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Le Bird Bar

19 Mar

When it comes to fried chicken in Montreal, we are definitely a long ways away from needed to get KFC for a fix. Many restaurants around Montreal offer wonderful fried chicken on their menus and now, we have a full-on fried chicken bar in the Bird Bar. Located on Notre-Dame Ouest on that killer restaurant road, the Bird Bar comes from the mind of Kimberly Lallouz of Miss Prêt à Manger and Monsieur. It is a fried chicken and champagne bar that also houses a ‘hidden’ bar in the basement called Henden.

I am always game for some fried goodness so a old McGill teammate of mine and I decided to use it as a catch-up place and see what they had to offer. The space is certainly a looker – very elegant and modern. The bar is heavy on marble, the seats are covered in black velour and the focus in the room goes to the beautiful rainbow-shaped light fixture. Not really my style but I can recognize the beauty of it.

The menu is a mixture of southern comfort food upscaled and some other items. As a starter, we went for some fresh shucked oysters with popcorn chicken and jalapeño mignonette. Loved the presentation and the oysters were beautiful – fresh and salty. Honestly though, we both felt the popcorn chicken overtop to be unnecessary. The chicken was nice and juicy with some crunch and the mignonette brought some kick but it came to overpower the naturally wonderful taste of oysters. We would rather have had the chicken on the side and go back and forth than have the two combined automatically.

With the fried chicken to come, we order a few sides to enjoy as well. First was a feta-watermelon-mint salad. Nice looking salad, very fresh but it felt disjointed. The individual items didn’t blend together well so it came off flat to us truthfully. Our other side was some french fries. Very generous portion and exactly the kind of fries that I love – a bit bigger than matchsticks, tender but with a nice crunch.

But fundamentally, the big attraction here is the fried chicken. Made to order, the chicken is sourced from Ferme des Voyageurs and is free-range, local and vegetable grain fed. On top of that, Bird Bar boasts to have implemented a system that drastically reduces the grease absorption of their fried food. All of that gives us chicken that is very tender and juicy on the inside and has a very thin and crunchy coating. Despite all those positives, it just didn’t work for me. The coating felt almost too crunchy and in a way the lack of that grease absorption took away some flavour and made it lack any pop flavour wise. The sauces that you can get with the chicken felt much more necessary than they should have. We went with maple siracusa and bourbon – very flavourful in both cases – but I don’t believe they should be relied upon that much. This chicken certainly didn’t match up for me compared to my favorites in town which was certainly disappointing.

For dessert, I tried the banana chocolate cake with salted caramel. The cake was nice and dense with great flavour and the caramel was sweet and decadent. An excellent finish to the night.

I came out of Bird Bar feeling disappointed. Nothing was bad food-wise but nothing really wowed. For a place that markets itself as a fried chicken place, I didn’t think the chicken was all that amazing. Perhaps it is just not my type of preparation but I believe there are better options in the city at a better price point as well. I can see Bird Bar as a nice happy hour or cocktail but I don’t honestly see myself coming back for dinner. Notre Dame street is a tough place for new restaurants right now. Fried chicken may convince people to come over but whether that novelty works long-term remains to be seen in their case.

Cheers!

Le Bird Bar
1800 rue Notre Dame Ouest
514 938 4343

Le Bird Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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El Gordo

27 Aug

Where once we had very limited taqueria options in Montreal, now every neighbourhood seems to have one. No complaints on my end although it is hard to give them all a try. For the occasion of a friend’s birthday and just a good Friday Happy Hour, I found myself recently at a taco bar that opened up in Little Burgundy just a short walk from my place, El Gordo Taco Bar.

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Started by the same group that owns the neighbouring Geppetto pizzeria, El Gordo is a smallish bar specializing in tacos and other Mexican fare. With the summer weather, they have a nice terrasse out-front off Notre-Dame that increases seating. The space has a nice look to it – Day of the Dead motif and lots of natural lighting through the big windowed facade. Once crowded, the space is pretty loud but the ambience is solid.

