Saturday, March 10, 2018

Eating up the Hill: Gnocchi with scallops at Metropolitain Brasserie

Left the precinct for lunch with a friend Friday at the Metropolitain Brasserie, a swanky French bistro on the other wide of the Chateau Laurier.

Popular with the political set, particularly with Conservatives, I've been there a number of times for standing receptions but never for a sit-down meal, so I was looking forward to sampling the menu. From my pre-meal menu scouting, I had seen it was largely oysters and French stuff. A few entrees were tempting but too heavy for lunch, but they also had a burger, crepes, tartare (no ways) and what not.

I was leaning heavily going in towards the Croque Monsieur, which of course would be a sandwich of country smoked ham & Gruyere baked with Mornay sauce. Maybe a soup or salad on the side, as a nice light(ish) lunch. Outside chance of flipping to a steak sandwich.

Then they told me the specials, and I was intrigued by the offer of gnocchi with scallops. I think I've written before about liking pasta, but not being quick to order it when dining out because as it seems like something too simple; it would be wasting a rare dining-out opportunity. I'd put gnocchi in the same category.

But sometimes, you just go for it. And I enjoy a good gnocchi. Also, scallops, even if The Met is dangerously far from an ocean. So, I went with the special.

Because it was a special not on the regular menu, I can't be super precise in my description. Five good-sized scallops, browned on one side and cooked properly. Tender gnocchi. Spinach, and likely some sort of cheese in what I'll guess was a wine wine and butter sauce.

It was delicious. A slightly heavier lunch than the sandwich I was going to have, but not overly so and I didn't get too sleepy later in the afternoon. Sauce was tasty, scallops and gnocchi too. No order regret.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Eating up the Hill: Green Curry Tempeh Bowl, Basmati Rice

Excited by the prospect of the green curry, I overlooked the word tempeh. That was my mistake.

Had I taken the time to Google, I would have learned that tempeh "is a traditional soy product originating from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form." Now, as discussed previously I'm on board with the occasional meatless Monday. Load me up on the veggies. But I draw the line at anything tofu or soy. We all have our limits.

At this point though, I didn't know, and being one to enjoy a good curry it was off to the cafeteria I went.

The serving size was adequate, the rice cooked properly and providing a food platform for the curry goodness. Edamame, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, yellow & red peppers, sure. I'd have passed on the potatoes, and substituted the cauliflower for broccoli...maybe add some mushrooms...but that's OK.

But what are these odd formed cubes? Maybe processed chicken, I thought, on my way to a table. Would be kind of cheap to use chicken loaf, but if they pass the savings on to me, why not. Once seated though and on biting in, nope, not chicken. Weird texture. Not particularly flavourful. To Google, and...oh, that explains it. Sad.

I can only blame myself. It was right there in the name. Perhaps I thought it was a reference to Tempe, Arizona, and some sort of tex-mex curry, I don't know. Anyway, if you like soy, I guess it's worth having. But I don't, so I won't again.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Eating up the Hill: Cheese Ravioli Bruschetta

As the House of Commons cafeterias roll out their new rotating menu of specials, they seem to have adopted meatless Mondays. Yesterday's meatless special Cheese Ravioli Bruschetta.

They began with a base of parma ravioli, containing spinach and ricotta cheese. The pasta is served in oil (I would hope olive, but the background documentation wasn't specific) with basil, oregano and parsley. The bruchetta topping of diced tomatoes and what not is included in the serving dish, and after a portion of pasta is plated, a portion of feta cheese is added on top.

All in all, I enjoyed it. The pasta was cooked properly, and the feta cheese added a nice sharp dose of flavour. While I don't feel I necessarily got shorted on bruchetta, I wouldn't mind seeing it added to the dish after the ravioli is served, as is the feta -- although this would be slightly more labour intensive.

All in all though, a nice light lunch I will order again in six weeks time. Will add a side though; was hungry for a muffin a few hours later.

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Sunday, February 04, 2018

Eating up the Hill: BBQ Chicken with Fries and Coleslaw

Another new menu item in the Hill cafeteria menu rotation that caught me eye this week was the BBQ Chicken with Fries and Coleslaw. It was a dish I had decidedly mixed feelings on, and likely won't be one of my regulars.

I'll start with the positives. It was a chicken breast and not one of the cheaper cuts like a leg, so points there. And it was a meaty chicken breast at that. And they allowed me to sub-out the fries for kettle chips without charge. And I do like the chips. It was a good amount of food for under $8 so I didn't leave hungry, and it was a bit more balanced a meal with the veggie slaw.

That was the good. As for the rest, the chicken was rather on the dry side. I know, it's a cafeteria, but the sauce was very much needed. Was also needed as the chicken had little seasoning to give it flavour on its own.

And the only thing that made it BBQ chicken was the BBQ sauce; clearly, the chicken had been baked, not grilled. And speaking of the sauce, its was more of an American style sauce (molasses instead of brown sugar), than the Canadian style ketchupy-sweet sauce I prefer.

And while some may prefer the vinegarette slaw, I like it creamy myself.

All in all, a good amount of food that doesn't deliver in the execution.

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Friday, February 02, 2018

Eating up the Hill: Mushroom Arancini with Tomato Sauce

It's a new year, and the Parliamentary cafeteria system is celebrating with some new additions to its menu. And after two-and-a-half-years of the same menu of specials on a six-week rotation, I for one welcome this real change.

The first new menu item I had the opportunity to try the Mushroom Arancini with Tomato Sauce. I usually check the menu online before heading down to the caf, but this one I had to Google as I had no idea what it was. But when I learned it was risotto balls, I was in. Why didn't they just call it risotto balls? Marketing, people!

I was served two good-sized risotto balls, or Arancini if you're all fancy like that, generously bathed in tomato sauce. I was a bit surprised there was no side or anything else to it -- some pasta, perhaps. But nope, I was told that's it, there's rice inside. So I added a bowl of seafood chowder, which I would have added anyway because seafood chowder is awesome.

I dug in and it was quite tasty. A mix of three types of mushrooms was a highlight (oyster, button and shiitake) and the buttery risotto contrasted well with the tomato sauce. And I was impressed that, for once, the cafeteria made it a genuinely vegetarian meal by cooking the rice in vegetable stock. Quite often, they will take a meatless dish and make it inaccessible to vegetarians (and Halal-observing Muslims and kosher-observing Jews) by using a chicken stock.

While I still think they could add a nickel's worth of noodles on the side for a heartier main and still maintain their margins, for $7.63 taxes-in (not including soup) it's good value and a good addition to the starting rotation.

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