Brasseur de Montreal

5 Dec

For local beer fans, the name Brasseur de Montreal is definitely one you will know. The Griffintown-based brewer is a staple of the local microbrew scene and is a personal favorite of mine. However, what you may not know is that they have a full restaurant at their Griffintown brewery. Despite it being so close to my place, I hadn’t visited yet. I found myself there on a Saturday night with a small group curious to see if the food matchs the quality of the beer.

The space is rather big – very industrial in look with a window to the kettles behind the bar. They also have a great terrasse space but this being November at the time, not really the right time to enjoy it. On tap, you can find all their beers and some seasonal stuff…. or at least usually because on this occasion, many options were not available – such as all of their white beers. Not quite what you want from a brewpub. At least I could still get a classic Griffintown blond but that shouldn’t happen ever.

As a starter, we went for the BdM sweet potato fries with chives, garlic, parmesan and spicy mayo. Pretty good overall. The fries were crunch yet not overcooked inside. The mayo had a nice little kick to it. Solid starter. We also got to try the house made fried calamari served with chipotle mayo. Another solid dish – nice crunch to them but they kept the tenderness you want from calamari.

For mains, my fiancé went with the smoked and fresh salmon tartar mixed with apple, chives, sour cream and yogourt. Nice portion size and good presentation. The salmon was fresh and the mix of the smoked salmon is an interesting idea to bend into the tartare however the whole dish felt like it lacked flavour and seasoning – the taste of chives and apples were no where to be seen. The portion of fries that came with it was generous. The salad was okay but didn’t bring much.

I decided to go with the pulled pork sandwich – smoked pork shoulder served with bbq sauce, onion compote and gruyere. The pork itself was nice and tender, good smoke to it. The bbq sauce had a nice mix of sweet but smoky however the sandwich could have used more of it. The sandwich felt a little dry as a result. I enjoyed the use of gruyere and the sweetness of the compote worked well. The fries were also plentiful and very good – always love matchstick style.

I left the dinner a little disappointed. The food was okay – good but the lack of seasoning is what can make the difference between a good meal and a great meal. Brasseur de Montreal have great beer and clearly a great terrasse to enjoy – I just wish I could say the same for the food.

Cheers!

Brasseur de Montreal
1485 Rue Ottawa
514 788 4500

Brasseur de Montreal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Toqué

4 Dec

Montreal’s place in the world as a culinary hotspot has everything to do with the amazing chefs and restauranteurs that our fair city is lucky to have. And I would argue that no one has done as much to build the Montreal scene as ‘The Godfather of Montreal Fine Dining’ as per Anthony Bourdain – Normand Laprise. Chef Laprise, previously through Citrus and now Toqué, helped push the use of Quebec produce year round in restaurants and helped developed some of the city’s best chefs including Martin Picard.

With all its accolades and prestige, Toqué has been top of my ‘to-do’ list for a while now but I hadn’t found the time to finally visit…. until recently when I got a reservation for MTLàTable this year. So, my fiancé and I got dressed up and made our way down to the Old Montreal to see if my expectations could be met.

Originally on St-Denis street, Toqué relocated in 2004 to The Quartier International of Montreal across the street from the Palais des Congres. The room itself is refined and much bigger than I expected. The room also feels more vacant. The tables are separated apart enough that you never really feel like there is anyone else around you and the restaurant never feels full despite there not being any tables free. The service throughout the night was impeccable – very professional and attentive. The kind of touches you hope to see in a fine dining establishment and that Toqué does very well.

For MTLàTable, Toqué was proposing a 3 course meal with a couple of options at each course. First up, I tried one of the cocktails they were offering for the occasion. The Adam and Eve – Apple Brandy, cider with clove, cardamome and anise syrup – was excellent. A nice balance of apple acidity, sweetness and the spice notes of the cloves and cardamome.

A little amuse-bouche was provided to start – tuna tartare with fennel seed – as well as fresh house baked bread.

