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Régine Café

16 Mar

As brunch has become more and more in vogue in Montreal, it is becoming a challenge to go to the most popular locations around the city without waiting in line somewhere. As much as I love brunch, at this time of the year, standing outside doesn’t really appeal to me. If only one of the best was also open on weekdays… and located about 2 minutes from where I take some of my physio courses… oh wait… Régine Café fits that description. Awesome. This Rosemont staple has been getting rave reviews for the past few years but it never really lined up for me to visit. Well, using the excuse of my course a couple of times over the past year, I have headed over on Fridays with my classmates to indulge in some decadent brunch food as a respite from all the learning.

Régine Café has a definite retro chic look going on. Almost Alice in Wonderland-like in terms of colours and patterns. It is quaint, fun and definitely loud – both in terms of look and noise level. Even on a Friday, this isn’t the place for a quiet conversation. Service was quick and efficient although at the rate people come in, they need to be.

You get a shooter of the day to start your meal every time. The first time, it was pineapple and mint. The second time, it was beet and apple. Both creative and fun ways to start the meal. They also have a number of drink options. I went with the cider both times. Very satisfying beverage for a brunch!

On my first visit, I decided to go with the Sucré Salé – homemade brioche french toast with pulled ham, aged cheddar, an egg and sucre à la crème. The title of the dish is definitely apt – a great combination of salty and sweet goodness. French toast using brioche was dense yet fluffy and had a great crust to it. The pulled ham was tender and salty. The egg and the melty cheese provided some richness and then you had the insanely sweet but oh so good sucre à la crème. I wanted a nap big time after this one so perhaps not the right choice during class but whatever, I stand by my choice.

For round 2, I started with a scone with mascarpone cream. I loved the cream but the scone was a little dry and dense to my liking. Great nutty and fruity flavour profile but a little more fluffiness would have been appreciated.

I decided after that to go with the Grilled Cheese – 2 year old Cheddar from Îles-aux-Grues with caramelised onions, walnut and pistachio bread, mango chutney and a little confit duck to top it all off. The only thing not appreciated of this plate was the mashed potatoes – too dry despite the nice rich flavour. The sandwich was outstanding – the duck was tender and fatty, the cheese was melted nicely and had a nice sharpness to it. The onions brought a touch of sweetness as well.

Régine Café definitely lived up to the hype. Excellent food, fun decor and solid service. I might be too lazy to go wait in line on a weekend but for those of you who do, don’t worry – you will come out very satisfied!

Cheers!

Régine Café
1840 Rue Beaubien Est
514 903 0676

Régine Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Montreal Plaza

31 Jan

To enter a restaurant is to enter the mind of the chef, to experience what he or she wished you to experience – and I’m not just talking about the food. The influence of the chef is seen in all aspects of their restaurants – it is the subtle elements of decor, music and atmosphere that make David McMillan and Fred Morin’s cool ode to rustic Quebec in Joe Beef work. Same goes for Chuck Hughes and Danny Smiles and the hip coolness of Garde Manger and Bremner or the friendly neighbourhood British pub feel for Derek Dammmann’s Maison Publique. There are many examples across Montreal but the key is that the restaurants feel as though they are uniquely from the chefs that run them. We are spoiled in Montreal to have so many wonderful and unique chefs. The challenge is simply to experience all of them!

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For the occasion of our anniversary, I decided to bring my girlfriend to Plaza St-Hubert of all places to visit a restaurant that seemed to have the right level of finesse with that wonderful unique element that I love so much about Montreal…. in this case, from the mind of Charles-Antoine Crete, Montreal Plaza.

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Started up by Crete and his partner Cheryl Johnson, Montreal Plaza is Crete’s first big project since he left Toque where he was Normand Laprise’s right-hand man. The restaurant, designed by Zébulon Perron, is quite the space. Equal combination fancy bistro and family chalet. You are wowed by the white-painted bean-board walls and ceiling, the frosted-glass lighting across the ceiling, the marble bars and the open kitchen but then you are amused by the old grandfather clock, the teddy bear, the upside down doll house and by-plane used on the ceiling fans, the greenhouse and the “workshop” space. The bathroom area has one of those light-up nature frames with nature sounds on the ceiling! The space is bemusing but wonderful all the same time. The music the whole night was 90s rap and hip-hop so my girlfriend and I spent the night singing along to Nelly, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg and R Kelly. I can only imagine how weird that contrast could be some but for a couple of 20-somethings, it was a awesome element to our evening.

