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Maggie Oakes

28 Jan

January in Montreal brings forth certain ideas to mind as Montrealers. For some, it is the %$?#ing snow and all that comes with it. For those who are looking to party, January means it is Igloofest. And for those of a more food specific point of view, January means Happening Gourmand is back in the Old Port. In its 11th year, Happening Gourmand is a event run by the Antonopoulos Group where they offer a discounted table d’hôte in their 9 Old Montreal restaurants. Basically MTL à Table but only theirs. Interesting enough as it is a chance to check out some interesting spots in the Old Port at a price that you don’t get to enjoy often in the Old Port. For the occasion of the birthdays of a couple of dear friends, we found ourselves at Maggie Oakes for dinner – curious what we would get for our money.

Maggie Oakes is located on a prime spot in Place Jacques-Cartier on the first floor of the William Gray boutique Hotel. It is apparently inspired by American bistros and steakhouses and strongly focuses on dry aged meats. Visually, the space is worthy of the Old Port. Very glamorous look – a mixture of marble, walnut and brass with a clear glass dry age meat cooler and wine cellar as well as a green wall where they appear to grow fresh herbs and micro-greens. The space is rather large but surprisingly wasn’t too noisy despite us being present on a busy Friday night.

For Happening Gourmand, we had access to a three course meal for 31$. We could still order extra off the regular menu so we started with some fresh Raspberry point oysters. Nice, fresh and a little salty – perfect start to the night.

For starters, we tried both options available. First was a butternut squash soup served with crab salad and fresh herbs. Nice creamy texture with a surprising kick of spice to it. I really enjoyed the addition of the crab to mix. The butternut squash flavour came through nicely although I didn’t get that hint of caramelized sweetness I was expecting.

Next was the smoked duck tartare with candied orange, peppers and pickled vegetables. Classic presentation and very well done overall. The duck was beautiful – its inherent fatty richness perfectly showcased here. I liked the use of the candied orange to add that nice sweetness that works so well with duck.

For mains, I first went with the handmade cavatelli served with wild mushrooms, cream sauce, tarragon and pecorino cheese. Excellent pasta dish. The pasta was cooked well and the cream sauce had the right mix of richness without being overwhelming. The mushroom added some nice earthiness and the pecorino a hint of sharpness. Very enjoyable.

My fiancé went with the slow cooking beef short ribs served with roasted Jerusalem artichokes and mashed sweet potatoes. The meat was perfectly fall off the bone good. Tender and very flavourful. The roasted veggies and the sweet mash are classic pairs with braised beef so of course they worked very well here.

For the last course, we had two options and tried both. Neither one really wowed us… especially compared to the previous courses. The raspberry cheesecake – a cream cheese mousse with vanilla, almond biscuit and raspberry confit – looked beautiful and tasted fine but didn’t leave much of a mark.

The chocolate cake – a chocolate biscuit with creamy dark chocolate and cream mounted chocolate milk – came off as dry. The cream was excellent but if the base isn’t solid, that doesn’t really matter.

Maggie Oakes was for 2 courses out of 3 a very pleasant surprise. The quality of food as well as the quantity was excellent and made for a great meal. The dessert course brought things back down to earth but overall, I can definitely recommend Maggie Oakes if one is looking to spend a nice evening in the Old Port. You will definitely be in the heart of the action.


Maggie Oakes
426 Place Jacques-Cartier
514 656 6000

Maggie Oakes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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?


Restaurant Gus
38 Rue Beaubien Est
514 722 2175

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


10 Mar

I don’t know about every restaurant in the city. I know that statement shouldn’t be a surprise but sometimes people get the impression that I know every possible restaurant in Montreal. And yes, while I do know my fair share, even I can get surprised by a place I’ve never heard of before. This is one of those moments. For the event of the birthday of a friend of my girlfriend’s, I was invited for dinner to a place on Wellington in Verdun that I had driven by numerous times before but never noticed… JoBlo.

Such a unique vibe to this place. Strong burlesque 1920s-1930s speakeasy feel to the room but with a twist. Nat King Cole playing in the background. Big leather seats, old portraits and posters framed up but then you add the machine gun lamps, the staff all dressed in French mime attire (without the makeup) and a huge wooden horse right by the entrance. It’s weird, it’s strange but it worked for me. When the restaurant’s private group room is called the Betty Boo room and has huge pop art Betty Boo on the walls, you know this place had a unique style.

Drink wise, I enjoyed the scope of their cocktail menu. I got to try their gin fizz and the mojito. The gin fizz was a little too lemony for me. The foamy texture was perfect though. The mojito was solid – exactly what I would have expected from a proper mojito.

