Jatoba

20 Mar

When one talks about dining in Montreal, we rarely talk about the downtown core as a big part of that. We talk a lot about Mile End, Old Montreal, Little Italy, Notre-Dame Street in the Sud Ouest…. but downtown isn’t as hyped. Part of it may be perception, part of it may be people not wanting to head downtown proper. Either way, there are definitely places worth checking out that are more than simply overpriced fare for the business crowd. One of these is Jatoba. Located in Phillips Square, Jatoba is a project headed by chef Olivier Vigneault, previously a sous-chef for Antonio Park (also a partner in this venture). For the event of my sister’s birthday, there was a request to come check in this place out as a family outing.

The space, conceived by La Chambre Design, is a beautiful combination of the old brownstone structure with some more modern touches. I love how they incorporate the brick facades all around the different rooms and make them focal points. The lighting is ample but slightly dimmed to create a nice intimate feel. Lots of wood warms up the space and the kitchen is exposed in the big backroom. The other big element is the use of tons of plant life to incorporate some nature into the space. The whole of the restaurant feels very warm and cozy. A perfect vibe for a relaxed evening dinner.

Jatoba has a pretty good cocktail menu and wine list. I started with a Lavender May – Lot 40, lavender and calico syrup, fresh lime juice, egg white, rhubarb bitters. I love egg white cocktails so this was an easy sell for me. Not too floral with a nice touch of both sweet and sour. The frothy texture of the egg white added some body to it as well. As for the wine, for the purpose of full disclosure, I know the sommelier of Jatoba – an old high school friend – so with his advice, we were treated to a lovely French Patrimonio that we had never heard of. Just the fact he got my parents to like a French wine is worth very high praise. Thanks Marc-Andre!

Food-wise, given the pedigree of the chef, you can imagine that the menu is Asian-inspired fusion fare. As a group of 5, we were able to share numerous items. First up, I can never say no to a bowl of edamame with yusuf powder, nanami togarashi and fleur de sel. Always love that salty kick.

We also tried the Brussel sprout chips with spices. Very thinly sliced and fried up, I personally loved the slightly bitter notes from the sprouts and the crunch that came from frying them.

Next up, we went for some dumplings. We tried three varieties – the Gyoza (pork, shrimp, chinese chives, spicy samba oelek soy and chinese vinegar), the Tori (chicken, napa cabbage, braised shiitakes, leek and sonomono sauce) and the Ha Gao (shrimp, green onion and red wine tobiko). All excellent – very flavourful with the subtle hints of the extra ingredients above the primary proteins. Kind of made me crave some true Dim Sum at that point….

My girlfriend and I felt like a soup so we shared the lemongrass soup – lemongrass and coconut cream, shrimp, lobster, tomatoes, thai basil, green onions and bamboo. A lovely well balanced soup. The lemongrass was strong but the sweetness of the coconut cream softened it slightly and created a super silky texture. The addition of shrimp and lobster gave it some more heft and the tomatoes brought some freshness and tanginess. One of the best soups I’ve had in a while.

As a rice dish, we went with the fried rice with duck confit which included an egg, vegetable medley, yukon gold chips, green onions, micro coriander and enoki mushrooms. Very generous portion of rice and lovely flavours all around. The rice had the crunch of a fried rice with some earthy notes. The addition of the duck confit provided a nice rich and fatty contrast to the rest of the rice dish.

Next up was sushi time. We went with The Roll – atlantic salmon, spicy hamachi, avocado, cucumber, tempura flakes, sweet soy and yusuf yogourt. A more upscale version of a classic “Kamikaze” roll and excellent all around. Key differentiation was the use of less of the binding elements like the tempura and more emphasis of the freshness of the salmon. The fish was beautiful and came through clearly within the roll. No hiding of the fish here. The tempura brought a touch of crunch and I liked the touch of sweet creaminess coming from the yogourt.

The final savoury dish we tried was the 1855 Beef Tataki seared with sesame oil, mini green beans with cider vinegar, dwarf truffle peaches, black quinoa soufflé and sonomono sauce. Beautiful elegant dish – the beef was sliced beautifully thin and super tender. The addition elements simply play to augment the natural flavours of the beef.

