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Le H4C

28 Dec

For my final review of 2016, we have my final MTL à Table choice from November. For about 3 years now, I had heard great things about a restaurant located in the heart of St-Henri. Living near McGill, I thought about it but never went. Last year, moving to Pointe-St-Charles meant I could walk there now if I wanted to… but I still didn’t visit. Finally, the opportunity came around so I found myself at le H4C ready to see if the wait was worth it.

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Started by the founders of an architectural firm and chef Dany Bolduc, le H4C has the stated goal of combining responsible and sustainable architecture to gastronomy. The restaurant is located within a 1893 vintage building that used to be a post office. It has been restored beautifully – showcasing the old features of the brownstone while adding some more modern touches. The space is completely open and beautiful – the use of wood tables and leather banquette and chairs complement well the gorgeous stone exterior walls. The overall vibe is very calm and intimate – a perfect date night location.

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The menu is an interesting mix. I supposed one could call market cuisine with emphasis on local ingredients using french technique. It lents itself to very particular dishes. First up was housemade duck pancetta with papadoum, lime, curry, mustard, tamarin and cilantro. The pancetta was wonderful – the fatty taste of duck very strong and the texture wonderfully tender. The papadoum (a sort of Indian fried tortilla) provided a nice crunch to pair with the duck. The sauces dotted along the papadoum provided different accents flavours to play with. An excellent dish.

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Our second starter was equally well executed. The marinated salmon with cauliflower, creme fraiche, salmon roe and spices was similar to the first in that the primary ingredient was done simply but so well. The fish had great freshness and a lovely texture to it. The use of cauliflower and creme fraiche, while weird together in theory, worked very well with the salmon to enhance it by bringing in some richness.

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The final entree we tried was the Ricotta gnudi with gruyere, onion and croutons. Essentially a french onion soup broken down with gnudi instead of that big cheesy bread. A very cool usage of a classic French recipe and have some fun with it. Excellent onion broth – rich and smooth. The gundi were soft and lovely balls of rich ricotta. Adding the gruyere on top just made it richer and more filling.

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Our mains continued the high level of execution. First was the octopus with tandoori, caramelized yogourt, red onion, basmati rice and coconut. The octopus was wonderfully tender and the tandoori spices brought some nice flavour. The combination of the red onion and the yogourt provided some nice sweetness and creaminess to pair with the octopus.

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My dish of the night was the main I ordered: smoked meat with potatoes, smoked onions, rye, mustard and marinated cabbage. A wonderfully weird deconstructed smoked meat sandwich that tasted as close to the real thing as possible without having just meat between rye bread. The smoked meat was perfect – getting that right level of tenderness and flavour. I was just missing my root beer (or cherry coke if that’s more your thing)!

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The desserts had a hard time matching the highs of the mains. First the lemon meringue with cucumber ice cream and gin was interesting texturally but the cucumber popped more than the lemon or even the gin which didn’t work for me. The squash with gingerbread, white chocolate and pumpkin seeds was an interesting savoury sweet idea that worked better in theory than practice. No one at the table really enjoyed the preparation of the squash – almost gelatinous but the flavour didn’t work at all. The gingerbread and white chocolate mousse were excellent but that wasn’t really the point.. We also got some housemade popcorn which was very good as well.

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Le H4C was a solid night out. A very high level of execution throughout the meal in a beautiful environment. With the exception of the desserts, the meal was enjoyable by everyone at the table. I’m happy to see a restaurant such as this one succeeded in my part of town and I’m sorry it took this long to come visit. They also do brunch so I will need to check that out as well. Le H4C deserves your attention if you are visiting the Sud Ouest.

Cheers!

Le H4C
538 Place St-Henri
514 316 7234

Le H4C Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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EVOO Cuisine Soignée

7 Nov

Two and a half years ago, I came to EVOO for a quick brunch with a friend. The experience was good enough that I told myself I should come back for dinner at some point. Well, it took awhile but for the event of MTL à Table, I finally came back last week ready to see how EVOO held up after all this time with my girlfriend and some friends of ours.

