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Larrys

10 Jan

What is the ideal neighbourhood restaurant? Well… one imagines a small cozy place where you feel equally as comfortable just grabbing a drink and a snack or a full meal. A place that caters to all hours… not just a breakfast place or a dinner place. You want it to be accessible to everyone – somewhere you could see parents bring their kids on the weekend just as much as the young profession couple. And the food needs to great of course. Do such places exist? Well…. Mile End might have a good one based on my visits to Larrys.

Located in the old Cafe Sardine space on Fairmount, just east of the Main, Larrys is the little brother of the wonderful Lawrence restaurant just next door. I suppose you could call it a coffee shop by day and a wine bar by night but that strikes me somewhat as reductive and not truly indicative of what Larry’s offers. Larrys offers food options for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 8am to 1pm every day as well as a great selection of beer, cocktails and wine. The space is small but very warm and welcoming. I love the use of the accent wall in the back and the huge shelving unit behind the bar. Definitely has the feel of place you could stay in all day.

On our first visit, we went early so we went for the breakfast options. My girlfriend went with a combination of the breakfast muffin with a plate of smoked salmon. The breakfast muffin was a combination of apple, nuts, cinnamon, oatmeal and flour. A very hardy and satisfying muffin. The smoked salmon was equally enjoyable. Much thicker than your typical smoked salmon but still with that lovely texture and taste.

I myself went with the breakfast sandwich and a side-order of bubble and squeak. I have loved it when I ate at Lawrence for brunch and it continues to be excellent. A pork sausage patty with melted cheese, a over-easy egg, lettuce and dijon mustard on a english muffin. The bite of the dijon is a nice touch to the classic egg sausage sandwich. The bubble and squeak – a mixture of mashed potatoes and cabbage that has quickly become a personal favorite of mine – was nicely cooked and provided some hearty accompaniment to the sandwich.

The second time around, we were there for more of a brunch/lunch situation so ordered outside of the breakfast options. Hence, I ordered a corpse reviver – gin, lillet, amara, lemon and absinthe. It may have been 11 am at the time of order but no judging okay? Great balance and flavour – nice way to start the meal.

We still ordered the breakfast sandwich of course…. and it was still delicious. We also went with a plate of rillettes. Their butcher shop down the street has had great rillettes for years now so this was going to be a hit for sure. Great flavour and texture. Some people may find them too fatty but not me. Always excellent.

We then shared a trio of “lunch” dishes. First, roasted carrots with honey and muhamarah. The carrots were roasted perfectly and I loved the combination of the honey with the spicy but slightly sweet muhamarah. The fried potatoes were nicely golden and crispy. A touch of garlic and parsley came through and then you add a creamy mayo for dipping. An excellent side dish. The final dish was bulgur and pickled eggplant – a solid dish but probably the one that we enjoyed the least. Came across a little too vinegary from the pickled eggplant.

I love everything about Larrys. It helps that I love everything else that the group behind Lawrence does but still… there is something so wonderful about a place that can cater at all hours with a cuisine that is high quality and yet feels very homey and comfortable. If I lived in Mile End, I would definitely see Larrys as my neighbourhood hangout – the place to go for a drink, or a quick bit, or simply to get some work or enjoy a conversation with friends. Larrys nails the neighbourhood restaurant template perfectly.

Cheers!

Larrys
9 Fairmount Est

Larry’s Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Brasseur de Montreal

5 Dec

For local beer fans, the name Brasseur de Montreal is definitely one you will know. The Griffintown-based brewer is a staple of the local microbrew scene and is a personal favorite of mine. However, what you may not know is that they have a full restaurant at their Griffintown brewery. Despite it being so close to my place, I hadn’t visited yet. I found myself there on a Saturday night with a small group curious to see if the food matchs the quality of the beer.