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Any good bar needs some cocktails and El Gordo satisfied that nicely. Their classic Margherita with agave nectar, fresh lime juice and tequila is nicely balanced. The sweetness of the agave and the fresh lime helped to soften the tequila hit. The Pineapple express with bulleit bourbon, fresh pineapple juice, cilantro and lime was similarly balanced. All the cocktails are available by the pitcher which is a great for a group as we were!

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A couple of starters before the tacos. First was the chips and guacamole. The guac was pretty smooth in texture and had lots of lime juice. A little bit of queso fresco on top added a little twist. The plantain empanadas were served with a spicy paste that my girlfriend enjoyed a fair bit. The empanadas had nice crunch to them but they were not that exciting flavour-wise.

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El Gordo has 9 standard taco flavours and a special of the day. The standard dish has 3 tacos each and they are pretty small size-wise. For me personally, 3 wasn’t enough to satisfy my hunger although the server said as much to me ahead of time. Just be aware of that when you order. My girlfriend ended up regretting not ordered more as she was still hungry later on. The good news is that each taco only comes up to 3-4$ a piece so the price is fair. I tried 3 varieties on this visit. First were the chorizo tacos – served with pickled onions, habareno jam, queso fresco and salsa verde. All the tacos are served on soft tortillas which is my preference. Nothing of that hard shell B.S. The chorizo was nice and tender and the rest of the topping provided a slightly sweet and spicy edge.

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The second variety was spicy braised beef brisket with creamy apple and cabbage slaw and pico de gallo. Another hit to us. The smoky brisket was excellent and I really enjoyed the slaw and the hint of sweetness that came from the use of apples. The pico de gallo added some extra freshness.

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The final variety was the special of the day and my personal favourite of the night – fried chicken with guacamole, chipotle mayo and creamy coleslaw. I really enjoy the extra crunch provided by the fried chicken. The addition of the guacamole made these tacos feel a little more hearty and the mayo really had a kick to it.

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The only real negative of the evening was the service. Over the course of the evening, we had two different errors on our order – once our entrees “disappeared from the computer” and in the process of re-ordering, our waitress forgot the nachos we had asked for originally. Second time, my friend’s order of ceviche was mistook for “vege” tacos. Now, we didn’t make an issue of the nachos as by the time we figured out she had forgot them, we were ready to move out anyway. However, two errors like that are not really acceptable regardless of how nice the servers were in acknowledging the mistakes.

Good tacos, excellent drinks and a nice decor – El Gordo definitely has a place as a solid happy hour and dinner location. The lack of good happy hour spots around the Market plus the fact that they open at 3pm weekdays and don’t take reservations means that El Gordo can certainly fill a nice niche. A few service tweaks and I would be satisfied. I’m just happy I have excellent tacos to enjoy so close by.

Cheers!

El Gordo TacoBar
2518 Notre Dame Ouest
438 387 6969

El Gordo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le Bon Vivant

9 Aug

I have previously lauded the Brunch service of Le Bon Vivant – see here – but up until this past week, I had not gone back to give their dinner service a chance. Given my awesome experiences for brunch, my expectations were high but given how the strong the restaurant seems to be going, I suspected I would not be disappointed.

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The overall look and vibe of Le Bon Vivant hasn’t changed since I reviewed it almost a year and that’s fine because I still love it. The industrial yet cozy look works just as well in the evening. Not too noisy overall so conversation could be had. With the front and back windows open, we had a nice cool summer breeze coming through the room. It just felt like the perfect relaxed summer night at the restaurant.

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The dinner menu is a very eclectic mix – I suppose I would best describe as refined comfort food but even that feels not quite correct. Outside of the seasonal menu, Le Bon Vivant has a huge daily special list so our options were plentiful.

First up was one of the specials – a watermelon gaspacho soup. I don’t enjoy watermelon – yes I know but let’s just move on, okay? – so I didn’t try it, however the two bowls disappeared rather quickly. It was a hit.