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First thing of note for me was the completely change in decor. Gone was the contemporary white and purple look of before. Now, the space is more rustic in appearance with a harvest theme running through the room – use of light yellows, harvest tools and greenery on the walls, old mismatches wooden chairs and a large mirrored wall in the front. Compared to before, the space feels warmer although there is lack of pop visually and the room still feels a little empty somehow.

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I also need to make mention of the wonderfully offbeat playlist that played all night – jazzy covers of pretty much anything possible from “Stacy’s Mom” to “Gangster’s Paradise”, “Girls Wanna have Fun” and Kanye West’s “Only One”. For the entire night, our table was laughing and smiling at the great and weird songs to the point of asking our waitress exactly how found these songs.

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We decided to start with some of their speciality cocktails. Personally, I went for the Autumn Martini – Ice Cider, bourbon, apple juice and spices. An excellent blend of sweet and spice. Officially a cocktail I need to re-attempt at home.

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My girlfriend went with the rhum ground cherry – white and brown rums mixed with angostura bitters and ground cherries. Not a huge rum fan but again a very nicely balanced cocktail. A hint of bitterness to go with the spiciness of the rum and the sweetness of the ground cherry.

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Amongst the four of us at our table, we were able to try the entire menu EVOO had set up for MTL à Table. The first starter was a Bass Escabeche with roasted cauliflower, yogurt, smoked tomato jam and pickled fennel. Nice tender pieces of poached bass served cold as is traditional of a escabeche. The use of the smooth yogourt and the smoky tomato jam provided nice flavour kicks to pair with the fish. A nice presentation as well.

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Second starter was a homemade Ricotta salad with cucumber, brussels sprout, carrot, beet and walnut dressing. Another beautiful presentation and a wonderful fresh. A great creamy rich texture to the ricotta and the use of all those fresh vegetables matched up well with the inherent richness of the cheese.

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The final starter was a red wine onion soup with parmesan foam. The lack of that big crouton and melty cheese that we usually associate with a French onion soup made this feel a little lacking in the end. The flavour was very nice though – the red wine coming through strongly in the broth. More a question of expectations than anything else.

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Our first main was the Québec bison ribs with Anthony’s vegetable stew, chimichurri and pangritata. The meat off the rib was beautifully tender and juicy – simply falling off the massive rib in the plate. The pangritata breading added a little crunch and the vegetable stew provided a hearty comfort to the dish. Very enjoyable.

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Next was the mushroom ravioli with Mr. Petit’s confit goat, pear, crispy cipollini and parmesan. Nicely sized raviolis with a solid amount of filling. Nice flavour overall with the addition of the sweet pear provided a nice counter to the goat itself.

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Finally, we had the stuffed quail with Gaspor bacon, grilled lettuce, Labrador tea, sage mascarpone and root vegetables. The bird was nice and juicy and the rest of the dish had this great feeling of being technical but still comforting. Another excellent dish.

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Desserts brought further enjoyment. First was an assortment of Québec cheeses with some caramelized nuts, apple butter and fennel and coriander crackers. Next was an medley of desserts – salted caramel flan, aerial chocolate, apple, fireweed ice cream and some meringue. A great showcase of different technical skills and flavours. Very good across the board. The final option – for a little extra cost – was the Banoffee – caramelized bananas, dulce de leche, creme fraiche, shortbread and toffee. I was very happy I went for the extra cost to get this. The combination of the bananas with the caramel and the toffee was perfectly sweet and some nice crunch as well. This dish disappeared as quickly as it arrived at our table.

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It may have taken me longer to come back than I hoped but EVOO thankfully did not disappoint. An excellent meal – a showcase of technique and great ingredients – that left us satisfied and full. With all the changes and new restaurants opening on Notre Dame, it’s great to see EVOO is holding its own and providing a great experience.

Cheers!

EVOO
3426 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 846-3886

Restaurant EVOO Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Taverne Sur Le Square

13 Sep

With the rapid succession of new restaurants that open in Montreal, it is sometimes very easy to focus on the new stuff without considering some older more established spots. Just because they aren’t new doesn’t mean they aren’t worth visiting. I was reminding of this a few weeks ago when I met up with my girlfriend and some of her co-workers for a post-work dinner at Westmount Square and more specifically at Taverne Sur Le Square, a place I had never been to before somehow.

