Thazard

1 Feb

When the holidays come around, you get a little lazy. That includes keeping up with the order of my posts…. so today I finally get to a meal I had before Christmas! We’re going non-linear with my reviews… at least only with this one. Anyway….My girlfriend and I with our friend Annie – the first friend of ours who said to put her name in here instead of just saying we were with “a friend” – decided for our little “Christmas” get-together to go to a restaurant that both me and Annie – a fellow restaurant enthusiast – had on our lists for some time now: Thazard. Located on the Main in Mile End, this restaurant originally had lots of buzz during its opening in November 2014 for its desire to do French-style guéridon service and for the fact that kitchen service would run until 2 a.m. The trolley service fell by the way side at some point but I had still heard and read enough good things to consider Thazard worth visiting.

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The restaurant was completely dead on this particularly rainy Sunday night…. other than two people at the bar, we were the only patrons in the restaurant until we got to our dessert course. As such, the ambience was dead – no energy, no discussion going on to create some vibe. It put a little damper on the beautiful space. The use of low lighting and candles on each table created an intimate setting. The rest of the room has a very clean and sleek look with the all-white walls, mirrors and wooden tables. At least the lack of a crowd allowed us to enjoy the music!

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Chef Hachiro Fujise’s menu is North American and Japanese fusion cooking served in a small plate format. First up was spicy edamame because I can’t help but order edamame when it is present on a menu. A nice kick on top of the usual salty edamame.

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Our first true plate was the papaya salad – served with turnip white kimchi, tomato, crispy shallots, peanuts and some octopus. A nice looking dish with good favours. Despite the kimchi, it wasn’t as hot as the typical thai variant. The octopus was nice and tender and a good addition to the salad.

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Next was seared baby scallops served with shiitake mushrooms, spinach and ponzu butter. A more subtle dish flavour wise, the scallops were nicely seared with the addition of the ponzu butter served under the scallops adding a little kick.

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The miso poutine was the first big hit for the evening for me. The mixture of kimchi, miso butter and cheese curds is not necessarily a combination you would expect to work but somehow it does. Super rich and fatty with a nice touch of heat from the kimchi. We polished off the plate in record time…. Our only lament was that the dish wasn’t bigger!

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The following dish was just as good: the chicken Karaage. The chicken was fried to perfection – moist inside but with a nice spiced crunch on the outside. Served in bite-sized pieces with a lovely garlic aioli and some kimchi which provided nice addition flavours to pair nicely with the chicken.

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The final main we tried was the tonkotsu ramen – pork stock, egg, nori, pork, soy, green onions and charred leek oil. This dish was a must as my girlfriend had never been exposed to proper ramen before. Some may say I’ve failed as a boyfriend for waiting 11 months but hey… a man has to pick his battles. The broth was of the thicker variety, very smoky and rich. A nice hearty way to close out the main courses.

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Dessert provided us with a couple of interesting options. First was a Genmaicha Creme Brûlée with matcha bee pollen. Again, an interesting asian twist of a classic. The texture wasn’t quite the same as the usual creme brûlée – not as firm – but still very enjoyable. Lastly, we had a homemade molasses and ginger cookie topped with candied orange zests and chocolate ganache.

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We walked out of Thazard nicely satisfied and having paid a pretty reasonable price on top of it. The food was good to excellent across the board without any major issues. It was too bad that it was a dead night atmosphere-wise but there is not much you can do about that. Despite my disappointment with the disappearance of the trolley service, Thazard’s interesting fusion play of Japanese and North American was definitely enjoyable and is worth your time if you’re around Mile End. And remember… if you are in need of proper food at 1am, they are open for you.

Cheers!

Thazard
5329 Saint-Laurent
514 802 8899

Thazard Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chez Tousignant

24 Jan

In Quebec, the casse-croute is a tradition. That little neighbourhood joint where you get a nice simple breakfast, a greasy lunch, dinner or even just a coffee and a doughnut. Nowadays for most of us, we think of casse-croutes as those greasy spots by the highway or the Belle Province you go to grab a bit after a late night outing. Not exactly the highest of quality.

As an unabashed fan of Michele Forgione and Stefano Faita – and their drive to make everything homemade within their restaurants GEMA and Impasto – All the “test” pictures of burgers, bread, hot dogs and doughnuts that Michele has been posting on Instagram for the past year or so have been killing me. When would we be getting this ideal old school casse-croute? Finally, just prior to the holidays, it finally arrived: Chez Tousignant run by Impasto’s previous chef de cuisine (and originator of the idea) Yann Turcotte. I was away for 2 weeks but as soon as I came back, it was clear that I needed to finally satisfy the cravings from all those pictures.

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Located on Drolet near the Jean Talon market, Chez Tousignant has a great old school diner look – the neon sign in front, the ceramic tiled floor, the metal-topped tables and counters, the stools. Everything even down to the menu signs fits the old style.

