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

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

Boulangerie Guillaume

17 Aug

When Hof Kelsten is closed for vacation, I need to find my bread fix somehow. For this summer, I decided to use the opportunity to try the other popular bakery close by to see how it stacks up, so I found myself at Boulangerie Guillaume a little further down the Main to try some different bread and goodies for a couple of weeks. The popular bakery, originally located on Fairmount, moved to a bigger location on St-Laurent and recently also took over the space next door where La Cucina used to be.

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The bakery is very modern and sleek in look with a huge display wall and a small seating area upstairs. They have also turned the old Cucina terrasse next door into a public outdoor space to sit and relax in. As with every bakery, the wonderful smell of fresh baked goods provides a wonderful fragrance as you wait to make your selections.

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Boulangerie Guillaume is very much a French bakery in nature and has a variety of breads and pastries available each day. Over the course of two weeks, I tried a few of their goods to get a sense of what they offer. First up, the first bread I tried – their demi-miche or country bread. A great crust on the outside. The interior was fluffy and nicely chewy. The rise was such that the air pockets were not too big. The bread had some heft to it with a slightly salty taste. Excellent bread.

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On my first visit, I also grabbed a few pastries. First was the white chocolate and vanilla champignon. Compared to the bread, this was more dense and rich while keeping the fluffy texture. The notes of vanilla and white chocolate were subtle but present.

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Second was a lemon and poppy mini-cake. Again a nice crust and a dense but fluffy interior. The lemon flavour came via pieces of confit lemon zest. As such, the flavour was nice when you bit into a piece of the zest but otherwise the cake felt bland.

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The following week, I tried a few different things. First a heavenly swiss cheese croissant roulé. The croissant itself was wonderfully flaky and buttery – everything that is good and bad (diet-wise anyway..) about croissants. The addition of the swiss cheese added a little sharpness.

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The apple turnover was also another hit. More flaky goodness from the turnover itself. The apple filling was smooth and sweet. I would have loved a little more inside given the size of the pastry personally.

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I also went for a different bread for round 2. I decided to try their sourdough bâtard, or torpedo loaf. Very similar texture wise to the country bread which would makes being also a sourdough. The torpedo loaf struck me as more sour in flavour though. Excellent bread once again.

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Guillaume certainly knows his bread. Both loafs were excellent and worthy of all the praise I had heard previously. The pastry were a little more hit and meh but you can see the quality there. Given the variety available, I would hesitate to try some others in the future. I am very envious of my old Plateau neighbourhood for having such amazing bakeries to enjoy. Just gives me more reasons to keep re-visiting!

Cheers!

Boulangerie Guillaume
5134 St-Laurent
514 507 3199

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

Le Diplomate

16 Aug

One of my favorite restaurant experiences – and one I don’t get to enjoy that often – is to sit and watch the chefs work. Be it at a chef’s table or at the bar in front of an open kitchen, there is something very revealing and thrilling about watching how your meal gets made and also how the team at the restaurant deals with the natural dinner rush. Last week, I got to sit at the bar at Le Diplomate and watch Chef Aaron Langille work his magic at his relatively new restaurant in Mile-Ex. Chef Langille would be known to some for his time at Cafe Sardine (prior to its demise) as well as Orange Rouge, Club Chasse et Peche and Le Filet. I had heard some good things about his new venture and wanted to check it out.

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Very much in keeping with the neighbourhood itself, Le Diplomate is somewhat hidden from view – I actually drove by it on the way over – and pretty unassuming visually. The space is small – about 20 seats – and the majority of those seats are at the bar facing an open kitchen. The room is pretty barren deco-wise – the selection of 80s music playing overhead is the only loud thing in the room but that worked for me. The focus is truly on the bar and watching the team work. Chef Langille and his team of 2 work the entire space. When the chef serves your dishes and also does the dishwashing afterwards, you know you are in an intimate environment.

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Le Diplomate’s menu is somewhat hard to pin down. I suppose the best way to describe it would be market cuisine with emphasis on northern ingredients but even that feels reductive as Chef Langille and his team do plenty outside of that designation. Regardless, the menu changes regularly so every time can be a surprise. The menu is relatively small and the plates are similar. These are dishes to share – which was perfect as my girlfriend and our friend Annie were willing partners to trying pretty much the entire menu!

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First up was the house-made Sourdough with a warm red pepper broth and sunflower seed oil for dipping. I am a sucker for a good sourdough and this one was excellent – using a 150 year old mother from England according to Chef Langille. The red pepper broth brought a nice optional sweetness to the sour bread and the oil, as always, was a good pairing to the bread.

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Next, Annie and I each had an partially cooked oyster with scotch butter served over top. I’m still trying to get my girlfriend into oysters…. it’s a slowly acquired taste apparently. The partial cooking of the oyster changed the texture somewhat but it was still enjoyable. The unique element here was the scotch butter. You could really pick up the inherent smokiness of the scotch with the richness of the butter. A cool little amuse-bouche.

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The poached calamari was a big hit for us. Served with kale juice, kale, black currents and beans, the calamari had great flavour and texture. The currents originally felt like a weird addition but the additional sweetness worked. The beans provided a little more nutritional weight to the dish.

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The tomato dish served with kasuzuke daikon and kohlrabi was not my thing…. I know that hating raw tomatoes is weird but I stand by my weirdness. Our friend Annie really took to the dish loving how the seasonal freshness of tomatoes came through and how the sweet dressing mixed so well with the roughly chopped tomatoes and the daikon. A good example of how a few fresh ingredients selected well can go a long way.