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The second of chef Stephen Leslie’s three restaurants – after Monkland Taverne and before Le Sieur d’Iberville – Taverne Sur Le Square called itself comfort food with international twist. The space is one befitting its place in Westmount Square – one of our city’s architectural beauties. The open room is warm and welcoming while keeping that touch of refinement. We chose to sit outside on the terrasse gently lit by patio lights strung across the space. Because of the risk of rain that evening, we were pretty much alone out there – one should never turn down some terrasse time especially with how short terrasse season is for us but I digress….

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Looking at the menu, I decided to go with the table d’hôte whereas my girlfriend went with a couple of starters for a lighter dinner. My selection of the table d’hôte gave me a salad to start – very simple and served with roasted seeds over top. The roasted flavour of the seeds was a nice touch. The portion was very generous as well – very uncommon as a table d’hôte starter.

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My girlfriend’s first starter, the salmon tacos with Pico de gallo and avocado, was a slight miss. Loved the soft tortillas and the creamy avocado and the fish was fresh but it felt bland. The pico de gallo didn’t have much punch to it and the portion felt a little small even as an entree.

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The second starter was more along the right track – Grilled octopus with chickpeas and red pepper puree, sauce vierge, parsley and red onion. The octopus was plentiful and grilled nicely with just a bit of char to it. The puree was nice and creamy and the sauce vierge paired nicely with the whole thing.

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As a main, I decided to go with the soft shell crab served in a bun with remoulade, tomato, pickle, lettuce and tavern sauce. This item was the reason I went with the table d’hôte for a change. The soft shell crab was plentiful and had a great crunch. Add some fresh veggies, a creamy sauce all put between a great soft bun and you had an awesome sandwich to enjoy. Plus, it was served with a nice of wonderfully crunchy fries to enjoy. Goodness all around.

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The last I got to try was their creme brûlée – always a sucker for a creme brûlée and a little sweetness to finish off a meal. A very solid creme – nice caramelization on the top with a richness and creaminess underneath.

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Despite a couple of neutral or slight misses, my first experience at Taverne Sur Le Square was a solid one. You can see how this restaurant has survived being in the relatively dead zone restaurant wise for over 14 years now. A place where you can grab a quick bite and drink after work or have a nice refined dinner for a special occasion. Taverne on the Square isn’t perhaps on the forefront of the “Hot” restaurants in Montreal but if you willing to deviate from the current trend and try a classic, you may wonder why it’s not on that list to begin with.

Cheers!

Tavern on the Square
1 Westmount Sq Ste
514 989 9779

Click to add a blog post for Tavern on the Square on Zomato

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

Chez L’Épicier

16 Nov

For my final MTL a Table dinner, I went back to the Old Port to another longstanding member of my “need to try” list – Laurent Godbout’s Chez L’Épicier. About to open a sister restaurant down in Palm Beach, Chez L’Épicier has been a highly regarded restaurant in Old Montreal since its opening. A friend of mine continues to states that one of the best meals of his life has been here. Talk like that has made my visit long overdue. Hype level was high which can be scary when dealing with restaurants. There is nothing worse than overly heighten expectations setting you up for a disappointing experience. In these instances, you just need to go in and have faith that the restaurant can shine through with excellent dishes and a fine touch.

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Pre-starters, we were greeted with a cocktail of maple syrup and apple cider as well as an olive and goat cheese macaron amuse-bouche. Loved the combination in the cocktail – the acidic nature of the cider dull by the maple syrup while keeping the sweetness level strong. The macaron was a interesting idea – I had never had an non-sweet macaron before. My hatred of olives had me skeptical however the use of the creamy goat cheese eased that olive taste which I despite. Very nice level of technique.

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Our first starter was a squash velouté poured over homemade sour cream, onions, squash seed nougatine, parsley juice and brown butter vinaigrette. Cool little presentation element as the velouté was poured at the table over the bowl of accent ingredients. Loved the smooth and earthy nature of the soup and how each extra item brought a nice element to pair with the squash. A perfect fall starter.