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Foodwise, this is a casse-croute through and through. On my first visit, I went classic – a Michigan hot dog and some fries. The fries were great – as you need at a diner – but right now, we NEED to focus on that hot dog. Homemade all-beef dog. Homemade potato bun. Topped with homemade meat sauce and cheese curds. Good lord this thing was amazing. Officially the best hot dog I have ever had and it’s not even close. The all-natural beef frank is such a change from the usual industrial variety. Cooked on the griddle, it had a nice crunch to it while still having a nice tender texture inside. And that bun….. oh that bun. Man, they nailed it. When you add the buttered grilling on the griddle, that dense yet soft bun gets a nice rich crunch to it. Rare is the time where one hot dog would fill me up but this one hit the spot. When you’re doing hot dogs with ingredients with this quality, that’s what you get apparently.

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The second time around, I went for some other classic casse-croute staples – cheeseburger and poutine. The cheeseburger – served with special sauce, lettuce, onion as well as tomato and pickle if you wish – was another hit for me. The potato bun was once again spectacular – god I need to learn to make these – with that same buttery goodness off the griddle. The meat was meaty with a nice crust, the cheese was nicely melted on-top and the sauce added a nice little creaminess. A classic yet spectacular burger.

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The poutine was a beauty as well. First off, curds at the bottom. Not just on-top. Big hit with me. A very nice touch. Anyway, we’ve got here a generous portion of fries with plenty of curds and some amazing gravy. This wasn’t some off the shelf St-Hubert gravy mix. So dark and rich, the gravy ties the whole thing together. It’s amazing how given all the ways that people feel the need to dress up a poutine now if you just use the best elements, the classic one is simply the best.

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On top of all this goodness, there is even more! Chez Tousignant also does a pie of the day and some doughnuts for dessert. I went with a doughnut because I couldn’t resist the beautiful stack of doughnuts on-top of the counter. An old-fashion cake doughnut with a vanilla bean glaze. The doughnut itself was dense but nicely chewy – sweet with a touch of cinnamon. The glaze though was the impressive part to me. The vanilla bean came through nicely and the glaze was firm – no stickiness whatsoever – but cracked nicely once you bite into it.

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Lastly, I went with a milkshake because of course I did. Chez Tousignant does chocolate or vanilla. I tried one of each on my two visits. Rich and smooth in both cases with nice deep flavour. You actually got chocolate or vanilla flavour – not just milk with a hint of either one.

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Chez Tousignant was a blast in the past in the best way possible. A true casse-croute where care is taken to make everything homemade because that is how you provide the best to your clients. All through the process of testing, chef Forgione labeled all his pictures with #ParceQueVousLeMeritez – that’s the essence of what Chef Turcotte and the Chez Tousignant team are about – it may be lots of work but as a client, you cannot help but appreciate the craftsmanship on display.

Cheers!

Chez Tousignant
6956 Drolet
438 386 6368

Chez Tousignant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

L’ Gros Luxe (Sud Ouest)

23 Jan img_4318

Over the past few years, I had heard many things about L’Gros Luxe, the originally plateau-only restaurant known for solid cocktails and cheap but enjoyable food. However, like for many restaurants in our fair city, time and circumstances were such that I hadn’t tried them yet even as they expanded to Mile End and Longueuil. A few months ago though, L’Gros Luxe came to me as they opened up a Sud Ouest location on Notre-Dame right beside Corona Theater and more importantly, only a 10 minute walk away from my apartment. With a spot that close, I really had no excuses anymore!

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Over the past month, I went twice with a couple different groups. First thing which is a little unique is the fact that L’Gros Luxe does not do reservations. However, thankfully for those of us who don’t want to wait outside in the cold, they have created an app with which you can add yourself onto a waitlist to get a table. First time around, we didn’t think about it so we ended up waiting about 35 minutes so we grabbed a beer next door (thanks Burgundy Lion!). The second time around, I used the app but ended up not needing to as the restaurant was strangely empty that Thursday night.

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I really like the look of the restaurant – a mixture of vintage Victorian style with some more modern touches. The room feels very inviting and warm – a solid place to enjoy a happy hour. When it was very busy though, I felt the noise level to be too high which is a common complaint nowadays in many restaurants but one that still bugs me when it affects my ability to actually understand what my friend sitting next to me is saying. The second time was much more enjoyable.

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Drinks options are plenty at L’Gros Luxe. Bourbon lemonade by the pitcher is available and while the price point is cheaper than many others restaurants around, personally I found it to be a little light on the bourbon and more of the sweet side of things. The ladies with me enjoyed it that way… me not as much. I did however enjoy their Sud Ouest Lemonade – a mixture of Ungava gin, white beer, simple syrup and lemon juice. This was a better balance of sweet and strong.

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The other staple of l’Gros Luxe drink wise is their Caesars. I hate caesars so it’s not my thing but each one is quite large and also topped with a variety of food items. When your caesar comes with onion rings and a fried pickle on top, I can imagine it being worthwhile.

