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Le Bird Bar

19 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Le Bird Bar
1800 rue Notre Dame Ouest
514 938 4343

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

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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

L’ Gros Luxe (Sud Ouest)

23 Jan

Over the past few years, I had heard many things about L’Gros Luxe, the originally plateau-only restaurant known for solid cocktails and cheap but enjoyable food. However, like for many restaurants in our fair city, time and circumstances were such that I hadn’t tried them yet even as they expanded to Mile End and Longueuil. A few months ago though, L’Gros Luxe came to me as they opened up a Sud Ouest location on Notre-Dame right beside Corona Theater and more importantly, only a 10 minute walk away from my apartment. With a spot that close, I really had no excuses anymore!

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Over the past month, I went twice with a couple different groups. First thing which is a little unique is the fact that L’Gros Luxe does not do reservations. However, thankfully for those of us who don’t want to wait outside in the cold, they have created an app with which you can add yourself onto a waitlist to get a table. First time around, we didn’t think about it so we ended up waiting about 35 minutes so we grabbed a beer next door (thanks Burgundy Lion!). The second time around, I used the app but ended up not needing to as the restaurant was strangely empty that Thursday night.

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I really like the look of the restaurant – a mixture of vintage Victorian style with some more modern touches. The room feels very inviting and warm – a solid place to enjoy a happy hour. When it was very busy though, I felt the noise level to be too high which is a common complaint nowadays in many restaurants but one that still bugs me when it affects my ability to actually understand what my friend sitting next to me is saying. The second time was much more enjoyable.

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Drinks options are plenty at L’Gros Luxe. Bourbon lemonade by the pitcher is available and while the price point is cheaper than many others restaurants around, personally I found it to be a little light on the bourbon and more of the sweet side of things. The ladies with me enjoyed it that way… me not as much. I did however enjoy their Sud Ouest Lemonade – a mixture of Ungava gin, white beer, simple syrup and lemon juice. This was a better balance of sweet and strong.

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The other staple of l’Gros Luxe drink wise is their Caesars. I hate caesars so it’s not my thing but each one is quite large and also topped with a variety of food items. When your caesar comes with onion rings and a fried pickle on top, I can imagine it being worthwhile.

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Foodwise, L’Gros Luxe is an odd mixture of items that I guess you would characterize as bar food but frankly it runs the gamut from tacos, salads, burgers, poutines, etc. I was able to try a variety of items over my two visits. The appetizers I had were up and down. First was the nachos – topped with black beans, cheese, green onions, marinated jalapeño slaw, corn and coriander. The size of the plate was nice but the cheese was weirdly only on the under layer and underside of the nachos so most chips had no melted cheese on top of them. When one buys nachos, there is an expectation of cheese on most of the chips. Frankly, that’s a pretty easy thing to ensure when you make them. That was not done here which was strange.

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The other appetizer was the grilled feta – served with olives, cherry tomatoes, basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and bread. Pretty self-explanatory and a solid dish overall. The feta was grilled just enough to make it less salty and a touch softer than normal. We had enough bread to make proper croutons for the entirety of the portion we got.

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The poutine is one of their big dishes and very enjoyable. Their classic is made with tater tots! I don’t think I’d had tater tots for at least 10 years. Topped with green onions as well as the usual cheese curds and gravy, there are a multitude of extras you can add – be it pulled pork, grounded beef,etc… The pulled pork I added to mine was nice and tender. My friend’s version is ground beef and regular fries was solid as well.

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One of my friend’s tried out their beef burger – served on a shallot bun with siracha mayo and the usual condiments. Good sized burger, cooked nicely through. The bun was light and fluffy but didn’t fall apart as it eaten. A solid burger overall.

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Finally, I got to try a dessert – deep fried cookie dough served with ice cream, whipped cream and caramel/chocolate sauce. Or at least it was supposed to be served with ice cream. On receiving the dish, we quickly realized that no ice cream was actually present. The problem got solved once we mentioned it to our waitress but still a weird issue. Overall the dessert was good but too much whipped cream compared to the other elements.