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Our second starter was a slowly cold smoked trout filet with a miso and maple reduction, shallot fingerling potatoes and a maple vinegar mousse. Wonderful flaky texture to the trout with a subtle hint of sweetness from the reduction. The mousse was a quirky but nicely flavoured addition and the potatoes brought some more heft to the dish. Very good.

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The first of our mains was a sea bass fillet with herb polenta, lobster juice bouillabaisse and vegetables glazed with water butter. The real star here is the bouillabaisse – if only because the lobster juice overpowered everything else. The fish itself was solid. I am not a big fan of polenta up front so while this one was well done, it didn’t speak to me in any way. The vegetables were good but nothing to write home about (which is ironic as I am writing about them). Overall an okay dish. I feel like the fish should have had more of an impact in this dish.

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Our final main was beef shoulder lacquered with orange and olives served with onion and rosemary butter brandade and reduced juice with Cointreau. Huge winner in my eyes. The beef shoulder was cooked perfectly – to the point where you early had to touch it for it to fall apart. Great richness to the beef and the hints of orange and Cointreau came through nicely. The brandade was excellent as well.

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The first dessert was a carpaccio of compressed apples with tarragon granita and caramelized pecans. Sadly I didn’t get to try it because my friend finished it off so quickly which one can definitely take as a good thing. Loved the concept overall – the tarragon being an interesting addition to apples and pecans.

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The other dessert available was a tempura brownie with greek yogurt cream and white chocolate jelly. The brownie itself was moist and chocolatey – a key for me with any brownie. Personally, while the tempura was well done, I’m not sure how much of an addition it brought to the dish other than texturally. It kind of felt like an afterthought – added at the last minute to make the dish “unique”. I enjoyed the smoothness of the yogourt cream as well as the presence of the white chocolate and strawberries. A solid finish to the dish.

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I had high expectations for Chez L’Epicier and they were mostly met. Very high level technique was visible throughout the meal – the highs were oh so high. However a couple of dishes had a few elements that left us wanting more. Not things that were a big deal but when compared to the rest of the dishes, they stood out more than they should have. All in all, I was quite happy to finally cross Chez L’Epicier off my list. Looking at the regular menu after my visit, I was intrigued enough to want to come back which I suppose is all that needs to be said.

Cheers!

Chez L’Epicier
311 Saint-Paul Est
514 878 2232

Chez L'Epicier on Urbanspoon

Leméac

4 Jul

Special occasions call for certain restaurants. Restaurants where not only is the food delicious but the overall experience is from top to bottom impeccable and without fault. There are not too many of said places but for my family in particular, Leméac continues to be one of these and as such, it was the perfect place to go celebrate my sister’s 2nd university degree (tied with yours truly and soon to be passed me).

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For the uninitiated, Leméac is a classic French bistro on Laurier that has one of the best dinner terrasses in the city. Sadly, for this evening, we did not have a table there so we would have to make due inside. The interior has a modern bistro feel – stone tile floor, white walls, wooden chairs, white tablecloths and a gorgeous modern bar with leather bound high chairs. A very clean look that screams professional and upscale but still feels welcoming.

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As a a starter, I went with the house made blood pudding with celery root purée and cider sauce. Now… I know that blood pudding is not for everyone and a complete non-starter for some, however if you are tempted to try it, this would be the place to do so. Great texture to the pudding itself, the root purée nice and creamy and the richness of the sauce… dear god that cider sauce. So good. An excellent start all around.

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The other start I got to try was the escargots with portabella mushroom tomato ragout and basil sauce. Very different compared to the richness of the previous dish. Outside of the delicious escargots, the rest of the dish was all about freshness. Particular recognition must go to the sauce, a foamy basil sauce that paired everything together here so well. Amazing depth of flavour despite its consistency. The level of sauce work at Leméac has always blown my mind… and makes me feel wholly inadequate to attempt to make my own at home.

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We move on to the mains now. First up, a grilled shrimp salad and sesame oïl vinaigrette. Very asian-inspired dish in terms of flavours mostly because of the vinaigrette. The very large shrimps were grilled perfectly well and the mixed veggie salad underneath was nice.