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My choice of entree was fried cauliflower with brussel sprouts, halloumi, zaatar yogourt and herbs. One of their regular dishes and I can understand why. Beautiful presentation on the plate and the dish tasted great. I was surprised at just how crispy the cauliflower was – but the flavour was still there. I loved how the earthiness of the sprouts paired with the cauliflower as well as the creaminess of the yogourt and the richness of the halloumi. The crunch on the outside of the halloumi was also a nice touch I enjoyed.

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The first main was a special of the night – a sopa seca with shrimp, chorizo and mussels. Another dish I didn’t get to try but I mention it as just an example of the creative dishes they produce as specials regularly. Something I had never heard of before but it appeared to be another hit with my dinnermates.

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Our second main course was another special – gnudi with chanterelle mushrooms and blood sausage. An interesting combination that worked pretty well. Loved the blood sausage and the freshness of the chanterelles. The gnudi had good flavour but they felt a little overcooked texture-wise to me. They didn’t have the pillowy texture you expect when you bit into them – a little more chew was required.

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The final main was marinated and grilled octopus with black beans, confit potato salad, green beans, charred scallions and chimichurri. Loved the grilled octopus and the chimichurri. For me personally, the dish was spicier than expected as the salad underneath included lots of jalapeño. While the general flavours were nice, by the end I only felt the heat and the rest of the flavours were gone. My girlfriend did not have the same quarrels. Clearly my pallet is weak I guess…

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For dessert, my girlfriend and I decided to share the strawberry pie although I feel that calling it a pie isn’t quite correct. I would describe it more as a strawberry gelee on a shortbread crust. The strawberry flavour was nice but the texture was much more akin to a gelee than a pie filling. The crust was also a little soft – as if the gelee on top of it had bled into the crust and softened it. As such, the texture wasn’t that shortbread you expect.

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A few minor quibbles aside, Le Bon Vivant continues to impress me as a awesome neighbourhood restaurant. The vibe is nice, the service was excellent and on top and any restaurant that serves Beau’s for beer has my vote. I am spoiled to have such a nice joint near my place – now I just need to avoid the desire to go on a weekly basis!

Cheers!

Le Bon Vivant
2705 Notre Dame Ouest
514 316 4585

Le Bon Vivant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Junior

24 Apr

Anyone paying attention to the Montreal restaurant scene has probably noticed the fact that between Griffintown, Little Burgundy and St-Henri, Notre-Dame Ouest has boomed restaurant-wise. The number of new and awesome places that have opened up over the past few years is staggering and difficult to keep up with. I’ve had my eye on Junior, a Filipino restaurant for a while now but hadn’t truly made the time to visit. Over the holidays, getting the Montreal Cooks cookbook – a great book by the way – and trying a recipe from Chef Dre Mejia made me more anxious to go. This month, I finally find my moment to give them – and Filipino food – a proper try.

A late bit with Felix and Renee after party at Vincent's

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I went both for a late night snack and then for their “Rice n’ Shine” brunch on the weekend. I like the overall visual style of Junior – a indoor street vendor. Very colourful elements all around and the in-house DJ is a nice touch. I enjoyed the selection of music both times I was there but it was a little too loud on my evening visit. When it is hard to have a conversation at the table, it’s not a good sign.

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To start on my evening visit, I went with the dish that brought me there in the first place – the Adobo Baboy – Soy-Vinegar braised pork shoulder. A nicely hearty portion of wonderfully tender and fall-apart pork. Perfect braised texture. The sauce is very strong on the soy so could be too salty for some of you but the vinegar helps to tone it down and creates a light finish. Add some sweetness, acidity and saltiness to the fatty pork. Very enjoyable – my imitation version just didn’t match up!

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One of my friends chose the palabok – rice noodles with pork and shrimp gravy. This was sadly a big disappointment. It looked good but surprisingly had no real flavour – the noodles felt overcooked and only the egg served on top came through taste wise. The gravy provided nothing and the pork and shrimp felt brand and lifeless.