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L’Gros Luxe was a up-and-down food experience. The items are good – not great – so while the price is reasonable, I still wanted better. Same thing for the drinks. I left after my second visit thinking that L’Gros Luxe’s best fit is as a great happy hour or drink spot. Not sure a full dinner is truly worth it. I’m happy to have it close by but also happy I didn’t go out of my way to visit for dinner previously.

Cheers!

L’Gros Luxe
2472 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 903 2721

L'Gros Luxe Sud-Ouest Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le Sieur d’Iberville

15 Feb

When it comes to finding a good spot to watch a game, it is amazing how little people generally care about the quality of the food. As long as the drinks are cheap and the screens are plentiful, we are suddenly okay with mediocre burgers, junky fries and bad fried foods. I, for one, want to enjoy both great food and a great sport watching experience – it really shouldn’t be that hard to find. Recently, I organized a small Yelp event to watch the Habs play at a tavern that I hoped would be what I was looking for – Le Sieur d’Iberville.

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Opened by a group headlined by Taverne on the Square’s Chef Stephen Leslie late last year, Le Sieur d’Iberville is a revamp of an old neighbourhood taverne and a beautiful revamp at that. A massive bar at the center of the room is the focus of the space with tables all around. The room is quite large and thankfully isn’t too cramped by the general “flair” that these kind of bars can use to create a vibe. The old visible beer elevator is a nice touch to the space’s old roots. Music was a touch too loud for great conversation – I did find it a bit funny that they had a DJ at the bar for the night – but I did appreciate that they alternated between the live TV sound and music during commercials and intermissions.

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A nice touch for Habs game is their free shot game. Each table selects a player for the game using cards. If that player scores, the table gets a free round of shots on the house. I selected Alex Galchenyuk and he actually scored so shots of vodka lime came quickly to the table. Fun way to get everyone involved in the game and create a little “chatter” between tables.

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Foodwise, the menu is a nice blend of “staple” bar food with additions befitting a joint whose cousins include Monkland Tavern and Taverne on the Square. Two items present on our table which I didn’t get a chance to try were the pork and beef chili nachos with house chips, corn, grilled tomato salsa, smoked cheddar, jalapeños, avocado puree and marinated onions as well as the Sieur Caesar salad with oven roasted tomatoes, house bacon, sourdough croutons and anchovy vinaigrette. In both cases, I enjoyed how more developed and refined Le Sieur made these dishes but still kept their essence in tact. Given how quickly both were finished, I believe my fellow diners would agree.

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On my end, I first started with a dish that intrigued me tremendously when I read it – maple syrup braised bacon sticks. What I got wasn’t exactly what I expected – more like a cubes of fatty ham than bacon but regardless… they were delicious. Fatty goodness with a touch of maple sweetness. A nice little salad on the side helped to make the dish feel a little lighter.

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As a main, I went with the Sieur grilled cheese sandwich composed on rotisserie chicken from their house rotisserie, bacon, house cheddar, grain mustard, caramelized onions and a house squash relish. Just a wonderful sandwich – every component listed on the menu was perceptible and enjoyed tremendously together. Gooey, cheesy, sweet but with a hint of tang. The true star was the rotisserie chicken – just wonderfully moist and tender. Everything I had heard about the rotisserie was on-point. It is a guarantee that next time here I will order the chicken. I need to try it on its own now.

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As a side dish, my sandwich came with their Lyonnaise poutine comprised of grelot potatoes, onions, smoked cheddar and cheese curds. A intriguing play on a poutine which was best summarized by someone at our table – it’s like a French onion soup in poutine form. The amount of cheese in this dish was absurd but oh so perfect. I really enjoyed the richness of the gravy but its consistency was more like a broth hence the perfect soup analogy. Very very good.

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Finally, I couldn’t leave without trying a dessert. The “Ooey Gooey” chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream was a huge cookie baked in a mini skillet and yes it was certainly ooey and gooey. Quite easily shareable amongst friends, this rich and sweet cookie was a great way to finish the meal.

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Le Sieur d’Iberville was exactly what I had hoped – a great bar to watch the game, enjoy a drink or two and have great food at the same time. Loved the overall feel of the place and definitely want to come back to try more of the menu. When people recommend a junky sport bar next time you want to watch a game somewhere, please remember Le Sieur d’Iberville – friends don’t let other friends eat bad bar food. You won’t regret it.

