Maison Publique

11 Mar

Warning: this post will be of the rather gluttonous variety. Copious amounts of food was tried and enjoyed on this particular occasion – even more than usual for yours truly. What was the reason you ask? Well for the occasion of my best friend’s wedding, I was tasked to find a good dinner option for the groomsmen, fathers and brothers the night before the actual wedding. One of my many Best Man duties as it turns out. After a little bit of last minute drama – my original reservation elsewhere somehow didn’t exist anymore the day before after I had called 2 months prior to book it! – I was saved by chef Derek Dammann and Maison Publique. Able to accommodate a party of 10 on a Friday night with only a day’s notice…. I will forever be grateful.







While a huge fan of their brunch service, I had never found time to experience dinner at Maison Publique. I was very excited to try the dinner menu and also introduce this wonderful restaurant to my best friend and the rest of the group. As I wrote in my original brunch post a couple of years ago, I just love the vibe and look of Maison Publique. I’m happy to see that it remains the same and even better during dinner. Great music, relaxed vibe – our group just loved the space. Such an beautifully eclectic joint for the neighbourhood. If I lived any closer, I would come in for a beer on a regular basis.









As a large group, we had two different group tasting options for us to try. Best friend’s wedding so we said F it and went for the bigger option of the two. We wanted to make it count. Prior to the food arriving, we went for a few… okay make that many growlers of Beau’s Brewing Company beer. The fact that Maison Publique has Beau’s on tap just makes them that much better – love that they support Canadian brewers.



As we enjoyed some drinks, the first batch of menu items came over. First up, we had the Maiale Tonnato which is boiled pork with pureed tuna sauce on top. It doesn’t sound that great but believe me, as the picture shows, this was a beautiful dish. Topped with some fresh herbs and some grated cheese, I loved the saltiness of meat with the creaminess of the sauce. Great technique showcased in a seemingly simple dish.



2nd dish of this first round was baked oysters. Such a decadent dish. Massive fresh oysters topped with bacon and cheese. Tasted like a baked potato but with oysters…. huge hit at the table. Loved the different play on oysters.



The final dish of the first round was raw Albacore tuna with lemon and horseradish. Simple and elegant – quite the contrast from the oyster dish. The tuna was beautiful – fresh and flavourful. Subtle hint of the other ingredients but the tuna was the star.



Great first round of dishes so the kitchen staff decided to give us a mini break with….foie gras on toast. Yeah clearly this meal wasn’t going to be light. If you hate foie gras, this wasn’t going to sway you. For the rest of us, simply heavenly. Rich and creamy foie gras with a bit of salt and parsley on toasted bread. Loved the simple addition of salt to play off the inherent fattiness of the foie gras. Thankfully a few people at the table didn’t like foie gras so I got a couple extra pieces!



On to the second round now! First up, Andouille sausage, herring (or at least I think it was herring.. my memory is failing me this time) and a mini slaw on croutons. Very nice mixture of ingredients and flavours. The fresh fish and the acidic slaw paired nicely with the very spicy sausage. The Andouille started off soft but left quite an impression afterwards. Unless you had a strong stomach, two croutons was as much as any of us could handle.



The final dish of this round was the beef salaison – cured beef with a black pepper rub served with a creamy slaw (again… I have forgotten exactly what the slaw was made of… damn poor memory). Beautiful texture to the cured meat and a strong peppery taste. The hint of oil and salt over top helped to dull that a bit as did the wonderfully creamy and cool slaw. Great contrast again in this dish.



At this point we still haven’t gotten to the main yet! First one was the baked cod with lima beans and leeks. Coated with a parmesan and terragon mixture, the fish simply fell apart as you took a fork to it. The nature of serving it as a whole fish meant that we had to deal with the fish bones – minor quibble but one to note for those of you who don’t like to search from them in your fish. Such great flavour from that fish. The roasted leeks and lima beans underneath were simply delicious as well. I need to start using leeks more in my cooking… I don’t think I ever realized how good they can be when used this way.



To pair with the fish, the other main we were served was the fried rabbit (pardon the picture – badly timed flash from across the table that I didn’t notice until the next day…). Served with some lettuce, the rabbit was game meat at it finest – tender and flavourful. The added crunch from the frying process brought a nice texture to the dish. Loved this dish as did the table – I think the serving plate was empty within 2 minutes!!



The final dish of the third round was a plate of seasonal winter vegetables. A mixture of carrots, beets, potatoes and celery with a small sauce. Very much appreciated the lightness of this dish after all the meats… and made me feel less guilty about the meal since I now got my vegetables in.



After all of this, we still needed to keep some room for dessert! First we had the butterscotch pot de creme. Smoothy and creamy, a wonderful dessert that I wish had been bigger!



The ricotta cheesecake was perfection. Fluffy yet creamy and smooth. Topped with some prunes and some maple syrup, a very nice combination indeed.



And lastly we had the des bois and amelanchier ice cream. Flavours I’d never had before and now hope to have again. Perfect texture to the ice cream itself. None of these desserts lasted more than 10 minutes despite all of us being stuffed to the gills.



Chef Derek and his team simply knocked it out of the park for us. From the level of execution throughout, the amazing flavours, the quantity of food and the great service, this meal was one that my best friend and the rest of the wedding party raved about afterwards. Simply for getting me out of a jam in my Best Man duties, Maison Publique would hold a special place for me but the overall experience on this evening confirmed that more than that, Maison Publique is one of the best Montreal has to offer. Thanks again Chef! and Bravo!