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Our third dish brought us back on the right track. We went with the Daing na Bangus – Baby Milkfish marinated in vinegar and garlic, de-boned and butterflied and pan-fried. First thing that hit us was the texture. Moist and flaky, the fish came apart so easily. The use of vinegar and garlic provided some sweetness and a little kick flavour wise.

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2 out of 3 wasn’t what I had hoped but it was enough to come back for brunch with my sister. We first had the Longasilog – fried rice, sunnyside-up eggs, sweet pork sausage, plantain chips and atsara. A solid dish all around – I really enjoy the sweetness of the housemate sausage and how it mixed well with the runny egg and the rice. The plantain chips provided some crunch and the atsara a little bitterness. Very homey and filling.

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We also had the fried chicken and waffles – jollibee-style fried chicken and coconut waffles with maple syrup. This dish stood out a little more. As much as I hate coconut normally, the little hint in the crispy waffles worked really well and the fried chicken was outstanding. Loved the crunch of the skin and the overall moistness of the chicken.

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I’m happy to have finally been to Junior. It was great to try some Filipino food and realize how I do enjoy it and would like to come back. On the flip side, it was really disappointing to have a dish fall so flat on us. Junior is a solid part of my neighbourhood and a cool addition to the culinary scene in Montreal. Nice to have a generally underexposed cuisine be brought forth like this. I will be back Junior – I just hope that one blip was just that.

Cheers!

Junior
1964 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 944 8636

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

Le Bon Vivant (Brunch Edition)

15 Sep

Brunch is a pretty big thing all around Montreal nowadays. The number of great restaurants open for brunch on top of their usual dinner service is quite astounding and has truly elevated what we consider good brunch. I am rather fond of the weekend brunch and have tried many of the best this city has to offer. The downside there however is that I have stuck to my usual spots recently and stopped trying new options. Recently, with my move to the Point, my usual brunch places – mostly in Mile End and the Plateau – are a little further away. As such, I am curious about the options I have nearby. First up on the list was a relatively new place just a short walk away that had peaked my interest based on some of my internet friends – Le Bon Vivant.

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Located a stone’s throw away from the Atwater Market, Le Bon Vivant is a small room – probably about 40-50 seats – with a look I just adore. Very industrial with the exposed ceiling struts, the use of old lighting fixture and lightbulbs, the metallic shelving by the entrance and the open kitchen in the middle of the space. However, the use of cream leather banquettes, the magnetic boards for the daily specials, the white wooden bar and the great vacation-like tropical music that played during brunch bring some nice coziness and family warmth to the space. I really like the vibe I got coming in both times – yeah my girlfriend and I came twice over a month or so. Kinda gives you an idea of this post before you get to the end, right?

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Le Bon Vivant offers a variety of drink options including cocktails which change regularly. They also have Beau’s beer by the bottle which as a huge Beau’s fan is an extra point in their favour from me. On the first visit, I went with the Mookie – Bourbon, raspberry and mint. A light summer play on an old fashioned. The mint and raspberries freshened up the bourbon without overpowering it. Sweet but nicely balanced overall. The second time around, I went with the Caipirinha – Cachaca (an sweeter Brazilian rum) and lime juice. Very strong lime flavour which helped to dull the edge off the rum a bit but I didn’t find it as sweet as I expected.

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First up food wise, we had the homemade almond milk and ricotta bircher with fresh fruits, nuts and wine cinnamon cardamon poached pears. A light and fluffy dish with tons of sweetness. The use of ricotta made the bircher pretty rich but not overbearing. The care shown in making the poached pears brought some nice contrast to the bircher. There was a very strong cinnamon and wine favour to the pear. The one negative here was that there was only one pear. A couple would have been nice.

