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Restaurant Gus

9 Oct

Sometimes the best nights are the ones you don’t plan for. After an caterer tasting felt through last minute, my fiancé and I found ourselves looking for a late night weekday dinner option. After looking through my ‘to-do’ list, we decided on a quick drive over to Beaubien street in Saint-Edouard at Restaurant Gus, ready to see what chef David Ferguson had in store for us. Formerly of restaurant Jolifou further down on Beaubien (now the crazy popular Chez Régine), Chef David opened up this small bistro-sized restaurant a few years ago now and has truly made it his own in style and cuisine.

Gus has a very warm and inviting look – the bright red walls really pop. The lighting is ample but subtle enough to create some intimacy. The bar is the focus of the room and is a great spot to observe the work being done by Chef David and his two sous-chefs. As you look around the room, you see tons of little touches that showcase what Chef David is about – the straw hats, the chilis hanging off the walls, the Habs artwork, the television over the bar showing playoff baseball through the night. Loved the space.

Foodwise, the menu is small – written on blackboards around the restaurant – and has a distinct southwest flavour to it. Prior to our meal, we got some great homemade sourdough bread to enjoy with a corn relish – sweet with a little kick. As our appetizer, we decided to share the marinated and grilled octopus and calamari salad with semi dried cherry tomatoes and marinated dried shallots. The salad was served colder than we expected but loved the flavours – tons of bright acidity with a touch of sweetness from the tomatoes. The octopus was very tender although my fiancé found it too soft personally. The calamari were grilled beautifully for both of us.

As a main, after having finding out that they had just run out of mussels, my fiancé went with the fish of the day, a grilled halibut, served with fried yuca and a tortilla soup. The fish was wonderfully tender and flaky, the broth was very flavourful and the use of the crunch of the tortillas and the yuca provided a nice contrast. Very nice dish.

On my end, I went with the bavette – marinated in a Asado-like sauce and served on a bed of potatoes en gratin with porcini mushrooms. Chef David is own for his grill work and you can tell why with this dish. The steak is perfectly grilled to medium-rare and the marinade gave the meat just a great deep flavour – a beautiful mix of heat, pepper and sweetness. The potatoes were rich and creamy and gave a nice counterpoint to the heat of the meat. One of the best bavettes I have ever had.

Gus definitely has the ‘neighbourhood steakhouse’ vibe down pat. An intimate but fun space. Friendly staff with Chef David holding court behind the bar. Great cuisine with that southwestern touch that makes it the Chef’s own. Gus is kind of restaurant one wants in their neighbourhood – a place that you would feel comfortable visiting daily but with food that fits for a special occasion. Nice combination don’t you think?

Cheers!

Restaurant Gus
38 Rue Beaubien Est
514 722 2175

Restaurant Gus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Le Diplomate

16 Aug

One of my favorite restaurant experiences – and one I don’t get to enjoy that often – is to sit and watch the chefs work. Be it at a chef’s table or at the bar in front of an open kitchen, there is something very revealing and thrilling about watching how your meal gets made and also how the team at the restaurant deals with the natural dinner rush. Last week, I got to sit at the bar at Le Diplomate and watch Chef Aaron Langille work his magic at his relatively new restaurant in Mile-Ex. Chef Langille would be known to some for his time at Cafe Sardine (prior to its demise) as well as Orange Rouge, Club Chasse et Peche and Le Filet. I had heard some good things about his new venture and wanted to check it out.

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Very much in keeping with the neighbourhood itself, Le Diplomate is somewhat hidden from view – I actually drove by it on the way over – and pretty unassuming visually. The space is small – about 20 seats – and the majority of those seats are at the bar facing an open kitchen. The room is pretty barren deco-wise – the selection of 80s music playing overhead is the only loud thing in the room but that worked for me. The focus is truly on the bar and watching the team work. Chef Langille and his team of 2 work the entire space. When the chef serves your dishes and also does the dishwashing afterwards, you know you are in an intimate environment.

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Le Diplomate’s menu is somewhat hard to pin down. I suppose the best way to describe it would be market cuisine with emphasis on northern ingredients but even that feels reductive as Chef Langille and his team do plenty outside of that designation. Regardless, the menu changes regularly so every time can be a surprise. The menu is relatively small and the plates are similar. These are dishes to share – which was perfect as my girlfriend and our friend Annie were willing partners to trying pretty much the entire menu!

