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

Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon – Harvest Season 2016

28 Oct

Another fall season is upon us….. which means Harvest season at the Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon is back. One of the few things outside of football that keeps me from getting depressed at the fact that summer is over. Martin Picard and company continue to do amazing things at their wonderful Sugar Shack. For the past 4 years, I have tried to make it to each sugar and harvest season. I’ve now missed the past two sugar seasons so with this one, I’m now 6 for 8. Decent average if I do say so myself!

For the uninitiated, the sugar shack is a set menu for the season – alcohol and tip excluded. This season being harvest season, the focus is on ingredients from the garden here as well as from the local producers around the area. If you are not an adventurist eater, this meal is certainly not for you. Thankfully, I am and I can always find a group of 11 others to join me in the adventure.

Every year, the Cabane has an amazing selection of cocktails to enjoy. This year, the emphasis was once again on their Gin. I had a great rhubarb gin to start off the night and was ready to enjoy what was to come.

The meal certainly started off strong. First up was their play on elotes (or Mexican street corn): corn coated with popcorn, gouda and garlic butter served on a candelabra. Loved the tang and the creaminess of the sauce. The fresh corn was delicious and the addition of the popcorn was a cool texture switch.

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Next was the Cabane’s caesar salad with lardon and fried capelins. A salad kicked up a few notches to say the least. A super rich and creamy caesar dressing, tons of cheese, tons of big bites of fatty lardon and crispy croutons to top it all off. Only at the Cabane could a salad come off this rich!

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We were then presented with a hare and foie gras pâté with pistachios in a terrine of black pudding. A cool presentation creating the appearance of a plant growing. The pâté was excellent – equally parts fatty and rich. The blood pudding was great as well. Once cut up, it wasn’t the most appetizing dish to look at but who cares when it tastes so good.

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The foie gras experience continued with foie gras poached in honey, served on brioche coated with goat cheese and topped with a cherry sauce. Excellent use of sweetness to soften the rich foie gras. The cherry sauce was so good – we finished off the jar despite being out of foie gras pretty fast. The brioche and the cheese was the perfect vehicle to enjoy the foie gras.

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And now for something completely different: sushi! A combination of salmon tartare maki and salmon foie gras nigiri. I know the notion of foie gras and sushi sounds weird but it worked so well. The tartare was excellent as well.

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More fish followed up the sushi. Miso salmon was put on the table – a whole fish smoked in their smoker and glazed with a mix of miso, soy sauce and brown sugar. The fish was smoky, sweet and so tender. We could simply pull the meat off the fish with a folk. Our table picked that carcass pretty clean… the fish was that good!

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And after all that, we still had the meat to come. First was the lamb shank confit. Served with some cherry tomatoes and parsley, this lamb was oh so good. Fall off the bone tender and that lovely gamey rich flavour one looks for with lamb.

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Next, we had locally raised chickens stuffed with mushrooms in a pesto sauce with gnocchi. The chicken were wonderfully moist and tender. Great earthy flavours from all the mushrooms. The gnocchi were very small in size but very enjoyable as well.

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The final main was a salmon Mille Feuille. Very cool from an execution point of view. Composed of poached salmon, béchamel, creamy mashed potatoes and a spinach sauce with lemon confit. Personally my least flavour dish – it felt very dense which given everything else we just had made it hard to enjoy as much.

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We needed to find room though because desserts were still to come. First up were apple doughnuts which were actually a little game for the table. One doughnut was supposed to a rhubarb one which would come with a Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon cookbook for the winner. However, we didn’t have one so our waiter just got us to pick numbers instead. It worked out either way.

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Then, came the best carrot cake I have ever had period – so moist and sweet and flavourful. Thankfully, the cake was served on a sheet with the recipe on it. The recipe has been noted and will be attempted soon – turns out they used beets as well as carrots. Looking forward to seeing how it turns out at home.

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Next was possibly one of the most beautiful apple pies I have ever seen. Topped with thinly sliced apples and filled with almond paste, this pie was very dense and rich. Definitely needed some ice cream which is why we were also provided three types of housemate ice cream – cherry, mint and chocolate. All were very flavourful and smooth.

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Another trip to the Cabane and another insane meal. General consensus at the table was that this was one of the best meal at the Cabane we had had. Not a single dish disappointed the entire table and the meal, while very filling as always, felt more reasonable and fresher than in years’ past. Either way, we had another great time and once again I have been tasked with getting another reservation for the next season. I can’t miss out on Sugar season 3 years in a row!

