Tag Archives: Old Montreal Dining

Taverne Gaspar

17 Jan

The start of the new year also means the start of Happening Gourmand in the old port. This food “festival” brings together all the restaurants of the Antonopoulos Group and provides a special reduced price table d’hôte at each of their 8 restaurants. Events like these are enjoyable for me simply because it allows me to try Old Port restaurants without costing me my arm and perhaps a leg to enjoy. Ironically this year, I wasn’t a driving force amongst my friends to participate as is usually the case… two separate friends set up two reservations and invited me! I guess this is a sign of the event gaining a foothold in people’s consciousness. Either way, I won’t turn down a good meal so away I went. The first of the two dinners was at Taverne Gaspar – the Group’s Gastropup located on de la Commune with a view of the Saint-Lawrence.

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Visually, Taverne Gaspar attempts to blend the pub or tavern look with elements of the old Montreal building it is located in – a nice long wooden bar with wooden seats, leather banquettes and chairs, tile flooring and roofing, low lighting with the exception of the christmas lights set up along the center of the room. That choice along with the use of dark tones elsewhere to put emphasis on the old stone walls creates a very relaxed old world kind of feel. The night we were there the entire street actually lost power so at one point for a bit, the lighting was almost completely candlelight so that intimate feel was cranked up further! Thankfully the lost power didn’t affect our meal…

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Now, as for the food, the menu is definitely gastropub fare with touches of more local influences. As a group of 3, we each picked something different in order to try as much as we could. First up, a classic onion soup – a hardy and meaty broth with good quantity of onions nicely caramelized topped with gooey cheese and a crouton. Well very executed and enjoyable.

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I also had some fresh oysters because I’m a sucker of oysters so if they’re on the menu, it’s hard for me to resist. Paired with a nice mignonette, there were great.

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Next, we had the lobster sliders with house chips. Firstly, when the menu says sliders, we would have expected more than one but no… just one. Thankfully it was pretty flavourful although I would have prefer more lobster versus mayo. The house chips were nicely seasoned with a good crunch. The salad felt like it was there to make the dish seem larger. A solid dish flavour-wise but disappointing in terms of portion – especially when this was a dish where they charged extra for it within the table d’hôte.

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The last starter was their beef poutine with cheese curds and cipollini sauce. In my eyes, this was the best of the bunch. The beef was rich and fall apart in texture and in combination with the cipollini sauce, gave the poutine a much hefty feel than your standard poutine. Add solid fries and the correct cheese curds – melt just a bit but still keep its texture and squeak – and we have a great starter.

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Moving on the mains, the first one was their beef bourguignon. Once again great texture to the beef – chewy but fall apart. Carrots and potatoes cooked nicely as well but that reduced sauce was really the key here. Brought everything together and really made the dish nice and hearty – exactly what one seeks in a beef bourguignon.

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Next was the mac n’cheese with cheddar and smoked lardons. Baked off nicely in a onion soup dish, the cheddar brought some sharpness to the creamy gooeyness that is mac n’cheese and of course the fattiness of the lardons was well appreciated. A solid dish.

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The last main was the Gaspar BBQ burger with their house fries – another dish where they charged extra for but thankfully in this case it was worth it. Portion-wise this was by far the biggest and enjoyable across the board. More of the house fries plus a side of coleslaw to go with the burger. The beef patty was cooked perfectly topped with some melted cheese, bacon and slaw. A little spicy mayo was provided to go with the fries as well. Another solid dish to round off the second course.

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Finally, we had the desserts. The table d’hôte provided two options – chantilly brownies and a bumble berry cheesecake. The brownies were decadent and very chocolatey. The chantilly cream provided a nice counterbalance to that. The cheesecake was nice as well – the right level of creaminess without being too rich. Solid way to end our meal.

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Overall, Taverne Gaspar was a solid and well executed meal pretty much across the board. I’m not a big fan of how they charge extra on certain dishes within the table d’hote especially when they are some of the more appealing options there but I suppose it was just up to us to not order them. I like the vibe of the setting and the quality of the food on the menu. If one is seeking a worthwhile gastropub in Old Montreal, Gaspar is worth your consideration.

Cheers!

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Taverne Gaspar
89 Rue de la Commune Est
514 392 1649

Taverne Gaspar on Urbanspoon

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XO Le Restaurant

17 Dec

Every once in a while, I have the desire to really go all out with a meal. Never mind picking a few options from the menu – I want the tasting menu with the wine pairings. I want to take out my tie, pocket square and jacket and go fancy. Go somewhere where the initial though is “Well I can’t do this too often” and the bill at the end of the night reflects that. In the end, the experience is what I am after. Well, last month, through a invite of a friend, I was presented with such a opportunity in one of the most beautiful spots in Montreal.

