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Ma Poule Mouillée

30 Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Ma Poule Mouillée
969 Rachel Est
514 522 5175

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

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M.Mme

28 Dec

Last month, for the event of MTL à Table 2016, I found myself on Laurier street to try a relatively new wine bar that has opened up there, M.Mme. Owned by the proprietors of Toi, Moi et Café next door and helmed by chef Stelio Perombelon – previously of Lemeac, Les Chèvres, Pullman et Les Cons Servent, M.Mme has gotten some good reviews since its opening end of 2015. Looking over the different menus for MTL à Table, I was intrigued by their offerings and I love a good wine bar so this seemed like a worthwhile try.

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First off, M. Mme is a beautiful restaurant – very much in keeping with its location on Laurier Ave. The main focal point is the gigantic glassed-in wine cellar that makes up the entire west wall of the room. The rest of the space is a mixture of wood panelling, bricks walls, leather chairs and banquettes and a stone bar. The open kitchen is in the back and visible for all to see.

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As with the usual MTL à Table set-up, we had a couple of options to choose from for starters, mains and desserts. The first starter was a salad of roasted beets and salted prunes with caramelized yogourt and mustard shoots. A beautiful dish to look at – that would be true of every plate we would receive this evening – but sadly it fell flat for our table. The beets lacked flavour and there wasn’t enough of the salted prunes to provide contrast within the dish. The yogourt was nice but without the stars of the dish working, it felt insufficient.

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The second starter faired much better: Quebec buffalo mozzarella with a salad of cabbage, roasted shallots and BC caviar. The cheese had a lovely texture and great flavour. The addition of the salty caviar, the sweet shallots and the cabbage provided some nice supporting notes to the cheese. I would simply say I wished the portion was larger. It didn’t necessarily feel satisfying enough even as a starter.

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Our first main – Seared beef with dried spinach, Dauphines potatoes, mushroom puree and cherry red wine reduction – was a big hit to me flavour-wise. The beef was beautiful and cooked perfectly. Loved the exterior crunch on the potatoes and the sweetness of the reduction. My issue again would be with the portion size. I understand this is a wine bar where portions are often smaller and designed to share but if you are going to participate in MTL à Table, you need to ensure you make portions to satisfy people having a full meal. This size of this dish would work as a starter, not a main in my opinion.

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Our second dish was sadly disappointing. Seared cod with fennel, smoked red pepper sauce, green grapes and verjus came off as flat. The cod was nice but other than the smoked red pepper sauce, the rest of the dish didn’t bring as much flavour to the dish as wanted.

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The desserts were similarly mixed. I loved the candy cap profiteroles with bacon streusel, miso caramel and chantilly. A nice rich cream with the fatty bacon and the sweet caramel. Awesome sweet and savoury combination. However, the ‘Mexican’ chocolate vegan cream with chiffon cake and camerise fruit failed to illicit much positivity from the table. The chocolate was not sweet enough and lacking a nice texture to enjoy. The chiffon cake did nothing and the camerise didn’t mix well with the chocolate flavour for most of us.

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M.Mme was a very uneven experience. The room is beautiful, the wine was good but the food was too up and down and the portions left much to desired. When you leave a restaurant still hungry, it doesn’t really matter how beautiful the plates looked. In the end, perhaps they should have offered an extra plate to the proceedings to more properly match up to a full meal experience. Otherwise, I would have liked to have at least been told upfront to order extra – even if that defeats the whole MTL à Table experience. M. Mme is a beautiful wine bar – it just needs to fill us up a bit more to truly satisfy.

Cheers!

M. Mme
240 Laurier Ouest
514 274 6663

M. Mme. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Boulangerie Guillaume

17 Aug

When Hof Kelsten is closed for vacation, I need to find my bread fix somehow. For this summer, I decided to use the opportunity to try the other popular bakery close by to see how it stacks up, so I found myself at Boulangerie Guillaume a little further down the Main to try some different bread and goodies for a couple of weeks. The popular bakery, originally located on Fairmount, moved to a bigger location on St-Laurent and recently also took over the space next door where La Cucina used to be.

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The bakery is very modern and sleek in look with a huge display wall and a small seating area upstairs. They have also turned the old Cucina terrasse next door into a public outdoor space to sit and relax in. As with every bakery, the wonderful smell of fresh baked goods provides a wonderful fragrance as you wait to make your selections.

