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|Friday, October 30th, 2009
Le Gourmet Burger
1433B Bishop street, Downtown Montréal (514)435-3535 Open late most nights http://www.legourmetburger.com/
Le Gourmet Burger
It’s tough to get a good hamburger in Montreal. Usually, the hamburgers are tough as well because we’re in Montreal. Good buns are hard to get a hold of, unless you make them yourself, or have them made to your specifications. Most of the shops here just opt to stick with what’s already available. Perhaps Costco rolls; who knows. But the bun is half the burger and can make or break the whole thing.
No, I wouldn’t want to open a burger joint in Montreal unless I could somehow set myself apart from the pack. Rise above the Dilallos, the Anecdotes, the La Paryses, the scores of burger joints in this city that never really seem to score.
Hop across the border to New York, or across the country to San Francisco, and you’re in burger heaven. So why not Montreal? Well, a fellow named Georges Najjar took it upon himself to set things straight, to devote himself to all things Burger. He flew around the States analyzing different burger places and what set them apart from the pack. Surfed the Internet. Krazy-glued his remote control to the Food Channel. Bought videos. In short, did massive amounts of research before he was even about to try opening a burger joint.
Musashi-san at the grill
Thus: Le Gourmet Burger. There’s m:brgr, of course, but Georges wasn’t about to start charging $19.95 for a Kobé burger with truffle oil. No, he charges about $5 for a burger with truffle oil (truffle oil three bucks extra!) And Georges has his own dedicated butcher to whom he specifies which cuts he wants and how he wants them ground. His rolls are all custom-baked. Gourmet Burger doesn’t have those fancy names for each burger you know, “The Italian” or “The Singapore Swing” or some other such nonsense that so many burger joints indulge in. Here, you start with a charcoal-grilled burger, made in front of you, which comes automatically with grilled onions and tomatoes in a brioche bun. This is $5. Extras, such as cheeses, coleslaw, hummus, fried eggs, pesto, beets, hot peppers, Caramelized fig walnuts, truffle oil, foie gras etc. are all less than $3 (except for the foie gras at $5). There are several condiments available, which include wasabi mayo, Dutch mayo, garlic mayo and so on, but also includes good ol’ French’s (hello, Dillalo).
I opted for the regular burger with bacon and Swiss (pictured). Others at the table went for the foie gras, mushrooms . . . I can’t recall exactly, but the grill chef, with Georges’ help, whipped them out in about ten minutes. Sides were grease-free fries, either straight, sweet, or a combination.
My burger, pre-condiments
Those among us who prefer to be able to specify how we wanted our burgers done (I like mine medium) were swiftly admonished, and rightly so. There are the handcuffs on burgers in this city. They MUST be cooked to well done, by law. “You’d have to sign a waiver,” said Georges, “absolving us in case you got sick.” Hmm. I’ll cogitate on that one. Got any forms at the counter, Georges?
But the burgers? Redolent of wood-smoke, large but manageable, on a soft, slightly sweet roll, the fries a tad more Montréalais than I prefer (you know, thick instead of matchstick, dark instead of golden but I’m a Yank so it doesn’t matter) but still great with the multiple sauces well, it looks like Georges seems to be on track to compete on the Montreal burger circuit. And with a bill for myself and my wife including all the extras and dessert, including tax and tip hovering around $20, I’d say Georges has a good thing going here. It’s all still a bit young, but beer and wine are in the works and when they arrive I know where I’ll be going for my Montreal burger fix.
Oh, christ, almost forgot. Check out the bathroom!
Reviewed by Nicholas Robinson (Oct/09)
|Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
6934 Clark, Montreal | Tel. 514.277-9859 | Washrooms not handicapped accessible
Cold night, last minute decision, 4 people. Family dinner. Dad’s going on 96 and can still eat the rest of us under the table. Where to go? Nothing too fancy, but something that is tasty and will stay with us. Nothing sums this up like Italian.
I haven’t been to Tre Marie since, well, maybe they tore down the walls and enlarged the dining room, perhaps 15 years ago. There’s still one of the original threesome in the restaurant. Rosina Fabrizio is almost 86 and she still puts in over 12 hour days. She was there when I was last there and she may still be there the next time. The menu hasn’t changed much either.
This is where you go for hearty, basic Neapolitan fare: veal parmigana, mussels in a slightly spicy tomato sauce, lasagna with whole eggs, minced veal and layers of noodles. Nothing fancy but as good as what your grandmother would make, assuming she was from Naples. Ask for the chilis they come in a spicy oil which oozes nicely over the pasta. The dishes are hearty specials are in the $20 range and include either a very good soup (minestrone or tortellini in a chicken broth) or a small salad and a choice of a few mains including meat and fish dishes. The menu changes daily. The wine list is small with decent bottles of Chianti and Valpolicella in the $30s.
The décor is central casting, circa “Moonstruck”: brick walls, crowded tables, napery on the tables. No matter where you are the dining room has a few angles - it feels like you are in that slightly smaller section just off the kitchen. Tables are set from two to twenty. There is a feeling that, if you come early as we did, the big party is just about to arrive.
The desserts (tiramisu, cannoli, tartufo, granita) are acceptable but nothing to rave about. Service is good and the espresso is fine, as it should be in Little Italy.
You don’t come here for the fine dining, you come for la famiglia: tasty homestyle cooking, a great welcoming smile, and change in your pocket (and likely a doggie bag) when you leave. Reviewed by The Flavourguy (Barry Lazar) (Feb/09)
|Sunday, December 14th, 2008
77, ave. Shamrock, corner Casgrain, opposite Jean-Talon Market | Tel. 514.750.0774
Sun, Tue-Thur: 11:30am-11pm, Fri-Sat: 11:30am-3am, Closed Mondays
here was a time, in my youth, when things seemed simpler; more well defined in the world of food. Everything was hyper-delineated, with no cross-boundaries. Greek was Greek and everyone knew what souvlaki was. Japanese was merely laughable by today's standards. Everyone knew that Japanese had teriyaki in everything, even if no one knew quite what teriyaki was. Chinese was chow-mein, chop-suey, fried-rice and egg-rolls. There were no standouts, no rebels.
Fast forward to today, when everyone is trying to stand out, where cilantro or lemongrass or galangal are now no longer near-unpronounceable exotic ingredients from the hinterlands of Sumatra.
But somehow during all this culinary evolution, there always seemed to be one constant: Italian. With Italian cuisine there is no fenugreek, palm sugar, zatar or tamarind paste. Dried pasta with good old tomatoes, some garlic, a little olive oil, maybe some onion powder and that was it.
So carry it through to someone who likes to cook and you'll see that it seems to be one of the easiest ethnic foods to recreate at home.
Which brings me to why I don't like to go out to eat Italian food. Mainly, I don't like to spend money to make something that I can make perfectly well myself. Spaghetti bolognese: basta. Garlic bread: mangiare. Sunday Gravy: bada-bing bada-boom.
So it was with slight reluctance that I set out tonight for dinner at Basi, a young restaurant near Jean-Talon market. I'd been seduced by a chance encounter; I'm an inveterate stopper-by when I see an outside menu and as I passed by on some market-shopping day I noticed Basi, a cornerfront resto pretty much opposite Capitol, the Italian grocer, and was immediately attracted to it.
Nah, I said to myself, after peering in through the window, out of my league. I thought this place probably serves Lobster Tails "fra diavolo" at $45 a pop, Penne all'arrabbiata at $36 for some overcooked/underspiced crap, the usual pantheon of Montreal choose-your-sauce and type-of-pasta at prices that match the decor, which in this case was, well, outrageously beautiful a symphony in blue and white. It just had all the upscaleness of St. Laurent and Buonanotte and Matteo and Med Grill and all the rest of those tight-skirted overpriced Primadonnas.
Forget it, I said. I can make pasta.
But I had to use the bathroom, so after I got a chance to look at their menu more closely and to my surprise there were no $45 fra diavolos nor $36 pennes. In fact, pretty much nothing was over $30, and most way under. Most appetizers at $6.00. Huh? Carpaccio for $6.00? In a place that looks like it was designed by AG&F architetti? Many wines in the $30 range?
I decided I just had to eat here, if only to find out who was behind it.
And so it was that I and my companion arrived a bit late at 8:30 in the evening on a cold Wednesday evening to see what it was exactly that I would not be able to cook myself. As it turned out, the whole menu was way beyond anything I could imagine creating in my own kitchen.
After we sat down in one of the high-backed white booths, we were approached by Lynn, the co-owner and lovely wife of chef-owner Maurizio Mercuri who came to greet us and tell us a bit about the restaurant.
"During the summer, it can be wild," she said, somewhat wistfully, in response to a question about the quietness that night. "The terrasse really draws them in, and after all, we're literally opposite the market." Indeed. The view from our bay window was the lights of the market and I have myself been victim of the insane throngs that go through it during a typical summer's day.
As we examined the menu, we observed a large family party, children and all, having heaps of fun, somewhat incongruously cavorting in the middle of the room, sitting in amazing, low-slung blue armchairs, but at the same time my eye was distracted from the menu by banks of retro wood-framed TVs all broadcasting exactly the same silent program, in this case an E-Channel special on Hugh Hefner with Italian subtitles. Hilarious! 25-odd TVs all showing 70s-era clips in an Italian restaurant opposite Jean-Talon market. Who knew? But it all somehow melded seamlessly.
Danny, our server, sidled silently over and took our order, never intrusive throughout the meal yet never neglectful.
To begin, for some reason not entirely known to us, a surprise treat was delivered on a rectangular plate: cherry tomatoes stuffed with arugula pesto, celery chips with black olive tapenade, roasted red peppers stuffed with mozzarella di bufala and smoked prosciutto with butternut squash all a sublime explosion of fresh flavors. Perhaps the chef was using us as guinea pigs; at any rate, it might not be on the menu, but I think all you have to do is ask.
The carpaccio entrée was visually delectable: slivers of beef on a bed of greens with capers and olives in a balsamic marinade. As an aficionado of strong tastes, I felt it lacked a certain vinegariness, but the meat was supremely supple, the greens were crunchy with not a hint of too much time spent in the refrigerator, and the entire plate was pretty much devoured. My companion's Crespeli (crêpes) with wild mushroom sauce was one of those dishes in which your mouth doesn't have any idea what the ingredients are but discovers them one by one and encourages a tendency to swoon.
There is a small but focused menu for the mains. One senses not a need to be different from all the rest, but a need to simplify and beautify without being overly eccentric, and this seems to extend itself to the holistic philosophy behind the entire concept of the place from top to bottom. What's amazing is that this is accomplished without a ding to pricing or friendliness; I am not kidding when I say that I don't want too many people to find out about this place.
My order of Gamberi shrimp in pastis Marsellaise was simply superb. There were only three shrimp, but they were the biggest I have ever seen, almost 5 inches long, butterflied and perfectly cooked in a subtle anise/garlic sauce that tenderised rather than rubberised. My companion's rack of lamb was a hefty portion of succulent, buttery lamb that was not a hair overdone, and I'm not a big lamb fan. In all cases, portions were large but not overwhelming.
The Pear Maraspan dessert was magnificent and the two different coffees, one with Kahlua and one with Tia Maria, both cobbled together to our specifications, were the caps on a glorious meal.
There were a few gripes: the lighting was quite dim for these tired eyes and the writing on the menu quite small, and I debate the need for the screaming, blinking "Ouvert" sign that illuminated our table from outside. It cheapens the outstanding design that is the hallmark of the restaurant. Thank god that for once the food matches or even surpasses its surroundings.
After the dinner Maurizio poked his head out from the kitchen to see how we'd liked it and I was amazed that he himself had produced the whole affair, not delegating to an underling, that is probably the norm with all the other upscaled Italian joints on the Main. This, I decided, is a family place cunningly disguised as an upscale eatery but at family prices. The food was nothing short of outstanding; hardly a single miss throughout the evening.
And I'll be damned if I thought I could ever make it at home. Reviewed by Chef Nick (Dec/08)
|Thursday, December 4th, 2008
27 rue Prince-Arthur West (one block west of St-Laurent) | Tel: (514) 287 2725
f this was my restaurant, I’d change a few things. The lighting is spectacular except at the very front, where in the evenings if you’re unlucky enough to get seated there, you feel like you’re sitting at a picnic table next to neon fishbowl. Funny, the lighting is perfect elsewhere. Note the cool little blue light hanging over the place where Mr. Chefie chops up the salmon tartare right before your very eyes. That’s the kind of detail I’m talking about.
Other details I love: the quite unusual use of tile half-way up the wall that then turns to a chalkboard where the wine list is printed directly in block letters. Good selection of wines, a bit plain, but nicely priced. Wine chalkboard/wall is right next to the little sign that says you can have a jar of pickles or a side of fries or onion rings with anything.
Details I love: the beautiful waitresses with their long floppy ponytails. The silent busboy guy who fills my water glass, sets the table next to ours. I like how the waitress pours me more wine than my husband gets. This is always a bonus.
The seating. Again it’s unusual, but it works just fine. Bench seating along one wall, complemented with low square stools. It all works. But when you first walk in you think what kind of place is this?
Yes, it’s a bit quirky, not a diner, not a cafeteria, a blendo resto. One new dinner special each night we had pork chop with caramelized butternut squash, fennel and apples and it was lovely. When here previously for lunch, I got to sample one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. In my life. And it contained blue cheese. Well, you know how I feel about stinky cheese. But this burger is really really fabulous. And the fries are included. Not so with the tuna burger, a very big almost giant piece of mostly raw lightly seared, on a great bun. But no fries. And frankly no great zesty sauce either. How about a little wasabi mayo?
what's for dinner?
I’ve eaten here now a half dozen times, from when it first opened in the early part of last winter (was it February?), up to and including last week. I like the glass food cases where you can see (sort of) what you’re going to get for dinner. I love how newcomers walk in, and after they settle their coats and order their drinks, they walk around the whole restaurant, peering in the entire span of food windows, including the neon fish-bowl one up front with the desserts.
The fries, lemme tell you, they are spectacular. Homemade, thin, peel left on, heavily salted. Large serving. Very delicious homemade chili dipping sauce (which I then proceed to slather on the tuna burger I ordered, did I say it was missing something zingy?).
super delicious blue cheese burger, with fries
giant tuna burger
The music and I’m getting weird about music these days in this place is hands-down great, a nice mix of 80s and 90s, and not too loud. Just loud enough. There’s a growing trend I’ve found in restos lately to have the stereo on freaking loud (M:Brgr) with duelling closed-captioned TVs (hmm, also M:Brgr) that makes the whole atmosphere of the place rather irritating (OK, now I guess I should write up my M:Brgr review soonly since you pretty much know what I think already, except that they really do have good burgers, ruined by a crummy bowling alley slash sushi bar atmosphere with monstrously irritating music).
For value, Marché 27 is outstanding. Dinner for two $40 plus wine and tip. Beware, the desserts are not always super fresh we had a lemon tiramisu in the summer that had maybe been there for days, hard on top, you get the picture. But then another time I had a caramelized apple goat cheese tartlet thingie that could have been dessert but it was an appetizer, and it was super divine.
caramelized goat cheese tart, good enough to be dessert
If anyone’s listening, here's the summary: Add sauce to tuna. Make fries included with tuna as they are with burger. Dim the lights at the front. But please don’t change anything else. Especially don’t change that you’re located three blocks from my house. Oh yeah, and the salad with apple cider vinaigrette and pine nuts is one of the best house salads I’ve ever had.
house salad with pine nuts
You should go soon, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Order the salad, a big bottle of pinot noir, and the blue cheese burger. Lemme know what you think. Better yet, invite me to come with you, I’m dying to go back. No really, email me, I'll come at a moment's notice. -- Reviewed by Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu (Dec/08)
Thanks to Charity Weeden for additional pictures.
[Shelley's on loan to MontrealFood from her new home at www.OneRoastVegetable.com]
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|Saturday, August 23, 2008
358, rue Notre-Dame E. (at St-Denis) | Tel. 514-759-0505
Lunch specials from $13.95 to 19.95, includes salad or ham, meal, and espresso or fruit salad
don’t have much to say that’s very nice. You should turn away if you’re looking for something cheerful. Let me start off by admitting that I set myself up a bit, because I picked this place to review with very high hopes. I jog past this storefront several times a week, it’s in my neighbourhood, and it’s only been open for a few months.
lovely interior space
It catches my eye every time, because from the outside it is a very attractive space, they’ve hired a good designer, lots of dark wood, nice flooring, big shelves with products for sale. Even En Route called it a "distinctive, modern Italian eatery is just steps away from bustling Jacques-Cartier Square."
But it’s always empty when I run by. Granted, it’s not on rue St-Paul, it’s not right in the middle of high-tourist traffic. That’s OK. Maybe then it can safely avoid the tragic food offered to most tourists, think of those men in the streets with their plastic menus, eat here, eat here, we have lobster.
So yesterday I got together with some new friends, and we met for a lazy Friday lunch at Stuzzichi. (Apparently this word means snack-y bits of tasty stuff. Maybe like tapas.)
your choice of starters: ham or salad
Let me tell you all the good things first. Really, there are lots of them. The floors, for example, are amazing dark brown wood. The tables, the furniture, the brown paper, the nice big square plates. Our waiter, if amazingly uninformed, has a nice smile and tries as hard as he can given that he’s only serving two tables during the entire Friday lunch rush.
Right. The good things. The pasta isn’t overcooked, which is almost completely impossible to find in this city. The servings are large for an à la carte lunch, even though the prices are a bit more than your average office lunch, it works out to be quite decent with the decaf espresso or the fruit salad thrown in.
OK. Here’s the part of the review that I’ve been avoiding. The things that need work. There were some serious misunderstandings between the menu, the waiter’s knowledge, and what we were served. Apparently linguine and the fettuccini are the same sized noodle, and their sauces were also interchangeable, although one was a tad big spicier. In fact, there were three different pastas served to our table of 7 guests, but if you closed your eyes, you’d have been hard pressed to tell the difference between them using your fork alone.
lobster with tomato pasta
tomato fettuccini with calamari
this is supposed to be linguine puttanesca, but there are no capers
veal with mushrooms and more pasta
The menu is just thinly enough written (and contradicts the chalkboard), so we had to ask what everything was/meant, and since the waiter didn’t know, he smiled very sweetly and then apparently made things up.
Yes. But was the food any good? Well, it was quite good, actually. The veal was lovely, even though the mushrooms where not those advertised. The lobster was plentiful and well cooked. But the meal was also completely forgettable (not the company, just the food). About 4 blocks from the restaurant, several of us agreed that it was unlikely we’d ever go back.
the lovely fruit salad dessert
Why? The food doesn’t come together. And that’s a shame, because while the location may be a tiny bit out-of-the-way, I’ll walk a mile (or even maybe a few kilometres some days) to eat somewhere great. And great has many definitions. But I’m afraid I’ll only be back if I wake up one day craving smiling waiters tossed with a nice serving of hardwood flooring. Reviewed by Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu (Aug/08)
Thanks to Nick Wolf for additional pictures.
[Shelley's on loan to MontrealFood from her new home at www.OneRoastVegetable.com]
|Monday, November 5, 2007
Ciociaro Sports Bar and Grill
8868 boulevard Langelier, Saint-Leonard | Tel. 514-324-3700
his is one of those places you really hope you’re going to like. You know the place: colourful characters standing by the bar, drinking beer, sipping lattes, conversing in a loud jovial manner; a table of fashion conscious women sitting on the terrace taking advantage of an unusually hot October night; and the sparse tables, adorned with families eagerly eating, watching the Montreal Canadians about to surprise everyone by beating Buffalo.
The restaurant is packed. Behind the front section of the bar, a young man feverishly makes espressos and cappuccinos, while at the end of the bar, a small kitchen is visible to all the seated patrons, and I watch two young bewildered looking lads making salads and cooking meat. Which brings us to the food, but wait; where’s the waiter. I make eye contact with one and before I know it he appears right next to me smiling fretfully. I ask him what’s good here to which he replies “everything, but our ‘sangwitches’ are the best.”
Ciociaro’s doesn’t offer much in its choice of food, but casual resto bars such as these don’t need to. What’s important in a place like this is to produce something outstanding. It may only be one stand-out item like the smoked meat at Schwartz’s, or the subs at Café Milano.
Ciociaro’s has the potential, but currently falls short. The small pizza ($4.00) has a thick bready crust which resembles a pizza fritta and is topped with sliced tomato and bocconcini cheese that has seen better days. I was later informed that the pizza was not made in the restaurant “we just heat it up.” They would be better off without it.
Same could be said about the Arancini ($4.00), fried balls of risotto coated with egg, flour, and breadcrumbs, with a stuffing in the centre. They are usually filled with mozzarella, but it can also be meat or tomato sauce. This version’s crust lacks in orange colour and surface crunch, probably from sitting too long in a refrigerated plastic box in a display counter.
The risotto tastes bland and is way too white, which makes me wonder if they use any chicken stock at all, or just use plain water when cooking it. Again “we just heat it up” and again, they would be better off without it.
The main course: chicken pesto pressed panini ($9.50), but how does it taste? Fantastic. The chicken is finely chopped and married with onion, red pepper, and other tasty spices, and comes with fries or salad. My other dining companion had a steak sub ($8.00) on ciabatta bread, heated so that the bread becomes crusty but still soft in the centre. It has good flavour with tomato, cheese and marinated eggplants, but in my opinion could have benefited from more caramelized onions.
Also very good was the Italian sausage sub ($8.00); the sausage is split open and cooked to perfection, complemented with eggplant, lettuce, tomato, cheese and onion. The lettuce was dressed with a vinaigrette which rounded out the flavour nicely.
Which brings us to my sandwich choice, a veal parmiggiano sub; it looks harmless enough and when I took my first bite, I still thought “not bad.” Second bite, and I realize something is wrong. Third bite, no, could it be? I licked the red sauce and then I realized the evil within. The sauce was ready-made, prepared, jarred, ragu, Presto, Catelli.
Let me put this into perspective: giving an Italian ready-made tomato sauce is like giving a French cheese maker Cheese-Whiz on melba toast. Where’s the love? There is nothing tedious or complicated in making a proper tomato sauce. Olive oil, garlic, and real tomatoes canned whole plum tomatoes or the puréed pasata tomatoes would do just fine. And this is made worse given that everyone who works in this restaurant is Italian. Even sliced tomatoes broiled under the cheese would have been better.
Feeling irritated, I stand up to get a better view of the kitchen, which reveals nothing, so I venture to the back room. Passing both bathrooms, the door to the stockroom is open. My suspicions prove true: the villain is Catelli. I spot a case of twelve jars and am just about to pick one of them up, when all of a sudden I hear a voice asking if I need help “just looking for the bathroom,” I quickly respond, feeling a little jumpy from my James Bondesque undercover work. The young waiter shows me the bathroom door.
I figured an espresso would help with the healing process, and it did. It has the required ever-so-slightly acidic, bittersweet initial taste, followed by a pleasantly strong coffee flavour. Our waiter suggests we try a Xangos, which he claims is a dolce that is almost exclusive to Ciociaro’s. Think of a cannoli that looks like a spring roll. The softened, sugar coated crust is filled with cream cheese with a stream of caramel that lines the centre. It is warm, and I must admit, it is very delicious. Who knows, a few more of these Xangos and I might forget about the Catelli incident. Not a chance. Reviewed by Reader Sandro (Oct/07).
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|Saturday, October 27, 2007
400 Sherbrooke Est (at the corner of St-Denis) | Tel: (514) 848-0513
o say that this restaurant suffers from a terrible storefront would be putting it gently. This "creative vegetarian" spot is in a building with a tanning salon and a hippy clothing store, each with their own signs out front, and all three sharing one common entrance. I've lived within a block for over 4 years, and I've never been brave enough to enter.
But today it was rainy, and I guess I was feeling just brave/bored enough. I've also received a number of requests from readers for more vegetarian reviews. Hey, they didn't specificy 'good' reviews, just veggie-friendly...
Well, if this resto suffers from a bad storefront, it also seems to suffer from not knowing what kind of place it is. The menu ranges from Thai (Pad Thai), to Chinese (General Tao, hot and sour soup), and sushi. And keep in mind that it's vegetarian.
It's all made with mock meat, faux-fish, and flavoured soy product. André ordered General Tao with wonton soup to start, four pieces of sushi, and some kind of pastry with coffee for dessert ($16.88). I ordered 3 different kinds of sushi with hot and sour soup ($16.46). There was a lunch buffet available for $9.99 but buffets generally make me nervous (lukewarm food, lingering for hours). This buffet, though, looked pretty good and I may go back again for lunch through the week when it's only $6.99.
The vegetarian adventure started out surprisingly well. We were seated in a large booth, the kind with low tables and cushions where you have to take your shoes off. The soups arrived quickly and the side salads were very good, with a lovely vinaigrette made of rice wine vinegar and lots of ginger. Everything was 'a little bit unusual', but good.
wonton soup, hot and sour soup, side salads with great vinaigrette
'California' roll with red pepper, avocado, and fishy soy protein
The sushi was also excellent, if unusual. The fishy soy protein had more flavour than the usual fake crab found in Montreal versions of California rolls. The 'smoked cheese' sushi I ordered didn't really taste much like the creamed cheese inside, but wowie it tasted fabulously of dried smoky fish, and it was great.
smoked cheese sushi
Now the meal took a turn drastically downhill. There was a very long pause between my lunch (sushi) and the arrival of André's, perhaps 20 minutes. We ate my sushi, drank tea, looked around, took pictures, and waited.
And then his meal came, and really, what can I say that the photo doesn't say for itself:
vegetarian General Tao
A small scoop of wild rice, a pile of uniform balls covered in what tasted like jarred sauce, plain broccoli a bit undercooked, and seaweed with a sweet sesame coating.
Let's start with the presentation -- anyone notice the gaping large white space on the left side of the plate? How about the rotation? Isn't the main protein of the meal supposed to be set in front of you at the 6 o'clock position? (she says, as her waitress-past-life sneaks out of the closet).
But worse, much worse than the plate itself, were the lukewarm balls of fluff. I opened several in search of the chickeny-flavoured-soy-protein, and yes, there were bits of something, but not much really. It was mostly a lot of puffy breading. It was edible, not a complete disaster, but it was very, very unspecial, and not something we'd ever order again.
So, a rainy Saturday lunch that started off as pleasantly pleasing veered directly into a dead-end with the main dish. I would be happy to eat the sushi again, and maybe someday I'll be brave enough to have the buffet and try some of the other Chinese glazed fake veggie dishes to see if there's anything better than Mr. Tao's puff balls. Reviewed by Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu (Oct/07)
[Shelley's on loan to MontrealFood from her new home at www.OneRoastChicken.com]
|Thursday, August 2, 2007
Yu Hang Restaurant
400, boul. Rene-Levesque West | Tel. (514) 866-8788
uo Guo (mandarin), or Hot Pot is quite the experience. To those uninitiated, Hot Pot consists of big bowls of broth (different flavours of course, my fav being the sichuan/spicy broth) sitting in the middle of the table that are used to cook everything from meats (nasty bits included), seafood and vegetables in other words, it's a Chinese fondue.
My recent dinner at Yu Hang was not only good, but all-you-can-eat as well! Our group of 10 diners had two big bowls of broth (each bowl split in two containing a spicy and non-spicy concoction) and loads of food. I highly recommend going in as big of a group as possible, which allows you to sample more variety. In our group, we ate tofu, mushrooms, cuttlefish, whole shrimp, carpaccio-style beef and lamb, beef and fish balls, kidneys (more elegantly known as rognons), tripe (not enough of it though), glass noodles and more; definitely a plethora of Asian goodness.
We had to work for this meal, all that cooking the food ourselves, but it added to the experience! With people standing while eating, stirring the broth like a witch at her cauldron, this active meal was extremely welcoming. On top of that, spending time with friends and talking gastronomy with another foodie by my side, I couldn't ask for more... Then again, wheelchairs would have been helpful in carting us out after stuffing ourselves to the brim. Nonetheless, good food, good company and a $15, a quality meal that would make anyone grin from ear to ear. -- Reviewed by Reader Huge (April/07)
|Friday, July 13th, 2007
1450 rue Crescent, Montreal | Tel. (514) 286-0303 | Metro Guy-Concordia
t's tough being an Indian in Montreal. Tough, when you're surrounded by 10,000 Bangladeshis. Okay, rough estimate, but when it comes to restaurants, that seems to be about the status quo.
See, "Indian cuisine" isn't really anything to do with India; it's just a convenient blanket term for what we Westerners will invariably describe as "curry." The origin of the word is buried in the mists of time; some say it comes from the Tamil word "kari," meaning "sauce." Others say it comes from the cooking vessel called a kadhai.
The Brahmins of Tamil Nadu , strict vegetarians, call a vegetable dish cooked with spices and coconut "Kaari." The British colonialists, ever the pragmatists, dumbed it down to the word "curry."
In reality, though, the cuisines of the sub-continent of Indo-Pakistan-Bangladesh are as distinct from one another as are, say the cuisines of Liguria and Calabria, or Provence and Languedoc.
Which brings us to Devi, a truly Indian restaurant as opposed to Bangladeshi or Pakistani buried right here in the throbbing center of Montreal, the place where some would argue that all things Montreal converge: Crescent Street.
The Strip. Formula One. Winnie's. Newtown. Hard Rock Café. Tourists like army ants, swarming the terrasses and quaffing their Boréale Blondes with red-faced enthusiasm.
Who would ever want to put an Indian restaurant down here? But someone did, and it's named Devi, which is the Sanskrit word for goddess. That someone not only created the restaurant; he bought the whole building.
The interior is wood-luxe and spacious. Bay windows look upon the summer mayhem that is Crescent Street on a warm evening.
One look at the menu and you know you're not in a London curry house any more. While some familiar staples remain: Chicken Tikka Masala, (the "National Dish of Britain,") and Butter Chicken, unfamiliar ones pop out at you. What on earth is Chicken Chettinad Korma? Why, chicken curry cooked with onion, tomato, coconut, tamarind and curry leaves, silly. (Chettinad is a district of the southernmost region of India.) And Nihari?
Never heard of it? Lamb curry made with onion, gram flour, garam masala and other arcane Indian spices. I defy you to find it on 99% of the other "Indian" restaurants in Montreal. Can't be done.
Navrattan Korma: assorted vegetables and cocktail fruits in a creamy white sauce made with onion, yogurt, cashew and almond paste and flavored with cardamom. Cocktail fruits? Namasté, my friends, namasté.
The menu is not sprawling and is not organised like the formulaic hacks of most "indian" restaurants in Montreal. There are familiar faces we have the naan, the saag paneer, the seekh kebab, after all but there are many strangers, namely, Manchurian Cauliflower (crispy corn flour-coated cauliflower tossed in tangy tomato sauce, flavored with garlic curry leaf and mustard seeds okay, not going to be reproducing that in my kitchen any time soon), Raj Kachor (semolina puff filled with potatoes, chick peas and sprouts topped with yogurt and chutney) or Mushroom Gilawati Kebab (minced mushrooms, oil, cumin, red chili powder, garam masala and butter).
Seen that at your neighborhood Tikka joint lately? I thought not.
Best tread lightly, we thought, and started off with the Lamb Seekh Kebab and Pepper Shrimp. The lamb was in six-inch skewers of highly spiced ground meat, grilled to a turn; meaty, moist and delicious. The shrimp were jumbos, rolled up tightly, tails on, marinated with a mixture of what seemed to be ginger and garlic and chilies with a heavy dose of black pepper in a sour-cream-based sauce. I would go back every night just for that crunch-squish-meaty-shrimpy taste implosion, if circumstances permitted. Both were accompanied with a side of baby greens bathed in an unearthly vinaigrette slammed with a hefty dose of spice.
Seeking an Xtreme Indian experience is always a chore for me, because I'm what some might call a "Chile-head," and I know that chefs (especially in Montreal better watch what you ask for in San Francisco, as you might just get it) tend to take pity on the customer and halve the heat he requests, just in case the guy is a roving braggart out to impress his friends; wouldn't want to embarrass the poor guy after all. So I ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala "extra hot" and my companion ordered the Chicken Korma. I know, safe bets, but we wanted to see how the kitchen handled the basics.
As expected, the Tikka was not even approaching 10 on my Scoville meter, but was nonetheless unctuously insinuating, moist and earthy in a rich brown spice-studded sauce that wedded with the fluffy saffron basmati rice most satisfactorily. My companion opted for the naan, he being of a Northern persuasion, and he happily plucked up his Korma chicken in a creamy white sauce made of onion, yogurt, cashew, almond paste and cardamom with gusto.
The service, it might be mentioned, was attentive one might even say overly attentive, but it's what one might expect from a nervous restaurant open only one month.
There's no telling how this little Indian jewel will fare in this sea of sub-continental competition, and no telling how it will prosper while surrounded by a sea of unabashed consumerism, but we certainly wish it well. Namasté. Reviewed by Chef Nick (June/07)
|Thursday, June 28th, 2007
5667 Sherbrooke St. W. | Tel. 514.315-5056
his place is a keeper. With a common owner at nearby restaurants La Lousianne and Claremont both mid-level concept restaurants, La Lousianne is Cajun textured, Claremont is a good neighbourhood bistro Bofinger sticks its digits into the smokehouse and pulls out a pungent mess of good eating.
Good barbeque has nothing to do with fast flame gas grills. Boys will be boys and grills will be grills; but smokin' demands a man's attention ... 12 to 18 hours at just the right temperature with just the right combination of hard woods for flavour and charcoal for a slow, slow burn. Too high and we are roasting. Too low a temperature, well you don't want to go there. But Bofinger gets it just right. Here are the basics for BBQ 101, as we rarely taste them in this town: pulled pork, a dynamite BBQ chicken, beef ribs, pork ribs, beef brisket, wings and burgers. That's it. Simple food, but spend overnight in the kitchen smoke oven and you'll be ready for a dip in the sauce too.
Main dishes get a choice of one or two sides. There is rib-sticking macaroni and cheese, decent but under-whelming baked beans, a tart cucumber salad, coleslaw, bean, and potato salads. Choose the dish you want, say a plate of 3 pork ribs (you could go for 6 but remember, the pig is on the plate) and add one or two of the sides. There are brews from St.-Ambroise street and bottled fruit juices while iced tea and sodas come with the meals and are at a self-serve tap as much as you want. Bofinger has a few salads and desserts as well but more could be done in this line. Sandwiches are great. There is a hefty Cuban BBQ pork sandwich, a poboy that is less New Orleans and more corner deli but still tasty with layers of cold cuts, and a great smoked burger that comes with enough toppings (hot peppers, pickles, guacomole, onions, mushrooms, etc. etc.) to make this a super veggie special sans patty! But since the big feature at Bofinger is BBQ, come hungry to eat meat.
Pork ribs with a side of slaw
A hamburger with all the fixings (there is a thick beef patty somewhere in there) plus sides of mac 'n cheese, and cucumber salad
After you've chosen your platter, now comes the big decision. Which sauce to add? They range the BBQ map from a vinegary Kentucky to a sweet and mustardy South Carolina version and, my favourite, a simple Texas slow cooked smoky sauce. There are also two whoop-ass versions Memphis Magic and Atomic Alabama both long on heat and better on Bofinger's wings than the smoked meats. For added heat, check out Bofinger's wall of flame with dozens of different hot sauces. Gastro emptor.
The menu still needs a little work. It should have a combo plate with a bit of everything; also more than a few undistinguished desserts (with maybe some of that luscious bread pudding and chocolate pecan pie from La Lousianne, up the street); oh yeah, and an espresso machine that is not just for the boss!
Bofinger has plenty of tables and booths inside where it's bright, airy, and noisy. Each table has a roll of paper towels and the booth partitions can be removed so you can get a large group together. There are several tables outside for alfresco munching on one of the widest sidewalks on Sherbrooke. St. Bofinger has only counter service and it can get packed at noon and dinner time. The crowds are so thick that there are no plans to take credit or debit cards. ("It slows us down too much," said one server.) So it's cash only. Thankfully, you won't need to spend much. It's hard to spend more than $10 on a meal here. Our meal of an all-dressed burger with two sides, and a plate of ribs, iced tea and a beer came to $25 taxes and tip included. There are meat and rib packs to go for 6 or more people ranging from $35 to $99.
Service is great, and the place is good for those with ambulatory problems. Everything is on the ground floor.
Oh, and this is not to be confused with Montreal style smoked meat parlours such as Lester's or Schwartz's, where the brisket still carries a Yiddishe Romanian tam; instead Bofinger finally gives us a taste of how pork, beef and chicken get served south of the border. Yee-haw! Reviewed by Barry Lazar (June/07)
|Tuesday, June 5, 2007
|Le Club chasse et pêche
423, rue Saint-Claude, Old Montréal | Tel. (514) 861-1112
e had difficulty getting reservations at this top-of-the-line restaurant in Old Montreal which opened in January 2005. It reminded me of a piece by Dave Barry from In Search of Excellence that went like this:
This striving for excellence extends into people's personal lives as well. When '80s people buy something, they buy the best one, as determined by (1) price and (2) lack of availability. Eighties people buy imported dental floss. They buy gourmet baking soda. If an '80s couple goes to a restaurant where they have made a reservation three weeks in advance, and they are informed that their table is available, they stalk out immediately, because they know it is not an excellent restaurant. If it were, it would have an enormous crowd of excellence-oriented people like themselves waiting, their beepers going off like crickets in the night. An excellent restaurant wouldn't have a table ready immediately for anybody below the rank of Liza Minnelli.
The three of us, being the excellence-oriented people we are, got down to business immediately: the wine! Our first choice, a Charles Hours Jurancon Sec ($46) was too acidic. It was neither off, nor corked, nor otherwise spoiled it was just too acidic for our taste. No problem we were immediately offered a replacement at no extra cost, a great dry white chardonnay from Mâcon Bussières, Domaine La Sarazinière, Cuvée Claude Seigneuret 2003 ($41). In my modest dining experience, no restaurant has ever taken a wine back just because the taste was not as I expected. Many years ago at a local Spanish restaurant, my Parisian friend sent a wine back to the kitchen claiming that it had traveled. To which the waiter replied: Of course, how did you think it got here from France? It's a jungle out there, but not at Le Club.
The service remained friendly and of the highest standard throughout the evening.
Our second pleasant surprise was the bottled water. Bottled bubbles are the new "in" thing. The Chateldon water from the Auvergne carries the picture of Louis XIV and the date of 1650. It is said that it was the personal water of king Louis XIV. Some have refuted that claim by pointing out that the Chateldon source was only discovered in 1774. Nevertheless, it is known to be beneficial for people suffering from skin diseases and digestive disorders. In other words, Restospy territory.
For me, this was the night of the pig. I started with a juicilicious risotto of braised piglet ($8). This was followed by kurobuta, black Japanese pig, made two ways (longe et flanc), with baked potatoes ($27). This is the best and most tender pork anywhere, renowned for its marbled texture and superior taste. The kurobuta is originally from England and emigrated to Japan in the 19th century on a diplomatic visa.
But wait, it gets even better. The main courses at the Club have at least one marked costaud. Costaud is a French word meaning for hungry lumberjacks just back from the Yukon. Today it was Guinea hen (pintade) with an apple and Porto sauce ($23). I hope that this costaud thing catches on in other restaurants.
My women checked out the seafood. One started with scallops and fennel ($12), four bite-sized delicacies. That was followed by another winner, the grilled swordfish with a vinaigrette and truffle sauce ($26). I will say no more. This is as good as it gets in Old Montreal.
Among the seafood appetizers, noteworthy are the oysters (twelve for $33) and the caviar: one ounce of osetra for $99 and one ounce of beluga for $144. A good sneeze or a healthy Chateldon burp can cost you $288.
Woman number two ate a moron. To be precise, she ordered a morone saxatilis, also known as a striped bass, the main fish off the Atlantic coasts of Canada and the United States. Some live up to 30 years to end up at Le Club Chasse et Pêche on top of a pile of white asparagus and sorrel for $25. Judging from her reaction, it was a morone exceptionalis.
The desserts were not as extraordinary as the wonderful fare we enjoyed earlier in the evening. They were all smorgasbords of sweet things, following the present fashion in Montreal. To make me happy, give me one item, done to perfection. Preferably one large item. How about a canard flottant version of îles flottantes, with a huge white duck paddling on a sea of crême anglaise? Would make sense in a hunting club.
A memorable dining experience. A shot of Poire Williams, a quick single-notch belt adjustment, one last Louis XIV burp, and off we went, $217.98 lighter. Reviewed by RestoSpy (Mar/07)
|May 30, 2007
Nick writes: I've just redesigned the montrealfood logo, and it looks ultra-mega-super (my son's vocabulary.) And I've revamped the montrealfood.com store! Now you can get black T-shirts, sweatshirts, V-necks, mugs, tote bags, refrigerator magnets and lots more cool-looking montrealfood gear for way-low prices. Take 'em when you travel and show them that you're a montrealfoodie! Support montrealfood! (Who knows! It might even pay the hosting fee.) Chef Nick
|Friday, May 4th, 2007
La Brasserie Brunoise
1012, rue de la Montagne | Tel. (514) 933-3885
t was hockey night in Montreal and I was in dire need of a bite prior to the puck drop. There are several restos in the area, but I wasn’t in the mood for spinach dip (Baton Rouge), didn’t care for cardboard buffalo wings (La Cage), and didn’t have time for a Lou’s Cut (bone in rib-eye, Queue De Cheval).
Then there's this new resto-bar adjacent to the Bell Centre. Owned by Gordon Ramsay's protégé Michel Ross, this brasserie should not be confused with his flagship fine-dining establishment Brunoise. La Brasserie caters to the suit-clad business crowd and Habs jersey-wearing customers alike.
Located on the corner of de la Montagne and de la Gauchetiere, La Brasserie is hard to miss. With the signature “Brunoise’ sign containing a square ‘O’ (clever, indeed), the restaurant is deceptively larger than the storefront would have you believe. Considering the restaurant name, I would have hoped for the bar to be the focal point of the décor, but such was not the case. The bar was located at the far end of the room, hidden by a sea of tables and chairs primed to accommodate the onslaught of rabid hockey fans.
I asked the waitress what beers were on tap, expecting her to recite the list in a heartless script-like fashion, but without hesitation she blurted, “Stella.” Only one beer at a brasserie? Odd. It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it's better than Molson Ex in a plastic cup.
French onion soup
The menu, which doubled as a placemat, was filled with French bistro classics as well as several daily specials. I ordered my go-to bistro meal: French onion soup and steak-frites. The soup arrived hot, topped with a generous dollop of cheese. It was deep, rich and a tad greasy (which I luckily don’t mind one bit) and was a good example of a well-prepared classic.
As for the steak-frites, the hanger steak was cooked to perfection (blue, just the way I like it) and finished with maitre d’hotel butter. The fries were thinly cut , made with real potatoes, and double-fried in peanut oil. I tossed a couple in my mouth expecting to sink my teeth into a great example of an ethereal French fry, but immediately realized that they were overcooked and unbearably salty. Hoping to find salvation in my meat, I cut a chunk and as my fork approached my mouth, instead of smelling seared meat, I could smell citrus. I don’t know if it was the butter or how the meat was marinated. But I much prefer my meat to taste like, well, meat. My steak reminded me of a recently cleaned restroom.
The meal ended with a pudding chomeur (bread pudding). Baked in a ramekin, served à la mode and not at all looking ‘chomeur-like’, but contrary to the overcooked fries, the pudding was pasty and undercooked.
Next time I’m looking for a pre-game meal, I’ll pass on the ‘one beer’ brasserie. Reviewed by Huge Galdones (Feb/07)
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