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The St. James Hotel in the old port is one of Montreal most well known boutique hotel. A place where no expenses are spared. Located inside the hotel, in their Banker’s hall, is XO Le Restaurant. A restaurant that certainly makes quite the impression when you walk in. Beautiful high ornate ceilings, chandeliers, Roman columns, beautiful staircases leading to 2 mezzanines overlooking a lounge space and a dining space – it is quite the looker. You can’t help but stare around you throughout your time in the restaurant. It is a space that has you wanted to come back for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even just for a drink.

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For this evening, at the recommendation of one of my dining companions’ friends (who, for the purpose of disclosure here, works in the restaurant and led our service), we were going with their signature 6 course tasting menu with associated wine pairings. And so we sat down to a Aperol spritz – ready for a great meal and lots of wine.

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Our first course was thinly sliced Princess scallops with nitrogen frozen oranges and a trio of cauliflower paired with a Niagara Riesling. A precursor of things to come, the presentation was beautiful – the whole dish in a large seashell, sitting on a bed of rocks with dry ice poured underneath by our server. A little over the top with the dry ice? Sure but it added extra flair to the whole proceedings which definitely seemed in line with the setting. The dish itself was quite good – the scallops were perfectly executed, the orange added some zest and the cauliflower a little crunch.

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The second course brought forth Black bass with white beans, parsley puree and a Meyer lemon beurre blanc sauce paired with a glass of Meursault. Another great looking dish that was delicious as well. The fish was cooked perfectly – flaky and moist but with a great skin crispness on top. The beurre blanc brought some richness and had the unmistakable hint of the Meyer lemons. The beans and the puree were quite good as well.

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The third course was a little richer as we got a Foie gras Tartin with apple ice cider jelly on top, pecan crumble and a apple maple reduction paired with a lovely French Chenin blanc. Just an amazing combination of great technique and great flavours. The fatty foie gras, the sweetness of the apple maple reduction, the beautiful texture of the ice cider jelly and the extremely fine texture of the pecan crumble – there was not a single thing not to like on this plate. Simply beautiful.

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The fourth course continued along similar lines as the previous one as we got a white truffle risotto with a white chocolate sauce and chestnuts, all paired with a glass of 2007 Barbaresco Paje. This was by far the most filling dish we got on this evening. The white chocolate sauce was a surprise to all of us when it was mentioned but once we tried it, it made perfect sense – a touch of sweetness to offset the inherent creaminess and richness of risotto. The addition of white truffle was wholly unnecessary but oh so perfect. It made the dish all the more decadent.

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The fifth course was Stag with sweet potato done 2 ways and dehydrated Nutella, paired with (appropriately enough) a glass of Stag’s leap Petit Syrah. The sweet potatoes, both in puree and galette form, were delicious and the Stag itself was well prepared – very much showcasing the natural gaminess of the meat. The crazy element here was the dehydrated Nutella – such a unique preparation of that item but one that works so well within this dish. The chocolate and hazelnut flavours paired very nicely with the lean meat.

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Prior to the final course of dessert, we got a palate cleanser in the form of a Hibiscus tapioca. This was the one dish of the meal that I did not enjoy. It certainly served its purpose as a palate cleanser and it was beautiful to look at but Hibiscus is not a flavour that I enjoy.

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The dessert course itself was a orange flan with fennel ice cream and 3 crumbles: olive oil, black pepper and sea salt. Very unique flavours for a dessert but everything worked very nicely. Great texture to both the ice-cream and the flan. The 3 crumbles were amazing – great flavours without being overbearing. Individually, each worked well with the flan but they also worked well in combination. Very well executed.

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And to finish off the whole, a small plat including a Mint chip, house caramel and dark chocolate truffle were provided with the checks. All 3 were great – particularly the house caramel. A great meal all around.

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4 hours after we sat down, we were stuffed – 6 courses and 5 glasses of wine will do that to you. This meal was very much an experience – a pricey one for sure – but an experience nevertheless worth having. The service was impeccable, the decor jaw dropping, the food and wine spot-on. The sticker shock may be hard to get by but believe me – you’ll be satisfied in the end.

Cheers!

XO Le Restaurant
355 St-Jacques
514 841 5000

XO Le Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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