Cheers!

Le Sieur d’Iberville
2490 Mont-Royal Est
514 525 4448

Brasserie Le Sieur D'Iberville on Urbanspoon

Le Trèfle (Brunch Edition)

7 Feb

Circumstances will sometimes take you to places you didn’t expect – in those cases, you simply hope for a pleasant surprise and a positive experience. How I ended up having brunch at Le Trèfle is one such example. Planning a bachelor party can be a pain in the ass – especially in the wintertime where the need for specific places to go over the course of the day is essential. Within the day I had planned for my buddy, I needed to find a lunch spot relatively close to HoMa where a large group of guys could watch the Habs, eat some good food and enjoy a few pints in the process. HoMa – or Hochelaga-Maisonneuve if you want the full title but I’m lazy so HoMa will do – is not a part of Montreal I know at all. Doing some searching, I found this Irish Pub that did brunch and had TVs for the game.. although I couldn’t find the menu online. However I saw enough positive reviews to give it a shot, so that is how I found myself with 10 other guys on a part of Ontario street I had never been.

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First thing when I walked in that struck me was the decor – absolutely loved it. Classic pub look but without the ridiculous clutter you often end up with. Old wood-paneled walls – dark stained or just natural – with dark wooden tables, leather seats & stools and a beautiful dark bar as a focal point for the room. The whole space had a nice neighbourhood bar vibe where you can see easily coming in for a pint or two on a regular basis for a relaxed evening. It was a quiet Saturday so there wasn’t much ambience outside of us but regardless, it was a nice place to relax for the four hours we were there.

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Amongst their brunch menu was a collection of speciality cocktails. I chose to start with their ‘Prepster’ – a mixture of Maker Mark’s bourbon, egg white, angostura bitters and cream soda. A definitely interesting drink – I enjoyed the overall flavour however the softness of the egg whites with the cream soda made it too light for me. It needed more staying power – I ended up finishing it off so quickly that I barely enjoyed it. Hindsight, something stronger would have been a better choice for me.

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Foodwise, Le Trèfle’s Brunch menu is a interesting combination of standard breakfast/brunch fair with a Irish Pub twist. I got to try three different dishes amongst the dozen or so options. First up was their morning Irish stew which as my Irish friend said at the time wasn’t really a Irish stew but it didn’t matter because it was quite good. A mixture of mostly beans with ham, bacon, maple syrup and a poached egg, the stew was a filling meal. The maple syrup came though a lot which gave it more sweetness than you would expect in the stew but it was a hit at the table.

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Next up was the Celtic poutine, their play on a breakfast poutine – breakfast potatoes, bacon, hollandaise sauce, sharp cheddar cheese cubes and an egg over-easy. The hollandaise sauce had a little stronger component to it than a typical hollandaise – forgot to ask the waitress what was is in it – and the use of sharper cheddar really worked well to make this poutine different for the now “standard” breakfast poutines you see around town. The rest of the ingredients were as solid as you expect. This was the most ordered dish at our table and not a single potato was left by the end. Just wonderful.

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The final dish was the Dublin sandwich which was sold to us by our waitress with her description – an omelet with ham and tomato sandwiched between two grilled cheese sandwiches. That got us salivating pretty quickly and thankfully it was as good as advertised. The onion and spinach omelet was excellent, the ham sweet and fatty and the two sandwiches nice and gooey. The only issue really was that the sandwich was too tall to actually eat properly. Otherwise it was another hit.

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Le Trèfle was a pleasant surprise to me foodwise – really well executed brunch food with high quality throughout. While the primary focus was on the drinking aspect of the occasion (and believe me, that was achieved and then some), the food itself convinced me that Le Trèfle needs to stay on my radar not just as a pub option but as an actual brunch option. Not sure I would have believed that when I first walked in. It is always fun when I get surprised…. especially when I had 10 other guys to appease at the moment. Happy to finally have a place in HoMa to recommend easily.

Cheers!