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Foodwise, L’Gros Luxe is an odd mixture of items that I guess you would characterize as bar food but frankly it runs the gamut from tacos, salads, burgers, poutines, etc. I was able to try a variety of items over my two visits. The appetizers I had were up and down. First was the nachos – topped with black beans, cheese, green onions, marinated jalapeño slaw, corn and coriander. The size of the plate was nice but the cheese was weirdly only on the under layer and underside of the nachos so most chips had no melted cheese on top of them. When one buys nachos, there is an expectation of cheese on most of the chips. Frankly, that’s a pretty easy thing to ensure when you make them. That was not done here which was strange.

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The other appetizer was the grilled feta – served with olives, cherry tomatoes, basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and bread. Pretty self-explanatory and a solid dish overall. The feta was grilled just enough to make it less salty and a touch softer than normal. We had enough bread to make proper croutons for the entirety of the portion we got.

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The poutine is one of their big dishes and very enjoyable. Their classic is made with tater tots! I don’t think I’d had tater tots for at least 10 years. Topped with green onions as well as the usual cheese curds and gravy, there are a multitude of extras you can add – be it pulled pork, grounded beef,etc… The pulled pork I added to mine was nice and tender. My friend’s version is ground beef and regular fries was solid as well.

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One of my friend’s tried out their beef burger – served on a shallot bun with siracha mayo and the usual condiments. Good sized burger, cooked nicely through. The bun was light and fluffy but didn’t fall apart as it eaten. A solid burger overall.

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Finally, I got to try a dessert – deep fried cookie dough served with ice cream, whipped cream and caramel/chocolate sauce. Or at least it was supposed to be served with ice cream. On receiving the dish, we quickly realized that no ice cream was actually present. The problem got solved once we mentioned it to our waitress but still a weird issue. Overall the dessert was good but too much whipped cream compared to the other elements.

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L’Gros Luxe was a up-and-down food experience. The items are good – not great – so while the price is reasonable, I still wanted better. Same thing for the drinks. I left after my second visit thinking that L’Gros Luxe’s best fit is as a great happy hour or drink spot. Not sure a full dinner is truly worth it. I’m happy to have it close by but also happy I didn’t go out of my way to visit for dinner previously.

Cheers!

L’Gros Luxe
2472 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 903 2721

L'Gros Luxe Sud-Ouest Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

BarBounya

11 Nov

My final stop for this year’s MTL a Table event was to BarBounya, a restaurant I have had on my list for a while now. After having read so many great articles and reviews about it and its sister restaurant Su in Verdun, I figured if I was ever going to give turkish food a shot, Chef Fisun Ercan and her team were probably the place to really do it.

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Compared to the more formal Su, BarBounya described itself as a Turkish tapas bar. The look of the room fits with that description. Most of the seating is along bars that go around the space. There are a few communal style tables as well. The style is a mixture of old and new where the old elements of a townhouse on the Plateau are blended with some more modern touches of lighting and decor. Your eyes naturally fixate on the beautiful bar along the side wall with the high cabinets behind it – housing the wine – as well as the open window into the kitchen where you can see the kitchen staff work their magic.

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BarBounya did their MTL à Table menu a little different in that we were served all the items in the tapas style of the restaurant – the dishes simply portioned according to the size of your dinner party. I was not aware of that going in but frankly, everything on the menu sounded good so at least it eliminated any debating amongst the four of us in what we were going to order.

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First service brought forth three items. First was kale tempura served with a spicy tomato sauce and some yogourt. I never thought I would enjoy a dish whose primary ingredient was kale but here we are. The tempura actually stuck to the leaves and created a crunchy exterior. The kale itself didn’t wilt and kept some tenderness within the tempura coating. The spicy tomato sauce and the creamy cool yogourt provided some nice contrasting dipping sauces to use in conjunction.

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Next was a salad of beets and chickpeas served with black garlic yogourt. Another big hit at the table – the freshness of the beets was a nice pairing with the crisp chickpeas and the subtle hit of garlic within the creamy yogourt. Another dish where the main ingredient is not an usual favourite of mine but it certainly gave me a further appreciation of beets.

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Final dish of the first course was grilled octopus carpaccio. Outside of the contradiction between grilled octopus and carpaccio – yes I know people use carpaccio to refer to any preparation of meat thinly cut but to me, carpaccio means raw – this dish was delicious. The octopus was beautifully tender and fresh and a nice mixture of oil and greens to enhance its natural flavour.

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The second course provided another three dishes to enjoy. The surprise hit was the barley salad with butternut squash, sun-dried tomatoes and nuts. A very hearty salad with the sweetness of the squash and the tomatoes working well with the earthy barley.

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The grilled lamb Köfte with tomato salsa was exactly as I would expect – spiced lamb meatballs grilled beautifully. The tomato salsa provided a little freshness to the festivities.