The space is rather big – very industrial in look with a window to the kettles behind the bar. They also have a great terrasse space but this being November at the time, not really the right time to enjoy it. On tap, you can find all their beers and some seasonal stuff…. or at least usually because on this occasion, many options were not available – such as all of their white beers. Not quite what you want from a brewpub. At least I could still get a classic Griffintown blond but that shouldn’t happen ever.

As a starter, we went for the BdM sweet potato fries with chives, garlic, parmesan and spicy mayo. Pretty good overall. The fries were crunch yet not overcooked inside. The mayo had a nice little kick to it. Solid starter. We also got to try the house made fried calamari served with chipotle mayo. Another solid dish – nice crunch to them but they kept the tenderness you want from calamari.

For mains, my fiancé went with the smoked and fresh salmon tartar mixed with apple, chives, sour cream and yogourt. Nice portion size and good presentation. The salmon was fresh and the mix of the smoked salmon is an interesting idea to bend into the tartare however the whole dish felt like it lacked flavour and seasoning – the taste of chives and apples were no where to be seen. The portion of fries that came with it was generous. The salad was okay but didn’t bring much.

I decided to go with the pulled pork sandwich – smoked pork shoulder served with bbq sauce, onion compote and gruyere. The pork itself was nice and tender, good smoke to it. The bbq sauce had a nice mix of sweet but smoky however the sandwich could have used more of it. The sandwich felt a little dry as a result. I enjoyed the use of gruyere and the sweetness of the compote worked well. The fries were also plentiful and very good – always love matchstick style.

I left the dinner a little disappointed. The food was okay – good but the lack of seasoning is what can make the difference between a good meal and a great meal. Brasseur de Montreal have great beer and clearly a great terrasse to enjoy – I just wish I could say the same for the food.

Cheers!

Brasseur de Montreal
1485 Rue Ottawa
514 788 4500

Brasseur de Montreal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Toqué

4 Dec

Montreal’s place in the world as a culinary hotspot has everything to do with the amazing chefs and restauranteurs that our fair city is lucky to have. And I would argue that no one has done as much to build the Montreal scene as ‘The Godfather of Montreal Fine Dining’ as per Anthony Bourdain – Normand Laprise. Chef Laprise, previously through Citrus and now Toqué, helped push the use of Quebec produce year round in restaurants and helped developed some of the city’s best chefs including Martin Picard.

With all its accolades and prestige, Toqué has been top of my ‘to-do’ list for a while now but I hadn’t found the time to finally visit…. until recently when I got a reservation for MTLàTable this year. So, my fiancé and I got dressed up and made our way down to the Old Montreal to see if my expectations could be met.

Originally on St-Denis street, Toqué relocated in 2004 to The Quartier International of Montreal across the street from the Palais des Congres. The room itself is refined and much bigger than I expected. The room also feels more vacant. The tables are separated apart enough that you never really feel like there is anyone else around you and the restaurant never feels full despite there not being any tables free. The service throughout the night was impeccable – very professional and attentive. The kind of touches you hope to see in a fine dining establishment and that Toqué does very well.

For MTLàTable, Toqué was proposing a 3 course meal with a couple of options at each course. First up, I tried one of the cocktails they were offering for the occasion. The Adam and Eve – Apple Brandy, cider with clove, cardamome and anise syrup – was excellent. A nice balance of apple acidity, sweetness and the spice notes of the cloves and cardamome.

A little amuse-bouche was provided to start – tuna tartare with fennel seed – as well as fresh house baked bread.

For appetizers, we started with the deer carpaccio topped with marinated squash, oyster mushrooms, walnuts and parmigiana reggiano cheese. Beautiful presentation as one would expect from a restaurant of this caliber. The meat itself was sliced amazingly thin, very tender and flavourful on its own. The addition of the fall veggies, the fresh reggiano and some olive oil really made it pop and provided some nice contrasts of both texture and flavour. A Toqué classic for a reason.