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First up was the house-made Sourdough with a warm red pepper broth and sunflower seed oil for dipping. I am a sucker for a good sourdough and this one was excellent – using a 150 year old mother from England according to Chef Langille. The red pepper broth brought a nice optional sweetness to the sour bread and the oil, as always, was a good pairing to the bread.

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Next, Annie and I each had an partially cooked oyster with scotch butter served over top. I’m still trying to get my girlfriend into oysters…. it’s a slowly acquired taste apparently. The partial cooking of the oyster changed the texture somewhat but it was still enjoyable. The unique element here was the scotch butter. You could really pick up the inherent smokiness of the scotch with the richness of the butter. A cool little amuse-bouche.

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The poached calamari was a big hit for us. Served with kale juice, kale, black currents and beans, the calamari had great flavour and texture. The currents originally felt like a weird addition but the additional sweetness worked. The beans provided a little more nutritional weight to the dish.

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The tomato dish served with kasuzuke daikon and kohlrabi was not my thing…. I know that hating raw tomatoes is weird but I stand by my weirdness. Our friend Annie really took to the dish loving how the seasonal freshness of tomatoes came through and how the sweet dressing mixed so well with the roughly chopped tomatoes and the daikon. A good example of how a few fresh ingredients selected well can go a long way.

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The Tofu with porcini, green onions and salmon roe was another dish I didn’t try but our friend Annie was once again there to provide some input. She found the mixture of the silky tofu, the earthy mushrooms and the tart cherry tomatoes a little off at first but felt that the yeasty broth at the bottom really helped to balance things out and made it very enjoyable. She loved the strong flavours the dish conveyed.

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For something more my style now, the clams with chorizo and purslane were an interesting dish. The clams were cooked well but the broth itself seemed to lack punch. The chorizo provided the necessary kick and contrast to the clams. I had never had purslane before but the fresh green worked nicely as the side dish component here. Very cool to try something a little different.

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Our fish of the evening was walleye served with fennel, peach puree and meyer lemon. The fish was lovely, so light and flaky. The sweetness of the peach, the acidic but sweet lemon and the liquorice-like fennel were all nice additions to the fish although the fennel was somewhat overpowering to the other elements.

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My personal favorite was the lamb with broccoli, yogourt croutons, yogourt sauce and papalo, a mexican herb that Chef Langille compared to cilantro. The combination of the yogourt and lamb worked so well. The use of brocoli and papalo weirdly gave off a beef and broccoli taste to the dish also. I loved the creative use of yogourt to create the croutons as well.

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The desserts were more on the savoury side than sweet. First was a corn parfait with coconut, Maraschino cherries and a jalapeño granité. An interesting fluffy texture with strong notes of the coconut within the corn. The cherries provide the sweetness and the granite was surprisingly spicy. I love more sweet desserts personally but I enjoyed this one a fair bit.

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The other dessert of the night was a sharp cheddar cake with carrot caramel, carrot puree and rye crumble. I loved how the sharp cheddar came through and how the texture of a classic cheesecake was maintained. The carrot caramel was nice and sweet. I personally didn’t care for the very strong carrot puree on its own – the flavour was much too overpowering but when combined with the rye crumbs and the sweeter elements on the dish, it worked pretty well.

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Le Diplomate feels like a hidden gem – a place that most people have never heard about but those in the know know what’s up. The cuisine is precise but still feels very personal as you’re so close to the process that happens in front of you. Chef Langille and his team are clearly expressing what they want in their cuisine and you feel it all night long. Mile-Ex may be a little off the beaten path food-wise but there are definitely some worthwhile experiences to enjoy if you’re willing to put up a seat at the bar.

Cheers!

Le Diplomate
129 Beaubien Ouest
514 303 9727

Restaurant Le Diplomate Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

San Gennaro

7 Aug

There is a certain vibe I love about Little Italy in Montreal. The real communal vibe – the way people seem to just come together to sit and enjoy a coffee and a chat. The little cafes and shops around that area cater to that really well. I don’t visit the area as much anymore but when I do, I really try to enjoy that experience. San Gennaro on St-Zotique is a place I have heard much about since it opened a few years ago now. A hybrid pizzeria, bakery, coffee shop, grocery and gelato shop, it tries to cover lots of ground but given its heritage – San Gennaro was started by the same group that gave us restaurants Bottega and Hosteria in Little Italy – it definitely has a good chance.

