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Épicerie Pumpui

15 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Épicerie Pumpui
83 Rue Saint-Zotique E
514 379 3024

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

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TRAN Cantine Vietnamienne

8 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

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

La Cabane d’a Coté

27 Mar

March means sugar shack season here in Quebec. So for the last few years, that has meant going to La Cabane au Pied de Cochon, Martin Picard’s spectacularly glorious shack up in Mirabel. It’s not traditional but frankly I want a great meal at a sugar shack which isn’t as easy to find anymore so I go a little on the crazy side. However, this year, for the occasion of my wife’s birthday, I decided to forgo that particular experience for its cousin, La Cabane d’à Coté. Located on the property just next door to Cabane PDC that they purchased last year, Cabane d’à Coté is a smaller, more intimate setting (about 40 seats) run by Vincent Dion Lavallée, Martin’s partner and formerly the head chef at the Cabane PDC.

La Cabane d’à Coté took over the old sugar shack on the property and uses the old evaporator as the cooking apparatus – heating with wood and using the flattops on top of the old evaporator to cook off of. It is a unique idea for a restaurant and creates a cool scene when you enter the restaurant as the kitchen is front and center. Other than one table, the rest of the common seating is situated in the rooms just off from the center kitchen space with views of either the maple forest on one side or the apple orchard on the other. It is a beautifully simple restaurant space which evokes a classic style (especially with the use of old style dishes and cutlery) but with some twists. Even though the space is 40 people tops, it goes get a little nozy but not so much that you can’t enjoy the eclectic mix of music through the evening – think 90s pop with classic quebecois.

Compared to the Cabane PDC, La Cabane d’à Coté’s menu is a table champetre which changes more frequently that the twice a year of the other shack. The restaurant is also open year round and doesn’t require the same reservation time – although it can still take some time to get a table. The menu is a 5 course fixed menu which they say is all you can eat but frankly we were so stuffed just with the portions they served us that I can’t imagine anyone asking for more!

The first course was composed of two dishes. First, a split pea soup with maple glazed duck meatballs, sour cream and cheddar cheese. Excellent soup that really evoked the classic hardy soup that I love but the addition of the maple glazed duck meatballs really gave it some more richness and a touch of sweetness that I enjoyed.

Paired with that was homemade raisin cinnamon bread grilled on the flattop served in a maple reduction and topped with foie gras, maple sugar and creme fraiche. An insane level of richness and sweetness that was glorious. To our pleasant surprise, the charred toasted notes that comes from grilling over the wood really came through. Quite a start of our meal.

The second course was a more subtle affair. Of the four dishes we got for this course, there were two big hits. First was the raw scallops served with fermented cabbage and cream sauce. The scallops were sliced thinly and beautiful. The acidity of the fermented cabbage paired very nicely as well.

The other big hit was the thinly sliced white ham served with bacon and bacon over a base of apple butter. Coming from the hams the group raises on the property, the ham was so good. Beautiful texture and great flavour. The apple butter underneath was a rich and sweet treasure as well.

We also got mini buckwheat pancakes served with maple syrup and a salad of endives prepared in escabeche served with fresh sheep’s milk cheese. The pancakes were enjoyable but compared to the other dishes weren’t as special. I enjoyed the salad although my wife found the endives still too bitter for her liking.

At this point, we were already starting to feel full but we weren’t even halfway there! The next course brought two dishes. First, a sort of celeriac omelette served with smoked trout. A solid dish – the big standout was the chunk of smoked trout. Beautiful texture and flavour.

The other dish was a duck tartare of mushrooms, beets and crispy duck skin served over a Jerusalem artichoke puree. A really different tartare that I really enjoyed. I liked the use of the skin to add some different texture to the tartare. My wife doesn’t love duck so this was the dish we split opinion over the most over the course of the evening.

The fourth course was an all-meat affair. First was maple glazed grilled pork from the Cabane served with a cherry sauce. Simple but very well done. The quality of their pork in terms of flavour and texture comes through and the sweetness of both the maple and the cherries paired perfectly.

The second dish wasn’t as successful sadly – quail stuffed with duck meat served in a minestrone soup. The quail meat was excellent. The issue for both of us was the soup which clearly got an extra kick of vinegar but so much so that all we got flavour wise was vinegar. The big disappointment for us on the night.