For dessert, we got the Chocolate Bomb and the Japanese cheesecake. The bomb – a combination of black and white triple chocolate brownie with hazelnut praline, dark chocolate and hazelnut truffle, dark chocolate mousse, marbled chocolate sphere and milk chocolate sauce – was a chocolate overload in all the best ways possible. I loved the different uses of texture and flavours within all the chocolate. The cheesecake served with maple spongy candy and black sesame ice cream was excellent texture-wise. Nice and creamy. The black sesame ice cream was not my thing but a cool pairing to the inherent richness and creaminess of the cake.

Jatoba was a lovely night out – wonderful drinks, awesome service and good food. Worked out perfectly as a celebration for my sister’s birthday so when you are thinking about dining out in Montreal, don’t forgot about the business district of our city, it is equally worth of your attention for a good night out!

Cheers!

Jatoba
1184 Place Phillips
514 871 1184

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

Le Bird Bar

19 Mar

When it comes to fried chicken in Montreal, we are definitely a long ways away from needed to get KFC for a fix. Many restaurants around Montreal offer wonderful fried chicken on their menus and now, we have a full-on fried chicken bar in the Bird Bar. Located on Notre-Dame Ouest on that killer restaurant road, the Bird Bar comes from the mind of Kimberly Lallouz of Miss Prêt à Manger and Monsieur. It is a fried chicken and champagne bar that also houses a ‘hidden’ bar in the basement called Henden.

I am always game for some fried goodness so a old McGill teammate of mine and I decided to use it as a catch-up place and see what they had to offer. The space is certainly a looker – very elegant and modern. The bar is heavy on marble, the seats are covered in black velour and the focus in the room goes to the beautiful rainbow-shaped light fixture. Not really my style but I can recognize the beauty of it.

The menu is a mixture of southern comfort food upscaled and some other items. As a starter, we went for some fresh shucked oysters with popcorn chicken and jalapeño mignonette. Loved the presentation and the oysters were beautiful – fresh and salty. Honestly though, we both felt the popcorn chicken overtop to be unnecessary. The chicken was nice and juicy with some crunch and the mignonette brought some kick but it came to overpower the naturally wonderful taste of oysters. We would rather have had the chicken on the side and go back and forth than have the two combined automatically.

With the fried chicken to come, we order a few sides to enjoy as well. First was a feta-watermelon-mint salad. Nice looking salad, very fresh but it felt disjointed. The individual items didn’t blend together well so it came off flat to us truthfully. Our other side was some french fries. Very generous portion and exactly the kind of fries that I love – a bit bigger than matchsticks, tender but with a nice crunch.

But fundamentally, the big attraction here is the fried chicken. Made to order, the chicken is sourced from Ferme des Voyageurs and is free-range, local and vegetable grain fed. On top of that, Bird Bar boasts to have implemented a system that drastically reduces the grease absorption of their fried food. All of that gives us chicken that is very tender and juicy on the inside and has a very thin and crunchy coating. Despite all those positives, it just didn’t work for me. The coating felt almost too crunchy and in a way the lack of that grease absorption took away some flavour and made it lack any pop flavour wise. The sauces that you can get with the chicken felt much more necessary than they should have. We went with maple siracusa and bourbon – very flavourful in both cases – but I don’t believe they should be relied upon that much. This chicken certainly didn’t match up for me compared to my favorites in town which was certainly disappointing.

For dessert, I tried the banana chocolate cake with salted caramel. The cake was nice and dense with great flavour and the caramel was sweet and decadent. An excellent finish to the night.

I came out of Bird Bar feeling disappointed. Nothing was bad food-wise but nothing really wowed. For a place that markets itself as a fried chicken place, I didn’t think the chicken was all that amazing. Perhaps it is just not my type of preparation but I believe there are better options in the city at a better price point as well. I can see Bird Bar as a nice happy hour or cocktail but I don’t honestly see myself coming back for dinner. Notre Dame street is a tough place for new restaurants right now. Fried chicken may convince people to come over but whether that novelty works long-term remains to be seen in their case.

Cheers!