Cheers!

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

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

Cafe Parvis

25 Oct

Working in the suburbs and the general nature of my actual profession limits my opportunities for a nice weekday lunch downtown. So many great options to enjoy if you have the chance. Last month, I had a random Friday off to enjoy downtown. Perfect chance to go out to lunch with my mother who works in town and have a nice lunch. Given the location of her work, I figured that Cafe Parvis would be worthwhile to try.

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Located on Mayor street, just a quick walk over from Place des Spectacles, Cafe Parvis is from the same people who run Bar Furco just next door. Similar to its sister, Cafe Parvis certainly has a look to it. An interesting mixture of exposed concrete, brick and wood creates a very lived-in feel. The use of vines and plants all over the interior plus the huge windows create a warmth and relaxed atmosphere. Too bad it was a little too cool to enjoy the terrasse in the front.

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Foodwise, Cafe Parvis is all about pizza and salads. My mother went for one of the salad. Beets, pears, arugula, noix de grenoble, goat cheese and a tarragon dressing. A very hearty portion – tons of ingredients and very flavourful. Nice mixture with the beets, the sweet pears, the rich goat cheese and that awesome tarragon dressing. My mother had just the salad and was quite full.

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The pizzas are served by the slice. Similar approach as the salad – tons of ingredients and high on flavour. The key thing though is that crust. If that doesn’t hold up, it doesn’t matter. Thankfully, the crust here was on point. Closer to the “Al Taglio” style, the crust was thick with a nice crunch but still chewy. First up, I had the lamb, feta and tzatziki pizza. Great flavour to the lamb and with a big dollop of tzatziki right on top. Excellent.

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Next was ricotta with spinach and roasted peppers. Great mixture of creamy rich ricotta and sweet peppers. Served almost as a sandwich means you get double the crunch compared to the other slices.

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The final pizza I tried was the duck confit with potatoes, cheddar, garlic oil and rosemary. Very flavourful once again. Loved the fatty duck and how it mixed with the potato and the cheese. However, with the amount of potato on the pizza, it made the pizza much dryer since there is no sauce to speak of. I would have needed more cheese to offset.

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Thankfully we got there just before noon because there was a lineup by the time we left. I understand why – excellent pizza, flavourful salads and a beautiful space to sit in as people seek a break from their workdays. Cafe Parvis certainly lived up to my hopes and made a beautiful Friday off that much more enjoyable. Anyone working nearby should certainly give it a look.

Cheers!

Cafe Parvis
433 Mayor
514 764 3589

Cafe Parvis Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le Fantome

23 Oct

Tasting menus can be scary to some people. Will I like all the dishes served to me? Why can’t I just order what I want? Or more importantly, do I trust the chef enough to fully guide my restaurant experience? Fundamentally that is the question when confronted with a tasting menu. Personally, I think the tasting menu is a great way to evaluate a restaurant as it should technically be what the chef wishes to serve you. If you don’t like the tasting menu then I suspect the restaurant will not be for you. In Montreal, a few recent restaurants have decided to go only tasting menu – a bold choice but one that certainly can be interesting. One of these is Le Fantome. A relatively new restaurant located in Griffintown, Le Fantome has received plenty of rave reviews since their opening and actually switched to an only-tasting menu option sometime after their opening. Given their close proximity to my place, it was a perfect date night spot for my girlfriend and I a few weeks ago.

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Hidden on William street, Le Fantome is very unassuming from the outside. In fact, you’re likely to miss it when you drive by. The narrow room is sparsely lit decorated only with abstract paintings from chef Jason Morris’s great- grandfather. Not my style artistically but it goes create a nice intimate setting. Noise level was relatively high when we arrived but decreased nicely as the night went on. As our table was not ready, manager Kabir Kapoor provided us with a couple of glasses of white wine for our troubles. That level of quality service continued throughout the night. Very attentive and friendly.

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Once we were sitting, we were provided a menu with both a small or large tasting menu to choose from. The menu simply listed the primary ingredient of each dish. The rest was explained by our wait staff as we received each dish. I went for the larger tasting menu which was comprised of 7 plates and 2 desserts.

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First was a simple amuse bouche of blackberries with foie de volaille. A nice combination of sweet and richness.

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Our second course was a beet salad with creme fraiche, almonds, pistachios and graham crackers. This course let us know that we would be in good hands on this night. The beets were fresh and sliced thinly. The richness of the creme fraiche paired so well with the beets. The nuts brought a little crunch and the addition of the graham crackers added a extra hint of sweetness. A wonderfully balanced dish.

