Saka-Ba!

19 Apr

Minor culinary confession time: I had never had real ramen before. One of those food blind spots that I figured I would eventually correct given the right context. Truth to known, giving my lack of knowledge regarding ramen, I was never quite sure what to look for in good ramen or where even to find good ramen here in Montreal. Well, Chef Junichi Ikematsu, owner of JUNI on Laurier, solved that part for me with the opening of a Ramen Bar in the Plateau, Saka-Ba!. Taking advantage of some vacation time, I went down on a Sunday night with a couple of friends to finally try out some Ramen.

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Located on Mont-Royal east of Christophe Colomb, Saka-Ba! is a sight to behold when you walk in. Modern in look but still very welcoming – nice touches of Japanese culture (art prints, anime strips on the walls) amongst the wood floors, grey walls and bright red tabletops. The focus of the space is the massive red wrap-around bar which really makes an impression. The kitchen in the back is visible to all so you can see the craziness happening as you wait for your food. Saka-Ba doesn’t take reservations so depending on when you go, you may end up waiting. We were there for 8pm on a Sunday night and still needed to wait 30 minutes so please take that into consideration.

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Food-wise, the menu consists of 3 types of Ramen with a variety of Izakaya or Japanese pub dishes available as well. As we were 3 pretty hungry guys on this visit, we attacked the menu with fervour and eat almost everything available. First up, Tako kiuri – an octopus salad with a spicy sauce. Deliciously tender octopus tossed with some cucumber, green onions, sesame seeds and a little sauce – a very nice starting point. The killer here was the octopus – texturally perfect without any of the chewiness one fears with poorly prepared octopus.

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Next up, Kimchi daikon. Kimchi, for the un-initiated, is a fermented vegetable dish using a combination of spices which typically create a very strong and spicy flavour. In this case, the vegetable in question was daikon. Served in a tiny preserves jar, Saka-Ba!’s kimchi started off softly but packed a strong punch at the end.

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The third dish was the Gyoza – fried pork and cabbage dumplings. Big fan of these through my multiple Izakaya visits so these weren’t hard to enjoy on my end. Nice sear on the dumplings and the filling was quite flavourful – there really wasn’t much need for the dipping sauce in my opinion.

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Next, we had the Kara Age – fried organic chicken with spicy mayo. Probably the best of our starters – great crunch to the chicken while still remaining juicy and tender. The spicy mayo was also on point – even though we ran out of chicken, we finished off the sauce regardless!

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To follow the path of fried food, we also had the Corn cari – curry stuffed doughnuts. Probably the most disappointing dish sadly – the fried balls themselves were great however the curry mixture inside lacked much punch. It really didn’t add anything to the dish and left all 3 of us wanting.

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The final starter (yeah I know…. what can I say, we were hungry) was the Satsuma Age – sweet potato fries. Served with more of that great spicy mayo and lightly tossed with some paprika, these thickly cut fries were delicious and not over breaded either which was appreciated.

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And now we reach the main course – the Ramen. Saka-Ba! offers 3 types of broth each with their own extra ingredients to mix with the house made noodles and the boiled egg. First up, the Shoyu Ramen – pork and soy broth, braised pork, bean sprouts, bamboo and green onions. As a first experience with Ramen, this one struck me as a very good one. The broth was rich and flavourful – huge pork notes within the broth. The noodles were awesome – great texture with their own nice taste. The braised pork simply fell apart – so good. The egg added some rich creaminess to the mix and the rest of the ingredients provided some nice notes to the mixture. A great intro to Ramen for yours truly.

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The second variety was the Ebi Miso Ramen – Lobster and pork broth, miso, braised pork, corn, bean sprouts, bamboo and green onions. The addition of lobster in the broth and the miso brought forth a slightly less pork flavoured broth with not much of a lobster taste to be honest. The rest was as great as the first bowl.

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The final variety was the Tori shio Ramen – chicken and salt broth, pain seared upper leg chicken, fried onions, bean sprouts and green onions. This was a very different profile than the other two due to the lack of pork and the use of chicken. The chicken meat itself was nice and tender and the fried onion brought some crunch. The broth here was quite a bit saltier than the previous two – more noticeable for the two of us who primarily ate the other two than for the one who ordered this bowl but still. Of the three, I would likely stick to the 1st one but each had their strong point.