The last dish of this course made up for it however – rabbit and chicken pot pie served with maple carrots. My favorite of the night. Beautiful presentation and great depth of flavour to boot. A great flaky crust, lots of meat and a beautifully rich but not heavy sauce to pair all of it together. Chicken pot pie is one of my childhood favorites so this dish evokes much love for me.

Finally….. we get to dessert! Some how we found a way to eat all 5 desserts they brought us 😉 The ricotta doughnuts served with maple dulce de leche were solid and enjoyable. The praline and sunflower seed ice cream was a very pleasant surprise that we both loved. The Baba served with haskap berries (camerise in French) and cranberries syrup topped with maple pastry cream and whipped cream was the most visually appealing of the group. Flavour-wise, the cake was a little heavy but the fruit syrup and the maple elements paired beautifully together with it. The most unique dessert was the frozen apple poached in maple syrup served with fresh cream. The apple’s texture was very unique in this preparation and of course, apples and maple pair so well together.

And lastly, as this is a sugar shack after all, we got some fresh maple taffy which was served to us through a hidden compartment in the table which allows them to bring snow into the restaurant to pour the maple syrup over. Very cool element and of course the perfect end to a sugar shack meal.

La Cabane d’à Coté continues the excellent tradition of the Cabane PDC and turns it into a more intimate, less bombastic experience. There is still excess – it’s a Martin Picard venture after all – but chef Vincent finds a way to make it slightly more refined and subtle. I would love to come back in the summer time to see what Vincent would do with all the fresh produce they produce on the property without the sugar shack trappings. This was a wonderful night and definitely worth visiting again.

Cheers!

La Cabane d’à Côté
3595 Montée Robillard

Le Club Chasse et Pêche

16 Feb

Despite my best efforts, there are still numerous Montreal staples that I have yet to try. Be it for lack of occasion or honestly just forgetting about them, some restaurants have been continuously on my to-try list for years and years. Le Club Chasse et Pêche has been one such place. The old Montreal staple run by Claude Pelletier, long lauded for the quality of their work since 2004, has weirdly never been one that I would think about when looking for a high end restaurant for an occasion. Well, thankfully that was fixed for me as a friend of mine decided to have his birthday dinner take place there so I finally got to see if all the praise was justified.

Located very unassumingly on a side street in the Old Montreal, Le Club Chasse et Pêche has a somewhat weird visual motif to me. Given the age of the building, they highlight some of its classic features – beautiful old stone walls and archways – in the periphery but the rest of the space is a mix of more modern touches – dark printed pattern wallpaper on the ceiling, black accent walls with a flat concrete-like finish, modernistic artwork, curved plastered walls which orient and separate the room in ways to make things feel more intimate but also weirdly disorienting. It works with the low lighting to create a very intimate ambience perfect for the type of special occasions that bring you to a place like this but personally not the type of style I enjoy.

The menu is not big but frankly everything on the page sounded amazing. As a starter, I went with the crispy veal sweetbread served with a soubise sauce, comté, mustard and hazelnuts. I love sweetbreads so even though the rest of the items listed seemed like a weird mixture, I felt this dish call to me. It was superb – the sweetbread was cooked to perfection – juicy and tender but with a great exterior crunch. The onion sauce had a nice balance of sweetness and creaminess and the other elements worked well even if adding cheese, mustard and nuts to this would seem odd. Just trust me.

The other starter I got to try through an exchange with the birthday boy was THE Club Chasse et Pêche classic starter – the braised piglet risotto topped with foie gras shavings. Holy cow did this dish not disappoint. My friend called it the best risotto he has ever had and I would agree. The risotto itself is cooked nicely – a touch firm but still very tender and the flavours are out of this world – the mixture of the pork and the rich foie gras made this so decadent but so powerful. Definitely a dish not to miss when you go!

As a main dish, after much MUCH deliberation, I went with their version of the surf and turf, Le Chasse et Pêche, the component of which change regularly. On this occasion, it was buttery lobster and 30 day aged steak. Excellent preparation of both elements. The lobster was all rich and buttery goodness. The steak was seared perfectly and very tender. An excellent surf and turf.

As a dessert, I decided to go with their Bomb – a caramel and milk chocolate tartelette served with an 80% chocolate sorbet. I loved the tarte – flaky and crisp with a great rich caramel flavour. Honestly I didn’t like the sorbet – it felt too watery to me which gave us less impact than it should have. A minor quibble in a great meal.

