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Marconi

6 Aug

Apparently when one turns 30, your birthday celebrations get stretched out so for the final act, my sister offered me a meal at a restaurant of my choice. Given both of our enjoyment of trying new places, I figured this would be a good opportunity to try a relatively new restaurant in the city that has had lots of buzz, Marconi.

Opened last December by owners Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly and partner Molly Superfine-Rivera, this local duo came back to Montreal after having worked in New York. Mehdi, as a chef, had headed two kitchens in two Greenwich Village restaurants: Chez Sardine and Fedora. When in Montreal prior to his time in New York, he had worked at Toqué and Au Pied de Cochon so the pedigree was very interesting.

The room is definitely interesting visually. The space was apparently a former dépanneur and so they kept some original features. The most unique would be an old wooden fridge turned into the wine cellar. There is also a patterned tin ceiling, white-washed wall tiles, a beautiful wooden bar, an open kitchen and all sorts of electic accents – I’m partial to the cheetah frame above the bar. Noise levels are a little high but with the great background tunes played overhead, it isn’t a problem. The vibe was great all night.

Superfine-Rivera is known for her cocktails so we had to start with a couple. Excellent balance for both. The ‘Penicillin’ had that smoky scotch note but with some sweetness and freshness from the ginger and honey. The Old Cuban had a similar sweet and fresh complex mixing rum with mint and green lemon. Great start.

The menu is relatively small and the plates are designed to share so we were recommended to get a few more than one each. No problem there! First up, a couple of bouchées – mimosa miso egg and cod croquettes. The eggs, served deviled-style, had a hint of the miso and a nice creamy texture. The croquettes were crunchy and very dense. The cod was delicious and the little mayo served it added some richness.

For true appetizers, we went with a trio. First, a plate of veal sweetbread with green peas, lemon puree and oxalis. I love sweetbreads so this was an easy sell for me. Beautifully golden and crunchy, these rich delights mixed with the zesty lemon was a nice pairing.

Next, the toast topped with whelk, bone marrow, aged cheddar and parsley was another hit for me. The mix of the whelk, the fatty marrow and the cheese worked surprisingly well. The bread had a nice crunch to it as well. My photography skills failed me here so no picture of this one. You will just have to take my word for it!

Last starter was a mixture of mushrooms served in brown butter with a poached egg. This was our favorite by far. The earthiness of the mushrooms came through so strongly and then you add the richness of the brown butter and the poached egg. Very lucious and a great finish to this course.

We slowed down a bit and went with only 2 mains. First was the ricotta gnocchi served with xeres, parmesan and basil. The gnocchi was good but personally not up to my standards when compared to another restaurants just a few streets over… however flavours were good, the xeres added some sweetness and the mountain of parmesan is always a welcomed addition. Solid dish.

The other main was the magret de canard served with burnt onion puree. The duck was cooked perfectly and had that great depth of flavour you want. I was very curious about the burnt puree – something I had never been exposed to before. Interesting texture overall with that slight charred texture coming through despite being pureed. The sweetness of the onions is still present but with a slight decrease in strength coming from the burning. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea but I enjoyed it and it worked well with the duck.

After all of this, we still felt the need for some desserts so we took two. First, the bowl of white chocolate, rhubarb and pistachio was a nice combo of sweetness and tart but the cream at the bottom was more basil so the strong flavour that came through was basil instead of the others. Good but not quite what was stated. The other dessert was a lemon and creme verveine with oats. Very generous portion and excellent texture on the cream. Both rich and smooth with a nice lemon kick. The oats were good to bring some crunch.

As a finisher to my birthday celebrations, Marconi was an excellent way to go. The vibe was great, drinks excellent and the food very enjoyable. Mild complain would be the time it took to be served between each dish but clearly the approach was to serve each dish one at a time to split before next one which is fine but it made the service longer than we expected. Marconi is a welcomed addition to the scene in Mile-Ex and definitely a place worth going back – not for birthday celebrations.

Cheers!