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As an introduction to Ramen, Saka-Ba! hit all the right notes – great decor, nice vibe and awesome food. As someone who hates waiting in-line for any meal (still the biggest reason why I don’t return to Kazu), I am not sure I would do so again for Ramen but Saka-Ba! certainly made a great impression on me. As a starting point for Ramen, I definitely feel I got the proper experience to judge future bowls. I’m sure you will as well.

Cheers!

Saka-Ba!
1279 Mont Royal Est
(514) 507-9885

Saka-Ba! on Urbanspoon

Bishop and Bagg

14 Apr

The Burgundy Lion guys opened a new pub even closer to my apartment. That’s pretty much all I needed to hear in order to run over and check out Bishop and Bagg. Located in Mile End on the corner of Clark and St-Viateur where an Italian café used to be, this English pub is right along my regular spring/summer bike path to and from the Market, so this could get very hairy for me as the warm weather rolls around. I was very excited to see in what ways this spot would differ from the Lion which continues to be my favourite pub in town.

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Bishop and Bagg is a smaller, more intimate place when compared to the Burgundy Lion. Part of that is the smaller floor space so less people in the pub but also the overall vibe – there are no TVs and the music is more ambient compared to the Lion’s higher decibel count (which is the one thing that is starting to bother me about the Lion – now scratched off the possible date spot list as conversation is basically impossible). The use of dark burgundy colours, old framed pictures and the old school wood bar really give it an authentic British pub look – perhaps even more than the Lion itself.

The other interesting aspect of Bishop and Bagg is how they seek to mimic a true pub experience through the service – there are no waiters per se. Everything is done at the bar – you order all food and drinks through the barman via your table number and it is sent to you as ready. Each “round” is added to a table tab and then you divide up the damage later on. Definitely a different take for a pub and one that I am curious to see how well it works on busier nights (I will have to do my research…). Either way, it creates a more relaxed vibe that is enjoyable.

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The drink menu will be familiar to anyone who frequents the Burgundy Lion – same varieties of beer with a few different cocktails showcased here. Pleasant surprise when I walked in – my favourite bartender from the Lion has made the move over it would appear, so I knew the cocktails would be on point. My multiple Boulevardiers (Bourbon, Campari and Sweet Vermouth) proved I wasn’t mistaken.

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As for the food, it is certainly not what one would call classic pub cuisine but Bishop and Bagg doesn’t aim for that anyway. Their website states that this is a “pub with great food”, one that isn’t traditionally British but what they call country pub inspired. All right then. First, we grabbed some small snacks – hickory styx and some spiced nuts with rosemary. Nice snacking options to go with some drinks – I was particularly enjoying the spiced nuts which had the right hint of rosemary on top of the other spices going on. The hickory styx were a nice alternative to basic chips.

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As main dishes, we tried two different ones. First up, lamb kebabs served on pitas with some tzatziki sauce, lettuce and vegetables. Nice favours across the board here – the lamb was cooked properly, the sauce added nice creaminess without overpowering the rest of the dish and the vegetables were nice & fresh.

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The second dish was porchetta with grilled escarole and white beans. Loved this dish – the fattiness of the porchetta, one of my favourite meat preparations, paired with the grilled escarole, the white beans, some parsley and a little onion as well. If you had told me this is what I would be eating at a pub, I would have probably laughed at you. This dish would seem much more at home in a different setting but it totally works. Well done all around.

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Loved my initial visit to Bishop and Bagg. Great food, great drinks and an awesome atmosphere – I cannot wait to go back shortly, especially knowing terrasse weather is on its way and as such, that little terrasse will be open as will the garage door windows. I may not go to the Burgundy Lion as often this summer but no worries to the ownership group, I will still be a frequent customer… just elsewhere.

Cheers!

Bishop & Bagg
52 St-Viateur O.
(514) 277-4400

Bishop & Bagg on Urbanspoon

Grumman 78

12 Apr

Hard to believe but I have already reached my 10 year high school reunion. Time clearly flies when you are having fun…. or at least let’s hope that’s it anyway. As we approach the actual reunion, some of us decided it was worthwhile to have a reunion dinner downtown to catch up, eat, drink, laugh…. and then likely cry and drink some more. As the “foodie” of the group, I was tasked with finding a fun place with good food to host a large group on a Friday… not the easiest challenge but one I figured I could handled. Based on what was required, I figured now was a good opportunity to try out the restaurant of one of my favourite food trucks here in Montreal, Grumman 78.