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The final dish was pulled pork served over an eggplant puree. The pulled pork was flavourful and tender but truthfully the star was that puree. Wonderfully smooth and creamy – the natural flavour of the eggplant came through so well without being overwhelming to the pork served over top of it. First thing my girlfriend said afterwards was that she wanted to try making it after we had it – the impact was that strong.

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To finish things off nicely for dessert, we got some chocolate baklava and almond pudding. The baklavas were not overly sweet thankfully with a nice touch of chocolate mixed in. The pudding was creamy and smooth. The addition of the pistachio and pomegranate crumble over the top added some nice extra flavours. A pleasant sweet touch to end a wonderful meal.

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BarBounya was a awesome experience from beginning to end. Every dish was enjoyed and devoured by myself and the rest of the group. Such a great usage of fresh ingredients all across the entire meal. Add to that some nice glasses of wine, a nice atmosphere indoors and nicely attentive service – props to our waitress for checking with my pregnant friend about the lamb – and you have a restaurant that definitely come back to much sooner than it took me to visit in the first place… and I suppose its sister Su is now higher up on my to-visit list now.

Cheers!

BarBounya
234 Laurier Ouest
514 439 8858

Barbounya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

EVOO Cuisine Soignée

7 Nov

Two and a half years ago, I came to EVOO for a quick brunch with a friend. The experience was good enough that I told myself I should come back for dinner at some point. Well, it took awhile but for the event of MTL à Table, I finally came back last week ready to see how EVOO held up after all this time with my girlfriend and some friends of ours.

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First thing of note for me was the completely change in decor. Gone was the contemporary white and purple look of before. Now, the space is more rustic in appearance with a harvest theme running through the room – use of light yellows, harvest tools and greenery on the walls, old mismatches wooden chairs and a large mirrored wall in the front. Compared to before, the space feels warmer although there is lack of pop visually and the room still feels a little empty somehow.

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I also need to make mention of the wonderfully offbeat playlist that played all night – jazzy covers of pretty much anything possible from “Stacy’s Mom” to “Gangster’s Paradise”, “Girls Wanna have Fun” and Kanye West’s “Only One”. For the entire night, our table was laughing and smiling at the great and weird songs to the point of asking our waitress exactly how found these songs.

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We decided to start with some of their speciality cocktails. Personally, I went for the Autumn Martini – Ice Cider, bourbon, apple juice and spices. An excellent blend of sweet and spice. Officially a cocktail I need to re-attempt at home.

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My girlfriend went with the rhum ground cherry – white and brown rums mixed with angostura bitters and ground cherries. Not a huge rum fan but again a very nicely balanced cocktail. A hint of bitterness to go with the spiciness of the rum and the sweetness of the ground cherry.

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Amongst the four of us at our table, we were able to try the entire menu EVOO had set up for MTL à Table. The first starter was a Bass Escabeche with roasted cauliflower, yogurt, smoked tomato jam and pickled fennel. Nice tender pieces of poached bass served cold as is traditional of a escabeche. The use of the smooth yogourt and the smoky tomato jam provided nice flavour kicks to pair with the fish. A nice presentation as well.

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Second starter was a homemade Ricotta salad with cucumber, brussels sprout, carrot, beet and walnut dressing. Another beautiful presentation and a wonderful fresh. A great creamy rich texture to the ricotta and the use of all those fresh vegetables matched up well with the inherent richness of the cheese.

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The final starter was a red wine onion soup with parmesan foam. The lack of that big crouton and melty cheese that we usually associate with a French onion soup made this feel a little lacking in the end. The flavour was very nice though – the red wine coming through strongly in the broth. More a question of expectations than anything else.

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Our first main was the Québec bison ribs with Anthony’s vegetable stew, chimichurri and pangritata. The meat off the rib was beautifully tender and juicy – simply falling off the massive rib in the plate. The pangritata breading added a little crunch and the vegetable stew provided a hearty comfort to the dish. Very enjoyable.

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Next was the mushroom ravioli with Mr. Petit’s confit goat, pear, crispy cipollini and parmesan. Nicely sized raviolis with a solid amount of filling. Nice flavour overall with the addition of the sweet pear provided a nice counter to the goat itself.

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Finally, we had the stuffed quail with Gaspor bacon, grilled lettuce, Labrador tea, sage mascarpone and root vegetables. The bird was nice and juicy and the rest of the dish had this great feeling of being technical but still comforting. Another excellent dish.

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Desserts brought further enjoyment. First was an assortment of Québec cheeses with some caramelized nuts, apple butter and fennel and coriander crackers. Next was an medley of desserts – salted caramel flan, aerial chocolate, apple, fireweed ice cream and some meringue. A great showcase of different technical skills and flavours. Very good across the board. The final option – for a little extra cost – was the Banoffee – caramelized bananas, dulce de leche, creme fraiche, shortbread and toffee. I was very happy I went for the extra cost to get this. The combination of the bananas with the caramel and the toffee was perfectly sweet and some nice crunch as well. This dish disappeared as quickly as it arrived at our table.