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Boulangerie Guillaume is very much a French bakery in nature and has a variety of breads and pastries available each day. Over the course of two weeks, I tried a few of their goods to get a sense of what they offer. First up, the first bread I tried – their demi-miche or country bread. A great crust on the outside. The interior was fluffy and nicely chewy. The rise was such that the air pockets were not too big. The bread had some heft to it with a slightly salty taste. Excellent bread.

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On my first visit, I also grabbed a few pastries. First was the white chocolate and vanilla champignon. Compared to the bread, this was more dense and rich while keeping the fluffy texture. The notes of vanilla and white chocolate were subtle but present.

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Second was a lemon and poppy mini-cake. Again a nice crust and a dense but fluffy interior. The lemon flavour came via pieces of confit lemon zest. As such, the flavour was nice when you bit into a piece of the zest but otherwise the cake felt bland.

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The following week, I tried a few different things. First a heavenly swiss cheese croissant roulé. The croissant itself was wonderfully flaky and buttery – everything that is good and bad (diet-wise anyway..) about croissants. The addition of the swiss cheese added a little sharpness.

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The apple turnover was also another hit. More flaky goodness from the turnover itself. The apple filling was smooth and sweet. I would have loved a little more inside given the size of the pastry personally.

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I also went for a different bread for round 2. I decided to try their sourdough bâtard, or torpedo loaf. Very similar texture wise to the country bread which would makes being also a sourdough. The torpedo loaf struck me as more sour in flavour though. Excellent bread once again.

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Guillaume certainly knows his bread. Both loafs were excellent and worthy of all the praise I had heard previously. The pastry were a little more hit and meh but you can see the quality there. Given the variety available, I would hesitate to try some others in the future. I am very envious of my old Plateau neighbourhood for having such amazing bakeries to enjoy. Just gives me more reasons to keep re-visiting!

Cheers!

Boulangerie Guillaume
5134 St-Laurent
514 507 3199

Boulangerie Guillaume Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Khyber Pass

3 Apr

It is interesting to be taken out of your comfort zone food-wise. Not everyone appreciates it but it’s fun when I enter a restaurant of a certain cuisine and have absolutely zero idea what kind of dishes I can expect. This recently occurred for the event of a friend’s birthday where he brought us to Khyber Pass on Duluth street for a little Afghan BYOW and for no other reason then simply “finding the restaurant looked cool everytime I passed by”.

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And indeed, Khyber Pass does look rather interesting from the outside and equally as much inside. Our table was located in their basement space which has been modelled to look like an cavern. It is a little odd – and because of the use of polycarbonate on the walls, a little hot – but it certainly fits the overall theme. Being in a smallish basement space made for rather noisy acoustics once the space filled up but otherwise no complaints!

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I had never had Afghan food before, so I basically decided to work with their Table d’hôte and wing it! My friends at the table also having never had this cuisine before also decided to simply try stuff which allowed me to sample a bunch of dishes throughout the dinner. We are all curious to see!

First up, there were two soup options available – Mashaba soup and a house soup of red lentils and coriander. I went with the Mushaba. Composed of noodles, vegetables, ground beef, yogourt and fresh coriander, it was a nice way to start things off. A very hearty soup – tons of flavour through both the dark broth as well as the plentiful veggies and noodles.

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I had one starter as well – the eggplant borani. Consisting of fried eggplant slices topped with tomato sauce and garlic yogourt, the texture wasn’t necessarily as crispy as I was hoping but the flavour was all there. Lovely mixture of the sweet tomato sauce, the cool garlicky yogourt and spices overtop brought tons of levels to the party.

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Ashak was my main of choice – Steamed pastas stuffed with leak, served with tomato sauce, ground beef and garlic yogourt. Again, I wasn’t totally happy with the texture of the pasta – steamed but too soft and a little watery underneath – but flavour-wise, this was an excellent dish. The leak stuffing had a nice touch and kept the dish feeling light. Once again, the combination of the tomato sauce, yogourt and beef provided a nice addition and there was a healthy amount of rice and vegetables provided as well.