Our other appetizer was stripped bass rilettes served with a bread tuile, dill and kohlrabi. Once again, excellent technique on display. The rillettes, using potato as the binder, were very nicely done with great rich flavour and a nice texture. I really enjoyed how the bass came through so nicely in a dish that I associate more with meat versus fish.

As a main, the duck breast was screaming out to me. Served with roasted squash, black garlic puree, wild rice, pleurotes and herbed jus – the duck was simply exquisite. Perfect cook on it and great flavour. The jus has great depth. I enjoyed the touch of the black garlic as well. And of course, beautiful presentation – one of the best duck dishes I have had.

My fiancé went with the Icelandic Cod served with roasted potatoes, celeriac puree, rabiole, brussel sprouts, romanesco and truffle butter. The cod was beautifully tender and flaky. The lightness of the fish was nicely complimented by the rich puree and the glorious truffle butter. Truffles always make things better!

Dessert kept things going strong. First, a milk chocolate mousse incased in a chocolate ball shell with cacao granola, raspberry jelly and hay caramel. Great depth of chocolate flavour and beautiful presentation again. I liked the jelly being in the center of the ball of mousse.

Our other dessert was caramelized apple jelly served over praline and cinnamon sponge cake, cranberry poached apples, oatmeal and marscapone cream, speculoos crumble and oatmeal ice cream. Lots of elements demanding tons of precision and technique. It was amazing how well the caramelized apple taste came though in the jelly. The poached apples were delicious, the cream was rich and smooth and the ice cream very strong on oatmeal. Tons of fall flavours coming through. Great creative dessert. We also received some little bites at the end – sucre à la creme and some raspberry jellies. Very flavourful and a nice finishing touch to a great meal.

I had very high hopes going in and Toqué successfully met them and then some. Amazing service from beginning to end, wonderful food with high technique and presentation – you understand how Chef Laprise and his crew came to be known as the high-end of Quebec cuisine and how they are able to maintain that level of excellence after all these years. Toqué is a amazing place and we are very lucky to have them here in Montreal.

Cheers!

Toqué
900 Pl Jean-Paul-Riopelle
514 499 2084

Toqué! Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maine 2017 – Eventide Oyster Co.

23 Jul

When in Maine, I seek third things food wise – lobster, oysters and clams. My seafood “trifecta” if you will. I have my personal preferences for lobster rolls and fried clams in Maine – check out the articles from my previous vacations for those but oysters not yet. For a while, I have had a certain well known spot on my list to check out for some fresh Maine oysters amongst many things. For part 2 of my 30th birthday in Portland, Maine, I finally went for Eventide Oyster Co. ready to enjoy some super fresh Maine seafood.

Eventide Oyster Co. is located ironically almost across the street from Duckfat (see the previous article in this blog). Eventide is known as the first true oyster bar in the area and as such, is very popular. They too also have the no reservation issue like Duckfat (well… sort of. They take one group reservation a night). However, thankfully, turns out they have a text message system so we were able to go have a drink at a bar nearby in the meantime. 45 minutes later, we came back to a table outside on the terrasse ready to go.

We started with some cocktails. My muddled Old Fashioned was exquisite and done with great care and balance. The standout though was my friend’s Celery Gimlet of gin, celery and lime – she spent the next 2 days lauding its praises. The level of smoothness and strong celery flavour was so surprising.

First round of food was of course some fresh oysters. Eventide offers 9 different varieties from Maine as well as a few options from PEI, New Brunswick and New Hampshire. We went with 4 different types from Maine and a couple of accoutrements – red wine mignonette and kimchi ice. The kimchi ice was very interesting – they take some of the pickling liquid of kimchi and add it to shaved ice. Loved how the strong fermented taste of the kimchi paired with the amazingly fresh oysters. Beautifully shucked and so delicious. A great start to our dinner.

