Saturday, 10 November 2012

Langdon Hall

1 Langdon Drive
Cambridge, ON


In her opinion:
In order to celebrate my darling husband's 40th birthday, I wanted to take him somewhere where only a real foodie would appreciate. Canada is honoured with 5 CAA/AAA five diamond award wining restaurants. The only one in Ontario is in my hometown of Cambridge, Ontario and that distinction belongs to Langdon Hall and (they have carried that honour for eight years). The Grand Chef at Langdon Hall is Jonathon Gushue a Newfoundland born wonder kid who is also not bad on the eyes!

Oh yeah, the food...So because it was Edgar's 40th, I wanted him to have the tasting menu. I had decided before we even set foot at Langdon Hall that I was not doing the tasting menu...simply too much food! I had decided that I would simply get a starter and a main and if I had room, then I would order dessert. That is what I had decided...that is not what happened.  

This is what I ate:

Amuse-Bouche #1: Shaved Pickerel (Fermented Carrot Water with Roasted Sunflower Salt).

Amuse-Bouche #2:Black Bread with Trout Mousse.

Appetizer: Crisp Chassagne Farms Quail (Lincoln Leeks, Pickled Black Walnuts, Roasted Citrus Vinaigrette).

Intermezzo: Fermented Sea Urchin with a Coddled Egg and Buttermilk and Leek Oil.

Entree: Dufferin County Spring Lamb (Runner Beans, Kale and Garlic Gratin and Spice Jus).

Cheese-course: Rassembleu (Wild Boar Pancetta, Langdon Honey) served with house-made fruit and nut bread.

Petite-fours: Financiers, Lemon-caramel gelees and Pink-peppercorn and apple macaroons.

Yes, you read right. That was seven courses. Seven courses of deliciousness. Seven courses to evoke all your senses and truly reflect upon why Landon Hall holds such honours.

We ordered sparkling water for the table and I enjoyed a glass of Cave Spring Riesling with my meal.

Both amuse-bouches were good but I preferred the "Black bread and Trout Mousse". The flavour of the leeks in the black bread was wonderful and the creaminess of the trout mousse was the perfect pairing with the bread.  

The appetizer was excellent. I had recently experienced a delicious quail dish at Peller Estate Winery by Chef Jason Parsons (who is an alumnus of Langdon Hall himself) and I was beginning to appreciate these little beauties. So when I noted it on the Langdon Hall menu, I knew what I wanted. The flavour of the quail and leeks worked very well with the citrus vinaigrette and the pickled black walnuts. 

The intermezzo was a nice gift from the kitchen. It was delivered by Chef Gushue himself! That was a nice treat! I was so star struck that I totally missed the description of the dish before I started to eat it. The flavours of this dish were outstanding. So delectable. I finally asked our amazing server, Melissa what was in the dish. When she informed us what was in the dish...I must say I was surprised by the contents. This was probably my favourite dish of the night. Just incredible. I think I continue to dream about this intermezzo and my mouth is watering as I write about it.

My main course choice was not typically what I would pick! But, I wanted meat and this was the only option that would satisfy this craving. I enjoyed the loin portion of my lamb very much. Well seasoned, delicious meat. I also discovered that I am not a fan of the meat from the neck of the lamb. I found it much more gamey and fat for my liking. Edgar enjoyed that portion of my main. The kale and garlic gratin were outstanding. I enjoy kale in typically Portuguese food but to have it in this manner was refreshing. It was so good.

I was full after all this deliciousness and I thought I was done but Chef Gushue had a different plan. Since I didn't want dessert, Chef Gushue insisted that I have the cheese course like my husband. This was delicious. Cheese, honey and pancetta...tangy, sweet and saltiness on toasted fruit there really anything better? Just perfection!

Finally, after all that, we asked for the bill and Melissa brought it out with the petite-fours. This reminded me of the wonderful meal I had had in Paris at the 3 Michelin star Grand Vefour. That too had been an endless feast which ended with petite-fours. Langdon Hall's selection consisted of financier, a gelee and a french macaroon. All were delectable little treats. A very memorable ending to a fabulous meal.

