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Les Street Monkeys

6 Jul

We have reached July which means we have reached time to celebrate my birthday. As I have gotten older, I have gone away from a party to celebrate. I prefer just a nice dinner with friends either home or at the restaurant. The challenge, as always, is to find somewhere that works for a group – where we can easily share and where the cost to my friends is reasonable. I hate forcing my friends to splurge at my expense. Well, for this year, I decided to stay close to home in Verdun to try our hand at some Cambodian cuisine at Les Street Monkeys.

The menu is described as Cambodian-style street food. The portions are small and designed to share. The menu is mostly Cambodian but they do venture in cuisine from other south-east Asian countries. As a party of 5, we decided to grab a bunch of stuff to try. First up, we ordered their pork and taro fried imperial rolls. Solid rolls – a nice crunch on the outside. Inside, the filling was plentiful and very flavourful.

Next, we had the shrimp ceviche marinated in a lime, fish sauce and wasabi dressing. The waiter warned us the dish was quite strong in wasabi and wow was it ever! It hits you right in the nose once you take your first bite. If you can handle the heat, the dish is excellent. The shrimp is very tender and the addition of the radishes and the scallions provided some lightness and crunch.

We couldn’t say no to a traditional papaya salad but sadly it wasn’t a big hit. Texture was nice and had tons of sweetness and acidity but it lacked some punch in terms of the heat. Most of us agreed that Satay Brothers’ version is better.

Our next dish faired better. The Khmer style fried chicken drums – fried chicken with a shrimp paste, kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass and garlic sauce – were excellent. Great crunch but the chicken remained moist and tender inside. The sauce stuck nicely on the drumsticks and provided a nice garlicky punch.

The positives continued with the eggplant salad – grilled eggplant tossed with a dressing made of lime, fish sauce, rice powder, dried chili, mint, Thai basil and cilantro. The eggplant was nice and soft and the dressing was super flavourful – packing a punch both umami and sweet. Everyone really enjoyed this one.

The Mee Siam – fried rice vermicelli with a soya and crab paste sauce mixed with red peppers, chives, onions and bean sprouts – was solid and a nice compliment side dish to the rest. The fried rice had a nice little crunch to it that you want.

I am a big fan of bone marrow so when I saw the Phnom Penh bone marrow dish, I had to order it. Bone marrow with butter, hoisin sauce, kampot pepper, fried garlic, marinated onion and coriander leaves served with bone broth and vanilla Chinese fried bread. Nice flavour again to the dish – a good balance of sweetness and heat. The vanilla bread was surprising as well for now well it fit with the bone marrow. The only negative was the lack of much marrow on the bones – would have loved to see more there portion wise.

The biggest hit of the night was the Amok fish – lightly breaded cod with a red curry sauce with coconut milk, red peppers and fried taro strings. The fish was super flaky and tender and that sauce was excellent. Tons of flavour to pair with the fish. The dish lasted all of a few minutes on the table.

Our final plate was the stuffed chicken wings – boneless wings stuffed with thai sausage and brushed with turmeric, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass sauce. The sausage stuffing had some heat and stayed tender within the chicken wing. The lemongrass sauce brought some acidity which paired well here. Excellent dish.

Les Street Monkeys was the perfect spot for a group dinner. Everything was easy to share, very flavourful across the board and very reasonably priced. Food-wise, it cost us about 35$ each to cover everything we ate. That is a great deal for the quality of food we got. Cambodian-style cuisine is not something that is present readily in Montreal but I am happy we got to try it and that it is so close to my place if a craving ever hits!

Cheers!

Les Street Monkeys
3625 Rue Wellington
514 768 1818

Les Street Monkeys Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Épicerie Pumpui

15 May

One wouldn’t exactly expect to head up to Little Italy for some good Thai food but that is exactly where I found myself over the last few weekends – being drawn to St-Zotique street by the call of curry and chicken wings. Épicerie Pumpui is a ‘lan khao gangs’ – a combination curry shop and grocery store that is common in Thailand but mostly nonexistent in North America and certainly here in Montreal. Chef Jesse Mulder – who had run Thai delivery service Chak Wow prior to opening this brick and mortar spot – and his partners opened up Pumpui a little less than 2 years ago.

