Sunday, March 27, 2011


After reading many positive reviews online, my boyfriend decided to make reservations at Studzio for our 5 year anniversary. Sadly, this is one of the few times the reviews have disappointed us. The food was, in general, quite bland and overpriced for the tiny portions. The service was just average. The only redeeming factor was the original decor and plate presentation.

This French restaurant is located on St-Denis street, right beside another popular French restaurant, L'Académie (which I don't particularly like). I was really excited to try Studzio after hearing it served French cuisine with a modern twist. If modern means bland, they have indeed accomplished their mission.

The decor is very rustic: brick walls, wooden pillars and small fireplace. I didn't see the washrooms, but my boyfriend told me the walls were covered with graffiti. Apparently, the owner wanted the place to look and feel like an apartment. It's different and I like it.

When we entered, we were greeted by a waitress in her late teens, were seated and given one set of menus. That always rub me the wrong way. We are 2 people for heaven's sake, please give us 2 menus! (I sound like a snob haha).

The menus were handwritten and presented on wood clipboards. It matched the whole "wood" theme that was going on. Great concept!

The owner eventually came to our table and explained the menu to us. (He also gave us a second set of menus! Hurray!) We both decided to take the table d'hote which included a glass of wine, an appetizer, an entree and a dessert. For 30$, it seemed like a pretty good deal.

For the wine, I opted for a glass of Pinot noir and my boyfriend, a Bordeaux. Both were excellent.

We shared a salmon tartar (16$) as an additional appetizer. The presentation was fun and creative. The tartar was served in a coconut and the "plate" is a ceramic tile. However, from a practical point of view, the ceramic tile isn't very convenient because the sauce from the salad dripped from the side as we were eating it. The tartar itself was very bland and the pieces of salmon were cut way too big. I love salmon tartar and never thought I would find a restaurant that served one that I didn't like. Studzio accomplished this.

The appetizer that I chose for the table d'hote was the velouté de tomate basilic et parmesan (Cream of tomato with basil and parmesan). It was just your average tomato soup. Nothing to complain about, but nothing extraordinary neither.

My boyfriend ordered the croustilland de chèvre frais (bread with goat cheese). He enjoyed it. I'm not a fan of goat cheese so I cannot comment.

For the main course, I ordered the saumon frais à la Corse, poelé aux aromates (Baked salmon with herbs). It was served with rice and grilled asparagus. They should have named the dish "Flavorless Salmon with tasteless overcooked rice". Of course, no one would order the dish if they did haha. I was expecting to get fresh salmon baked in a perfect blend of spices. Instead, I got a bland mess. I couldn't discern any spices in the salmon. There was a sweet lemon sauce drizzled over the salmon, but there wasn't enough of it to save this dish. (And it wasn't that great neither!) There was also some grated coconut on the dish - I don't know if it was there just as a decoration or if it was meant to be eaten with the salmon, but I ate it with the salmon and the combination was just very...strange. And don't get me started on the rice! It was mushy and was totally flavorless! One out of 4 of my asparagus has been completely carbonized. Why they didn't just remove it before serving the dish is beyond me. This dish was just a major culinary fail.

My boyfriend was tempted by the filet mignon grillé aux épices (Grilled filet mignon with spices), served with potatoes au gratin and what seems like a tomato stuffed with bread crumbs. He didn't enjoy his dish neither. He requested his filet mignon medium-rare and although it looked like it was cooked right, it was incredibly chewy and flavorless (notice the recurrent theme going on?) The filet mignon wasn't round like it usually is so he had doubt about whether or not this really was filet mignon. Or maybe it really was filet mignon but it wasn't cut properly. What a waste. The only word that we could come up to describe the taste of the tomato was "weird". Why not stuff the tomato with cheese or meat? I think they tried to be innovative, but the textures and flavors were just off. The only tasty thing on the plate were the potatoes au gratin. But who in the world can mess up potatoes topped with melted cheese?

For dessert, I chose the mousse au cacao noir (Black chocolate mousse). As you know, I love chocolate and haven't found a chocolate dessert I didn't like. While it was nothing to write home about, I enjoyed it.

