Monday, August 23, 2010

Restaurant Review - 'Cavalli' 2005‏

Sitting next to the floor-to-ceiling windows at 'Cavalli',
I turn to see thin beauties in micro-minis and slick guys
handing the valet attendants keys to their very expensive,
exotic sports cars. There are Ferraris, Porsches and
Maseratis. I turn the other way and martini glasses glimmer
on tables down the length of the room, each filled with
a different pastel-coloured elixir. Refreshing, vibrant,
intense and fun, much like the restaurant itself.
After the demise of 'Mondo Saks'. The trendy new design
conceived by Architect Miguel Cancio (the visionary behind
'Buddha Bar' and 'Man Ray' in Paris, and Montreal's 'Med
Grill') might seem to overwhelm the food. The space is huge.
This 160-seat dining room is packed on a smoldering summer
night, at the beginning of the Montreal International Jazz
Festival, with a very 'Sex in the City' style crowd. You
see old friends, acquaintances, make new friends and find
yourself swaying to cool background music. I was actually
having fun, watching all those beautiful people parade up
and down the aisles. The decor certainly contributes to my
enthusiasm. Cancio has created a sort of preppy fun house
with alternating candy pink and celery green velvet chairs,
'70s wood-paneling, and an illuminated black and pink bar.
However, a restaurant is only as good as its food. In that
respect, I have nothing but praise for 'Cavalli'. Though the
underlying style is Italian, ingredients like wasabi, spices,
chipotle peppers, and plenty of coriander scream fusion. Yet,
it's fusion at its most disciplined and restrained. Not once
did I come across an off note, nor sample a dish that wasn't
perfectly seasoned. If ever there was an Italian restaurant
where a tableside shot of pepper should be waved off, this
is it. Every appetizer I sampled gets a firm thumbs up. Not
to be missed is the Shrimp Tempura. What's inventive here is
the way the chef has managed to trap spicy garlic aioli inside
the tempura shell. Every bite is tender, moist and garlicky,
with a wonderful taste of fresh seafood. If fresh seafood is
your pleasure, try the plate of White Fish Carpaccio. The olive
oil and lemon-tamari vinaigrette transforms this dish from
a plate of raw pink snapper to melting mouthfuls of meat
enlivened with crisp, bitter greens.
Main courses continue to impress. Sushi-grade tuna is
lightly seared in a crust of sunflower seeds, and served with
room-temperature bok choy, Israeli couscous, and enoki mushrooms
dressed with a wasabi and tobiko vinaigrette. The Chilean Sea
Bass is moist and delicate, topped with a brunoise of mango with
mint, and served with an intense pepper sauce. Desserts live up
to the sophistication of the savory menu, with colorful
presentations. A moist carrot cake iced with goat's cheese,
and a cream-heavy trio consisting of fluffy coffee mousse, paired
with mascarpone. 'Cavalli's wine list comprises Californian and
Italian wines, with a good choice of bottles in the $50 range.
Under the watchful eye of my good friend, and co-owner, Gianni
Caruso, service is solid. Though there is some wait between the
dishes, with all the action, you'll barely notice.
The Cavalli experience is one glitzy restaurant, that favors
smokers, including cigars. Love that! Food this good in a room
this beautiful should be accessible to all dinners, including

* Ristorante Cavalli ****
2040 Peel St.
Montreal (514) 843-5100

* Reviewed July 5, 2005

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Show Review - 'Tony Bennett'‏