The space is very casual in style – with about 12 seats in-house and ordering at the counter. The small grocery section sells a variety of Thai ingredients and items. The menu is relatively small – 5 ready to serve options and then another 5 or 6 a la carte items. The menu consists mostly of curries and more obscure dishes for a North American audience as well as a few other ‘classic’ dishes like Pad Thai and green curry.

First off, I went with the fried chicken wings with sweet chili sauce. Pumpui has developed a reputation for these and yeah I can see why. These were amazing – super crunchy skin, very tender inside and a nice sweet heat coating them. I just needed more!

After the wings, I decided to try the Curry Hunglay – a Burmese pork belly, shallot and ginger curry. Had never heard of this dish until I saw it on the menu and enjoyed it tremendously. Very generous portion overall. The curry was mildly spiced which suited my relatively weak spice palette. A nice combination of richness, sweetness and spice. The pork belly was super tender as were the shallots which was a different way for me to enjoy them. An excellent discovery for me.

On my second visit, I started with a Hibiscus mint iced tea which was very bright and refreshing.

I then decided on the Asii Pian – a dry curry of chicken, thai eggplant, tomatoes, lemongrass and galangal from the Shan region. I had never heard of galangal which is more citrus and piney version of ginger. Very different flavour which came through strongly with the sharp lemongrass notes. Again, like the previous curry, tons of flavour and a very hardy portion. Another hit for me.

Given how the majority of true Thai restaurant in the city are more formal affairs, it is great to have such a great Thai counter service to get great flavourful and more unique curry for a quick lunch, takeout or dinner. I know it seems weird to head to Little Italy for Thai cuisine but believe me, it is well worth it.

Cheers!

Épicerie Pumpui
83 Rue Saint-Zotique E
514 379 3024

Épicerie Pumpui Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

TRAN Cantine Vietnamienne

8 May

The joys of the Montreal food scene is when you get a ‘weird’ craving, you can actually easily find a spot to satisfy said craving. We are blessed with so many options and variety in our fair city. A couple of weeks ago, I got a craving for pho. Maybe it was the colder than usual weather. Maybe it was just because it had been too long since my last bowl. Either way, I wanted some pho. Luckily for me, there is actually a pho place close to my house which I hadn’t tried yet so what a perfect time to head over to St-Henri and check out TRAN Cantine Vietnamienne.

Cantine TRAN is located on the corner of Notre Dame and De Courcelle – just on the edge of the ridiculous food strip that is Notre Dame street in St-Henri. The place is simple in decor – other than the huge fish tank by the washrooms. The space is very bright through the lighting both artificial and natural from the large windows in front. Seating is for about 15-20 people. There is also delivery service through UberEats or takeout if you wish which it what I went for.

The menu is a variety of classic Vietnamese dishes. First up, a couple of different roll options. Their spring roll of chicken, shrimp, vermicelli, mint and cilantro served with peanut sauce was very bright and fresh. A classic starter roll. The peanut sauce had a nice sweet flavour which paired well with the roll. The imperial rolls – pork, mushroom, onion, carrot and vermicelli deep-fried – were okay. Good crunch but they didn’t really pop flavour wise.

Being a Vietnamese shop, of course they also have Banh Mi sandwiches on the menu so I needed to try one as well. Served in a fresh baguette with pickled carrots and daikon radishes, cucumber, scallions, soy sauce, cilantro and housemate mayo, TRAN offers a choice of chicken, pork, beef or soybean curd in their sandwiches. I went with grilled chicken on this occasion and it was amazing. Probably the best Banh Mi I have had in town – excellent bread with a perfect combination of acidity, sweetness and freshness. Very very good.

And finally we have the pho – the actual source of my craving. TRAN offers the option of either beef flanc, rare beef, chicken or soybean curd. It is a chicken based broth served with fresh rice noodles, onion, cilantro, scallions and fresh chilis, basil and bean sprouts on the side. This was exactly what I was looking for. Super flavourful and clean broth, nice tender noodles and an excellent portion. It is amazing that I can get such good pho so close to home.

