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Le Smoking Vallée

16 Jul

Montreal BYOBs are a very much a hit or miss proposition in a lot of cases. One particular group of restauranteurs have seemingly succeeded in establishing a BYOB template that works. Marc-André Paradis, George Blais, and Thierry Dufour and Co. have a large of collections of restaurants that now cover most of the different neighbourhoods in the city. Their names are synonymous with excellent in BYOB and yet, I have never been to any….. a blind spot of mine to be sure. Luckily, recently, I had a chance to visit their St-Henri local, Le Smoking Vallée and see how it stacks up.

Le Smoking Vallée is a simple space decorated sorta post-industrial – well lit, lacquered wood tables, wooden chairs. The only real ‘pop’ element is a large panorama mural of St-Henri as taken from the Lachine Canal. The space is not that big and yet got very loud once full. I honestly do not recall music or at least couldn’t really hear it. The service was very friendly but honestly pretty slow. It took about one hour for us to see our first course which is outside reasonable delays.

The menu is market, slightly french in style. Your options are either a table d’hôte or simply ordering per dish. I was hungry enough that I went with the table d’hôte. The menu changes seasonly and there are daily dishes as well. First up, the bouchée of the day was a mushroom tartar with a mayo and crouton. Solid start.

As a starter, I went with the mushroom puff pastry with poached egg, lardon and truffle. Lovely combination of the earthy roasted sautéed mushrooms, the creamy poached egg, the rich lardon and the flaky pastry. Good execution and great flavours. Very enjoyable. I also tried the cod croquettes with cocktail mayonnaise. The cod croquettes were nicely sized and had a nice crunch. The cod meat was flavourful and plentiful within each croquette. The mayo added a nice creaminess as well.

Following the starters, a little strawberry, whisky and rhubarb trou normand followed to provided a sweet but strong palate cleanser.

As a main, I went with the duck breast served with papaya, sweet potato puree and spice jus. Very interesting blend of french technique and plating but with some south-east Asian flavours. The duck was cooked perfectly and had great flavour. The pickled papaya gave the dish nice heat and the puree had a nice creamy sweetness to it.

My fiancé had the special of the day which was grilled chorizo and calamari served with chickpeas in a Indian-style curry. Very different flavour profile compared to my dish but equally as well done. Both sausage and calamari was done well and the strong Indian flavours came through very nicely.

Lastly for dessert, a chocolate carré with sponge and pear and matcha tea purée. The chocolate was very rich and creamy. The puree was sweet with the hint of matcha that makes enjoyable and not overwhelming.

All in all, solid technique and plating, great flavours and a comfortable setting makes Smoking Vallee a solid choice as a BYOB within Montreal. Service was a little slow but otherwise no major complaints. So if you want a nice BYOB, look up these gentlemen – there is a good chance they have a BYOB in your neighbourhood for you to enjoy.

Cheers!

Le Smoking Vallée
4370 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 932 0303

Le Smoking Vallée Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le H4C

28 Dec

For my final review of 2016, we have my final MTL à Table choice from November. For about 3 years now, I had heard great things about a restaurant located in the heart of St-Henri. Living near McGill, I thought about it but never went. Last year, moving to Pointe-St-Charles meant I could walk there now if I wanted to… but I still didn’t visit. Finally, the opportunity came around so I found myself at le H4C ready to see if the wait was worth it.

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Started by the founders of an architectural firm and chef Dany Bolduc, le H4C has the stated goal of combining responsible and sustainable architecture to gastronomy. The restaurant is located within a 1893 vintage building that used to be a post office. It has been restored beautifully – showcasing the old features of the brownstone while adding some more modern touches. The space is completely open and beautiful – the use of wood tables and leather banquette and chairs complement well the gorgeous stone exterior walls. The overall vibe is very calm and intimate – a perfect date night location.

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The menu is an interesting mix. I supposed one could call market cuisine with emphasis on local ingredients using french technique. It lents itself to very particular dishes. First up was housemade duck pancetta with papadoum, lime, curry, mustard, tamarin and cilantro. The pancetta was wonderful – the fatty taste of duck very strong and the texture wonderfully tender. The papadoum (a sort of Indian fried tortilla) provided a nice crunch to pair with the duck. The sauces dotted along the papadoum provided different accents flavours to play with. An excellent dish.