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Located in what appears to be an old converted garage and in what used to be (and still is) their prep kitchen for the truck itself, Grumman 78 has a nice relaxed vibe eminating from its locale. Funky artwork, old arcade machines, white brick walls, large wooden tables, old Christmas lights and good music – this is definitely not a formal restaurant. Given the open nature of the space and the fact it was Friday, a little noisy for conversation but it’s the kind of room that I could see being enjoyment on a different night and time.

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As we were a large group, we were beholden to a fixed menu but one that had been proposed to me in advance and which I had the option of making changes to. Given that it was a combination of many of their staple dishes, I had no issues with what they offered us. At this moment, I want to take a second to discuss the service of the evening. Our meal got off to a bit of rocky start due to no-shows on our end which delayed the start of the meal by a good hour and caused some issues as our number dropped from what we had confirmed for the fixed menu. While it got sorted out, it was a little surprising to see how we weren’t offered drinks more quickly as we waited for those who ended up not coming or that we weren’t checked on again until we eventually decided to assume those no-shows were actually not coming. That followed a bit of a pattern throughout the night of decidedly slow service despite our waiter being very friendly. An entire order of drinks never came and the wait times between the different dishes was surprisingly long. Now, I noticed that there were at least 2 other large (i.e 10+) groups in the restaurant at the same time which may explain some of the issues but regardless it was a disappointment. And now on to what should be the main focus – the food!

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The first appetizer was a Mackerel crudo. A combination of brined Mackerel, citrus fruits, pomegranate and avocado, this was a very light and fresh starter. Great combination between the salty Mackerel, the sweet acidic fruits and the creamy avocado. Tons of flavours without being overbearing.

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The other appetizer was a beet salad with apples, creme fraiche, croutons and herbs. Another interesting combination of items and flavours. The redness of the beets created quite a visually striking dish. The richness of the creme fraiche and acidity of the apples helped to freshen up the beets which are not a favourite of mine under normal circumstances.

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The next course was what made Grumman 78 in the first place: their soft shell tacos. In this instance, we were treated to two types: Bahn-Mi and Pimenton-Feta. The Bahn-Mi ones were comprised of pulled pork, hoisin sauce, pickled daikon and carrots. The Pimenton-Feta ones were Pimenton braised red beans, radish salad and feta. As we were a large group, there were served family style to allow you to build your own – although we had an issue in terms of quantity of tortillas. We eventually got extras but they were a little slow to come. Regardless, the tacos themselves were delicious – both were flavourful and texture rich. I had already had the Bahn-Mi before- it was the original taco I tried of theirs from their food truck. Nice combination of sweet and fatty. The Pimenton-Feta was a new one for me – not a huge fan of the beans themselves but the mix with the feta and the radish made it work rather nicely.

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The next service was the final main: Fried Chicken and Johnny Cakes (cornmeal pancakes) with coleslaw and Ranch dressing. I loved these – the fried chicken was crispy but still moist inside, the coleslaw was light and fresh, the ranch dressing added some creaminess and the pancakes were a perfect vehicle for the whole thing. I just wished that there had been more!

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For dessert, we got individual key lime pies. Now, I am a huge key lime pie fan so imitators need not present themselves to me at a restaurant. This one was quite good – a crunchy graham crust at the bottom and nice key lime filling. The key things for me are always the texture of the filling itself and the key lime flavour being strong but not overbearing. Grumman’s version hits these notes perfectly. A solid end to the meal.

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All in all, my time at Grumman 78 left me conflicted – the food was awesome as I had expected given my experiences with the food truck however the service issues on this evening left a slightly sour note for my dinner mates and I. I am generally more forgiving on these things but I suspect some of my friends won’t be based on our discussions at the bar afterwards. The food here is too good not to check out but perhaps I would recommend not bringing a large group firstly – a table of 2 or 4 should not run into the issues we did. At least visit the food truck when it comes out this summer. I certainly plan to.

Cheers!

Grumman 78
630 de Courcelle
514 290 5125

Grumman '78 on Urbanspoon

Cabane À Sucre Au Pied de Cochon – Sugar Season 2014

27 Mar

Spring is trying very hard to enter the fray here in Montreal but Winter isn’t giving up without a fight. The only real positive at this time of the year is the arrival of Sugar Shack season – that most wonderful period where fresh maple syrup is flowing and sugar shacks open up with their ham, quiche, omelettes, baked beans, sausage, bacon, etc… The most decadent of these experiences is the one catered by Chef Martin Picard and the rest of his team at La Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon up in St-Benoît de Mirabel. The popularity of this sugar shack continues to grow and it is harder and harder to actually get a reservation. I found myself at midnight on December 1st on my laptop submitting my reservation and hoping for the best. Thankfully, I am now 3 for 3 in reservations and I found myself on March 1st with a group of my friends ready to indulge in the gluttony that is Cabane PDC.