Le Bird Bar
1800 rue Notre Dame Ouest
514 938 4343

Le Bird Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Régine Café

16 Mar

As brunch has become more and more in vogue in Montreal, it is becoming a challenge to go to the most popular locations around the city without waiting in line somewhere. As much as I love brunch, at this time of the year, standing outside doesn’t really appeal to me. If only one of the best was also open on weekdays… and located about 2 minutes from where I take some of my physio courses… oh wait… Régine Café fits that description. Awesome. This Rosemont staple has been getting rave reviews for the past few years but it never really lined up for me to visit. Well, using the excuse of my course a couple of times over the past year, I have headed over on Fridays with my classmates to indulge in some decadent brunch food as a respite from all the learning.

Régine Café has a definite retro chic look going on. Almost Alice in Wonderland-like in terms of colours and patterns. It is quaint, fun and definitely loud – both in terms of look and noise level. Even on a Friday, this isn’t the place for a quiet conversation. Service was quick and efficient although at the rate people come in, they need to be.

You get a shooter of the day to start your meal every time. The first time, it was pineapple and mint. The second time, it was beet and apple. Both creative and fun ways to start the meal. They also have a number of drink options. I went with the cider both times. Very satisfying beverage for a brunch!

On my first visit, I decided to go with the Sucré Salé – homemade brioche french toast with pulled ham, aged cheddar, an egg and sucre à la crème. The title of the dish is definitely apt – a great combination of salty and sweet goodness. French toast using brioche was dense yet fluffy and had a great crust to it. The pulled ham was tender and salty. The egg and the melty cheese provided some richness and then you had the insanely sweet but oh so good sucre à la crème. I wanted a nap big time after this one so perhaps not the right choice during class but whatever, I stand by my choice.

For round 2, I started with a scone with mascarpone cream. I loved the cream but the scone was a little dry and dense to my liking. Great nutty and fruity flavour profile but a little more fluffiness would have been appreciated.

I decided after that to go with the Grilled Cheese – 2 year old Cheddar from Îles-aux-Grues with caramelised onions, walnut and pistachio bread, mango chutney and a little confit duck to top it all off. The only thing not appreciated of this plate was the mashed potatoes – too dry despite the nice rich flavour. The sandwich was outstanding – the duck was tender and fatty, the cheese was melted nicely and had a nice sharpness to it. The onions brought a touch of sweetness as well.

Régine Café definitely lived up to the hype. Excellent food, fun decor and solid service. I might be too lazy to go wait in line on a weekend but for those of you who do, don’t worry – you will come out very satisfied!

Cheers!

Régine Café
1840 Rue Beaubien Est
514 903 0676

Régine Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Montreal Plaza

31 Jan

To enter a restaurant is to enter the mind of the chef, to experience what he or she wished you to experience – and I’m not just talking about the food. The influence of the chef is seen in all aspects of their restaurants – it is the subtle elements of decor, music and atmosphere that make David McMillan and Fred Morin’s cool ode to rustic Quebec in Joe Beef work. Same goes for Chuck Hughes and Danny Smiles and the hip coolness of Garde Manger and Bremner or the friendly neighbourhood British pub feel for Derek Dammmann’s Maison Publique. There are many examples across Montreal but the key is that the restaurants feel as though they are uniquely from the chefs that run them. We are spoiled in Montreal to have so many wonderful and unique chefs. The challenge is simply to experience all of them!

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For the occasion of our anniversary, I decided to bring my girlfriend to Plaza St-Hubert of all places to visit a restaurant that seemed to have the right level of finesse with that wonderful unique element that I love so much about Montreal…. in this case, from the mind of Charles-Antoine Crete, Montreal Plaza.

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Started up by Crete and his partner Cheryl Johnson, Montreal Plaza is Crete’s first big project since he left Toque where he was Normand Laprise’s right-hand man. The restaurant, designed by Zébulon Perron, is quite the space. Equal combination fancy bistro and family chalet. You are wowed by the white-painted bean-board walls and ceiling, the frosted-glass lighting across the ceiling, the marble bars and the open kitchen but then you are amused by the old grandfather clock, the teddy bear, the upside down doll house and by-plane used on the ceiling fans, the greenhouse and the “workshop” space. The bathroom area has one of those light-up nature frames with nature sounds on the ceiling! The space is bemusing but wonderful all the same time. The music the whole night was 90s rap and hip-hop so my girlfriend and I spent the night singing along to Nelly, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg and R Kelly. I can only imagine how weird that contrast could be some but for a couple of 20-somethings, it was a awesome element to our evening.