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It may have taken me longer to come back than I hoped but EVOO thankfully did not disappoint. An excellent meal – a showcase of technique and great ingredients – that left us satisfied and full. With all the changes and new restaurants opening on Notre Dame, it’s great to see EVOO is holding its own and providing a great experience.

Cheers!

EVOO
3426 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 846-3886

Restaurant EVOO Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lili Co.

1 Nov

There are so many restaurants in Montreal that I wish to check out but sadly I don’t have enough time (or frankly money if we are being truthful). For the part 3 years, the October-November event of MTL à Table has allowed me to get to certain restaurants at a reduced price which I am very thankfully for. When I first looked at the restaurants participating this year, the one that leaped off the page for me was Lili Co. Originally a small Plateau restaurant, partners Catherine Draws and David Pellizzari moved into a bigger space on Saint-Laurent earlier this year. Reading the big reviews they have gotten over the past few years – including a most recent one in the Gazette in July – Lili Co.’s use of offal and off-cuts really intrigued me and had me pinning for a visit. Sadly, the MTL à Table menu didn’t have any of that – unless you paid a little extra – but I still wanted to go and give them a try.

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Visually, Lili Co. is a nice clean space. The main focus is on the two wrap-around bars which circle both the bar area and the open kitchen where you can watch Chef David and his crew do their work. In fact, outside of a few spots – including where we were sadly! – the entire room is set up to face the kitchen. Service was quick and efficient. Noise level was pretty loud given the room was full. As such, there was background music throughout the night but I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was. It is not the most fancy room around but sharp nevertheless.

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I felt like a cocktail this evening so I tried one of their seasonal specialities – The “Sans nom d’automne” – zubrowska, cachaca, natural apple juice, teapot bitters and star anise. I like this one in theory but the flavour left me indifferent. The sweetness of the cachaca and the apple juice were not noticeable. I was left primarily with the bitterness and the zubrowska – not really I had hoped for.

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With the cocktail consumed, we moved on the food. First up was the pork belly served with cashew butter and creamy coleslaw. A generous peace of fatty pork with a nice crispiness to the skin. The creamy coleslaw paired well with the meat. The cashew butter was nice as well.

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Our other starter was wild mushrooms poached in butter served with caramelized cauliflower purée and black bread crumbs. A simple dish but so well executed and delicious. The mushrooms were soften slightly with their wonderful earthiness intact. The real star though was the cauliflower puree – so rich and smooth. Very enjoyable.

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Our second course started with Gnocchi à la fajiole served with romano beans, smoked tomatoes and parmigiana. A nice creamy sauce paired well with the pillowy gnocchi and the beans. Only complaint would be the portion size – definitely would have been nice to have a few extra gnocchi!

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The second main was grilled octopus with a hibiscus glaze, chorizo, soy beans, black olive powder and lemon. The hit of the evening for us. The mixture of the glaze and the chorizo gave the tender octopus a hint of both sweetness and spiciness. The soy beans added a little extra sustenance to the plate. Definitely a dish I would order again.

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For dessert, we were treated to house doughnuts with lemon mousse and huckleberry jam. The doughnuts were light and fluffy in the inside with a nice crunch on the outside. Add the sugar coating to the jam and the mousse and you have a nice dessert right there. The final dessert was a brioche with a nut beurre monté, sumac and a wild flower glace au miel. Just like the doughnuts, the brioche was nice and fluffy. The special touches of the beurre monté and the glace au miel provided some nice sweetness and richness.

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I’ll admit I was disappointed that no offal or off-cut dishes were present in the menu option – since that is what attracted me to Lili Co in the first place – but in the end, that is on me for having waiting until MTL à Table to finally visit Lili Co. The food was excellent and the atmosphere enjoyable – you can see why they needed to move into bigger digs this year. This meal simply reinforced that I will need to come back again. Looking forward to visiting chef David and Catherine on a more regular occasion.

Cheers!

Lili Co.
4675 Saint-Laurent
514 507-7278

Lili Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bier Markt

28 Oct

I tend to avoid the big flashy restaurants… especially in the ones in the downtown core. Part of me is always leery. When your main clientele is tourists and the business crowd – simply by location alone – there is a good chance that the food is not necessarily up to par with the cost associated to the meal. Now, I am always willing to be proven wrong so when I had a chance to try Bier Markt for the first time recently, I went in with an open mind.