Once again this year, there was a variety of speciality cocktails available to start with. We had the maple Mojito made with an in-house soda and their maple Manhattan. Both were excellent although I preferred the Manhattan.

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Then the food started. The first dish was a terrine-like dish of salmon and avocado with what I believe to have been beets. A very unique preparation for a sugar shack and by far the lightest dish we have all night. I enjoyed the mix of the creamy avocado and the fresh salmon.

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The next dish was their maple syrup foie gras inside a hollowed loaf of bread and topped with pork rinds. The maple foie gras was simply delightful – simple in execution but huge flavour.

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There was also a omelette soufflé with some chorizo at the bottom and some deep fried potatoes on top. I am not a big omelette guy so this was probably the least successful dish for me however the components of the plate were well done. I was a particularly big fan of the deep fried goodness that was those little potatoes – I definitely could have had more of those! (Correction 1 of 3: Thanks to Foodie Date Night for noting that it was actually beef tripe at the bottom and croutons on the top – Guess I need a audio recorder to keep up with all the details when the plates come fast and furious!)

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Next up, a Sturgeon Quenelle with a mussel cream sauce. Now, I had never had a Quenelle – which, following a quick google search, is a mixture of creamed fish with a light egg binding – but this was a great first experience. It was awesome to see the use of seafood and fish on the menu which lord knows can be a bit meat heavy in a sugar shack context.

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The final first course dish (Yeah… this was only the first course so far!) was a ham smoked with hay served with duck fat fried corn cakes and maple syrup. Au Pied de Cochon continues to make pretty much the best ham I have ever had. Such nice smoky flavour without a hint of being dry – their success here makes me want to give a smoker and also completely re-think the way we cook ham in my family. There was also a side of sweet potatoes with maple marshmallow. A very American South inspired dish that worked beautifully well with the ham. The sweetness here was a nice contrast to the fatty ham.

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A quick break and then we were on to the second course. First up, squid ink pasta with blood pudding (Correction #2: also pig blood in the pasta itself). A dish which may push people away due to the whole blood thing but believe me, they were completely worth it. Great texture to the pasta and very eye catching due to the black color. Tossed together with the blood sausage and a sort of bolognese sauce, this made for a great meaty pasta dish.

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The other dish of this service was duck breast stuffed with its own innards and some swiss chard I believe (Correction #3: actually a mushroom duxelle with the innards). Flambéed at our table prior to serving, there was an added element of theatre here to go with the fact that this was a kick-ass bird. Great crispy skin and a perfect rare cooking temperature, this sugar shack knows how to cook a duck!

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Finally, after all that, came the desserts and there was quite the ensemble. A moka and maple mousse layer cake, maple frozen yogourt, some maple taffy and a banana cream pie with maple meringue. I hate coffee so the moka cake wasn’t a favorite but the maple sweetness cut the coffee taste down. The homemade yogourt had a great thick texture – nice and creamy. The maple taffy was perfect as one would expect from a sugar shack. The star here was the banana cream pie – wonderful rich but not nearly as sweet as you have dreaded. Thick cut bananas, creamy pudding and flaky pastry topped with a gluey maple meringue. Just exquisite and a dessert that I will definitely try to make now that I have the recipe from their TV show “Un Chef a la Cabane”.

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Once again, Cabane PDC hit it out of the park. Another evening visit to Saint-Benoit-de-Mirabel and another return ride to Montreal where I could have rolled home! To anyone who has never had the chance to visit, I urge you to find a way to get a reservation. I know that the thought of sitting by one’s computer around midnight to make a reservation isn’t very appealing but believe me, it is completely worth it.

Cheers!

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

Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon on Urbanspoon

Pub Sir Joseph

23 Mar

I love a good pub. It is my favorite type of drinking establishment. The relaxed atmosphere, good food, good music and a great selection of drinks – there is a reason why I spend WAY too much time at the Burgundy Lion instead of something closer than my apartment. During the Montreal en Lumière festival last month, after going to La Cuvée (an awesome beer, whiskey and retro music event) at L’Eglise Saint-Enfant Jesus, my friends and I walked across the street to Pub Sir Joseph to grab a bite and continue our evening in the right way.