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We must start with the drinks as the beer list had the Anna from Hill Farmstead brewery in Vermont. For those who known about beer, you understand how exciting that was…. and how great of a Honey Ale it was. I’d had been wanting to visit the brewery and try one of their beers for a while now. This was a very pleasant surprise to start our evening. For the rest of you, I encourage you to check them out if ever you have a chance.

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Foodwise, we decided to start with something neither of us had tried before: sea urchin. In this case, grilled sea urchin served with lardon, green onions and fried shallots within its shell. Beautiful presentation and lovely taste. The urchin was firm at first but then melted in the mouth – rich and creamy sweetness. The addition of the lardon and the shallots added a hint of smokiness as well. A awesome first try at Uni.

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Our second starter was salmon tartar + crispy – a lovely slightly creamy salmon topped with lettuce and puffed rice as the crunch to the dish. The fish texturally was beautiful and tender. The binder of the tartar provided some richness and a touch of bite to the dish. The use of the rice for some texture was creative and added some crunch.

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We were feeling adventurous with our mains. Our first was blood sausage and apple – served with a jus de viande, lettuce, onion rings and some fresh cranberries. The sausage was wonderful – rich and savoury. The sweetness of the apple and the tartness of the cranberries paired very nicely. The onion rings were a weird add to the plate but the combination of their sweetness and their crunch made them a surprisingly perfect addition.

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Our second main was equally as unique in its combinations – sliced deer heart and calamari served with red cabbage, red onion, hay and popcorn. The play between the gamey deer and the fishy tender calamari was pretty interesting although I wished they had been a bit more deer in the plate. The popcorn was another fun play for texture and some sweetness.

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Once we got to dessert, my girlfriend wasn’t that hungry so she only ordered one of their Cannelés. Nice hint of vanilla and rum with a fluffy interior and nice crust on the outside. An excellent pastry. I, on the other hand, went with the glacé aux pommes cake – layers of frozen apple and cake sliced very thinly and served as almost a blooming flower. Beautiful to look at and very tasty as well.

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Montreal Plaza was a perfect spot for our anniversary dinner and a lovely look into the minds of Chef Crete and his team. Great food, great atmosphere and wonderful service in a unique space. You don’t associate Plaza St-Hubert with fine dining but this becomes a worthwhile member of Montreal’s best.

Cheers!

Montreal Plaza
6230 Saint-Hubert
514 903 6230

Montréal Plaza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Automne Boulangerie

5 Dec

Every neighbourhood needs a good bakery. Walking into a space with that lovely fresh baked goods smell just brings a smile to my face every time. Once you find a good bakery, you never go back to grocery store bread. Heck, I moved neighbourhood last year but still go to Mile End every week because I still love Hof Kelsten’s Rye above all else. I still enjoy trying new bakeries however especially when the buzz is strong. Most recently, there were rumblings about a new bakery opening up in Rosemont Petite-Patrie that had quite the reputation behind it. Automne Boulangerie opened up one month with a emphasis on producing baked goods with local agricultural producers. Started by Seth Gabrielse – former chef at SAT Foodlab and Laloux – and Julien Roy – former bakery at Pain dans les Voiles, Automne certainly has the right bloodlines to success at its stated goal. With my girlfriend taking a class in the area, we stopped by recently to see what they had to offer.

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The space is fairly basic but very bright and cherry. All-white walls with accent use of wood and copper. Behind the counter of tempting viennoiseries and other goods, you can see the baking area with the crew working on around the oven.

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A couple of viennoiseries to start. My girlfriend went with the Croissant d’Automne. Topped with almonds and powdered sugar and filled with almond paste, this croissant was rich, decadent and flaky. A little denser than your typical croissant by the use of the almond paste but oh so good….

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I went with the roulé d’Automne. The roll looks like a upside-down popover covered with caramel and some walnuts. Once you bit into it, the obvious comparison is a cinnamon roll. The texture and taste were very similar. The nice part was the lack of that stickiness which makes it easier to deal with as a take-home.

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This is a bakery after all so of course I wanted to try one of their breads. I decided to go with their Batard Moulin des Cedres – which as an aside, Moulin des Cedres belongs to the family of a high school classmate of mine. They do great work in biological agriculture and transformation in Les Cedres. Amazing products on top of their flour. Anyway, back to the bread at hand… The bread is wonderful. Simple but so good. Great crunch to the crust but yet soft and chewy inside. A little yeasty in flavour but not overwhelmingly so. Beautiful bread all-around.

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Wonderful pastries, great bread and an emphasis on local producers. Automne Boulangerie certainly has a great concept to work on. Given I visit that area regularly, Automne will certainly be a regular visit for me. Hopefully the neighbourhood gravitates to it as much as it deserves. Just follow the smell of freshly baked bread.