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Our second starter was equally well executed. The marinated salmon with cauliflower, creme fraiche, salmon roe and spices was similar to the first in that the primary ingredient was done simply but so well. The fish had great freshness and a lovely texture to it. The use of cauliflower and creme fraiche, while weird together in theory, worked very well with the salmon to enhance it by bringing in some richness.

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The final entree we tried was the Ricotta gnudi with gruyere, onion and croutons. Essentially a french onion soup broken down with gnudi instead of that big cheesy bread. A very cool usage of a classic French recipe and have some fun with it. Excellent onion broth – rich and smooth. The gundi were soft and lovely balls of rich ricotta. Adding the gruyere on top just made it richer and more filling.

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Our mains continued the high level of execution. First was the octopus with tandoori, caramelized yogourt, red onion, basmati rice and coconut. The octopus was wonderfully tender and the tandoori spices brought some nice flavour. The combination of the red onion and the yogourt provided some nice sweetness and creaminess to pair with the octopus.

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My dish of the night was the main I ordered: smoked meat with potatoes, smoked onions, rye, mustard and marinated cabbage. A wonderfully weird deconstructed smoked meat sandwich that tasted as close to the real thing as possible without having just meat between rye bread. The smoked meat was perfect – getting that right level of tenderness and flavour. I was just missing my root beer (or cherry coke if that’s more your thing)!

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The desserts had a hard time matching the highs of the mains. First the lemon meringue with cucumber ice cream and gin was interesting texturally but the cucumber popped more than the lemon or even the gin which didn’t work for me. The squash with gingerbread, white chocolate and pumpkin seeds was an interesting savoury sweet idea that worked better in theory than practice. No one at the table really enjoyed the preparation of the squash – almost gelatinous but the flavour didn’t work at all. The gingerbread and white chocolate mousse were excellent but that wasn’t really the point.. We also got some housemade popcorn which was very good as well.

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Le H4C was a solid night out. A very high level of execution throughout the meal in a beautiful environment. With the exception of the desserts, the meal was enjoyable by everyone at the table. I’m happy to see a restaurant such as this one succeeded in my part of town and I’m sorry it took this long to come visit. They also do brunch so I will need to check that out as well. Le H4C deserves your attention if you are visiting the Sud Ouest.

Cheers!

Le H4C
538 Place St-Henri
514 316 7234

Le H4C Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Industria Brasserie Italienne

27 Dec

The Holidays are a time to enjoy and celebrate with family. They are also a time to catch up on my writing. The next few reviews are a few months old now…. sorry for the delays. First up, I got a chance to visit Industria Brasserie Italienne for a mini McGill Football alumni get-together for homecoming. The results of the weekend weren’t as we hoped on the field but I hoped at least I would get to enjoy a good meal at a place I’d had on my list for a while.

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Located right in the epicentre of the Griffintown boom at the corner of Peel and Wellington, Industria is a project started by the Houston restaurant chain and chef Sergio Mattoscio – formerly of Macaroni Bar. Since first opening in Griffintown, they have opened a couple of other franchises in Montreal and Ottawa. The concept, according to them, is a modern pizzeria with an emphasis on sharing plates. Walking in, the venue is very sprawling and is definitely going for an industrial loft style with its high ceilings, metallic chairs, wood topped tables and black leather-ish banquettes. The bar area has plenty of TVs and the dining area has a huge glassed-in wine cellar. Frankly the space didn’t work for me – felt way too big and lacked focus. The bar and dining areas feel very distinct and separate. One section to another felt like totally different restaurants. Coupled with the loud music, Industria felt more like a supper club than an Italian Pizzeria. I may be of the age demo who would like that ambience but personally it doesn’t do it for me.

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As I was drinking my Aperol Spritz, I was hopeful the food would spark my enthusiasm more than the ambience and the decor. The menu focuses on plates to share as well as some pizzas. As a group, we ordered a bunch of the starters to share. A mixed bag overall. The salad of mozzarella di bufala, tomatoes, cucumber, celery and fresh basil was solid with a freshness to the tomatoes and the mozzarella. The fried calamari with spicy mayo felt bland and came off as store bought honestly. They felt overly chewy and lacked seasoning. The meatballs with tomato sauce, ricotta, parmesan and basil were excellent – the meatballs were tender and juicy and the tomato sauce was wonderful. The pulled bacon lollipops with maple reduction had a nice crunch on the outside but the bacon inside was way too soft and mushy in texture. I know it’s pulled bacon but it still needed a bit of crunch to really enhance that fatty bacon flavour. The maple reduction brought a nice sweetness level but the texture of the bacon sunk it for most of the table.