Cheers!

Maison Publique
4720 Marquette
514 507 0555

Maison Publique on Urbanspoon

JoBlo

10 Mar

I don’t know about every restaurant in the city. I know that statement shouldn’t be a surprise but sometimes people get the impression that I know every possible restaurant in Montreal. And yes, while I do know my fair share, even I can get surprised by a place I’ve never heard of before. This is one of those moments. For the event of the birthday of a friend of my girlfriend’s, I was invited for dinner to a place on Wellington in Verdun that I had driven by numerous times before but never noticed… JoBlo.





Such a unique vibe to this place. Strong burlesque 1920s-1930s speakeasy feel to the room but with a twist. Nat King Cole playing in the background. Big leather seats, old portraits and posters framed up but then you add the machine gun lamps, the staff all dressed in French mime attire (without the makeup) and a huge wooden horse right by the entrance. It’s weird, it’s strange but it worked for me. When the restaurant’s private group room is called the Betty Boo room and has huge pop art Betty Boo on the walls, you know this place had a unique style.











Drink wise, I enjoyed the scope of their cocktail menu. I got to try their gin fizz and the mojito. The gin fizz was a little too lemony for me. The foamy texture was perfect though. The mojito was solid – exactly what I would have expected from a proper mojito.





JoBlo calls itself a steakhouse and while yes they do have steak on the menu, the food is much more comfort food oriented. The menu is much more centered around burgers, mac n’ cheese and Sloppy Joes. As a starter, my girlfriend and I shared le “Squiggly Diddly” – home made fried calamari with tomato sauce. Portion wise very generous and pretty tasty to boot. The calamari had a nice crisp to them while still being the right level of tenderness. Tomato sauce was okay but truthfully not memorable.



As a main course, my girlfriend went with the “Sloppy JoBlo” – their version of the Sloppy Joe with home fries. Served on a toasted pun, it was absolutely uneatable as an actual burger which I suppose is what a sloppy joe should be – sloppy and saucy. The meat filling was pretty good – strong tomato sauce flavour with some tang. A very generous portion of fries to go with it – the style of fries which one would get at a true pataterie which I love so that worked for me.



On my end, I went with the “Gros Porc” because I am a glutton and couldn’t help it…. mac n’cheese, onions and bacon on a pork patty. Yeah that’s right… mac n’ cheese in the burger. Completely ridiculous I know and almost impossible to eat as a burger but I still succeeded in grabbing it as a burger. Loved the pork, the smokiness and crispness of the bacon, the sweet onions but let’s be honest… this thing is all about the mac n’cheese. Loved the creaminess of the macaron but felt like it lacked some sharpness. A different cheese blend would have probably helped to create a more distinct flavour. The noodles were also a bit too big for use in a burger but that’s really nitpicking. Another large portion of fries was provided as well. I liked this burger but didn’t love it like I had hoped.



JoBlo was an interesting experience given I had absolutely no expectations going in. Loved the portion sizes and the general ideas behind the menu. I had a few small issues over the course of the night such that while I enjoyed the food, I didn’t love it completely. Definitely worth another look… if only for the great look and vibe of the joint.

Cheers!

JoBlo Steakhouse
3807 Wellington
514 508 9178

JoBlo on Urbanspoon

Lawrence

10 Mar

A brief vacation abroad has gotten me behind on my postings so pardon the tardiness. For the event of Valentine’s Day, one seeks a restaurant where you can have a relaxed and intimate atmosphere and where you can almost guarantee a certain level of quality… especially if the restaurant is not one already known to your significant other. Sadly many restaurants succumb to the “special” St-Valentine’s day menu to accommodate the larger number of patrons they may expect. Personally that doesn’t fly for me so I wanted a place that had their usual menu and that wouldn’t be trying to push us out the door to get more people. In the end, I decided to take my girlfriend (such a strange word to write after all this time… haha) to my Mile End favourite, Lawrence. While I had never been for dinner as of yet, my brunch place of choice had been on my list for a while dinner-wise. I was pretty confident that this would be a good choice, so off we went for a hopefully lovely Saturday night.





From an atmosphere point of view, Lawrence hit it perfectly for dinner. The low lighting, the sparse yet comfy surroundings, the good but not intrusive music and most importantly, the impeccable service from end-to-end. Good attention from the entire service team and without any sense of pushing us out. Wonderful job by co-owner Sefi Amir and her team – perfect on a night such as Valentine’s day.

First up, we were treating to some of Lawrence’s wonderfully fresh bread (available at their butcher shop down the street) to go with some starting drinks. On this evening, I chose to go with the Bourdon Apple Cider. Loved the touch of rosemary to go with the combination of bourbon and apple.





For starters, I went with the salted duck breast with lentils, radishes and parmesan because I can’t say no to duck when it’s on the menu. A consistent theme with Lawrence when you scan the menu is how the combinations in the dishes seem slightly strange when you read them aloud. Thankfully however, the combinations work beautifully. In this case, the salty and fatty duck breast mixed so well with the freshness of the radishes, the sharpness of the parmesan and the lentils. Such a wonderful dish. The first bite pretty much confirmed that I had made the right choice for the night.