My boyfriend ordered the poire au vin à l'anis étoilée (Red wine poached pear with star anise) without really knowing what it was haha. He got curious by the owner's tantalizing description of the dessert and decided to try it out. Bad idea. Not because the dish tasted bad, but because he hates star anise (I guess he didn't catch that part of the description lol). And guess who ended eating most of his dessert? :) I'm not a fan of star anise neither, but its flavor didn't overpower the dessert, except when you bite into the seeds (?) lodged in the pear.

I was quite disappointed with the food at Studzio (aka Restaurant Bland). The owner was really friendly though. He came to our table at the end of the meal and chatted with us a bit. He told us that he bought Studzio one and half years ago and is still trying to build a good reputation for his restaurant. I feel bad for being so harsh in this review, but the food really was bad. He should really fire his cook and hire someone with, you know, taste buds. My boyfriend concluded the cook must be a student or someone with no culinary training because of the poor execution of the dishes - big pieces of salmon in the tartar, amateur cut of filet mignon.

Overall, Studzio's great decor and concept was ruined by flavorless and badly executed food.

Food: 1/5
Service: 3/5
Setting: 4/5
Value: 1/5
Overall: 2/5

4147 St-Denis
Montréal, QC H2W 2M7
(514) 843-0407

Studzio on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

5 year anniversary: Part II - Bubble tea and Place Des Arts

Part II of my amazing day...

After the spa, we were both starving! We went to Chinatown for some yummy and incredibly-cheap Chinese pastries. BBQ pork buns, egg tarts and other delicious treats! 6$ fed two extremely hungry adults-who-eat-like-teenagers. Not bad, eh? No pictures unfortunately because I gulped down everything before the camera can even be turned on.

Then Y wanted to go to Magic Idea for bubble teas. We actually had our first date there so it brought back a lot of memories. :) However, the place is so run down now, it's almost decomposing under our feet. I ordered a pineapple milk bubble tea, one of my favorites! Actually, I think I ordered the same thing on our first date! Y ordered a green tea milk bubble tea, which wasn't nearly sweet enough for me. Again, no pictures because I just forgot to take out my camera. I'm not the take-pictures-of-everything type after all :) While the bubble teas are still good, the service was just awful. The waitress was so rude and bitchy. It used to be a great place to hang out with friends and chat while drinking bubble tea, now it's just so old and sad looking. :(

With yummy food in our bellies and our appetite finally satisfied, we had time to kill until our 6pm restaurant reservation (yes, more food! haha) so we decided to check out the newly renovated Place Des Arts. It wasn't entirely finished yet, but the areas that were completed were really beautiful. It was very modern and had an "artistry" feel to it...exactly how it is supposed to be!

[Not my picture]
I especially liked this wall displayed at the Georges-Emile-Lapalme Cultural space. It consists of a mosaic of 35 changing video screens and each screen interacts with the adjacent ones. Very cool!

We walked past the ticket booth and remembered that tickets for The Lion King broadway went on sale yesterday! We were so excited when we learned that the show is coming to Montreal and couldn't wait to get our hands on some tickets! We were planning to buy our tickets online, but since we were already here, why not buy them now? We got lucky and were able to snatch good seats: floor level, in the middle at the back. The pair cost 150$ which is pretty decent for an award winning show! :) We later learned that they charged a 20$ fee when tickets are booked online so it was definitely a good thing that we bought them directly at the ticket booth! Yay, I love finding out that I saved money! haha

At 5pm, we made our way to Studzio, the French restaurant where we made dinner reservations. I will post a review on it later, but I found the food to be extremely disappointing. The dishes were bland and not well executed. The only downside to our amazing day. :(

Overall, our day together was incredible. Y did a great job at planning this whole day (I should make let him do the planning more often. ^_^) I feel so lucky to be with someone who is so sweet, thoughtful and just so...amazing! :) For the past 5 years, we have been through so much together. There has been countless moments of joy and laughter, but also many disagreements and difficult times. But we got through these rough patches and while there will be many more ahead, I'm confident we'll be able to overcome them. He is truly my soul mate, my best friend and (to borrow a term from a contestant on Top Chef) my sous-chef in life. He is my #1 supporter and this blog's #1 fan. :)

