of fortune cookies. Everything on the plate was done extremely well, and completely balanced in every way. And the beauty of this is, there is no “front” or “back”, making sharing amazing! Every time you turn the plate, it’s a new visual experience! Moving onto the main, there were two dishes:

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Swedish meatballs with Fermented Nappa Cabbage and Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Cod with Butter Sauce
Steamed Cod with Clams and Butter Sauce

They steamed the cod with clams and butter sauce in a parchment paper package, which we’ve seen once before in a Japanese omakase restaurant. The parchment paper retains the white colour of the fish, and retains the hydration of the fish. Coupled with the flavour of the clams and rich butter sauce, it was quite enjoyable. Unfortunately it was overshadowed in flavour and power by the Swedish meatballs.

First off, there were 4 gigantic meatballs on the plate, which we split evenly. The meatballs were delicious. Fully loaded with big flavour. Secondly, though we’re used to the flavour of nappa cabbage, we’ve rarely seen it fermented in such a way leaving a sour, acidic taste (it tastes like kimchi without the spiciness). Thirdly, the garlic mashed potatoes. Holy cow, these were amazing! I have nothing but good things to say about this dish. The meatballs were fat, meaty and juicy.

What I believe is meant to accompany the steamed fish is a beautiful pilaf that was served separately in a rice bowl. Unfortunately we have no picture of it, but let me tell you, it was hella delicious! It was the fluffiest, airiest rice I have ever had (and the two of us has had a lot of rice…)! We’re not sure of the specific broth they used, but they did it with such balance along with the herbs, we couldn’t resist packing this home (as we were unable to finish it). From this amazing experience, we will soon be experimenting with making pilafs, though we’re unsure whether we’d ever get it to taste like this…

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Apple Fool

To end the meal, they presented a very simple apple fool in a small mason jar, with cinnamon sprinkled on the top. The apples were baked to a consistency that agreed with me; not too mushy, retaining a slight bite and even crunch to it. The cream part of it was done very smoothly, with a bit of flavour, and paired with the apple, it made for a (seemingly) light dessert to end the meal, without it being too bland.

The whole choreography of the meal was absolutely amazing. Some things that would have been labeled as sides did not take a muted presence. Instead, these “sides” were just as interesting as the “main” ingredient of the dish. I love that every bite was something to be excited about. I truly haven’t been so excited to eat since San Francisco!

Although they used a lot of potatoes in the entirety of the meal, it was done in a way where each time we had it, the potatoes were done differently, so that the texture and flavour was not similar. That is the true mark of an excellent meal. It’s all about the contrast in flavour, texture, colour and presentation. I will not hesitate to make another reservation as soon as I know I am back in Calgary, because Model Milk is PHENOMENAL!

Service: 4.5/5
Food: 9.3/10
Atmosphere: industrial, open, bustling
Price: $35 for sunday supper

Model Milk on Urbanspoon

(San Fran Trip) Swan Oyster Depot – Nob Hill

And so this last post wraps up our final San Fran trip series. On the last morning of our stay, we went to the famous Swan Oyster Depot to get some early seafood for takeout. We decided that it’d just be better to go when it opens so we’re not lining up for hours and wasting our time.

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Impressive display of seafood
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Swan Oyster Depot’s Deliver Truck parked out front

When we got there, they were just opening for business and everyone was very busy shucking, deshelling, and just in general preparing for the busy day they have ahead of them.

We decided to get a couple things to try out a selection of their foods.

First off, tfung wanted one last clam chowder before we left SFO so we got a small, which came with little flower-shaped crackers. The crackers were just placed with no container into the paper bag with the bowl of clam chowder for us to take home. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all that exciting since it was in an ugly styrofoam bowl, so we didn’t take a photo of it. The chowder was not bad. It was not too thick (like the Boudin ones) and not too runny. There was lots of clam flavour without any fishy taste. There were potatoes in it which makes me nostalgic of the first clam chowder I’ve ever had (Chunky’s). The soup was still pretty hot even though we had taken it out and it took us at least 20 minutes to get home. Also with the crackers, it was pretty good.

We also got the crab cocktail, which was a bowl (same size as the clam chowder) of deshelled crab meat and cocktail sauce. We originally thought they were going to put the cocktail sauce on the side, but they did not. They literally drowned the delicious, beautiful crab meat in it. We were extremely disappointed at this gesture and honestly I thought they ruined the seafood. The cocktail sauce was too sweet, too thick and just overall gross. We tried to dry off the crab meat in our hotel room with tissue. At one point I thought about using water to rinse it, but we also wanted to hit the Ferry Building Market before we left for the airport so we didn’t.