Next was some Huevos Rancheros in a cast iron skillet with papas bravas, chorizo, avocados, chipotle salsa and corn tortillas. I would have liked a slightly larger portion but within that context, there was still plenty of nicely sized pieces of both sausage and potatoes. The salsa over the top brought some freshness with just the right touch of spice. The whole thing was covered by plenty of cheesy goodness to blend it all together. Having proper grilled corn tortillas was great as well.

The second time around, I couldn’t help but order the roast beef poutine served with their BV sauce and homemade smoked beef brisket. In this case, portion size was perfect – a very filling dish. The smokiness and meaty goodness that was that brisket really hit the point. The BV sauce was thicker than your usual gravy and there wasn’t as much used compared to a regular poutine. It made all the elements blend together better without having a liquid mess at the bottom of the dish. The fries were crunchy and the cheese squeaked – so we were all good in terms of a proper poutine.

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The final dish we tried was a special the second day we were there – a parmesan polenta served with Italian sausage and grilled pita. The polenta was smooth and creamy in the inclusion of the cheese. The fatty and spicy sausage added some nice bit to the plate. The grilled pitas were the perfect vessels to pick the bowl clean. You wouldn’t think from the picture that the dish was big enough but it was perfectly filling for my girlfriend.

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My two experiences at Le Bon Vivant have told me that I definitely have an great brunch place close by now and secondly that I will need to come for dinner very very soon. It is nice to know that I can walk to a place from now on.

Cheers!

Le Bon Vivant
2705 Notre Dame Ouest
514 316 4585

Le Bon Vivant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Patrice Patissier

9 Mar

Anyone who knows me knows that I love sweets. And frankly, when it comes to sweets right now in Montreal, there is no better area than the Sud-Ouest. Already home to Leche Desserts and Rustique (my favorite doughnut and pie shops), it is only perfect that Patrice Demers, formally of Les 400 Coups in the old port, decided to set up his new venture, Patrice Patissier, in the area as well. His boutique opened up about 3 weeks ago now and I went on the opening weekend to see what he had in store.

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Having taking over the old video rental store on Notre-Dame Ouest just down the block from the Joe Beef empire, the space is divided into a takeout bakery, a wine bar/seating space and a back room for eventual cooking classes. The kitchen is visible to all when you walk in, allowing us to see what comes on behind the scenes. The space is modern, clean and relaxed – touches of wood and nice lighting makes the room inviting to sit and grab a quick tea (or coffee for those of you are inclined to such a beverage).

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Now, for this first visit, I stuck to the bakery because that was my main interest and also because it was the only part of the boutique open at that point. Patrice Patissier offers quite an assortment of items – pastries, cakes, “petit pots” and cream puffs. I had a dinner in the evening and was responsible for the dessert portion of our meal – I figured a nice variety of everything they had at that moment would be appropriate. Ironically enough, at the time I arrived that early afternoon, there wasn’t all that much left as clearly their opening weekend was going better than they had planned. Great for them, not so much for us as patrons but hey, it just means I would need to come back to try what I missed out on.

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On the pastry front, I got their Kouign Amann and a maple Financier. Now I had never heard of a Kouign Amann before this – it is a Breton cake, kind of a sweetened puff pastry. Sweet and flaky, this was a nice new discovery. The maple financier was great as well – a moist banana bread or sponge cake-like consistency with the added sweetness of maple syrup.

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The one cake they had left was a chocolate and cafe St-Henri cake. A deliciously chocolatey treat with just a slight hint of coffee which, for me, as a coffee hater, is a good thing.

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Both varieties of their “petit pots” were available – lemon, camomille, Anicet honey and yogourt, pineapple, muesli. Both are served in actual mini pots to take home. In both cases, great combinations of flavour and texture. The sweet pineapple, the fresh yogourt and the crunch of the granola or the bite of the lemon with the sweetness of honey and the spongy meringues – I really enjoyed these. The presentation as well is a nice creative touch from Patrice and his team.

