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Le Bird Bar

19 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Le Bird Bar
1800 rue Notre Dame Ouest
514 938 4343

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

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Icehouse

24 Jan

Living downtown has a number of perks. One of the big ones on my end is the proximity I have to so many great restaurants. It hits the bank account a bit but when I get a craving for a certain type of food, I am usually close enough to a restaurant that can satisfy my desires. Last Friday, I had a serious hankering of some tex-mex BBQ. Luckily for me, I am a short walk away from one of the best Montreal has to offer. So I called up a buddy who I knew would enjoy the experience, we braved the cold and made our way to Icehouse.

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Icehouse is chef Nick Hodge’s second restaurant, he of Kitchenette fame. This small, probably 30 seat space in the Plateau serves up comfort food with a decidedly Texas flare. Tacos, Burritos, fried chicken, ribs. You come here hungry and you most certainly leave here stuffed.

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As soon as we walked in the door, we were given a complimentary cup of warmed Dr.Pepper with bourbon. Warm and sweet, the bourbon added a nice kick to it. Given the stiff cold we had to deal with outside, it was a most welcomed surprise. Once that drink was done, we each ordered a glass of the house Bourbon Lemonade. I simply love this drink. The perfect balance of sweetness and sour of the homemade lemonade with the punch of the bourbon. When I’ve been here in the summer, there is nothing better than ordering a full pitcher and enjoying it on the small terrasse outside. Regardless of the food you order when you visit, the Bourbon Lemonade is an absolutely must.

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As an entree, we ordered the queso fundido with chorizo. While I had expected a little more chorizo that we got, it was a very good dish. The consistency was good – thick enough that it stuck to the tortilla chips but not so much that the chips broke when you dipped in. Nice balance of the cheeses – slightly sharpeness but still mild enough. A good start.

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For the mains, my buddy ordered the Lobster burrito with pico de gayo, corn and chips. As a side, he ordered some fries. Now I am not a burrito guy. Really not. This one here may have changed that. Absolutely stuffed with lobster, so much so that my buddy was a little surprised, the combo of the lobster with the pico de gayo and the corn had a great balance to it. The fries were perfectly executed as well.

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On my end, I ordered the half bucket of HP sauce ribs that comes with coleslaw, smoked potato salad and a buttermilk biscuit. The biscuit was flaky and rich. The coleslaw is more of the creamy variety if we were to use the St-Hubert coleslaw scale but still light enough to offset the richness of the potato salad. The Ribs were picture perfect. Just fall off the bone good. The sauce had a nice smokiness and sweeteners that basically made you want to suck up every drop of the sauce that was on the paper towel laid below the ribs. It is so good that once the ribs were done (and believe me, that didn’t take very long), we dropped the fries into the sauce and finished them off that way.
Believe me, if you order the ribs, you need a few towelettes but frankly you won’t care.

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Icehouse is one of my absolute favorites since I discovered it last year. Note for couples, it is not the place for a quiet sit down meal. Despite its small size, it gets relatively noisy quickly pretty on top of the great music that they play throughout the evening. We walked out of there waddling slightly but very happy about the meal we just had – just like every other time I have visited.If you are looking for a cool, relaxed setting to enjoy a great meal, Icehouse should be high on your list.

Cheers!

Icehouse
51 Roy Est.
514 439 6691

Icehouse on Urbanspoon

Kitchenette

3 Dec

I am a huge fan of Icehouse, Chef Nick Hodge’s hip and casual love letter to Southern American food. If it weren’t for Blackstrap BBQ’s sudden appearance and my frequent visits that border on stalking frequency, it would be my most frequented restaurant of this year. With that in mind, I had never had the opportunity to visit his 1st and more “upscale” restaurant Kitchenette. This past Saturday, with the help of a last minute restaurant for a family meal, I succeeded in righting that wrong.