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As chef Mattoscio is known for his gnocchi poutine, I couldn’t come to the restaurant without ordering it. Fried potato gnocchi covered in a light chicken sauce and served with cheese curds that I am pretty sure were mozzarella and not traditional curds, I was left very disappointed in this dish. Flavour-wise, it felt way too rich and yet without much kick to it. I loved the gnocchi themselves but the cheese didn’t bring that squeak you want from a poutine and the sauce really didn’t do it for me.

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Thankfully the pizza finished my meal on a more positive note. I went with the Carnivoro – italian sausage, salumi, bacon, tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. Wonderful crunch to the crust, a nice zesty tomato sauce, tons of mozzarella and meat toppings, the pizza is the only dish I ordered that I would come back for.

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In the end, Industria left me disappointed – the pizza was excellent but the rest of the menu was a mix of disappointed to okay. Add to it a look and ambience that I didn’t take to and I left with no real desire to return. Perhaps for a pizza and a drink on happy hour but not sure about a full meal. Industria certainly tried to be a looker but in my case, she just ain’t my type.

Cheers!

Industria Brasserie Italienne
100 Peel #112
514 931 4545

Industria - Brasserie Italienne Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Arthurs Nosh Bar

4 Dec

Fall is always a crazy time schedule-wise for myself especially on weekends so when a rare free morning appeared, the only logical thing to do in my mind was to go brunch. A lot of good new brunch options have continued to pop up in and around Montreal but the one that has really grabbed my attention recently was the new one closest to me – Arthurs Nosh Bar. Situated on my favourite strip of Notre Dame Ouest in St-Henri, Arthurs is the brainchild of the owners of Back of House Catering, Raegan Steinberg and Alex Cohen. The couple’s Jewish restaurant is open for breakfast, brunch and lunch and has a great look and feel.

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Walking in, the space feels a touch traditional Jewish deli but with some more modern sleekness. I love the combination of the penny-tiled floor, the huge green back bar lined with jars and bottles as well as the letter board menus. There is even the candy jar on the counter! But then you add the marble countertops, the bistro chairs, the leather banquets and the black-and-white pictures on the walls… the experience feels more refined than a Jewish Deli. The awesome musical mix creates a more relaxed fun atmosphere as well – anytime you have my sister and I both smiling at the choices, you are doing it right.

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The menu for Brunch is a mix of Jewish dishes – more Eastern European traditions from what I understand – with some modern touches. We ended up sticking to the more traditional stuff. My sister went for the Latke Smorgasbord – Latke served with gravlax, scrambled eggs, sour cream, tomato, cucumber and caviar. A solid portion with every element working well. The latke was excellent with a nice crunch to it. The texture on the gravlax was beautiful and the eggs were nice and fluffy.

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I went for something I had never heard of before – Syrniki or cottage cheese pancakes. I normally don’t like cottage cheese on its own but its inclusion in the pancakes created a wonderfully fluffy and rich texture. Add a generous pour of maple syrup overtop and I was in pancake heaven. The pancakes were huge which made for a very filling plate. I still added a side of grilled salami to get a little kick with the sweetness overload. Grilling the salami gave it a little crunch which was a nice texture contrast to the pancakes.

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To finish the brunch, we decided to split a piece of Cinnamon Babka – essentially a Jewish play on a Cinnamon Roll. Nice cinnamon flavour, fluffy texture and a little sweet glaze over the top – nothing to complain about here.

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Arthur Nosh Bar certainly held up to my expectations… and given how the restaurant filled up within 20 minutes of it opening on the Sunday we visited, I guess plenty of others are satisfied as well. Outside of a Deli, we don’t get much exposure to Jewish cuisine so it is great to see something so different in the Montreal landscape. I would definitely be interested in a dinner menu if ever they decide to go that route. In the meantime, I will simply come back to enjoy more great Brunch and Lunch fare!

Cheers!