I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate Edgar's 40th then at Langdon Hall. This is the epitome of fine dining. It is perfection! I enjoyed my meal very much and look forward to returning for other wonderful meals in the future.

In his opinion:
Needless to say that if a wife tells a foodie husband that his 40th birthday will be celebrated at Langdon Hall, and with the Tasting Menu as the centre piece, one can't help but be ecstatic about it, and I surely was!

My experiences at Langdon Hall thus far have all been of high calibre all around. I had read and heard some less than stellar experiences by others but for me they were nothing but a unicorn, often heard about but never seen.

Langdon Hall carries accolades such as the best hotel in Canada 2011 and 2012, a world class Spa but also boasts one of very few AAA/CAA 5 Diamond restaurants in all of Canada. It has always been a highly rated restaurant but the arrival of Chef Jonathan Gushue in 2005 brought what it takes to upkeep the 5 Diamond award going, something he had already achieved at Truffles years prior. He has also since received the coveted title of "Gran Chef" attributed by Relais and Chateaux to only around 160 chefs worldwide.

We were greeted and seated in the dining room and promptly welcomed by our waitress Melissa Marynissen, who is also the assistant Sommelier. She was extremely pleasant, very well informed and attentive throughout the meal, engaging in small talk and even sharing some foodie tips with us.

I had decided to have the Tasting Menu for the night. The Tasting Menu consists of 8 dishes, brought to you in a specific sequence to maximize the gastronomic experience. With the generosity and hospitality of Chef Jonathan Gushue, this dining experience turned into an 11 course meal that spanned close to 3 hours. I knew what I was in for but did not expect the above and beyond service provided by the kitchen, even though it was my birthday.

My 8 turned into 11 course description with images:

Amuse-Bouche #1: Shaved Pickerel (Fermented Carrot Water with Roasted Sunflower Salt). Light, soft and textured flavours combined to play with your palate and senses.

Amuse-Bouche #2:Black Bread with Trout Mousse. Blackened bread with leeks didn't seem like my cup of tea but one bite in this extremely flavoured bread and I was hooked. Add the super creamy, savoury trout Mousse to scoop or dip the bread in and it's a hit.

1st Course: Albacore Tuna (Easter Egg Radish, Toasted Seaweed and Basil Juice Borage). The tuna was very delicious, slightly sweet with a robust flavour. The mixture of textures work well together and were perfectly complimented by the basil juice. The garnish was both slightly bitter and smokey.


2nd Course: Blistered Scallop (Saltwort, Cured Bone Marrow, Sourdough and Sauce Bouillabaisse). The scallops had a firm texture on the outside from the flash cooking (blistering), but tender and juicy and almost ceviche like on the inside. Full of flavour and a perfect texture match for the bone marrow. The Bouillabaisse sauce and the textures it carried was a novelty to me but ultimately worked very well together.

Intermezzo: Fermented Sea Urchin with a Coddled Egg and Buttermilk and Leek Oil. This dish was one of the highlights of the night. Chef Jonathan Gushue brought this dish out himself and explained to it us. Besides the amazing presentation and the intricate mix of ingredients, it had such a warm and a wonderfully appealing aroma. The coddled egg was super soft and matched the buttermilk oil perfectly.

3rd Course: Roasted Black Salsify (Wild Sturgeon Caviar, Chickwood and Chips). I must admit that this was the only thing on the menu that I was not familiar with, the Salsify root is a white root, like a parsnip but skinnier. It is usually peeled when served but in this instance the peel was left on and I think I prefer it that way. It had a harder, crunchier exterior but very soft on the bite inside. I really enjoyed it actually. The very tasty and fresh caviar sat on top and the plate was adorned with very thinly sliced chips and Chickwood. Also a favourite of the night.