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The Tofu with porcini, green onions and salmon roe was another dish I didn’t try but our friend Annie was once again there to provide some input. She found the mixture of the silky tofu, the earthy mushrooms and the tart cherry tomatoes a little off at first but felt that the yeasty broth at the bottom really helped to balance things out and made it very enjoyable. She loved the strong flavours the dish conveyed.

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For something more my style now, the clams with chorizo and purslane were an interesting dish. The clams were cooked well but the broth itself seemed to lack punch. The chorizo provided the necessary kick and contrast to the clams. I had never had purslane before but the fresh green worked nicely as the side dish component here. Very cool to try something a little different.

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Our fish of the evening was walleye served with fennel, peach puree and meyer lemon. The fish was lovely, so light and flaky. The sweetness of the peach, the acidic but sweet lemon and the liquorice-like fennel were all nice additions to the fish although the fennel was somewhat overpowering to the other elements.

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My personal favorite was the lamb with broccoli, yogourt croutons, yogourt sauce and papalo, a mexican herb that Chef Langille compared to cilantro. The combination of the yogourt and lamb worked so well. The use of brocoli and papalo weirdly gave off a beef and broccoli taste to the dish also. I loved the creative use of yogourt to create the croutons as well.

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The desserts were more on the savoury side than sweet. First was a corn parfait with coconut, Maraschino cherries and a jalapeño granité. An interesting fluffy texture with strong notes of the coconut within the corn. The cherries provide the sweetness and the granite was surprisingly spicy. I love more sweet desserts personally but I enjoyed this one a fair bit.

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The other dessert of the night was a sharp cheddar cake with carrot caramel, carrot puree and rye crumble. I loved how the sharp cheddar came through and how the texture of a classic cheesecake was maintained. The carrot caramel was nice and sweet. I personally didn’t care for the very strong carrot puree on its own – the flavour was much too overpowering but when combined with the rye crumbs and the sweeter elements on the dish, it worked pretty well.

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Le Diplomate feels like a hidden gem – a place that most people have never heard about but those in the know know what’s up. The cuisine is precise but still feels very personal as you’re so close to the process that happens in front of you. Chef Langille and his team are clearly expressing what they want in their cuisine and you feel it all night long. Mile-Ex may be a little off the beaten path food-wise but there are definitely some worthwhile experiences to enjoy if you’re willing to put up a seat at the bar.

Cheers!

Le Diplomate
129 Beaubien Ouest
514 303 9727

Restaurant Le Diplomate Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le Bon Vivant

9 Aug

I have previously lauded the Brunch service of Le Bon Vivant – see here – but up until this past week, I had not gone back to give their dinner service a chance. Given my awesome experiences for brunch, my expectations were high but given how the strong the restaurant seems to be going, I suspected I would not be disappointed.

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The overall look and vibe of Le Bon Vivant hasn’t changed since I reviewed it almost a year and that’s fine because I still love it. The industrial yet cozy look works just as well in the evening. Not too noisy overall so conversation could be had. With the front and back windows open, we had a nice cool summer breeze coming through the room. It just felt like the perfect relaxed summer night at the restaurant.

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The dinner menu is a very eclectic mix – I suppose I would best describe as refined comfort food but even that feels not quite correct. Outside of the seasonal menu, Le Bon Vivant has a huge daily special list so our options were plentiful.

First up was one of the specials – a watermelon gaspacho soup. I don’t enjoy watermelon – yes I know but let’s just move on, okay? – so I didn’t try it, however the two bowls disappeared rather quickly. It was a hit.

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My choice of entree was fried cauliflower with brussel sprouts, halloumi, zaatar yogourt and herbs. One of their regular dishes and I can understand why. Beautiful presentation on the plate and the dish tasted great. I was surprised at just how crispy the cauliflower was – but the flavour was still there. I loved how the earthiness of the sprouts paired with the cauliflower as well as the creaminess of the yogourt and the richness of the halloumi. The crunch on the outside of the halloumi was also a nice touch I enjoyed.

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The first main was a special of the night – a sopa seca with shrimp, chorizo and mussels. Another dish I didn’t get to try but I mention it as just an example of the creative dishes they produce as specials regularly. Something I had never heard of before but it appeared to be another hit with my dinnermates.

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Our second main course was another special – gnudi with chanterelle mushrooms and blood sausage. An interesting combination that worked pretty well. Loved the blood sausage and the freshness of the chanterelles. The gnudi had good flavour but they felt a little overcooked texture-wise to me. They didn’t have the pillowy texture you expect when you bit into them – a little more chew was required.

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The final main was marinated and grilled octopus with black beans, confit potato salad, green beans, charred scallions and chimichurri. Loved the grilled octopus and the chimichurri. For me personally, the dish was spicier than expected as the salad underneath included lots of jalapeño. While the general flavours were nice, by the end I only felt the heat and the rest of the flavours were gone. My girlfriend did not have the same quarrels. Clearly my pallet is weak I guess…

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For dessert, my girlfriend and I decided to share the strawberry pie although I feel that calling it a pie isn’t quite correct. I would describe it more as a strawberry gelee on a shortbread crust. The strawberry flavour was nice but the texture was much more akin to a gelee than a pie filling. The crust was also a little soft – as if the gelee on top of it had bled into the crust and softened it. As such, the texture wasn’t that shortbread you expect.

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A few minor quibbles aside, Le Bon Vivant continues to impress me as a awesome neighbourhood restaurant. The vibe is nice, the service was excellent and on top and any restaurant that serves Beau’s for beer has my vote. I am spoiled to have such a nice joint near my place – now I just need to avoid the desire to go on a weekly basis!

Cheers!

Le Bon Vivant
2705 Notre Dame Ouest
514 316 4585

Le Bon Vivant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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