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For the uninformed, Bier Markt is a Toronto chain of restaurants that came to Montreal and took over the old Queue de Cheval location in front of the Bell Centre. Bier Markt’s claim to fame is the ridiculous amount of beers they have available – over 150 beers from 30 different countries. The selection is extremely varied and quite good. The beer menu is nicely elaborate. It does a great job of categorizing and describing each beer to help with selection. The prices vary widely though which is a bit strange. I also appreciated that the food menu provides recommendations with pairing for each dish. For a restaurant like this, that detail is essential and provides a nice way to try new beers.

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Foodwise, the menu is a mixture of beer garden and classic bar/pub fare. My friends and I went for three starters initially. First up was the French onion soup au gratin with caramelized onions, house veal stock, toasted bread and Gruyère cheese. Personally I did not try it but the response from my friends was good – not great.

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Next was the baked Brie with Granny Smith apples, lingonberry jam, roasted pecans, pickles and baguette crisps. The jam was nice but once again, overall the dish was good, not great. The portion size was only not that great considering its cost either.

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The final entree was the baked crab dip – wild Canadian rock crab, white cheddar, cream cheese, Old Bay spices and toasted house flatbread. This was a more interesting and well done dish. Very creamy with nice pieces of meaty crab within. Main issue once again though was the size relative to the price. Very limited amount of flatbread and frankly, this appetizer was barely sufficient for me much less as a dish to share – which at its price point, it needs to be.

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Prior to the description of the mains, I will just take a moment to discuss the service. Now, for the most part, I am pretty relaxed about service in general – I simply want timely, friendly with a good handle of the menu. However, there are a few things that are BIG no-nos for me. One of them is very simple – you should never serve the next course without clearing the table first. During our meal, not only was that done but that was after all the empty dishes were left in front of us for about 20 minutes before serving. On top of that, the waitresses serving our table had no clue who had which main so the second course became a awkward and complicated dance of simultaneously removing, moving temporary around and serving dishes. And then, the same thing was repeated at dessert time later on! With the number of waitresses working around us, these were big red flags about the quality of service.

Back to the food now. The first main was the Merchant burger – 10 oz. Wagyu beef burger, smoked bacon, charred red onion, vine-ripe tomato, iceberg lettuce, “Bier 58” sauce, toasted bun with house frites. A good sized burger – a little overcooked for my liking but still flavourful. A solid burger but again for its price, more was hoped for.

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I personally went with the Chicken ABT – fresh chargrilled chicken breast, avocado, crisp smoked bacon, vine-ripe tomato, shaved iceberg lettuce and honey Dijon aioli in a Portuguese roll served with fries. The sandwich was good but somehow left me underwhelmed and wishing I had ordering something else. Some extra aioli and avocado may have helped to provide more kick but otherwise I felt the sandwich lacked pop. The fries were nice and crisp at least – very classic bistro style.

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The final main was the smoked pork back ribs which are spice-rubbed and smoked for 6 hours, served with a golden BBQ sauce, fries and a red cabbage & caraway slaw. The ribs were nice and tender but because the sauce needed to be added by the client, they were a little dry. The BBQ sauce was a necessity to add, not a choice.

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The final dish we ordered was the waffle ice cream sandwich – house-baked chocolate waffles served warm with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Best thing we had all night – creative, chocolatey and rich. Always nice to end a meal on a positive.

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In the end, Bier Markt left me cold. The beer selection was nice and varied – definitely the draw to coming back. However, the food was uninspiring and simply okay. The service was poor. Okay food can be acceptable at certain times but not when my personal bill was 80$ without tip. At that price, there are a heck of a lot better options I can enjoy. Bier Markt is a great happy hour spot for excellent beer but not a worthwhile dining option.

Cheers!

Bier Markt
1221 René-Lévesque Ouest
514 864 7575

Bier Markt Montréal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cabane À Sucre Au Pied de Cochon – Harvest Season 2015

28 Sep

It’s that time of the year again – another season at the Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon. After the disappointment of not getting a spot for this year’s sugar season – thanks website outage! – I made sure that this would 5 out of 6. Going more than a year being visits seemed unfathomable. Thankfully, things were worked out and I set out with another table of 12 friends ready to set what Martin Picard and company had set for us.

For the uninitiated, the sugar shack is a set menu for the season – alcohol and tip excluded. This season being harvest season, the focus is on ingredients from the garden here as well as the local producers around the area. Each season, this is a collection of specialty cocktails. This time around, the focus was on gin – as our waitress noted that the PDC has a gin coming to stores soon! There was a solid gin and tonic, a Gin-nette – gin with spruce beer, a blueberry mojito and a house ginger ale and rye whiskey served with strawberries.

Food-wise, first up was a series of 6 starters dishes to enjoy. The initial one was a cold melon soup with a mix of garden vegetables and fresh herbs served over top. I hate melon…. but loved this dish. Silky smooth and surprisedly spicy. A very refined and subtle dish. Paired with the soup was some housemade bread lathered with butter and slices of house cured ham.

Then came the necessary PDC foie gras dish – Poached pears with aged cheddar and pan seared foie gras. A wonderful combination of richness and sweetness. My girlfriend’s lack of interest in foie gras provided me with an extra serving so a nice win for me.