Le Trefle
3971 Ontario Est
438 386 3737

Le Trèfle on Urbanspoon

Suite 701

19 Jan

For my second Happening Gourmand meal of the year, I found myself at Suite 701 in the Place d’Armes Hotel – a place I have gone by numerous times over the past few years without trying it and a spot that I will be revisiting shortly for my best friend’s wedding. Regardless, one of my friends was sufficiently intrigued by the table d’hôte that he organized a lovely Saturday night meal – and I am certainly not one to say no to that!

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Suite 701 is probably best described as a lounge with a full dinner menu – the decor and ambience is certainly more lounge in nature. High ceilings with ornate mouldings, huge windows with large drap-like curtains, beautiful wooden tables and chairs with a few leather banquettes, a glorious long bar, low lighting using mostly chandeliers outside of the purple accent lights, the otherwise all white color palette… Suite 701 is definitely a looker. The live DJ – playing for the most part great old R&B/ soul music – was definitely too loud though. When it is hard to hear the conversation at the other end of 5 person table, you are probably a little too close to bar/supper club territory than you should be as a lounge.

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Menu-wise, Suite 701 describes itself as modern brasserie which, when I see that, strikes me as a catch all term for a menu that is quite varied. That seems to fit the bill here – the menu was definitely interesting but an strange mix of dishes. First up, the table ordered two platters of their homemade charcuterie with mustard, grilled chorizo, deviled eggs and chipotle dill pickle. A nice mixture of blood sausage, porchetta, salami and prosciutto. You can never go wrong with good charcuterie.

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Next, I got to try the organic salmon tartar with celery leaves, granny smith apples, grapefruit and mild wasabi cream. Presentation was nice as was the execution. I hate grapefruit so while I understand the desire to add some citrus to the tartar, I wish it had been something different. The fish was nice and fresh with every other element working well for the dish. I particularly enjoyed the subtle heat from the wasabi cream.

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The other starter I got to try was the roasted eggplant, tomato confit and marinated zucchini pissaladière. None of us had any idea what a pissaladiere was… but we figured why not? The rest of the dish description seemed worth a try. Ended up looking like a spring roll – which isn’t what a pissaladiere is according to my web searches but regardless – and tasted pretty good. The pastry was nice and flaky and the eggplant/zucchini combo had great flavour.

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Moving on to mains. I could not resist the duck so I went with the duck magret with pomegranate gastrique, charred farro risotto and braised kale. The duck was perfect – rich and fatty, cooked rare as it needs to be. The risotto however was a bit off to my liking. The use of farro, unknown to me prior to this, instead of rice was interesting but created a much firmer texture to the risotto than I was expected – I will mark this down to wrong expectations on my end.

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The other main I tried was the pan-seared black bass with Jerusalem artichoke purée, black olive sauce and braised endives. The black bass was beautifully flaky and slightly salty. The artichoke puree and endives paired nicely to the fish. I skipped the sauce as olives really aren’t my thing.

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Dessert-wise, there were two options – a mocha cake with blood orange compote and a white chocolate mousse with raspberries. I hate mocha so I didn’t try it but it seemed to be a hit at the table. My choice was the mousse which was well executed texturally – wonderfully smooth – but good lord was it sweet… too sweet to be honest which is saying a lot coming for a guy who absolutely loves his desserts. The tartness of the raspberries were not enough to offset the sweetness here. It almost needed a cookie or dark chocolate bites to offset the extra sweetness.

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Suite 701 was a nice evening overall with a few minor issues that didn’t make it an amazing one food wise. I definitely see coming back for a cocktail hour with a bite or two – which ironically is what will happen at that wedding I mentioned earlier – but I don’t have a strong desire to return for a full dinner. For a lounge, that is what one would expect so on that account, Suite 701 probably hits its objective. Worth considerable to start an evening in Old Montreal at the very least.

Cheers!

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Suite 701
701 Cote de la Place d’Armes
514 904 1201

Suite 701 on Urbanspoon

Taverne Gaspar

17 Jan

The start of the new year also means the start of Happening Gourmand in the old port. This food “festival” brings together all the restaurants of the Antonopoulos Group and provides a special reduced price table d’hôte at each of their 8 restaurants. Events like these are enjoyable for me simply because it allows me to try Old Port restaurants without costing me my arm and perhaps a leg to enjoy. Ironically this year, I wasn’t a driving force amongst my friends to participate as is usually the case… two separate friends set up two reservations and invited me! I guess this is a sign of the event gaining a foothold in people’s consciousness. Either way, I won’t turn down a good meal so away I went. The first of the two dinners was at Taverne Gaspar – the Group’s Gastropup located on de la Commune with a view of the Saint-Lawrence.