Tony Bennett, dapper and smart, wearing a perfectly pressed
dark suit with red pocket square, finally closed in excellent
style, after a long-awaited 5 months, the Montreal Jazz Festival.
A little humor from André Menard (founder of the festival),
as he announced the final leg of the festival. He had postponed
his June 30 performance because the singer had agreed to take
part in a special 80th-birthday television special in his honor.
On his 80th birthday, Tony Bennett can boast of conquering
the charts for more than five decades. But after a lifetime of
accolades and countless hits, he says he still struggles with
the most basic of his art form's skills, reading sheet music.
Walking out at 8:30 p.m., after Kelli-Lee (an Ottawa native),
who opened for the legendary crooner, just a few steps behind
his quartet, the audience rose, a roaring, whooping standing
ovation, with few sporadic shouts of 'Tony! We love you!'
when they saw him.
Bennett moved to center stage, bowed and broke into a huge
smile. He never stopped beaming the rest of the night. The
octogenarian Bennett, dazzled the audience at Salle Wilfrid
Pelletier of Place des Arts. One, very excited, woman shouted,
'Marry Me Tony!' I'm sure his age is beginning to show. He
moved a little slower, and sang just a little quieter, but
he was still in the kind of form you'd be a fool to undersell.
To see him up close, to see him at the helm of his longtime
quartet is perhaps the greatest thrill of all, mike firmly
in his left hand, so often chest high, his right gesturing
and accenting and intimating nearly every nuance for his
colleagues, pianist Lee Musiker, guitarist Gray Sargent,
bassist Paul Langosch and drummer Harold Jones.
He opened with 'Watch What Happens' and very quickly went,
from one familiar tune to the next, 'All of Me, I Got Rhythm,
Speak Low', a typical and still immensely pleasing tour of
the Great American Song Book. There was even a spot for his
early '50s hit, Hank William's 'Cold, Cold Heart', and plenty
of that irreplaceable banter. He reminisced about his first
days in Greenwich Village in the late '40s, discovered there
by singer Pearl Bailey, and given his name, Bennett for
Benedetto, by Bob Hope. "He got a big kick out of me," Bennett
remembered, to instant laughter, "because I was the only
white guy in the show." Before you were born, heck, maybe
before your parents were born, Tony Bennett and Rosemary
Clooney, were television's original American Idol. "I started
that way (on TV) with Rosemary Clooney, years ago," Bennett
In a recent interview he declared, "We were the first
American Idols, in the '50s. That's when television was just
black and white. We got a break on an amateur show, and as
a result it started us off. Bob Hope picked us up, and we
went on the road with him," said Bennett. "He gave me my
name, Tony Bennett. He thought Anthony Dominick Benedetto
was too long for the marquee." The rest, as they say, is
history, decades upon decades of history, culminating last
week with the release of 'Tony Bennett: Duets, An American
Classic', a compilation of 18 standards made famous by Bennett
that have him crooning side by side with the likes of Bono,
Elton John, The Dixie Chicks, Barbra Streisand and Canada's
own Michael Bublé. Unlike some 'duets' that have two singers
record their tracks at different times in different locations,
Bennett insisted that his partners be side by side with him
in the studio, with the song recorded in just a handful of
takes. Bennett said, "That Michael Bublé, is a good kid. He
respects the old masters," Bennett said. 'He's got a lot on
the ball. He's my favorite singer these days of the young
contemporary artists."
Bennett's career has reached a new zenith in this his 81st
year, with the duets album, a documentary on his life being
produced by Clint Eastwood, a TV special airing this fall
directed by 'Chicago' helmer Rob Marshall, and even a painting
of Bennett's added to the Smithsonian's collection. Not bad
for a guy who got his big break singing on TV. But to this day,
nothing beats a live audience. 'They became my greatest teachers,
the audience,' he said, 'It's addictive. You can't wait for
the next audience, to give them a good show.'

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chef David Adjey @ Globe Restaurant‏

Outside the sun is setting inside the mellow rhythms
of Bryan Ferry playing in the background gives a sense
of electricity in the air. The smells, emanating from
the kitchen, are intoxicating and the lovely ladies
have a bounce in their step. To fans of the Food Network
staple 'Restaurant Makeover' this was a real treat.
Chef David Adjey preparing your dinner was very surreal.
I was told by someone in the know that the large majority
of the reservations came from women, not surprising,
this lanky, good looking (by Bombshell standards),
blonde and blue-eyed culinary master was very gracious
and mingled with everyone.

The customers seemed as grateful to be there has he
was of being so honoured. The sound and fury of the
patrons was a telltale of the mood among the diners,
who were out in droves on an otherwise uneventful
Wednesday night. I know from friends in the restaurant
business that Wednesday is usually their night off.