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We must start with the drinks as the beer list had the Anna from Hill Farmstead brewery in Vermont. For those who known about beer, you understand how exciting that was…. and how great of a Honey Ale it was. I’d had been wanting to visit the brewery and try one of their beers for a while now. This was a very pleasant surprise to start our evening. For the rest of you, I encourage you to check them out if ever you have a chance.

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Foodwise, we decided to start with something neither of us had tried before: sea urchin. In this case, grilled sea urchin served with lardon, green onions and fried shallots within its shell. Beautiful presentation and lovely taste. The urchin was firm at first but then melted in the mouth – rich and creamy sweetness. The addition of the lardon and the shallots added a hint of smokiness as well. A awesome first try at Uni.

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Our second starter was salmon tartar + crispy – a lovely slightly creamy salmon topped with lettuce and puffed rice as the crunch to the dish. The fish texturally was beautiful and tender. The binder of the tartar provided some richness and a touch of bite to the dish. The use of the rice for some texture was creative and added some crunch.

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We were feeling adventurous with our mains. Our first was blood sausage and apple – served with a jus de viande, lettuce, onion rings and some fresh cranberries. The sausage was wonderful – rich and savoury. The sweetness of the apple and the tartness of the cranberries paired very nicely. The onion rings were a weird add to the plate but the combination of their sweetness and their crunch made them a surprisingly perfect addition.

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Our second main was equally as unique in its combinations – sliced deer heart and calamari served with red cabbage, red onion, hay and popcorn. The play between the gamey deer and the fishy tender calamari was pretty interesting although I wished they had been a bit more deer in the plate. The popcorn was another fun play for texture and some sweetness.

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Once we got to dessert, my girlfriend wasn’t that hungry so she only ordered one of their Cannelés. Nice hint of vanilla and rum with a fluffy interior and nice crust on the outside. An excellent pastry. I, on the other hand, went with the glacé aux pommes cake – layers of frozen apple and cake sliced very thinly and served as almost a blooming flower. Beautiful to look at and very tasty as well.

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Montreal Plaza was a perfect spot for our anniversary dinner and a lovely look into the minds of Chef Crete and his team. Great food, great atmosphere and wonderful service in a unique space. You don’t associate Plaza St-Hubert with fine dining but this becomes a worthwhile member of Montreal’s best.

Cheers!

Montreal Plaza
6230 Saint-Hubert
514 903 6230

Montréal Plaza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ma Poule Mouillée

30 Jan

I never really understood how good rotisserie chicken was until I tried Romados. I grew up on St-Hubert chicken and the occasional Scores – Suburban life for the win – and there is a reason I stuck mostly to the chicken fingers through my teenage years. The classic chicken was generally too dry and not as flavourful as I wanted. Finally I moved downtown and then I discovered the beauty of Portuguese rotisserie. Moist and packed full of spicy flavour – finally proper chicken! Living close to Romados over the years gave me great opportunities to indulge when the craving hit. However, over the past couple of years, I’ve been hearing that another place in the plateau was given them a run for their money. That sounded impossible to me but given the co-owner of this new place worked at Romados for 20 years, it definitively peaked my interest. Last week, after a long Friday class nearby, I stopped over at Ma Poule Mouillee to give them shot.

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If you’ve been to Romados, you will recognize the set-up. Take-out counter – you wait in line, watch the chicken cook on the massive grill behind the counter and you pay at another counter where a bunch of Portuguese pastries are on display as well. It’s simple but as a take-out/quick service option, it’s works well. Decor-wise, that have certainly put more effort into creating a nicer sit-down space compared to Romados but frankly it’s doesn’t really matter in this context. The food is the key.

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For my first visit, I went with their “Louis Cyr” – 1/2 chicken with salad and fries. The classic combo. First off, huge portion for the price. I was surprised at just how much food I got for 11$ – a mountain of fries and a very sizeable half-chicken. The salad was classic side dish for Portuguese chicken and the fries were great as well – dense, tender and crispy – but let’s be honest…. it’s all about the chicken. I never thought I’d say this…. but I think they have Romados beat. The chicken was juicy and tender, super moist and so enjoyable. Add to that their spicy sauce slathered over the chicken and you have a heck of a chicken to enjoy.