For appetizers, we started with the deer carpaccio topped with marinated squash, oyster mushrooms, walnuts and parmigiana reggiano cheese. Beautiful presentation as one would expect from a restaurant of this caliber. The meat itself was sliced amazingly thin, very tender and flavourful on its own. The addition of the fall veggies, the fresh reggiano and some olive oil really made it pop and provided some nice contrasts of both texture and flavour. A Toqué classic for a reason.

Our other appetizer was stripped bass rilettes served with a bread tuile, dill and kohlrabi. Once again, excellent technique on display. The rillettes, using potato as the binder, were very nicely done with great rich flavour and a nice texture. I really enjoyed how the bass came through so nicely in a dish that I associate more with meat versus fish.

As a main, the duck breast was screaming out to me. Served with roasted squash, black garlic puree, wild rice, pleurotes and herbed jus – the duck was simply exquisite. Perfect cook on it and great flavour. The jus has great depth. I enjoyed the touch of the black garlic as well. And of course, beautiful presentation – one of the best duck dishes I have had.

My fiancé went with the Icelandic Cod served with roasted potatoes, celeriac puree, rabiole, brussel sprouts, romanesco and truffle butter. The cod was beautifully tender and flaky. The lightness of the fish was nicely complimented by the rich puree and the glorious truffle butter. Truffles always make things better!

Dessert kept things going strong. First, a milk chocolate mousse incased in a chocolate ball shell with cacao granola, raspberry jelly and hay caramel. Great depth of chocolate flavour and beautiful presentation again. I liked the jelly being in the center of the ball of mousse.

Our other dessert was caramelized apple jelly served over praline and cinnamon sponge cake, cranberry poached apples, oatmeal and marscapone cream, speculoos crumble and oatmeal ice cream. Lots of elements demanding tons of precision and technique. It was amazing how well the caramelized apple taste came though in the jelly. The poached apples were delicious, the cream was rich and smooth and the ice cream very strong on oatmeal. Tons of fall flavours coming through. Great creative dessert. We also received some little bites at the end – sucre à la creme and some raspberry jellies. Very flavourful and a nice finishing touch to a great meal.

I had very high hopes going in and Toqué successfully met them and then some. Amazing service from beginning to end, wonderful food with high technique and presentation – you understand how Chef Laprise and his crew came to be known as the high-end of Quebec cuisine and how they are able to maintain that level of excellence after all these years. Toqué is a amazing place and we are very lucky to have them here in Montreal.

Cheers!

Toqué
900 Pl Jean-Paul-Riopelle
514 499 2084

Toqué! Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Casa Vinho

27 Nov

In our quest to find interesting ideas for a caterer for our wedding, my fiancé and I found ourselves somewhere pretty foreign to me: Masson street in Rosemont. I have been before – but mostly when I was a young kid visiting my great grandmother in the area. Otherwise, quite a dark zone in my city knowledge. We found ourselves there to visit Casa Vinho, a Portuguese restaurant working with wood charcoal – supplied by my future father-in-law – hence why we visited to see what maybe they could do for us from a catering point of view.

Casa Vinho is a family run restaurant that specializes in grilling on charcoal. The space is classic Portuguese restaurant decor – bright colors, lots of seaside paintings and other trinkets around Portuguese culture. Personally, I found the music a little too loud to have real conversation but otherwise no complaints.

Starting off, of course, I needed to go with the cod cakes. I can’t imagine going to a Portuguese restaurant and not ordering these. Nice crunch on these and good flavours but not the texture I love. The cod had a very smooth, pureed texture. I like more of the filament-like texture of the cod to come through.

Our other entrée was some grilled calamari – served with a pepper salsa on top. The calamari was excellent – nice and fresh. Beautifully firm but tender texture. Grilled nicely as well. The salsa brought a hint of acidity and sweetness to the dish. Hit the spot nicely.

Our first main was grilled squid served with roasted vegetables, rice and the pepper salsa again. The squid was exquisite. Great fresh flavour, nice sear on the outside and nice tenderness in general. The salsa once again worked well with the dish and the sides were plentiful. This is the kind of squid I hope to get when I order some. Wonderful.