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We also ordered a side of french fries because when one is at Leméac, you must order some whether it makes sense with your meal or not! Pretty much perfection in terms of fries – just the right cut and just the right mix of crunch and tenderness. Add a side of mayo for dipping and you are set to finish the entire bowl and order some more.

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My own main was the braised beef short rib with barley stew, swiss chard and mint pesto. The level of execution on the rib short blew my mind. I was able to pull the bone out without any effort and not a single strain of meat came with it. Just needed a fork to break it apart and enjoy the meaty goodness. The barley stew with the pesto and the chard were excellent as well but quite honestly, it didn’t matter what else was in that plate because of that glorious cut of beef.

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Lastly, I just needed to order their classic pain perdu with maple caramel and ice cream. This thing is massive. The picture doesn’t do it justice… unless you have skipped a course, you will need help to finish this. Beautifully fresh bread crisped up nicely with a truly decadent caramel and silky ice cream. Perfect execution once again.

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Leméac was, as it always is, a excellent experience. Every course screams technique and execution. Great depth of flavours across the board. Great food, excellent wine list and very solid service means that you can never really go wrong here. If you are looking for a great French bistro experience, there is nowhere in Montreal that I can recommend more highly than Leméac. Just try to sit outside if you can… it will make it even better.

Cheers!

Leméac
1045 Laurier Ouest
514 270 0999

Leméac on Urbanspoon

XO Le Restaurant

17 Dec

Every once in a while, I have the desire to really go all out with a meal. Never mind picking a few options from the menu – I want the tasting menu with the wine pairings. I want to take out my tie, pocket square and jacket and go fancy. Go somewhere where the initial though is “Well I can’t do this too often” and the bill at the end of the night reflects that. In the end, the experience is what I am after. Well, last month, through a invite of a friend, I was presented with such a opportunity in one of the most beautiful spots in Montreal.

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The St. James Hotel in the old port is one of Montreal most well known boutique hotel. A place where no expenses are spared. Located inside the hotel, in their Banker’s hall, is XO Le Restaurant. A restaurant that certainly makes quite the impression when you walk in. Beautiful high ornate ceilings, chandeliers, Roman columns, beautiful staircases leading to 2 mezzanines overlooking a lounge space and a dining space – it is quite the looker. You can’t help but stare around you throughout your time in the restaurant. It is a space that has you wanted to come back for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even just for a drink.

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For this evening, at the recommendation of one of my dining companions’ friends (who, for the purpose of disclosure here, works in the restaurant and led our service), we were going with their signature 6 course tasting menu with associated wine pairings. And so we sat down to a Aperol spritz – ready for a great meal and lots of wine.

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Our first course was thinly sliced Princess scallops with nitrogen frozen oranges and a trio of cauliflower paired with a Niagara Riesling. A precursor of things to come, the presentation was beautiful – the whole dish in a large seashell, sitting on a bed of rocks with dry ice poured underneath by our server. A little over the top with the dry ice? Sure but it added extra flair to the whole proceedings which definitely seemed in line with the setting. The dish itself was quite good – the scallops were perfectly executed, the orange added some zest and the cauliflower a little crunch.

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The second course brought forth Black bass with white beans, parsley puree and a Meyer lemon beurre blanc sauce paired with a glass of Meursault. Another great looking dish that was delicious as well. The fish was cooked perfectly – flaky and moist but with a great skin crispness on top. The beurre blanc brought some richness and had the unmistakable hint of the Meyer lemons. The beans and the puree were quite good as well.

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The third course was a little richer as we got a Foie gras Tartin with apple ice cider jelly on top, pecan crumble and a apple maple reduction paired with a lovely French Chenin blanc. Just an amazing combination of great technique and great flavours. The fatty foie gras, the sweetness of the apple maple reduction, the beautiful texture of the ice cider jelly and the extremely fine texture of the pecan crumble – there was not a single thing not to like on this plate. Simply beautiful.

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The fourth course continued along similar lines as the previous one as we got a white truffle risotto with a white chocolate sauce and chestnuts, all paired with a glass of 2007 Barbaresco Paje. This was by far the most filling dish we got on this evening. The white chocolate sauce was a surprise to all of us when it was mentioned but once we tried it, it made perfect sense – a touch of sweetness to offset the inherent creaminess and richness of risotto. The addition of white truffle was wholly unnecessary but oh so perfect. It made the dish all the more decadent.