Arthurs Nosh Bar
4621 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 757 5190

Arthur's Nosh Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le Fantome

23 Oct

Tasting menus can be scary to some people. Will I like all the dishes served to me? Why can’t I just order what I want? Or more importantly, do I trust the chef enough to fully guide my restaurant experience? Fundamentally that is the question when confronted with a tasting menu. Personally, I think the tasting menu is a great way to evaluate a restaurant as it should technically be what the chef wishes to serve you. If you don’t like the tasting menu then I suspect the restaurant will not be for you. In Montreal, a few recent restaurants have decided to go only tasting menu – a bold choice but one that certainly can be interesting. One of these is Le Fantome. A relatively new restaurant located in Griffintown, Le Fantome has received plenty of rave reviews since their opening and actually switched to an only-tasting menu option sometime after their opening. Given their close proximity to my place, it was a perfect date night spot for my girlfriend and I a few weeks ago.

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Hidden on William street, Le Fantome is very unassuming from the outside. In fact, you’re likely to miss it when you drive by. The narrow room is sparsely lit decorated only with abstract paintings from chef Jason Morris’s great- grandfather. Not my style artistically but it goes create a nice intimate setting. Noise level was relatively high when we arrived but decreased nicely as the night went on. As our table was not ready, manager Kabir Kapoor provided us with a couple of glasses of white wine for our troubles. That level of quality service continued throughout the night. Very attentive and friendly.

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Once we were sitting, we were provided a menu with both a small or large tasting menu to choose from. The menu simply listed the primary ingredient of each dish. The rest was explained by our wait staff as we received each dish. I went for the larger tasting menu which was comprised of 7 plates and 2 desserts.

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First was a simple amuse bouche of blackberries with foie de volaille. A nice combination of sweet and richness.

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Our second course was a beet salad with creme fraiche, almonds, pistachios and graham crackers. This course let us know that we would be in good hands on this night. The beets were fresh and sliced thinly. The richness of the creme fraiche paired so well with the beets. The nuts brought a little crunch and the addition of the graham crackers added a extra hint of sweetness. A wonderfully balanced dish.

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Third course was a raisin and blueberry salad with black liquorice. Pretty simple overall. I was surprised at how the black liquorice came through but there wasn’t much to get excited about here otherwise.

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The fourth dish was a beef tartar with red peppers, olive oil and elephant garlic shavings. Served in strips, the beef was nice and tender. The dish has good kick to it – reminded me as a stir-fry from a flavour profile. I honestly didn’t pick up the garlic very much. The sweetness of the red pepper was more noticeable.

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The next course was a little more unique – Popcorn risotto. A very creamy risotto with actual popcorn mixed in. A cool textural play and the popcorn brought a nice buttery flavour to the dish. I honestly found the risotto itself lacking any punch without the popcorn flavour-wise though.

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The next dish was salmon lightly poached with kombucha spices, crispy skin, basil and lemon puree. Pardon the bad photographer for the shoddy picture – doesn’t do its presentation service. My girlfriend didn’t enjoy the almost raw texture but I found it interesting. The basil and the puree were the big flavour providers though. The spices didn’t do much for me.

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The seventh dish was a standout for me: Chicken breast and thigh with salsa verde and chicken jus. Loved the chicken two ways – the deep fried thigh had a great crunch to it. The salsa verde was fresh and flavourful. The chicken jus was rich and smooth. Great showcase of execution and technique.

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Now…. Le Fantome offers another dish which you can add to your tasting for a great fee. It is the dish that they are know for early in their existence: a PBJ and foie gras sandwich on toasted brioche. Of course I needed to try it! Just amazing – if you don’t like foie gras, it won’t work for you. For the rest of us though, such a great combination – the buttery brioche, the rich sliver of foie gras, the sweet jam and the smooth peanut butter. I simply wish I could have had more!

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Dessert-wise, we got to try 4 different ones as the shorter tasting (which my girlfriend took) had 2 different desserts than mine. First was a raspberry sorbet sandwich. Loved the strong berry taste and the smooth sorbet texture.

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Second was pear with whipped mascarpone. Our favorite dessert of the night. So simple and yet so effective. Whipping the mascarpone lighten the texture and that richness was perfect with the sweet pear.

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Third was Corn Creme Caramel. Loved the texture of the creme caramel and how the use of corn subtly changed the flavour. However, the burnt caramel sauce didn’t work for either of us. It felt too burnt and left a taste that lacked the sweetness we wanted.

