Tag Archives: MTL à Table

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

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M.Mme

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Cheers!

M. Mme
240 Laurier Ouest
514 274 6663

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

BarBounya

11 Nov

My final stop for this year’s MTL a Table event was to BarBounya, a restaurant I have had on my list for a while now. After having read so many great articles and reviews about it and its sister restaurant Su in Verdun, I figured if I was ever going to give turkish food a shot, Chef Fisun Ercan and her team were probably the place to really do it.

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Compared to the more formal Su, BarBounya described itself as a Turkish tapas bar. The look of the room fits with that description. Most of the seating is along bars that go around the space. There are a few communal style tables as well. The style is a mixture of old and new where the old elements of a townhouse on the Plateau are blended with some more modern touches of lighting and decor. Your eyes naturally fixate on the beautiful bar along the side wall with the high cabinets behind it – housing the wine – as well as the open window into the kitchen where you can see the kitchen staff work their magic.

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BarBounya did their MTL à Table menu a little different in that we were served all the items in the tapas style of the restaurant – the dishes simply portioned according to the size of your dinner party. I was not aware of that going in but frankly, everything on the menu sounded good so at least it eliminated any debating amongst the four of us in what we were going to order.

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First service brought forth three items. First was kale tempura served with a spicy tomato sauce and some yogourt. I never thought I would enjoy a dish whose primary ingredient was kale but here we are. The tempura actually stuck to the leaves and created a crunchy exterior. The kale itself didn’t wilt and kept some tenderness within the tempura coating. The spicy tomato sauce and the creamy cool yogourt provided some nice contrasting dipping sauces to use in conjunction.

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Next was a salad of beets and chickpeas served with black garlic yogourt. Another big hit at the table – the freshness of the beets was a nice pairing with the crisp chickpeas and the subtle hit of garlic within the creamy yogourt. Another dish where the main ingredient is not an usual favourite of mine but it certainly gave me a further appreciation of beets.

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Final dish of the first course was grilled octopus carpaccio. Outside of the contradiction between grilled octopus and carpaccio – yes I know people use carpaccio to refer to any preparation of meat thinly cut but to me, carpaccio means raw – this dish was delicious. The octopus was beautifully tender and fresh and a nice mixture of oil and greens to enhance its natural flavour.

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The second course provided another three dishes to enjoy. The surprise hit was the barley salad with butternut squash, sun-dried tomatoes and nuts. A very hearty salad with the sweetness of the squash and the tomatoes working well with the earthy barley.

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The grilled lamb Köfte with tomato salsa was exactly as I would expect – spiced lamb meatballs grilled beautifully. The tomato salsa provided a little freshness to the festivities.

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The final dish was pulled pork served over an eggplant puree. The pulled pork was flavourful and tender but truthfully the star was that puree. Wonderfully smooth and creamy – the natural flavour of the eggplant came through so well without being overwhelming to the pork served over top of it. First thing my girlfriend said afterwards was that she wanted to try making it after we had it – the impact was that strong.

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To finish things off nicely for dessert, we got some chocolate baklava and almond pudding. The baklavas were not overly sweet thankfully with a nice touch of chocolate mixed in. The pudding was creamy and smooth. The addition of the pistachio and pomegranate crumble over the top added some nice extra flavours. A pleasant sweet touch to end a wonderful meal.

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BarBounya was a awesome experience from beginning to end. Every dish was enjoyed and devoured by myself and the rest of the group. Such a great usage of fresh ingredients all across the entire meal. Add to that some nice glasses of wine, a nice atmosphere indoors and nicely attentive service – props to our waitress for checking with my pregnant friend about the lamb – and you have a restaurant that definitely come back to much sooner than it took me to visit in the first place… and I suppose its sister Su is now higher up on my to-visit list now.

Cheers!

BarBounya
234 Laurier Ouest
514 439 8858

Barbounya 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

Lili Co.