My girlfriend went with the octopus with chickpeas and coriander. Outside of the wonderfully tender octopus, the interesting part of this dish was the overall creaminess with the sauce which somehow didn’t overshadow the coriander and the chickpeas. Just another wonderfully fresh dish from the kitchen.



Main dish wise, Lawrence is strong on meats which I love… the fact that I greatly enjoy their butcher shop and understand the quality of meats they use made me very excited to see how they use their own products in the restaurant. My choice of the pork sirloin with sauerkraut, sage and leeks certainly lived up to my expectations. A beautiful piece of fatty pork, the acidic sauerkraut and the cooked down leeks all held together by a small sauce… just a great meaty dish. I loved this plate so much…. which makes the fact that my girlfriend’s choice was even better just blow my mind.



Pig’s offal (in this case – heart, tongue and liver) with clams and salt lemon and white beans. Just ridiculous in all the right ways. Beautiful pieces of offal cooked perfectly, the fresh clams, the rich broth, the hardiness of the beans… this dish was a perfect balance of all the elements one seeks in a dish. This is a dish who people who say they will never like offal and those who love it. If you can’t love this dish, you have a serious problem.



We still had some room for dessert so we went for a piece of marshmallow, chocolate and spice cake. The one relative negative of the night – I enjoyed all the components individually but something didn’t mesh properly together. Personally I think the texture of the marshmallow was the weak link for me.



So a slight negative to finish the evening but it didn’t matter frankly. Lawrence was the experience I had hoped for and the one I hoped my girlfriend would get to experience for her first time. It was great evening through and through. Props to Chef Cohen and the rest of the staff for the great meal. I was already a fan with brunch and their butcher shop. Dinner just confirmed how amazing Lawrence is and how I will continue to support the wonderful work they do. You should as well!

Cheers!

Lawrence
5201 Saint-Laurent
514 503 1070

Lawrence on Urbanspoon

Le Sieur d’Iberville

15 Feb

When it comes to finding a good spot to watch a game, it is amazing how little people generally care about the quality of the food. As long as the drinks are cheap and the screens are plentiful, we are suddenly okay with mediocre burgers, junky fries and bad fried foods. I, for one, want to enjoy both great food and a great sport watching experience – it really shouldn’t be that hard to find. Recently, I organized a small Yelp event to watch the Habs play at a tavern that I hoped would be what I was looking for – Le Sieur d’Iberville.

2015/02/img_3065.jpg

Opened by a group headlined by Taverne on the Square’s Chef Stephen Leslie late last year, Le Sieur d’Iberville is a revamp of an old neighbourhood taverne and a beautiful revamp at that. A massive bar at the center of the room is the focus of the space with tables all around. The room is quite large and thankfully isn’t too cramped by the general “flair” that these kind of bars can use to create a vibe. The old visible beer elevator is a nice touch to the space’s old roots. Music was a touch too loud for great conversation – I did find it a bit funny that they had a DJ at the bar for the night – but I did appreciate that they alternated between the live TV sound and music during commercials and intermissions.

2015/02/img_3066.jpg

2015/02/img_3067.jpg

A nice touch for Habs game is their free shot game. Each table selects a player for the game using cards. If that player scores, the table gets a free round of shots on the house. I selected Alex Galchenyuk and he actually scored so shots of vodka lime came quickly to the table. Fun way to get everyone involved in the game and create a little “chatter” between tables.

2015/02/img_3074.jpg

Foodwise, the menu is a nice blend of “staple” bar food with additions befitting a joint whose cousins include Monkland Tavern and Taverne on the Square. Two items present on our table which I didn’t get a chance to try were the pork and beef chili nachos with house chips, corn, grilled tomato salsa, smoked cheddar, jalapeños, avocado puree and marinated onions as well as the Sieur Caesar salad with oven roasted tomatoes, house bacon, sourdough croutons and anchovy vinaigrette. In both cases, I enjoyed how more developed and refined Le Sieur made these dishes but still kept their essence in tact. Given how quickly both were finished, I believe my fellow diners would agree.

2015/02/img_3070.jpg

2015/02/img_3071.jpg

On my end, I first started with a dish that intrigued me tremendously when I read it – maple syrup braised bacon sticks. What I got wasn’t exactly what I expected – more like a cubes of fatty ham than bacon but regardless… they were delicious. Fatty goodness with a touch of maple sweetness. A nice little salad on the side helped to make the dish feel a little lighter.

2015/02/img_3068.jpg

As a main, I went with the Sieur grilled cheese sandwich composed on rotisserie chicken from their house rotisserie, bacon, house cheddar, grain mustard, caramelized onions and a house squash relish. Just a wonderful sandwich – every component listed on the menu was perceptible and enjoyed tremendously together. Gooey, cheesy, sweet but with a hint of tang. The true star was the rotisserie chicken – just wonderfully moist and tender. Everything I had heard about the rotisserie was on-point. It is a guarantee that next time here I will order the chicken. I need to try it on its own now.

2015/02/img_3072.jpg

As a side dish, my sandwich came with their Lyonnaise poutine comprised of grelot potatoes, onions, smoked cheddar and cheese curds. A intriguing play on a poutine which was best summarized by someone at our table – it’s like a French onion soup in poutine form. The amount of cheese in this dish was absurd but oh so perfect. I really enjoyed the richness of the gravy but its consistency was more like a broth hence the perfect soup analogy. Very very good.