TRAN is an excellent spot for great Vietnamese food. Whether for a sandwich or some pho, I think you will be very happy with your experience. St-Henri continues to be a great food haven for the Sud-Ouest part of Montreal and I, for one, am very happy for that. Now on to the next craving 😉

Cheers!

TRAN Cantine Vietnamienne
4690 Rue Notre-Dame O
514 379 4690

TRAN Cantine Vietnamienne Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kinka Izakaya

14 Nov

When I was asked to find a restaurant for my friend’s bachelor party, I knew exactly the kind of restaurant I wanted to go to: an Izakaya. It has the perfect combination for a fun night with a large group of people: fun ambience; solid food that is easily shareable; good drink options to enjoy with the food and at a good price to boot. For this particular occasion, I decided to bring my friends to a place that I hadn’t visited before in Montreal: Kinka Izakaya. The groom-to-be and myself had been to one of their Toronto restaurants and had a great time (from what I remember anyway….) so I thought it would be appropriate to bring him to the Montreal equivalent to see if the same good time would be had.

Located in Faubourg St-Catherine, Kinka Izakaya is a relatively compact space with much emphasis on wood and stone. The kitchen is open to the room. There is a lot of noise as one would expect on a busy Saturday night. Service was quick and efficient. Much props to their rainbow sake bomb celebration which involves lots of yelling, singing and a big blackboard – a perfect thing for a bachelor’s party 😉

Foodwise, it is the usual mix for an Izakaya – noodles, soups, fried food and some sashimi options. I always go for the classic edamame bowl – nothing out of the ordinary here. Not over-boiled and properly salted. Always a good light option on the menu.

The classic gyu carpaccio – seared beef sashimi served with ponzu, wasabi mayo, garlic chips and scallions – was okay. The meat was tender enough but frankly there was a little too much ponzu at the bottom of the plate so the dish was fruity acidity.

The karubi – grilled miso marinated beef short ribs – was more of a hit. The meat was nicely grilled and very tender. The marinade came through nicely and wasn’t too overbearing.

The Gyoza here were deep fried vegetable dumplings served with a sweet chili mayo. Very flavourful filling and a nice crunch to the exterior. I enjoyed the nice sweet heat that came through in the mayo as well.

One of my personal favorites at an Izakaya is takoyaki – deep fried octopus balls served with tonkatsu sauce and mayo. Kinka does this well – the filling was very flavourful. The natural flavour of octopus comes through nicely and I always love the mixture of the tonkatsu sauce and the mayo.

The karaage – deep fried soy sauce marinated chicken served with garlic mayo – was a little oily but had great crunch and the chicken itself was moist and flavourful – not too salty despite the soy sauce marinade. The garlic mayo had a nice kick to it as well and paired well with the chicken.

One of our group really wanted to order the tontoro so we tried it. A skewer of grilled pork cheek served with yuzu pepper – I enjoyed the tenderness of pork cheeks but frankly this is the one dish that lack strong flavour.

The final dish I tried was ikapiri – deep fried calamari with spicy ketchup and wasabi mayo. Nice taste to the calamari themselves but lacked the crunch you want from fried calamari. The spicy kitchen and wasabi mayo was a very strong combination of sweet, spice and richness. Really loved this dish despite then lack of crunch.

We had fun, eat and drank well – so overall Kinka Izakaya was exactly what I hoped it would be. Izayakas are always a fun time and it’s great to see many good ones opening up around Montreal. So arrive with an empty stomach, open mind and be ready to shout ‘Sake Bomb’ – you won’t be disappointed.

Cheers!

Kinka Izakaya
1624 Sainte-Catherine Ouest
514 750 1624

KINKA IZAKAYA Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tiradito

14 Nov

A few years ago, when I first started to pay attention to the restaurant scene here in Montreal, fusion was the big ‘hip’ trend. The idea of merging multiple types of cuisine into something familiar and yet different. Over the past few years however, we have seen more and more a trend back towards restaurants with a clear essence – French, Italian, ‘Canadian’ but with a focus on fresh local ingredients to sustain that approach. In the end though, every cuisine is a fusion of many – that is the nature of how food evolves between countries and through new cultures immigrating into existing ones. That is what creates more particular fusions – blends of styles that one does not necessarily see as co-existing but do. Tiradito is an example of this.