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Third course was a raisin and blueberry salad with black liquorice. Pretty simple overall. I was surprised at how the black liquorice came through but there wasn’t much to get excited about here otherwise.

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The fourth dish was a beef tartar with red peppers, olive oil and elephant garlic shavings. Served in strips, the beef was nice and tender. The dish has good kick to it – reminded me as a stir-fry from a flavour profile. I honestly didn’t pick up the garlic very much. The sweetness of the red pepper was more noticeable.

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The next course was a little more unique – Popcorn risotto. A very creamy risotto with actual popcorn mixed in. A cool textural play and the popcorn brought a nice buttery flavour to the dish. I honestly found the risotto itself lacking any punch without the popcorn flavour-wise though.

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The next dish was salmon lightly poached with kombucha spices, crispy skin, basil and lemon puree. Pardon the bad photographer for the shoddy picture – doesn’t do its presentation service. My girlfriend didn’t enjoy the almost raw texture but I found it interesting. The basil and the puree were the big flavour providers though. The spices didn’t do much for me.

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The seventh dish was a standout for me: Chicken breast and thigh with salsa verde and chicken jus. Loved the chicken two ways – the deep fried thigh had a great crunch to it. The salsa verde was fresh and flavourful. The chicken jus was rich and smooth. Great showcase of execution and technique.

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Now…. Le Fantome offers another dish which you can add to your tasting for a great fee. It is the dish that they are know for early in their existence: a PBJ and foie gras sandwich on toasted brioche. Of course I needed to try it! Just amazing – if you don’t like foie gras, it won’t work for you. For the rest of us though, such a great combination – the buttery brioche, the rich sliver of foie gras, the sweet jam and the smooth peanut butter. I simply wish I could have had more!

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Dessert-wise, we got to try 4 different ones as the shorter tasting (which my girlfriend took) had 2 different desserts than mine. First was a raspberry sorbet sandwich. Loved the strong berry taste and the smooth sorbet texture.

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Second was pear with whipped mascarpone. Our favorite dessert of the night. So simple and yet so effective. Whipping the mascarpone lighten the texture and that richness was perfect with the sweet pear.

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Third was Corn Creme Caramel. Loved the texture of the creme caramel and how the use of corn subtly changed the flavour. However, the burnt caramel sauce didn’t work for either of us. It felt too burnt and left a taste that lacked the sweetness we wanted.

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The final dessert was a pair of Jade Orange candies. A bit-sized hit of nice orange flavour. No complaints here.

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Le Fantôme’s tasting menu spoke of a refined and well-executed cuisine focused on the market that is able to have some fun at the same time. I very much enjoyed the experience of following chef Morris’ inspirations and seeing where he and his staff would take us. A excellent date night all-around and that was all that mattered. Thanks to chef Morris and Kabir. Pleasure having you in the neighbourhood.

Cheers!

Le Fantome
1832 William
514 846 1832

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

Bacaro Urban Pizzeria

30 Aug

We have been spoiled in Montreal recently with all the great pizzerias that have opened up. The flip side of having such great pizza readily available is that pizzerias must work that much harder to keep our interests. Average pizza just won’t cut it anymore. Last week, I found myself in Westmount at Bacaro Urban Pizzeria – for the record, we need to kill the adding of “Urban” to things that don’t need it but I digress – ready to enjoy a pizza and see how they stacked up to my favorites.

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It was dead on the weeknight we were there – only one other table was occupied – so the ambience was non-existant. The room is nice though – very clean and modern with touches of a more classic Italian pizzeria. I liked the use of old Italian sports newspaper as wallpaper and the painted murals of some of their suppliers. There is also a bar at the entrance with a entire shelf of large Nutella jars – once I saw their dessert list, I understood why!

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We kept it short and sweet on this evening so I got to try a couple of pizzas. My selection was the Polpetta – meatballs, ricotta and basil. The pizza had a good size – very filling for one person. The amount of toppings was plentiful although I would have loved more basil personally. I loved the combination of the meatballs with the creamy ricotta. My issue was with the crust however. While the picture does show a nice char on the top, the underside was too soft – there was no crunch and the pizza could not be lifting at all without it collapsing on itself. The pizza was very flavourful but with a thin crust pizza, you need a solid crust and that was lacking.