I'm looking forward to many more anniversaries together. Happy 5 year anniversary baby! I'm so grateful to have you in my life. I love you ♥

Monday, March 21, 2011

5 Year Anniversary Part 1 - Spa Scandinave

There won't be a Sunday Brunch post this week because Y and I went out to celebrate our 5 year anniversary this weekend! I can't believe it has been 5 years! It feels as if it was only yesterday that we shared our first kiss, drank bubble tea on our first date and clumsily held hands hehe. So many memories...^^

After 5 years and especially after moving in together, Y and I have developped a sort of routine. While having a routine isn't necessarily bad (because let's face it, we need a bit of structure in our life), having the same old routine day in day out can kill a relationship. So we try to go on dates as often as possible, try new activities together and go on roadtrips/vacation whenever we can. One thing that we always do is celebrate our anniversary and not only every year, but every month. My friends and family make fun of me when I tell them that, but I find this is the best way to break the routine - to remind each other of our love every month. When we are too busy with school or work, which happens quite often, we just wish each other a "Happy X year Y month" and that makes the day more special and beautiful. I find it sad that some of my friends don't even celebrate their year anniversaries and can't remember how long they have been with their boyfriend. Am just weird?

Anyways, I was complaining to Y that I am always the one who makes plans for our dates and anniversaries and that he never does anything. (I like to complain haha). So he volunteered to plan our 5 year anniversary which made me ecstatic. He was incredibly secretive about it all and didn't want to tell me anything about what he had planned! I found it so cute that he wanted to surprise me and make it as special as possible. Although I knew it was some sort of spa/massage thing (because he is predictable hehe), I was still curious as to where he would bring me. The day of our anniversary (actually, it was the day after our real anniversary - Y had a special rate for Sundays), he told me to bring along my bikini and makeup kit and I knew I guessed right! What did I tell you? My baby is predictable :) In the car, he revealed where we will go/what we will do and let me tell you, he totally spoiled me!

We went to Spa Scandinave, a high end spa located in the Old Port. The place was amazing - so luxurious and clean. They provided us with sandals and a hooded bathrobe when we first arrived. They warned us about their silence rule, which I found nice because it makes for a better and more relaxing experience.

I was able to snap a few pictures before I was warned by the staff. Usually, I'm not the kind to take pictures à la Asian tourist. However, since I started this blog, I always take 147382 pictures of everything because it's like they say - a picture is worth a thousand words. So yeah, I hate feeling like a tourist...especially in my own city. And that was exactly how I felt when the receptionist warned me lol.

scandinave spa
They gave us these waterproof bracelets at the reception to open our lockers. You just touch the surface of the bracelet on the lock and it opens! How cool is that? Am I technologically retarded because I find this so incredibly awesome? lol.

The washrooms were sooo clean! Oh God. I actually took pictures of the washrooms. Gahhh! I AM a tourist!

The most equipped changing area ever. They had everything and I mean everything you might need - hair dryers, hair straighteners, hairspray, body milk, spray deodorant, face moisturizer, bobby pins, hair ties, tampons, cottons pads and the list goes on.

My boyfriend booked a one hour Swedish massage for me. The massage therapist was very professional and the massage was so soothing. I felt completely dazed after the massage - this is what taking drugs must feel like hehe.

After the massage, I joined Y in the bath areas. We followed the suggested cold-hot-relax cycles for the next 2-3 hours. First, you start with the body heating phase: you spend 10-15 minutes either at the eucalyptus steam, Finnish sauna or hot bath. Then, you proceed to cold phase, where you rinse yourself in cool water in the Nordic shower or taking a plunge in a ice cold bath. Yikes! Then comes my favorite part...sleeping! umm...I mean relaxing. You go to the relaxation area and well...relax. :)

I liked the hot bath with the waterfall. The water temperature was just perfect - like taking a hot bath at home. The sound of the waterfall was also incredibly soothing.

Finnish sauna. 90 degrees C according to the sign on the door! Eek! I enjoyed it though.

My favorite place was the zero stress room. Bean bags were scattered all over the floor and they played soothing music. Y and I cuddled on a big bean bag and fell asleep. It was very romantic. :)

Another lounge/relaxation area with more bean bags and plush sofas. There was also a juice bar that served water and tea free of charge. (Smoothies and snacks were available at an additional cost). I'm a big tea drinker and I really liked the tea that they served. It was called Dragon Pearls and came from Camellia Sinensis Tea House, a very nice tea house located in the Quartier Latin. I'll do a review when I return there.