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Pub Sir Joseph was opened by a group which included chef Martin Juneau of Pastaga fame and is located along the Main corner St-Joesph in a space which has seen numerous restaurants come and go – the previous tenant was there for under a year from what I recall. So not the most successful location it would seem but Pub Sir Joseph has some positives going for it – A British gastropub is not a common sight in the Plateau and chef Juneau & company’s menu influences is a nice selling point.

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The interior space has a clean, more sparse vibe than your typical pub – solid wood and stone tables, high chairs and an L shaped bar which is the focal point of the space as it should be. The dim lighting was all candles on the tables with a few pot lights and an interesting lightbulb fixture in the middle of the room. The music was present but not too loud – conversation was actually possible which at a bar/pub around midnight on a weekend has become a big challenge in Montreal. The service was quick and very friendly – to the point where the 2 waiters on the floor would actually start conversations with us a few times over the evening. At first, that level of attention was a little odd – not necessarily a regular occurrence for any of us – but in the end, it was rather endearing and enjoyable. The fact that it didn’t slow down their service was pretty impressive as well.

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On the drink front, Pub Sir Joseph has a nice selection of local and British beers as well as different cocktails – with a primary emphasis on gin as they have 10 different varieties in house. I went with their “Smoky” cocktail – Bowmore scotch whiskey, maple syrup and angostura bitters. A nicely balanced drink – the sweet maple syrup softened the bitterness and bite of the whiskey and bitters.

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Foodwise, Pub Sir Joseph focuses primarily on pub-style food in small plate “Tapas” style designed to allow sharing amongst the group as you sit around with a few drinks. Certainly an intriguing concept for a pub-style joint. The menu hits some classic pub items with British and Indian influences, however they definitely are having fun playing off the conventions of the setting. First up, we ordered their Worker’s plate – a mixed cheese and charcuteries dish. Served with some bread and marinated vegetables, there was a nice combination here – chorizo, salumi, cheddar, goat cheese, etc. A nice starting plate.

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Next up was the Onion bhajis with curry mayonnaise. Bhajis, for those who don’t know, are essentially Indian fritters – in this case done using onions. Inherently sweet due to the onion, they had a nice crunch to them which added something texturally. The curry mayonnaise added some bite without letting the curry become overwhelmed – something that used to bother me until the day I was introduced to true good Indian cooking by some of my University classmates. I only wished they had been more Bhajis on the plate!

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The final dish we ordered was their Meat pie composed of beef, kidney, braised vegetables and scotch ale. Took some time to reach our table (which our waitress had told us ahead of time) but a solid dish worth waiting for. A nice flaky crust with a rich stewy mixture of beef and vegetables – classic meat pie and a great choice given the evening of drinks we had just had.

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Our visit here was a last minute call but one that definitely enjoyed. Chef Juneau’s influences on the menu are visible in terms of quality and presentation – as a fan of Pastaga, that is a huge positive for me – and I loved both the variety of Gins and the quality of cocktails available. The service was very smooth and much more personable than I expected. Pub Sir Joseph fills a void in the area and did enough for me in our brief visit to warranted a larger meal as a well as further late night gatherings. For a pub experience, that is really all you can hope for.

Cheers!

Pub Sir Joseph
4902 Saint Laurent
514 564 7477

Pub Sir Joseph on Urbanspoon

Le Cartet (Brunch Edition)

20 Mar

A beautiful Sunday morning in the city always lends itself to a nice brunch. A couple of Sundays ago, the family was downtown for the weekend so it was the perfect opportunity to head down to old Montreal for a nice family meal. For the occasion, we decided to try out Le Cartet, a place that I had heard many good things about but hadn’t had the chance to try yet.

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This restaurant and boutique offers breakfast and lunch as well as a takeout menu for the many workers in the area during weekdays . On the weekend, the focus switches to brunch. We arrived for the beginning of the brunch service and were able to grab one of the last tables in the back so thankfully we didn’t wait long. Given the lineup that was present on our exit an hour later, we made the right call to arrive early. The space is a perfect morning spot – tons of natural lighting, plain white walls and high ceilings. It’s a tight fit with everyone cramming in for brunch but still comfortable.

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The brunch menu at Le Cartet is a combination of classic brunch dishes with some extra twists. The first dish that we ordered was their Coupe Santé – Fresh fruit salad, greek yogourt, blueberries, ginger-honey organic granola and cashew nuts. Wherever they get their greek yogourt, my family would love to know because it was some of the best we’ve ever had. I love blueberries so that’s the perfect option to pair with the yogurt and the granola was wonderful as well – a nice subtle hint of both honey and ginger. Mix everything together and you get a very nice yogurt parfait. The lightest option we tried and a hit for all of us.