And then, of course, we have the Portuguese chicken. First thing – the portion is huge. Very generous for the price. As for the chicken itself, it is wonderful. The chicken is moist and juicy. The skin is nicely crisp and charred from being grilled over wood charcoal. As I am a weakling, I went with the less spicy sauce. Nice heat still but with a subtle finish. The classic sides of salad and fries were great as well. Exactly what you want from this dish. Excellent dish all around.

To finish, I needed to get my Pasteis de Mata. Classic and wonderful as always. Great hint of vanilla within the custard. Nice flaky crust. A perfect classic finish to a solid meal.

Casa Vinho was a solid experience from beginning to end. Classic Portuguese is always delicious when done well and they definitely strike the right notes. While we didn’t go with them in the end for logistic reasons, I can definitely recommend them if you are looking for a nice meal in Vieux Rosemont.

Cheers!

Casa Vinho
3750 Masson
514 721 8885

Restaurant Casa Vinho Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurant Gus

9 Oct

Sometimes the best nights are the ones you don’t plan for. After an caterer tasting felt through last minute, my fiancé and I found ourselves looking for a late night weekday dinner option. After looking through my ‘to-do’ list, we decided on a quick drive over to Beaubien street in Saint-Edouard at Restaurant Gus, ready to see what chef David Ferguson had in store for us. Formerly of restaurant Jolifou further down on Beaubien (now the crazy popular Chez Régine), Chef David opened up this small bistro-sized restaurant a few years ago now and has truly made it his own in style and cuisine.

Gus has a very warm and inviting look – the bright red walls really pop. The lighting is ample but subtle enough to create some intimacy. The bar is the focus of the room and is a great spot to observe the work being done by Chef David and his two sous-chefs. As you look around the room, you see tons of little touches that showcase what Chef David is about – the straw hats, the chilis hanging off the walls, the Habs artwork, the television over the bar showing playoff baseball through the night. Loved the space.

Foodwise, the menu is small – written on blackboards around the restaurant – and has a distinct southwest flavour to it. Prior to our meal, we got some great homemade sourdough bread to enjoy with a corn relish – sweet with a little kick. As our appetizer, we decided to share the marinated and grilled octopus and calamari salad with semi dried cherry tomatoes and marinated dried shallots. The salad was served colder than we expected but loved the flavours – tons of bright acidity with a touch of sweetness from the tomatoes. The octopus was very tender although my fiancé found it too soft personally. The calamari were grilled beautifully for both of us.

As a main, after having finding out that they had just run out of mussels, my fiancé went with the fish of the day, a grilled halibut, served with fried yuca and a tortilla soup. The fish was wonderfully tender and flaky, the broth was very flavourful and the use of the crunch of the tortillas and the yuca provided a nice contrast. Very nice dish.

On my end, I went with the bavette – marinated in a Asado-like sauce and served on a bed of potatoes en gratin with porcini mushrooms. Chef David is own for his grill work and you can tell why with this dish. The steak is perfectly grilled to medium-rare and the marinade gave the meat just a great deep flavour – a beautiful mix of heat, pepper and sweetness. The potatoes were rich and creamy and gave a nice counterpoint to the heat of the meat. One of the best bavettes I have ever had.

Gus definitely has the ‘neighbourhood steakhouse’ vibe down pat. An intimate but fun space. Friendly staff with Chef David holding court behind the bar. Great cuisine with that southwestern touch that makes it the Chef’s own. Gus is kind of restaurant one wants in their neighbourhood – a place that you would feel comfortable visiting daily but with food that fits for a special occasion. Nice combination don’t you think?

Cheers!

Restaurant Gus
38 Rue Beaubien Est
514 722 2175

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

Knox Taverne

8 Oct

I love my neighbourhood. Pointe-St-Charles offers so much to a resident in terms of location, proximity to the market, the old port, downtown, etc. However, as a neighbourhood that is developing, the main artery, Centre Street, leaves much to be desired. Over the past few years, businesses have slowly been opening, restaurant-bars included. One of the more interesting ones is Knox Taverne. A taverne on the eastern part of the street, it has developed a nice following around the neighbourhood for the atmosphere and the interesting food options it provides. As someone who wishes that local businesses thrive, I have been enough times now to write something up food wise.