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They do have a few other option including a ridiculous poutine that I couldn’t justify ordering on top of the chicken. However, I did take the opportunity to order one of their chorizo sandwich to eat the next day. Beautifully smoky and spicy chorizo sliced in between a soft roll and covered with the same spicy sauce as the chicken, the sandwich was a great lunch the next day.

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And because they had some pastries, of course I needed a natas. Pretty good version to enjoy – the crust was thin and crackly with a nice torched top, the custard had that crème brûlée texture with a strong vanilla note. Always a good way to finish a meal.

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Ma Poule Mouillée has got this chicken thing down. If anyone you know says they don’t like roasted chicken, simply bring them here and watch them realized the error of their ways. Portuguese chicken is a staple of the Plateau and is once again a reminder of the greatness of the diversity of Montreal. Now to find more reasons to visit the Plateau for lunch time….

Cheers!

Ma Poule Mouillée
969 Rachel Est
514 522 5175

Ma Poule Mouillée Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le H4C

28 Dec

For my final review of 2016, we have my final MTL à Table choice from November. For about 3 years now, I had heard great things about a restaurant located in the heart of St-Henri. Living near McGill, I thought about it but never went. Last year, moving to Pointe-St-Charles meant I could walk there now if I wanted to… but I still didn’t visit. Finally, the opportunity came around so I found myself at le H4C ready to see if the wait was worth it.

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Started by the founders of an architectural firm and chef Dany Bolduc, le H4C has the stated goal of combining responsible and sustainable architecture to gastronomy. The restaurant is located within a 1893 vintage building that used to be a post office. It has been restored beautifully – showcasing the old features of the brownstone while adding some more modern touches. The space is completely open and beautiful – the use of wood tables and leather banquette and chairs complement well the gorgeous stone exterior walls. The overall vibe is very calm and intimate – a perfect date night location.

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The menu is an interesting mix. I supposed one could call market cuisine with emphasis on local ingredients using french technique. It lents itself to very particular dishes. First up was housemade duck pancetta with papadoum, lime, curry, mustard, tamarin and cilantro. The pancetta was wonderful – the fatty taste of duck very strong and the texture wonderfully tender. The papadoum (a sort of Indian fried tortilla) provided a nice crunch to pair with the duck. The sauces dotted along the papadoum provided different accents flavours to play with. An excellent dish.

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Our second starter was equally well executed. The marinated salmon with cauliflower, creme fraiche, salmon roe and spices was similar to the first in that the primary ingredient was done simply but so well. The fish had great freshness and a lovely texture to it. The use of cauliflower and creme fraiche, while weird together in theory, worked very well with the salmon to enhance it by bringing in some richness.

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The final entree we tried was the Ricotta gnudi with gruyere, onion and croutons. Essentially a french onion soup broken down with gnudi instead of that big cheesy bread. A very cool usage of a classic French recipe and have some fun with it. Excellent onion broth – rich and smooth. The gundi were soft and lovely balls of rich ricotta. Adding the gruyere on top just made it richer and more filling.

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Our mains continued the high level of execution. First was the octopus with tandoori, caramelized yogourt, red onion, basmati rice and coconut. The octopus was wonderfully tender and the tandoori spices brought some nice flavour. The combination of the red onion and the yogourt provided some nice sweetness and creaminess to pair with the octopus.

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My dish of the night was the main I ordered: smoked meat with potatoes, smoked onions, rye, mustard and marinated cabbage. A wonderfully weird deconstructed smoked meat sandwich that tasted as close to the real thing as possible without having just meat between rye bread. The smoked meat was perfect – getting that right level of tenderness and flavour. I was just missing my root beer (or cherry coke if that’s more your thing)!

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The desserts had a hard time matching the highs of the mains. First the lemon meringue with cucumber ice cream and gin was interesting texturally but the cucumber popped more than the lemon or even the gin which didn’t work for me. The squash with gingerbread, white chocolate and pumpkin seeds was an interesting savoury sweet idea that worked better in theory than practice. No one at the table really enjoyed the preparation of the squash – almost gelatinous but the flavour didn’t work at all. The gingerbread and white chocolate mousse were excellent but that wasn’t really the point.. We also got some housemade popcorn which was very good as well.