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First up, I tried one of their arancinis. A solid version all-around. There was a nice crunch on the exterior and the interior is a great mix of veal, green peas, mozzarella and parmigiano. Nothing to complain about here.

But truthfully, we are here to talk about their pizza. Coming from the group that brought us Bottega pizza just next door, there are certainly expectations even if we are dealing with Pizza al Taglio, not the napoletana-style they serve at Bottega. Pizza al taglio is baked in large rectangular trays and served by the slice. As such, crust-wise, we are not talking about thin-crust anymore. This is a thicker, more chewy pizza – the common version we have all had would be the tomato pizza often served in buffets or at children’s parties. Thankfully, this is much better than that. This pizza has a great crunch to its crust while still being nice and chewy.

I tried a host of different pizzas over a few visits. The first one was a potato and andouille sausage pizza. The inclusion of potato was something I had never tried before. It makes the pizza a little more dense and a little drier especially without any tomato sauce. The real kicker though was the sausage whose spiciness really came out.

I then tried the standard Margherita pizza. Their tomato sauce has a nice smoothness to it and a nice sweetness but acidic taste. Top it with some mozzarella and you have a solid classic. On a follow-up visit, I tried the same pizza but with salami added to it. Same great taste with some meaty goodness.

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A more unique offering is their breakfast pizza. Topped with a egg, some cherry tomatoes and some pork salume, you have a nice mixture of the richness and spiciness. The egg is cooked just enough to not leak all over the pizza which makes it easier to enjoy as a single slice. A nice change-up for a morning snack.

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The final one I tried was another potato pizza – this time without the sausage, just with some smoked cheese. I was curious how the potato would work without the spicy sausage. Another hit – the smoked cheese created just enough of a contrast with the potato to help lighten the feeling.

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As I was sitting outside of the terrasse on my last visit, I couldn’t help but observe the table of elderly Italian men visiting there simply having a coffee and chatting. Their level of comfort on the terrasse chatting with the waitress as she passed by as they were enjoying the weather. It speaks to how San Gennaro has fit into the neighbourhood and the vibe they have achieved. Good food, a nice atmosphere and a great terrasse – all a good combination for when you are passing by Little Italy.

Cheers!

San Gennaro
69 St-Zotique Est
514 273 6868

San Gennaro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Manitoba

30 Aug

All throughout 2014, I kept hearing and reading great things about a new restaurant in the relatively obscure Mile-Ex neighbourhood – at least from a food perspective. A place that was doing some unique things in terms of local foraging and doing it in a cool setting. All of this talk made restaurant Manitoba one of the hit newcomers in 2014 and a place I dearly wanted to try out. After many months, I finally decided that I really needed to go before the summer was over so I made it a date night and brought my girlfriend along for what I hoped would a great experience for both me and her of course.

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Located in the old industrial neighbourhood of Mile-Ex – stuck in the middle of Little Italy and Parc Extension, Manitoba is very unassuming as you approach – simply a wood terrasse in front of a simple door and window. Once you enter, it is truly a space in keeping with its neighbourhood and its approach of food – Industrial and clean but with touches of nature. A gorgeous bar along the left side of the room all the way to the open kitchen. The use of wood trunks on the ceiling with the light coming through them. The all-black wall and blackboard menu. The back garden and terrasse space with patio lights all a-glow. The vibe is hip and cool.

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Service is attentive and friendly. It is surprising how I froze up at simply being asked if I’d had a nice day – not exactly what you expect from your waiter. Even the chefs were chatty and friendly as one of the sous-chef kindly answered our questions about some of the plants and herbs they use that we didn’t know too well. We did have a bit of an issue with the service of our cocktails – way too long between the order and arrival of them – but otherwise great all around from the staff.

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After a quick discussion with our waiter, we decided to start with the deer heart gravlax served with cauliflower puree, corn, sunflower seeds, labrador tea oil and stonecrop. What an awesome way to start a meal. The rich gaminess of the deer heart was not lost in the gravlax process. Add the creaminess of the puree, the sweetness of the corn and the little crunch from the seeds and this was a great balanced dish.

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As a main dish, my girlfriend opted for the scallops from iles-de-la-madeleine served with lobster mushrooms, salicornia, green pea puree and emulsion. The scallops were nicely sized and wonderfully fresh with a beautiful sear all around. The beautiful lobster mushrooms brought a nice contrast to that freshness with their earthy tones. I was also very intrigued about the green pea puree and emulsion. An interesting bite of technique that maintained a strong pea flavour. Very good all around.

