“That Queen Latifah,”my mother suddenly remarked. “I like her.” And then, following a thoughtful silence: “She hosted that award show with no audience.” (referring, of course, to that strike-stricken People’s Choice Awards of a few couple of years back). “Hmmm,”I offered by way of a response, focused as I was on inching us along Highway 40 and back home after an afternoon at my aunt‘s house where the ladies had sat and watched the Michael Jackson Memorial while I‘d sat alongside them, reading my book.
Since I’d had the to foresight to rent a car for my week-long stay in Montreal, I was drafted into service that morning as a driver for mom’s version of Meals on Wheels. We arrived at my auntie Jeanette’s a little after noon, arms laden with food, and sat down to lunch comprised of mom’s eggplant parmesan, penne and polpettini, roast chicken and potatoes. For dessert, my auntie Antoinette and cousin Leonara had dropped by The Big Apple enroute from Toronto. Yeah, I know, one hell of a detour – but no, different Big Apple. This Big Apple is, apparently, a place famed for its pies. I’m guessing apple mostly. Exactly why, I’m not sure. The pie I had consisted of barely cooked chunks of apple tucked beneath a half-baked crust. Brutal. I was able to force half of it down with help from the accompanying supermarket ice cream but had to leave the rest. “Oooh, too rich,”I said. This from the guy who does a double nutella tart whenever he visits Campagnolo.
I‘ve spent most of this trip eating, reading, or reading about eating.. Saturday night, my sister and her friend Lili took me to Shahi Palace, a restaurant that specializes in Indian and Pakistani cuisine. I was intrigued. Vancouver boasts its fair share of wonderful Indian restaurants, but nary a Pakistani eatery. That I know of anyway. So, when we sat down, the first thing I did after perusing the menu was to ask the waiter to point out the Pakistani dishes. Hey, do you know what the difference is between Indian and Pakistani cuisine? Apparently, not much according to our waiter. The meal’s high point was the Balti Chicken (tender pieces of chicken served in a spicy tomato-based sauce); it’s low point: the green bell pepper – and its accompanying produced sticker – served julienned in my Chili Fish.
Sunday was dinner at sis’s place. Kudos to her on the delicious rotisserie duck, duck fat-fried potatoes, and crème brulee that was ultimately more crème than brulee but tasty nevertheless. Yesterday was typical Italian fare: pasta e cecci and sausages.
After consulting with the so-called experts on the Chowhound boards, my sister took me to what was purported to be an excellent high-end restaurant on Montreal’s West Island: Le Bocage in Beaconsfield. I’m not sure what the English translation of “bocage” is but, after tonight’s meal, I’m guessing it’s something along the lines of “where restaurant dreams go to die”. Suffice it to say that had I run into any of the chowhounders who recommended this place immediately following my meal, I’d have been hard-pressed to resist punching their lights out.
But where to begin? Well, we sat down and were presented with two menus. The regular French menu, AND the “special” Italian Night menu. Hey, maybe we can come back next week and have Tunisian! As we considered our options, we were presented with some insanely garlicky bruschetta. Most may have been turned off but, being Italian, we quite liked them. Sadly, it was downhill from there. My starter was a terrine with a disquieting crusty meatloaf consistency, its flavors masked by an overwhelming peppercorn punch. My sister ordered what was described as escargots in a blue cheese sauce. She was served escargots swimming in a brown sauce. As she popped the first morsel into her mouth, I threw her an expectant look. “Salty,”was her one word review.
For mains, my sister had the lamb, cooked medium-rare as ordered. It was inoffensive and, thus, stands out among the items served. I had the filet mignon that was scorched hockey puck black. Despite my attempts to trim the top, bottom, and sides, it still retained its charred-to-shit flavor. Carcinogenilicious! The vegetable sides were a bonanza of blandness. Not exactly worth the $30. When our waitress swung by to clear the table, she noted that I had barely touched my steak. I informed her it was burnt and inedible. She seemed mildly interested and left, then returned with our bill. In keeping with the our crackerjack experience at Le Bocage, we were charged in full and not even comped a lousy dessert for the lousy experience. Just as well. I wouldn’t have trusted them anyway. Instead, we ended up going to Rockaberry for three types of pie that ended up being my actual dinner on this night.
As for Le Bocage – well, no idea how long this crap trap has been open but I’m betting the golden age crowd (in sparse attendance tonight) aint going to keep them afloat for long. As for whoever recommended this restaurant in the first place – I’d like to say they possess the palate of an anosmic St. Bernard or possibly grew up on a diet of cafeteria food, but that would prove a disservice to anosmic St. Bernard’s and cafeteria workers everywhere.
It don’t get much shittier than this.
Oh, and today’s entry is dedicated to birthday gal Jackie. 🙂
And get your questions in for James Enge, author of Blood of Ambrose!