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The second dish we got was the Brunch Cartet – Scrambled eggs with mesclun salad, ham croissant, goat cheese and a sweet potato salmon cake. This was the most unconventional plate we ordered. I could take or leave the salad – it was good but rather unremarkable. The scrambled eggs were very done as one would hope from a breakfast/brunch place. The croissant was fresh and flaky, the ham was solid and the goat cheese was a nice creamy rich touch to a otherwise light plate. The real star in the end however was the salmon cake – nice crunch on the outside while keeping a flaky context inside. I would have loved that element to be more plentiful compared to the rest but a solid dish nevertheless.

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The final dish was le Brunch des Cantons – Scrambled eggs with country ham, sausage, bacon, baked beans, toast and roasted herb potatoes cooked in duck fat. This dish was completely in my wheelhouse which makes the fact that I didn’t order it all the more shocking! Great items here – all the meats were delicious and I am always a sucker with anything cooked in duck fat.

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Each of these dishes came with an amuse-gueule to enjoy before the meal however we didn’t get them during our meal! Our waiter, realizing his mistake, gave us a mini-bag of them on our exit – sucre a la creme. Deliciously rich and sweet – this ended up being a nice way to end the meal rather than start it.

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Le Cartet was a solid brunch experience – all the dishes were well executed and the service was quick and to the point. Its location makes me a perfect starting point for a nice afternoon in Old Montreal. Whether or not I would stand in line to eat there however is a different question all together. In the end, I would easily recommend you give them a shot – however arrive early otherwise your day in the old port will become a quick afternoon stroll.

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Cheers!

Le Cartet
106 Rue McGill
514 871 8887

Le Cartet on Urbanspoon

Patrice Patissier

9 Mar

Anyone who knows me knows that I love sweets. And frankly, when it comes to sweets right now in Montreal, there is no better area than the Sud-Ouest. Already home to Leche Desserts and Rustique (my favorite doughnut and pie shops), it is only perfect that Patrice Demers, formally of Les 400 Coups in the old port, decided to set up his new venture, Patrice Patissier, in the area as well. His boutique opened up about 3 weeks ago now and I went on the opening weekend to see what he had in store.

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Having taking over the old video rental store on Notre-Dame Ouest just down the block from the Joe Beef empire, the space is divided into a takeout bakery, a wine bar/seating space and a back room for eventual cooking classes. The kitchen is visible to all when you walk in, allowing us to see what comes on behind the scenes. The space is modern, clean and relaxed – touches of wood and nice lighting makes the room inviting to sit and grab a quick tea (or coffee for those of you are inclined to such a beverage).

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Now, for this first visit, I stuck to the bakery because that was my main interest and also because it was the only part of the boutique open at that point. Patrice Patissier offers quite an assortment of items – pastries, cakes, “petit pots” and cream puffs. I had a dinner in the evening and was responsible for the dessert portion of our meal – I figured a nice variety of everything they had at that moment would be appropriate. Ironically enough, at the time I arrived that early afternoon, there wasn’t all that much left as clearly their opening weekend was going better than they had planned. Great for them, not so much for us as patrons but hey, it just means I would need to come back to try what I missed out on.

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On the pastry front, I got their Kouign Amann and a maple Financier. Now I had never heard of a Kouign Amann before this – it is a Breton cake, kind of a sweetened puff pastry. Sweet and flaky, this was a nice new discovery. The maple financier was great as well – a moist banana bread or sponge cake-like consistency with the added sweetness of maple syrup.

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The one cake they had left was a chocolate and cafe St-Henri cake. A deliciously chocolatey treat with just a slight hint of coffee which, for me, as a coffee hater, is a good thing.

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Both varieties of their “petit pots” were available – lemon, camomille, Anicet honey and yogourt, pineapple, muesli. Both are served in actual mini pots to take home. In both cases, great combinations of flavour and texture. The sweet pineapple, the fresh yogourt and the crunch of the granola or the bite of the lemon with the sweetness of honey and the spongy meringues – I really enjoyed these. The presentation as well is a nice creative touch from Patrice and his team.

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The final dessert was their cream puff which is done to order. The day I was there the cream filling was Bahibe chocolate, caramel and banana. A great combination of bitterness and sweetness in a wonderfully rich cream filling. Top notch dessert and probably the biggest hit amongst my dining group that evening.

