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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

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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

Maison Publique

11 Mar

Warning: this post will be of the rather gluttonous variety. Copious amounts of food was tried and enjoyed on this particular occasion – even more than usual for yours truly. What was the reason you ask? Well for the occasion of my best friend’s wedding, I was tasked to find a good dinner option for the groomsmen, fathers and brothers the night before the actual wedding. One of my many Best Man duties as it turns out. After a little bit of last minute drama – my original reservation elsewhere somehow didn’t exist anymore the day before after I had called 2 months prior to book it! – I was saved by chef Derek Dammann and Maison Publique. Able to accommodate a party of 10 on a Friday night with only a day’s notice…. I will forever be grateful.







While a huge fan of their brunch service, I had never found time to experience dinner at Maison Publique. I was very excited to try the dinner menu and also introduce this wonderful restaurant to my best friend and the rest of the group. As I wrote in my original brunch post a couple of years ago, I just love the vibe and look of Maison Publique. I’m happy to see that it remains the same and even better during dinner. Great music, relaxed vibe – our group just loved the space. Such an beautifully eclectic joint for the neighbourhood. If I lived any closer, I would come in for a beer on a regular basis.









As a large group, we had two different group tasting options for us to try. Best friend’s wedding so we said F it and went for the bigger option of the two. We wanted to make it count. Prior to the food arriving, we went for a few… okay make that many growlers of Beau’s Brewing Company beer. The fact that Maison Publique has Beau’s on tap just makes them that much better – love that they support Canadian brewers.



As we enjoyed some drinks, the first batch of menu items came over. First up, we had the Maiale Tonnato which is boiled pork with pureed tuna sauce on top. It doesn’t sound that great but believe me, as the picture shows, this was a beautiful dish. Topped with some fresh herbs and some grated cheese, I loved the saltiness of meat with the creaminess of the sauce. Great technique showcased in a seemingly simple dish.



2nd dish of this first round was baked oysters. Such a decadent dish. Massive fresh oysters topped with bacon and cheese. Tasted like a baked potato but with oysters…. huge hit at the table. Loved the different play on oysters.



The final dish of the first round was raw Albacore tuna with lemon and horseradish. Simple and elegant – quite the contrast from the oyster dish. The tuna was beautiful – fresh and flavourful. Subtle hint of the other ingredients but the tuna was the star.



Great first round of dishes so the kitchen staff decided to give us a mini break with….foie gras on toast. Yeah clearly this meal wasn’t going to be light. If you hate foie gras, this wasn’t going to sway you. For the rest of us, simply heavenly. Rich and creamy foie gras with a bit of salt and parsley on toasted bread. Loved the simple addition of salt to play off the inherent fattiness of the foie gras. Thankfully a few people at the table didn’t like foie gras so I got a couple extra pieces!



On to the second round now! First up, Andouille sausage, herring (or at least I think it was herring.. my memory is failing me this time) and a mini slaw on croutons. Very nice mixture of ingredients and flavours. The fresh fish and the acidic slaw paired nicely with the very spicy sausage. The Andouille started off soft but left quite an impression afterwards. Unless you had a strong stomach, two croutons was as much as any of us could handle.



The final dish of this round was the beef salaison – cured beef with a black pepper rub served with a creamy slaw (again… I have forgotten exactly what the slaw was made of… damn poor memory). Beautiful texture to the cured meat and a strong peppery taste. The hint of oil and salt over top helped to dull that a bit as did the wonderfully creamy and cool slaw. Great contrast again in this dish.



At this point we still haven’t gotten to the main yet! First one was the baked cod with lima beans and leeks. Coated with a parmesan and terragon mixture, the fish simply fell apart as you took a fork to it. The nature of serving it as a whole fish meant that we had to deal with the fish bones – minor quibble but one to note for those of you who don’t like to search from them in your fish. Such great flavour from that fish. The roasted leeks and lima beans underneath were simply delicious as well. I need to start using leeks more in my cooking… I don’t think I ever realized how good they can be when used this way.



To pair with the fish, the other main we were served was the fried rabbit (pardon the picture – badly timed flash from across the table that I didn’t notice until the next day…). Served with some lettuce, the rabbit was game meat at it finest – tender and flavourful. The added crunch from the frying process brought a nice texture to the dish. Loved this dish as did the table – I think the serving plate was empty within 2 minutes!!



The final dish of the third round was a plate of seasonal winter vegetables. A mixture of carrots, beets, potatoes and celery with a small sauce. Very much appreciated the lightness of this dish after all the meats… and made me feel less guilty about the meal since I now got my vegetables in.



After all of this, we still needed to keep some room for dessert! First we had the butterscotch pot de creme. Smoothy and creamy, a wonderful dessert that I wish had been bigger!



The ricotta cheesecake was perfection. Fluffy yet creamy and smooth. Topped with some prunes and some maple syrup, a very nice combination indeed.



And lastly we had the des bois and amelanchier ice cream. Flavours I’d never had before and now hope to have again. Perfect texture to the ice cream itself. None of these desserts lasted more than 10 minutes despite all of us being stuffed to the gills.



Chef Derek and his team simply knocked it out of the park for us. From the level of execution throughout, the amazing flavours, the quantity of food and the great service, this meal was one that my best friend and the rest of the wedding party raved about afterwards. Simply for getting me out of a jam in my Best Man duties, Maison Publique would hold a special place for me but the overall experience on this evening confirmed that more than that, Maison Publique is one of the best Montreal has to offer. Thanks again Chef! and Bravo!

Cheers!

Maison Publique
4720 Marquette
514 507 0555

Maison Publique on Urbanspoon

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