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The final dessert was a pair of Jade Orange candies. A bit-sized hit of nice orange flavour. No complaints here.

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Le Fantôme’s tasting menu spoke of a refined and well-executed cuisine focused on the market that is able to have some fun at the same time. I very much enjoyed the experience of following chef Morris’ inspirations and seeing where he and his staff would take us. A excellent date night all-around and that was all that mattered. Thanks to chef Morris and Kabir. Pleasure having you in the neighbourhood.

Cheers!

Le Fantome
1832 William
514 846 1832

Le Fantome Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dalla Rose

24 Jul

Summer time in Montreal is a great time to be here – beautiful weather (for the most part), great festivals and outdoor activities to enjoy. Summer time also means ice cream and the need to have some great ice cream shops to enjoy. Down in the sud-ouest, there really haven’t been any creameries of note save for Glaces aux Havres by the Atwater Market, however that has changed with the opening of Cremerie Dalla Rose in St-Henri.

Started up by two alumni of Nora Gray, Michael Dalla Libera and Nick Rosari, Dalla Rose is located on Notre-Dame Ouest which may now be my favourite strip in Montreal food-wise – next door to Rustique, Tuck Shop, Adamo, Arthur’s (visit to come very soon!), Bar de Courcelles and Tejano. The parlour is a simple walk-in counter service – a sparse but bright room (liked the tile work on the floor to create the queue line) with no seating inside and a relatively small menu on the wall. You have the option of either ice cream by cone, by cup or inside a sandwich using in-house baked cookies. You can also just order the cookies without ice cream.

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Dalla Rose uses organic dairy products for the ice cream and the flavours apparently will vary from week-to-week and season-to-season. Regardless of the flavours I tried, I found the ice cream to be rich, creamy and very smooth in consistency. At the same time, it feels firm enough. When the ice cream is put in the middle of the cookies for the sandwich, the ice cream isn’t so soft that it melts away too quickly. You don’t have to rush your enjoyment of the sandwich. On my few visits over a couple of weeks, I tried a few different options. First, I tried a cup of both kaffir lime leaf and Quebec strawberry ice cream. The strawberry ice cream has a great flavour that feels both strong but natural. It doesn’t overwhelm. I really enjoyed the lime leaf flavour as well – the lime is tart but nicely subtle to the point of surprising me. Lime ice cream is often very overpowering but this was more refined. Very nice.

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On another visit, I tried the classic vanilla and chocolate flavours. The vanilla was very nice – the specks of vanilla bean telling you you’re getting the real deal – sweet and almost milky. The chocolate was nice and dark in color – tons of chocolatey goodness. A perfect pair as they should be!

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On my second follow-up visit, I decided to get a sandwich of cookie ice cream between a set of vegan peanut cookies. The cookies were stiff enough to hold the ice cream but soft enough to actually make it possible to eat the sandwich as an actual sandwich – instead of the usual “suck up the ice cream and then eat the softened cookies” afterwards. Liked the flavour of the peanut cookies and the cookie ice cream – great vanilla with pieces of cookie mixed in.

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Dalla Rose is a great addition to the sud-ouest. Summer still has a ways to go so when you are walking around the Canal or elsewhere in the Sud-Ouest, don’t forget to walk over Dalla Rose for a scoop. They will cool you off nicely!

Cheers!

Cremerie Dalla Rose
4609 Notre Dame Ouest

Dalla Rose Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

L’ Gros Luxe (Sud Ouest)

23 Jan

Over the past few years, I had heard many things about L’Gros Luxe, the originally plateau-only restaurant known for solid cocktails and cheap but enjoyable food. However, like for many restaurants in our fair city, time and circumstances were such that I hadn’t tried them yet even as they expanded to Mile End and Longueuil. A few months ago though, L’Gros Luxe came to me as they opened up a Sud Ouest location on Notre-Dame right beside Corona Theater and more importantly, only a 10 minute walk away from my apartment. With a spot that close, I really had no excuses anymore!

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Over the past month, I went twice with a couple different groups. First thing which is a little unique is the fact that L’Gros Luxe does not do reservations. However, thankfully for those of us who don’t want to wait outside in the cold, they have created an app with which you can add yourself onto a waitlist to get a table. First time around, we didn’t think about it so we ended up waiting about 35 minutes so we grabbed a beer next door (thanks Burgundy Lion!). The second time around, I used the app but ended up not needing to as the restaurant was strangely empty that Thursday night.