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As a first impression, Patrice Patissier hit some very strong notes. All of the desserts were wonderful – not a single dud in the bunch. Once the wine bar aspect of the space gets really going, I will definitely be checking it out. Now my biggest challenge dessert-wise here is not coming home with a dozen different pastries next time I stop by and believe me, I will definitely be stopping by again and you believe you should do the same.

Cheers!

Patrice Patissier
2360 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 439 5434

Patrice Pâtissier on Urbanspoon

Le BarBÙ

9 Mar

Anyone who regularly reads this blog (and once again thank you for doing so!) may notice that when it comes to Quebec restaurants, I really tend to stick to Montreal proper. This is mostly due to my living downtown and the abundant options all around me that don’t involve me crossing a bridge. Now, as someone who grew up off-island, I am very familiar and used to the idea of crossing our “beloved” bridges to get to places – restaurants for the most part don’t happen to be one of those “worthwhile’ reasons anymore.

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Recently I had an event on the South Shore which brought me to a restaurant in Boucherville which I had never heard of before – Le BarBÙ. The restaurant is located in a strip mall just off the highway in Boucherville. It doesn’t make much of a first impression that way but that changes once inside. A nice modern decor punctuated with faux stone walls and art prints, it also has an exposed wine cellar and a nice bar area with a unique apparatus where the bottles hang from the ceiling. The restaurant clearly aims for the 5-7 crowd as well as dining. So the setting is nice but for me, the food is the most important. For this particular dinner I was apart of, it was a table d’hôte composed of regular items for the menu so my choices were limited somewhat.

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First up, a combination of soup and salad. The soup was a rice and vegetable soup and the salad was a standard chef’s salad. Both were solid but unspectacular – the soup had the right consistency and was not stingy on the rice or vegetables. The chef’s salad was exactly what you have expected from a chef’s salad – a good mix of lettuce and fresh vegetables which thankfully was not completely covered in a thick ranch dressing. On their regular menu, there were definitely more interesting options for starters but my hands were tied sadly.

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I got to try two different mains – the first was an Angus beef skirt steak with shallot sauce, vegetables and house fries. A pretty classic French bistro dish and well executed throughout. The steak was cooked properly with a nice sear on the outside and the shallot based sauce added some nice flavour. The house fries were thankfully cooked well – crispy on the outside but still soft enough on the inside. The cut of the fries was also perfect for me – not quite matchstick but not the thick wedges either. Overall a solid dish.

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The second main I got to try was butternut squash ravioli with goat cheese and a Portneuf sauce. Compared to the previous main dish, this was a much more creative endeavour. Loved the combination of the squash with the richness of the goat cheese. The Porfneuf sauce added nice creaminess to the mix – this was definitely not a light pasta dish. Very well done overall.

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Finally, for dessert, we got a piece of chocolate cake. A chocolate mousse on top of a chocolate cookie layer topped with a chocolate ganache. If you don’t like chocolate, this probably isn’t for you but for the rest of us, this works rather well.

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Le BarBÙ turned out to be a pleasantly solid surprise for me. I had no expectations going in but the food was solid, the wine list was interesting and the cocktails were well done. South Shore dining is not a regular thing for me but le BarBÙ definitely becomes a place to revisit. I’m still not prepared to cross a bridge to the South Shore too often for a meal but this is a good start to get me thinking about it.

Cheers!

BarBÙ
10 Boul. de Mortagne
Boucherville, Qc
450 655 6770

BarBU restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wings n’ Things

2 Mar

Every year, Super Bowl weekend is, for me, a get together with friends and/or family to watch the big game. On the occasion, we usually pig out to the usual classic “game day” trappings – chips, beers, ribs, fried chicken, etc…. Sure it’s not very healthy but hey, something just seems wrong about eating salad and vegetables during the Super Bowl. You just offset with a couple extra days at the gym. It’s not so hard. Anyway, for this particular year, I was a guest at some friends who had dinner covered. However, that did not mean I wouldn’t bring anything over especially since I was heading over around lunch time to enjoy some Habs hockey beforehand. In keeping with the spirit of the day, I figured this was as good a time as any to finally try out the reincarnation of Wings n’ Things to grab, what else, some chicken wings!

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Now, I have no memories of the old Wings n’ Things as I am too young to have had the chance to try them or even remember it. However, enough people whose opinions I trust talked up its return in late 2012 that I figured it was worth a visit. Located on Royalmount just off Decarie in an industrial neighbourhood, the first challenge was actually locating the place! They actually share a space with Otago Cafe which threw me off as a newcomer as I drove back and forth along Royalmount unable to find the address! This would be a pickup so I really have no comments on the service there other than to say that I received my order quickly without much of a wait.