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A dozen oysters

Finally the star of the meal was definitely the oysters. We were looking forward to these as we had heard good things about them. We ordered just a dozen oysters (their pick), and I actually snagged this cute miniature bottle of tobasco sauce on the way home. The oysteres were put on this cardboard platter, and was wrapped in paper, taped to secure it. I thought it was a pretty simple and efficient way of takeout for shucked oysters. The oysters were good, but still did not match up to the Royal Miyagis we had at the Ferry Building Market. These were not as fresh and sweet as the royal miyagis and many of them had a strong fish taste. Some of them had some sand it in as well. It was decent oysters, but I didn’t think it was the best.

Overall, we thought the hype over Swan Oyster Depot was not true to their products. Their seafood is good, but it’s not amazing. As a seafood specialty store, I would have expected more from them. I do have to say that their speed is excellent, and everyone knows their roles to the T. No one is standing around wondering what the next thing they have to do is, which is essential for a successful food establishment. I do recommend you give it a try, but not if you have to wait a long time for it.

Service: 4/5
Food: 7.7/10
Atmosphere: ~
Price: $20-60 (depends how much you get!)

Swan Oyster Depot on Urbanspoon

~kehwon

(San Fran Trip) Woodhouse Fish Co. – Castro

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Following our trip to the outlets, we decided to hit Fillmore street, home to many boutique shops I wanted to visit. We also were excited to be here because of the Woodhouse Fish Company. We had searched up where we could get lunch around this area the night before and settled for this place.

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We actually arrived quite late for lunch, around 3-4pm. The place was very quiet, with about 2 other tables other than us. We read the menu quickly and settled with our picks with anticipation.

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After having the Scoma cold crab, I had been craving for more crab. So I ordered the Toasted-Buttered Dungeoness Crab Roll. It was absolutely delicious. They gave generous portions of crab, which was of good quality due to its sweetness. The roll was nicely buttered and toasted, giving the perfect smoothness that the crab needed. Without a doubt, if I came back here I’d order the same thing. The fries were not anything to be mentioned. The coleslaw was advertised as house-made, and was pretty good. However I wish they gave a little bit more so I could truly taste it.

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Tfung ordered the Baja-Style Fish Tacos. I thought the fish was too dry and the batter they fried it in was horrible. The tacos were cold and powdery. I wasn’t a huge fan of the sauce as I felt it didn’t mesh everything together properly. It was like someone just threw random ingredients together that didn’t fit well. Tfung thought it was pretty good, but I thought the Tres Carnales fish tacos from Edmonton were way better.

Overall their service was pretty good but it was hard to determine, as it was the slowest time of the day. The server was nice, friendly and gave us good time to decide what we wanted to order. He did disappear for a while when we were ready to pay, but we just got his attention when he reappeared.

Service: 3/5
Food: 7.7/10
Atmosphere: sailor/nautical, diner
Price: $10-20

Woodhouse Fish Company on Urbanspoon

(San Fran Trip) Tadich Grill – Financial District

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After a long wait, we finally sat down, but only at the bar since the dining room would be an even longer wait. They do not take reservations and even though it was already 9pm, there were many people waiting for a seat. We had planned for this since many reviewers had mentioned Tadich’s popularity. Their setup is very peculiar but efficient. The long isle on the server side of the bar leads right to the kitchen so there is no need to criss cross between tables and makes it very easy for the servers to get your food and serve it to you. Everyone was extremely friendly and willing to have conversations with you if you are a traveler or just a regular customer. No body rushed us even though there were lots of customers waiting to be seated. The service was excellent.

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With San Francisco being famous for their clam chowders, we decide to order another one after having Boudin’s clam chowder, which was already decent. We were surprised by how much Tadich Grill spoiled us. This was one of the best clam chowders I have ever devoured. It was thicker and creamier than Boudin, which almost strays from soup territory. But, that consistency worked perfectly for the fully loaded soup. There is a generous amount of “stuff” they pack into this chowder and best of all, there is A LOT of clams. This chowder is so jam packed that the ingredients are sticking out of the top of the soup. It was rich, filling, and scrumptious.

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For our mains, I had the Seafood Cioppino and Karen had the Swordfish with Lobster claws. Cioppino is a fish stew that originates in San Francisco. In this dish, there was dungeness crab, clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, squid and fish. As with the clam chowder, this dish was fully loaded.