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I really like the look of the restaurant – a mixture of vintage Victorian style with some more modern touches. The room feels very inviting and warm – a solid place to enjoy a happy hour. When it was very busy though, I felt the noise level to be too high which is a common complaint nowadays in many restaurants but one that still bugs me when it affects my ability to actually understand what my friend sitting next to me is saying. The second time was much more enjoyable.

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Drinks options are plenty at L’Gros Luxe. Bourbon lemonade by the pitcher is available and while the price point is cheaper than many others restaurants around, personally I found it to be a little light on the bourbon and more of the sweet side of things. The ladies with me enjoyed it that way… me not as much. I did however enjoy their Sud Ouest Lemonade – a mixture of Ungava gin, white beer, simple syrup and lemon juice. This was a better balance of sweet and strong.

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The other staple of l’Gros Luxe drink wise is their Caesars. I hate caesars so it’s not my thing but each one is quite large and also topped with a variety of food items. When your caesar comes with onion rings and a fried pickle on top, I can imagine it being worthwhile.

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Foodwise, L’Gros Luxe is an odd mixture of items that I guess you would characterize as bar food but frankly it runs the gamut from tacos, salads, burgers, poutines, etc. I was able to try a variety of items over my two visits. The appetizers I had were up and down. First was the nachos – topped with black beans, cheese, green onions, marinated jalapeño slaw, corn and coriander. The size of the plate was nice but the cheese was weirdly only on the under layer and underside of the nachos so most chips had no melted cheese on top of them. When one buys nachos, there is an expectation of cheese on most of the chips. Frankly, that’s a pretty easy thing to ensure when you make them. That was not done here which was strange.

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The other appetizer was the grilled feta – served with olives, cherry tomatoes, basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and bread. Pretty self-explanatory and a solid dish overall. The feta was grilled just enough to make it less salty and a touch softer than normal. We had enough bread to make proper croutons for the entirety of the portion we got.

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The poutine is one of their big dishes and very enjoyable. Their classic is made with tater tots! I don’t think I’d had tater tots for at least 10 years. Topped with green onions as well as the usual cheese curds and gravy, there are a multitude of extras you can add – be it pulled pork, grounded beef,etc… The pulled pork I added to mine was nice and tender. My friend’s version is ground beef and regular fries was solid as well.

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One of my friend’s tried out their beef burger – served on a shallot bun with siracha mayo and the usual condiments. Good sized burger, cooked nicely through. The bun was light and fluffy but didn’t fall apart as it eaten. A solid burger overall.

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Finally, I got to try a dessert – deep fried cookie dough served with ice cream, whipped cream and caramel/chocolate sauce. Or at least it was supposed to be served with ice cream. On receiving the dish, we quickly realized that no ice cream was actually present. The problem got solved once we mentioned it to our waitress but still a weird issue. Overall the dessert was good but too much whipped cream compared to the other elements.

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L’Gros Luxe was a up-and-down food experience. The items are good – not great – so while the price is reasonable, I still wanted better. Same thing for the drinks. I left after my second visit thinking that L’Gros Luxe’s best fit is as a great happy hour or drink spot. Not sure a full dinner is truly worth it. I’m happy to have it close by but also happy I didn’t go out of my way to visit for dinner previously.

Cheers!

L’Gros Luxe
2472 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 903 2721

L'Gros Luxe Sud-Ouest Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

EVOO Cuisine Soignée

7 Nov

Two and a half years ago, I came to EVOO for a quick brunch with a friend. The experience was good enough that I told myself I should come back for dinner at some point. Well, it took awhile but for the event of MTL à Table, I finally came back last week ready to see how EVOO held up after all this time with my girlfriend and some friends of ours.

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First thing of note for me was the completely change in decor. Gone was the contemporary white and purple look of before. Now, the space is more rustic in appearance with a harvest theme running through the room – use of light yellows, harvest tools and greenery on the walls, old mismatches wooden chairs and a large mirrored wall in the front. Compared to before, the space feels warmer although there is lack of pop visually and the room still feels a little empty somehow.