Located on Bleury St below Rene Levesque, Tiradito is a blend of Peruvian and Japanese cuisine known as Nikkei. Turns out there is a huge Japanese population in Peru which has lead to this blend of using Japanese technique with péruvien ingredients. Chef Marcel Larrea first opened up this restaurant a few years ago to much acclaim – as much for its interesting cuisine as for its unique approach in terms of service. All seating is around a center bar and the service is done by the kitchen staff itself whose individual stations are located in view behind the bar. The service is slightly less personable as a result at times since when your ‘waiter’ ‘s station is busy, they don’t have time to really follow-up with you but otherwise, it is a cool approach as you see the kitchen prepping your food as you dine which I have always enjoyed to see.

Since this is a Peruvian restaurant, Pisco is a strong component to the cocktail menu. if you love a Pisco sour, you will be well served here. Outside of that, there have some fun options. I opted for the El Vato – White rum, chartreuse, pineapple, sesame, scotch and kaffir lime. Nice presentation and balance – the hint of sesame smokiness is a nice touch on top of the sweetness.

The menu is a mix of sharing-sized plates – vegetarian, meat and fish. We grabbed a few different options to try different parts of the menu. First up, the scallop à la chalaca served with red onions, red chilies, hondashi and ginger. Very bright and vibrant – acidity and sweetness to pair with the nice scallops.

Next up, we ordered the spicy calamari served with salsa criolla. The calamari were nice and plump. The batter was crisp and not too thick either so the natural flavour of the calamari came through. The spicy mayo and the onion salsa were nice compliments to add. Honestly one of the better fried calamari dishes I have had in a while.

The Papa Rellena – a ball of potato and beef deep fried and served with a sweet chili sauce – was a completely new discovery for me and one I enjoyed a lot. Nice crunch on the outside, good flavour in the filling and the sauce provided a nice bit of both heat and sweet to the dish.

The yucca fries were a hit as well – good crunch and tender interior. Very flavourful and a good compliment to the rest of the meal.

Lastly, I love duck so I had to try the duck anticucho – duck marinated in aji panka, cumin and roasted paprika and roasted on skewers. Sadly this was the dish that impressed the least. The duck itself was cooked nicely – very tender but compared to the rest of the dishes, this one lacked punch.

Tiradito was an experience we really enjoyed. The food was great – very flavourful and fresh – with a nice decor, fun vibe and good music all around. I can definitely see why the reviews have been so positive since its opening. I may not have known about Nikkei Cuisine prior to this experience but I definitely know I am a fan now.

Cheers!

Tiradito
1076 Bleury
514 866 6776

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

Le Red Tiger

15 Jul

Hello dear readers,

Life has conspired (in a positive way) to slow down the frequency of this blog but never fear we are still here! Kidding aside, my visits to restaurants have slowed down somewhat but I will continue to post reviews once I get a opportunity to try something new. On this occasion, we head to the Village where I had the chance (a few months ago I must admit) to try Le Red Tiger – a Vietnamese pub whose success has allowed the owners to expand further in the neighbourhood with Le Blossom and Kamehameha Snack Bar.

We arrived on a busy Friday night to a full room including a bachelorette party in the back. The space is very reminiscent in layout to an old bar or diner – long and narrow with the bar being most prominent along almost the whole length of the space. There is even a old school type checker board tile floor to evoke that feel. Otherwise the space is pretty unremarkable visually. We grabbed a few seats at the bar and checked out the drink menu.

An interesting mix of cocktails are available. I decided to go with the Bà Den Lemonade – Bulleit bourbon, amaretto, organic apple juice, oolong tea and vanilla syrup, lemon juice and mint. Cool presentation using tin spice and tea boxes. Flavour-wise, there is a nice balance between the sweetness of amaretto and juice with the smokiness of the bourbon. Very enjoyable.