Overall, the experience was amazing! We both left feeling incredibly relaxed, invigorated and clean. If it wasn't for the exorbitant prices (so you can get an idea of the prices: 54$ for access to scandinavian baths, 128$ for one-hour Swedish massage..eek!), I'll return every weekend for sure.
71, de la Commune West
Montreal, QC H2Y 2C6
Reservations recommended for weekends

Part 2 of my 5 year anniversary will be posted soon!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Italian Sausage Lasagna


My mom makes the best lasagna, hands down. But like every good vietnamese cook, she doesn't have a set recipe. In her kitchen, there are no measurements; there is just a bit of guesswork and a whole lot of instinct. Moms in general seem to have that...flair, you know when they just seem to throw random ingredients together and end up with an awesome dish? Mmm yea, I'm not at that level yet. I need a recipe! I've tried replicating her lasagna several times (after noting down her intructions which goes something like this: "Well, you add a bit of this and then put just enough of that and if it seems like you don't have enough, just add more!" haha). Sometimes, the lasagna comes out great and tastes almost just like hers, other times, it's a complete flop.

I wanted to be more consistent and for that, I needed a recipe. I had come across the "World's best Lasagna" on a few times in the past. It was one of the best rated recipes on the site and well, when a recipe claims that it's the best in the world, you can't help being a bit curious. (Although I already know that the world's best lasagna is my mom's hehe).

I have made that recipe twice. The first time I did not make any changes, apart from using 1 teaspoon of salt instead of the 1 tablespoon that the recipe called for (who in the world put one TABLESPOON of salt in a dish?!) It still came out super salty!!! I swear to God, my boyfriend and I each drank at least 2L of water after eating that lasagna haha. The second time, I completely omitted the salt, added more spices to the meat sauce and added a layer to the lasagna. It came out much better! The italian sausages and fennel seeds really added flavor to the dish and made it more special. Next time, I'll probably add some mushrooms or zucchinis; it was a bit too meaty for my taste.

It's a good recipe, although it's not really the world's best lasagna. That's why I changed the recipe's name to Italian Sausage Lasagna (yeah, plain and boring). With a few tweaks, I'm sure I can make it taste exactly like my mom's and then it can live up to its title. :) I'll definitely post the recipe when I uncover my mom's secret. So until then, here's the next best thing!


Italian sausage lasagna
Makes 12 servings
Adapted from

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1 cup minced onion
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
1/2 cup water
2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
12 lasagna noodles
1 package (16 ounces) small curds cottage cheese
1 egg
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, water and tomato sauce. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning and parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. In a mixing bowl, combine cottage cheese with egg.
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
4. To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange 3 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one third of the cottage cheese mixture. Top with a fourth of the grated mozzarella. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat the layers (noodle-cottage cheese-mozzarella-meat sauce-parmesan cheese) 2 more times, add the remaining 3 noodles and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.


Just look at all that gooey cheese! I used whole wheat lasagna noodles because let's face it, when you eat something this fattening and cholesterol laden, you need something "healthy" in it so you don't feel guilty about pigging out. :)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Brunch #2 - Eggs benedict


Eggs benedict are without doubt one of my favorites, if not my favorite breakfast dish. Whenever I go to Chez Cora, I always end up ordering their mushroom and brie egg benedict. Yummm! What better way to start your day than with a nice, runny egg covered in a rich and creamy hollandaise sauce? That's why I decided to dedicate my Sunday Brunch #2 to eggs benedicts! It was time consuming, but oh so worth it!

I thought about taking pictures through the whole egg poaching process, but it was just too labor-intensive. Instead, I found a really informative video on Youtube on how to poach an egg:

Egg benedicts with mushrooms and ham
Makes 4 servings

4 slices Canadian bacon or ham
4 eggs
2 English muffins, split and toasted
1 cup white mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon of olive oil

For hollandaise sauce:
1/2 cup butter
3 egg yolks
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
hot water
salt to taste


1. In a skillet, sauté the mushrooms with the olive oil until cooked. Season with salt. Set aside.
2. Brown ham slices or Canadian bacon in skillet over medium heat. Top English muffins with ham, sauteed mushrooms and poached eggs.
3. Pour hollandaise sauce on eggs.