Marconi
45 Avenue Mozart Ouest
514 490 0777

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

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Montreal Plaza

31 Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Montreal Plaza
6230 Saint-Hubert
514 903 6230

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

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

Hoogan et Beaufort

1 May

Anticipation is a tricky thing. As you wait, you get more and more excited but at the same time, if you have to wait too long, eventually that enthusiasm dies down and you completely forget what you were anticipating in the first place. Then there is also the fear of what you are anticipating being not as awesome as you hope it would be. These emotions are always playing with one another in moments of anticipation – be it vacation spots, product launches and, for the purpose of this discussion, restaurant openings. Chef Marc-André Jetté, since his departure from the excellent Les 400 Coups in Old Montreal in 2013, has kept us waiting for his next project for some time now. And as the projects of his previous collaborator at Les 400 Coups Patrice Demers developed, we were left wondering more and more when the time would come, if ever. Finally, the announcement came that he and his partner William Saulnier would be opening up in the Angus Yards district in Rosemont – not quite the most vibrant of food areas but nevertheless it got me intrigued. Once Hoogan et Beaufort opened up in December and the excellent reviews came from all the big critics in the city a few months later, it left me pining for his cuisine once more and anticipating the moment when I would head out there to check it out.

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Located in an old factory in the Angus Yards development, Hoogan et Beaufort has a very appealing look – super high ceilings, open concept with the fire pit in the back of the house as well as the vine cellar and stacks of firewood visible to all, a nice bar area up front. The space uses the old industrial elements like exposed metal I-beams and the brick walls but pairs them with wood lats and more modern touches like a huge metallic magnetized wall in the kitchen area. Lighting is ample but nicely dim to get a nice intimate enough atmosphere. The downside to the high ceilings is that noise level isn’t perfect – music, when noticeable, was a nice mix that I enjoyed but when the space was crowded, it barely registered.

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Chef Jetté, prior to opening his restaurant, talked to Eater Montreal about doing similar cuisine as he had at Les 400 Coups but more accessible and less upscale. Fresh cuisine and soignée. His menu here consists of a few entrées, a fresh pasta section, mains et some desserts. The fire pit and the use of it plays heavily into the menu and in fact in the smell of the restaurant. A hint of smokiness throughout.

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For entrees, my girlfriend and I went with a plate of brunt focaccia bread and butter as well as a dish of grilled squid with ratte potatoes (both as chips and fingerling), olives and a burnt pepper yogurt. Saying that the bread was burnt is a bit of stretch but regardless the focaccia was nice and warm with that hint of smokiness you get from grilling it over the fire. The grilled squid was excellent – a lovely texture with some char to it. I like the creaminess of the brunt pepper yogourt as well as the slight sweetness that came from it. The potato chips provided a little crunch. This was an excellent mix of elements all coming together.

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Our first main was Gaspor suckling pig served with salsify purée, curls of sliced apple and an oatmeal crumble. I loved this dish. The pork was beautiful and cooked to perfection. I’d never had salsify before but the earthiness of the root vegetable pureed so smoothly paired nicely with the sweet apple, the oatmeal and the fatty pork. Another well-balanced and measured dish.

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Our other main was beef short rib served with celeriac puree, marinated onion, grilled Brussel sprouts and crispy bread. Another hit at our table. Beautiful char on the beef cooked beautifully with all its inherent fattiness intact. The caramelization on the sprouts brought such a nice flavour and eliminated any bitterness one often associates with Brussel sprouts. The onion and celeriac balanced themselves well and the bread added some extra texture.

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Desserts was equally as enjoyable. First up was burnt lemon curd with a Anicet Honey caramel, candied lemon peel and buckwheat shortbread cookie. A very bright dish – the combination of the sour lemon curd and the sweet caramel was so nice to enjoy. I liked how you picked up the burnt elements of the curd and how the honey came through in the caramel.

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Our second dessert was the cranberry charlotte – a pillow of vanilla mousse served over a cranberry compote and pieces of almond nougat. Another great contrast of flavours and texture – the freshness of the cranberries coming through to give a real bitterness but the mousse lightening it up.