4th Course: Partridge (Confit, Partridge Berry, Marigold Honey, Natural Jus). Now this was one very well done partridge in my opinion. I'm a fan of anything confit but this dish was outstanding. The honey and berry offset the crispiness and harder texture of the bird perfectly.

5th Course: Venison (Parsnip, Liquourice, Chard, Smoked Shallot and Pepper Jus). The venison was a good portion for a tasting menu, perfectly done, juicy, tender and full of flavour. The smoked shallot, parsnip and chard were the perfect greens to compliment the venison. 

Cheese-course: Rassembleu (Wild Boar Pancetta, Langdon Honey) served with house-made fruit and nut bread. Langdon Hall should be very proud of their honey and when you throw in some Quebec made Rassembleu and some Italian pork belly bacon, you have the recipe for success. This "cheese" dish was fresh, complex and full of palate changes from one bite to another. The nut bread was outstanding and a perfect pairing.

Dessert: Marigold Granita (Buttermilk Sorbet, Bourbon, White Chocolate). Besides the kitchen's very nice gesture of writing Happy Birthday on my plate, this dessert plate was truly delightful. Granita, which is an Italian semi-frozen dessert made from sugar water and other flavours, was like an explosion in my mouth. It felt like high flavoured thin ice chips and packed a punch of flavour. In contrast the buttermilk sorbet was silky smooth, velvety and provided the great contrast that this dessert required. 

Petite-fours: Financiers, Lemon-caramel gelees and Pink-peppercorn and apple macaroons. As soon as I saw this plate I thought, how can the kitchen know that my favourite snacks in the world are French Macaroons? They didn't, but it was a lovely coincidence. The sponge cake like French Financiers were extremely soft on the inside and crunchier on the outside, and the perfectly rectangular cut gelees were the plates' cherry on top.

This was truly a memorable meal, matching others that I had the pleasure of having in many parts of the world and in restaurants of the same level. Chef Jonathan Gushue made the night even more memorable by coming out and also included a few treats that made the meal outstanding.

The Good: Landon Hall's setting, its luxury feel, the perfect white linens on the tables and the fleet of the silverware that grace every dish are only half the story. The experience of dining here goes way beyond what a nicely decorated restaurant can offer. The attentive service, and the perfect execution of Chef's Jonathan Gushue's dishes are the layers that ties it all together. 
The Bad: Along with the Relais and Chateau designation and the Grand Chef labels comes the prices on the regular menu to match. The Tasting Menu is actually well priced at $125 or with wine pairings for  $215
The Verdict: I can't deny that it is lovely to have such an amazing place 5 minutes drive from my own home. In a time where food lovers seem to be running away from the formality of fine dining and embracing a much more casual, less uptight form of eating, it is refreshing to know that "Old World" luxury and great service is still found in the right establishments. I treasure this English Georgian Style Manor house as if it was my own perfect hideaway in the South of France (as most of you know I do love France).
Whether you go there for dinner, lunch, breakfast or lovely high tea, don't pass the opportunity to be wowed by the amazing food of the great restaurant and it's amazing Chef.

I give it 4 1/2 out of 5 Olives as rating

Langdon Hall on Urbanspoon

Monday, 5 November 2012

Bulgogi Brothers

140 York Blvd.
Richmond Hill, ON


In her opinion:
Edgar was lucky enough to win a contact on Twitter being run by Justine or @foodigatorJ for dinner for two at the only North American location of Bulgogi Brothers. So after a month of determining when to go we finally choose a Sunday afternoon. This restaurant is located in a really up and coming area for restaurants in Richmond Hill. We had enough time to drive around and notice a lot of different places that we don't have in our region. 

When we arrived at the restaurant we were greeted by a very friendly manager, Brandon Lee who was waiting for our visit. He showed us to a booth at then proceeded to go over the menu in minuscule detail with us. He also explained the history of the Bulgogi Brothers. He explained that bulgogi means fire meat or grilled meat. 

