Jan 05

The Sterling Restaurant Review: Our only beef was the beef!

Sterling Restaurant Gatineau

Sterling Restaurant in Gatineau: Mainly because of the Meat!
It’s a good thing it wasn’t a date!
We were way more than fashionably late..
The beef though called Sterling perhaps wasn’t the best,
But we thoroughly enjoyed all of the rest.
But don’t go if you hope to lose weight

Anyone who had been in our car as we made our recent foray across the river and into the wilds of Gatineau would attest to the fact that I did little, on this particular evening to counter the male stereotype of one who eschews directions. Having a pre-conceived and, as it would subsequently turn out, totally erroneous notion of where we were going (Rue Jacques Cartier),  I crossed the Alexandra Bridge and discovered that Jacques Cartier Park and Rue Jacques Cartier are not as close as one might imagine! My second mistake, once having decided to leave the directions to our otherwise normally fairly trustworthy Tom-Tom. When I entered Jacques Cartier, it told me that it was 5.5 kms away. The street number of the restaurant which I entered from memory appeared invalid, so I accepted the alternative offered by the device.

5.5kms later, the GPS cheerfully announced: ‘ You have reached your destination!’  The only problem was that there was no restaurant in sight. We drove the length of the street hoping that we would espy our desired location. No such luck! We stopped and attempted to look up the restaurant address on my smartphone. Unfortunately, the battery was too low to accomplish this task and we had to locate the car charger. Once we were finally online, it turned out that the address was 839 rather than 400 and that was 2.7 kms away. To say that we were in the dark was both figurative and literal. In the light of day and with the advantage of a map, we were never that far, even from our first stop just over the bridge but the GPS had led us a merry dance through the environs of Hull and Gatineau. The end result was that instead of being 15 minutes early, we were now 25 minutes late. To add insult to injury, the parking lot was packed.

Sterling Beef on the barbecue over maple wood

Sterling Beef on the barbecue over maple wood

By the time we made our way into the restaurant, it was fair to say that I was not in particularly good humour. The maître d’ somewhat mitigated this by giving us a whirlwind tour of the ground floor and explaining the intricacies of Sterling Beef. We were then led upstairs to our table. It turns out that the main dining area is one of the more salient features of the restaurant with exotic wines stacked in bins lining the entire back wall and high, intricately decorated metal-leaf clad ceilings. The clientele appeared both eclectic and upscale.

What we ordered: The menu, although sufficiently varied, obviously put the main emphasis on the beef, samples of which were brought to the table for our inspection prior to our order being taken, though I am pretty sure that we didn’t actually get the one that we pointed to. I was momentarily tempted by the rack of lamb (not actually shown to us), but wasn’t sure that the ‘Sterling’ apellation applied to it and thus was lured away to a ‘table d’hôte’ at $65 which started off with a yellow and red beet soup that caught my fancy. In the end, all three of us ended up selecting filet mignon, Dorothy and I opting for the 8oz portion that was included in the table d’hôte, while our American guest, Mike, chose a larger 12oz size with onion soup as a starter. Dorothy and I accompanied our meals with a half bottle of Wolf Blass Cabernet Sauvignon (Australian), which was very pleasant and reasonably priced at $24.

Red & Yellow Beet Soup Scallops Appetizer Snails, Goat cheese & wilted Spinach
Filet Mignon Cuban Chocolate Marquise

What we got: Neither Dorothy nor I were sorry that we chose the beet soup. It tasted as good as it looked somewhat odd. Our appetizers, which were Pan-Seared Scallops and Snails with goat cheese on wilted spinach respectively were both beyond reproach. When it came to the main course which consisted of filet mignon with yukon gold roast potato, we were split along gender lines, with Mike and I feeling that the reality did not match up to the hype. It was not terrible, but it did NOT melt in the mouth as it should have, especially at this price level.

When I had seen ‘Cuban Chocolate Marquise’ as the dessert selection with the set meal, I had no clue as to what that might mean. Moreover, I was probably a little disappointed by its appearance when it actually arrived. When I took my first bite, on the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised at the rich chocolate explosion that took place in my mouth. It may look small but it was just the right size to finish off the meal in grand fashion. It was just a pity that a restaurant of this calibre was unable to make a latté because: “We don’t have the machine!”