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The fifth course was Stag with sweet potato done 2 ways and dehydrated Nutella, paired with (appropriately enough) a glass of Stag’s leap Petit Syrah. The sweet potatoes, both in puree and galette form, were delicious and the Stag itself was well prepared – very much showcasing the natural gaminess of the meat. The crazy element here was the dehydrated Nutella – such a unique preparation of that item but one that works so well within this dish. The chocolate and hazelnut flavours paired very nicely with the lean meat.

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Prior to the final course of dessert, we got a palate cleanser in the form of a Hibiscus tapioca. This was the one dish of the meal that I did not enjoy. It certainly served its purpose as a palate cleanser and it was beautiful to look at but Hibiscus is not a flavour that I enjoy.

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The dessert course itself was a orange flan with fennel ice cream and 3 crumbles: olive oil, black pepper and sea salt. Very unique flavours for a dessert but everything worked very nicely. Great texture to both the ice-cream and the flan. The 3 crumbles were amazing – great flavours without being overbearing. Individually, each worked well with the flan but they also worked well in combination. Very well executed.

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And to finish off the whole, a small plat including a Mint chip, house caramel and dark chocolate truffle were provided with the checks. All 3 were great – particularly the house caramel. A great meal all around.

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4 hours after we sat down, we were stuffed – 6 courses and 5 glasses of wine will do that to you. This meal was very much an experience – a pricey one for sure – but an experience nevertheless worth having. The service was impeccable, the decor jaw dropping, the food and wine spot-on. The sticker shock may be hard to get by but believe me – you’ll be satisfied in the end.

Cheers!

XO Le Restaurant
355 St-Jacques
514 841 5000

XO Le Restaurant on Urbanspoon

La Fabrique

27 Nov

Sometimes the closest restaurants to you are the ones you never check out. They sit on your “to visit” list and get ignored. Be it because you forget about them or get distracted by other places. This year’s taste MTL allowed me to finally eliminate one such place from my list – La Fabrique Bistrot. Situated in front of St-Louis Square and a short walk from my neighbourhood, this open kitchen concept restaurant makes quite the impression when you walk in. The kitchen right in the middle of the room, beautifully wood panelling all around and tons of lighting accents. It creates a very inviting and rustic feel all without losing the fine dining element.

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For taste MTL, they were offering a 39$ menu that combined regular menu items with some other options. They also offered a wine pairing option for an additional 27$ for each of the meal. My dining companions and I went with this option and were satisfied with the selections – particularly the Muscato I received during the dessert course.

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Prior to the actual menu, we received a small bowl of squash, corn and nut soup as an amuse-bouche. Nice and rich, we were pleasantly surprised by the addition of the corn and the nuts. The corn provided some sweetness and the nuts a little salt on top of the texture additions both provided. A nice starter to the meal.

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The 2 appetizers offered for Taste MTL were a beetroot, carrot and orange salad with horseradish cream and ratatouille in a terrine with Vitello tomato and foccaccia. The salad was wonderfully light and fresh with a strong kick from the horseradish to spice things up. The ratatouille terrine was a very unique concept that worked beautifully and the sauce provided a nice creamy component to mix with the terrine.

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The first main course was a slowly cooked pork with apple, squash, turnip and sweet potato sautéed with Papineau’s maple syrup and ginger. Perfectly executed, the pork just felt apart. The fattiness of the pork was augmented nicely with the sweetness of the maple syrup and the freshness of the vegetables in the dish. The addition of the cheddar on top added some nice sharpness as well. A very creative and delicious dish all around.

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The second main was salmon preserved in sunflower oil with miniature pepper, parsnip, onion and a carrot purée. The preparation here was a bit more straight forward compared to the pork dish but very well done. The salmon was perfectly cooked and the carrot puree was wonderfully sweet. The other vegetables were good but didn’t hit home as much as the puree.

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We also ordered an extra side of home fries as they are fried in duck fat and served with house ketchup. Duck fat always adds a little something extra to dishes and that was no exception here. The fries had just that little extra taste and bite which was nice. The house-made ketchup had a nice tanginess to it as well.