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In my case, I decided to order something I had never had before: Maple brulé bone marrow served with chokeberry, maïtake, swiss chard and toast. From my vantage point watching the chefs use a blowtorch to burn the maple sugar made me pine for this dish pretty quickly. Bone marrow was something I suspected I would enjoy and yeah… turns out I was right. Definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but dear god did I love this. Rich and fatty with a great sweetness and crunch from the maple syrup, I could have had many many more. The chokeberry mixture on top added some tartness and then add in some wonderful toast to put the whole mixture on top of…. just wonderful. Simply wonderful. In my mind, a must-try if it’s on the menu.

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After those great dishes, we were then left to decide on dessert. We ended up going with both options of the evening. First was a honey, indian celery and black walnut cookie served with raspberry ice cream and lichen dipped in chocolate. The cookie had a nice crunch with subtle hint of both the honey and the walnuts. The ice cream was smooth and flavourful and the use of lichen was an interesting component to bring forth.

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The second dish was a spruce panna cotta with candied pumpkin seeds and wild blueberries. This was a very cool surprise. The texture you expect from panna cotta – rich and smooth – but the true surprise was just how strong the spruce came through. The combination of blueberry and pumpkin seeds were a nice pairing here as well. A strong finish.

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Manitoba was what a had hoped for – a great unique mixture of dishes in a cool looking and feeling restaurant. As we sat outside in the back garden with a glass of wine partway through our meal, I thought to myself “Yeah this is pretty great”. Pretty much says it all.

Cheers!

Manitoba
271 St Zotique Ouest
514 270 8000

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Pastaga

20 Nov

Over a year ago now, I visited Pastaga for a Sunday brunch and left with the strong feeling of needing to return for dinner. It took way too long but through Taste MTL, I finally did. For the uninitiated, Pastaga is the brainchild of chef Martin Juneau who, since opening this restaurant in 2012, has opened up Pub St-Joseph as well as the Mr. Crémieux food truck. Pastaga is a ode of nature wines as well as great food to pair with those wines. The food definitely has French influences at its core but branches out extensively in other food genres.

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Located on the relatively barren strip of St-Laurent just before little Italy but after Mile End, the restaurant is a small, simple space with mirror walls, misshapen wooden tables and ample lighting via power bars on the ceiling. The real beautiful touch is the bright red tilted kitchen that is visible in the back of the space. A glass wall blocks out the sound from the dining room but we can see everything going on. There is also a large table located in the kitchen for larger groups to enjoy if you can get it. Overall, it is a very cozy and comfortable environment to enjoy a meal in.

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I visited during Taste MTL where they were offering a 39$ menu of items off their current seasonal menu. Me and my dining companions ordered all of the options to try. First up, there was grilled Albacore tuna with braised fennel and citrus gel. The tuna was grilled to perfection. The braised fennel and the citrus were perfect compliments to the fish. A very nice start to the meal.

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Next up was marinated salmon with salmon jerky and a creamy potato salad. The salmon was, like the tuna, cooked perfectly. The potato salad was, as indicated, quite creamy with a strong hint of dill which paired very nicely with the salmon – bringing to mind a classic smoked salmon dish in terms of taste.

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The third main was a play on Jewish chopped liver with bagel chips, capers and hard boiled eggs. Now, I have never been a big fan of chopped liver. Despite my enjoyment of foie gras, the texture of Jewish-style chopped liver always created a roadblock for me. I went in with some apprehension but came out loving it. The texture of the liver was not an issue and had that great fatty flavour. The pickled onions brought some sweetness to that dish. The hard boiled egg was perfect and the bagel chips added that little bit of crunch and saltiness. A very well executed dish.

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The final main was, to me, the best thing we had all night – maple lacquered pork on a pancake with a parsnip salad. The pork and pancake combination was brillant – the right mix of sweetness, fattiness and starch. The pork, in particular, just fell apart without any effort. Great texture achieved by the kitchen staff there. The salad of parsnip added a little crispness and freshness so you felt a little better health-wise about eating pork, maple syrup and pancakes for dinner!

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For dessert, there were 2 options plus a cheese plate. The cheese plate was a goat cheese with candied nuts, apple butter and a mini cake loaf. The goat cheese (I forgot the name of it sadly) was quite good – soft but still firm enough to handle properly. The other 3 elements of the plate allowed you to add different levels of sweetness to pair with the cheese – the apple butter was a particularly wonderful surprise in terms of its strong flavour and consistency.