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The final dessert was their cream puff which is done to order. The day I was there the cream filling was Bahibe chocolate, caramel and banana. A great combination of bitterness and sweetness in a wonderfully rich cream filling. Top notch dessert and probably the biggest hit amongst my dining group that evening.

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As a first impression, Patrice Patissier hit some very strong notes. All of the desserts were wonderful – not a single dud in the bunch. Once the wine bar aspect of the space gets really going, I will definitely be checking it out. Now my biggest challenge dessert-wise here is not coming home with a dozen different pastries next time I stop by and believe me, I will definitely be stopping by again and you believe you should do the same.

Cheers!

Patrice Patissier
2360 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 439 5434

Patrice Pâtissier on Urbanspoon

Le Vin Papillon

19 Aug

The Joe Beef guys opened a wine bar. That was pretty much all that I needed to hear. It took just over a month after its opening but I headed down to the corner of Charlevoix and Notre-Dame (which at this point is probably my most visited street block in the city outside of the Jean Talon Market and my own apartment) with a friend for a little early weekend dinner.

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The first thing you notice when you walk in is the visual differences between it and its brethren. No crazy or folksy paraphernalia on the walls. A very clean and elegant look with white brick, white tiles, wood tables and black leather. The entire right side of the narrow space is a beautiful bar where all the prep work is done. There is also a small relatively sparse terrasse in the back with communal tables. Overall, there is a sleeker look in keeping with a wine bar but once you add the blackboard menus and the alternative music, it keeps that Joe Beef/Liverpool House feel that I love.

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Like its brethren, Le Vin Papillon has no set menu on paper. When you enter, there is one blackboard with the day’s menu listed as well as a couple that list the wine choices they have by the bottle. Surprisingly enough for a wine bar concept, they don’t have very many selections by the glass. It is almost all by the bottle. The wines were mostly French and Italian from my browsing of the choices. The wines I tried were selected by our waiter because, to be honest, I have a complete lack of knowledge of wine outside of California so I figured he would be in a better place to provide me a good glass. Both were quite good but I won’t go into details here. I’ll stick to the food.

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The menu is very interesting in that it is very light on meats which is really separates it from both other restaurants. The dishes are mainly vegetables based and are very much dishes design to accompany wine and share amongst your dining party.

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First up, we went with the haricots-coco-romano. Local quebec green beans with some prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, romano cheese and beans tossed in some olive oil. As will be a pretty consistent theme through the meal, this plate was a great showcase of local produce with a few augments to enhance and up the flavours. The sun-dried tomatoes and the romano were nice pairings with the crisp green beans. The olive oil allowed all the ingredients to blend nicely.

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We followed that up with a selection of their cheeses of the day. Again, we left the choices up to the staff with the caveat of no blue cheese (still not a favorite of mine by itself). We got 3 out of the 7 they were offering that day. Great selection by the staff as they mixed up the texture and the tastes nicely. With the cheese, we got a plate of toasted artisan loaf bread with butter as well as fresh nuts to crack and enjoy. Loved the bread – thank god they didn’t leave a basket at the table during the whole meal because I wouldn’t have stopped eating it. As from the nuts, I love the idea but the practice of cracking them at the table is a little messier than is ideal.

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Next up, we went with the roasted onion and ricotta cheese. Just a great dish and a kind of item pairing that in hindsight I wished I had thought up sooner. Fresh creamy ricotta cheese with a beautifully roasted sweet onion and some more of that bread. Absolutely no complaints here.

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The final dish of our first selection was the chicken wings with tarragon. Nice flavours here and the wings were cooked as they should be, however I feel this was the least successful dish but only because of the impractically of eating wings at a wine bar. A little too messy and sticky to enjoy with a glass of wine even when trying to eat them neatly.

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Still somewhat hungry, we decided to order a couple of more plats. First up this time, their rotisserie Cauliflower. Yeah, that’s right. This dish was by far the most unique thing we had this evening. Roasted cauliflower with thyme, crispy chicken skin, candied lemon peels and a spicy oil mixture on top. A surprisingly spicy dish but one with great texture and crunch from the roasted cauliflower and the chicken skin. Very enjoyable.