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The restaurant is located on Rene Levesque near the Radio-Canada building and you would be forgiven if you’ve passed by and never noticed it. There is no large sign advertising its presence, the restaurant logo is in the windows but in a minimalistic way. The restaurant has a very clean black and white look with wooden accents. The focal point is the bar and open kitchen which allows everyone to watch Chef Nick and his sous-chef work their magic.

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We started off with a half dozen fresh oysters with homemade Tabasco and a tomatillo based mignonette. The oysters were perfectly shucked and the mignonette was a very nice compliment to the freshness of the oysters with the subtle kick from the tomatillos. A good start to the meal.

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The subsequent course brought forth 3 different appetizers to try. The Maryland-style crab cakes with ranch dressing were very well executed. Plentiful crab meat with a thin but perfectly crispy exterior. The ranch sauce was also very good and clearly homemade. Had the right richness but without being too fat and thick. Probably the best crab cakes I’ve had in Montreal.

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The Japanese taco with pulled beef teriyaki and daikon-jalapeño slaw was quite good as well. Good strong flavors from the beef which were nicely balanced by the slaw. I only wished there wasn’t just one taco in the dish so that I could have had more than one bite.

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The final appetizer was the sopapillas with crispy chicken skin, truffle and spiced honey. Never had these fried pastries before but there were pretty good. Really, it is the spiced honey and truffle that comes off as the big flavor in this dish. This was more a dessert in flavour but a nice compliment to the other flavors we got during this course.

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With the two mains we ordered (also another order of crab cakes but we’ll ignore that for this portion), we also got a side of French fries and a side of Vidalia onion rings. The French fries were of the classic French bistro variety – matchstick style. Absolutely no complaints there – very good. The onion rings, on the other hand, were simply amazing. Nice thick rings of Vidalia onion that maintained a great crispness regardless of the batter which was nice, crispy and not heavy. That really allowed the sweetness of the onion to shine though. Once again, some of the best onion rings I’ve ever had.

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The first main was the lazy cioppino with grilled sourdough bread. I didn’t try much of this for reasons that will become obvious in a moment but from what I had, this was a very nice hardy broth with amazing fresh seafood by the tons be it crab, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels or fish. It all worked perfectly well together and with the sourdough bread, it made for a perfect bread dunking opportunity into the broth. Definitely will want to try this myself in more detail next time I visit.

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Now, I did not try much of the cioppino because I ordered the Chicken-fried duck confit, sweet potato and wild blueberry waffle, white gravy and pickled mushrooms. This was an overall wonderful play on the chicken and waffle combination. The duck confit was spectacular. There really is no other way to describe that beautiful piece of duck I received. Great flavor, great texture. Spot on in every way and that is before you consider the chicken-fried preparation on top of it. The gravy was nice and rich and the mushrooms were a very nice compliment to the overall rich nature of this dish. The one disappointment was the waffle which, while having a nice flavor of blueberry, was too soft in texture for my liking. I assume that may have been on account of the gravy it soaked in but it still wasn’t what I was hoping for. A little crisper and this was a perfect dish.

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After all of that food, you figured we were done, right? Well, you’d be wrong. To finish this off, we ordered the bread pudding with Jack Daniel’s and toasted pecan caramel. Oh the bread pudding…. where to start with this beauty… This was simply the best bread pudding I have ever had and I honestly don’t think it will ever be topped. The bread itself was nice, soft and able to absorb all of that delicious caramel sauce to make it even that much better. The caramel sauce was to die for and not just because of how rich it was. You got just the right taste of Jack Daniels and the toasted pecans added a nice crunch to the gooey rich mess that is this dessert. I felt like I wanted to explode afterwards but it was completely worth it in every way.

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I had high expectations for Kitchenette and there were ably met by Chef Hodge and his team. This is a restaurant I will come back to because I now have the desire to eat very thing on the menu. I believe that, more than anything, speaks to the quality of the food you can experience at Kitchenette. This is a place not to be missed.

Cheers!

Kitchenette
1353 Rene-Levesque Est
514 527 1016

Kitchenette on Urbanspoon

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