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Among the other mains I tried, there was the Teka Kebab – filet mignon brochettes – which were nicely tender and flavourful. The Sabzi Chalaw – lamb shank with spinach – was a lovely cooking display of the lamb. Fall off the bone with that lovely lamb gaminess, the spinach didn’t feel super necessary but it was delicious nevertheless. The last main was the Kofta Chalaw – beef meats balls in tomato sauce with afghan spices. A weirdly Italian dish to me but the addition of the middle Eastern spices provided just enough of a change-up to not make me wonder why I was not in a trattoria at that moment. All of these were served with the same amount of rice and vegetables as I got with my main so portion-wise, we all got our money’s worth.

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The last item for the night was our complimentary dessert of rose water pudding with pistachios. Now… I am not a fan of rose water as I have found that typically it is overused and just destroys any dish with its overtly flowery tones. However, in this case, count me as surprised to find that it was pretty good. Weirdly though, the entire table felt the pudding tasted like Fruit Loops! I guess I should check what goes into Fruit Loops. Anyway, texture was excellent on top of being a weird flashback to my childhood!

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Khyber Pass was a very pleasant surprise – huge flavours and nice portions all around. The decor feels pretty hokey to me but I get it and frankly if the food is still enjoyable, I can look past it. Add the BYOW element – and believe me we did – and you have an excellent option for a relatively reasonable night out. Khyber Pass… you showed me what Afghan food was and I am happier for it.

Cheers!

Khyber Pass
506 Duluth Est
514 844 7131

Khyber Pass Cuisine Afghan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thazard

1 Feb

When the holidays come around, you get a little lazy. That includes keeping up with the order of my posts…. so today I finally get to a meal I had before Christmas! We’re going non-linear with my reviews… at least only with this one. Anyway….My girlfriend and I with our friend Annie – the first friend of ours who said to put her name in here instead of just saying we were with “a friend” – decided for our little “Christmas” get-together to go to a restaurant that both me and Annie – a fellow restaurant enthusiast – had on our lists for some time now: Thazard. Located on the Main in Mile End, this restaurant originally had lots of buzz during its opening in November 2014 for its desire to do French-style guéridon service and for the fact that kitchen service would run until 2 a.m. The trolley service fell by the way side at some point but I had still heard and read enough good things to consider Thazard worth visiting.

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The restaurant was completely dead on this particularly rainy Sunday night…. other than two people at the bar, we were the only patrons in the restaurant until we got to our dessert course. As such, the ambience was dead – no energy, no discussion going on to create some vibe. It put a little damper on the beautiful space. The use of low lighting and candles on each table created an intimate setting. The rest of the room has a very clean and sleek look with the all-white walls, mirrors and wooden tables. At least the lack of a crowd allowed us to enjoy the music!

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Chef Hachiro Fujise’s menu is North American and Japanese fusion cooking served in a small plate format. First up was spicy edamame because I can’t help but order edamame when it is present on a menu. A nice kick on top of the usual salty edamame.

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Our first true plate was the papaya salad – served with turnip white kimchi, tomato, crispy shallots, peanuts and some octopus. A nice looking dish with good favours. Despite the kimchi, it wasn’t as hot as the typical thai variant. The octopus was nice and tender and a good addition to the salad.

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Next was seared baby scallops served with shiitake mushrooms, spinach and ponzu butter. A more subtle dish flavour wise, the scallops were nicely seared with the addition of the ponzu butter served under the scallops adding a little kick.

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The miso poutine was the first big hit for the evening for me. The mixture of kimchi, miso butter and cheese curds is not necessarily a combination you would expect to work but somehow it does. Super rich and fatty with a nice touch of heat from the kimchi. We polished off the plate in record time…. Our only lament was that the dish wasn’t bigger!

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The following dish was just as good: the chicken Karaage. The chicken was fried to perfection – moist inside but with a nice spiced crunch on the outside. Served in bite-sized pieces with a lovely garlic aioli and some kimchi which provided nice addition flavours to pair nicely with the chicken.

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The final main we tried was the tonkotsu ramen – pork stock, egg, nori, pork, soy, green onions and charred leek oil. This dish was a must as my girlfriend had never been exposed to proper ramen before. Some may say I’ve failed as a boyfriend for waiting 11 months but hey… a man has to pick his battles. The broth was of the thicker variety, very smoky and rich. A nice hearty way to close out the main courses.