Eventide, of course, offers many other dishes. First, the New England Clam Chowder with potatoes, salt pork and saltines. The chowder was not as creamy as we expected but the flavours were so wonderful. The lobster came through strongly. The large pieces of salt pork brought some saltiness and richness and then the potatoes were cooked perfectly and gave some texture. The joy of the lack of the creaminess was how the chowder wasn’t nearly as heavy as you could have expected. Just wonderful.

The fried Maine Oysters with Thai apple slaw, mint and pickled ginger was a very creative and asian inspired-style to serving oysters. The oysters were delicious with a nice crunch. The Thai slaw with the mint and ginger provided a mix of sweetness, heat and freshness that paired wonderfully with the oysters. We also ordered a side of coleslaw – very flavourful, fresh and not too creamy.

Eventide is also known for their Brown Butter Lobster roll served on a steamed bun – think Bao Pork Bun with brown butter lobster instead. Sold! For the price, not very big but simply wonderful. The nuttiness of the brown butter paired so well with the inherent fattiness of the lobster and the use of a steamed bun is an interesting decision that makes the roll seem a little lighter overall. Wonderful roll outside of the norm.

Lastly, we had dessert by ordering one of their Ice cream sandwiches – in this case, double chocolate cookies and praline ice cream. This sandwich was massive – we shared it four ways and all felt we got a good portion. The chocolate were rich and very chocolatey. The ice cream was excellent as well. A great sandwich overall.

Eventide is a great oyster bar and definitely a must-visit if you are going to Portland. Great drinks, amazing seafood and friendly service. Round 2 of my birthday tour was a big success and I was happy to finally visit. Eventide is setting the bar for seafood restaurants all around – not just in Portland.

Cheers!

Eventide Oyster Co.
86 Middle Street
207 774 8538

Eventide Oyster Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maine 2017 – Duckfat

18 Jul

We in Quebec are very protective of our “National” dish, the Poutine. Everyone’s a critic and we all have our personal favorites. When we encounter poutine outside of Quebec, there can often be some derision and automatic negative thoughts about it. No way can this poutine be as good as back home! For a few years now, I had heard about an apparently great poutine in Portland, Maine. As I have gone to Maine every summer for the past 5 years, I had always told myself I needed to try it at some point. That some point was this summer for the first part of my 30th birthday in Portland (the other part will be the next article coming) so we sat down at Duckfat for a late lunch ready to see how their poutine stacked up.

Duckfat is a small spot located along Middle Street – the terrasse sits 24 or so and the inside a little bit more. This leads me to a quick tangent if you don’t mind. Duckfat doesn’t take reservations and, given its popularity and small size, thus requires you to give them your name and wait within 1.5 blocks with a pager device. Why in god’s name do Americans seem to be okay with this procedure!? At minimum, it should be your phone number and then they call you. What interest is there to stand outside and wait for 45 minutes to eat? Especially when there is nothing really interesting within the block to visit…. very frustrating to see this approach did exist. Anyway… tangent closed.

The menu is small and focused on fries, milkshakes, craft sodas and panini sandwiches. We tried two drinks: first, the Roots, Barks and Sticks soda made with sassafras, sarsaparilla root, birch bark, ceylon cinnamon and wintergreen. If you love root beer, you will love this one. Nice sweetness but not too much. Very refreshing.

The other drink was the Original Duckfat milkshake – vanilla gelato with creme anglaise and fresh Tahitian vanilla bean. Rich, smooth, creamy with lovely notes of vanilla – just a great milkshake to enjoy! Always love to see the specks of the vanilla bean within the milkshake. Easily more a dessert than a beverage but I wasn’t complaining.

We got a couple of the paninis as well. The overnight duck confit panini with spicy napa cabbage slaw, miso mayo and cilantro was lovely – the rich fatty duck with the kick from the slaw, the creamy mayo and the crunch from the bread. The house smoked brisket with vegetable chow chow, cheddar and BBQ sauce was a big hit for me, The brisket was fatty and smoky, the sweetness of the sauce paired very well with the meat and the cheddar worked also. Great sandwich.