JoBlo calls itself a steakhouse and while yes they do have steak on the menu, the food is much more comfort food oriented. The menu is much more centered around burgers, mac n’ cheese and Sloppy Joes. As a starter, my girlfriend and I shared le “Squiggly Diddly” – home made fried calamari with tomato sauce. Portion wise very generous and pretty tasty to boot. The calamari had a nice crisp to them while still being the right level of tenderness. Tomato sauce was okay but truthfully not memorable.

As a main course, my girlfriend went with the “Sloppy JoBlo” – their version of the Sloppy Joe with home fries. Served on a toasted pun, it was absolutely uneatable as an actual burger which I suppose is what a sloppy joe should be – sloppy and saucy. The meat filling was pretty good – strong tomato sauce flavour with some tang. A very generous portion of fries to go with it – the style of fries which one would get at a true pataterie which I love so that worked for me.

On my end, I went with the “Gros Porc” because I am a glutton and couldn’t help it…. mac n’cheese, onions and bacon on a pork patty. Yeah that’s right… mac n’ cheese in the burger. Completely ridiculous I know and almost impossible to eat as a burger but I still succeeded in grabbing it as a burger. Loved the pork, the smokiness and crispness of the bacon, the sweet onions but let’s be honest… this thing is all about the mac n’cheese. Loved the creaminess of the macaron but felt like it lacked some sharpness. A different cheese blend would have probably helped to create a more distinct flavour. The noodles were also a bit too big for use in a burger but that’s really nitpicking. Another large portion of fries was provided as well. I liked this burger but didn’t love it like I had hoped.

JoBlo was an interesting experience given I had absolutely no expectations going in. Loved the portion sizes and the general ideas behind the menu. I had a few small issues over the course of the night such that while I enjoyed the food, I didn’t love it completely. Definitely worth another look… if only for the great look and vibe of the joint.


JoBlo Steakhouse
3807 Wellington
514 508 9178

JoBlo on Urbanspoon

L’ Atelier d’Argentine

10 Nov

November in Montreal means Taste MTL – the wonderful restaurant week that gives people the opportunity to try out restaurants at a reduced cost through special tables d’hôte. This year’s edition, featuring over 120 restaurants, is sponsored by the Maple producers of Quebec so the inclusion of maple products is the theme for this year’s menus. For my first restaurant this year, I went with an Old Port spot that I have had an eye on since it opened up over a year ago now – L’Atelier d’Argentine.


This Argentine steakhouse, situated in the former DNA space, has a lounge/bar space as well as a beautiful dining room. The lounge/ bar space utilizes large light fixtures and brick as the main focus points for that area whereas the dining space combines wood, metal and glass with more subtle lighting to create a intime but very striking feel.




Now, before I enter into the meal itself, I need to spend a moment discussing a big sticking point from this dinner for my dining companions and I which was the overall service. Now, I rarely have a issue with service at a restaurant and will generally let minor things go – if the food is good, I can accept slight issues without a problem. However, in this case, the meal was almost completely derailed from the start. We made our presence known to the hostess and were told that the table wasn’t ready yet. We would need to wait a few moments – no issue there, given the late time of our reservation. There were a few other groups around us in the situation. After 15 minutes of standing in the entrance way and a few of the other parties waiting around with us getting seating, the same hostress asks us if we had been helped yet. Oh boy…. informed that we had presented ourselves prior, she found out that the party at our table still hasn’t paid yet, so she offers us a seat at the dining room bar in the meanwhile.

We sit at the bar where none of the dining room staff had been made aware of our situation because we sat for 15 minutes without anyone bothering to come serve us. One of my friends actually got up and went to speak to a waiter so that we could get a drink menu. We finally ordered drinks but we got our table before the cocktails came – a full 40 minutes after our original reservation time. Now thankfully the cocktail I had – their signature Diplomatico Old Fashion (Tequila, agave syrup and orange bitters) – was excellent and one I definitely will try to make myself but I had hoped to have it much sooner.


Finally at the table, we started with the two appetizers available on the Taste MTL menu. First up, smoked trout glazed with maple, raspberry and arugula. Very simple but well executed dish – the sweetness of the maple mixed well with the bitter arugula and the slight sourness of the raspberries. The 2nd dish was roasted beet, green onion and young goat cheese with roasted garlic oil. Once again, a successful plate – simple but well done.



At this point, having had the wine list taken away from us for some reason despite our stated intend to order a bottle, we got it back and ordered a bottle of white. The waiter was surprisingly unable to give us an opinion on the bottle we had in mind but at least was honest enough to admit his lack of knowledge about that particular bottle. We were presented the bottle but told it is warm so the waiter will chill it for us. I like the honesty but why exactly was this bottle of white wine warm in the first place? Again, a very weird and disappointing service instance between our courses.

