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10 Jan

What is the ideal neighbourhood restaurant? Well… one imagines a small cozy place where you feel equally as comfortable just grabbing a drink and a snack or a full meal. A place that caters to all hours… not just a breakfast place or a dinner place. You want it to be accessible to everyone – somewhere you could see parents bring their kids on the weekend just as much as the young profession couple. And the food needs to great of course. Do such places exist? Well…. Mile End might have a good one based on my visits to Larrys.

Located in the old Cafe Sardine space on Fairmount, just east of the Main, Larrys is the little brother of the wonderful Lawrence restaurant just next door. I suppose you could call it a coffee shop by day and a wine bar by night but that strikes me somewhat as reductive and not truly indicative of what Larry’s offers. Larrys offers food options for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 8am to 1pm every day as well as a great selection of beer, cocktails and wine. The space is small but very warm and welcoming. I love the use of the accent wall in the back and the huge shelving unit behind the bar. Definitely has the feel of place you could stay in all day.

On our first visit, we went early so we went for the breakfast options. My girlfriend went with a combination of the breakfast muffin with a plate of smoked salmon. The breakfast muffin was a combination of apple, nuts, cinnamon, oatmeal and flour. A very hardy and satisfying muffin. The smoked salmon was equally enjoyable. Much thicker than your typical smoked salmon but still with that lovely texture and taste.

I myself went with the breakfast sandwich and a side-order of bubble and squeak. I have loved it when I ate at Lawrence for brunch and it continues to be excellent. A pork sausage patty with melted cheese, a over-easy egg, lettuce and dijon mustard on a english muffin. The bite of the dijon is a nice touch to the classic egg sausage sandwich. The bubble and squeak – a mixture of mashed potatoes and cabbage that has quickly become a personal favorite of mine – was nicely cooked and provided some hearty accompaniment to the sandwich.

The second time around, we were there for more of a brunch/lunch situation so ordered outside of the breakfast options. Hence, I ordered a corpse reviver – gin, lillet, amara, lemon and absinthe. It may have been 11 am at the time of order but no judging okay? Great balance and flavour – nice way to start the meal.

We still ordered the breakfast sandwich of course…. and it was still delicious. We also went with a plate of rillettes. Their butcher shop down the street has had great rillettes for years now so this was going to be a hit for sure. Great flavour and texture. Some people may find them too fatty but not me. Always excellent.

We then shared a trio of “lunch” dishes. First, roasted carrots with honey and muhamarah. The carrots were roasted perfectly and I loved the combination of the honey with the spicy but slightly sweet muhamarah. The fried potatoes were nicely golden and crispy. A touch of garlic and parsley came through and then you add a creamy mayo for dipping. An excellent side dish. The final dish was bulgur and pickled eggplant – a solid dish but probably the one that we enjoyed the least. Came across a little too vinegary from the pickled eggplant.

I love everything about Larrys. It helps that I love everything else that the group behind Lawrence does but still… there is something so wonderful about a place that can cater at all hours with a cuisine that is high quality and yet feels very homey and comfortable. If I lived in Mile End, I would definitely see Larrys as my neighbourhood hangout – the place to go for a drink, or a quick bit, or simply to get some work or enjoy a conversation with friends. Larrys nails the neighbourhood restaurant template perfectly.


9 Fairmount Est

Larry’s Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato



28 Dec

Last month, for the event of MTL à Table 2016, I found myself on Laurier street to try a relatively new wine bar that has opened up there, M.Mme. Owned by the proprietors of Toi, Moi et Café next door and helmed by chef Stelio Perombelon – previously of Lemeac, Les Chèvres, Pullman et Les Cons Servent, M.Mme has gotten some good reviews since its opening end of 2015. Looking over the different menus for MTL à Table, I was intrigued by their offerings and I love a good wine bar so this seemed like a worthwhile try.



First off, M. Mme is a beautiful restaurant – very much in keeping with its location on Laurier Ave. The main focal point is the gigantic glassed-in wine cellar that makes up the entire west wall of the room. The rest of the space is a mixture of wood panelling, bricks walls, leather chairs and banquettes and a stone bar. The open kitchen is in the back and visible for all to see.





As with the usual MTL à Table set-up, we had a couple of options to choose from for starters, mains and desserts. The first starter was a salad of roasted beets and salted prunes with caramelized yogourt and mustard shoots. A beautiful dish to look at – that would be true of every plate we would receive this evening – but sadly it fell flat for our table. The beets lacked flavour and there wasn’t enough of the salted prunes to provide contrast within the dish. The yogourt was nice but without the stars of the dish working, it felt insufficient.


The second starter faired much better: Quebec buffalo mozzarella with a salad of cabbage, roasted shallots and BC caviar. The cheese had a lovely texture and great flavour. The addition of the salty caviar, the sweet shallots and the cabbage provided some nice supporting notes to the cheese. I would simply say I wished the portion was larger. It didn’t necessarily feel satisfying enough even as a starter.


Our first main – Seared beef with dried spinach, Dauphines potatoes, mushroom puree and cherry red wine reduction – was a big hit to me flavour-wise. The beef was beautiful and cooked perfectly. Loved the exterior crunch on the potatoes and the sweetness of the reduction. My issue again would be with the portion size. I understand this is a wine bar where portions are often smaller and designed to share but if you are going to participate in MTL à Table, you need to ensure you make portions to satisfy people having a full meal. This size of this dish would work as a starter, not a main in my opinion.


Our second dish was sadly disappointing. Seared cod with fennel, smoked red pepper sauce, green grapes and verjus came off as flat. The cod was nice but other than the smoked red pepper sauce, the rest of the dish didn’t bring as much flavour to the dish as wanted.