As part of the contest we needed to pick a starter, a Jjigae (Korean stew) and Naengmyeon (Korean noodle) to go along with Noon Kkotdeungsim Modeum Gui (a combination plate of ribeye, heart shaped Unyang and marinated short rib).  

After careful consideration we picked the following - 

Starter: Haemul Gungjung Mandu or fried dumpling with seafood (mussels, shrimp and squid) in BB spicy sauce.

Jjigae: Chadol Daenjang-Jjigae or fermented soybean stew with beef brisket and vegetables. Served with rice.

Naengmyeon: Naengmyeon Brothers which is a combination of Mul-naengmyeon or cold noodles served in a tangy iced broth served with beef and a boiled egg and Bibim-naengmyeon or cold noodles served in BB signature hot spicy sauce served with beef and a boiled egg.

After our choices were made, Brandon brought us over 3 different Ades to try - Plum Ade, Blackberry Ade and Honey Lemon Citrus Ade. These are carbonated drinks made with carbonated water and the pulp of Korean plums, blackberries and a citrus fruit. We were also served Corn Tea. This is meant to be drunk cold but was served hot. It was very tasty. 

Our attentive wait staff who were helping Brandon, brought out a snack or amuse bouche of Korean corn and edamame or soybeans. Very good. This was followed by a delicious sweet potato soup. Our starter also came out at this time. The Haemul Gungjung Mandu was excellent. Brandon had informed us that he has a group of Korean grandmothers in the kitchen making the dumplings by hand. They were delicious fried golden brown. The seafood topping was an excellent combination of seafood and veggies. Brandon had told us to combine all the flavours when you I dipped my dumpling in the spicy sauce and added seafood to each bite. This was truly delectable.

Side dishes and sauces were then brought out for us to enjoy with the BBQ  There were 6 side dishes and they consisted of pickled parsley, white kimchi, kimchi, braised lotus root, butternut squash salad and Korean peppers. The sauces consisted of sesame salt from Korea, hot sauce and spicy bean paste. We were also given a basket of lettuce leaves with cucumber and carrots. The lettuce leaves were to be used to wrap the beef in with the delicious spicy bean paste.

We had the honour of being served by Brandon, who barbecued the Noon Kkotdeungsim Modeum Gui or B9 for us. We started with the Noon Kkotdeungsim or ribeye, then this was followed with the heart shaped Unyang bulgogi and finally the Yangnyeom or marinated short ribs. This also comes with mushrooms, sweet potato and onions which are grilled first.

Let me begin by saying that the meat is out of this world good. The ribeye is absolutely delicious and tastes fantastic when dipped in the sesame salt. The Unyang bulgogi is very delicious. There is a sweetness to this meat and it works well with the spicy sauce. Finally the marinated short ribs were very tasty as well.  We tried wrapping the Unyang in the lettuce like Brandon suggested with a little of the spicy bean paste. It was very refreshing.

Short Rib


We were then served our Chadol Daenjang-Jjigae and Naengmyeon Brothers. I actually asked Brandon how people in Korea are so thin if they eat this other words I was stuffed by the time these two dishes came out.  I tried them both. I enjoyed the Jjigae much more then the Naengmyeon. I discovered that I am not a cold noodle type of person. I did find the Jjiage very hearty and warm and would have enjoyed more if I wasn't so full.
To end our meal, Brandon brought out dessert...melon ice cream from Korea. So incredibly light and tasty. I thought it was a great way to end the meal. 

We were treated like gold by Bulgogi Brothers and Brandon. Thanks to Justine for suggesting the contest to Brandon. I will return again when I am craving delicious meat or an those out of this world dumplings...

In his opinion:
The first interesting fact about Bulgogi Brothers is that the very first of the now 36 locations, was opened in Gang Nam (some of you might know its "style") from the PSY hit song. From Seoul, Korea to the Philippines and now Canada, this franchise is a proven household name for Korean cuisine.