The mains came through next. We ordered both Taste MTL options as well as an extra one off the regular menu. The taste MTL options were pan seared duck filet with grilled orange, fennel & shallot salsa; and a semi-smoked flank steak with buttery potatoes and chimichurri. The duck was excellent – perfectly cooked to the right temperature. The fennel and shallot salsa was delicious and complemented the fatty duck well. The roasted orange also added a nice element. The flank steak was okay – the interior was perfect temp but the exterior was a little too chard which made the meat tougher than it really was. The potatoes were plain but the chimichurri was outstanding.



From the main menu, we went with the pan seared Chilean sea bass with a ripe mango, roasted bell pepper & arugula salad. The sea bass was seared well but surprisingly lacking of any punch of flavour. I assume that it is to offset the very flavourful salad which was wonderful. Great use of mango and peppers to add sweetness to the dish.


For dessert, we went with the two Taste MTL options – Lemon flatbread and basil sorbet; Sponge cake with cream, dulce de leche and peach – as well as one of the regular menu, the almendrado which is an almond crusted vanilla glace with a dark chocolate syrup and sugar cookie. The flatbread was good but relatively forgotten especially when compared to its companion the sorbet. The basil sorbet was possibly the best thing I had all night. Perfect texture and great balance of flavour – the basil is strong but not overwhelming to taste. The sponge cake dish was solid across the board but not particularly memorable. The almendrado was a very unique take – almost a deconstructed Haagen-Dazs bar – that worked pretty well.




Overall, the evening was a mixed bag. I loved the setting and the general ambience of the space – very much the kind of experience I like from the Old Port. The drinks and food were solid as well despite a few minor quips. However, it is hard to overlook the poor service we received throughout the meal. Speaking to other people I know who have been, I have heard hits and misses in this area as well. In the end, I would be willing to return because the regular menu interests me enough to give the service another shot. At the very least, I would return to the bar side for a nice drink or 5 à 7. Hopefully those of you who go for dinner get a better aspect of service than we did.


L’Atelier d’Argentine
355 Rue Marguerite D’Youville
(514) 287-3362

L'Atelier d'Argentine on Urbanspoon


21 Oct

There are few true Montreal institutions. Places that you, your parents, your grandparents… heck even maybe your great grandparents know about and respect for what they do. Moishes is one such a place. A place that evokes a certain timelessness and yet still works to this day. Up until last week, I had never been to Moishes. Yes… I know. A combination of factors really. Chief among them is that I am not really a steakhouse guy. I love meat but I can’t tell you the last time I actually ordered a steak in a restaurant. If given the choice, I will always select something else off the menu. Steak is one of those things where I don’t really see the point of paying a high premium. Just my perception but one that makes me choose to spend that money at a different restaurant than a steakhouse.



Moishes has a late night menu where for 25$, you get a entree, a main and coffee/tea. A steal of a deal… and a great way for me to finally try them. So away we go. The late night option includes the normal complimentary pickles, coleslaw and bread which at the time of our reservation was a welcomed sight. Add my usual old Fashioned cocktail and I was ready for a good late night meal on the Main.




As appetizers, we selected the salmon tartar and the caesar salad. Both were competent solid dishes. The salmon was not over-seasoned with just the right hint of dill. I would have liked it to be a bit bigger though. The salad portion was good and the dressing was the right combination of flavour without being too rich and creamy.



As mains, we went with the steak frites and the filet mignon poutine. The steak was perfectly cooked to order. The cut was leaner and thicker than the typical steak frites you get at the many restaurants in and around Montreal which was a slight surprise but good regardless. The fries were nice, golden and plentiful. Good crisp and seasoning as well.


The filet mignon poutine was something I had been curious to try and came away quite satisfied. Same golden fries as above topped with pieces of filet mignon and melted cheese. A very rich and filling dish. The real key here was the perfectly melted cheese that binds everything together into a delicious mess. Definitely a dish I will be having again.


My first experience at Moishes was a good one. A place where you see the attention to detail that 75 years in business provides. Great service from beginning to end, a nice dining room space and great food. I admit to be a little surprised to see how casual of dress some of the patrons were… especially when compared to the tables where people were in suits and dresses. Moishes is a place where I feel like a dress shirt is a requirement at minimum but regardless…. I waited a long time before finding coming to Moishes. The wait won’t be that long next time.


3961 Saint-Laurent
514 845 3509

Moishes on Urbanspoon

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