Worthy of note: Although the service, on balance, was relatively good, it was marred by the switching of steak where Dorothy received hers medium rare while mine was medium-well, the reverse of our orders. Mike had ordered  asparagus and it failed to materialize at the table but appeared on the bill! When this fact was pointed out, the waiter said he would have it removed but failed to apologize for the error. This was somewhat mitigated by his personally accompanying us to the door.

Summary

  • Positives: Food was well-prepared and presented. Service was attentive and cordial. Decor was outstanding
  • Negatives: Meat didn’t live up to the hype. Either the wait-staff or kitchen made a couple of errors! A little too pricey for what we got.
  • Recommendation: If you like fine dining and can hack a trip to the backwoods of Gatineau, this is worth a try!
 
Category Rating Explanation
Food Quality **** Above average
Price $$$$ Too expensive
Decor ***** Top Notch
Service *** Too many mistakes
Overall Rating **** Good but not excellent

 

Frivolous Foodie Facts
According to Canadian Beef Grading Agency standards only the top half of all beef grades as Canada AAA and about 1 % grades as Canada Prime. Only Prime and the top tier of Canada AAA qualify as Sterling Silver Premium Beef.Sterling Silver Premium Beef is aged for a minimum of 21 days, maximizing tenderness and enhancing the rich beefy flavour.
Sterling Silver Beef is carefully sourced from throughout Western Canada.

Sterling Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Dec 28

The Bogey Bar: A Breakfast without Par in Orleans

The Bogey Bar Ottawa Orleans

The Bogey Bar: Breakfast without Par in Orleans
So we were looking for breakfast in Orleans,
Where we’d be comfortable just dressed in jeans.
When I Googled, it suggested The Bogey Bar
And luckily I knew that it wasn’t too far
Did it cost us a fortune? By no means!

It is not quite the New Year yet but I already know that one of my resolutions will be to be more timely with my posts, so I am getting a head start. Since we just ate breakfast at the Bogey Bar in Orleans about an hour ago, I don’t think that I will ever get more timely than this 😉

Where we went: Recently, I was asked about where there was a good place to eat breakfast in the East End of Ottawa. I thought hard for a couple of minutes and came up empty. A years ago, I could have recommended Nickels in the Gloucester Center until their prices went up and they subsequently closed. Of course, there are the usual fast food suspects, but since I could not come up with anything concrete, I decided to do some on-line checking. Since we live near Montreal Road and highway 174, I checked out Orleans on Urbanspoon and Google. The highest rated establishment turned out to be one that I didn’t even know existed: The Bogey Bar & Grill, located on Youville Drive in amongst all the car dealerships. We were feeling adventurous, so we decided to take a chance on it.

Bogeys Sports BarAlthough decidedly unpretentious and somewhat hinky from the outside, as we passed through the entrance, what greeted us was a cross between a pub, sport’s bar and trucker’s cafe. We really had no idea what to expect! However, within seconds of seating ourselves, the solitary waitress was wending her way towards us with two steaming cups of coffee. Things were definitely off to a good start.

What we ordered: The menus that we were handed looked as if they had been around the block a few times but the selection was more than sufficient and the prices seemed as if they belonged in the 90s. I chose the pancakes with sausage and my friend Mike, visiting from Florida, ordered Eggs Benedict.

Pancakes with Sausage Eggs Benedict

What we got: Since it was obvious that we were not at the Chateau Laurier and weren’t paying their prices either, our expectations were somewhat modest. With this in mind, what we got was way beyond what we had expected. I have to say that my pancakes were a little overcooked but they were considerably better than I have been served in much more upscale establishments. Mike appeared to find his Eggs Benedict to be completely to his liking and declared the eggs to be cooked to perfection. Although there was but a single waitress, with the exception of being a little slow to bring us the bill, she was very prompt and attentive.

Worthy of note: The Bogey Bar is a little hard to find, tucked away in a small strip mall opposite Jim Keay Ford on Youville Drive. Prices for a full breakfast including tea or coffee are in the $4- $6 range. Our total bill including tip was $15. 🙂

Summary

  • Positives: Great prices, good food, good service
  • Negatives: Tough to find
  • Recommendation: We’ll be going again soon!
 