On the food side of the things, Le Red Tiger is all about Vietnamese street food – lots of grilled or fried items in small portions designed to share. Feels very similar to an Imadake but with very clear Vietnamese influences. First up, beef carpaccio Vietnamese style with shrimp chips. Very tender and flavourful beef with strong notes of lime juice and some pepper heat. We also ordered a side of seasoned fried peanuts with pair with that. I liked the extra crunch that came with frying them and the saltiness matched up with the acidity of the carpaccio.

I had heard very good things about the chicken wings so of course I ordered some. Le Red Tiger fries them and served them with traditional Nuoc Mam sauce (fish sauce, lime, sugar and water). I loved the crunch that frying wings provided over the baked equivalent. The wings were nice and flavourful – a good mix of sweetness and heat. The sauce made them very sticky so not the cleanest dish to eat but they are chicken wings so of course they would be messy!

The coconut chicken satay skewers were excellent – great grill on the chicken and the little sauce on the side provided a nice sweet note. They arrived with the mini viet pork and shrimp pancakes. Very interesting dish that I had never heard before. The creamy sauce made the dish heavier that anything else we ordered despite the fluffy texture of the “pancakes”. The last dish before dessert was the chicken imperial rolls. Nice crunch and good flavour.

And then finally for dessert, sticky rice with mango and coconut milk. Very generous portion. Strong notes from the coconut but the mango softened it a bit.

Le Red Tiger was a fun and enjoyable experience. It is always fun to experience a different type of cuisine. You can easily see how Le Red Tiger has been able to establish itself so well in the Village. Definitely worth a return visit!

Cheers!

Le Red Tiger
1201 de Maisonneuve E.
514 439 7006

Le Red Tiger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Junior

24 Apr

Anyone paying attention to the Montreal restaurant scene has probably noticed the fact that between Griffintown, Little Burgundy and St-Henri, Notre-Dame Ouest has boomed restaurant-wise. The number of new and awesome places that have opened up over the past few years is staggering and difficult to keep up with. I’ve had my eye on Junior, a Filipino restaurant for a while now but hadn’t truly made the time to visit. Over the holidays, getting the Montreal Cooks cookbook – a great book by the way – and trying a recipe from Chef Dre Mejia made me more anxious to go. This month, I finally find my moment to give them – and Filipino food – a proper try.

A late bit with Felix and Renee after party at Vincent's

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I went both for a late night snack and then for their “Rice n’ Shine” brunch on the weekend. I like the overall visual style of Junior – a indoor street vendor. Very colourful elements all around and the in-house DJ is a nice touch. I enjoyed the selection of music both times I was there but it was a little too loud on my evening visit. When it is hard to have a conversation at the table, it’s not a good sign.

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To start on my evening visit, I went with the dish that brought me there in the first place – the Adobo Baboy – Soy-Vinegar braised pork shoulder. A nicely hearty portion of wonderfully tender and fall-apart pork. Perfect braised texture. The sauce is very strong on the soy so could be too salty for some of you but the vinegar helps to tone it down and creates a light finish. Add some sweetness, acidity and saltiness to the fatty pork. Very enjoyable – my imitation version just didn’t match up!

Pork Adobo

One of my friends chose the palabok – rice noodles with pork and shrimp gravy. This was sadly a big disappointment. It looked good but surprisingly had no real flavour – the noodles felt overcooked and only the egg served on top came through taste wise. The gravy provided nothing and the pork and shrimp felt brand and lifeless.

Surprisingly Bad Noodles

Our third dish brought us back on the right track. We went with the Daing na Bangus – Baby Milkfish marinated in vinegar and garlic, de-boned and butterflied and pan-fried. First thing that hit us was the texture. Moist and flaky, the fish came apart so easily. The use of vinegar and garlic provided some sweetness and a little kick flavour wise.