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Dessert provided us with a couple of interesting options. First was a Genmaicha Creme Brûlée with matcha bee pollen. Again, an interesting asian twist of a classic. The texture wasn’t quite the same as the usual creme brûlée – not as firm – but still very enjoyable. Lastly, we had a homemade molasses and ginger cookie topped with candied orange zests and chocolate ganache.

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We walked out of Thazard nicely satisfied and having paid a pretty reasonable price on top of it. The food was good to excellent across the board without any major issues. It was too bad that it was a dead night atmosphere-wise but there is not much you can do about that. Despite my disappointment with the disappearance of the trolley service, Thazard’s interesting fusion play of Japanese and North American was definitely enjoyable and is worth your time if you’re around Mile End. And remember… if you are in need of proper food at 1am, they are open for you.

Cheers!

Thazard
5329 Saint-Laurent
514 802 8899

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

BarBounya

11 Nov

My final stop for this year’s MTL a Table event was to BarBounya, a restaurant I have had on my list for a while now. After having read so many great articles and reviews about it and its sister restaurant Su in Verdun, I figured if I was ever going to give turkish food a shot, Chef Fisun Ercan and her team were probably the place to really do it.

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Compared to the more formal Su, BarBounya described itself as a Turkish tapas bar. The look of the room fits with that description. Most of the seating is along bars that go around the space. There are a few communal style tables as well. The style is a mixture of old and new where the old elements of a townhouse on the Plateau are blended with some more modern touches of lighting and decor. Your eyes naturally fixate on the beautiful bar along the side wall with the high cabinets behind it – housing the wine – as well as the open window into the kitchen where you can see the kitchen staff work their magic.

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BarBounya did their MTL à Table menu a little different in that we were served all the items in the tapas style of the restaurant – the dishes simply portioned according to the size of your dinner party. I was not aware of that going in but frankly, everything on the menu sounded good so at least it eliminated any debating amongst the four of us in what we were going to order.

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First service brought forth three items. First was kale tempura served with a spicy tomato sauce and some yogourt. I never thought I would enjoy a dish whose primary ingredient was kale but here we are. The tempura actually stuck to the leaves and created a crunchy exterior. The kale itself didn’t wilt and kept some tenderness within the tempura coating. The spicy tomato sauce and the creamy cool yogourt provided some nice contrasting dipping sauces to use in conjunction.

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Next was a salad of beets and chickpeas served with black garlic yogourt. Another big hit at the table – the freshness of the beets was a nice pairing with the crisp chickpeas and the subtle hit of garlic within the creamy yogourt. Another dish where the main ingredient is not an usual favourite of mine but it certainly gave me a further appreciation of beets.

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Final dish of the first course was grilled octopus carpaccio. Outside of the contradiction between grilled octopus and carpaccio – yes I know people use carpaccio to refer to any preparation of meat thinly cut but to me, carpaccio means raw – this dish was delicious. The octopus was beautifully tender and fresh and a nice mixture of oil and greens to enhance its natural flavour.

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The second course provided another three dishes to enjoy. The surprise hit was the barley salad with butternut squash, sun-dried tomatoes and nuts. A very hearty salad with the sweetness of the squash and the tomatoes working well with the earthy barley.

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The grilled lamb Köfte with tomato salsa was exactly as I would expect – spiced lamb meatballs grilled beautifully. The tomato salsa provided a little freshness to the festivities.

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The final dish was pulled pork served over an eggplant puree. The pulled pork was flavourful and tender but truthfully the star was that puree. Wonderfully smooth and creamy – the natural flavour of the eggplant came through so well without being overwhelming to the pork served over top of it. First thing my girlfriend said afterwards was that she wanted to try making it after we had it – the impact was that strong.

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To finish things off nicely for dessert, we got some chocolate baklava and almond pudding. The baklavas were not overly sweet thankfully with a nice touch of chocolate mixed in. The pudding was creamy and smooth. The addition of the pistachio and pomegranate crumble over the top added some nice extra flavours. A pleasant sweet touch to end a wonderful meal.