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Wings n’ Things offers a wide variety of wings – regular, boneless, breaded or grilled – with a number of different sauces. For this particular visit, I stuck with regular wings with honey garlic, Jack Daniels BBQ and parmesan garlic sauces. The Jack Daniels BBQ ones were probably the most disappointing mostly because I really didn’t get any hint of the Jack Daniels. As BBQ wings, they would be quite good but my original expectations let me down here. The honey garlic sauce was exactly what I expected – a solid mix of sweetness and some bite. My clear favorite though was the parmesan garlic – those ones surprised me with the nice mix of the cheese and the garlic without being overpowering. All 3 varieties were coated well – no lack of sauce here. I also very much enjoyed the wings themselves – they had enough meat on the bone without being so big that they wouldn’t be cooked correctly inside. As a chicken wing place, Wings n’ Things needed to make sure their wings were on point and thankful they were.

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Wings n’ Things has a host of other things on the menu but given this was also conveniently Poutine Week, I went with their special at the time which is not there normally but probably should be – a curly fries poutine with cheese curds, red onions, boneless wing meat and their medium buffalo sauce. Absolutely delicious across the board which also allowed me to try their buffalo sauce. I am not a big heat guy and this sauce was right on the edge for me – if they had put their hotter version of the sauce, I would have had serious trouble finishing it. As it was, I very much enjoyed it and would probably get wings in that sauce in the future.

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All in all, for my money, these were the best wings I have had here in Montreal. They are a little out of the way but believe me, if you are in the mood for good wings, this is the place you must go.

Cheers!

Wings n’ Things
5663 Royalmount
514 733 0765

Wings 'N Things on Urbanspoon

Le Bureau

22 Jan

Happy new year everyone! Yeah I’m know I’m 3 weeks behind but hey… this writing is a side project for me so how about you cut me a little slack, hum? Anyway, thank you everyone who reads these posts on a regular basis and who spread the word. I never imagined that less than 2 years into this little writing endeavour that people would actually be writing this thing! It is greatly appreciated. Here’s to an amazing 2014 of food and more culinary exploration within our fair city and elsewhere!

Now then, on with my last restaurant visit of 2013 – Hey, I did say I was a little behind didn’t I? – which brought me to the rapidly changing region of Griffintown. It is a part of town that I visit quite frequently. A friend of mine who lives nearby invited down to check out Le Bureau Tapas Bar for a little midweek drink and food. Now, Le Bureau has been on my to-visit list since the summer so I gladly accepted and away we went.

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Walking in on a quiet snowy evening, Le Bureau has a very nice relaxed lounge feel – slow lighting, beautiful wood bars and bar tables with leather banquettes in the end. Add some more industriel touches with the exposed brick walls and steel ventilation tubes and you’re left with a nice setting that perfectly suits a great happy hour or after work visit.

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The cocktail menu was pretty extensive – the right kind of options for a bar like this. Over the course of the evening, we had their Manhattan, Negroni, Old Fashioned and Tom Collins. All were executed well and enjoyable.

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As for the food, Le Bureau offers a menu of tapas style dishes of various cultural influences. We went for a wide variety of dishes for this particular visit – Patatas Bravas, Cod croquettes, pancetta-wrapped figs, beef skewers with chimichurri and grilled chorizo with onions. The Patatas bravas were served with a chipotle lime sauce instead of the standard spicy tomato sauce. The cod croquettes were nice and crispy, served with a amarillo sauce. My big favourite on this night was the pancetta figs – a wonderful combination of sweetness and saltiness. The beef skewers themselves were fine but the real star here was that chimichurri. The grilled chorizo was good but I felt the sausage itself lacked the usual punch of most chorizo.

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The food overall was solid however I personally found the portion sizes to be a little too small given their cost. Le Bureau strikes me as the perfect happy hour 5 à 7 location – it has a great look, a very relaxed feel, a great selection of drinks from their bar and tapas if you need a snack. I will definitely return here for a drink every now and then. However, if you are looking to have a complete meal, I don’t think the portions lend themselves well to that experience. Le Bureau is a great lounge bar experience and that’s perfectly acceptable if that’s what you are looking for.

Cheers!

Le Bureau Bar Tapas
1642 Notre-Dame West
514 903 1642

Le Bureau Bar Tapas on Urbanspoon

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