1 Nov

There are so many restaurants in Montreal that I wish to check out but sadly I don’t have enough time (or frankly money if we are being truthful). For the part 3 years, the October-November event of MTL à Table has allowed me to get to certain restaurants at a reduced price which I am very thankfully for. When I first looked at the restaurants participating this year, the one that leaped off the page for me was Lili Co. Originally a small Plateau restaurant, partners Catherine Draws and David Pellizzari moved into a bigger space on Saint-Laurent earlier this year. Reading the big reviews they have gotten over the past few years – including a most recent one in the Gazette in July – Lili Co.’s use of offal and off-cuts really intrigued me and had me pinning for a visit. Sadly, the MTL à Table menu didn’t have any of that – unless you paid a little extra – but I still wanted to go and give them a try.

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Visually, Lili Co. is a nice clean space. The main focus is on the two wrap-around bars which circle both the bar area and the open kitchen where you can watch Chef David and his crew do their work. In fact, outside of a few spots – including where we were sadly! – the entire room is set up to face the kitchen. Service was quick and efficient. Noise level was pretty loud given the room was full. As such, there was background music throughout the night but I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was. It is not the most fancy room around but sharp nevertheless.

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I felt like a cocktail this evening so I tried one of their seasonal specialities – The “Sans nom d’automne” – zubrowska, cachaca, natural apple juice, teapot bitters and star anise. I like this one in theory but the flavour left me indifferent. The sweetness of the cachaca and the apple juice were not noticeable. I was left primarily with the bitterness and the zubrowska – not really I had hoped for.

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With the cocktail consumed, we moved on the food. First up was the pork belly served with cashew butter and creamy coleslaw. A generous peace of fatty pork with a nice crispiness to the skin. The creamy coleslaw paired well with the meat. The cashew butter was nice as well.

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Our other starter was wild mushrooms poached in butter served with caramelized cauliflower purée and black bread crumbs. A simple dish but so well executed and delicious. The mushrooms were soften slightly with their wonderful earthiness intact. The real star though was the cauliflower puree – so rich and smooth. Very enjoyable.

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Our second course started with Gnocchi à la fajiole served with romano beans, smoked tomatoes and parmigiana. A nice creamy sauce paired well with the pillowy gnocchi and the beans. Only complaint would be the portion size – definitely would have been nice to have a few extra gnocchi!

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The second main was grilled octopus with a hibiscus glaze, chorizo, soy beans, black olive powder and lemon. The hit of the evening for us. The mixture of the glaze and the chorizo gave the tender octopus a hint of both sweetness and spiciness. The soy beans added a little extra sustenance to the plate. Definitely a dish I would order again.

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For dessert, we were treated to house doughnuts with lemon mousse and huckleberry jam. The doughnuts were light and fluffy in the inside with a nice crunch on the outside. Add the sugar coating to the jam and the mousse and you have a nice dessert right there. The final dessert was a brioche with a nut beurre monté, sumac and a wild flower glace au miel. Just like the doughnuts, the brioche was nice and fluffy. The special touches of the beurre monté and the glace au miel provided some nice sweetness and richness.

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I’ll admit I was disappointed that no offal or off-cut dishes were present in the menu option – since that is what attracted me to Lili Co in the first place – but in the end, that is on me for having waiting until MTL à Table to finally visit Lili Co. The food was excellent and the atmosphere enjoyable – you can see why they needed to move into bigger digs this year. This meal simply reinforced that I will need to come back again. Looking forward to visiting chef David and Catherine on a more regular occasion.

Cheers!

Lili Co.
4675 Saint-Laurent
514 507-7278

Lili Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Les 400 Coups

3 Nov

Pardon the writing break… life does in fact get in the way sometimes even when it comes to delicious food! Here in Montreal, we are currently in MTL à Table, a wonderful week-long period when many of our fine restaurants offer a special table d’hôte to allow people to try their fare at a relatively reduced rate. With so many wonderful restaurants to choose from, the challenge is always deciding where to go (and that’s even if there is room left in said restaurants). This year, I decided to hit up three different spots – 2 of which are longstanding members of my “to-go” list. The first of these was the current Old Montreal staple Les 400 Coups.