Milkfish

2 out of 3 wasn’t what I had hoped but it was enough to come back for brunch with my sister. We first had the Longasilog – fried rice, sunnyside-up eggs, sweet pork sausage, plantain chips and atsara. A solid dish all around – I really enjoy the sweetness of the housemate sausage and how it mixed well with the runny egg and the rice. The plantain chips provided some crunch and the atsara a little bitterness. Very homey and filling.

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We also had the fried chicken and waffles – jollibee-style fried chicken and coconut waffles with maple syrup. This dish stood out a little more. As much as I hate coconut normally, the little hint in the crispy waffles worked really well and the fried chicken was outstanding. Loved the crunch of the skin and the overall moistness of the chicken.

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I’m happy to have finally been to Junior. It was great to try some Filipino food and realize how I do enjoy it and would like to come back. On the flip side, it was really disappointing to have a dish fall so flat on us. Junior is a solid part of my neighbourhood and a cool addition to the culinary scene in Montreal. Nice to have a generally underexposed cuisine be brought forth like this. I will be back Junior – I just hope that one blip was just that.

Cheers!

Junior
1964 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 944 8636

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

Thazard

1 Feb

When the holidays come around, you get a little lazy. That includes keeping up with the order of my posts…. so today I finally get to a meal I had before Christmas! We’re going non-linear with my reviews… at least only with this one. Anyway….My girlfriend and I with our friend Annie – the first friend of ours who said to put her name in here instead of just saying we were with “a friend” – decided for our little “Christmas” get-together to go to a restaurant that both me and Annie – a fellow restaurant enthusiast – had on our lists for some time now: Thazard. Located on the Main in Mile End, this restaurant originally had lots of buzz during its opening in November 2014 for its desire to do French-style guéridon service and for the fact that kitchen service would run until 2 a.m. The trolley service fell by the way side at some point but I had still heard and read enough good things to consider Thazard worth visiting.

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The restaurant was completely dead on this particularly rainy Sunday night…. other than two people at the bar, we were the only patrons in the restaurant until we got to our dessert course. As such, the ambience was dead – no energy, no discussion going on to create some vibe. It put a little damper on the beautiful space. The use of low lighting and candles on each table created an intimate setting. The rest of the room has a very clean and sleek look with the all-white walls, mirrors and wooden tables. At least the lack of a crowd allowed us to enjoy the music!

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Chef Hachiro Fujise’s menu is North American and Japanese fusion cooking served in a small plate format. First up was spicy edamame because I can’t help but order edamame when it is present on a menu. A nice kick on top of the usual salty edamame.

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Our first true plate was the papaya salad – served with turnip white kimchi, tomato, crispy shallots, peanuts and some octopus. A nice looking dish with good favours. Despite the kimchi, it wasn’t as hot as the typical thai variant. The octopus was nice and tender and a good addition to the salad.

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Next was seared baby scallops served with shiitake mushrooms, spinach and ponzu butter. A more subtle dish flavour wise, the scallops were nicely seared with the addition of the ponzu butter served under the scallops adding a little kick.

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The miso poutine was the first big hit for the evening for me. The mixture of kimchi, miso butter and cheese curds is not necessarily a combination you would expect to work but somehow it does. Super rich and fatty with a nice touch of heat from the kimchi. We polished off the plate in record time…. Our only lament was that the dish wasn’t bigger!

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The following dish was just as good: the chicken Karaage. The chicken was fried to perfection – moist inside but with a nice spiced crunch on the outside. Served in bite-sized pieces with a lovely garlic aioli and some kimchi which provided nice addition flavours to pair nicely with the chicken.

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The final main we tried was the tonkotsu ramen – pork stock, egg, nori, pork, soy, green onions and charred leek oil. This dish was a must as my girlfriend had never been exposed to proper ramen before. Some may say I’ve failed as a boyfriend for waiting 11 months but hey… a man has to pick his battles. The broth was of the thicker variety, very smoky and rich. A nice hearty way to close out the main courses.

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Dessert provided us with a couple of interesting options. First was a Genmaicha Creme Brûlée with matcha bee pollen. Again, an interesting asian twist of a classic. The texture wasn’t quite the same as the usual creme brûlée – not as firm – but still very enjoyable. Lastly, we had a homemade molasses and ginger cookie topped with candied orange zests and chocolate ganache.