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Visually, Taverne Gaspar attempts to blend the pub or tavern look with elements of the old Montreal building it is located in – a nice long wooden bar with wooden seats, leather banquettes and chairs, tile flooring and roofing, low lighting with the exception of the christmas lights set up along the center of the room. That choice along with the use of dark tones elsewhere to put emphasis on the old stone walls creates a very relaxed old world kind of feel. The night we were there the entire street actually lost power so at one point for a bit, the lighting was almost completely candlelight so that intimate feel was cranked up further! Thankfully the lost power didn’t affect our meal…

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Now, as for the food, the menu is definitely gastropub fare with touches of more local influences. As a group of 3, we each picked something different in order to try as much as we could. First up, a classic onion soup – a hardy and meaty broth with good quantity of onions nicely caramelized topped with gooey cheese and a crouton. Well very executed and enjoyable.

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I also had some fresh oysters because I’m a sucker of oysters so if they’re on the menu, it’s hard for me to resist. Paired with a nice mignonette, there were great.

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Next, we had the lobster sliders with house chips. Firstly, when the menu says sliders, we would have expected more than one but no… just one. Thankfully it was pretty flavourful although I would have prefer more lobster versus mayo. The house chips were nicely seasoned with a good crunch. The salad felt like it was there to make the dish seem larger. A solid dish flavour-wise but disappointing in terms of portion – especially when this was a dish where they charged extra for it within the table d’hôte.

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The last starter was their beef poutine with cheese curds and cipollini sauce. In my eyes, this was the best of the bunch. The beef was rich and fall apart in texture and in combination with the cipollini sauce, gave the poutine a much hefty feel than your standard poutine. Add solid fries and the correct cheese curds – melt just a bit but still keep its texture and squeak – and we have a great starter.

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Moving on the mains, the first one was their beef bourguignon. Once again great texture to the beef – chewy but fall apart. Carrots and potatoes cooked nicely as well but that reduced sauce was really the key here. Brought everything together and really made the dish nice and hearty – exactly what one seeks in a beef bourguignon.

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Next was the mac n’cheese with cheddar and smoked lardons. Baked off nicely in a onion soup dish, the cheddar brought some sharpness to the creamy gooeyness that is mac n’cheese and of course the fattiness of the lardons was well appreciated. A solid dish.

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The last main was the Gaspar BBQ burger with their house fries – another dish where they charged extra for but thankfully in this case it was worth it. Portion-wise this was by far the biggest and enjoyable across the board. More of the house fries plus a side of coleslaw to go with the burger. The beef patty was cooked perfectly topped with some melted cheese, bacon and slaw. A little spicy mayo was provided to go with the fries as well. Another solid dish to round off the second course.

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Finally, we had the desserts. The table d’hôte provided two options – chantilly brownies and a bumble berry cheesecake. The brownies were decadent and very chocolatey. The chantilly cream provided a nice counterbalance to that. The cheesecake was nice as well – the right level of creaminess without being too rich. Solid way to end our meal.

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Overall, Taverne Gaspar was a solid and well executed meal pretty much across the board. I’m not a big fan of how they charge extra on certain dishes within the table d’hote especially when they are some of the more appealing options there but I suppose it was just up to us to not order them. I like the vibe of the setting and the quality of the food on the menu. If one is seeking a worthwhile gastropub in Old Montreal, Gaspar is worth your consideration.

Cheers!

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Taverne Gaspar
89 Rue de la Commune Est
514 392 1649

Taverne Gaspar on Urbanspoon

Le Bureau

22 Jan

Happy new year everyone! Yeah I’m know I’m 3 weeks behind but hey… this writing is a side project for me so how about you cut me a little slack, hum? Anyway, thank you everyone who reads these posts on a regular basis and who spread the word. I never imagined that less than 2 years into this little writing endeavour that people would actually be writing this thing! It is greatly appreciated. Here’s to an amazing 2014 of food and more culinary exploration within our fair city and elsewhere!