Finally we get to the homemade Belgian fries. Of course, at a restaurant called duckfat, they are fried in duck fat. How could they not….You can either get the fries with a speciality mayo or in a poutine, served with local cheese curds, chives and a homemade duck gravy. The fries themselves are amazing…. perfect size, great crunch, tender inside and of course that amazing richness and flavour you get from the duckfat. We tried the curry mayo with the fries and it was very good. Strong curry kick but not overwhelming. As for the poutine, is it my favourite?… no but it is much closer than I expected honestly. The duck gravy is rich and yet not heavy and pairs up so well for the fries. The locally sourced cheese curds are good but they lacked that classic Quebec squeak – really the one element that holds me back from calling this the best. The chives brought some freshness and worked well. Very impressed overall.

Duckfat was a wonderful lunch spot and owns up to its name very well. Other than the service issue I stated earlier, this was an excellent experience food wise and showed that Americans can actually make a good poutine 😉 You may get annoyed by the wait time but believe me, it is worth it for those sweet sweet fries. Long live the joys of duckfat.

Cheers!

Duckfat
43 Middle St
207 774 8080

Duck Fat Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jatoba

20 Mar

When one talks about dining in Montreal, we rarely talk about the downtown core as a big part of that. We talk a lot about Mile End, Old Montreal, Little Italy, Notre-Dame Street in the Sud Ouest…. but downtown isn’t as hyped. Part of it may be perception, part of it may be people not wanting to head downtown proper. Either way, there are definitely places worth checking out that are more than simply overpriced fare for the business crowd. One of these is Jatoba. Located in Phillips Square, Jatoba is a project headed by chef Olivier Vigneault, previously a sous-chef for Antonio Park (also a partner in this venture). For the event of my sister’s birthday, there was a request to come check in this place out as a family outing.

The space, conceived by La Chambre Design, is a beautiful combination of the old brownstone structure with some more modern touches. I love how they incorporate the brick facades all around the different rooms and make them focal points. The lighting is ample but slightly dimmed to create a nice intimate feel. Lots of wood warms up the space and the kitchen is exposed in the big backroom. The other big element is the use of tons of plant life to incorporate some nature into the space. The whole of the restaurant feels very warm and cozy. A perfect vibe for a relaxed evening dinner.

Jatoba has a pretty good cocktail menu and wine list. I started with a Lavender May – Lot 40, lavender and calico syrup, fresh lime juice, egg white, rhubarb bitters. I love egg white cocktails so this was an easy sell for me. Not too floral with a nice touch of both sweet and sour. The frothy texture of the egg white added some body to it as well. As for the wine, for the purpose of full disclosure, I know the sommelier of Jatoba – an old high school friend – so with his advice, we were treated to a lovely French Patrimonio that we had never heard of. Just the fact he got my parents to like a French wine is worth very high praise. Thanks Marc-Andre!

Food-wise, given the pedigree of the chef, you can imagine that the menu is Asian-inspired fusion fare. As a group of 5, we were able to share numerous items. First up, I can never say no to a bowl of edamame with yusuf powder, nanami togarashi and fleur de sel. Always love that salty kick.

We also tried the Brussel sprout chips with spices. Very thinly sliced and fried up, I personally loved the slightly bitter notes from the sprouts and the crunch that came from frying them.

Next up, we went for some dumplings. We tried three varieties – the Gyoza (pork, shrimp, chinese chives, spicy samba oelek soy and chinese vinegar), the Tori (chicken, napa cabbage, braised shiitakes, leek and sonomono sauce) and the Ha Gao (shrimp, green onion and red wine tobiko). All excellent – very flavourful with the subtle hints of the extra ingredients above the primary proteins. Kind of made me crave some true Dim Sum at that point….