It was six courses of pure delight to your palate.
Our wine selection was a 'Malbec Flechas de Los Andes
Rothschild Mendoza'. A purplish, red full-bodied Shiraz
with a medium nose, exuding fruity aromas and offering
a slight acidity and fleshy tannins. The extravaganza
began with Grouper, which is a very delicate and moist
white fish. Wrapped in banana leaf, placed on a bed of
cubed yellow peppers, along with slices of pink grapefruit
and purple potatoes. Sophisticated simplicity.

Next came a sublime breaded potato salad in a lobster
bisque, very tart. The third starter in a dish with three
compartments was cool, warm and hot. Consisted of various
vegetables and a hardy slab of hot and spicy, seared tuna.
Then it was on to Ancho Rabbit, again served in a dish
with separate sections. One had a Pozole Poblano Stew and
on the other Espanzote-Hominy Ensalada. Then came pristine
thin strands of Smoky Entrecôte (strip steak) with one bite
Caesar and Clam vinaigrette. Every morsel was a melting
sensation of delectation and very fresh.

Finally, the 'piece de resistance', our dessert was
'Les Trois Chocolats'. White, milk and dark chocolate
whipped to a frenzied mousse. . . Utterly sinful. It
was a 'Menu de dégustation' (tasting menu) but by the
time you had your sixth course you were satiated.

Gorgeous waitresses, models and actresses-in-waiting
are practically a hallmark of Globe, and our waitress,
Nathalie a Peruvian Goddess, easily fit that description,
with charm and professionalism to spare.

* Restaurant Globe
3455 St.Laurent Blvd.,
Montréal, H2X 2T6
(514) 284-3823

Monday, August 16, 2010

Film Review - 'La Fille Coupée en Deux'‏

Sometimes you watch a film or movie that resonates strongly
and triggers something within you that makes it hard to look
away or forget it. It is similar to a really satisfying read
that you can't put down. This past weekend I looked at such
a film.
In researching it I discovered there is an American version
titled 'A Girl Cut in Two', but if for any reason you can
not view it in its original French version, don't bother.
You will miss out on all those nuances, rhythms and pathos.

Nouvelle Vague master auteur Claude Chabrol ('Madame Bovary',
'The Blood of Others') balances subtle stabs of humor and
biting class criticism to explore a love story and the seedier
side of the haute bourgeois. 'La Fille Coupée en Deux' (2007),
is a present-day French drama whose climax is loosely based
on a real life incident from 1906.

Gabrielle Deneige (Ludivine Sagnier 'Swimming Pool' a delicious
ingenue) is an ambitious, independent, local TV station weather
girl with a future: she is self-confident, self-possessed and
destined for rapid promotion.
In Lyon, on successive days, she meets two men of high status
and begins an affair with one, a renowned, middle-aged author
named Charles Saint-Denis (François Berléand 'The Transporter'),
after the pair meet by chance at the TV studio where she's
employed. Despite the significant age gap and the fact that
Charles is still happily married to his wife of 25 years Dona
(Valeria Cavalli 'Coco Chanel'), he continues his affair with
Gabrielle and gradually initiates her into a shady world of
high-class sex clubs.
Meanwhile, obnoxious, ultra-rich pharmaceutical heir Paul
Gaudens (Benoît Magimel 'The Piano Teacher') becomes increasingly
obsessed with Gabrielle and is furious to discover her affair
with Charles, towards whom he harbors an irrational hatred.

Both are attracted to her and both have flaws immediately
evident: Charles, who is married, can be dismissive; Paul can
be possessive and threatening. There is as well an unspoken
past between the two men which heightens tensions, and though
she's initially certain of her love for one of them, the see-saw
demands and whims of both men keep confusing and darkening
matters. She is torn and before long is encountering emotional
and societal forces well beyond her control, inexorably leading
to a shocking clash of violence and passion. To the dismay of
one, Gabrielle chooses the other.