That was followed by gnocchi served with sweat peas, ricotta, bacon and garlic pesto. I really loved this dish – the gnocchi were great, the pesto gave this dish a strong garlic flavour but the addition of the creamy ricotta and the bacon helped to dull it somewhat. The sauce itself was perhaps more liquid than some will enjoy but the flavours were outstanding.

The next dish was the miss of the night for the entire table – a whole sturgeon poached in a potato and leak sauce served with mussels. The sauce itself was great as were the mussel. However, the sturgeon, for us, was overcooked. The flakiness of the fish was completely gone.

Back to positive however with the next one – homemade tagliatelle pasta served with a fresh vegetable sauce made with garden eggplants and tomatoes as well as coins of sausage. The dish was prepared in front of us as the pasta was mixed in a hollowed parmesan wheel to add some cheese. A very fresh and surprisedly light pasta dish – which was a nice contrast to the more fatty and rich gnocchi dish. This wasn’t a hit for everyone at the table but I enjoyed it personally.

The last starter was a margarita pizza made using baguette bread dough and topped with a mornay sauce, fresh garden tomatoes, garlic chips, basil and parmesan. The whole thing was cooked on charcoal. A solid pizza overall – slice crunch to the crust although I’m not sure exactly what the use of baguette bread dough did to make a difference compared to standard pizza dough. The mornay sauce provided some creamy richness to the classic fresh margarita.

After a brief moment to digest, we were served the main course – A DIY pot-au-feu. We were a provided a large meat platter, some condiments, vegetables and thermos of broth with which to make our individual plates. The meat platter, in keeping the ethos of Pied de Cochon, was huge and quite varied. It included duck confit, smoked BBQ beef ribs, steamed pork belly, white blood sausage, bone marrow, pork filet, pig’s foot, a cornish hen and smoked bison tongue. The condiments included a mushroom sauce, salsa verde, dijon, radishes and pickles. The stars here were the meats and they were glorious. Particular note to the smoked meat like consistency of the bison tongue, the fatty bone marrow and rich pig’s foot.

After that orgy of meaty goodness, we were ready for desserts. First, we received an palate cleanser of vanilla and apple soft serve swirl ice cream with a good amount of Calvados in the middle. Then, it was on to a foursome of options.

There was peaches served in mead and with cubes of raspberry jelly; a prune clafoutis; crème fraiche ice cream and a raspberry tiramisu, presented as a potted plant, complete with a shower of poured coffee. Point for originality of presentation for the tiramisu however, personally as I hate coffee, this dish was a non-starter for me. The clafoutis was a great hit for me. The ice cream was nice and creamy and the peaches provided some nice sweetness.

All in all, another great meal at the Cabane. I admit that compared to previous experiences, this one didn’t wow me as much – most dishes were solid, not the spectacular we often expect with Martin Picard and Co. The fact that two dishes didn’t work for me was also a first…. As a first experience, I can imagine people still being blown away. The amount of food one gets for the price is still great. However, for someone like myself who has been 5 out of the past 6 seasons, the standards set by the PDC crew makes this one seem a little less exciting. I’ll still be at the computer at midnight December 1st for sugar season though – I hooked and can’t imagine missing the next hopeful surprise from this crew.

Cheers!

Cabane à Sucre Au Pied du Cochon
11382 rang de la Fresnière
St-Benoit, Qc

Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Adamo

26 Sep

Let’s be honest: Pizza by the slice joints usually suck. Outside of being a quick option after a late night out and needing some grease to sober up, the quality of pizza in these establishments generally leaves to be desired which is too bad because the concept is a worthy and useful one. Being able to grab a great quick slice of pizza while walking around is a great addition to one’s neighbourhood. Over the past few months, there was indications that within St-Henri, a pizzeria was coming and bringing by-the-slice with it. On its own, not necessarily that exciting but when I heard that Tony Campanelli, owner of the wonderful cafe/store of the same name, was doing it…. well now you have my attention. Adamo opened up a couple of weeks ago so I passed by a couple of times to see how the pizza stacks up.

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Adamo is a pretty simple place – a walk-up counter with drinks and pizzas ready to grab, a little bar to eat at there if you wish and the open kitchen behind for all to see the magic at work. The boxes of tomatoes and bags of flour add a nice rustic touch in the front of the room and the addition of the TV and the foosball table make the space have a more communal feel despite the lack of seating space. The pizzeria already feels like part of the St-Henri community after only a few weeks. Part of that is Tony’s presence. Every time I have been, the place is busy and people are chatting with Tony and the rest of his friendly staff. You always get a nice hello and small talk from the staff. You don’t feel like you just need to order and get out as fast as possible. That is greatly appreciated.