Le Club Chasse et Pêche was a great experience and worth the wait. The food was exquisite – our entire table left the dinner very full and satisfied. It may be easily missed when you walk around Old Montreal but believe it, it is definitely worth your attention. Don’t wait as long as I did.

Cheers!

Le Club Chasse et Pêche
423 Rue St-Claude
514 861 1112

Le Club Chasse et Pêche Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

1909 Taverne Moderne

9 Dec

In Montreal, hockey and the Habs are king. As such, the team continues to find new ways to expand their reach. One of these is through food as the team has opened up a massive sports bar in the Bell Center to cater to the downtown core – 1909 Taverne Moderne. Clearly modelled after Real Sports in Toronto, 1909 is a sports bar restaurant on steroids. It is a huge multi-level restaurant which offers standing room, bar seating and mezzanine banquets all focused around a gigantic screen showing sports – obviously the Canadiens if it was a game night but in this case, college basketball and hockey.

The space is impressive to look at. It is also very loud – the combination of the high ceiling, the mezzanine structure and the loud music playing at the same time means that this isn’t the place for a quiet meal. Clearly you come here because you want a party, you want to watch sports in a group setting or you are coming to the Bell Center for a game or show and want something close by. Looking at the menu in comparison to a typical sports bar, the bar menu is varied with lots of local microbrewery options. The food menu itself also steps away from the usual bar fare with some more up-scale items.

My wife wasn’t too hungry so as a meal, she went with the Teriyaki baby back ribs appetizer. The ribs were pretty good – served amongst like spare ribs, they were fall off the bone tender and pretty flavourful with the sweet Teriyaki glaze.

The positives stop there though. I went with the Chili Con Carne with a side order of fries. First up, they both arrived at the table lukewarm. This brings up the issue of the service. Our waiter was nice but he wasn’t very quick or attentive in general. It took a while for him to come take our order and the food was slow to come as well. It is a very busy space but then more staff should be present or at least they should re-think how they function because our guy was running around like crazy but never really on top of things. It is not acceptable for food to be served not hot. We had a concert to go to so I didn’t make a deal of it but could have been very easily.

The chili itself was bland – it lacked any strong flavour notes. No heat, no sweetness, no nothing. It was filling because we was meat and beans but frankly anyone with their slow cooker could have matched it.

The side of fries was equally uninspiring – the cut was fine but they had no inherent flavour and when you add that they were lukewarm, really not a winner especially for 6$. I got to try some nachos one of our friends ordered and it was a similar story – very average fare. Lots of chips but not a whole lot of cheese or topping for something that costs 13$.

In the end, frankly I can see the interest to go to watch a game in a cool setting but frankly the food (and the subsequent cost of the meal) really doesn’t make this a worthwhile dining experience outside of that. Much like the Habs this year, there is potential but the finished product is no where close yet.

Cheers!

1909 Taverne Moderne
1280 Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montréal
514 416 9809

1909 Taverne Moderne Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lloydie’s

9 Dec

When the weather starts to get cold around here, most of us start to think about warming climate and getting away from the snow. I, on the other hand, think more about cuisine from those warmer climate. My regular weekly errands bring me up to Mile End and right by a relatively new spot in the neighbourhood – Lloydie’s. Lloydie’s has been around as a producer of Caribbean food in Montreal since 1987 but has only recently opened up a couple of fast food-like restaurants to serve their cuisine. I took the opportunity a few times to try them out and see if they could evoke some warm feelings in the midst of the cold creeping up on us.

The menu is short and concise. They have jerk chicken, jerk pork and oxtail served in a few different ways (plate, sandwich or poutine) and with a variety of sides as well. It is fast food so you order at the counter, take it and go. In both cases when I visited the service was quick and very efficient. I tried their ginger beer on my first visit. Super strong ginger flavour – this isn’t one of those “sorta” ginger drink where you taste it a bit. It is all ginger, all the time. I enjoyed it as a nice palate cleanser during the meal but it will definitely be an acquired taste for many.

First up, I went with the jerk pork poutine. A nice generous portion of fries topped with a gravy, cheese curds and some jerk pork. The fries had a nice cut to them and just a little crunch on the outside. The gravy was light but flavourful and the cheese curds were the right kind of squeak – as one would want in a poutine. The key distinguishing feature here is the pork. The pork was very tender and had tons of flavour – not too spicy but with just enough kick to tell you it’s there. Very enjoyable.