Ludivine Sagnier is great as Gabrielle and she has surprisingly
strong chemistry with Berleand, despite the whole age gap thing.
In addition, Berleand is perfectly cast as Charles, while there's
strong support from Magimel and from '80s sexpot Mathilda May
('The Jackal' 1997) as the mysterious, alluring Capucine, whose
appearances are all too brief.

Chabrol's films are frequently referred to as Hitchcockian
and there's a definite trace of old Alfred here, particularly
in the obsessive nature of the relationships and the way in
which the script hints at something much darker occurring
behind the scenes. The film is also strongly reminiscent of
'Secretary' (James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal) notably in
the way that Saint-Denis' repeated humiliation of Gabrielle
only serves to intensify their relationship. He creates an
extraordinarily intense, frequently uncomfortable atmosphere
that works brilliantly - indeed, the air is so thick with
obsession and desire that you can practically taste it. That
said, the abrupt climax, while suitably shocking and undeniably
fitting, is vaguely unsatisfactory in a way you can't quite
put your finger on.

In short, enjoyably dark, superbly acted French drama that
proves veteran director Claude Chabrol hasn't lost his touch.
'La Fille Coupée en Deux' is an engaging, powerfully intense
drama with outstanding performances from Sagnier and Berleand.

* Reviewed August 15, 2010
with help from I.M.D.B.

Show Review - 'Femmes - Toutes Les Femmes'‏

On Saturday, Bombshell in tow, I did something I don't
usually do . . . go to the Casino de Montréal.
At the Cabaret du Casino we saw a new musical called
'Femmes - Toutes Les Femmes', which applauds and showcases
the various facets of women. This adventure takes you
around the world, giving you a closer look at the
diversity and beauty of female who have left their marks,
in all their glory. It stars that doyenne of the seventies
Nanette Workman, along with Julie Dassylva & Martin Lacasse,
and a dozen showgirls and male performers.
I've been a big fan of Nanette, since back in her glory
days. In fact, once upon a time, back in the 80s', when
I had the opening of my Bistro she and Boule Noire aka
George Thurston, were my special entertainment, celebrity
Thurston was one of the prominent figures in dance and
R&B music in Quebec during the 1970s and 1980s.
Nanette Workman can still belt it out and her co-stars
did music, without accents, in whichever country the song
took them. All the time, images constantly being projected
on a large screen.

Dinner and a show! Fabulous! I even won a couple of
dollars at the Blackjack table.

* Reviewed July 3, 2005

Sunday, August 8, 2010

'The Jerry Seinfeld Montreal Show'‏

'The Jerry Seinfeld's Show' at Place des Arts' Salle Wilfrid-
Pelletier was opened by Larry Miller ('Runaway Bride' - '10
Things I Hate About You'), who delivered a well-received
routine skewering spoiled North American life, including
a solid bit about license plates creatively tweaked to
include Quebec's own 'Je me souviens'.

Let's be clear, Jerry Seinfeld doesn't have to work. By
his own admission, he's old - 57! He's tired, the result
of helping raise his toddlers this late in life. And lest
we forget, he's rich! In fact, it's a good bet that with
his TV series popping up 18 times a day in syndication,
Jerry Seinfeld could buy Bolivia. So why does he still
tour? He is truly obsessed with life's minutiae, and he
needs a forum for his views and rants.

It's likely the audiences attending two stand-up shows
Saturday night were expecting nothing. Not in the sense
of a lack of jokes, or some sort of nihilistic void. But
rather nothing in the form of the satirical observation
of life's minutia that so defined Seinfeld's eponymous,
hugely successful '90s sitcom, frequently called a 'show
about nothing'.

Seinfeld performed, and enthralled two sold-out audiences
on Saturday Night, and it was not nothing, but a lot of
little somethings. Like Pop Tarts and horse races and
BlackBerrys, all woven together into a manic, hilarious
set that avoided rehashing the show's routines, with
observations on everything from email to marriage, to
breakfast cereal. The knock against Seinfeld had always
been that he rose to the top on the tube on the coattails
and neuroses of his sidekicks. That was then, this is
now. It is no longer the case, he has elevated his
neuroses into an art form. He has never been sharper
or funnier.