Knox is a simple but nice looking room that really enhances the nature of the old building that houses it. The brick walls, the exposed wood beams, the incandescent lights, the beautiful long bar – the space is warm and intimate. Windowed garage doors create the possibility of opening up the space in the summer on top of having the terrasse on the side of the building. The music is also great – tons of classic rock with some more recent hits. When I spend all night wanting to sign along, your playlist is working.

Drinkwise, Knox has a nice beer and wine selection that is very reasonably priced. They also have an interesting cocktail menu – their Knox Gin and Tonic with house tonic is nicely balanced with a more floral touch.

Despite its more bar-like setting, the food really steps outside of typical bar food. First off, they have fresh oysters on thursdays and fridays at a buck per before 8pm. A pretty nice deal – and the quality is there!

On the appetizer side, I’ve had a few different options. The fish tacos with red cabbage coleslaw, tomatillo pico de gallo and chipotle mayonnaise are excellent. A hearty portion of tender flaky fish with a nice combination of heat and sweet with the pico de gallo and mayo. The Knox fries – tossed with garlic parmesan – are exactly my kind of fries. Thin with a nice crunch but still tender inside. The last side dish to note is the brussel sprouts. Yeah… brussel sprouts! Didn’t expect that at a tavern did you? Sautéed with a maple sauce and served with some radish and shallots, this is a great subtle dish with a mix of earthiness and sweetness – exactly how I love to work with sprouts myself.

As a main, the big favourite is the Knox Burger – served with Coca-Cola Mayo, Caramelized Onions, Fried Pickle and Old Cheddar. Other than the pickle (not a fan as I have indicated many times before), the rest of the burger is excellent. The sweetness of Coca-Cola actually comes out in the mayo. The burger is cooked to perfection and I love the use of the classic potato bun. On the other end of the main spectrum, they have a beet risotto served with a walnut pesto and parmesan shavings. No picture of that one but the bright purple of the dish may throw people off but it is an excellent dish and again, a surprising inclusion to a tavern manu but one that appears very appreciated of the patrons the times I have been there.

Great atmosphere, solid alcohol options, surprisingly interesting and refined cuisine with good prices and very quick and friendly service to boot… Knox is a great addition to the neighbourhood that caters well to both ends of the spectrum that our neighbourhood encompasses. Very happy to support this PSC business and I hope that it is a sign of times to come for my hood.

Cheers!

Knox Taverne
1871 Rue Centre
514 933 3523

Ice Cream Roundup – Pandan Creamery, La Diperie, Ca Lem

6 Aug

Summer time – it is hot, humid and we need to cool down. What better than a nice ice cream cone to make that happen? In Montreal, we have been spoiled over the past few years in terms of number of great ice cream shops that have opened up across the different neigborhoods. Wherever you live, you can get great artisan ice cream. I have already written about a few – my current champion is Dalla Rose by far – but over the past few weeks, I have tried a few other ones.

First up, Pandan Creamery moved this summer from their original location to Notre-Dame Street just west of the Atwater Market. Pandan brought to Montreal the Thai rolled up style of ice cream where they make it in front of you on frozen metal plaques and then create rolled-up logs in a cup for you.

Presentation wise, it is beautiful – almost rose-like in look – but that presentation takes time as it takes about 5 minutes for each order to be made. Not the end of the world but if there is a line-up when you arrive, remember that when you wonder why the line seems to last a while. The flavours changed daily – there were 8 different ones when we went. We decided to go with the mango ice cream topped with coconut flakes. The mango came through nicely however the texture is a little more brittle and grainy than I like personally. The other issue is that to eat it, you basically need it to melt a bit because there is no easy to eat rolled-up ice cream with a spoon. That makes Pandan a cool spot but with certain caveats for me.