I also decided to order a side of plantains that first time. The plantains are fried up and tossed with a spicy seasoning mix. I loved the flavour of the plantains but personally thought they were a little too thick sizewise. As a result, they lacked the more crunch I love with my favorite fried plantains.

The following visit I went for a plate of oxtail. The plate is served with a side of plantains and either rice or fries – as you wish. The fries are tossed in the same seasoning as the plantains which adds a nice taste to them. The oxtail was wonderful – fall off the bone tender and very flavourful. The stewing liquid/gravy is rich and very deep in flavour. It has a certain sweetness to it – almost chocolatey in nature.

Super flavourful meats, nice depth of flavours and solid portions – Lloydie’s definitely goes a good job of bringing Caribbean food in a fast food approach. If you want to be the cold, definitely head over to them for a hit of Caribbean heat.

Cheers!

Lloydies
66 Rue Saint Viateur Ouest

Kinka Izakaya

14 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Kinka Izakaya
1624 Sainte-Catherine Ouest
514 750 1624

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

Chez Victoire

14 Nov

Every November, we in Montreal are lucky enough to have the MTL à Table food festival going on. This wonderful event – where restaurants offered a reduced price table d’hôte – is a great opportunity to try a restaurant that you have otherwise not had a chance to try at a price that makes taking a chance more reasonable. Over the years, I have used it as a great way to visit those places that I have wanted to visit but honestly forget about. This year’s choice is no exception. I have been aware of Chez Victoire since its opening in 2010 and while it has been on ‘the’ list for a while, I’ll admit to simply forgetting about it year after year. As I looked at the different menus offered, theirs was one that grabbed my wife and I’s attention so we made our way down Mont-Royal on a quiet and cold Sunday night to see if the long wait would be worth it.

Chez Victoire described itself as a neighbourhood bistro and yeah that description fits well. The space feels like a bistro but more clean and modern, less ornate. The high ceilings and the mezzanine in the back of the room amplify the noise such that, with a full room, the noise level was a little too high ideally. The waiters are dressed in the classic bistro style with the black vest and white shirt and their service is in keeping with a bistro – very smooth, professional and sharp. So far so good but what about the food?

Prior to the MTL à Table menu, we decided to try a plate of their house-made charcuterie served with bread, crackers, dijon mustard and olive oil. Lots of variety on the plate and very enjoyable all around. I am also a big fan of grilled bread like they served with it.

Coming back to the actual Table d’hôte, my wife and I decided to share the two options available for each part of the 3 part service. The first entrée was braised pork from Beaurivage Farm served with celeriac, butternut squash, ahi amarillo and carob. Very favourable dish – the tender fatty pork pairing very nicely with the earthiness of the squash and celeriac.

The second appetizer was quebec whelk served with leeks with leek dressing, yuzu, dill and a goat cheese mousse. Lots of flavour here but weirdly, everything but the whelk came through. Loved the texture of the goat cheese mousse and how it combined with the leeks but that pairing is what comes out as the star. If I hadn’t known there was whelk, I wouldn’t have known as I tasted the dish. The other more minor issue I had was the leeks at the bottom being served room temp. It adds some crunch but I admit I would have preferred it lukewarm to warm.

The mains had a similar split of excellent and alright. First was the braised Lac Brome duck thigh served over celeriac puree, puy lentils and kimchi topped with butterscotch miso butter, pomegranate, walnuts and mint. Lots of components and seems very busy with the mix worked very well. The duck was beautiful in terms of tenderness and flavour. The mix of celeriac, lentils and kimchi provided some earthy hardiness but with a spicy kick and then the butterscotch miso brought the richness that works so well with duck. Loved this dish.

The second one was more of a meh – Albacore tuna tataki served with apricots, green beans, carrots, carrot puree with jalapeño and a curry oil. Compared to the other dish, this one just felt fad. The curry oil was only slightly noticeable and the jalapeño not at all so the big punch of the dish didn’t show up. The rest was well done but felt underwhelming.

As for the dessert, both were excellent. First, a dark chocolate ganache served with malden salt, sunflower seeds, creme fraîche, kumquat and a financier. The richness and creaminess of the ganache was excellent and although my wife didn’t love the sour creme fraiche, all of the accent ingredients worked well to pair and contrast with the chocolate.

