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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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Bitoque

23 Jun

A good BYOW is a hard thing to find and certainly something you cherish once you find one. Especially in Montreal where outside of a few well-known ones, it is a somewhat barren wasteland – mostly in terms of the quality of the meal itself. It is nice to save on the alcohol cost but if the meal is not up to standards, I would rather pay the premium elsewhere. After a long weekend course, I was invited to a dinner with my family at a portuguese BYOW near the Atwater market that I had never noticed before, Bitoque.

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From a visual point of view, the space is nice and functional. Thankfully Bitoque stays away from the kitschy look can see in some “traditional” Portuguese restaurants. Cream-colored walls with nice artwork all around the room, banquets, wooden chairs and honest-to-goodness white tablecloths. On a busy Saturday as it was, the room was rather noisy but not overbearing. My one issues was that the tables were rather close together so when the room is fully occupied as it was, there really isn’t much room to move or even sit slightly away from your table.

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Bitoque offers both a standard “a la carte” menu as well as a tapas menu. For this particular evening, we stuck to the tapas offering. First up, pastéis de bacalhau – fresh cod croquettes on wakame salad and cilantro aïoli. I could leave the salad underneath but the cod croquettes had the right exterior crunch to pair with the flaky fish inside. The aioli brought some nice freshness and creaminess to the dish as well. Not the best I’ve ever had but a solid starting point.

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Next up, we had the chouriço grelhado – grilled chorizo on coleslaw. The coleslaw here was rich and cool which was very important because dear god, their chorizo was hot! Hot in the spicy sense of course…. note that I am a bit of a wuss in terms of spiciness so the rest of you may laugh at me here when you order this dish. Given my previous experiences with chorizo, I wasn’t expected that so the coleslaw helped soften the blow so to speak. Regardless, the chorizo was nicely grilled up and very flavourful.

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Our third dish was lulas grelhadas – grilled calamari with lemon vinaigrette. As one would expect from a solid Portuguese restaurant, the calamari was nicely fresh and perfectly grilled. The unique touch here was that lemon vinaigrette – creamy and acidic, it was a nice change to the usual squeeze of lemon we usually do. Note that there was still a wedge of lemon present if you wanted to but frankly that would have made the dish too lemony and not really enjoyable.

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The special of the night was a portuguese poutine. Funny how I have had two Portuguese plays of poutine in such a short time apart! This one was quite good if not as rich as the previous one I’d had at Taverne F. A nice mix of flaky cod, cheese and crispy matchstick fries.

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Finally, to finish off the meal, we went with a staple and a family favourite – the pasteis de Nata. Served with some cinnamon, this lovely little egg tarts were the perfect end as they always are! At this rate, I should just learn to make them… I would save me some money although likely hurt the waistline somewhat!

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All in all, Bitoque was a solid tapas experience from beginning to end. While perhaps nothing really stood out, the quality was consistent across every dish and we left our table stuffed food wise and having gotten to enjoy a few excellent bottles of wine without gasping at the bill at the end of the night. I would call that a win-win. Bitoque, you have officially entered my rotation of BYOWs.

Cheers!

Bitoque
3706 Notre Dame Ouest
514 303 6402

Bitoque on Urbanspoon

Taverne F

2 Jun

Montreal is a happy hour haven. The 5 à 7 is a true institution of our fair city which really ramps up once the weather warms up and the terrasses get going. One of the few downsides of my actual job is that it doesn’t really allow me to enjoy downtown happy hours because I work in the West Island and my hours often go past happy hours. A few weeks ago, taking advantage of my family all being downtown for a change on a weeknight and me not being at work late, we met up in Quartier des Spectacles and decided to try Taverne F, the little brother to Cafe Ferrera.

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Taverne F is a Portuguese brasserie so its focus is on smaller plates to share as a group while you enjoy some wine or a cocktail. The shipping container-shaped space, located just beside Place des Arts, has a very modern and clean decor although the general narrowness of the space isn’t ideal. It causes problems at the entrance of the restaurant when you have patrons waiting for a table and the lack of a atrium causes those people to spill into the bar space right in front and then you can barely move out of your bar stool… which was a problem since we were sitting at the bar. When the beautiful terrasse is available, I suspect it really helps to open up the room and ease this issue.

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First dish I tried was Mama Rosa’s pork confit. Deliciously fatty pork that just fell apart with a fork. Mama Rosa’s spice mixture (whatever it was…) didn’t really come out all that much but it succeeded in getting such a great texture through the curing that it didn’t matter to me. A nice dish to share…. if you can pull yourself away from the dish in the first place which I wasn’t able to do in this instance.