2015/02/img_3073.jpg

Finally, I couldn’t leave without trying a dessert. The “Ooey Gooey” chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream was a huge cookie baked in a mini skillet and yes it was certainly ooey and gooey. Quite easily shareable amongst friends, this rich and sweet cookie was a great way to finish the meal.

2015/02/img_3075.jpg

Le Sieur d’Iberville was exactly what I had hoped – a great bar to watch the game, enjoy a drink or two and have great food at the same time. Loved the overall feel of the place and definitely want to come back to try more of the menu. When people recommend a junky sport bar next time you want to watch a game somewhere, please remember Le Sieur d’Iberville – friends don’t let other friends eat bad bar food. You won’t regret it.

Cheers!

Le Sieur d’Iberville
2490 Mont-Royal Est
514 525 4448

Brasserie Le Sieur D'Iberville on Urbanspoon

Le Trèfle (Brunch Edition)

7 Feb

Circumstances will sometimes take you to places you didn’t expect – in those cases, you simply hope for a pleasant surprise and a positive experience. How I ended up having brunch at Le Trèfle is one such example. Planning a bachelor party can be a pain in the ass – especially in the wintertime where the need for specific places to go over the course of the day is essential. Within the day I had planned for my buddy, I needed to find a lunch spot relatively close to HoMa where a large group of guys could watch the Habs, eat some good food and enjoy a few pints in the process. HoMa – or Hochelaga-Maisonneuve if you want the full title but I’m lazy so HoMa will do – is not a part of Montreal I know at all. Doing some searching, I found this Irish Pub that did brunch and had TVs for the game.. although I couldn’t find the menu online. However I saw enough positive reviews to give it a shot, so that is how I found myself with 10 other guys on a part of Ontario street I had never been.

2015/02/img_3054.jpg

First thing when I walked in that struck me was the decor – absolutely loved it. Classic pub look but without the ridiculous clutter you often end up with. Old wood-paneled walls – dark stained or just natural – with dark wooden tables, leather seats & stools and a beautiful dark bar as a focal point for the room. The whole space had a nice neighbourhood bar vibe where you can see easily coming in for a pint or two on a regular basis for a relaxed evening. It was a quiet Saturday so there wasn’t much ambience outside of us but regardless, it was a nice place to relax for the four hours we were there.

2015/02/img_3061.jpg

2015/02/img_3060.jpg

Amongst their brunch menu was a collection of speciality cocktails. I chose to start with their ‘Prepster’ – a mixture of Maker Mark’s bourbon, egg white, angostura bitters and cream soda. A definitely interesting drink – I enjoyed the overall flavour however the softness of the egg whites with the cream soda made it too light for me. It needed more staying power – I ended up finishing it off so quickly that I barely enjoyed it. Hindsight, something stronger would have been a better choice for me.

2015/02/img_3057.jpg

2015/02/img_3055.jpg

Foodwise, Le Trèfle’s Brunch menu is a interesting combination of standard breakfast/brunch fair with a Irish Pub twist. I got to try three different dishes amongst the dozen or so options. First up was their morning Irish stew which as my Irish friend said at the time wasn’t really a Irish stew but it didn’t matter because it was quite good. A mixture of mostly beans with ham, bacon, maple syrup and a poached egg, the stew was a filling meal. The maple syrup came though a lot which gave it more sweetness than you would expect in the stew but it was a hit at the table.

2015/02/img_3059.jpg

Next up was the Celtic poutine, their play on a breakfast poutine – breakfast potatoes, bacon, hollandaise sauce, sharp cheddar cheese cubes and an egg over-easy. The hollandaise sauce had a little stronger component to it than a typical hollandaise – forgot to ask the waitress what was is in it – and the use of sharper cheddar really worked well to make this poutine different for the now “standard” breakfast poutines you see around town. The rest of the ingredients were as solid as you expect. This was the most ordered dish at our table and not a single potato was left by the end. Just wonderful.

2015/02/img_3058.jpg

The final dish was the Dublin sandwich which was sold to us by our waitress with her description – an omelet with ham and tomato sandwiched between two grilled cheese sandwiches. That got us salivating pretty quickly and thankfully it was as good as advertised. The onion and spinach omelet was excellent, the ham sweet and fatty and the two sandwiches nice and gooey. The only issue really was that the sandwich was too tall to actually eat properly. Otherwise it was another hit.

2015/02/img_3056.jpg

Le Trèfle was a pleasant surprise to me foodwise – really well executed brunch food with high quality throughout. While the primary focus was on the drinking aspect of the occasion (and believe me, that was achieved and then some), the food itself convinced me that Le Trèfle needs to stay on my radar not just as a pub option but as an actual brunch option. Not sure I would have believed that when I first walked in. It is always fun when I get surprised…. especially when I had 10 other guys to appease at the moment. Happy to finally have a place in HoMa to recommend easily.

Cheers!

Le Trefle
3971 Ontario Est
438 386 3737

Le Trèfle on Urbanspoon

Suite 701

19 Jan

For my second Happening Gourmand meal of the year, I found myself at Suite 701 in the Place d’Armes Hotel – a place I have gone by numerous times over the past few years without trying it and a spot that I will be revisiting shortly for my best friend’s wedding. Regardless, one of my friends was sufficiently intrigued by the table d’hôte that he organized a lovely Saturday night meal – and I am certainly not one to say no to that!