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Le H4C was a solid night out. A very high level of execution throughout the meal in a beautiful environment. With the exception of the desserts, the meal was enjoyable by everyone at the table. I’m happy to see a restaurant such as this one succeeded in my part of town and I’m sorry it took this long to come visit. They also do brunch so I will need to check that out as well. Le H4C deserves your attention if you are visiting the Sud Ouest.

Cheers!

Le H4C
538 Place St-Henri
514 316 7234

Le H4C Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

M.Mme

28 Dec

Last month, for the event of MTL à Table 2016, I found myself on Laurier street to try a relatively new wine bar that has opened up there, M.Mme. Owned by the proprietors of Toi, Moi et Café next door and helmed by chef Stelio Perombelon – previously of Lemeac, Les Chèvres, Pullman et Les Cons Servent, M.Mme has gotten some good reviews since its opening end of 2015. Looking over the different menus for MTL à Table, I was intrigued by their offerings and I love a good wine bar so this seemed like a worthwhile try.

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First off, M. Mme is a beautiful restaurant – very much in keeping with its location on Laurier Ave. The main focal point is the gigantic glassed-in wine cellar that makes up the entire west wall of the room. The rest of the space is a mixture of wood panelling, bricks walls, leather chairs and banquettes and a stone bar. The open kitchen is in the back and visible for all to see.

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As with the usual MTL à Table set-up, we had a couple of options to choose from for starters, mains and desserts. The first starter was a salad of roasted beets and salted prunes with caramelized yogourt and mustard shoots. A beautiful dish to look at – that would be true of every plate we would receive this evening – but sadly it fell flat for our table. The beets lacked flavour and there wasn’t enough of the salted prunes to provide contrast within the dish. The yogourt was nice but without the stars of the dish working, it felt insufficient.

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The second starter faired much better: Quebec buffalo mozzarella with a salad of cabbage, roasted shallots and BC caviar. The cheese had a lovely texture and great flavour. The addition of the salty caviar, the sweet shallots and the cabbage provided some nice supporting notes to the cheese. I would simply say I wished the portion was larger. It didn’t necessarily feel satisfying enough even as a starter.

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Our first main – Seared beef with dried spinach, Dauphines potatoes, mushroom puree and cherry red wine reduction – was a big hit to me flavour-wise. The beef was beautiful and cooked perfectly. Loved the exterior crunch on the potatoes and the sweetness of the reduction. My issue again would be with the portion size. I understand this is a wine bar where portions are often smaller and designed to share but if you are going to participate in MTL à Table, you need to ensure you make portions to satisfy people having a full meal. This size of this dish would work as a starter, not a main in my opinion.

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Our second dish was sadly disappointing. Seared cod with fennel, smoked red pepper sauce, green grapes and verjus came off as flat. The cod was nice but other than the smoked red pepper sauce, the rest of the dish didn’t bring as much flavour to the dish as wanted.

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The desserts were similarly mixed. I loved the candy cap profiteroles with bacon streusel, miso caramel and chantilly. A nice rich cream with the fatty bacon and the sweet caramel. Awesome sweet and savoury combination. However, the ‘Mexican’ chocolate vegan cream with chiffon cake and camerise fruit failed to illicit much positivity from the table. The chocolate was not sweet enough and lacking a nice texture to enjoy. The chiffon cake did nothing and the camerise didn’t mix well with the chocolate flavour for most of us.

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M.Mme was a very uneven experience. The room is beautiful, the wine was good but the food was too up and down and the portions left much to desired. When you leave a restaurant still hungry, it doesn’t really matter how beautiful the plates looked. In the end, perhaps they should have offered an extra plate to the proceedings to more properly match up to a full meal experience. Otherwise, I would have liked to have at least been told upfront to order extra – even if that defeats the whole MTL à Table experience. M. Mme is a beautiful wine bar – it just needs to fill us up a bit more to truly satisfy.

Cheers!

M. Mme
240 Laurier Ouest
514 274 6663

M. Mme. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Industria Brasserie Italienne

27 Dec

The Holidays are a time to enjoy and celebrate with family. They are also a time to catch up on my writing. The next few reviews are a few months old now…. sorry for the delays. First up, I got a chance to visit Industria Brasserie Italienne for a mini McGill Football alumni get-together for homecoming. The results of the weekend weren’t as we hoped on the field but I hoped at least I would get to enjoy a good meal at a place I’d had on my list for a while.