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I also need to make mention of the wonderfully offbeat playlist that played all night – jazzy covers of pretty much anything possible from “Stacy’s Mom” to “Gangster’s Paradise”, “Girls Wanna have Fun” and Kanye West’s “Only One”. For the entire night, our table was laughing and smiling at the great and weird songs to the point of asking our waitress exactly how found these songs.

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We decided to start with some of their speciality cocktails. Personally, I went for the Autumn Martini – Ice Cider, bourbon, apple juice and spices. An excellent blend of sweet and spice. Officially a cocktail I need to re-attempt at home.

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My girlfriend went with the rhum ground cherry – white and brown rums mixed with angostura bitters and ground cherries. Not a huge rum fan but again a very nicely balanced cocktail. A hint of bitterness to go with the spiciness of the rum and the sweetness of the ground cherry.

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Amongst the four of us at our table, we were able to try the entire menu EVOO had set up for MTL à Table. The first starter was a Bass Escabeche with roasted cauliflower, yogurt, smoked tomato jam and pickled fennel. Nice tender pieces of poached bass served cold as is traditional of a escabeche. The use of the smooth yogourt and the smoky tomato jam provided nice flavour kicks to pair with the fish. A nice presentation as well.

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Second starter was a homemade Ricotta salad with cucumber, brussels sprout, carrot, beet and walnut dressing. Another beautiful presentation and a wonderful fresh. A great creamy rich texture to the ricotta and the use of all those fresh vegetables matched up well with the inherent richness of the cheese.

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The final starter was a red wine onion soup with parmesan foam. The lack of that big crouton and melty cheese that we usually associate with a French onion soup made this feel a little lacking in the end. The flavour was very nice though – the red wine coming through strongly in the broth. More a question of expectations than anything else.

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Our first main was the Québec bison ribs with Anthony’s vegetable stew, chimichurri and pangritata. The meat off the rib was beautifully tender and juicy – simply falling off the massive rib in the plate. The pangritata breading added a little crunch and the vegetable stew provided a hearty comfort to the dish. Very enjoyable.

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Next was the mushroom ravioli with Mr. Petit’s confit goat, pear, crispy cipollini and parmesan. Nicely sized raviolis with a solid amount of filling. Nice flavour overall with the addition of the sweet pear provided a nice counter to the goat itself.

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Finally, we had the stuffed quail with Gaspor bacon, grilled lettuce, Labrador tea, sage mascarpone and root vegetables. The bird was nice and juicy and the rest of the dish had this great feeling of being technical but still comforting. Another excellent dish.

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Desserts brought further enjoyment. First was an assortment of Québec cheeses with some caramelized nuts, apple butter and fennel and coriander crackers. Next was an medley of desserts – salted caramel flan, aerial chocolate, apple, fireweed ice cream and some meringue. A great showcase of different technical skills and flavours. Very good across the board. The final option – for a little extra cost – was the Banoffee – caramelized bananas, dulce de leche, creme fraiche, shortbread and toffee. I was very happy I went for the extra cost to get this. The combination of the bananas with the caramel and the toffee was perfectly sweet and some nice crunch as well. This dish disappeared as quickly as it arrived at our table.

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It may have taken me longer to come back than I hoped but EVOO thankfully did not disappoint. An excellent meal – a showcase of technique and great ingredients – that left us satisfied and full. With all the changes and new restaurants opening on Notre Dame, it’s great to see EVOO is holding its own and providing a great experience.

Cheers!

EVOO
3426 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 846-3886

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

Adamo

26 Sep

Let’s be honest: Pizza by the slice joints usually suck. Outside of being a quick option after a late night out and needing some grease to sober up, the quality of pizza in these establishments generally leaves to be desired which is too bad because the concept is a worthy and useful one. Being able to grab a great quick slice of pizza while walking around is a great addition to one’s neighbourhood. Over the past few months, there was indications that within St-Henri, a pizzeria was coming and bringing by-the-slice with it. On its own, not necessarily that exciting but when I heard that Tony Campanelli, owner of the wonderful cafe/store of the same name, was doing it…. well now you have my attention. Adamo opened up a couple of weeks ago so I passed by a couple of times to see how the pizza stacks up.