Presentation on this dish was lacking. Although it was a stew, they did not take the time to arrange the seafood nicely. Their bowl they used to serve the food was very plain and had their logo on it in green letters. Not the best looking stew I’ve ever had, but the taste made up plenty for it.

The tomato based fish broth had a rich seafood flavour with herbs and mild spice. It really brings out the sweetness and the freshness of the seafood. The broth was very flavourful and rich, but was a bit on the watery side. I like my stews thicker and it was just not the thickness I expected from a stew. Overall, this dish was amazing. The seafood was cooked to perfection and there was a generous portion. The broth was so tasty that I found myself spooning it even after all the seafood was done. Even the garlic bread was very good.

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Again, presentation can be improved, but Tadich Grill is a homely, casual restaurant. They specialize in their food and not so much concerned about its looks. We will let this one go.

Swordfish is very difficult to prepare. The timing with cooking swordfish must be perfect, otherwise you end up with extremely tough and chewy fish that is almost inedible. In addition, you have to be careful not to overly season swordfish as it can mask its mild taste. This swordfish was done and seasoned to perfection. There was not too much salt and pepper but enough to bring out the flavours of the fish. The fish was moist, tender, and just really good quality. Every bite made me want more. Imagine how happy I was when Karen said she couldn’t finish it. The lobster was not necessary because it did not go well with the fish together. However, it was nice to snack on the lobster claws on the side as we ate the delicious swordfish.

We were way too full for dessert. So we decided to call it a night and head back to our hotel in Union Square West. As we walked, we talked about how much we enjoyed the meal at Tadich. The presentation was not there, but every dish tasted beyond our expectations and more. The seafood was well portioned, fresh, flavourful, and done to perfection. The servers are friendly and welcoming. When we come back to San Francisco, we will make sure to slot in a trip to Tadich Grill.

Service: 4.5/5
Food: 9.3/10
Atmosphere: Casual, Comfy, Grill
Price: $30-40

Tadich Grill on Urbanspoon

~ Thomas

(San Fran Trip) Boudin and Scoma – Fisherman’s Wharf

So following our trip to Ferry Building Market, we wanted to head over to the Fisherman’s Wharf. We had originally wanted to take the streetcar but we lined up for 20 minutes and no one in the line were able to get on since all 5 of the streetcars that passed were full.

So we decided to walk it, since we could use the exercise anyway.

Our first stop was Boudin Sourdough Bakery and Cafe. We had to google streetview this place so many times because we were worried we wouldn’t be able to find it. It was useless in the end because Fisherman’s Wharf has changed so much since whenever the pictures were done. We found it in the flurry of vibrant and lively shops at one end of the wharf. There was a huge line so we split up. Tfung lined up and ordered food, while I went to wait for a table. We ended up getting a turkey avocado sandwich and the clam chowder soup in the sourdough bread bowl. The sandwich was actually REALLY good, and it’s too bad I didn’t get a good picture of it. The turkey and the fresh avocado went really well together.

The clam chowder was thick, and creamy, but was not overly so. However, there were very few clams in the chowder, so I was slightly disappointed, since I like a clam chowder with A LOT of clams. The flavour was good, but I have definitely had better clam chowder before. It just lacked that clam taste that I was looking for, which would make it a rich tasting clam chowder. With that being said, the sourdough bread was absolutely delicious with the chowder. But there was so much that we couldn’t finish it!

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Boudin’s Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bread Bowl

After doing some light shopping around Fisherman’s Wharf, we proceeded to Scoma’s Restaurant.

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We only wanted one thing, which was cold crab and that was exactly and the only thing we ordered. The full crab costs $30, which was a little pricey.

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It really was very fresh, sweet and juicy. We don’t like to use any sauces or lemon because we love to taste the true flavour of the crab. It was really tasty and tfung was so sweet to peel some of the crab legs for me 🙂

Overall I thought both restaurants were just touristy, bucket list places. The food at Scoma’s was without a doubt good. The prices were a bit high, but it was not surprising since it was in the most touristy area of San Francisco. The restaurant’s style is that of an old tug boat, which fits nicely as a restaurant on the Wharf. However we both noticed a stale, musky smell, which turned us off our appetite a little bit. The service wasn’t bad, but it also felt they were rushing us to finish and serve the next customer.

Service: 3/5
Food: 7.5/10 (Boudin), 8.0/10 (Scoma’s)
Atmosphere: diner/fastfood (Boudin), boat-theme (Scoma’s)
Price: $10-20 (Boudin), $20-40 (Scoma’s)

Boudin:
Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon
Scoma:
Scoma's on Urbanspoon

~ Thomas and Kehwon