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I was first aware of Les 400 Coups a few years ago when Marc-André Jetté, Patrice Demers and Marie-Josée Beaudoin were running it. While the entire crew has changed since last year, I had heard enough great things about the new group – headlined by Guillaume Cantin, the original Les Chefs winner – that Les 400 coups remained a must-go to me. A couple of my friends were of the same opinion so off we went on a late Thursday night visit very eager and quite hungry.. mostly because a 10 pm reservation will do that to you!

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Les 400 Coups visually strikes a nice, relatively understated modern look. The high ceilings create the impression of a larger room than what is truly there. Black embossed ceiling tiles, simple black walls, leather banquettes and dark wood floors create a elegant style but the white marble bar, the wall-sized Parisian street picture on the western wall and the subtle use of brick add some punch to the room. I’ve heard that noise can be a problem (which makes sense with the high ceilings) but given the day and time of our reservation, it wasn’t at all an issue and actually made us more aware of the music – a strange collection for the setting (never thought of the Black Keys as suitable fine dining music) but still enjoyable. We were lucky enough to have the large banquette by the front window which gave us a great spot to relax, enjoy some good wine and get ready for a hopefully great meal.

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As a group, we decided to make sure that we tried every item on the special table d’hôte. For the appetizers, that gave us two dishes – a parsnip soup with smoked bison, wild blueberries, mustard and wintergreen as well as a liver pâté with peach, oat crumble, honey jelly and celery. The soup was such a treat – the use of the smoked bison and the tart blueberries meshed well with the earthy parsnip. Texturally smooth and delightful on every spoonful. The pâté was also a great hit. Similar to the soup, there was a great use of ingredients to enhance and contrast the inherently fatty pâté – the sweetness of honey and peaches, the freshness of celery and the crunch of the oats. A wonderful dish through and through – relatively simple but one that showed a great understanding of flavours.

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Next up we had the main courses: Brill with buckwheat, cauliflower, cucumber, lettuce cream and wild caraway followed up by Pork cheeks with beets, smoked potatoes, stag horn sumac and dill. Beautiful technical detail here. The brill was cooked perfectly – great sear on the outside but still flaky and moist. The insane things here were the cauliflower “crumble” and the lettuce cream. That cream was so rich and flavourful – how exactly they achieved that using lettuce as a base I don’t know but dear lord… such a elegant dish across the board.

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The pork cheeks were a perfect dish for a cold autumn night. Rich and homely with great execution. Texturally, the cheeks just fell apart beautifully and had a great fatty taste. The beets and smoked potatoes paired well with them – I simply wished there had been more to enjoy!

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We were almost stuffed at this point but there were still desserts to enjoy. First was lemon cream with sunflower, crispy meringue and melon sorbet. Now, I hate melons but I can’t argue that it didn’t pair beautifully with the lemon cream here. And about that cream….. just wow. Great richness and a nice depth of flavour. The lemon was powerful but not too tart. The meringue added some crunch to the plate and mixed well with the other elements.

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The second dessert was a Dark Manjari chocolate tart with peanuts, caramel and concorde grape sorbet. Creamy and smooth tart, the strong chocolate taste was nicely paired with the peanuts, the sweet caramel and the beautiful sorbet. Another strong dish.

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Finally, just prior to the check, we received mini chocolate and almond cakes. Rich and fluffy with that hint of the almond. A subtle but wonderful item to finish off our meal.

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I had pretty high expectations for Les 400 Coups and they were met completely. The level of execution and technical proficiency on display was very impressive. Not a single dish disappointed or left a bad impression on us. Every plate was returned completely picked clean… and not just because we were starving due to the late reservation. Add to that a nice atmosphere, a great bottle of wine and excellent service (safe for a slight technology issue at payment time) and we were left with a wonderful evening. I took me a few years to finally get to Les 400 Coups but I can safely say it was worth the wait.

Cheers!

Les 400 Coups
400 Notre Dame Est
514 985 0400

Les 400 Coups on Urbanspoon

Pastaga

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Cheers!

Pastaga
6389 Saint Laurent
438 381 6389

Pastaga 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Cheers!

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

L'Atelier d'Argentine on Urbanspoon

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