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We then went with our waiter’s suggestion of the vinegar eggplant. Roasted eggplants topped with a tomato/almond mixture, some melted cheese, some fresh basil and of course, as the name implies, vinegar. Nice earthy flavours throughout with the sweetness of the tomatoes, the richness of the cheese and the acidity of the vinegar mixed in. A surprisingly filling dish on top of all that. Very well done.

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To finish the whole thing off, I went with a homemade chocolate truffle with some fresh blueberries. Rich creamy chocolate interior coated with some crushed pistachios for a little nutty crunch. Perfectly done and the perfect sweet touch to cap off the meal.

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Overall, a very nicely executed wine bar concept and one with a menu that surprises with its emphasis on vegetables. A few dishes and some wine glasses later, you leave stuffed and quite satisfied. I think that is really all you can ask from a great wine bar. Note that they do not take reservations so you may wait a bit if you go during peak hours. Otherwise, just sit back and enjoy some wine!

Cheers!

Le Vin Papillon
2519 Notre Dame Ouest

Le Vin Papillon 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

Nora Gray

24 Mar

I had first heard of Nora Gray from Lesley Chesterman’s review in The Montreal Gazette last February. Having never been to either Liverpool house (where the principal proprietors had been prior) or its brother Joe Beef at that point, I made note of it and put it on the quite lengthy “places to go” list. Fast forward one year later and Nora Gray had become one of my most anticipated restaurants to check out. Luckily, I was finally able to enjoy a Friday night dinner there a few weeks ago with my family.

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Walked into the approximately 50 seat space and right away loved the look of the room. Chic and modern with wood paneled walls, dark banquettes, black and white frames, dimmed lighting and a beautiful looking bar that I would love to spend hours at. Add to that the great alternative music that I became aware of over the course of the dinner and you have a space that certainly appeals to my sensibilities. This is a restaurant that screams timeless classics but with a young and hip touch.

As for the menu, it changes regularly and if I had to characterize it, I would say it is one of Italian influences but certainly not one shackled by what one expects from a typical Italian joint. To start off with, given co-owner Ryan Gray’s reputation as a sommelier and knower of things cocktail and spirits, I started with their “My Buddy Frankie” – Maker’s Mark, Campari and Vergano Mauro Vermouth. Very nice and balanced cocktail although if you don’t like Campari, I probably wouldn’t recommend it as that is the spirit that comes out the most. The wine list is mostly French and Italian which is not our family’s forte however our waitress was quite helpful in recommending some options for us and both selections she brought forth were enjoyed by all of us. Ryan also came by to see if we had any other questions about the wine list which was appreciated.

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As appetizers, we started with the rabbit liver pâté with caramelized onions on top of housemade cornbread. This was a great dish – a perfect combination of everything you would like to have – the richness of the rabbit liver with the sweetness of the onions and the warm cornbread. Definitely something I would eat again…and again… and again. This was a one of those dishes where, after eating it, I went “I now want to try making this at home so others can try the combination”.

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The next entree was grilled octopus with spicy red pepper sauce. Very nice again. The octopus was grilled perfectly and the sauce added a little kick to the whole dish.

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The final entree was crispy sweetbreads with honey and horseradish served on a bed of crispy spinach. Now, sweetbreads is something that often automatically turns people off and as someone who only had some for the first time at Cabane PDC a week prior because it hadn’t been presented to me in a desirable way, I get it. However, when cooked and prepared properly, sweetbreads are a wonderful treat to enjoy. Nora Gray’s version is along those lines. By frying them, it creates a nice crispy texture to pair with the softer interior. The touch of honey brings a great sweetness that mixed nicely with the naturally fatty and earthy tones of sweetbreads. The crispy spinach was perfectly done as well.