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Pizza-wise, Adamo does what you would call New York-style pizza – as thin as possible and not too overloaded with ingredients. The individual slices are huge – the kind of slices that you fold in half to properly eat with one hand. The key there however is that despite being folded in half, the pizza holds up on its own, no limp crust here. Adamo nails that perfectly so far. The crust isn’t too tight either which is nice. At the moment, there are 3 options – Mozzarella, Pepperoni and Basil – with one Pesto special available at times. Having tried all four, they are all solid. The base tomato sauce has a nice tang to it, the pepperoni has a nice kick, the cheeses are all gooey and plentiful and the pesto was very fresh. My one complaint would be that the basil pizza didn’t really have enough basil on it.

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Adamo is the best by-the-slice joint you can find in Montreal right now. Tony and company do it right all the way around so far and add to what is a great strip of Notre-Dame in St-Henri just by the Park. I needed a good pizza place not too far away from my new place…. and Adamo will do very nicely thank you.

Cheers!

Adamo
4629 Notre Dame Ouest

Adamo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le Bon Vivant (Brunch Edition)

15 Sep Huevos Rancheros - in the cast iron skillet with papas bravas, chorizo, avocados, chipotle salsa and corn tortillas

Brunch is a pretty big thing all around Montreal nowadays. The number of great restaurants open for brunch on top of their usual dinner service is quite astounding and has truly elevated what we consider good brunch. I am rather fond of the weekend brunch and have tried many of the best this city has to offer. The downside there however is that I have stuck to my usual spots recently and stopped trying new options. Recently, with my move to the Point, my usual brunch places – mostly in Mile End and the Plateau – are a little further away. As such, I am curious about the options I have nearby. First up on the list was a relatively new place just a short walk away that had peaked my interest based on some of my internet friends – Le Bon Vivant.

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Located a stone’s throw away from the Atwater Market, Le Bon Vivant is a small room – probably about 40-50 seats – with a look I just adore. Very industrial with the exposed ceiling struts, the use of old lighting fixture and lightbulbs, the metallic shelving by the entrance and the open kitchen in the middle of the space. However, the use of cream leather banquettes, the magnetic boards for the daily specials, the white wooden bar and the great vacation-like tropical music that played during brunch bring some nice coziness and family warmth to the space. I really like the vibe I got coming in both times – yeah my girlfriend and I came twice over a month or so. Kinda gives you an idea of this post before you get to the end, right?

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Le Bon Vivant offers a variety of drink options including cocktails which change regularly. They also have Beau’s beer by the bottle which as a huge Beau’s fan is an extra point in their favour from me. On the first visit, I went with the Mookie – Bourbon, raspberry and mint. A light summer play on an old fashioned. The mint and raspberries freshened up the bourbon without overpowering it. Sweet but nicely balanced overall. The second time around, I went with the Caipirinha – Cachaca (an sweeter Brazilian rum) and lime juice. Very strong lime flavour which helped to dull the edge off the rum a bit but I didn’t find it as sweet as I expected.

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First up food wise, we had the homemade almond milk and ricotta bircher with fresh fruits, nuts and wine cinnamon cardamon poached pears. A light and fluffy dish with tons of sweetness. The use of ricotta made the bircher pretty rich but not overbearing. The care shown in making the poached pears brought some nice contrast to the bircher. There was a very strong cinnamon and wine favour to the pear. The one negative here was that there was only one pear. A couple would have been nice.

Next was some Huevos Rancheros in a cast iron skillet with papas bravas, chorizo, avocados, chipotle salsa and corn tortillas. I would have liked a slightly larger portion but within that context, there was still plenty of nicely sized pieces of both sausage and potatoes. The salsa over the top brought some freshness with just the right touch of spice. The whole thing was covered by plenty of cheesy goodness to blend it all together. Having proper grilled corn tortillas was great as well.

The second time around, I couldn’t help but order the roast beef poutine served with their BV sauce and homemade smoked beef brisket. In this case, portion size was perfect – a very filling dish. The smokiness and meaty goodness that was that brisket really hit the point. The BV sauce was thicker than your usual gravy and there wasn’t as much used compared to a regular poutine. It made all the elements blend together better without having a liquid mess at the bottom of the dish. The fries were crunchy and the cheese squeaked – so we were all good in terms of a proper poutine.

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The final dish we tried was a special the second day we were there – a parmesan polenta served with Italian sausage and grilled pita. The polenta was smooth and creamy in the inclusion of the cheese. The fatty and spicy sausage added some nice bit to the plate. The grilled pitas were the perfect vessels to pick the bowl clean. You wouldn’t think from the picture that the dish was big enough but it was perfectly filling for my girlfriend.

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My two experiences at Le Bon Vivant have told me that I definitely have an great brunch place close by now and secondly that I will need to come for dinner very very soon. It is nice to know that I can walk to a place from now on.

Cheers!

Le Bon Vivant
2705 Notre Dame Ouest
514 316 4585

Le Bon Vivant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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