Pandan Creamery
3504 Notre-Dame St W
514 588 6501

Pandan Creamery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Next, I finally tried La Diperie! Now, I know I am a few years behind on this one. What was originally one location on Pine Ave. has exploded this year as they franchised so now, in Quebec alone, there are 21 locations now. The opening of a St-Henri location made it easier for me to finally see what all the buzz is about.

La Diperie is know for their ridiculous dipped soft served cones topped with tons of topping. The amount of choices is a bit ridiculous in terms of both dips and toppings. Plus, they have speciality cones. I decided to go for one of their speciality cone and went for their Lime Key Pie sundae with lemonade lime dip and tea cookie topping. The soft serve vanilla texture wise was great – reminded me of classic Dairy Queen of my youth. Flavour was good as well. The dip was very flavourful and very mimicked key lime pie very well. The consistent of the dip allowed it to stiffen up perfectly around the soft serve so no issues cleanliness-wise but it was very sweet to the point of being a little overbearing.

The concept is good but it is clearly popular enough at this point but I think I need to try a few other sundae to see if the other dips are that sweet as well before I can make this place a to-go for me.

La Diperie
4600 Notre-Dame St W
514 379 1442

Lastly, I went to NDG to try CA LEM, a ice cream shop that was been getting great buzz for some of the cool and unique flavours that have been playing with. They have a variety of different ice cream and sorbets that ranges from normal to more unique. We tried their black sesame which is a weird to think about but worked really well. Just be aware that the blackness of the ice cream means that you will have a very dark tongue afterwards!

They also have a weekly soft serve and sorbet combo – on this week, courtesy of fellow blogger Jason Lee of Shut Up and Eat, it was Peanut Butter and Jelly – that childhood classic in cone form. No one I was going to miss that! The soft serve peanut butter was lucious and had a great nutty flavour. The strawberry sorbet was smooth and also had a great depth of flavour. Very enjoyable and very creative.

Ca Lem is a great spot in NDG and I love their interest in going special flavours. That creativity is always appreciated. If you are anywhere close, I highly recommend stopping in.

CA LEM
6926 Sherbrooke West

Ca Lem Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

So lots of ice cream to get excited about around the city – and that excludes some of the classic like Kem Koba, Havres Aux Glaces, my new favourite Dalla Rose, Aux Givres and many more. The key thing is find your favourite and savour a few cones before the season is over!

Cheers!

Marconi

6 Aug

Apparently when one turns 30, your birthday celebrations get stretched out so for the final act, my sister offered me a meal at a restaurant of my choice. Given both of our enjoyment of trying new places, I figured this would be a good opportunity to try a relatively new restaurant in the city that has had lots of buzz, Marconi.

Opened last December by owners Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly and partner Molly Superfine-Rivera, this local duo came back to Montreal after having worked in New York. Mehdi, as a chef, had headed two kitchens in two Greenwich Village restaurants: Chez Sardine and Fedora. When in Montreal prior to his time in New York, he had worked at Toqué and Au Pied de Cochon so the pedigree was very interesting.

The room is definitely interesting visually. The space was apparently a former dépanneur and so they kept some original features. The most unique would be an old wooden fridge turned into the wine cellar. There is also a patterned tin ceiling, white-washed wall tiles, a beautiful wooden bar, an open kitchen and all sorts of electic accents – I’m partial to the cheetah frame above the bar. Noise levels are a little high but with the great background tunes played overhead, it isn’t a problem. The vibe was great all night.

Superfine-Rivera is known for her cocktails so we had to start with a couple. Excellent balance for both. The ‘Penicillin’ had that smoky scotch note but with some sweetness and freshness from the ginger and honey. The Old Cuban had a similar sweet and fresh complex mixing rum with mint and green lemon. Great start.

The menu is relatively small and the plates are designed to share so we were recommended to get a few more than one each. No problem there! First up, a couple of bouchées – mimosa miso egg and cod croquettes. The eggs, served deviled-style, had a hint of the miso and a nice creamy texture. The croquettes were crunchy and very dense. The cod was delicious and the little mayo served it added some richness.