Bulgogi actually means "fire meat" in Korean and represents marinated barbeque meat and Gogigui or "meat roasting", the popular Korean way of grilling meat.

As I entered the Bulgogi Brothers location in Richmond Hill, my first thought was that it didn't look like the usual Korean BBQ places that seem to be popping up everywhere. The look and feel is slightly upscale, inviting, very clean and with a wonderful ambiance that sets the mood for the meal to come.

The reason it doesn't look or feel like your typical Korean BBQ is because, it really isn't a Korean BBQ type of place per say. No all you can eat and surely no secondary grades of meat is found here. It is instead a moderately priced, Korean Franchise that more resembles a steak house than a traditional Korean BBQ. Sure there are burners at the tables and some items on the menu might substantiate the preconceived notion, but the food and service does indeed dispel it.

We were greeted by the manager Brandon Lee (no relation to the actor) that immediately made us feel welcome and proceeded to explain in rigorous detail the menu and the history of the Bulgogi Brothers restaurants and their owners. He was extremely helpful in guiding us relative novices in the Korean food scene through the options and making suggestions along the way.

Without attempting to repeat our choices that were already well explained above , I will instead highlight some of my favourite parts of this dining experience.

Aside from the wonderful corn tea provided, we were presented with 3 different fruit ades, Korean blackberry ade, honey lemon citrus ade and Korean plum ade (very popular with kids I was told). I must be a kid at heart because the plum ade was my favourite and the blackberry a close second.

First dishes were the creamy sweet potato soup that was so tasty that I could eat it all day, and also an amuse bouche consisting of Korean corn and edamame which was very savoury. The corn is actually dried and then boiled, keeping its taste but giving a more rigid outside to the corn.

Next, we were served our appetizer, the Haemul Gungjung Madu. These hand made dumplings were amazing and one of the highlights of the meal. We were to combine the dumplings with the seafood topping and spicy sauces to achieve maximum flavour and it all works very well together.

For the first meat dish, we were given 6 side dishes and 3 sauces for the meat. I will highlight the provision of lettuce to be used to wrap the meat. A new concept for me but one that I would learn to love with every bite. Who knew that lettuce wrapped meat was so tasty and why didn't I think of this myself earlier? I can assure you that lettuce will be a part of BBQ season at my house from now on.

The BBQing done in the "fire pit" in our table was performed by Brandon himself and one could easily identify the great cuts of meat being used.  The ribeye was top notch, incredibly tasty and a "melt in your mouth" type of cut. Dip it in the sesame salt and you have a clear winner. The heart shaped Unyang was next on the grill and was incredibly delectable as well, but a better match to the lettuce wrapping I spoke of earlier. Lastly, the short ribs were on the grill along with the mushrooms, onions and sweet potato slices. The grilling process is very meticulous and was well demonstrated by Brandon.

Truth be told, I was pretty full and satisfied by this point but for my surprise we were not done quite yet. Brandon served us with two cold noodle dishes next, Jjigae and Naengmyeon

The Jjigae was very tasty and the best of the two. My palate didn't agree with the spices of the Naengmyeon, they were too much for me but full of flavour nevertheless.

For dessert we were treated to Korean imported melon ice cream. I understand that it is a very dedicated type of dessert, only found in the Canadian location and it is extremely tasty and creamy.

The Good: Expect top notch meat and incredible service at this North American flagship eatery
The Bad: Way too much food for one sitting (not exactly a bad thing I suppose)
The Verdict: Upscale Korean cuisine is the definition of this restaurant, so please do not expect the all you can eat Korean BBQ style that other places offer.
A must return type of place that gave us excellent service and even better food.

Thanks to Justine @fodigator for selecting me as the winner of the Bulgogi Brothers dinner contest and thanks to Brandon the Manager, for the great hospitality and knowledge.

I give Bulgogi Brothers a 3 1/2 olives out of 5 as rating

Bulgogi Brothers on Urbanspoon