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BarBounya was a awesome experience from beginning to end. Every dish was enjoyed and devoured by myself and the rest of the group. Such a great usage of fresh ingredients all across the entire meal. Add to that some nice glasses of wine, a nice atmosphere indoors and nicely attentive service – props to our waitress for checking with my pregnant friend about the lamb – and you have a restaurant that definitely come back to much sooner than it took me to visit in the first place… and I suppose its sister Su is now higher up on my to-visit list now.

Cheers!

BarBounya
234 Laurier Ouest
514 439 8858

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

Lili Co.

1 Nov

There are so many restaurants in Montreal that I wish to check out but sadly I don’t have enough time (or frankly money if we are being truthful). For the part 3 years, the October-November event of MTL à Table has allowed me to get to certain restaurants at a reduced price which I am very thankfully for. When I first looked at the restaurants participating this year, the one that leaped off the page for me was Lili Co. Originally a small Plateau restaurant, partners Catherine Draws and David Pellizzari moved into a bigger space on Saint-Laurent earlier this year. Reading the big reviews they have gotten over the past few years – including a most recent one in the Gazette in July – Lili Co.’s use of offal and off-cuts really intrigued me and had me pinning for a visit. Sadly, the MTL à Table menu didn’t have any of that – unless you paid a little extra – but I still wanted to go and give them a try.

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Visually, Lili Co. is a nice clean space. The main focus is on the two wrap-around bars which circle both the bar area and the open kitchen where you can watch Chef David and his crew do their work. In fact, outside of a few spots – including where we were sadly! – the entire room is set up to face the kitchen. Service was quick and efficient. Noise level was pretty loud given the room was full. As such, there was background music throughout the night but I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was. It is not the most fancy room around but sharp nevertheless.

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I felt like a cocktail this evening so I tried one of their seasonal specialities – The “Sans nom d’automne” – zubrowska, cachaca, natural apple juice, teapot bitters and star anise. I like this one in theory but the flavour left me indifferent. The sweetness of the cachaca and the apple juice were not noticeable. I was left primarily with the bitterness and the zubrowska – not really I had hoped for.

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With the cocktail consumed, we moved on the food. First up was the pork belly served with cashew butter and creamy coleslaw. A generous peace of fatty pork with a nice crispiness to the skin. The creamy coleslaw paired well with the meat. The cashew butter was nice as well.

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Our other starter was wild mushrooms poached in butter served with caramelized cauliflower purée and black bread crumbs. A simple dish but so well executed and delicious. The mushrooms were soften slightly with their wonderful earthiness intact. The real star though was the cauliflower puree – so rich and smooth. Very enjoyable.

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Our second course started with Gnocchi à la fajiole served with romano beans, smoked tomatoes and parmigiana. A nice creamy sauce paired well with the pillowy gnocchi and the beans. Only complaint would be the portion size – definitely would have been nice to have a few extra gnocchi!

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The second main was grilled octopus with a hibiscus glaze, chorizo, soy beans, black olive powder and lemon. The hit of the evening for us. The mixture of the glaze and the chorizo gave the tender octopus a hint of both sweetness and spiciness. The soy beans added a little extra sustenance to the plate. Definitely a dish I would order again.

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For dessert, we were treated to house doughnuts with lemon mousse and huckleberry jam. The doughnuts were light and fluffy in the inside with a nice crunch on the outside. Add the sugar coating to the jam and the mousse and you have a nice dessert right there. The final dessert was a brioche with a nut beurre monté, sumac and a wild flower glace au miel. Just like the doughnuts, the brioche was nice and fluffy. The special touches of the beurre monté and the glace au miel provided some nice sweetness and richness.

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I’ll admit I was disappointed that no offal or off-cut dishes were present in the menu option – since that is what attracted me to Lili Co in the first place – but in the end, that is on me for having waiting until MTL à Table to finally visit Lili Co. The food was excellent and the atmosphere enjoyable – you can see why they needed to move into bigger digs this year. This meal simply reinforced that I will need to come back again. Looking forward to visiting chef David and Catherine on a more regular occasion.

Cheers!