For hollandaise sauce:
1. Melt and clarify the butter in a saucepan. Clarifying simply means skimming off the white solids floating on top of the melted butter. Set aside.
2. Fill the bottom of a double boiler part-way with water. Make sure that water does not touch the top pan. Bring water to a gentle simmer. In the top of the double boiler, whisk egg yolks. Continue to whisk until egg yolks thicken and lighten (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat.
3. Gradually pour in the clarified butter (one teaspoon at a time) while whisking yolks constantly. Add lemon juice and salt to taste. If sauce is too thick, add 1-2 tablespoons of hot water. (I added 3 tablespoons and my sauce was too thin).


The egg benedict was served with roasted potatoes and tomatoes. If only these
were easier to make...I'll probably make it every weekend!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Decadent molten chocolate lava cake

There are four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark
chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate truffles
- Anonymous

Oh Anonymous, how well you understand me. If only you disclosed your name, I would go searching for you because you are obviously my chocolate soul mate. :)

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a chocoholic. I love chocolate in all its forms, colors and sizes - dark, white, fudge, ice cream, cake, you name it. So when I saw a recipe for this luscious lava cake, I couldn't resist. The best part is it was so incredibly easy and quick to make! It came out perfect - a rich chocolate cake oozing with warm, gooey chocolate. The trick is not to overcook the cake; if you do, you won't get the fudgy center.

Chocolate makes me happy and it doesn't get more chocolate-y than this. While eating this, I was whisked away to Chocolateland for 5 mins of pure bliss. Ahh...Already looking forward to the next time I'll be able to enjoy these again...

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake
Adapted from Evernew Recipes
Makes 6 small cakes

4 large eggs
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder and extra for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 450F.
2. Grease your ramekins or muffin tin with butter. (Grease well because these cakes like to stick!) Then dust the ramekins with cocoa powder.
3. Melt butter and chocolate in microwave or over double boiler. Add cocoa powder and salt to mixture and set aside.
4. In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Pour in chocolate mixture and mix until well blended. Stir in flour.
5. Pour evenly into 6 ramekins. Bake for 13-15 minutes. Do not overcook!
6. Run a knife around the outside of the ramekin, invert onto a dessert plate and dust with icing sugar.

Serve warm with strawberries or raspberries and there you have it, a luscious and decadent chocolate dessert, perfect for Valentine's Day (or any day of the year really). Enjoy all the chocolateness it has to offer!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Brunch Series: Week #1 - Buttermilk Pancakes


Breakfast...We learned as a child that it is the most important meal of the day. Unfortunately, it's the meal I have skipped for the last 20 years of my life lol. I've been better the last 2 years, managing to have a bowl of cereal or a croissant here and there. But most days, I leave the house in the morning with my Earl Grey tea and that is my breakfast.

Don't get me wrong - I love breakfast. I just never seem to find the time to eat in the morning. I prefer to spend those precious 10-15 minutes in bed getting some much needed zzz's. The only time that I can have breakfast (or rather brunch) is on the weekend. This is why I wanted to start a Sunday Brunch series on my blog. Each Sunday, I'll post a savory breakfast recipe. This way I'll enjoy a nice breakfast at least once a week.

For the week #1, I made buttermilk pancakes! They were light and fluffy - simply delicious! I had enough batter for around 24 pancakes. You can freeze the leftovers and pop them in the microwave whenever you feel like eating pancakes again!


Buttermilk Pancakes
Makes 24 pancakes

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted


1. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together buttermilk, milk, eggs, and melted butter. Keep the two mixtures separate until you are ready to cook.
2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. You can flick water across the surface and if it beads up and sizzles, it's ready!
3. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, using a wooden spoon or fork to blend. Stir until it's just blended together. Do not over stir! Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/2 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

I served it with 100% real Canadian maple syrup. Trust me, real maple syrup (none of that Aunt Jemima crap) makes a world of difference on your palate. Enjoy!