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As mentioned before, expectations can be very high with anticipation but Hoogan et Beaufort met them completely. Chef Jetté and his team did a great job creating beautiful dishes of tastes and textures. The cuisine soignée he was known for is alive and well here – with excellent service and a beautiful look. I know to some that Rosemont is a little out of the way but believe me, it’s worth a try. I think Hoogan et Beaufort will definitely make it worth your while.

Cheers!

Hoogan et Beaufort
4095 Rue Molson
514 903 1233

Hoogan Et Beaufort Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hotel Herman

25 Mar

Special occasions require special settings. For the night of my girlfriend’s birthday, I wanted a lovely and refined experience with good service and atmosphere…. that also needed to be open on Monday. Not that easy given Monday is typically the Montreal restaurant off day! Looking through my options, I came to one that I had neglected from my to-visit list for a long time…. so off we went back to my favourite neighbourhood Mile End to go pay a visit to Hotel Herman.

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Located on Saint-Laurent just south of Fairmount, Hotel Herman is a pretty unassuming restaurant from the outside and similarly inside. The space is focused around a beautiful U-shaped bar in the middle of the room. Small tables all around that and the open kitchen in the back so you can see the staff in action. No big visual flourishes on the walls. Lighting is low and the music is of the smooth jazz and soul variety so the general feeling of the room is relaxed but intimate. On this particular Monday, it was very quiet – much to the surprise of our waitress who stated that normally they get 70 people on Mondays but they only had 20 on this night! I can imagine the atmosphere being more energetic normally but this was very suitable for my girlfriend and I on this celebratory evening.

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Drink-wise, I was in the mood for a cocktail, so I went with their Penicilline – scotch, honey and ginger. A nicely balanced drink. The sweetness of the honey dulled the scotch enough for my girlfriend to find it enjoyable but still leaving me for the scotch smokiness that I love. We also had some lovely glasses of wine from countries I’ve never associated with wine – Czech Republic and Greece. My girlfriend originally ordered a different wine which, after our waitress served it, she came back less than 5 minutes later and switched it – stating she wasn’t happy with it. My girlfriend hadn’t really been bothered by it but much appreciation to a staff that cares enough about those details. Throughout the night, the staff was friendly and sharp. Attentive but not overbearing which can be easy on the nights where there is no one in the room.

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The dishes at Hotel Herman are of small-to-medium size with emphasis on doing ingredients in different ways on the plate. Our first starter was trout served in a gravlax-style with onions, beurre blanc and crispy seaweed. This first dish told me everything about what to expect from Hotel Herman – beautiful presentation, simple in terms of number of ingredients but so subtle, so refined and lovely flavours. The trout’s texture was beautiful – firm but still delicate enough to come apart without much effort. Lovely smoked flavour that wasn’t too salty despite its preparation – much to my girlfriend’s satisfaction due to her hatred of salt. The inclusion of the sweet onions and the beurre blanc were nice compliments to the fish.

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Our second dish was beet root served two ways with juniper berries and hay. Another beautiful dish visually although we were not blown away this time tasting it. Flavours were nice but not wowing truthfully. I did enjoy the crispy thinner strips of beet texturally but my girlfriend was not as pleased by it. We also got some of the housemate bread with butter. The bread had a nice crunchy crust but the interior was soft and dense.

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For our mains, we started with the venison heart tartare with a porcini emulsion, spruce and breadcrumbs. Probably one of my favourite tartares ever. The use of the venison heart creates a more gamey flavour and texture. Also less fatty to taste. The binding felt minimal so there wasn’t a gooey texture either to the tartare and the toasted breadcrumbs added a nice crunch to the mix. We ate this dish up pretty quickly. A huge hit for both of us.

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Our other main dish was the veal sweetbreads served with parsnip gnocchi and mustard. Another excellent dish from the kitchen. The sweetbreads were nicely cooked and still had all that fatty goodness I love with sweetbreads. The real surprise to me here though was the parsnips gnocchi. A cool way to incorporate parsnips, the gnocchi had that strong earthy flavour of the parsnip all while keeping the pillowy soft texture one seeks in gnocchi.