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In terms of desserts proper, we had the choice of a Mr. Crémeux Sundae with milk crumble and sous-vide Prunes or a raspberry cheesecake. The sundae was delicious. Anyone who visited the Mr. Crémeux food truck over the summer knows that Chef Juneau and company know how to make a great soft serve vanilla ice cream. The addition of sous-vide prunes provided some tartness and the crumble was nice and crunchy. The cheesecake was good as well – the texture was spot-on and the coulis was nice as well.

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Dinner at Pastaga met all of my expectations and more. Our waiter provided great service especially in terms of the wine pairings for each dish. You could tell he knew his wine list well. The food was wonderful across the board and the dining room itself relaxed and quiet enough to allow good conversation. This meal reinforced the notion that I waited way too long to stop by for dinner. I will definitely not make that mistake again… and I hope you don’t either.

Cheers!

Pastaga
6389 Saint Laurent
438 381 6389

Pastaga on Urbanspoon

Impasto

6 Oct

After a few months of waiting, I finally had the chance to check out the Italian restaurant everyone is talking about right now – Impasto. This small space, located in the heart of Little Italy and only a short walk from the Jean Talon Market, was born of the collaboration between Michele Forgione (formerly of Osteria Venti) and Stefano Faita, host of CBC’s In the Kitchen. Impasto aims to provide great Italian food with no shortcuts – almost everything is made in house. Walking into the space, that level of craft permeates even the decor. Beautiful open kitchen with wood panel walls, leather banquettes, terrazzo floors, Pelligrino bottles lining the ceiling and just enough lighting to really brighten up the room. I sat down with a Negrini in hand, ready to enjoy a wonderful meal with a group of friends.

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First up, we have the Insalada di Moscardini – baby octopus, fennel, potato and red onion salad. A beautifully balanced salad. The freshness of the fennel combined nicely with the bite of the red onion, the starch of the potatoes and the fatty octopus. Add a little olive oil and some herbs and you had a great starter to the meal.

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The other starter I got to try was the housemade Apulia style sausage with pan seared rapini and apple vinegar. Great texture to the sausage as well as great flavour. The combination of the rapini and the apple vinegar adds some nice acidity to the fatty sausage. I know rapini isn’t everyone’s thing but I personally love it so that worked for me.

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The next course was the pasta course. I went for the ricotta gnocchi with basil infused tomato sauce. This dish is probably Chef Forgione’s speciality and I had heard so much about it that I wasn’t sure it could meet my expectations. Well….. it blew them out of the water. The slow pillowy texture of each morsel. The rich ricotta flavour. I have never had gnocchi that literally melt in your mouth like these ones did. Lightly tossed with a simple but very flavourful tomato sauce, this was pretty much the best pasta dish I have had all year almost without saying. Bravo Chef!

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I also got to try another pasta dish – the mafalde with rabbit ragu, chicory and olives. The mafalde pasta itself was wonderful – great texture, indicative of people who know how to make great in-house pasta. The combination of the rabbit ragu with the chicory made for very earthy notes – a nice contrast to the richness of the ricotta gnocchi I had previously.

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For the next course, I went with Nonno’s porchetta roast served with a vanilla pear, pan seared rapini and some candied fruits. This was an amazing roast – deliciously rich and fatty pork meat with crispy skin. The skin wasn’t the crispest I’ve ever had but still wonderful. The inclusion of the vanilla pear and the candied fruits provided some sweetness to balance with the inherent saltiness and fattiness of the roast itself. I love porchetta and Impasto’s take just reinforced my love.

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For dessert, we went with the Tiramisu and the chocolate tort cake. I’m not a big fan of Tiramisu due to my hatred of coffee but this one was milder in terms of the coffee taste and had a wonderfully smooth texture. The chocolate cake had more of a brownie texture – very dense but still moist. Very well executed.

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This was a great meal all around. Impasto aims for great Italian food and they hit on all the notes. As a party, we did find the service to be slightly slow in terms of bringing water and taking wine orders but it is a minor quibble. Now, the menu changes seasonly and ironically enough, they just changed the menu for the fall so you won’t be able to try the dishes I described above. However, that should not stop you from going menu unseen. I have no doubts you will be as satisfied as I was. Now, I just want to go back to see what Chef Forgione and company have in mind for the current season.

Cheers!