My girlfriend and I felt like a soup so we shared the lemongrass soup – lemongrass and coconut cream, shrimp, lobster, tomatoes, thai basil, green onions and bamboo. A lovely well balanced soup. The lemongrass was strong but the sweetness of the coconut cream softened it slightly and created a super silky texture. The addition of shrimp and lobster gave it some more heft and the tomatoes brought some freshness and tanginess. One of the best soups I’ve had in a while.

As a rice dish, we went with the fried rice with duck confit which included an egg, vegetable medley, yukon gold chips, green onions, micro coriander and enoki mushrooms. Very generous portion of rice and lovely flavours all around. The rice had the crunch of a fried rice with some earthy notes. The addition of the duck confit provided a nice rich and fatty contrast to the rest of the rice dish.

Next up was sushi time. We went with The Roll – atlantic salmon, spicy hamachi, avocado, cucumber, tempura flakes, sweet soy and yusuf yogourt. A more upscale version of a classic “Kamikaze” roll and excellent all around. Key differentiation was the use of less of the binding elements like the tempura and more emphasis of the freshness of the salmon. The fish was beautiful and came through clearly within the roll. No hiding of the fish here. The tempura brought a touch of crunch and I liked the touch of sweet creaminess coming from the yogourt.

The final savoury dish we tried was the 1855 Beef Tataki seared with sesame oil, mini green beans with cider vinegar, dwarf truffle peaches, black quinoa soufflé and sonomono sauce. Beautiful elegant dish – the beef was sliced beautifully thin and super tender. The addition elements simply play to augment the natural flavours of the beef.

For dessert, we got the Chocolate Bomb and the Japanese cheesecake. The bomb – a combination of black and white triple chocolate brownie with hazelnut praline, dark chocolate and hazelnut truffle, dark chocolate mousse, marbled chocolate sphere and milk chocolate sauce – was a chocolate overload in all the best ways possible. I loved the different uses of texture and flavours within all the chocolate. The cheesecake served with maple spongy candy and black sesame ice cream was excellent texture-wise. Nice and creamy. The black sesame ice cream was not my thing but a cool pairing to the inherent richness and creaminess of the cake.

Jatoba was a lovely night out – wonderful drinks, awesome service and good food. Worked out perfectly as a celebration for my sister’s birthday so when you are thinking about dining out in Montreal, don’t forgot about the business district of our city, it is equally worth of your attention for a good night out!

Cheers!

Jatoba
1184 Place Phillips
514 871 1184

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

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

Régine Café

16 Mar

As brunch has become more and more in vogue in Montreal, it is becoming a challenge to go to the most popular locations around the city without waiting in line somewhere. As much as I love brunch, at this time of the year, standing outside doesn’t really appeal to me. If only one of the best was also open on weekdays… and located about 2 minutes from where I take some of my physio courses… oh wait… Régine Café fits that description. Awesome. This Rosemont staple has been getting rave reviews for the past few years but it never really lined up for me to visit. Well, using the excuse of my course a couple of times over the past year, I have headed over on Fridays with my classmates to indulge in some decadent brunch food as a respite from all the learning.

Régine Café has a definite retro chic look going on. Almost Alice in Wonderland-like in terms of colours and patterns. It is quaint, fun and definitely loud – both in terms of look and noise level. Even on a Friday, this isn’t the place for a quiet conversation. Service was quick and efficient although at the rate people come in, they need to be.

You get a shooter of the day to start your meal every time. The first time, it was pineapple and mint. The second time, it was beet and apple. Both creative and fun ways to start the meal. They also have a number of drink options. I went with the cider both times. Very satisfying beverage for a brunch!

On my first visit, I decided to go with the Sucré Salé – homemade brioche french toast with pulled ham, aged cheddar, an egg and sucre à la crème. The title of the dish is definitely apt – a great combination of salty and sweet goodness. French toast using brioche was dense yet fluffy and had a great crust to it. The pulled ham was tender and salty. The egg and the melty cheese provided some richness and then you had the insanely sweet but oh so good sucre à la crème. I wanted a nap big time after this one so perhaps not the right choice during class but whatever, I stand by my choice.