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Dessert wise, we decided to split the honey tart served with sour cream and sponge toffee. Nice crispy buttery tart shell on the outside, I really liked the use of sour cream to cut the sweetness from the honey filling. The sponge toffee adds an extra texturally element to the dish. A nice way to finish off the meal.

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Safe for one dish, Hotel Herman met my expectations. There is a reason that this restaurant has been one of the best ranked in Montreal for three years and has made Canada’s top 100. There is a level of attention and detail present here throughout the entire service that leaves you feeling that you are in good hands. Great service, simple but nice decor and excellent food – Hotel Herman is another great restaurant that gives Montreal a good name food-wise.

Cheers!

Hotel Herman
5171 Saint-Laurent
514 278 7000

Hôtel Herman Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lili Co.

1 Nov

There are so many restaurants in Montreal that I wish to check out but sadly I don’t have enough time (or frankly money if we are being truthful). For the part 3 years, the October-November event of MTL à Table has allowed me to get to certain restaurants at a reduced price which I am very thankfully for. When I first looked at the restaurants participating this year, the one that leaped off the page for me was Lili Co. Originally a small Plateau restaurant, partners Catherine Draws and David Pellizzari moved into a bigger space on Saint-Laurent earlier this year. Reading the big reviews they have gotten over the past few years – including a most recent one in the Gazette in July – Lili Co.’s use of offal and off-cuts really intrigued me and had me pinning for a visit. Sadly, the MTL à Table menu didn’t have any of that – unless you paid a little extra – but I still wanted to go and give them a try.

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Visually, Lili Co. is a nice clean space. The main focus is on the two wrap-around bars which circle both the bar area and the open kitchen where you can watch Chef David and his crew do their work. In fact, outside of a few spots – including where we were sadly! – the entire room is set up to face the kitchen. Service was quick and efficient. Noise level was pretty loud given the room was full. As such, there was background music throughout the night but I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was. It is not the most fancy room around but sharp nevertheless.

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I felt like a cocktail this evening so I tried one of their seasonal specialities – The “Sans nom d’automne” – zubrowska, cachaca, natural apple juice, teapot bitters and star anise. I like this one in theory but the flavour left me indifferent. The sweetness of the cachaca and the apple juice were not noticeable. I was left primarily with the bitterness and the zubrowska – not really I had hoped for.

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With the cocktail consumed, we moved on the food. First up was the pork belly served with cashew butter and creamy coleslaw. A generous peace of fatty pork with a nice crispiness to the skin. The creamy coleslaw paired well with the meat. The cashew butter was nice as well.

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Our other starter was wild mushrooms poached in butter served with caramelized cauliflower purée and black bread crumbs. A simple dish but so well executed and delicious. The mushrooms were soften slightly with their wonderful earthiness intact. The real star though was the cauliflower puree – so rich and smooth. Very enjoyable.

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Our second course started with Gnocchi à la fajiole served with romano beans, smoked tomatoes and parmigiana. A nice creamy sauce paired well with the pillowy gnocchi and the beans. Only complaint would be the portion size – definitely would have been nice to have a few extra gnocchi!

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The second main was grilled octopus with a hibiscus glaze, chorizo, soy beans, black olive powder and lemon. The hit of the evening for us. The mixture of the glaze and the chorizo gave the tender octopus a hint of both sweetness and spiciness. The soy beans added a little extra sustenance to the plate. Definitely a dish I would order again.

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For dessert, we were treated to house doughnuts with lemon mousse and huckleberry jam. The doughnuts were light and fluffy in the inside with a nice crunch on the outside. Add the sugar coating to the jam and the mousse and you have a nice dessert right there. The final dessert was a brioche with a nut beurre monté, sumac and a wild flower glace au miel. Just like the doughnuts, the brioche was nice and fluffy. The special touches of the beurre monté and the glace au miel provided some nice sweetness and richness.