2015/01/img_3022.jpg

Suite 701 is probably best described as a lounge with a full dinner menu – the decor and ambience is certainly more lounge in nature. High ceilings with ornate mouldings, huge windows with large drap-like curtains, beautiful wooden tables and chairs with a few leather banquettes, a glorious long bar, low lighting using mostly chandeliers outside of the purple accent lights, the otherwise all white color palette… Suite 701 is definitely a looker. The live DJ – playing for the most part great old R&B/ soul music – was definitely too loud though. When it is hard to hear the conversation at the other end of 5 person table, you are probably a little too close to bar/supper club territory than you should be as a lounge.

2015/01/img_3031.jpg

2015/01/img_3023.jpg

Menu-wise, Suite 701 describes itself as modern brasserie which, when I see that, strikes me as a catch all term for a menu that is quite varied. That seems to fit the bill here – the menu was definitely interesting but an strange mix of dishes. First up, the table ordered two platters of their homemade charcuterie with mustard, grilled chorizo, deviled eggs and chipotle dill pickle. A nice mixture of blood sausage, porchetta, salami and prosciutto. You can never go wrong with good charcuterie.

2015/01/img_3030.jpg

Next, I got to try the organic salmon tartar with celery leaves, granny smith apples, grapefruit and mild wasabi cream. Presentation was nice as was the execution. I hate grapefruit so while I understand the desire to add some citrus to the tartar, I wish it had been something different. The fish was nice and fresh with every other element working well for the dish. I particularly enjoyed the subtle heat from the wasabi cream.

2015/01/img_3029.jpg

The other starter I got to try was the roasted eggplant, tomato confit and marinated zucchini pissaladière. None of us had any idea what a pissaladiere was… but we figured why not? The rest of the dish description seemed worth a try. Ended up looking like a spring roll – which isn’t what a pissaladiere is according to my web searches but regardless – and tasted pretty good. The pastry was nice and flaky and the eggplant/zucchini combo had great flavour.

2015/01/img_3028.jpg

Moving on to mains. I could not resist the duck so I went with the duck magret with pomegranate gastrique, charred farro risotto and braised kale. The duck was perfect – rich and fatty, cooked rare as it needs to be. The risotto however was a bit off to my liking. The use of farro, unknown to me prior to this, instead of rice was interesting but created a much firmer texture to the risotto than I was expected – I will mark this down to wrong expectations on my end.

2015/01/img_3027.jpg

The other main I tried was the pan-seared black bass with Jerusalem artichoke purée, black olive sauce and braised endives. The black bass was beautifully flaky and slightly salty. The artichoke puree and endives paired nicely to the fish. I skipped the sauce as olives really aren’t my thing.

2015/01/img_3026.jpg

Dessert-wise, there were two options – a mocha cake with blood orange compote and a white chocolate mousse with raspberries. I hate mocha so I didn’t try it but it seemed to be a hit at the table. My choice was the mousse which was well executed texturally – wonderfully smooth – but good lord was it sweet… too sweet to be honest which is saying a lot coming for a guy who absolutely loves his desserts. The tartness of the raspberries were not enough to offset the sweetness here. It almost needed a cookie or dark chocolate bites to offset the extra sweetness.

2015/01/img_3025.jpg

2015/01/img_3024.jpg

Suite 701 was a nice evening overall with a few minor issues that didn’t make it an amazing one food wise. I definitely see coming back for a cocktail hour with a bite or two – which ironically is what will happen at that wedding I mentioned earlier – but I don’t have a strong desire to return for a full dinner. For a lounge, that is what one would expect so on that account, Suite 701 probably hits its objective. Worth considerable to start an evening in Old Montreal at the very least.

Cheers!

2015/01/img_3020.jpg

Suite 701
701 Cote de la Place d’Armes
514 904 1201

Suite 701 on Urbanspoon

Taverne Gaspar

17 Jan

The start of the new year also means the start of Happening Gourmand in the old port. This food “festival” brings together all the restaurants of the Antonopoulos Group and provides a special reduced price table d’hôte at each of their 8 restaurants. Events like these are enjoyable for me simply because it allows me to try Old Port restaurants without costing me my arm and perhaps a leg to enjoy. Ironically this year, I wasn’t a driving force amongst my friends to participate as is usually the case… two separate friends set up two reservations and invited me! I guess this is a sign of the event gaining a foothold in people’s consciousness. Either way, I won’t turn down a good meal so away I went. The first of the two dinners was at Taverne Gaspar – the Group’s Gastropup located on de la Commune with a view of the Saint-Lawrence.

2015/01/img_2998.jpg

Visually, Taverne Gaspar attempts to blend the pub or tavern look with elements of the old Montreal building it is located in – a nice long wooden bar with wooden seats, leather banquettes and chairs, tile flooring and roofing, low lighting with the exception of the christmas lights set up along the center of the room. That choice along with the use of dark tones elsewhere to put emphasis on the old stone walls creates a very relaxed old world kind of feel. The night we were there the entire street actually lost power so at one point for a bit, the lighting was almost completely candlelight so that intimate feel was cranked up further! Thankfully the lost power didn’t affect our meal…

2015/01/img_2999.jpg

Now, as for the food, the menu is definitely gastropub fare with touches of more local influences. As a group of 3, we each picked something different in order to try as much as we could. First up, a classic onion soup – a hardy and meaty broth with good quantity of onions nicely caramelized topped with gooey cheese and a crouton. Well very executed and enjoyable.