The desserts were similarly mixed. I loved the candy cap profiteroles with bacon streusel, miso caramel and chantilly. A nice rich cream with the fatty bacon and the sweet caramel. Awesome sweet and savoury combination. However, the ‘Mexican’ chocolate vegan cream with chiffon cake and camerise fruit failed to illicit much positivity from the table. The chocolate was not sweet enough and lacking a nice texture to enjoy. The chiffon cake did nothing and the camerise didn’t mix well with the chocolate flavour for most of us.



M.Mme was a very uneven experience. The room is beautiful, the wine was good but the food was too up and down and the portions left much to desired. When you leave a restaurant still hungry, it doesn’t really matter how beautiful the plates looked. In the end, perhaps they should have offered an extra plate to the proceedings to more properly match up to a full meal experience. Otherwise, I would have liked to have at least been told upfront to order extra – even if that defeats the whole MTL à Table experience. M. Mme is a beautiful wine bar – it just needs to fill us up a bit more to truly satisfy.


M. Mme
240 Laurier Ouest
514 274 6663

M. Mme. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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.


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.




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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.



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.


6389 Saint Laurent
438 381 6389

Pastaga on Urbanspoon

Le Vin Papillon

19 Aug

The Joe Beef guys opened a wine bar. That was pretty much all that I needed to hear. It took just over a month after its opening but I headed down to the corner of Charlevoix and Notre-Dame (which at this point is probably my most visited street block in the city outside of the Jean Talon Market and my own apartment) with a friend for a little early weekend dinner.


The first thing you notice when you walk in is the visual differences between it and its brethren. No crazy or folksy paraphernalia on the walls. A very clean and elegant look with white brick, white tiles, wood tables and black leather. The entire right side of the narrow space is a beautiful bar where all the prep work is done. There is also a small relatively sparse terrasse in the back with communal tables. Overall, there is a sleeker look in keeping with a wine bar but once you add the blackboard menus and the alternative music, it keeps that Joe Beef/Liverpool House feel that I love.


Like its brethren, Le Vin Papillon has no set menu on paper. When you enter, there is one blackboard with the day’s menu listed as well as a couple that list the wine choices they have by the bottle. Surprisingly enough for a wine bar concept, they don’t have very many selections by the glass. It is almost all by the bottle. The wines were mostly French and Italian from my browsing of the choices. The wines I tried were selected by our waiter because, to be honest, I have a complete lack of knowledge of wine outside of California so I figured he would be in a better place to provide me a good glass. Both were quite good but I won’t go into details here. I’ll stick to the food.


The menu is very interesting in that it is very light on meats which is really separates it from both other restaurants. The dishes are mainly vegetables based and are very much dishes design to accompany wine and share amongst your dining party.


First up, we went with the haricots-coco-romano. Local quebec green beans with some prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, romano cheese and beans tossed in some olive oil. As will be a pretty consistent theme through the meal, this plate was a great showcase of local produce with a few augments to enhance and up the flavours. The sun-dried tomatoes and the romano were nice pairings with the crisp green beans. The olive oil allowed all the ingredients to blend nicely.


We followed that up with a selection of their cheeses of the day. Again, we left the choices up to the staff with the caveat of no blue cheese (still not a favorite of mine by itself). We got 3 out of the 7 they were offering that day. Great selection by the staff as they mixed up the texture and the tastes nicely. With the cheese, we got a plate of toasted artisan loaf bread with butter as well as fresh nuts to crack and enjoy. Loved the bread – thank god they didn’t leave a basket at the table during the whole meal because I wouldn’t have stopped eating it. As from the nuts, I love the idea but the practice of cracking them at the table is a little messier than is ideal.



Next up, we went with the roasted onion and ricotta cheese. Just a great dish and a kind of item pairing that in hindsight I wished I had thought up sooner. Fresh creamy ricotta cheese with a beautifully roasted sweet onion and some more of that bread. Absolutely no complaints here.


The final dish of our first selection was the chicken wings with tarragon. Nice flavours here and the wings were cooked as they should be, however I feel this was the least successful dish but only because of the impractically of eating wings at a wine bar. A little too messy and sticky to enjoy with a glass of wine even when trying to eat them neatly.


Still somewhat hungry, we decided to order a couple of more plats. First up this time, their rotisserie Cauliflower. Yeah, that’s right. This dish was by far the most unique thing we had this evening. Roasted cauliflower with thyme, crispy chicken skin, candied lemon peels and a spicy oil mixture on top. A surprisingly spicy dish but one with great texture and crunch from the roasted cauliflower and the chicken skin. Very enjoyable.


We then went with our waiter’s suggestion of the vinegar eggplant. Roasted eggplants topped with a tomato/almond mixture, some melted cheese, some fresh basil and of course, as the name implies, vinegar. Nice earthy flavours throughout with the sweetness of the tomatoes, the richness of the cheese and the acidity of the vinegar mixed in. A surprisingly filling dish on top of all that. Very well done.


To finish the whole thing off, I went with a homemade chocolate truffle with some fresh blueberries. Rich creamy chocolate interior coated with some crushed pistachios for a little nutty crunch. Perfectly done and the perfect sweet touch to cap off the meal.


Overall, a very nicely executed wine bar concept and one with a menu that surprises with its emphasis on vegetables. A few dishes and some wine glasses later, you leave stuffed and quite satisfied. I think that is really all you can ask from a great wine bar. Note that they do not take reservations so you may wait a bit if you go during peak hours. Otherwise, just sit back and enjoy some wine!


Le Vin Papillon
2519 Notre Dame Ouest

Le Vin Papillon on Urbanspoon

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