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For dessert, the options were French toast with clove caramel and fleur de sel or an apple and maple syrup in a homemade yogurt cream. The French toast was ridiculous – a thick cut slice of bread with a rich and cream caramel with just the right hint of salt to balance out the sweetness. The apple, maple and yogurt mixture was quite good as well but got quickly overshadowed by the French toast. And then, once the bills came, so did our final surprise dessert – house cotton candy! Nice, sweet and fluffy without that pesky stickiness which hampers handling. A very playful way to end a great meal.

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From beginning to end, la Fabrique was a great experience. Having the kitchen in the middle of the dining room is a cool hook to get you in but the great food and atmosphere are what will make you come back for more. It is nice to know I have another awesome restaurant a short walk over in my neighbourhood. Just another reminder to not ignore what you have close to you. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Cheers!

La Fabrique
3609 St Denis
514 544 5038

La Fabrique on Urbanspoon

Liverpool House

4 Aug

There are certain restaurants that just speak to us. Everything, from the decor to the ambience to the music and of course the food, works within your sensibilities and creates a space that would go gladly go back to day after day if you could because it just feels right. Fred Morin and Dave McMillan created just such a place for me with Joe Beef. Since my original visit there last year (and further reinforced by my recent meal there this summer), I have always had their second restaurant (and neighbour a few doors down) Liverpool House on my “Must Check Out” list. Well, I finally got the chance with the family to see if the Morin and McMillan spell on me would continue.

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With our 9:30 reservation and the dim lighting, there wasn’t really the chance to take some interior pictures (and impacted the quality of my other pictures as well) but Liverpool House continues the casual and off-beat look that Joe Beef has in spades. Beautiful bar to enjoy a drink while a Steven Segal movie plays on a mini TV, wood panelled walls with large chalkboard menus, leather banquets and wood tables, a canoe on the ceiling, a mounted deer on the wall and way too many paintings of 18 wheelers. I simply cannot do it justice without images. All to say, I love it and the vibe it sets for the meal. Add some great alternative music and you’ve got me hook, line and sinker.

Before we even discuss the food, we must start with the cocktails. Liverpool House has a few house cocktails and I got to try 2 over the course of the evening. First, the Old Pal – basically their twist on a Negroni. A very bitter cocktail but one that I enjoyed tremendously. The second one was called a St-Vincent Sour – their play on a Whiskey sour but using Bourbon and maple syrup instead. Love the overall balance of this cocktail – very smooth with a slight touch of sweet and no bitterness. Complete 180 to the Old Pal in every sense. I definitely will be playing with that combination of ingredients at home shortly.

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As a appetizer, I went with their “Beer Cheese” dish – a mixture of blue cheese, cream cheese and goat cheese with some beer and other spices which becomes a spread served with marinated vegetables and some grilled toast. A very solid cheese blend that balances itself quite nicely. The cream and goat cheeses lent a nice smooth creamy texture while the blue cheese added a bit of kick but not enough to overwhelm the other elements of the spread. The marinated vegetables added a little vinegar to the party and the deliciously toasted bread served as the perfect platter for all of this. A great appetizer.

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On to the main. I decided to go for the veal sweetbreads with a mix of onions and Romesco sauce. Served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes and some jus, this dish will make anyone who has issues with sweetbreads love them. Nice and crispy on the outside with a perfect soft and fluffy texture inside, the sweetbreads were cooked to perfection to truly showcase the natural fattyness they hold. The mixture of onions added some nice sweetness to the dish and the Romesco sauce (a Spanish nut and red pepper-based sauce for the un-initiated as I was that night) provided a little garlic kick and as well as a little sweet spiciness. This dish was returned completely picked clean – loved every inch of it.

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There was one other main course I tried as there was some leftovers at the table and that was the curry shrimps. The reason for some being left over is quite simple – the portion they serve is huge. Over a dozen large shrimp served in a curry mixture with spicy lentils, pilaf rice and a yogourt sauce. The sauce for the shrimp was nice and mild in terms of curry. I cannot say the same for the lentils – a little too much heat for my tastes, especially the after-taste. Thankfully the deliciously creamy yogourt sauce cooled my palette off quickly. Add a solid rice pilaf and you have a solid dish through and through.