2015/01/img_3001.jpg

I also had some fresh oysters because I’m a sucker of oysters so if they’re on the menu, it’s hard for me to resist. Paired with a nice mignonette, there were great.

2015/01/img_3004.jpg

Next, we had the lobster sliders with house chips. Firstly, when the menu says sliders, we would have expected more than one but no… just one. Thankfully it was pretty flavourful although I would have prefer more lobster versus mayo. The house chips were nicely seasoned with a good crunch. The salad felt like it was there to make the dish seem larger. A solid dish flavour-wise but disappointing in terms of portion – especially when this was a dish where they charged extra for it within the table d’hôte.

2015/01/img_3002.jpg

The last starter was their beef poutine with cheese curds and cipollini sauce. In my eyes, this was the best of the bunch. The beef was rich and fall apart in texture and in combination with the cipollini sauce, gave the poutine a much hefty feel than your standard poutine. Add solid fries and the correct cheese curds – melt just a bit but still keep its texture and squeak – and we have a great starter.

2015/01/img_3003.jpg

Moving on the mains, the first one was their beef bourguignon. Once again great texture to the beef – chewy but fall apart. Carrots and potatoes cooked nicely as well but that reduced sauce was really the key here. Brought everything together and really made the dish nice and hearty – exactly what one seeks in a beef bourguignon.

2015/01/img_3005.jpg

Next was the mac n’cheese with cheddar and smoked lardons. Baked off nicely in a onion soup dish, the cheddar brought some sharpness to the creamy gooeyness that is mac n’cheese and of course the fattiness of the lardons was well appreciated. A solid dish.

2015/01/img_3006.jpg

The last main was the Gaspar BBQ burger with their house fries – another dish where they charged extra for but thankfully in this case it was worth it. Portion-wise this was by far the biggest and enjoyable across the board. More of the house fries plus a side of coleslaw to go with the burger. The beef patty was cooked perfectly topped with some melted cheese, bacon and slaw. A little spicy mayo was provided to go with the fries as well. Another solid dish to round off the second course.

2015/01/img_3007.jpg

Finally, we had the desserts. The table d’hôte provided two options – chantilly brownies and a bumble berry cheesecake. The brownies were decadent and very chocolatey. The chantilly cream provided a nice counterbalance to that. The cheesecake was nice as well – the right level of creaminess without being too rich. Solid way to end our meal.

2015/01/img_3008.jpg

2015/01/img_3009.jpg

Overall, Taverne Gaspar was a solid and well executed meal pretty much across the board. I’m not a big fan of how they charge extra on certain dishes within the table d’hote especially when they are some of the more appealing options there but I suppose it was just up to us to not order them. I like the vibe of the setting and the quality of the food on the menu. If one is seeking a worthwhile gastropub in Old Montreal, Gaspar is worth your consideration.

Cheers!

2015/01/img_3010.jpg

Taverne Gaspar
89 Rue de la Commune Est
514 392 1649

Taverne Gaspar on Urbanspoon

Tejano BBQ Burrito

7 Jan

My first experience of what I would qualify as true BBQ occurred a few years ago now when Blackstrap BBQ opened down in Verdun. I remember hearing about this new Southern BBQ joint opening and being interested enough to go on the first Friday they were open – getting in just before they ran out of meat – and being in awe of the level of smokiness and juiciness that the crew achieved with their meats. From that moment on, it was pretty clear to me that I would go whenever Dylan Kier and his pit mastery would go next. That thought process is what brought me a few times over the past month to his most recent project, a small burrito joint called Tejano BBQ Burrito.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/097/8398684/files/2015/01/img_2994.jpg

Located in St-Henri right beside Bar de Courcelles and nearby many of my favorite different culinary spots – quick shout out to Campinelli, Rustique, Leche and Grumman 78 – Tejano feels primarily set up as a take out joint although there is a small sitting area with about 7 stools. The space is sparse – plain white walls with old partially sanded down wood used for the counters. Some smooth laid back music in the background. The menu printed on paper tacked above the ordering counter. The look is definitely in keeping with its older brother Blackstrap BBQ – functional and sparse with just enough of a style and vibe keeping with a southern BBQ joint.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/097/8398684/files/2015/01/img_2992.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/097/8398684/files/2015/01/img_2993.jpg

But let’s be honest – you don’t go to a Burrito space for the decor. It’s all about the food of course. At present, the menu is short and concise – burritos (regular and XL sized), tostadas, salads, guac, salsa and chips. For the burritos and tostadas, there are 3 meat options (smoked chicken tinga, chorizo pulled pork, rancho cumin brisket) and one vegetarian (black beans and hominy). Once you make your selection of a base, you can add either re-fried beans, black beans and hominy (if you went with a meat) and/or rice then a collection of different vegetables (pico de gallo, red onions, radishes, jalapeños, peppers, corn, etc…) followed by cheese, fresh lime juice, house guacamole, hot sauce and/or sour cream.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/097/8398684/files/2015/01/img_2990.jpg

In terms of the burritos, all those options leave you with a fully stuffed burrito and a rather filling one as well. I tried both the pulled pork and the brisket options in burrito form. In keeping with Dylan’s work at Blackstrap BBQ, the quality of the meats is impeccable. The pulled pork has that little heat from the chorizo and is wonderfully tender and juicy. The brisket is the same with just a subtle touch of the cumin which gives off a smokier element than the pork. In terms of the other ingredients, I enjoyed both bean options although I’m not sure I would enjoy a black bean and hominy burrito on its own – a meatless burrito just seems wrong to me. All the vegetables are fresh and crisp. Loved the creaminess of the guacamole although I’m not a huge fan of it being the only ingredient that costs extra to add in. Overall, excellent burritos that would be a regular lunch option for me if I worked anywhere nearby (which I don’t sadly in this case).