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Located right in the epicentre of the Griffintown boom at the corner of Peel and Wellington, Industria is a project started by the Houston restaurant chain and chef Sergio Mattoscio – formerly of Macaroni Bar. Since first opening in Griffintown, they have opened a couple of other franchises in Montreal and Ottawa. The concept, according to them, is a modern pizzeria with an emphasis on sharing plates. Walking in, the venue is very sprawling and is definitely going for an industrial loft style with its high ceilings, metallic chairs, wood topped tables and black leather-ish banquettes. The bar area has plenty of TVs and the dining area has a huge glassed-in wine cellar. Frankly the space didn’t work for me – felt way too big and lacked focus. The bar and dining areas feel very distinct and separate. One section to another felt like totally different restaurants. Coupled with the loud music, Industria felt more like a supper club than an Italian Pizzeria. I may be of the age demo who would like that ambience but personally it doesn’t do it for me.

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As I was drinking my Aperol Spritz, I was hopeful the food would spark my enthusiasm more than the ambience and the decor. The menu focuses on plates to share as well as some pizzas. As a group, we ordered a bunch of the starters to share. A mixed bag overall. The salad of mozzarella di bufala, tomatoes, cucumber, celery and fresh basil was solid with a freshness to the tomatoes and the mozzarella. The fried calamari with spicy mayo felt bland and came off as store bought honestly. They felt overly chewy and lacked seasoning. The meatballs with tomato sauce, ricotta, parmesan and basil were excellent – the meatballs were tender and juicy and the tomato sauce was wonderful. The pulled bacon lollipops with maple reduction had a nice crunch on the outside but the bacon inside was way too soft and mushy in texture. I know it’s pulled bacon but it still needed a bit of crunch to really enhance that fatty bacon flavour. The maple reduction brought a nice sweetness level but the texture of the bacon sunk it for most of the table.

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As chef Mattoscio is known for his gnocchi poutine, I couldn’t come to the restaurant without ordering it. Fried potato gnocchi covered in a light chicken sauce and served with cheese curds that I am pretty sure were mozzarella and not traditional curds, I was left very disappointed in this dish. Flavour-wise, it felt way too rich and yet without much kick to it. I loved the gnocchi themselves but the cheese didn’t bring that squeak you want from a poutine and the sauce really didn’t do it for me.

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Thankfully the pizza finished my meal on a more positive note. I went with the Carnivoro – italian sausage, salumi, bacon, tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. Wonderful crunch to the crust, a nice zesty tomato sauce, tons of mozzarella and meat toppings, the pizza is the only dish I ordered that I would come back for.

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In the end, Industria left me disappointed – the pizza was excellent but the rest of the menu was a mix of disappointed to okay. Add to it a look and ambience that I didn’t take to and I left with no real desire to return. Perhaps for a pizza and a drink on happy hour but not sure about a full meal. Industria certainly tried to be a looker but in my case, she just ain’t my type.

Cheers!

Industria Brasserie Italienne
100 Peel #112
514 931 4545

Industria - Brasserie Italienne Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Automne Boulangerie

5 Dec

Every neighbourhood needs a good bakery. Walking into a space with that lovely fresh baked goods smell just brings a smile to my face every time. Once you find a good bakery, you never go back to grocery store bread. Heck, I moved neighbourhood last year but still go to Mile End every week because I still love Hof Kelsten’s Rye above all else. I still enjoy trying new bakeries however especially when the buzz is strong. Most recently, there were rumblings about a new bakery opening up in Rosemont Petite-Patrie that had quite the reputation behind it. Automne Boulangerie opened up one month with a emphasis on producing baked goods with local agricultural producers. Started by Seth Gabrielse – former chef at SAT Foodlab and Laloux – and Julien Roy – former bakery at Pain dans les Voiles, Automne certainly has the right bloodlines to success at its stated goal. With my girlfriend taking a class in the area, we stopped by recently to see what they had to offer.

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The space is fairly basic but very bright and cherry. All-white walls with accent use of wood and copper. Behind the counter of tempting viennoiseries and other goods, you can see the baking area with the crew working on around the oven.