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Finally we get to dessert. I went for the Apricot Financiers. Mini light and fluffy almond flour-based cakes with a hazelnut crust served with some cherries, apricots and house-made vanilla ice cream. Wonderfully executed dessert all around. I was a big fan in particular of the ice cream. Just a great depth of vanilla flavour on top of a velvety texture. A great end to a awesome meal.

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In the end, Liverpool House had me from the moment I walked in and never let go. The entire experience was wonderful and simply made wish I could come back more often (and believe me… if it weren’t for budgetary notions, I would be there and at Joe Beef pretty much monthly). If you have been to Joe Beef and enjoyed it, then you need to check out Liverpool House. If you haven’t been, then no worries. Just come down anyway and I am sure you will convert quite quickly. Now to go save more money to visit again soon….

Cheers!

Liverpool House
2501 Notre-Dame St W
(514) 313-6049

Liverpool House on Urbanspoon

Camion Au Pied de Cochon

21 Jun

At long last, we have food trucks in Montreal! Well…. we actually had some last year but they couldn’t actually, you know, park somewhere and serve food outside of festivals, so this is closer to the real thing. Regardless, there is much rejoicing around these parts and for me, it means that I have some more trucks to track down this summer. I won’t spend anytime here discussing how this summer’s pilot project works so please just google MTL street food to find out the details in terms of locations, hours and the full list of trucks.

First up, on the opening day of the project, I had the chance to head to Victoria Square to try out Camion Au Pied de Cochon. Now I realize that this will be the 4th post I write about Au Pied de Cochon and its various off spring. The reason is quite simple… I love them that much!

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The concept they are going for is salty and sweet. You order in the front and from there, you pick up your items from either the salty window and the sweet window. The menu is an blend of dishes from the Duluth restaurant, the Sugar Shack and some unique truck items.

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I went for their big combo option with an added item. That item was a fried duck leg with maple syrup BBQ sauce. Anyone who went to the Sugar Shack this past spring got a taste of this particular item. Nice tangy BBQ on top of some great duck. Nice crispy exterior while still keeping some moistness inside. Great option for only 3$!

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The combo box itself contained four times – a maple soda, a foie gras poutine, a “beigne Cochon” and a “beigne sucré”. The maple soda was nice and refreshing with just the right amount of maple syrup flavor to make it sweet but not overbearingly so. This was one of the components of the Whiskey Soda I had up at the Sugar Shack…. Still the best one I have ever had.

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Next up, the foie gras poutine – their old restaurant classic and signature dish. If you’ve had it there then you know what to expect. They succeeded in translating perfectly to the food truck. Crisp golden fries, cheese curds, a piece of foie gras and their foie gras gravy – perfect in the restaurant and perfect here.

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Now for the new stuff. The “beigne Cochon” really stretches the definition of a doughnut. In reality, this is a smoked meat sandwich where a doughnut is the bun. Yeah…. You read that right… A doughnut bun. Picard and his team are just nuts man. Anyway, this sandwich was amazing. A very generous portion of pork smoked meat, white ham and pork tongue with some mustard sandwiched in between that doughnut. Great combination as the doughnut mimics a sort of brioche bread. Nice and golden with a good crust yet a soft interior. The perfect way to differentiate themselves in this food truck rush.

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For the “beigne sucré”, they take the exact same doughnut but then stuff it with a filling of your choice and then add powered sugar. In my case, I went for the rhubarb option. Stuffed to the gills with a cream and rhubarb filling, the doughnut, which had been perfect for a sandwich, became a wonderful sweet treat to cap off the meal.

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A very strong entry to the food truck world by the Au Pied de Cochon crew. Keeps in line with their “go big or go home” style of food all while adding some new twists for the truck. Very generous portions at a reasonable deal overall I think. If this is indicative of what we can expect from this generation of Montreal food trucks, we will all be very lucky people.

Cheers!

Camion Au Pied de Cochon
On Facebook or Twitter @camionpdc

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