Impasto
48 Dante
514 508 6508

Impasto on Urbanspoon

Some 2012 Reflections… and Poutineville

15 Jan

The new year is a opportunity to reflect, to look back on the past year and determine what new years’ resolutions you want to make. Within the perspective of this blog and what it covers, 2012 was a great year in that I succeeded in starting up this blog for the umpteenth time and ACTUALLY sticking with it with some regularity. I channeled my love of food and used that to discover plenty of wonderful restaurants in Montreal in the past year (many of which I had long been anticipating) which providing a nice creative outlet from a writing point of view.

Is my writing style that great? Well… No. Not yet anyway. I don’t have the smoothest nor the most detailed and structured style. Part of that is my lack of writing practice (outside of sterile physical therapy documentation) but my hope is that through further writing over the coming year, I succeed in improving those elements and create my better overall reading experience for you the readers. I am also quite thankful that there are actually some people reading these. I am doing this mostly as a fun outlet and a good excuse to try out some good food on a semi-regular basis. If through that, people discover nice places to bring friends, family or loved ones, then wonderful. And if you’re not sure, just feel free to ask me for recommendations! I like a challenge. Anyway, here to 2013 – and to hopefully another great year in Montreal food!

And with, a quick note on my first MTL outing of 2013. Through the “benefit” of a weekend professional course, I found within 3 blocks of Poutineville for a quick lunch. I had been there once before about a year before within the same context. Saint-Edouard is not a neighborhood I have much reason to visit otherwise, although I have a few places to check out nearby eventually. Anyway, back to the restaurant. I am a big poutine fan. It is very hard to me to resist the pull of a good poutine if the chance presents itself. My go-to in Montreal has been La Banquise – 2am poutine never tasted so good. Poutineville is a similar premise. You can order one of their speciality poutines or you can build your own to your tastes. This is the way to do it.

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For this particular visit, I went for a meat heavy poutine because well…. vegetables have no business in a poutine in my opinion. Anyway, I went with pogo, pulled pork and Italian sausage with cheese curds, the house gravy and the crushed potatoes (the house speciality). Behold this behemoth..

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Everything worked perfectly well here. The crushed potatoes creates a nice texture difference, the cheese curds were perfect and plentiful – always a key factor in a good poutine. The house gravy had the right consistency – not too liquid and not too thick. A but of saltiness to balance everything off nicely. The pulled pork and Italian sausage weren’t very special on their own but within the mix with the pogo and the base poutine, it created a very nice, filling poutine. A great lunch that was most certainly needed.

Personally, I still prefer La Banquise but if you are looking for a good poutine, Poutineville is a great option for you to consider. It may not have the cache of La Banquise but it most certainly has a poutine to match up favorably. Quebec is the land of the poutine. We most certainly have restaurants which celebrate it properly.

Cheers!

Poutineville
1348 Beaubien Est.
514 544 8800

Poutineville 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

Pastaga (Brunch Edition)

17 Sep

Another beautiful Sunday in Montreal can only mean another Brunch opportunity. This past weekend, my brunch partner and I….and yes… I have a brunch buddy. In lieu of a relationship, brunch is best enjoyed amongst friends, so we have made this a regular occurrence. Great way to maintain friendships you care about. Food for thought (and pun completely intended). Anyway… Pastaga is a restaurant that I have wanted to visit for some time now. Eventually I will go for dinner but for the time being, having been biking by it every weekend for the past 3 months on my way to Jean Talon Market, I decided that brunch was a quicker option for the time being.

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Pastaga does brunch on Sunday exclusively. On this beautiful day, we arrived before any rush and sat down right away. Right off the bat, the place has a great look and feel. Very simple and fresh decor. The large window in the front of the restaurant provides a large amount of natural light which lights up the space. Simple wood tables, couch chairs and a nice bar in the back. The killer element is the glass wall in the back which exposes the beautiful kitchen for all to see. I could have sat there for hours.

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Started off with a strawberry smoothie and the complimentary sugared doughnuts with housemate caramel. Smoothie was light but had a great taste. The doughnuts were very good as well. They didn’t have the warm fluffy texture of something that has been made fresh to order but were delicious regardless. Nice crunch to them and not too dense. The caramel was the star however. Perfectly rich and smooth.

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As a main course, I had Pastaga’s version of a hash. Grilled potatoes and peppers with bacon, egg and toast. Simple in principle but exquisite in execution. All the elements came together wonderfully for a great dish. The bacon in particular was just perfect. More a large slab of pork than what most would consider bacon but no complaints here. Simply a great dish.

