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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.



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.



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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.




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.



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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.




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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.



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.


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….


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!


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.


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$!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Camion Au Pied de Cochon
On Facebook or Twitter @camionpdc

Au Pied de Cochon – Le Gros Verrat

12 Jun

This is not a review. If you want a full run-down of Au Pied de Cochon, I recommend that you check out my post from a couple of months ago. No, this quick post is because I recently went back for a second meal for a very specific reason.

Around this time of year, Au Pied de Cochon offers a few different seafood platters on top of their usual fare. One of which is called Le Gros Verrat. It is a monster designed for 10 people. We decided as a group of 6 to pay ourselves a little treat. Here it is:


The relatively poor quality of the picture probably doesn’t do this thing justice. I am 6’4” and I needed to stand up AND step back in order to fit the 4 level structure in the frame. Pretty much any variety of seafood you would want was present in this platter. The bottom level was all the warm options – Rockefeller Oysters, fried squid, scallops, halibut and deep fried lobster foie gras sushi. Yeah you read that right…. Deep fried lobster foie gras sushi.

The next levels were loaded with raw oysters, clams and razor clams, boiled lobster, crab legs, shrimp, escargots and other things I am probably forgetting in such absurd quantities that it truly seemed like the staff was daring us to try to finish it. And wouldn’t you know it….


…. We did.

If you have a group of worthy eaters who enjoy seafood and the willingness to open up the wallet a bit, may I highly recommend you visit Au Pied de Cochon this summer. Don’t think you will leave disappointed.


Au Pied de Cochon
536 Duluth Est.
514 281 1114

Au Pied de Cochon on Urbanspoon

Au Pied de Cochon

22 Apr

When one talks of Montreal culinary institutions, one quickly arrives at Au Pied de Cochon, chef Martin Picard’s ode to all things rich and decadent. From his roughly 80 seat space on Duluth Street East, he has built up a following which had allowed him to develop a culinary empire from his Cabane à Sucre and subsequent Tele-Quebec series to his now award-winning cookbook. His restaurant has, thanks to satisfied customers, food critics, fellow chefs and even some famous friends (Anthony Bourdain has sung his praises on many a TV show), become a don’t miss experience for food enthusiasts worldwide who visit Montreal. Despite all of this and even being a local resident, I had never the chance to eat there. Following my experience at the Cabane à Sucre a month ago, I knew that I needed to rectify that. And that happened this past Saturday.



The first thing you realize when you walk in is just how compact the restaurant actually is. Typical of the Plateau neighborhood, the space is deeper than wide and they use all the space they have to its maximal capacity. Even the wine cellar is a cramped side room with bottles stacked on both sides. The space is clean with wood used as the only real accents in the dining room. The kitchen and bar take up one side and allow for diners to see the magic happen if they wish.


Our 5 person party decided to take a “tapas” approach to the evening to allow us to enjoy as much of the food as possible. One of us had already been previously a couple of times so he helped guide our selections for the evening. For starters, we got the Cromesquis de Foie Gras. What a start to our meal. Bite-sized fried balls of foie gras which simply explode in your mouth when you bit into them. Little bundles of gluttony. These were so good that we ordered a second serving of these at the end of our meal as dessert.


Next up, Accras de morue with a spicy mayonnaise dipping sauce. Pretty much the best morue croquettes I’ve ever had. Beautiful crispy crust and loads of delicious morue inside, these were perfect as a starter.


Duck Carpaccio. After the 2 fried items, this was a wonderfully light and fresh dish. A little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, some onions and a egg plus some beautiful quality duck meat. Great simple dish that I would eat again and again.


Chicken wings with a maple syrup BBQ sauce. The wings themselves were good but the clear star here is that sauce. Deep in flavor with the right balance of sweet and spicy, this sauce would perfectly coat the back of your spoon when you went in to scope up the leftover sauce once the wings were gone. That plate didn’t have a spot of sauce left on it when it was removed from the table.


Homemade gnocchi with ricotta and pulled pork. Just a heck of a dish. Soft and rich gnocchi with the addition of some dynamite pulled pork. The ricotta added a nice creaminess as well to the dish.


And after all of that, we were only done with the appetizers! Next up were the main courses. First up, the restaurant’s version of a Montecristo sandwich. Stacks of fatty pork shoulder with melted cheese between two pieces of bread that were fried in what I suspect was duck fat but I forgot to ask. Either way, this was a cardiologist’s worse nightmare. For the rest of us, it was shear heaven. Every ingredient on its own was amazing but put together….. Sweet sweet music.


Plotté of pork shoulder, loin and hearts. Delicious rich broth to soak bread into. Great pieces of pork to enjoy. A very old school and hearty dish to enjoy. Likely the perfect course for a cold evening.


Foie gras poutine. The classic dish of Au Pied de Cochon. Boy did it not disappoint. The plate lasted all of 5 minutes between the five of us. The first you notice is the color and thickness of the gravy. This is no ordinary gravy – anything with foie gras in it could never be characterized as ordinary. The foie gras sauce adds a whole other level of richness to an already rich and heavy dish in poutine. Officially now my favorite poutine ever. And that is saying a lot given my love for Chuck Hughes’ lobster poutine.


A Parmentier. Think shepherd’s pie without the corn but of course, there is more to it than that with Au Pied de Cochon. Pulled pork base covered with their version of mashed potatoes – potatoes, cream, butter, cheddar and foie gras incorporated in. The whole thing baked off. The potatoes are to die for… And just may I have destroyed any further mashed potatoes I have at any other restaurant from here on out.


And finally, the tarte de boudin avec foie gras au sel. Flaky pastry crust with potatoes, caramelized onions, boudin and foie gras. Perfect blend of textures and flavors. Flaky and soft. Salty and sweet. Very nice way to cap off the main courses.


This meal was everything I had expected and more. You know you’ve had an epic meal when your server comes up partway through the meal, sees the lack of leftovers and goes “You guys are crazy”. It was that kind of night and given my experience at the Cabane à Sucre PDC, I wouldn’t have expected anything else. I officially have a new entry in my top 3 Montreal restaurants. And it was a long time coming.


Au Pied de Cochon
536 Duluth Est.
514 281 1114

Au Pied de Cochon on Urbanspoon

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