Now then, on with my last restaurant visit of 2013 – Hey, I did say I was a little behind didn’t I? – which brought me to the rapidly changing region of Griffintown. It is a part of town that I visit quite frequently. A friend of mine who lives nearby invited down to check out Le Bureau Tapas Bar for a little midweek drink and food. Now, Le Bureau has been on my to-visit list since the summer so I gladly accepted and away we went.

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Walking in on a quiet snowy evening, Le Bureau has a very nice relaxed lounge feel – slow lighting, beautiful wood bars and bar tables with leather banquettes in the end. Add some more industriel touches with the exposed brick walls and steel ventilation tubes and you’re left with a nice setting that perfectly suits a great happy hour or after work visit.

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The cocktail menu was pretty extensive – the right kind of options for a bar like this. Over the course of the evening, we had their Manhattan, Negroni, Old Fashioned and Tom Collins. All were executed well and enjoyable.

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As for the food, Le Bureau offers a menu of tapas style dishes of various cultural influences. We went for a wide variety of dishes for this particular visit – Patatas Bravas, Cod croquettes, pancetta-wrapped figs, beef skewers with chimichurri and grilled chorizo with onions. The Patatas bravas were served with a chipotle lime sauce instead of the standard spicy tomato sauce. The cod croquettes were nice and crispy, served with a amarillo sauce. My big favourite on this night was the pancetta figs – a wonderful combination of sweetness and saltiness. The beef skewers themselves were fine but the real star here was that chimichurri. The grilled chorizo was good but I felt the sausage itself lacked the usual punch of most chorizo.

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The food overall was solid however I personally found the portion sizes to be a little too small given their cost. Le Bureau strikes me as the perfect happy hour 5 à 7 location – it has a great look, a very relaxed feel, a great selection of drinks from their bar and tapas if you need a snack. I will definitely return here for a drink every now and then. However, if you are looking to have a complete meal, I don’t think the portions lend themselves well to that experience. Le Bureau is a great lounge bar experience and that’s perfectly acceptable if that’s what you are looking for.

Cheers!

Le Bureau Bar Tapas
1642 Notre-Dame West
514 903 1642

Le Bureau Bar Tapas on Urbanspoon

Maine 2013 – The Ramp Bar and Grill

4 Jul

If one visits Kennebunkport and take the lovely, long scenic drive past all the cottages and the waterfront inns to Cape Porpoise, you eventually get to a gravel parking lot that overlooks a bay (Goat Island Light according to Google Maps) and that has 2 restaurants: Pier 77 and The Ramp. While Pier 77 looks lovely, we turned our attention to the Ramp for this particular afternoon visit.

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When that is the view I have before entering the bar, you are rather spoiled. Anyway, The Ramp is a small bar located directly under the Pier 77 restaurant and has the look of a sports bar on steroids. Every inch of this place is covered with retro sports paraphernalia (a little too New England focused as a Montrealer but I’ll let it go this one time…). Any time a bar has an old Montreal Forum seat, a NBA backboard & hoop and autographs from Bill Russell, Bill Belicheck, Red Auerbach and Arnold Palmer in the men’s washroom, you know you’re in a sports fan’s dream. As one such sports fan, I loved every minute of this.

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Now, if this was just a simple sports bar, that would be one thing. However, this place actually rocked a great food menu on top of all that. The offerings go between typical bar food and more upscale stuff that highlights great seafood as one would expect in Maine. Spinach salad, a Greek mezze dish, Carolina style BBQ, burgers, fish and chips, a seafood stew, etc… All of that sounded great but we went for other options.

First, some onion strings with a smoked tomato ketchup. The plate was huge and delicious. The onions strings were nice and thin. The coating around the strings provided a nice crunch without being overbearing. The ketchup had a wonderful smokiness which added a nice note to the dish. A wonderful appetizer all around.

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For the main, there was only one option here: the Lobster roll. My first one of the trip, it was served with some homemade chips. The chips were nice and crisp as one would expect from chips but the real star here was the lobster roll. Beautiful fresh lobster pieces with just a little mayo, some celery and some scallions into a wonderfully buttery grilled bun. The naturally great flavour of the lobster is allowed to shine here. The overuse of mayonnaise is always a bad sign in a lobster roll. There was none of that here. Just the strong desire to eat another one!