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Adamo is a pretty simple place – a walk-up counter with drinks and pizzas ready to grab, a little bar to eat at there if you wish and the open kitchen behind for all to see the magic at work. The boxes of tomatoes and bags of flour add a nice rustic touch in the front of the room and the addition of the TV and the foosball table make the space have a more communal feel despite the lack of seating space. The pizzeria already feels like part of the St-Henri community after only a few weeks. Part of that is Tony’s presence. Every time I have been, the place is busy and people are chatting with Tony and the rest of his friendly staff. You always get a nice hello and small talk from the staff. You don’t feel like you just need to order and get out as fast as possible. That is greatly appreciated.

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Pizza-wise, Adamo does what you would call New York-style pizza – as thin as possible and not too overloaded with ingredients. The individual slices are huge – the kind of slices that you fold in half to properly eat with one hand. The key there however is that despite being folded in half, the pizza holds up on its own, no limp crust here. Adamo nails that perfectly so far. The crust isn’t too tight either which is nice. At the moment, there are 3 options – Mozzarella, Pepperoni and Basil – with one Pesto special available at times. Having tried all four, they are all solid. The base tomato sauce has a nice tang to it, the pepperoni has a nice kick, the cheeses are all gooey and plentiful and the pesto was very fresh. My one complaint would be that the basil pizza didn’t really have enough basil on it.

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Adamo is the best by-the-slice joint you can find in Montreal right now. Tony and company do it right all the way around so far and add to what is a great strip of Notre-Dame in St-Henri just by the Park. I needed a good pizza place not too far away from my new place…. and Adamo will do very nicely thank you.

Cheers!

Adamo
4629 Notre Dame Ouest

Adamo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Deli Sokolow

7 Sep

There is just something about a Jewish-style deli that I really enjoy. Given my lack of Jewish ancestry, it is not simply a function of what I grew up with because I didn’t. There is simply something about the homeyness, the familiarity, the old school nature of a deli that I love… well that and the smoked meat of course. Leaving my place on Prince Arthur meant no longer being walking or short bike distance from Schwartz’s and the Mile End. Not cool when I need my fix. However, when I heard about a new deli opening in St-Henri, only a short distance away from my new place, I was immediately intrigued and felt the need to give them a try.

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Deli Sokolow is a deli and ice cream shop offering day around options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Located right on the corner of Notre Dame Ouest and Sainte-Marguerite, the shop definitely is going for a old Deli feel with its use of old school chairs, glass counters, laminate tabletops as well as a metal bar and stools by the window. The decor could use a bit extra pop to it colorwise but otherwise it is a old deli through and through.

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For my first visit, I went with a mixture of classic and twisted fare. First was a side of coleslaw – traditional with a vinegar base. And of course, I needed to have a root beer at a deli. Exactly what I wanted. Nothing more and nothing less.

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The interesting item though was the latke poutine. Yeah that’s right…. a latke poutine. When I heard about this, I knew I needed to try it. I love latkes – once I tried some proper homemade ones years ago, I was hooked – and I most certainly love poutine. I was very curious to see how this would stack up. The portion was generous enough and had a nice thick homestyle gravy and the proper cheese curds. However, the use of large thinner latkes as a base made it that they got stuck together since they were very hot. First time I have ever needed to use a knife when eating a poutine. Right flavours but perhaps not served in the ideal fashion.

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For my second visit, I went a bit of more classic. I decided to start with some perogies – potato and cheese stuffed – served with some sour cream. Good flavour as one would expect. Thankfully, they also had a golden crunch all the way around. There is nothing worse than a soft soggy perogy.

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The Reuben sandwich was my main attraction this time and hit all the right notes – the melted cheese, the acidic sauerkraut and deliciously rich and fatty smoked meat. Personally I would prefer the smoked meat to be medium cut versus lean but that would be a bit of a nitpick in this instance. A solid solid sandwich and frankly one of the better Reuben’s I’ve had.

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And of course, you can’t forget about the ice cream. Being able to get classic hard serve cookie dough ice cream in a cone was a nice trip to memory lane for me and a nice way to finish off a meal.

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Deli Sokolow is a solid deli option and in an area lacking one, a very worthwhile option. The mixture of new and old items is good and you feel the classic Deli vibe. I would recommend however they get other payments options though – cash only so be prepared for that. My first visit was delayed by that… not cool walking by your lunch option realizing it’s a no go. Otherwise, a solid joint and thankfully close enough to satisfy my deli fix.

Cheers!

Deli Sokolow
4350 Notre Dame Ouest
438 392 3239

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