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The second dish was the taverne poutine – a Portuguese play on a poutine with salted cod and wild oregano on top of the usual cheese curds and fries. Reading the description of the dish got me very intrigued. I love poutine and salted cod separately and the notice of combining them had never struck me before. In this case, the combination worked very well. The inherent saltiness of the cod plays very well with fries and its flakiness allowed the fish to blend well with the gooey cheese and sauce. The fries were nice and crispy as well (well… at least before the sauce got to them). This was a all-around solid dish and a nice twist on the poutine.

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Finally, I could not leave without getting a dessert especially when Taverne F has pastel de Natas on the menu – those delicious little custard egg tarts that I love so much. Flaky and rich with a nice hint of vanilla, Natas are desserts that I could eat everyday and Taverne F’s version was no exception. In this case, the pastel de Natas were served with Maria biscuit ice cream, not that we knew that when we ordered them. The ice cream was nice and smooth but the 3 of us could not for the life of us place the subtle sweet flavour of the ice cream in context until our waiter told us – which makes sense because none of us had ever had those cookies before. A solid end to a late happy hour.

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Taverne F, due to its location and format, really works well for a quick bite and drink before or after a concert or show. All of the different festivals that occur around it makes this place a happening all throughout the summer… as I have noticed when I have gone by the past few years. The food is solid and the drink options are plentiful. It is a Cafe Ferrera joint so it is not a cheap stop but a worthwhile one if you are in the surroundings, and with festival season around the corner, most of you most certainly will be close by.

Cheers!

Taverne F
1485 Rue Jeanne-Mance
514 289 4558

Taverne F on Urbanspoon

Douro

8 Oct

There are restaurants that, for some reason, become family favorites. Be it for a specific food item, the wine list, the decor or even the service, these are places that you will go back to time and time again because you enjoy it and are in the mood to go back. They become staple of the rotation when the family seeks a nice place to enjoy a nice weekend meal. For my family, Douro is one such place. Given we recently went back for a nice Saturday evening meal, I figure now would be a good opportunity to talk about it.

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For the uninitiated, Douro is a Portuguese restaurant located of the fringes of Little Italy here in Montreal. They serve tapas style dishes or you can stick to the classic appetizer/ main course format if you’d like. Each time I’ve gone, I have stuck to the tapas menu. Amongst the tapas options on this evening, we went for chorizo sausage, grilled squid, grilled calamari, garlic shrimp and cod cakes. Every item is cooked very nicely without overdoing the ingredients – simply allowing the natural favors of each items shine through with some slight enhancements. The grilled squid is of particular note here.

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The next serving brought forth some delicious mussels as well as 2nd helpings of squid and cod cakes. The mussels were rather small but they were still delicious as was the garlic and white wine broth.

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To top off the evening, a deliciously fresh pastry. Nice flaky crust and a buttery smooth filling.

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Add to this delicious food a nice bottle of Portuguese white wine and you have yourself a very nice meal to enjoy. The service is outstanding and personable. I have some minor quips about the decor of the restaurant (although I seem to be the only one who feels that way) but they do not distract for the great food you will enjoy. If you are looking for a nice enjoyable Portuguese meal, I highly recommend giving Douro a shot. Maybe your family will enjoy it as much as mine.

Cheers!

Douro
6518 Boul. St-Laurent
514 273 6969

Douro on Urbanspoon

Restaurante Helena

12 Aug

Restaurante Helena is a Portuguese style place located in old Montreal that opened at the end of June. I was looking for a nice restaurant to go enjoy a nice meal with a friend prior to the fireworks in the old port, so we gave it a shot.

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The menu is a combination of tapas style plates or classic entrees and mains. We chose to stick to the tapas options. First up, we had the cod croquettes with a piri piri aioli. Simple but perfectly done. The croquettes had a good crisp to them without the fish in the middle being overdone. The aioli was a great compliment with just the right level of spice without overpowering the fish.

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Next up, clams with chorizo, corn and Sao Jorge cheese. A nice light dish where the extra elements didn’t take anyway from the key ingredient here, the clams.

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Following the clams, we got the tempura shrimp with bisque sauce following with the plat of grilled octopus, squid and chorizo. Both were very executed and delicious. The standouts of note here were the bisque sauce and the grilled squid.

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All in all, the food was wonderful and perfectly in keeping with what you would want looking for a good Portuguese meal. As with most tapas plates, you always wish you could have more on the plat, but that comes with the territory. The wine options were relatively plentiful – with the caveat that II don’t know much about Portuguese wines. We asked our waiter for his opinion and the choices he made for us were wonderful. I will note here however that it actually took our waiter about 45 minutes to actually come take our orders after bringing us our wine. Because of our discussion at the table, we didn’t actually notice until about 30 minutes. Given we weren’t really in a hurry, this didn’t bother us in the least but I feel like I need to mention this anyway.

Helena was a pleasant discovery and given its proximity to old Montreal, another great option for people heading to the old port. Anyone looking for a good portuguese place would be wise to check it out.

Cheers!

Helena
438 McGill
514 878 1555

Restaurant Helena on Urbanspoon

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