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A couple of viennoiseries to start. My girlfriend went with the Croissant d’Automne. Topped with almonds and powdered sugar and filled with almond paste, this croissant was rich, decadent and flaky. A little denser than your typical croissant by the use of the almond paste but oh so good….

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I went with the roulé d’Automne. The roll looks like a upside-down popover covered with caramel and some walnuts. Once you bit into it, the obvious comparison is a cinnamon roll. The texture and taste were very similar. The nice part was the lack of that stickiness which makes it easier to deal with as a take-home.

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This is a bakery after all so of course I wanted to try one of their breads. I decided to go with their Batard Moulin des Cedres – which as an aside, Moulin des Cedres belongs to the family of a high school classmate of mine. They do great work in biological agriculture and transformation in Les Cedres. Amazing products on top of their flour. Anyway, back to the bread at hand… The bread is wonderful. Simple but so good. Great crunch to the crust but yet soft and chewy inside. A little yeasty in flavour but not overwhelmingly so. Beautiful bread all-around.

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Wonderful pastries, great bread and an emphasis on local producers. Automne Boulangerie certainly has a great concept to work on. Given I visit that area regularly, Automne will certainly be a regular visit for me. Hopefully the neighbourhood gravitates to it as much as it deserves. Just follow the smell of freshly baked bread.

Cheers!

Automne Boulangerie
6500 Christophe-Colomb
514 274 8111

Automne Boulangerie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Arthurs Nosh Bar

4 Dec

Fall is always a crazy time schedule-wise for myself especially on weekends so when a rare free morning appeared, the only logical thing to do in my mind was to go brunch. A lot of good new brunch options have continued to pop up in and around Montreal but the one that has really grabbed my attention recently was the new one closest to me – Arthurs Nosh Bar. Situated on my favourite strip of Notre Dame Ouest in St-Henri, Arthurs is the brainchild of the owners of Back of House Catering, Raegan Steinberg and Alex Cohen. The couple’s Jewish restaurant is open for breakfast, brunch and lunch and has a great look and feel.

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Walking in, the space feels a touch traditional Jewish deli but with some more modern sleekness. I love the combination of the penny-tiled floor, the huge green back bar lined with jars and bottles as well as the letter board menus. There is even the candy jar on the counter! But then you add the marble countertops, the bistro chairs, the leather banquets and the black-and-white pictures on the walls… the experience feels more refined than a Jewish Deli. The awesome musical mix creates a more relaxed fun atmosphere as well – anytime you have my sister and I both smiling at the choices, you are doing it right.

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The menu for Brunch is a mix of Jewish dishes – more Eastern European traditions from what I understand – with some modern touches. We ended up sticking to the more traditional stuff. My sister went for the Latke Smorgasbord – Latke served with gravlax, scrambled eggs, sour cream, tomato, cucumber and caviar. A solid portion with every element working well. The latke was excellent with a nice crunch to it. The texture on the gravlax was beautiful and the eggs were nice and fluffy.

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I went for something I had never heard of before – Syrniki or cottage cheese pancakes. I normally don’t like cottage cheese on its own but its inclusion in the pancakes created a wonderfully fluffy and rich texture. Add a generous pour of maple syrup overtop and I was in pancake heaven. The pancakes were huge which made for a very filling plate. I still added a side of grilled salami to get a little kick with the sweetness overload. Grilling the salami gave it a little crunch which was a nice texture contrast to the pancakes.

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To finish the brunch, we decided to split a piece of Cinnamon Babka – essentially a Jewish play on a Cinnamon Roll. Nice cinnamon flavour, fluffy texture and a little sweet glaze over the top – nothing to complain about here.

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Arthur Nosh Bar certainly held up to my expectations… and given how the restaurant filled up within 20 minutes of it opening on the Sunday we visited, I guess plenty of others are satisfied as well. Outside of a Deli, we don’t get much exposure to Jewish cuisine so it is great to see something so different in the Montreal landscape. I would definitely be interested in a dinner menu if ever they decide to go that route. In the meantime, I will simply come back to enjoy more great Brunch and Lunch fare!

Cheers!

Arthurs Nosh Bar
4621 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 757 5190

Arthur's Nosh Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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