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It was a similar story with my girlfriend’s pizza, the Quasi Norma – eggplants, zucchinis, red peppers and ricotta. Tons of fresh veggies, the right amount of cheese and sauce but the underside was just too limp and soft.

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We did have time for dessert though – especially when we saw how much Nutella was involved. We decided to share the Nutella cream cake – sliced panettone layered with nutella cream served with nutella sauce. If you love Nutella then this is your cake. Good lord was this rich and decadent. I expected the panettone to be harder in texture but frankly it was better this way. A great way to cap off the evening.

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Bacaro had high standards to meet for me and didn’t quite get there. The flavours were there all around and the service was nice and friendly but if the crust is lacking, then the pizza just can’t hold up for me. If the crunch appears, we have a winner but until then, Bacaro can’t quite reach my upper echelon of pizzerias.

Cheers!

Bacaro Urban Pizzeria
4259 Ste-Catherine O
514 932 9991

Bacaro Urban Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

El Gordo

27 Aug

Where once we had very limited taqueria options in Montreal, now every neighbourhood seems to have one. No complaints on my end although it is hard to give them all a try. For the occasion of a friend’s birthday and just a good Friday Happy Hour, I found myself recently at a taco bar that opened up in Little Burgundy just a short walk from my place, El Gordo Taco Bar.

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Started by the same group that owns the neighbouring Geppetto pizzeria, El Gordo is a smallish bar specializing in tacos and other Mexican fare. With the summer weather, they have a nice terrasse out-front off Notre-Dame that increases seating. The space has a nice look to it – Day of the Dead motif and lots of natural lighting through the big windowed facade. Once crowded, the space is pretty loud but the ambience is solid.

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Any good bar needs some cocktails and El Gordo satisfied that nicely. Their classic Margherita with agave nectar, fresh lime juice and tequila is nicely balanced. The sweetness of the agave and the fresh lime helped to soften the tequila hit. The Pineapple express with bulleit bourbon, fresh pineapple juice, cilantro and lime was similarly balanced. All the cocktails are available by the pitcher which is a great for a group as we were!

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A couple of starters before the tacos. First was the chips and guacamole. The guac was pretty smooth in texture and had lots of lime juice. A little bit of queso fresco on top added a little twist. The plantain empanadas were served with a spicy paste that my girlfriend enjoyed a fair bit. The empanadas had nice crunch to them but they were not that exciting flavour-wise.

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El Gordo has 9 standard taco flavours and a special of the day. The standard dish has 3 tacos each and they are pretty small size-wise. For me personally, 3 wasn’t enough to satisfy my hunger although the server said as much to me ahead of time. Just be aware of that when you order. My girlfriend ended up regretting not ordered more as she was still hungry later on. The good news is that each taco only comes up to 3-4$ a piece so the price is fair. I tried 3 varieties on this visit. First were the chorizo tacos – served with pickled onions, habareno jam, queso fresco and salsa verde. All the tacos are served on soft tortillas which is my preference. Nothing of that hard shell B.S. The chorizo was nice and tender and the rest of the topping provided a slightly sweet and spicy edge.

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The second variety was spicy braised beef brisket with creamy apple and cabbage slaw and pico de gallo. Another hit to us. The smoky brisket was excellent and I really enjoyed the slaw and the hint of sweetness that came from the use of apples. The pico de gallo added some extra freshness.

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The final variety was the special of the day and my personal favourite of the night – fried chicken with guacamole, chipotle mayo and creamy coleslaw. I really enjoy the extra crunch provided by the fried chicken. The addition of the guacamole made these tacos feel a little more hearty and the mayo really had a kick to it.

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The only real negative of the evening was the service. Over the course of the evening, we had two different errors on our order – once our entrees “disappeared from the computer” and in the process of re-ordering, our waitress forgot the nachos we had asked for originally. Second time, my friend’s order of ceviche was mistook for “vege” tacos. Now, we didn’t make an issue of the nachos as by the time we figured out she had forgot them, we were ready to move out anyway. However, two errors like that are not really acceptable regardless of how nice the servers were in acknowledging the mistakes.

Good tacos, excellent drinks and a nice decor – El Gordo definitely has a place as a solid happy hour and dinner location. The lack of good happy hour spots around the Market plus the fact that they open at 3pm weekdays and don’t take reservations means that El Gordo can certainly fill a nice niche. A few service tweaks and I would be satisfied. I’m just happy I have excellent tacos to enjoy so close by.

Cheers!

El Gordo TacoBar
2518 Notre Dame Ouest
438 387 6969

El Gordo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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