Category Rating Explanation
Food Quality *** Great for the price
Price $ Unbelievable
Decor ** A bit shabby
Service **** Very good
Overall Rating **** Recommended

 

Frivolous Foodie Facts
About 12% of a hen’s egg is shell, 58% egg white and 30%yolk. Average egg weighing about 60g provides 7g of protein, 6g fat, 30mg calcium, 1.5mg iron, 250mg cholesterol. The energy content of average sized egg is 335kJ (80kcal)

The Bogey Bar on Urbanspoon

Nov 11

Spice up your life at the Pepper Garden on Montreal Rd.

The Pepper Garden on Montreal Road in Ottawa

Pepper Garden: Don’t judge this book by its cover!
Montreal Road, I’ll admit, is not much for spice!
It’s not where you’d think you’d go to eat something nice.
However, The Pepper Garden clearly goes against this grain
The food inside is as good as the outside is plain!
Your satisfaction is sure, not a mere roll of the dice!

It feels somewhat strange to be writing a review in November of a restaurant that I visited in July. However, I have reason to remember this one fairly well since The Pepper Garden was where we went to celebrate my birthday. As is often the case, it was not a major celebration, just Dorothy, Ian and myself. I had been wanting to revisit this restaurant on Montreal Road in Ottawa’s East End for some time but for some reason, Dorothy did not have good feelings about the place. Therefore, I used the leverage of its being a special occasion to get her to acquiesce.

Pepper Garden Bistro GrillI would be the first to admit that The Pepper Garden is not really anything special judging by its exterior appearance and being annexed to a Pizza Hut location does nothing to enhance this impression. The modern, boxlike facade would seem to belie its claim of being a ‘ bistro-grill’. Fortunately though, things do improve once inside the restaurant. The interior is much more what you would expect and thus I am reminded a little of Dr. Who’s Tardis.

Crabcakes Appetiser Roast Chicken Lamb Steak Bread Pudding

The pictures above tell a better story than I could about the quality and variety of the food. We started off by sharing a crab-cakes appetizer which we all deemed to be really delicious. I followed with lamb steak and Dorothy chose the chicken. I don’t recall the actual description but you can see that the food is attractively garnished and presented as well as being a reasonable portion size. For dessert, I was tempted by the bread pudding and was not disappointed even though the picture does not do it justice.

We don’t claim to be wine connoisseurs so, more often than not, we will select the house wine when we feel like sipping a glass on a special occasion. I really should have made a note of the house red here because we really enjoyed it.

All in all, it was a very pleasant meal and I believe that even Dorothy would be more willing to return after this experience.

 

Summary

  • Positives: Good food at reasonable prices. Portion sizes are just right. Not too small but you won’t come away feeling stuffed.
  • Negatives: Don’t be put off by the drab exterior!
  • Recommendation: If you are looking for something special in the East End of Ottawa, the Pepper Garden is worth a try!
 
Category Rating Explanation
Food Quality **** Above average
Price $$$ Fair
Decor ***** Good
Service ***** Good
Overall Rating **** Recommended
Website http://www.peppergarden.ca/

 

Frivolous Foodie Facts
All peppers provide rich amount of vitamin C. But chili peppers contain an additional substance, called capsaicin which provides several health benefits such as:- Effective treatment and natural pain relief for inflammation such as arthritis, psoriasis, diabetic neuropathy.- Reduce risk of heart attack and stroke as it helps to reduce cholesterol levels and formation of blood clots.- Clear blocked nose and congested lungs.- Prevent stomach ulcers by killing bacteria in the stomach and stimulate more protective stomach juices, etc.

This red chili comes in different sizes, shapes and degrees of hotness or spiciness. The more mature the pepper, the hotter it will be. A sweet bell pepper measures 0 SHU while a habaneros or scotch bonnet, one of the hottest known chili peppers, records at around 300,000 SHU. Not hot enough? Then try naga jolokia, the hottest chili in the world which holds 1.04 million SHU.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/820240

Pepper Garden on Urbanspoon

Oct 31

D’Arcy McGees Irish Pub in Orleans is worth a try!