Cheers!

Automne Boulangerie
6500 Christophe-Colomb
514 274 8111

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

Hoogan et Beaufort

1 May

Anticipation is a tricky thing. As you wait, you get more and more excited but at the same time, if you have to wait too long, eventually that enthusiasm dies down and you completely forget what you were anticipating in the first place. Then there is also the fear of what you are anticipating being not as awesome as you hope it would be. These emotions are always playing with one another in moments of anticipation – be it vacation spots, product launches and, for the purpose of this discussion, restaurant openings. Chef Marc-André Jetté, since his departure from the excellent Les 400 Coups in Old Montreal in 2013, has kept us waiting for his next project for some time now. And as the projects of his previous collaborator at Les 400 Coups Patrice Demers developed, we were left wondering more and more when the time would come, if ever. Finally, the announcement came that he and his partner William Saulnier would be opening up in the Angus Yards district in Rosemont – not quite the most vibrant of food areas but nevertheless it got me intrigued. Once Hoogan et Beaufort opened up in December and the excellent reviews came from all the big critics in the city a few months later, it left me pining for his cuisine once more and anticipating the moment when I would head out there to check it out.

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Located in an old factory in the Angus Yards development, Hoogan et Beaufort has a very appealing look – super high ceilings, open concept with the fire pit in the back of the house as well as the vine cellar and stacks of firewood visible to all, a nice bar area up front. The space uses the old industrial elements like exposed metal I-beams and the brick walls but pairs them with wood lats and more modern touches like a huge metallic magnetized wall in the kitchen area. Lighting is ample but nicely dim to get a nice intimate enough atmosphere. The downside to the high ceilings is that noise level isn’t perfect – music, when noticeable, was a nice mix that I enjoyed but when the space was crowded, it barely registered.

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Chef Jetté, prior to opening his restaurant, talked to Eater Montreal about doing similar cuisine as he had at Les 400 Coups but more accessible and less upscale. Fresh cuisine and soignée. His menu here consists of a few entrées, a fresh pasta section, mains et some desserts. The fire pit and the use of it plays heavily into the menu and in fact in the smell of the restaurant. A hint of smokiness throughout.

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For entrees, my girlfriend and I went with a plate of brunt focaccia bread and butter as well as a dish of grilled squid with ratte potatoes (both as chips and fingerling), olives and a burnt pepper yogurt. Saying that the bread was burnt is a bit of stretch but regardless the focaccia was nice and warm with that hint of smokiness you get from grilling it over the fire. The grilled squid was excellent – a lovely texture with some char to it. I like the creaminess of the brunt pepper yogourt as well as the slight sweetness that came from it. The potato chips provided a little crunch. This was an excellent mix of elements all coming together.

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Our first main was Gaspor suckling pig served with salsify purée, curls of sliced apple and an oatmeal crumble. I loved this dish. The pork was beautiful and cooked to perfection. I’d never had salsify before but the earthiness of the root vegetable pureed so smoothly paired nicely with the sweet apple, the oatmeal and the fatty pork. Another well-balanced and measured dish.

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Our other main was beef short rib served with celeriac puree, marinated onion, grilled Brussel sprouts and crispy bread. Another hit at our table. Beautiful char on the beef cooked beautifully with all its inherent fattiness intact. The caramelization on the sprouts brought such a nice flavour and eliminated any bitterness one often associates with Brussel sprouts. The onion and celeriac balanced themselves well and the bread added some extra texture.

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Desserts was equally as enjoyable. First up was burnt lemon curd with a Anicet Honey caramel, candied lemon peel and buckwheat shortbread cookie. A very bright dish – the combination of the sour lemon curd and the sweet caramel was so nice to enjoy. I liked how you picked up the burnt elements of the curd and how the honey came through in the caramel.

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Our second dessert was the cranberry charlotte – a pillow of vanilla mousse served over a cranberry compote and pieces of almond nougat. Another great contrast of flavours and texture – the freshness of the cranberries coming through to give a real bitterness but the mousse lightening it up.

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As mentioned before, expectations can be very high with anticipation but Hoogan et Beaufort met them completely. Chef Jetté and his team did a great job creating beautiful dishes of tastes and textures. The cuisine soignée he was known for is alive and well here – with excellent service and a beautiful look. I know to some that Rosemont is a little out of the way but believe me, it’s worth a try. I think Hoogan et Beaufort will definitely make it worth your while.

Cheers!

Hoogan et Beaufort
4095 Rue Molson
514 903 1233

Hoogan Et Beaufort Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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