The New York comedian has seemingly lost little of his
popularity since the last Seinfeld episode aired in 1998,
earning a standing ovation simply by walking out on stage,
actually, running and skidding out. He's also not visibly
aged, looking youthful and healthy at 56. One might imagine
that sweating the small stuff is actually a form of exercise.
And his comedy - though familiar in form and style - drew
nothing but adulation from the crowd.

After the welcoming applause died, Seinfeld launched into
a meta-routine about the myriad annoyances and irritations
that likely befell audience members on their way to the show,
eliciting laughs and the echoed, chorused mantra of 'so true'
from all over the theatre.

Next, a lengthy but well-paced segment about food and drink,
ranging from specials at restaurants. . . . .

'If they're so special, put them on the menu. I'm not interested
in auditioning food.'

He even did a bit on over-cheesed pizza. Apparently still
hungry, he then began a particularly frantic diatribe about
cookies, a highlight coming when he suggested that. . . . .

'They should have names like Chocolate Sons-of-Bitches'.

On stage, Seinfeld is much more animated than suggested
by his show, where he spent much of his screen time leaning
against something and smirking. Live, he seems only a heart
palpitation away from one of Lewis Black's aneurysms, helping
to elevate some of the less groundbreaking material, such
as a segment on marriage, which is to stand-up sets what periods
are to sentences. That energy never lagged during his 75min
performance, particularly during a piece on voice mail or
an almost existential, homespun take on entropy: 'The world
consists of garbage, and pre-garbage.' And it was returned
in kind by a vocal and adoring crowd. Not bad for a set about

* Reviewed August 7, 2010

Friday, August 6, 2010

Restaurant Review - La Gaudriole ***‏

Every week or so, dining companion in tow, I arrive at a new
dining establishment, with the expectation of spending, at least
$250. It's always interesting to see just how far it will go.
Sometimes, due to inflated wine prices, dishes enhanced with
luxury ingredients, or an irresistible, pricey cheese course,
I tilt the bank. Last weekend, after a dinner at La Gaudriole,
the opposite occurred, especially considering that the meal
did strike several memorable moments.
La Gaudriole draws neither the crowd-loving trendies nor
the decor-needy fashion plates. This neighborhood bistro is
THE place for budget-conscious gourmets. Nestled, inconspicuously,
between the chic boutiques and acclaimed restaurants of
Laurier Avenue West, and the specialty food stores and branché
restaurants of Laurier Ave. E., could not be more appropriate.
La Gaudriole offers the best of both worlds, the stylishness
of the West and the lack of pretension of the East.
The food is the story. At La Gaudriole, the excitement is
on the plate. The ingredients are exotic, the plate presentations
are decorative, and some of the combinations of flavour are
downright adventurous. For starters, a generous portion of hot
foie-gras with roasted apple and cherry wine. The three thick
slices of pan-seared duck foie gras are placed atop a round of
toasted apple topped with macerated cherries and surrounded by
a pool of reduced cherry-wine sauce.
Flavours come alive again with the main courses. Grilled Lotte
is a tender fish, succulent, with a hint of butter. My companion
had a Merou, which was so rich and fabulous. To finish off our
wine we had an offering of both Quebec and French cheeses. An
aged cheddar, a Victor & Berthold, and a cinder-coated goat's
cheese. The plate is served with sliced apple and pear. At
La Gaudriole, presentations are glamorous and flavour combinations
As one would expect, prices for wine are reasonable. Unlike
many restaurants that double or triple the wine's retail price,
here the markup is only one and a half times. I know of no
other Montreal establishment where patrons can get a Chablis,
Sancerre or a top-notch wine such as a Cahors Château Lagrezette
for less than $40. A meal here is most pleasurable, service
is so friendly, discreet and professional that you get the
feeling you're eating dinner at a friend's house. Amazing!!!

* Bistro La Gaudriole
825 Laurier Avenue East @ St.Hubert
Plateau Mont-Royal
(514) 276-1580