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D'Arcy McGees Irish Pub Orleans

D’Arcy McGee’s in Orleans: a restaurant in a pub’s clothing?
Most Ottawans surely know of old D’Arcy McGee’s,
The Sparks location is certain to please?
But now there’s another way out in the East
Where with the Luck of the Irish, you’ll get a good feast
Or perhaps you’d prefer just fish, chips and peas!

Most Ottawa residents are probably aware of the iconic D’Arcy McGees Irish Pub location on the corner of Sparks and Elgin Streets in the heart of downtown. We have eaten there several times over the last few years and have always been satisfied. The chain has now expanded to no less than five locations in the National Capital area and we recently had occasion to frequent the Centrum Boulevard location. From a location and atmosphere standpoint, the two locales could not be more different. Situated in the heart of the Orleans town centre, with a pleasant outdoor terrace, this East End branch is more restaurant than pub. Its prices also tend to reflect this distinction, being somewhat higher than one might expect for pub fare.

Fish and Chips

Traditional Pub Fare: Fish & Chips

What we ordered: On this particular occasion, we were three, Dorothy, Ian and myself. I had purchased a Groupon some time before and it was about to expire, so we were taking the opportunity to use it. Ian ordered the seafood in pastry. Dorothy decided to stay with more traditional pub fare and opted for the fish and chips. Personally, once I spotted lamb shank on the menu, I could not resist. Since D’Arcy McGee’s has Strongbow cider on tap, I took advantage of the occasion to enjoy one of my favourite UK exports.

Seafood Vol-au-Vent

Seafood in Pastry with Fries!

What we got: This is one instance where I believe that a picture is truly worth a thousand words, since I think you can really get the sense of the food served from the shots here. In short, the food was good but not extraordinary. Perhaps it was a little to pricey for pub food! Our joint judgement was that whilst we had no specific complaints, neither were we blown away. Although it was midweek and not overly busy, service, although pleasant, was a little slow. Fortunately, we were not in a hurry.

Rosslare Lamb Shank

Rosslare Lamb Shank

Worthy of note: Like many pub-style restaurants, the decor tends to be a little sombre. In the summer months, the outdoor patio might be your best bet. It is offset from the road enough that the traffic noise is somewhat mitigated.

Summary

  • Positives: Good Location with lots of free parking, great outdoor patio.
  • Negatives: Prices a little high for the quality of food!
  • Recommendation: On balance, it’s worth a try if you like pub-style food!

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Category Rating Explanation
Food Quality *** Fair to good
Price $$$$ Slightly overpriced
Decor *** Clean but sombre
Service *** OK
Overall Rating *** Worth a visit

D'Arcy McGee's Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

Frivolous Foodie Facts
The home of Guinness is in Dublin.The famous Guinness Brewery at St.James’ Gate, Dublin has a 9,000 year lease.

Oct 14

Solo Pasta: A Touch of Italy in Eastbourne!

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Solo Pasta Italian Restaurant Cornfield Road Eastbourne SussexEach time I go back to my childhood home town of Eastbourne in the U.K., I seem to be introduced to different restaurants that challenge my traditional views of the British gastronomic scene. On this particular visit, John and Daphne (a.k.a. my parents), once again kept up this trend by taking me to Solo Pasta, an Italian style restaurant located on Cornfield Road in the town centre. From the exterior, the locale is somewhat unassuming. Indeed, one of the major differences between European and North American eating establishments is that in Europe, the majority are small family-owned and operated, where in North America, they are most often chains or franchises. Solo Pasta like many businesses of its ilk in England, seems more like a roadside cafe than an upscale restaurant. Ah! But what about the food?

Oven-Baked LasagnaWhat would an Italian restaurant be without an offering or two of lasagne, on of the most quintessential of Italian foods. Although I did not personally sample this dish, John assured me that it was completely up to snuff! To be sure, its appearance alone, which is often half the battle when dining out, would give it better than average marks. So often, a hunk of lasagna unceremoniously dumped on a plate, can detract from one’s enjoyment of what might otherwise be a passable dish.