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I’ll admit I was disappointed that no offal or off-cut dishes were present in the menu option – since that is what attracted me to Lili Co in the first place – but in the end, that is on me for having waiting until MTL à Table to finally visit Lili Co. The food was excellent and the atmosphere enjoyable – you can see why they needed to move into bigger digs this year. This meal simply reinforced that I will need to come back again. Looking forward to visiting chef David and Catherine on a more regular occasion.

Cheers!

Lili Co.
4675 Saint-Laurent
514 507-7278

Lili Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Manitoba

30 Aug

All throughout 2014, I kept hearing and reading great things about a new restaurant in the relatively obscure Mile-Ex neighbourhood – at least from a food perspective. A place that was doing some unique things in terms of local foraging and doing it in a cool setting. All of this talk made restaurant Manitoba one of the hit newcomers in 2014 and a place I dearly wanted to try out. After many months, I finally decided that I really needed to go before the summer was over so I made it a date night and brought my girlfriend along for what I hoped would a great experience for both me and her of course.

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Located in the old industrial neighbourhood of Mile-Ex – stuck in the middle of Little Italy and Parc Extension, Manitoba is very unassuming as you approach – simply a wood terrasse in front of a simple door and window. Once you enter, it is truly a space in keeping with its neighbourhood and its approach of food – Industrial and clean but with touches of nature. A gorgeous bar along the left side of the room all the way to the open kitchen. The use of wood trunks on the ceiling with the light coming through them. The all-black wall and blackboard menu. The back garden and terrasse space with patio lights all a-glow. The vibe is hip and cool.

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Service is attentive and friendly. It is surprising how I froze up at simply being asked if I’d had a nice day – not exactly what you expect from your waiter. Even the chefs were chatty and friendly as one of the sous-chef kindly answered our questions about some of the plants and herbs they use that we didn’t know too well. We did have a bit of an issue with the service of our cocktails – way too long between the order and arrival of them – but otherwise great all around from the staff.

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After a quick discussion with our waiter, we decided to start with the deer heart gravlax served with cauliflower puree, corn, sunflower seeds, labrador tea oil and stonecrop. What an awesome way to start a meal. The rich gaminess of the deer heart was not lost in the gravlax process. Add the creaminess of the puree, the sweetness of the corn and the little crunch from the seeds and this was a great balanced dish.

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As a main dish, my girlfriend opted for the scallops from iles-de-la-madeleine served with lobster mushrooms, salicornia, green pea puree and emulsion. The scallops were nicely sized and wonderfully fresh with a beautiful sear all around. The beautiful lobster mushrooms brought a nice contrast to that freshness with their earthy tones. I was also very intrigued about the green pea puree and emulsion. An interesting bite of technique that maintained a strong pea flavour. Very good all around.

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In my case, I decided to order something I had never had before: Maple brulé bone marrow served with chokeberry, maïtake, swiss chard and toast. From my vantage point watching the chefs use a blowtorch to burn the maple sugar made me pine for this dish pretty quickly. Bone marrow was something I suspected I would enjoy and yeah… turns out I was right. Definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but dear god did I love this. Rich and fatty with a great sweetness and crunch from the maple syrup, I could have had many many more. The chokeberry mixture on top added some tartness and then add in some wonderful toast to put the whole mixture on top of…. just wonderful. Simply wonderful. In my mind, a must-try if it’s on the menu.

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After those great dishes, we were then left to decide on dessert. We ended up going with both options of the evening. First was a honey, indian celery and black walnut cookie served with raspberry ice cream and lichen dipped in chocolate. The cookie had a nice crunch with subtle hint of both the honey and the walnuts. The ice cream was smooth and flavourful and the use of lichen was an interesting component to bring forth.

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The second dish was a spruce panna cotta with candied pumpkin seeds and wild blueberries. This was a very cool surprise. The texture you expect from panna cotta – rich and smooth – but the true surprise was just how strong the spruce came through. The combination of blueberry and pumpkin seeds were a nice pairing here as well. A strong finish.

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Manitoba was what a had hoped for – a great unique mixture of dishes in a cool looking and feeling restaurant. As we sat outside in the back garden with a glass of wine partway through our meal, I thought to myself “Yeah this is pretty great”. Pretty much says it all.