For true appetizers, we went with a trio. First, a plate of veal sweetbread with green peas, lemon puree and oxalis. I love sweetbreads so this was an easy sell for me. Beautifully golden and crunchy, these rich delights mixed with the zesty lemon was a nice pairing.

Next, the toast topped with whelk, bone marrow, aged cheddar and parsley was another hit for me. The mix of the whelk, the fatty marrow and the cheese worked surprisingly well. The bread had a nice crunch to it as well. My photography skills failed me here so no picture of this one. You will just have to take my word for it!

Last starter was a mixture of mushrooms served in brown butter with a poached egg. This was our favorite by far. The earthiness of the mushrooms came through so strongly and then you add the richness of the brown butter and the poached egg. Very lucious and a great finish to this course.

We slowed down a bit and went with only 2 mains. First was the ricotta gnocchi served with xeres, parmesan and basil. The gnocchi was good but personally not up to my standards when compared to another restaurants just a few streets over… however flavours were good, the xeres added some sweetness and the mountain of parmesan is always a welcomed addition. Solid dish.

The other main was the magret de canard served with burnt onion puree. The duck was cooked perfectly and had that great depth of flavour you want. I was very curious about the burnt puree – something I had never been exposed to before. Interesting texture overall with that slight charred texture coming through despite being pureed. The sweetness of the onions is still present but with a slight decrease in strength coming from the burning. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea but I enjoyed it and it worked well with the duck.

After all of this, we still felt the need for some desserts so we took two. First, the bowl of white chocolate, rhubarb and pistachio was a nice combo of sweetness and tart but the cream at the bottom was more basil so the strong flavour that came through was basil instead of the others. Good but not quite what was stated. The other dessert was a lemon and creme verveine with oats. Very generous portion and excellent texture on the cream. Both rich and smooth with a nice lemon kick. The oats were good to bring some crunch.

As a finisher to my birthday celebrations, Marconi was an excellent way to go. The vibe was great, drinks excellent and the food very enjoyable. Mild complain would be the time it took to be served between each dish but clearly the approach was to serve each dish one at a time to split before next one which is fine but it made the service longer than we expected. Marconi is a welcomed addition to the scene in Mile-Ex and definitely a place worth going back – not for birthday celebrations.

Cheers!

Marconi
45 Avenue Mozart Ouest
514 490 0777

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

Maine 2017 – Eventide Oyster Co.

23 Jul

When in Maine, I seek third things food wise – lobster, oysters and clams. My seafood “trifecta” if you will. I have my personal preferences for lobster rolls and fried clams in Maine – check out the articles from my previous vacations for those but oysters not yet. For a while, I have had a certain well known spot on my list to check out for some fresh Maine oysters amongst many things. For part 2 of my 30th birthday in Portland, Maine, I finally went for Eventide Oyster Co. ready to enjoy some super fresh Maine seafood.

Eventide Oyster Co. is located ironically almost across the street from Duckfat (see the previous article in this blog). Eventide is known as the first true oyster bar in the area and as such, is very popular. They too also have the no reservation issue like Duckfat (well… sort of. They take one group reservation a night). However, thankfully, turns out they have a text message system so we were able to go have a drink at a bar nearby in the meantime. 45 minutes later, we came back to a table outside on the terrasse ready to go.

We started with some cocktails. My muddled Old Fashioned was exquisite and done with great care and balance. The standout though was my friend’s Celery Gimlet of gin, celery and lime – she spent the next 2 days lauding its praises. The level of smoothness and strong celery flavour was so surprising.

First round of food was of course some fresh oysters. Eventide offers 9 different varieties from Maine as well as a few options from PEI, New Brunswick and New Hampshire. We went with 4 different types from Maine and a couple of accoutrements – red wine mignonette and kimchi ice. The kimchi ice was very interesting – they take some of the pickling liquid of kimchi and add it to shaved ice. Loved how the strong fermented taste of the kimchi paired with the amazingly fresh oysters. Beautifully shucked and so delicious. A great start to our dinner.