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Two mains were ordered amongst our party since a few redundancies took place between the 4 of us. The first one was the chick pea hot pot. I personally didn’t try it but my sister rather enjoyed it. The chick peas were of the right consistency and the whole thing had a nice basil taste to it.

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I ordered as a main the porchetta with potato and broccoli cake. In Nora Gray’s version, the roast was stuffed with pork and veal. The roast was just perfectly cooked. The interior was soft and moist whereas the exterior skin was golden crispy. Rich and delicious in every way. Under the roast, the potato and broccoli cake was a nice contrast to the fattiness of the pork and veal. Very good plate across the board.

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Next up were the desserts. First up, the ricotta tort with blood orange. Exactly as rich as you expect with something based primarily out of ricotta. The blood orange added a very distinguished citrus note to it. Very well done.

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The flourless chocolate cake was quite good as well. No complaints here.

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The one miss of the evening was the Concorde grape jelly. The execution was spot-on. The jelly had exactly the right texture however the flavour really didn’t step up like we would have hoped. The only negative in an otherwise amazing meal.

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Nora Gray was a great experience that lived up to everything I had hoped it would be since I placed it on my to-go list over a year ago. The service was friendly and very timely. They were also quite understanding when I called ahead to say we would be late by 20 mins or so. They simply thanked us for the notice and mentioned to us that there was a reservation after us so we would not have as much time to eat by arriving a little late. Despite that, they never rush us and we left quite satisfied and of our own accord well before the next party arriving. I would have no reservations whatsoever recommending this place to anyone… As long as you can get a reservation of course! Now I just need to go back to spend an evening at that bar…

Cheers!

Nora Gray
1391 Rue Saint-Jacques
514 419 6672

Nora Gray on Urbanspoon

Joe Beef

8 Jul

Let’s start my reviews with a bang.

For the event of my convocation last month, I was provided with the choice of any restaurant in Montreal to celebrate. I didn’t need to give it much thought – Joe Beef was the only choice for me.
For the uninitiated, Joe Beef is currently considered probably the center of the Montreal food scene and has been receiving universal praise from many famous chefs worldwide. The geniuses behind this restaurant are Frederic Morin and David McMillan – two well known chefs here in the city. They opened this gem in the Little Burgundy neighborhood of the city which is now an up and coming area but wasn’t at the time they first opened up. The restaurant has an amazingly cool but unpretentious vibe. We got lucky and had a reservation in the backyard surrounded by the garden where they grow their own vegetables and herbs. Nothing quite like seeing the cooks come pick items fresh to use in their dishes.

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Now for the meal… Decadent doesn’t begin to describe it. Do not come here except a light meal. Everything is big, rich and meaty. The entree course provided us with fresh oysters from New Brunswick which were to die for. Nothing fancy but just perfect.

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The other element of the entree course was truly the star of the show. KFC has the double down sandwich so Joe Beef decided to crank it up a couple of notches and provides us with the Foie Gras Double Down. It is exactly what it sounds like and simply the greatest thing I have never eaten… 2 pieces of fried Foie Gras with house smoked bacon and aged cheddar in between. I cannot possibly convey the experience other than to say you MUST try this.. Just don’t tell your doctor afterwards.

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The next course brought me Lobster sausage in a clam bake. Very good but after the previous course, it just didn’t wow as much as I had hoped. Then again, I’m not sure how anything could really followed that double down. The one thing I forget to photograph was the side that came with this course – house fries tossed in garlic butter and Parmesan. That’s right…. Garlic butter. They were as amazing as you think they would be.

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The dessert course was their version of a baked potato – made of chocolate covered hard meringue, ice cream, mint and candied fruits. Very creative and quite good as well.

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All in all, this was an amazing culinary experience that I will never forget. It is a pricy meal but worth every penny. If anyone asks me what is THE experience to try when in Montreal, Joe Beef is it.

Cheers!

Joe Beef
2491 Notre Dame West
514 935 6504

Joe Beef on Urbanspoon

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