The second dessert was a rice pudding with coconut milk served with kaffir lime, caramelized bananas, spiced rum, citronella and pecans. We both love a good rice pudding so this was an easy sell for us. The addition of the bananas, pecans and rum paired well with the rice and coconut notes of the pudding.

So I finally made to Chez Victoire and despite a couple of flat dishes, I can definitely see where the praise for this restaurant comes from. I love the idea of a neighbourhood bistro and the homeyness that comes with that but with the high level of execution and presentation. It is ironic that I finally visited a Plateau bistro only once I left the Plateau but I’m happy to have finally tried it. Definitely worth a try!

Cheers!

Chez Victoire
1453 Mont-Royal Est
514 521 6789

Chez Victoire Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tiradito

14 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Tiradito
1076 Bleury
514 866 6776

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

Hvor

14 Sep

Notre Dame Street has become such a hotbed of restaurants in the Sud-ouest that it is hard to keep up with all good places to try…. even when I live in the neighbourhood! One such place is Hvor – a restaurant that, when it opened a few years ago, got great reviews but that I never found the time to check out. Recently, friends of my wife’s invited us out to dinner and we decided on Hvor as the destination. I was very curious to see if the initial positive buzz was still deserved.

Hvor’s focus is local organic produce – the menu changes weekly based on what they get from the market, from local producers and also from their own terrasse garden – where they produce a number of different vegetables, herbs and even honey. There are a few tables on the terrasse so you can sit in the garden for dinner. Sadly, as it is a first-come-first-serve basis for that, we were not able to get one of those tables. Instead, we sat inside. The space is very industrial modern – a big contrast to the earthy market style food they focus on. It is a clean and open space with a large bar being the big eye catcher in the space. On the sunday evening we were there, it was very quiet but I can imagine a pretty noisy environment if the room is full.

The wine and cocktail lists are interesting enough. I decided to try one of their cocktails – the Rhum and Julep –
Ste-Marie rhum with sea buckthorn variations, orange minthe and ginger beer. Very nicely balanced between the rhum and the more fruity elements of the drink. Beautiful presentation as well using the buckthorn.

There are a few menu options available – you can go à la carte – either full plates or sharing style – or tasting menu. We chose to go à la carte sharing but allowed our waiter to choose for us – we couldn’t decide exactly what to go for. Up first, a amuse gueule of sour cream, melon foam and roe eggs. An interesting balance of textures and flavours. A good omen for what was to come.

Our first courses arrived soon next. We got some locally produced sourdough bread with fermented butter and charcoal – beautiful crust on the bread with a nice yeast body.

Next we had some grilled Princess scallops from Gaspé served with hazelnuts. The scallops were rich and tender with a nice grill to them. I never would have considered hazelnuts as a pair with scallops but their strong earthy flavour worked pretty well here.

Our final appetizer was a platter of maquerel sashimi and sliced scallops with a host of veggies. Beautiful presentation. A dish of finesse and execution. The scallops and mackerel were delicious. The little extras paired nicely overall.

Our second course kicked it up further. First we had a cold gaspacho served with grilled halloumi, roasted tomatoes, carrots and radishes. Delicious dish – I always love grilled halloumi and the rich saltiness it brings. That paired very nicely with a smooth velvety tomato soup.

The main dish was an trio of grilled meat from their menu: duck, lamb and steak served over a beet corn risotto with some potato chips. The three meats were beautifully grilled and cooked well. Wonderful tenderness to all of them. I get the idea of the potato chips to add some crunchy texture but frankly while they were good, I don’t think it worked all that well in practice. The beet risotto however was wonderful – bright and flavourful, rich and creamy. The addition of the fresh corn worked well as well.

The final dish was a platter of desserts – we got amongst others a dark chocolate Paris-Brest, a rice and coconut cake, a pistachio cake with pickled rhubarb and some candied peaches. At this point, we were pretty stuffed but we found a way – my wife loved the strong pistachio flavour of the cake in particular. Personally, I was more a fan of the Paris-Brest and how they used dark chocolate to contrast the usual sweetness of that dessert.

Hvor was a fun experience from beginning to end – we got very nice and personal service all evening. We even got a tour of the garden at the end of the dinner. The only negative being how long it took to get the check to pay at the end. The food was delicious, presented beautifully and well executed. It took us a while to get here but I’m happy to see that Hvor is still worthy of the praise it got at its opening.

Cheers!

Hvor
1414 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 937 2001

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

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