Eventide, of course, offers many other dishes. First, the New England Clam Chowder with potatoes, salt pork and saltines. The chowder was not as creamy as we expected but the flavours were so wonderful. The lobster came through strongly. The large pieces of salt pork brought some saltiness and richness and then the potatoes were cooked perfectly and gave some texture. The joy of the lack of the creaminess was how the chowder wasn’t nearly as heavy as you could have expected. Just wonderful.

The fried Maine Oysters with Thai apple slaw, mint and pickled ginger was a very creative and asian inspired-style to serving oysters. The oysters were delicious with a nice crunch. The Thai slaw with the mint and ginger provided a mix of sweetness, heat and freshness that paired wonderfully with the oysters. We also ordered a side of coleslaw – very flavourful, fresh and not too creamy.

Eventide is also known for their Brown Butter Lobster roll served on a steamed bun – think Bao Pork Bun with brown butter lobster instead. Sold! For the price, not very big but simply wonderful. The nuttiness of the brown butter paired so well with the inherent fattiness of the lobster and the use of a steamed bun is an interesting decision that makes the roll seem a little lighter overall. Wonderful roll outside of the norm.

Lastly, we had dessert by ordering one of their Ice cream sandwiches – in this case, double chocolate cookies and praline ice cream. This sandwich was massive – we shared it four ways and all felt we got a good portion. The chocolate were rich and very chocolatey. The ice cream was excellent as well. A great sandwich overall.

Eventide is a great oyster bar and definitely a must-visit if you are going to Portland. Great drinks, amazing seafood and friendly service. Round 2 of my birthday tour was a big success and I was happy to finally visit. Eventide is setting the bar for seafood restaurants all around – not just in Portland.

Cheers!

Eventide Oyster Co.
86 Middle Street
207 774 8538

Eventide Oyster Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maine 2017 – Duckfat

18 Jul

We in Quebec are very protective of our “National” dish, the Poutine. Everyone’s a critic and we all have our personal favorites. When we encounter poutine outside of Quebec, there can often be some derision and automatic negative thoughts about it. No way can this poutine be as good as back home! For a few years now, I had heard about an apparently great poutine in Portland, Maine. As I have gone to Maine every summer for the past 5 years, I had always told myself I needed to try it at some point. That some point was this summer for the first part of my 30th birthday in Portland (the other part will be the next article coming) so we sat down at Duckfat for a late lunch ready to see how their poutine stacked up.

Duckfat is a small spot located along Middle Street – the terrasse sits 24 or so and the inside a little bit more. This leads me to a quick tangent if you don’t mind. Duckfat doesn’t take reservations and, given its popularity and small size, thus requires you to give them your name and wait within 1.5 blocks with a pager device. Why in god’s name do Americans seem to be okay with this procedure!? At minimum, it should be your phone number and then they call you. What interest is there to stand outside and wait for 45 minutes to eat? Especially when there is nothing really interesting within the block to visit…. very frustrating to see this approach did exist. Anyway… tangent closed.

The menu is small and focused on fries, milkshakes, craft sodas and panini sandwiches. We tried two drinks: first, the Roots, Barks and Sticks soda made with sassafras, sarsaparilla root, birch bark, ceylon cinnamon and wintergreen. If you love root beer, you will love this one. Nice sweetness but not too much. Very refreshing.

The other drink was the Original Duckfat milkshake – vanilla gelato with creme anglaise and fresh Tahitian vanilla bean. Rich, smooth, creamy with lovely notes of vanilla – just a great milkshake to enjoy! Always love to see the specks of the vanilla bean within the milkshake. Easily more a dessert than a beverage but I wasn’t complaining.

We got a couple of the paninis as well. The overnight duck confit panini with spicy napa cabbage slaw, miso mayo and cilantro was lovely – the rich fatty duck with the kick from the slaw, the creamy mayo and the crunch from the bread. The house smoked brisket with vegetable chow chow, cheddar and BBQ sauce was a big hit for me, The brisket was fatty and smoky, the sweetness of the sauce paired very well with the meat and the cheddar worked also. Great sandwich.