For round 2, I started with a scone with mascarpone cream. I loved the cream but the scone was a little dry and dense to my liking. Great nutty and fruity flavour profile but a little more fluffiness would have been appreciated.

I decided after that to go with the Grilled Cheese – 2 year old Cheddar from Îles-aux-Grues with caramelised onions, walnut and pistachio bread, mango chutney and a little confit duck to top it all off. The only thing not appreciated of this plate was the mashed potatoes – too dry despite the nice rich flavour. The sandwich was outstanding – the duck was tender and fatty, the cheese was melted nicely and had a nice sharpness to it. The onions brought a touch of sweetness as well.

Régine Café definitely lived up to the hype. Excellent food, fun decor and solid service. I might be too lazy to go wait in line on a weekend but for those of you who do, don’t worry – you will come out very satisfied!

Cheers!

Régine Café
1840 Rue Beaubien Est
514 903 0676

Régine Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Ma Poule Mouillée

30 Jan

I never really understood how good rotisserie chicken was until I tried Romados. I grew up on St-Hubert chicken and the occasional Scores – Suburban life for the win – and there is a reason I stuck mostly to the chicken fingers through my teenage years. The classic chicken was generally too dry and not as flavourful as I wanted. Finally I moved downtown and then I discovered the beauty of Portuguese rotisserie. Moist and packed full of spicy flavour – finally proper chicken! Living close to Romados over the years gave me great opportunities to indulge when the craving hit. However, over the past couple of years, I’ve been hearing that another place in the plateau was given them a run for their money. That sounded impossible to me but given the co-owner of this new place worked at Romados for 20 years, it definitively peaked my interest. Last week, after a long Friday class nearby, I stopped over at Ma Poule Mouillee to give them shot.

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If you’ve been to Romados, you will recognize the set-up. Take-out counter – you wait in line, watch the chicken cook on the massive grill behind the counter and you pay at another counter where a bunch of Portuguese pastries are on display as well. It’s simple but as a take-out/quick service option, it’s works well. Decor-wise, that have certainly put more effort into creating a nicer sit-down space compared to Romados but frankly it’s doesn’t really matter in this context. The food is the key.

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For my first visit, I went with their “Louis Cyr” – 1/2 chicken with salad and fries. The classic combo. First off, huge portion for the price. I was surprised at just how much food I got for 11$ – a mountain of fries and a very sizeable half-chicken. The salad was classic side dish for Portuguese chicken and the fries were great as well – dense, tender and crispy – but let’s be honest…. it’s all about the chicken. I never thought I’d say this…. but I think they have Romados beat. The chicken was juicy and tender, super moist and so enjoyable. Add to that their spicy sauce slathered over the chicken and you have a heck of a chicken to enjoy.

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They do have a few other option including a ridiculous poutine that I couldn’t justify ordering on top of the chicken. However, I did take the opportunity to order one of their chorizo sandwich to eat the next day. Beautifully smoky and spicy chorizo sliced in between a soft roll and covered with the same spicy sauce as the chicken, the sandwich was a great lunch the next day.

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And because they had some pastries, of course I needed a natas. Pretty good version to enjoy – the crust was thin and crackly with a nice torched top, the custard had that crème brûlée texture with a strong vanilla note. Always a good way to finish a meal.

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Ma Poule Mouillée has got this chicken thing down. If anyone you know says they don’t like roasted chicken, simply bring them here and watch them realized the error of their ways. Portuguese chicken is a staple of the Plateau and is once again a reminder of the greatness of the diversity of Montreal. Now to find more reasons to visit the Plateau for lunch time….

Cheers!

Ma Poule Mouillée
969 Rachel Est
514 522 5175

Ma Poule Mouillée Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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