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/097/8398684/files/2015/01/img_2991.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/097/8398684/files/2015/01/img_2996.jpg

The new menu item for me here was the Tostada which I had never heard of before. Basically, a burrito bowl – all the same ingredients pilled over top a crispy tortilla shell. The crisp shell was good but honestly, other than the texture change with that crispiness, it’s not all that different from the burrito. A different presentation but given how I loved the burritos, I think I’ll stick to those personally.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/097/8398684/files/2015/01/img_2995.jpg

Reasonable price, good quality and quantity of food and quick service – All in all, Dylan, Clara and Co. have a great concept going with Tejano BBQ Burrito. It has only been open for about a month now but given what I’ve enjoyed, I suspect we will hear about this spot a lot more and very quickly in this new year. That particular corner of St-Henri is quickly becoming one of my favourite areas to enjoy food wise… I think i’ll be visiting even more often in 2015!

Cheers!

Tejano BBQ Burrito
511 Rue de Courcelle
514 303 3500

Tejano BBQ Burrito on Urbanspoon

Sumac

7 Dec

Outside of a few specific food items, I considered myself pretty adventurous food wise. While my parents did expose me to many different things outside of our French-Canadian customs, it wasn’t until I moved downtown for school did I learn to enjoy some more “obscure” (at least from my perspective) food cultures – proper Indian cuisine, great Ramen, true Mexican eats etc. Now, my adventures have not made me an expert in these fields yet but I continue to enjoy these experiences enough to keep them up and staying adventurous. All of this came to mind when I heard about a new restaurant in St-Henri – rapidly becoming one of my favourite neighbourhood and possible future living spot – seeking to be a true falafel shop and serving up great Middle Eastern cuisine. This type of cuisine is still a huge blind spot in my food knowledge so I was very hopeful that Sumac could show me the way.

IMG_2944.JPG

Located on the main strip of Notre Dame just west of the Atwater Market, Sumac has a very clean and sharp look. They beautifully utilize the brick wall of the old building and compliment it with pure white walls, light hardwood floors and solid wood tables. The ample lighting create a very bright space that creates a warm feel. They also add some nice music in the background to make the space feel comfortable. They have a slight different ordering procedure where you order at the counter and then serve you at your table using number cards. The issue, in the two times I have been, was that because the menu is only on the wall right by the cash, people take a little too long to order as they figure what to order. As such, the lineup at the counter gets long and takes longer than it probably should. The line spills into the seating space which isn’t great either for the patrons seating down. Also, there isn’t really a good spot for takeout people to wait either. Note that I went on two Friday nights so probably the peak period for this problem. I imagine it is much better the rest of the time – not a big deal, simply a minor observation.

IMG_2943.JPG

IMG_2942.JPG

IMG_2941.JPG

The menu is one befitting a falafel shop – falafels, chicken shawarma, beef kefta with a assortment of salads, grains, fries, hummus and baba. On my first visit, I decided to start with the hummus fries with hummus, tahini and s’rug. This dish was one of the first things I saw online from Sumac and peaked my interest tremendously. Just wonderful all around – the fries were nicely crispy on the outside and fluffy inside. The combination of the creamy tahini, the spice of the s’rug and the rich hummus worked exceptionally well – I had no knowledge of s’rug prior to this and my limited time with tahini never made me think of this combination. Great starter and a huge portion as well. A must-have for sure!

IMG_2939.JPG

Given the size of the fries, I decided to go with a chicken shawarma pita to finish off the meal. When you order a pita at Sumac, it is grilled and filled with hummus, tahina, chopped salad, white & purple cabbage and pickled turnip on top of your meal of choice. First off, the pita bread at Sumac is insanely good. Borderland obscene. Wherever they get them, I need to find out because they have put every other pita bread I’ve tried to shame. Thick but yet soft and chewy, the pita bread provided a great vessel for the rest of the ingredients. The chicken was nice and juicy and the vegetables fresh and crisp. An excellent pita all around.

IMG_2940.JPG

I was so enthused by my first visit that I decided to return two weeks later for a quick takeout. In this instance, I broke my own rule and didn’t order the fries in order to try some more of the menu. First, I went with the garlic labneh served with bulgarian feta, dukkah, paprika oil, mint and a side of grilled pita bread. A wonderful appetizer that needed a lot more bread than I got! I loved how the labneh and feta mixed together – combining the saltiness and firmer texture of the feta with the yogourt-like creaminess and sour taste of the labneh. The nutty mixture of the dukkah with the fresh mint and spicy paprika oil helped to ease up the heavy richness of the dish. Very nice all around and made for a great snack using the leftovers.