Lili Co.
4675 Saint-Laurent
514 507-7278

Lili Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kinoya

25 Jul

Izakayas or Japanese-style pubs have becoming very popular in and around Montreal over the past year or so. Previously, there was Imadake and…. well no others really. Now, each neighbourhood seems to have one and more are soon the way. Through a friend’s birthday gathering, I found myself at Kinoya along St-Denis curious to see if this particular Izakaya holds up to my previous experiences itself in the city and elsewhere.

Walking into the wooden hut/grotto Kinoya has structured within the standard plateau storefront, the restaurant definitely has a unique visual appearance compared to many of the new Japanese pubs in town. They do have the classic “salute” from the staff when you walk in – which I’ve always loved despite the awkwardness that it can create for the uninitiated. Also, it is rather weird to be saluted in Japanese by an entire French Canadian staff I must admit but I digress….. The space is nice overall however the low ceilings created by the grotto look creates more cacophony than is ideal.

We were at a pub after all so a drink is a must. Given the presence of some speciality cocktails on the menu, we decided to try a couple. First was the Zen – Sake, Midori and Lychee Juice. Very strong on the Lychee side of things which worked for my girlfriend but not so much for me.

My choice was the Gingin – Gin, Ginger Ale, Fresh Ginger Juice And Soda. Once again, the non-alcoholic components overpowered the alcohol. I enjoy ginger but not on the level that this drink brought forth. A totally miss on my end here.

Given the nature of an Izakaya, over the course of the evening, we ordered a much of plates in no particular order. The key is that process is that service is spot-on and the dishes come quickly which is exactly what occurred. First up, I can never say no to a nice bowl of salty edamame.

The Tako Kimchi or octopus and cucumber with spicy kimchi sauce was less successful. The spicy kimchi was good but the octopus was a little chewy and frankly the portion was much too small given the price of the dish. The plate could barely be shared by 2 people. I know an Izayaka is all about small plates but this was pushing it a little too far.

The Kamo Carpaccio – seared duck breast carpaccio with spicy tahini sauce – was a better success. The rich fatty duck was sliced thinly and paired well with the sauce although it wasn’t as spicy was perhaps I would have expected.

I couldn’t help ordered some Gyoza – pan-fried Japanese dumplings – as well. The dumplings were okay nothing more sadly. The filling was nice and meaty but I wanted them a little more fried up and the sauce was unremarkable.

The big hit was the Ikayaki – squid marinated in sake and grilled with shichimi spice and mayo. The squid was beautifully tender and grilled nicely although the sake marinate really wasn’t noticeable flavour-wise. The spicy mayo provided a nice kick and a good pairing to the squid.

I also wanted to try the Kara-Age – Japanese style fried chicken marinated in fresh ginger and soya sauce. Very enjoyable on my end. Great crunch to the chicken while still keeping the meat tender and juicy. Again, the marinade wasn’t noticeable flavour-wise but it was good regardless.

Lastly, I felt the need for a dessert so I went with the Anmitsu – mochi pearls in red bean sauce with ice cream and matcha. A very nice dessert – I love red bean sauce and matcha with vanilla ice cream matched well with that sauce. A great way to end the meal.

Kinoya was a good experience but not a memorable one. Some dishes were hits. Others were disappointments. With an Izayaka, the ambience is very important but if the dishes don’t hit consistently, it is hard to be a memorable night regardless of the rest. Kinoya goes into the mix of all of the other Japanese pubs in town but doesn’t elevate above the fray to be one of the best.

Cheers!

Kinoya
4250 Saint Denis
514 508 5200

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Majestique

29 Jun

Moving away from the Main as I have recently have led me to think about all the great restaurants up and down the Main that I have enjoyed over my 9 years a short walk away… The only disappointment to my new location is I now have to bike or drive to them all! Despite my best attempts, there were also a few spots that I never got to in my time so close by.. luckily a beautiful Sunday evening recently allowed me to cross another one off the list, Majestique.

Located in an old Lester’s deli, owned by the Holder brothers and with the menu designed by the former Chef-de-Cuisine at Toque, Charles-Antoine Crète, Majestique recently has an interesting pedigree within the Montreal restaurant scene. The vibe is very casual but the menu and cocktails speak to a certain level of refinement. Looking at the menu, it’s an interesting mix of dishes but one that really doesn’t fit any true designation. Given the beautiful day, we requested a table on their small terrasse but as there would be a slight wait, we started our evening inside in a room that is probably best described as hipster deli/chalet. The old deli is still clearly visible but just covered in an insane amount of knickknacks ranging from sports pinnies to bowling pins and coke bottles. The look is not from everyone but I really enjoyed it.