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So great food, nice quirky sport bar look and atmosphere with a killer view… pretty hard to beat that overall combination. If every you are in the Kennebunkport area of Maine, you must check this place out. I am sure you find something to enjoy. Now I just need to go back when there’s a game on….

Cheers!

The Ramp Bar and Grill
77 Pier Road Cape Porpoise Harbor
Kennebunkport, Maine 04014
207 967-8500

The Ramp on Urbanspoon

SuWu

18 Apr

It is always nice to see a new spot pop up in my neck of the woods. The Milton-Parc district a.k.a McGill Ghetto and its adjacent strip of Saint-Laurent street presents some interesting options to check out and I certainly have my regular locales (I have mentioned how much I LOVE Icehouse?) Last week, SuWu neighborhood bar opened up replacing the now departed Cafeteria right by the corner of St-Laurent and Prince Arthur. I saw some pictures of the media event they hosted and decided that I definitely needed to try the interesting food and drinks that they were serving.

I sadly didn’t have the chance to take any nice interior shots of the bar but the first thing that sticks out about the space is the great decor and feel they have created. Outdoor-but-indoors look with copious amounts of wood panels, wood table and bar countertops, fake plants, a ceiling lattice with vines and lights hanging off from above. Add some great music and a few nice vintage touches and you have a setting relaxed enough to simply have a nice drink and watch the game but upscale enough to make it an evening out before heading elsewhere along the Main.

The bar has a variety of beers on tap, some speciality cocktails and a pretty interesting “Mickey” service with different varieties of tequila, gin and bourbon. To start, I ordered an bourbon Olde Fashioned. For me personally, this is my test of a bar’s (and a bartender’s) worth. An olde fashioned is a very classic and straightforward drink but one that can be royally messed up if you don’t take care to prepare properly. This one was okay. I’ve had better around the city but this is one I would order again to give it a second try.

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The food menu is an interesting mix of warm and cold dishes that certainly are not what we would call “traditional” bar food. To start, a order of rosemary fries. Exactly what you would expect. Very crispy fries with a strong but not overbearing hint of rosemary. A good starter.

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Next up, my big winner for the evening : mini biscuit and fried chicken sandwiches with kimchi. A very unique but well created dish. The biscuit buns were solid, the fried chicken was nicely seasoned and crispy and the kimchi added a nice little kick with the festivities. Absolutely a must order again.

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To change it out, we ordered the spicy Edamame. I love edamame and in the end, while it was quite good, let’s just say that edamame covered with a spice mix is not necessarily the right thing to eat while sitting at a bar. A little too messy for my taste at a bar like this.

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Still hungry, we ordered the Meat Ball Tacos. While very creative, this was a miss for me mostly on account of the hard shell tacos being used. I was originally under the impression that it would be soft tortillas and I think it would have made it better and more importantly, easier to eat. When the shells crack after a bit and fall apart, it makes eating meat balls and smoked mozzarella covered in tomato sauce a little bit harder. I get the texture addition of the hard shells but it didn’t do it for me.

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Finally, this bar even has dessert! we ordered the rice crispy Panini with chocolate, peanuts and homemade creme fraiche. Rich and sweet, this was a very nice way to finish a night of food with a few drinks.

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I did have some small issues with the service that evening – specifically the process of ordering food from the bar because the bartender who took our food order was also supposed to go pick up our order. At the same time, she got swamped with all the drink orders for all the tables so our food sat for pick up much longer than it should have. The staff seemed to fixed that issue by getting someone else to bring the food to the bar by the end of the night. It didn’t have a negative impact on the food thankfully and I will be curious to see on my soon-to-be subsequent visits – and believe me, there will be. I live 10 minutes away on foot for god’s sake! – if that was simply a opening week one-off.

I was quite satisfied with my first taste of SuWu and happy to see a new neighborhood bar opened up close by. I will definitely be heading back to try the rest of the menu that still has me intrigued. Hopefully, they make a good enough impression with the rest of the locals to stick around for a while.

Cheers!

SuWu
3581 St-Laurent
514 443 1455

SuWu on Urbanspoon

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