Cheers!

Manitoba
271 St Zotique Ouest
514 270 8000

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Majestique

29 Jun

Moving away from the Main as I have recently have led me to think about all the great restaurants up and down the Main that I have enjoyed over my 9 years a short walk away… The only disappointment to my new location is I now have to bike or drive to them all! Despite my best attempts, there were also a few spots that I never got to in my time so close by.. luckily a beautiful Sunday evening recently allowed me to cross another one off the list, Majestique.

Located in an old Lester’s deli, owned by the Holder brothers and with the menu designed by the former Chef-de-Cuisine at Toque, Charles-Antoine Crète, Majestique recently has an interesting pedigree within the Montreal restaurant scene. The vibe is very casual but the menu and cocktails speak to a certain level of refinement. Looking at the menu, it’s an interesting mix of dishes but one that really doesn’t fit any true designation. Given the beautiful day, we requested a table on their small terrasse but as there would be a slight wait, we started our evening inside in a room that is probably best described as hipster deli/chalet. The old deli is still clearly visible but just covered in an insane amount of knickknacks ranging from sports pinnies to bowling pins and coke bottles. The look is not from everyone but I really enjoyed it.

As we waited for our table outside, I went with the SPF 45 cocktail – White Barbancourt rum, lime juice, kaffir lime syrup and dashfire chinese bitters. A surprisingly mild cocktail where the lime really comes through. A solid summer terrasse drink.

Very shortly after, we sat down on the terrasse and ordered some oysters to start because my girlfriend had never had some raw before and because why not? Served with a classic mignonette and a very interesting apple cider mignonette, these oysters were beautiful and fresh. As always, more could have been ordered but with the rest of the food ordered, we held off to save some room.

The first of our entrees came up next. First was the tostada topped with sushi rice, avocado and nori. What a lovely dish! The tostada in this case was using rice paper which had a light and fluffy texture. The combination of creamy avocado, sticky rice, the nori and a spicy mayo worked very nicely on top.

The next dish was whelk served with herb butter and fried bread, so sea snails served like traditional snails but with a twist. The herb butter was a great discovery on my end – didn’t overpower the natural fattiness of the whelk like traditional garlic butter but still brought a subtle adjustment to the flavour. The whelk has delicious and the fried bread added a bit of crunch to the combination.

Then came the squid salad with cherry tomatoes, pancetta and fava beans. Such beautiful squid – so rich and tender. Paired simply with the fresh veggies and herbs, the squid is so good that frankly it could have been the only thing on the plate and I would still love the dish!

A dish that definitely surprised was the burnt salmon confit served with an apple and almond salad. I really didn’t know what to expect from salmon confit and the answer was a ridiculously soft texture. It may perhaps be seen as too soft, almost mushy to some people but we really dug it. The salad was very non-descript and honestly just felt like filler on the plate.

We couldn’t say no to a side-order of fries and those came through nicely as well. Good sized with a nice crunch and already salted, they paired very well with our final main dish – the foot-long Nordic shrimp roll. Best dish all night and it’s not that close despite the positives I stated of the previous plates. Great flavourful shrimp filling in an insane toasted brioche-like hot dog bun. Best hot dog bum I’ve ever had without a shadow of a doubt. Knowing what this ended up being, I would have skipped one of the previous dishes to order another just for myself. So so good…

For dessert, we had two options available to us – sucre à la creme and cheesecake with rhubarb. The sucre à la creme was small in portion but oh so good. Dangerous little sugar packages. The cheesecake was nice and creamy with a nice rhubarb jelly over top. Solid sweet options to end our meal.

Majestique was quite a nice meal from beginning to end. Solid cocktails, great technique and execution throughout the meal. The overall menu left me somewhat baffled in terms of how one describes this place. Regardless, the quality of the food and the fact that the kitchen is open late nights makes this a great option for a late bite along the Main. Majestic is just another sign that the heart of the Main food wise continues to work its way northward and now I have another reason to re-visit my old neighbourhood.