IMG_2946.JPG

My main course this second time was the falafel plat served with pita, hummus, tahini, pickled turnip and my choice of two salads. I went with the fried eggplant (with harissa, preserved lemon and coriander) and the Moroccan carrots with currants, cumin and parsley. Enjoyed the carrots although they weren’t as spicy as I expected. As for the eggplant, it was okay – something didn’t grab me and frankly I’m not sure what. As for the falafels themselves, loved them. Great crunch to the exterior but they still kept a nice moistness inside. Nice depth of flavour as well.

IMG_2945.JPG

Sumac provided me with a wonderful trip into Middle Eastern cuisine which was my hope. My initial visit got me interested enough to head back to try more and my second visit did more of the same. I may lack knowledge in this cuisine but I know enough about great cuisine to know that Sumac does it very well. For a quick lunch or a relaxed dinner, Sumac is a perfect option. Some of you may be scared away simply by the type of cuisine but believe me, you would be doing yourselves a grave disservice to ignore the wonderful food coming out of this little shop in St-Henri. Luckily for you, you should have time on your side if you change your mind – I suspect Sumac will be a staple in the neighbourhood for some time.

IMG_2938.JPG

Cheers!

Restaurant Sumac
3618 Notre Dame Ouest
514 935 1444

Sumac Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Chez L’Épicier

16 Nov

For my final MTL a Table dinner, I went back to the Old Port to another longstanding member of my “need to try” list – Laurent Godbout’s Chez L’Épicier. About to open a sister restaurant down in Palm Beach, Chez L’Épicier has been a highly regarded restaurant in Old Montreal since its opening. A friend of mine continues to states that one of the best meals of his life has been here. Talk like that has made my visit long overdue. Hype level was high which can be scary when dealing with restaurants. There is nothing worse than overly heighten expectations setting you up for a disappointing experience. In these instances, you just need to go in and have faith that the restaurant can shine through with excellent dishes and a fine touch.

IMG_2891.JPG

IMG_2890.JPG

IMG_2901.JPG

Pre-starters, we were greeted with a cocktail of maple syrup and apple cider as well as an olive and goat cheese macaron amuse-bouche. Loved the combination in the cocktail – the acidic nature of the cider dull by the maple syrup while keeping the sweetness level strong. The macaron was a interesting idea – I had never had an non-sweet macaron before. My hatred of olives had me skeptical however the use of the creamy goat cheese eased that olive taste which I despite. Very nice level of technique.

IMG_2893.JPG

IMG_2894.JPG

Our first starter was a squash velouté poured over homemade sour cream, onions, squash seed nougatine, parsley juice and brown butter vinaigrette. Cool little presentation element as the velouté was poured at the table over the bowl of accent ingredients. Loved the smooth and earthy nature of the soup and how each extra item brought a nice element to pair with the squash. A perfect fall starter.

IMG_2896.JPG

Our second starter was a slowly cold smoked trout filet with a miso and maple reduction, shallot fingerling potatoes and a maple vinegar mousse. Wonderful flaky texture to the trout with a subtle hint of sweetness from the reduction. The mousse was a quirky but nicely flavoured addition and the potatoes brought some more heft to the dish. Very good.

IMG_2895.JPG

The first of our mains was a sea bass fillet with herb polenta, lobster juice bouillabaisse and vegetables glazed with water butter. The real star here is the bouillabaisse – if only because the lobster juice overpowered everything else. The fish itself was solid. I am not a big fan of polenta up front so while this one was well done, it didn’t speak to me in any way. The vegetables were good but nothing to write home about (which is ironic as I am writing about them). Overall an okay dish. I feel like the fish should have had more of an impact in this dish.

IMG_2897.JPG

Our final main was beef shoulder lacquered with orange and olives served with onion and rosemary butter brandade and reduced juice with Cointreau. Huge winner in my eyes. The beef shoulder was cooked perfectly – to the point where you early had to touch it for it to fall apart. Great richness to the beef and the hints of orange and Cointreau came through nicely. The brandade was excellent as well.

IMG_2898.JPG

The first dessert was a carpaccio of compressed apples with tarragon granita and caramelized pecans. Sadly I didn’t get to try it because my friend finished it off so quickly which one can definitely take as a good thing. Loved the concept overall – the tarragon being an interesting addition to apples and pecans.

IMG_2899.JPG

The other dessert available was a tempura brownie with greek yogurt cream and white chocolate jelly. The brownie itself was moist and chocolatey – a key for me with any brownie. Personally, while the tempura was well done, I’m not sure how much of an addition it brought to the dish other than texturally. It kind of felt like an afterthought – added at the last minute to make the dish “unique”. I enjoyed the smoothness of the yogourt cream as well as the presence of the white chocolate and strawberries. A solid finish to the dish.

IMG_2900.JPG

I had high expectations for Chez L’Epicier and they were mostly met. Very high level technique was visible throughout the meal – the highs were oh so high. However a couple of dishes had a few elements that left us wanting more. Not things that were a big deal but when compared to the rest of the dishes, they stood out more than they should have. All in all, I was quite happy to finally cross Chez L’Epicier off my list. Looking at the regular menu after my visit, I was intrigued enough to want to come back which I suppose is all that needs to be said.

Cheers!

Chez L’Epicier
311 Saint-Paul Est
514 878 2232

Chez L'Epicier on Urbanspoon

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: