Tag Archives: Old Montreal

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.



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.



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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


XO Le Restaurant
355 St-Jacques
514 841 5000

XO Le Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Le Gros Jambon

26 Nov

My work schedule is not one that provides opportunity to try out lunch spots during the week and certainly not ones downtown so when I get a chance, I really need to jump on them. Taking advantage of a recent Friday vacation day, I made my way to the old port for a long overdue visit to the Gros Jambon diner. This is a diner in appearance through and through – from the long narrow space, to the counter with open kitchen, to the retro 70s style decor and, given my arrival during the lunch rush, the full occupancy with a lineup at the door.




The diner’s claim to fame is its typical diner fare but with a twist. Burgers, grilled cheese, fries, poutine, Mac n’cheese, hot dogs, BLTs and sandwiches. All the classic. However, classics don’t include things like lobster, duck confit, coca-cola mayo, fried pickles. Those are the elements that make this diner unique. I went in prepared to order their coca-cola burger which I wanted to try during MTL Burger Week this past summer but didn’t get around to it. However, after talking withers waitress, I switched to the duck confit grilled cheese. Given my hatred of pickles (I know, I know… Just ignore that statement and let’s move on), she advised that I skip the burger since that was its main selling point. I appreciated the honesty and ended up really enjoying my choice.


There is really nothing that makes a grilled cheese as well as a flattop. Just a perfect crisp on the bread with the proper gooey cheese center enhanced by the duck confit. Add to that very nice crispy fries with some coleslaw and you get a delicious, rich and decadent lunch. Exactly what you want and except from a diner style establishment.


Added to that dish, I ordered a warm apple and cranberry cider and a apple bourbon doughnut. The cider was quite good – a nice balance between the apple and cranberry. The doughnut was a bit of a disappointment – much more bourbon than bacon. It felt like the bacon was just there to say there was bacon. It didn’t feel essential to the flavor profile of the doughnut.


All in all, Le Gros Jambon was a good experience and certainly a place I want to go back to to try other items on the menu. If you are in the old port and looking for a quick but delicious lunch, you should certainly consider giving this diner a shot. I simply wished I worked a little closer so I could give it more consideration more regularly.



Le Gros Jambon
286 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 508 3872

Le Gros Jambon on Urbanspoon

Brit and Chips

13 Aug

I may be the last person to try out Brit & Chips in this city but hey I finally got to it over the weekend, so let me bore you with my experience, okay?


For the uninitiated, Brit and Chips is exactly what it sounds like – a fish and chips shop. They originally opened up in Old Montreal and have relatively recently opened up a second location in the Cote des Neiges district. They offer a variety of different fish and batter combinations along with other British fare such as scotch eggs, sausage rolls and meat pies. For my first experience, I decided to try one of their more eclectic options – hake in orange crush panure.


Outside of the batter, which was quite amazing might I add, the rest of the dish is very traditional and very well done. The fish is nice and flaky and the batter is thin but very crispy. Add to that some nice fries and a dynamite tartar sauce and you have the makings of a great dish. To add to the experience, they have a variety of different British beers you can enjoy at the same time.

Unlike most locations of this variety, Brit and Chips also does dessert which I must highlight. They have a deep-fry “anything” option which is essentially “pick your chocolate bar from the options we have and we’ll fry it for you”. It comes with or without soft serve ice cream depending in your preference. They had Reese’s cups so I couldn’t pass this up.


It was exactly as decadent as you can imagine it would be. A perfect end to a very good meal.

With the caveat of having not tried Comptoir 21 yet (in the works….eventually), Brit and Chips is by far the best option in the city for Fish and Chips. If you haven’t gone yet, you must certainly do so when you are in the neighborhood.


Brit and Chips
433 McGill or 5536A Cote des Neiges

Brit & Chips on Urbanspoon

Restaurante Helena

12 Aug

Restaurante Helena is a Portuguese style place located in old Montreal that opened at the end of June. I was looking for a nice restaurant to go enjoy a nice meal with a friend prior to the fireworks in the old port, so we gave it a shot.




The menu is a combination of tapas style plates or classic entrees and mains. We chose to stick to the tapas options. First up, we had the cod croquettes with a piri piri aioli. Simple but perfectly done. The croquettes had a good crisp to them without the fish in the middle being overdone. The aioli was a great compliment with just the right level of spice without overpowering the fish.


Next up, clams with chorizo, corn and Sao Jorge cheese. A nice light dish where the extra elements didn’t take anyway from the key ingredient here, the clams.


Following the clams, we got the tempura shrimp with bisque sauce following with the plat of grilled octopus, squid and chorizo. Both were very executed and delicious. The standouts of note here were the bisque sauce and the grilled squid.



All in all, the food was wonderful and perfectly in keeping with what you would want looking for a good Portuguese meal. As with most tapas plates, you always wish you could have more on the plat, but that comes with the territory. The wine options were relatively plentiful – with the caveat that II don’t know much about Portuguese wines. We asked our waiter for his opinion and the choices he made for us were wonderful. I will note here however that it actually took our waiter about 45 minutes to actually come take our orders after bringing us our wine. Because of our discussion at the table, we didn’t actually notice until about 30 minutes. Given we weren’t really in a hurry, this didn’t bother us in the least but I feel like I need to mention this anyway.

Helena was a pleasant discovery and given its proximity to old Montreal, another great option for people heading to the old port. Anyone looking for a good portuguese place would be wise to check it out.


438 McGill
514 878 1555

Restaurant Helena on Urbanspoon

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