As we waited for our table outside, I went with the SPF 45 cocktail – White Barbancourt rum, lime juice, kaffir lime syrup and dashfire chinese bitters. A surprisingly mild cocktail where the lime really comes through. A solid summer terrasse drink.

Very shortly after, we sat down on the terrasse and ordered some oysters to start because my girlfriend had never had some raw before and because why not? Served with a classic mignonette and a very interesting apple cider mignonette, these oysters were beautiful and fresh. As always, more could have been ordered but with the rest of the food ordered, we held off to save some room.

The first of our entrees came up next. First was the tostada topped with sushi rice, avocado and nori. What a lovely dish! The tostada in this case was using rice paper which had a light and fluffy texture. The combination of creamy avocado, sticky rice, the nori and a spicy mayo worked very nicely on top.

The next dish was whelk served with herb butter and fried bread, so sea snails served like traditional snails but with a twist. The herb butter was a great discovery on my end – didn’t overpower the natural fattiness of the whelk like traditional garlic butter but still brought a subtle adjustment to the flavour. The whelk has delicious and the fried bread added a bit of crunch to the combination.

Then came the squid salad with cherry tomatoes, pancetta and fava beans. Such beautiful squid – so rich and tender. Paired simply with the fresh veggies and herbs, the squid is so good that frankly it could have been the only thing on the plate and I would still love the dish!

A dish that definitely surprised was the burnt salmon confit served with an apple and almond salad. I really didn’t know what to expect from salmon confit and the answer was a ridiculously soft texture. It may perhaps be seen as too soft, almost mushy to some people but we really dug it. The salad was very non-descript and honestly just felt like filler on the plate.

We couldn’t say no to a side-order of fries and those came through nicely as well. Good sized with a nice crunch and already salted, they paired very well with our final main dish – the foot-long Nordic shrimp roll. Best dish all night and it’s not that close despite the positives I stated of the previous plates. Great flavourful shrimp filling in an insane toasted brioche-like hot dog bun. Best hot dog bum I’ve ever had without a shadow of a doubt. Knowing what this ended up being, I would have skipped one of the previous dishes to order another just for myself. So so good…

For dessert, we had two options available to us – sucre à la creme and cheesecake with rhubarb. The sucre à la creme was small in portion but oh so good. Dangerous little sugar packages. The cheesecake was nice and creamy with a nice rhubarb jelly over top. Solid sweet options to end our meal.

Majestique was quite a nice meal from beginning to end. Solid cocktails, great technique and execution throughout the meal. The overall menu left me somewhat baffled in terms of how one describes this place. Regardless, the quality of the food and the fact that the kitchen is open late nights makes this a great option for a late bite along the Main. Majestic is just another sign that the heart of the Main food wise continues to work its way northward and now I have another reason to re-visit my old neighbourhood.

Cheers!

Majestique
4105 Saint Laurent
514 439 1850

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Maison June Rose

31 May

When ones hears of All-You-Can-Eat Chinese, you tend to automatically think about dingy looking places in strip malls where everything is fried, the tables are covered in plastic and plenty of little kids are screaming about. Not the most enjoyable experience for sure. Well, the people who brought us Big in Japan last year ventured into this space with the opening of Maison June Rose just around the corner from their restaurant. Being a fan of Big of Japan, I could not help to be intrigued by June Rose and how exactly they would do All-You-Can-Eat.

First thing, this space is just beautiful. A beautiful ornate wall welcomes you when you walk in and then your eyes focus on all the lanterns above you. About 75 or so from my rough count which provide nice diffuse lighting to go with the candles in the booths around the edge of the room or on the larger U-shaped counter in the center of the room. And while the look is certainly old school Chinese, the sound certainly is not. A mixture of classic oldies from the Beatles to Steve Miller Band to the Four Tops played throughout the evening. Certainly a winner for me and likely most of the patrons who come here off of the Main late night. Service was quick and attentive as well.