Cheers!

Majestique
4105 Saint Laurent
514 439 1850

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Tuck Shop

7 Jun

About 5 years ago now, I read a review from Lesley Chesterman in the Montreal Gazette about a restaurant in St-Henri – a neighbourhood I knew nothing about – called Tuck Shop. Everything about what she wrote about the restaurant – from the food to the decor to the music even – peaked my interest and I made a note of it. Fast forward to now – I have moved to Pointe St-Charles and have spent tons of time in St-Henri visiting all the great new restaurants and spots that have popped up…. except for Tuck Shop. The one initial reason I even knew about the neighbourhood. Well that needed to change. Taking advantage of a rare evening free for both myself and my girlfriend, I set up a last minute dinner date to finally see if Tuck Shop was worthy of its high spot on my to-visit list.

Relatively nondescript when you walk by, Tuck Shop is a 40-ish seat place with a great mixture of hardwood floors, white brick tiles and wooden walls. The open kitchen in the back creates a more dynamic feel to the space and I love the granite countertop bar in the middle of the room. The room is adored with mason jars filled with marinades and sauces which provide a homey touch. The music the entire night was right up my alley and kept me humming along the whole meal – from CCR to Grease to Steve Miller Band. Noise level was moderately high – you could still have a conversation but not in a hush tone. Service was punctual and on point – I particularly enjoyed when we received our menus and were recommended to try a cocktail…. especially since the server in question was the one who made them. And in fact, the menu said cocktails by Seabass. Loved the friendly and fun way that was done. The entire team all night brought the same energy and vibe. Well done.

After being sold by Seabass, I couldn’t say no to one of his cocktails. I went with the Maple Rhubarb – Brandy, maple syrup, mint, lemon and rhubarb bitters. The rhubarb taste was subtle but there. The overall drink was sweet enough that my girlfriend enjoyed it but balanced enough that I could taste the brandy and not feel I was being stiffed. An solid starter.

We decided to share an appetizer and went for the Florida soft shell crab with green papaya, coloured carrots, cucumber, radish, coriander, chili, peanuts and kaffir lime mayonnaise. A wonderfully light but flavourful dish. The crab was beautifully rich and tender with the outer crust providing a bit of crunch. The green papaya salad underneath provided some sweetness and a bit of heat which could be countered by the lime mayonnaise. A beautiful dish throughout.

The first of our mains was the fish of the day – in this case, salmon – with herbed ricotta gnocchi, morels, fiddleheads, fava beans, carrots, Tokyo turnips, sorrel, daylillies, salsa verde and root vegetable puree. The fish was beautiful but the star here was the herbed ricotta gnocchi – rich and fluffy delights. The inherent earthiness of the fiddleheads, morels and fav bears were an interesting pairing with the creaminess of the puree and the fresh kick from the salsa verde. Enjoyable all around.

Our second main was the Cornish Hen with Littleneck clams, homemade chorizo, fennel, white beans, kale, coriander, chili, charred onion puree and tomatillo. I simply loved this dish! So much going on but oh so good…. The chorizo was the driving force flavour-wise – spicy almost to the point of overwhelming the palate but it didn’t. The hen was juicy and crisp on the outside. The underlying clams and white beans helped to dull the chorizo as did the sweetness of the puree. The jalapeño added even more hotness if you were so inclined.

With a bit of room left, we went for the brownie with noix de Grenoble and homemade vanilla bean ice cream. Loved the ice cream – great rich vanilla taste however the texture of the brownie was a bit too dry for my preference.

Outside of the minor quibble at dessert, Tuck Shop was exactly what I had hoped it would be even all the years later – A beautifully relaxed atmosphere serving kickass refined comfort market driven food. My biggest disappointment is that I waited so long to eat there. Believe me, that will not happen again. It’s great to see such an awesome spot holding down in St-Henri for this long now. There were one of the first here. Here’s hoping they continue to do so for many years longer.

Cheers!

Tuck Shop
4662 Notre Dame Ouest
514 439 7432

Tuck Shop on Urbanspoon

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