Finally we get to the homemade Belgian fries. Of course, at a restaurant called duckfat, they are fried in duck fat. How could they not….You can either get the fries with a speciality mayo or in a poutine, served with local cheese curds, chives and a homemade duck gravy. The fries themselves are amazing…. perfect size, great crunch, tender inside and of course that amazing richness and flavour you get from the duckfat. We tried the curry mayo with the fries and it was very good. Strong curry kick but not overwhelming. As for the poutine, is it my favourite?… no but it is much closer than I expected honestly. The duck gravy is rich and yet not heavy and pairs up so well for the fries. The locally sourced cheese curds are good but they lacked that classic Quebec squeak – really the one element that holds me back from calling this the best. The chives brought some freshness and worked well. Very impressed overall.

Duckfat was a wonderful lunch spot and owns up to its name very well. Other than the service issue I stated earlier, this was an excellent experience food wise and showed that Americans can actually make a good poutine 😉 You may get annoyed by the wait time but believe me, it is worth it for those sweet sweet fries. Long live the joys of duckfat.

Cheers!

Duckfat
43 Middle St
207 774 8080

Duck Fat Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le Smoking Vallée

16 Jul

Montreal BYOBs are a very much a hit or miss proposition in a lot of cases. One particular group of restauranteurs have seemingly succeeded in establishing a BYOB template that works. Marc-André Paradis, George Blais, and Thierry Dufour and Co. have a large of collections of restaurants that now cover most of the different neighbourhoods in the city. Their names are synonymous with excellent in BYOB and yet, I have never been to any….. a blind spot of mine to be sure. Luckily, recently, I had a chance to visit their St-Henri local, Le Smoking Vallée and see how it stacks up.

Le Smoking Vallée is a simple space decorated sorta post-industrial – well lit, lacquered wood tables, wooden chairs. The only real ‘pop’ element is a large panorama mural of St-Henri as taken from the Lachine Canal. The space is not that big and yet got very loud once full. I honestly do not recall music or at least couldn’t really hear it. The service was very friendly but honestly pretty slow. It took about one hour for us to see our first course which is outside reasonable delays.

The menu is market, slightly french in style. Your options are either a table d’hôte or simply ordering per dish. I was hungry enough that I went with the table d’hôte. The menu changes seasonly and there are daily dishes as well. First up, the bouchée of the day was a mushroom tartar with a mayo and crouton. Solid start.

As a starter, I went with the mushroom puff pastry with poached egg, lardon and truffle. Lovely combination of the earthy roasted sautéed mushrooms, the creamy poached egg, the rich lardon and the flaky pastry. Good execution and great flavours. Very enjoyable. I also tried the cod croquettes with cocktail mayonnaise. The cod croquettes were nicely sized and had a nice crunch. The cod meat was flavourful and plentiful within each croquette. The mayo added a nice creaminess as well.

Following the starters, a little strawberry, whisky and rhubarb trou normand followed to provided a sweet but strong palate cleanser.

As a main, I went with the duck breast served with papaya, sweet potato puree and spice jus. Very interesting blend of french technique and plating but with some south-east Asian flavours. The duck was cooked perfectly and had great flavour. The pickled papaya gave the dish nice heat and the puree had a nice creamy sweetness to it.

My fiancé had the special of the day which was grilled chorizo and calamari served with chickpeas in a Indian-style curry. Very different flavour profile compared to my dish but equally as well done. Both sausage and calamari was done well and the strong Indian flavours came through very nicely.

Lastly for dessert, a chocolate carré with sponge and pear and matcha tea purée. The chocolate was very rich and creamy. The puree was sweet with the hint of matcha that makes enjoyable and not overwhelming.

All in all, solid technique and plating, great flavours and a comfortable setting makes Smoking Vallee a solid choice as a BYOB within Montreal. Service was a little slow but otherwise no major complaints. So if you want a nice BYOB, look up these gentlemen – there is a good chance they have a BYOB in your neighbourhood for you to enjoy.

Cheers!

Le Smoking Vallée
4370 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 932 0303

Le Smoking Vallée Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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