The format at Maison June Rose is pretty simple – 25$ per person for the All-You-Can-Eat menu. Extra for alcohol and desserts. The menu consists of 18 items which the staff recommends you order in group of 2-3 at a time. The portions are Tapas-size so pretty small but the service is quick so you can have a steady stream of dishes coming to you without too much difficulty. Which is what we did as we ordered every item on the menu safe for the marinated vegetables… just didn’t feel like them for some reason. Looking at the dishes, you will notice that most of the items are definitely not of the classic “Chinese” variety that most of us are used to and also the plating is pretty nice for what is an All-You-Can-Eat place. Definitely not the kind of attention to detail you would expect.

We were first presented with an amuse-bouche of prosciutto with pear and pickles. A nice combo of fat, sweetness and saltiness.

The chilled Won Ton soup was an interesting idea for the season – a warm pork ravioli in a cold broth. Nicely sized and fully stuffed with pork, I loved the ravioli. The cold broth was okay. The right flavours but the temperature change didn’t work for me.

The scrapple Imperial rolls were served with a roasted peppercorn vinegar. One of the big hits for us – a nice crunch on the rolls and meaty goodness inside. I also really enjoyed the dipping sauce – a cool mixture of pepper and acidity that added an interesting component.

The duck rillettes were okay. Nothing that special and frankly the use of jalapeño overpowered the fatty duck. The use of a very large rice pancake also made it impossible to eat in a single bite which seemed to be the point in the first place.

The BBQ Char Siu pork was served with hoisin sauce. Thinly sliced, I enjoyed the flavour of the pork but the hoisin sauce was way too sweet to be used more than once in my case.

Our first vegetable dish was the Wok-fried Chinese broccoli. Perfect texture to the broccoli as the leaves were wilted while the stems stayed a bit crisp.

The mustard greens were exactly as one would expect – strong mustard-like taste but cooked down enough to have a softer texture.

The braised eggplant and pork was another favourite. Nice soft but slightly firm texture to the eggplant although the pork was only crumbs in the sauce which was not what we expected when it arrived. Larger pieces of pork would have been nice.

The salt and pepper tofu was a real surprise. I hate tofu. My girlfriend as well. Neither one of us could believe how this preparation gave the tofu a nice crispy exterior while the interior was soft but not the mushy kind we both despise. Served on some wilted fried spinach, this was the surprise hit of the night.

The salt and pepper smelts were essentially the same preparation as the tofu but with fish. That gave this dish more saltiness and fattiness than the tofu. The additions of some cooked onions provided some sweetness to offset.

The Kung Pao chicken had strong flavour although a touch too sweet perhaps. The fried texture was perfect as well although the fact that they were small bones to contend with, despite having been warned by the waitress in advance, made this less enjoyable to deal with.

The black vinegar cloud ear mushrooms were very vinegary in flavour which I enjoyed however texture wise, the addition of the egg folk made this dish almost gelatinous which wasn’t as much of a hit.

The Singapore curry rice noodles were exactly what you expected and wanted. Noodles were perfect, the mixture of onions, celery and scallions worked well and the scrambled egg put it all together.

The orange beef served with a caramelized orange was a slightly disappointment. The very thinly sliced cold beef was good but I didn’t get the orange flavour I expected. The orange itself brought that instead.

Shepherd’s pie with sweet and sour sauce. This was awesome. The use of a sweet and sour sauce really made this an Asian play on a classic Quebecois dish.

Roasted salmon head was something I never would have ordered if it wasn’t for the fact this was All-You-Can-Eat. Preparation was excellent and what I eat of it was good. Some good fatty meat to grab hold of there but definitely not a favorite.

At the end, we then treated to the combination of fortune cookies and oranges where the pulp had been pureed and placed back on the rind. A cool approach that worked pretty well.

After all of that, I am ambivalent about Maison June Rose. Love the look and feel of the space so much. I also loved the All-You-Can-Eat approach and how the dished are not too your usual “Chinese” junk. However, when it comes to the dishes themselves, there were only a couple of items that were true hits to me. The vast majority were good but not enough to make me really want to order them again. And there in lies my issue. I enjoyed Maison June Rose enough to know I could have a good meal there but I’m not sure I have a strong pull to go out of my way to visit again.

Cheers!

Maison June Rose
16 Des Pins Est
514 439 7054

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