Crab PastaSince this was a relatively late lunch, I felt that I needed something on the lighter side and selected the crab pasta. I am sure that it had a much fancier name on the actual menu, but you get the gist of it. Although, in and of itself, this was a well put together dish, it lacked a certain visual appeal. Even the corn, which I found to be an unusual ingredient, did little to make it less homogeneous and more colourful. They did not scrimp on the crab and the dish was quite tasty but consistency and variety could have been improved.

Tartuffo Italian Ice CreamAs is often the case in English restaurants, the desserts (sweets or pudding in the local vernacular), was where Solo Pasta came into its own. For some reason, I had just finished describing Tartuffo ice cream to John and Daphne, since neither of them were aware of it when lo and behold, there is was on the menu! John took the opportunity to try it. It was somewhat larger than what would normally be the portion size in Canada. However, it was judged to be delicious.

Banoffee PieIf you have been following our posts for any length of time, you will be aware that I have a weakness for Banoffee Pie. I was first introduced to it by my sister quite a few years ago now. One of its key ingredients is Mascarpone cheese which, in Canada, is outrageously expensive. I have been known to cheat and substitute cream cheese when making it myself, which I am sure Solo Pasta did not do. Although perhaps not quite up to Joanne’s standard, the pie was a nice ending to a very pleasant meal. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rank Solo Pasta as a solid 7.5…

By way of comparison, you might wish to view our recent reviews of of 2 other Italian restaurants, Bonomo Ristorante (UK) and Robbies Italian Restaurant (Canada).
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Oct 05

Montana’s in Orleans gets you horny on your birthday!

Montanas by night

Montana’s on birthdays! The horns of a dilemma..
For a family restaurant, Montana’s is one of those places,
That people keep flocking to, though the food isn’t aces?
If you go on your birthday, I find it quite corny
They’ll all take a picture of YOU looking horny!
I just know that I won’t be back on a regular basis!

 

Amy gets hornyI’m not sure exactly what it is about Montana’s and birthdays but over the last few years, whenever there is a birthday celebration, over 50% of the time, we seem to end up at Montana’s. Most recently, it was at the Ottawa, Orleans location on Innes Road. As I write this post I realize that it has been more than just a few years since I have a snapshot of our son Ian wearing that annoying horn hat when he was about 13 years old and he is now pushing 30…

 

Unfortunately, what stands out for me, as I think back over the years, is the lack of stellar service that we have received. On this particular occasion, other than having to wait an inordinate length of time to get our orders taken and then to actually get our food. Worse still, when it came to paying the bill, they refused to divide up the bills as requested and members of our group were required to pass cash between themselves to sort things out. This is not good customer service.

 

When it comes to the food, I cannot say that it is bad, exactly, but I have never been really impressed. On a previous visit, I selected the pot roast with Yorkshire pudding and found it to be tough, overcooked and lacking flavour. This time, I selected the Smokehouse Wrap along with a side salad. Once again, while I cannot specify anything particularly lacking, I was not blown away either.

 

Fortunately, when a group of people are together to celebrate a birthday, the food and service are not front and centre. Perhaps that is why people want to go back: because they had a good time in spite of them and still come away with a good feeling. Or maybe they just like seeing the person of the hour being humiliated as they parade around in that dumb hat!

 

Finally, let me point out that the Urbanspoon rating at the end of this post indicates that this particular location only scores a 54% approval rating. that indicates that almost every other guest leaves dissatisfied.

 

Summary

  • Positives: We keep going back, so I guess it can’t be all that bad.
  • Negatives: Service always seems to be a weak point and the food is just OK!
  • Recommendation: In the case of restaurants, I guess ‘not bad’ is not really a recommendation but in the case of Montana’s, it is the best I can do!
 
Category Rating Explanation
Food Quality *** Just so-so
Price $$$ Not overly expensive
Decor *** Ok, Western Style
Service ** THE weak spot
Overall Rating ** Not recommended

 

Frivolous Foodie Facts
A 2008 ruling by the Royal Society of Chemistry has it that “A Yorkshire pudding isn’t a Yorkshire pudding if it is less than four inches tall

Montana's (Orleans) on Urbanspoon

Sep 27

Rumblebellys on Seaside in Eastbourne makes a mean burger!

Rumblebellys Seaside EastbourneThey tell me that Rumblebellys has been situated on Seaside Road in Eastbourne for a very long time.  Checking out their website tells me that, in fact, it has been 37 years. That explains why I was unfamiliar with it, since I left Eastbourne as a teenager some 41 years ago. Of course, I still go back on a frequent basis but have not kept up with all the comings and goings of the town.

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On this particular visit, Rumblebellys was suggested as a good spot to go for supper. I must say that living in North America for the last 37 years, I do not expect to come to England and start eating burgers, however I went along with the idea, as much out of curiosity as anything else. Up to this point, when I think of England and burgers, the only thing that comes to mind is Wimpey’s. I don’t even know if they still exist, but as a youngster, if you wanted a burger, you went to Wimpy’s.

Hawaiian Burger with tangy chili sauce
Hawaiian Burger with tangy chili sauce

Now, I have to admit that I am not very often a fan of burgers. The idea of all that bread along with fries (or chips as they are called in the UK), is all a little too much starch for me at one sitting. That being said, I must also say that the Hawaiian Burger that I had (pictured at left) was quite enjoyable even though the picture does not perhaps do it justice. It was much more juicy and succulent than it looks.

Treacle Sponge and Custard
Treacle Sponge and Custard

I even managed to save some room for dessert (sweet or pudding in the UK). Treacle sponge and custard has long been one of my favourites, such that you will find un-recipes for both in our own Un-Cookbook. This one was delicious. My only slight gripe might be that there was not enough custard in that little pot!

Although I would not be quick to go back again, that is only because of my aforementioned bias against hamburger joints in general. If you are a burger aficionado then Rumblebellys should definitely be on your wish-list if it is not already.

Sep 22

Robbies Italian Restaurant – Mutton dressed up as lamb!

[google=”google source” results=”defaultone”][/google]Robbies Italian Restaurant

Unlike a good wine, Robbies doesn’t improve with age!
Robbies Italian Restaurant seems like a permanent fixture!
At St. Laurent and Belfast, you get the picture?
Each time that we go, we expect something better
But nothing changes much, not exactly a trend setter
Good decor, but poor food is not the best mixture!

We have lived in the East End of Ottawa since 1980. For as long as I can remember, Robbies Italian restaurant has been sitting right there on the corner of St. Laurent and Belfast (not to be confused with Robbies Spaghetti House on Walkley Road!). In the mid 1990s, we had an office located on Belfast Road and so Robbies was a place we would go because it was slightly upscale and thus suitable for business lunches etc., and also because it was close by. Even back then, I do not remember ever being blown away by the food. During the ensuing years, we frequented Robbies occasionally, usually about once every five years.

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I am a firm believer in keeping an open mind. It had now been approximately five years since our last visit and it was hard to believe that things would not have changed at least a little. The thing is, we could not know whether it would be for better or worse.

What we ordered: At first glance it seemed as if two factors of the dining experience at Robbies had changed very little since our last visit: the decor and the menu. If the decor had been updated since our last visit, it was done over in exactly the same style as before. For its part, the menu seemed to offer the normal middle-of-the-road, typical Italian dishes. Dorothy is not usually a big fan of Italian food and perhaps that is one main reason why we go so infrequently. I selected the Veal in lemon sauce wanting something on the lighter side.

Veal in lemon Sauce with Capers

What we got: Now, if I were judging purely and simply on presentation, Robbies would get pretty good marks. The shortcoming was in the taste or, to be more precise, the lack of it. Veal is already a fairly bland meat so it really needs some herbs, spices or seasonings to liven it up. If they were there, they were vert unobtrusive. Having been disappointed with the main course, I decided to give them a second chance to make an impression with dessert and ordered the chocolate mousse cake, one of my perennial favourites.Chocolate mousse cake Unfortunately, once again, I was destined to be disappointed. These days, I don’t that often order dessert in a restaurant, largely because I have been spoiled by my frequent trips to Europe which doesn’t serve thawed, mass-produced product masquerading as something it is not.

Worthy of note: Unfortunately, there really isn’t anything worthy of note about this restaurant and that really is the main problem. It is not terrible, it just isn’t that great either and this is reflected in the  Urbanspoon ranking shown at the bottom of this post. I suppose it survives because the ownership run it as an efficient business. It certainly isn’t because of its being well-known for great food.

Summary

 
Category Rating Explanation
Food Quality ** Not the best
Price $$$ Average
Decor *** clean but sombre
Service *** Nothing extraordinary
Overall Rating ** Not recommended

 

Frivolous Foodie Facts
I will believe in truth in labelling, when I pick up a package of meat labelled: “It’s tough!”

Robbie's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sep 19

Gabriels at Holiday Inn in Hasbrouck Heights NJ was a pleasant surprise.

Gabriels Bar & Grille I would not usuallly take the trouble to review a restaurant situated inside a hotel where we only ate the buffet breakfast. However, I am going to make an exception for Gabriel’s Grille and Bar located in the Holiday Inn in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, for several reasons.

  1. Firstly, many people might find themselves in the New York City area and be looking for a relatively inexpensive, but still upscale place to stay with easy access to downtown. This particular Holiday Inn fits the bill. They have a shuttle bus which runs frequently to the nearest bus stop with a direct link to the Port Authority.
  2. Secondly, this restaurant struck us as a step above the normal in-hotel eatery and seems to be not very well advertised. We had to make a special request to have it added to Urbanspoon
  3. Although many people will not want to eat in the hotel with so many varied and more exotic choices in Manhattan, there are still those times when you can’t be bothered to make that kind of effort and it is nice to know that there is a reasonable alternative nearby.

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That being said, I must repeat that we only tried the buffet breakfast offering ourselves. On the other hand, given how often, over the last couple of decades, I have taken my breakfast in hotels of this sort, I feel that I am in as good a position as most to pass judgement.

Gabriels Breakfast Buffet Of course, there were the usual offerings, eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes etc. We’ve all seen it a hundred times. What really made the difference was the fact that it didn’t seem mass-produced or stale as is often the case. In addition, the fresh fruit and pastries were again a step up from what one would usually find.Gabriels Buffet Breakfast Plate
With this kind of improvement in the breakfast buffet, I would hazard a guess that lunch and supper would be worth a try here as well.

 

Sep 18

Ollie’s in Hells Kitchen made me a New York fan!

Ollies Chinese Restaurant New York
Although I have worked in and around New York, on and off, for the last decade and a half, I rarely have ventured right into Manhattan. On a recent trip to meet up with friends from Germany, we were making our way back to the Port Authority to catch a bus back to our hotel and were looking for a place to eat. We came upon Ollie’s Chinese Restaurant and decided that it looked like a reasonable place to try.

[clickbank=”Restaurant” results=”3″][/clickbank]

Ollies has nice ambianceI have not eaten in that many American Chinese eating establishments, so cannot make the same generalization that I would about the Canadian ones and that is that, by and large, there is a uniformity of offerings from one restaurant to another. If you order Crispy Beef in Toronto and Montreal, what you get is going to be just about the same.

The minute we entered Ollies, I had the feeling that it was going to be different. First off, it didn’t fit the mould appearance-wise. There were no hanging Chinese lanterns and pictures of pagodas on the walls. There was, on the other hand, a good sprinkling of ethnic Chinese diners, which is often considered to be sign of a good authentic Chinese restaurant.

Dorothy and I predictably ordered our stand-by favourites Mooshu Pork and Crispy beef. Our German friends ordered a house specialty noodle dish. All are pictured below:

Ollies Crispy Beef Ollies Mooshu Pork Ollies Specialty Noodle Dish

There is no doubt that after a long day of doing the tourist thing in New York, we were all pretty hungry and perhaps even cardboard would have tasted good, but I have to say that the food exceeded any expectations that we might have had. The outstanding dish for me was the Crispy Beef. I have never tasted any better. Normally, in Canada at least, the beef is deep-fried to a point where you can not really discern where the beef ends and the crispy coating begins. At Ollie’s, although the general taste was the same, once you bit through the sweet, crispy outside layer, the beef inside was still tender, juicy and succulent. Just thinking about it now, several months later makes my mouth water.

The four of us agreed that the food was above average and for downtown New York, the prices were reasonable. All in all, a very pleasant experience and highly recommended.

Ollie's on Urbanspoon