Tag Archives: Montreal BYOW

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

Khyber Pass

3 Apr

It is interesting to be taken out of your comfort zone food-wise. Not everyone appreciates it but it’s fun when I enter a restaurant of a certain cuisine and have absolutely zero idea what kind of dishes I can expect. This recently occurred for the event of a friend’s birthday where he brought us to Khyber Pass on Duluth street for a little Afghan BYOW and for no other reason then simply “finding the restaurant looked cool everytime I passed by”.

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And indeed, Khyber Pass does look rather interesting from the outside and equally as much inside. Our table was located in their basement space which has been modelled to look like an cavern. It is a little odd – and because of the use of polycarbonate on the walls, a little hot – but it certainly fits the overall theme. Being in a smallish basement space made for rather noisy acoustics once the space filled up but otherwise no complaints!

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I had never had Afghan food before, so I basically decided to work with their Table d’hôte and wing it! My friends at the table also having never had this cuisine before also decided to simply try stuff which allowed me to sample a bunch of dishes throughout the dinner. We are all curious to see!

First up, there were two soup options available – Mashaba soup and a house soup of red lentils and coriander. I went with the Mushaba. Composed of noodles, vegetables, ground beef, yogourt and fresh coriander, it was a nice way to start things off. A very hearty soup – tons of flavour through both the dark broth as well as the plentiful veggies and noodles.

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I had one starter as well – the eggplant borani. Consisting of fried eggplant slices topped with tomato sauce and garlic yogourt, the texture wasn’t necessarily as crispy as I was hoping but the flavour was all there. Lovely mixture of the sweet tomato sauce, the cool garlicky yogourt and spices overtop brought tons of levels to the party.

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Ashak was my main of choice – Steamed pastas stuffed with leak, served with tomato sauce, ground beef and garlic yogourt. Again, I wasn’t totally happy with the texture of the pasta – steamed but too soft and a little watery underneath – but flavour-wise, this was an excellent dish. The leak stuffing had a nice touch and kept the dish feeling light. Once again, the combination of the tomato sauce, yogourt and beef provided a nice addition and there was a healthy amount of rice and vegetables provided as well.

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Among the other mains I tried, there was the Teka Kebab – filet mignon brochettes – which were nicely tender and flavourful. The Sabzi Chalaw – lamb shank with spinach – was a lovely cooking display of the lamb. Fall off the bone with that lovely lamb gaminess, the spinach didn’t feel super necessary but it was delicious nevertheless. The last main was the Kofta Chalaw – beef meats balls in tomato sauce with afghan spices. A weirdly Italian dish to me but the addition of the middle Eastern spices provided just enough of a change-up to not make me wonder why I was not in a trattoria at that moment. All of these were served with the same amount of rice and vegetables as I got with my main so portion-wise, we all got our money’s worth.

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The last item for the night was our complimentary dessert of rose water pudding with pistachios. Now… I am not a fan of rose water as I have found that typically it is overused and just destroys any dish with its overtly flowery tones. However, in this case, count me as surprised to find that it was pretty good. Weirdly though, the entire table felt the pudding tasted like Fruit Loops! I guess I should check what goes into Fruit Loops. Anyway, texture was excellent on top of being a weird flashback to my childhood!

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Khyber Pass was a very pleasant surprise – huge flavours and nice portions all around. The decor feels pretty hokey to me but I get it and frankly if the food is still enjoyable, I can look past it. Add the BYOW element – and believe me we did – and you have an excellent option for a relatively reasonable night out. Khyber Pass… you showed me what Afghan food was and I am happier for it.

Cheers!

Khyber Pass
506 Duluth Est
514 844 7131

Khyber Pass Cuisine Afghan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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