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We walked out of Thazard nicely satisfied and having paid a pretty reasonable price on top of it. The food was good to excellent across the board without any major issues. It was too bad that it was a dead night atmosphere-wise but there is not much you can do about that. Despite my disappointment with the disappearance of the trolley service, Thazard’s interesting fusion play of Japanese and North American was definitely enjoyable and is worth your time if you’re around Mile End. And remember… if you are in need of proper food at 1am, they are open for you.

Cheers!

Thazard
5329 Saint-Laurent
514 802 8899

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

Kinoya

25 Jul

Izakayas or Japanese-style pubs have becoming very popular in and around Montreal over the past year or so. Previously, there was Imadake and…. well no others really. Now, each neighbourhood seems to have one and more are soon the way. Through a friend’s birthday gathering, I found myself at Kinoya along St-Denis curious to see if this particular Izakaya holds up to my previous experiences itself in the city and elsewhere.

Walking into the wooden hut/grotto Kinoya has structured within the standard plateau storefront, the restaurant definitely has a unique visual appearance compared to many of the new Japanese pubs in town. They do have the classic “salute” from the staff when you walk in – which I’ve always loved despite the awkwardness that it can create for the uninitiated. Also, it is rather weird to be saluted in Japanese by an entire French Canadian staff I must admit but I digress….. The space is nice overall however the low ceilings created by the grotto look creates more cacophony than is ideal.

We were at a pub after all so a drink is a must. Given the presence of some speciality cocktails on the menu, we decided to try a couple. First was the Zen – Sake, Midori and Lychee Juice. Very strong on the Lychee side of things which worked for my girlfriend but not so much for me.

My choice was the Gingin – Gin, Ginger Ale, Fresh Ginger Juice And Soda. Once again, the non-alcoholic components overpowered the alcohol. I enjoy ginger but not on the level that this drink brought forth. A totally miss on my end here.

Given the nature of an Izakaya, over the course of the evening, we ordered a much of plates in no particular order. The key is that process is that service is spot-on and the dishes come quickly which is exactly what occurred. First up, I can never say no to a nice bowl of salty edamame.

The Tako Kimchi or octopus and cucumber with spicy kimchi sauce was less successful. The spicy kimchi was good but the octopus was a little chewy and frankly the portion was much too small given the price of the dish. The plate could barely be shared by 2 people. I know an Izayaka is all about small plates but this was pushing it a little too far.

The Kamo Carpaccio – seared duck breast carpaccio with spicy tahini sauce – was a better success. The rich fatty duck was sliced thinly and paired well with the sauce although it wasn’t as spicy was perhaps I would have expected.

I couldn’t help ordered some Gyoza – pan-fried Japanese dumplings – as well. The dumplings were okay nothing more sadly. The filling was nice and meaty but I wanted them a little more fried up and the sauce was unremarkable.

The big hit was the Ikayaki – squid marinated in sake and grilled with shichimi spice and mayo. The squid was beautifully tender and grilled nicely although the sake marinate really wasn’t noticeable flavour-wise. The spicy mayo provided a nice kick and a good pairing to the squid.

I also wanted to try the Kara-Age – Japanese style fried chicken marinated in fresh ginger and soya sauce. Very enjoyable on my end. Great crunch to the chicken while still keeping the meat tender and juicy. Again, the marinade wasn’t noticeable flavour-wise but it was good regardless.

Lastly, I felt the need for a dessert so I went with the Anmitsu – mochi pearls in red bean sauce with ice cream and matcha. A very nice dessert – I love red bean sauce and matcha with vanilla ice cream matched well with that sauce. A great way to end the meal.

Kinoya was a good experience but not a memorable one. Some dishes were hits. Others were disappointments. With an Izayaka, the ambience is very important but if the dishes don’t hit consistently, it is hard to be a memorable night regardless of the rest. Kinoya goes into the mix of all of the other Japanese pubs in town but doesn’t elevate above the fray to be one of the best.

Cheers!

Kinoya
4250 Saint Denis
514 508 5200

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