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My friend had the Benedictine plate. Pastaga’s play of this dish included a fowl drumstick. Once again, every element of the plate was perfectly executed. The biscuit was good, the poached egg was perfect, the drumstick was great and the hollandaise sauce was exceptionally light with the same taste one would expect from most hollandaise sauces. Another great dish.

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Finally, to finish off the meal, we split the petit fours which consisted of 4 mini brownies with a candied grape in the middle of each. A perfect sweet ending to a very good meal.

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Pastaga was a great brunch experience that I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a nice place to try out. This meal further reinforced my need to come have dinner here as well. Anytime you are in the Little Italy/ Jean Talon Market area, you would be hard pressed to find a better brunch option to enjoy on a nice relaxing Sunday.

Cheers!

Pastaga
6389 Saint-Laurent (corner Beaubien)
438 381-6389

Pastaga on Urbanspoon

Dinette Triple Crown

23 Aug

On my regular Saturday bike ride to and from Jean Talon Market, I occasionally use the opportunity to stop and try some desired location located on my route through Mile End and Little Italy. Last week, I was in the mood for some BBQ so I headed off to a pretty new addition to the scene in Little Italy, Dinette Triple Crown.

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I had first heard of this location through Natasha Pickowicz‘s blog. As a fan of BBQ, I was instantly intrigued and boy… was I not disappointed. The restaurant is in a small space at the corner of St-Zotique and Clark across from Martel park. There is a small counter area to sit inside but the place is really set up to pick up and enjoy elsewhere. In fact, they offer an option to provide a picnic basket filled with your order to bring across the street to enjoy outside. Had I not been alone, the option would have been a perfect one but inside was just as enjoyable. The restaurant has a cool look with amazing music playing throughout. Any place that plays jazz, crooner and soul music the whole time is a winner in my books!

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The menu options run the gamut of classic southern style food: brisket, fried chicken, pulled pork, biscuits, sweet potato, greens, etc… I went for a large wide swatch of their options for my lunch: Pulled pork sandwich, one piece of fried chicken, a buttermilk biscuit, sweet potatoes and a lemonade. There wasn’t a single bad option on this plate. The sweet potatoes were perfectly cooked with a nice crisp exterior without the interior becoming complete mush. The biscuit was a perfect combination of rich, soft, flaky goodness. It was the kind of thing where you can just tell that lots of butter and buttermilk was used in its making but you don’t care in the least. The fried chicken was simply perfect – the skin was crispy, seasoned perfectly and not overbearing. The chicken was probably the moistest I’ve ever experienced with fried chicken. That classic feeling of needing to drink loads of water to offset the dryness of fried chicken was nowhere to be found. The chicken definitely deserved to be enjoyed in a larger quantity but that had to wait because I needed to try the pulled pork.

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When I want to judge a BBQ place, the pulled pork or the ribs are, to me, the to go options. The pulled pork here is just amazing. Perfectly done with the right level of tenderness & amazing flavor and that is without sauce because at Dinette, the pulled pork sandwich comes un-sauced. On the table, you have numerous options of sauces from which to choose from. You have a more classic Memphis BBQ sauce, a South Carolina mustard sauce and a vinegar based East Carolina sauce. Dinette Triple Crown also experiment with other sauce options from time to time. When I was there, the chef came over to provide me with a sample of his current concoction, a peach jalapeño sauce. Let me repeat that because I believe it deserves to be repeated: peach jalapeño sauce. Now, I really don’t enjoy jalapeño spice but I definitely needed to try this one. I tried both it and the Memphis BBQ sauce. The BBQ sauce was spot-on and hit the notes you expect from a top notch BBQ place. The Peach jalapeño sauce was just out of bounds. Spicy to start with a nice sweetness midway to cool the pallet before the heat kicks up again at the finish, this sauce was ridiculous. Just ridiculous. Not sure how much I use it given my lack of hot sauce enjoyment but for those who do, Dinette does sell the sauces they make periodically so check it out with that’s your style.

All in all, Dinette Triple Crown is the best southern BBQ experience I’ve ever had. Period. Anyone who loves BBQ needs to stop over and give this place a shot. I will definitely be heading back very soon to try the rest of the menu.

Cheers!

Dinette Triple Crown
6704 Clark (corner St-Zotique)
514 272 2617

Dinette Triple Crown on Urbanspoon

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