Olive et Gourmando – Enjoyed the grilled cheese sandwich and the vibe. Vowed to return for breakfast but they only open at 9 which I find a little strange.
Le Serpent – Started with a bang. Menu right up my alley, with exceptional execution. Industrial space and feel in the old city, though way out of the tourist trail. Started with a fine sliced Octopus covered by a thin layer of potato mousseline. A very nice Foie gras looking like two pigs in a blanket without the blanket, with blackcurrant, quinoa, and macadamia nuts. The pastas here are absolutely sensational and so difficult to pick. The best for me was probably the Bucatini with pork flank confit, black garlic, soy – a pungent, punch to the face on every bite. Close second was the the Linguine, speck, almonds, cauliflower, truffle brunoise. Garganelli, pistachio, nordic shrimp, asparagus, mint was good, while the lobster risotto had a nice minty flavor but forgettable. The risotto is the most popular dish here for some reason, but with all those pastas around I would skip it. From the mains, the branzino was great, but the Pork jowl with that melt in your mouth porky awesomeness stole the show. Maple pudding easily won the dessert round. Tremendous meal
Schwartz – Enjoyed this Katz’s of the north. Dont know if I prefer over Katz’s or something more obscure like Harry & Ida’s in NYC, but I enjoyed the whole experience. Our options were fatty, medium or lean. Not sure if I could have asked for “medium-fat” instead of just “medium”, but mine could have used more fat. My wife’s “medium” was a little more peppery than mine which could have used a little more seasoning, but it was fine. I like the the thickness and the way its sliced. A notch above Mile End, our Montreal style smoked meat in NYC. At Schwartz we also had our only classic poutine of the trip. It was good, but no idea how it compares.
Ma Poule Mouillée – Out of everything Montreal has to offer, bagels, poutine, smoked meat, etc, to me the Portuguese stuff was the most interesting. Birds spinning everywhere you turn. This place certainly didnt disappoint, and judging by the line by the time we were leaving, it felt like we came to the right place. Shared the #2 for two, a huge plate of half chicken and fries. Since piri piri can be quite spicy in Lisbon and I was sharing it, I asked for “medium”. Could have used a little more heat but the flavor was definitely there. The chicken was juicy, and the fries once mixed with the chicken sauces and spices turned out better than the Poutine at lunch time. They also have above average Pastel de Nata (egg custards)
Jean Talon Market – Perhaps the finest collection of produce I’ve ever seen anywhere, and an absolutely spectacular market. Beets with colors I never knew exist. Great tasting berries, and ground cherries. Spicy peanut butter from something called Mamba or something. Marmite su’l feu served us a place of traditional delicasies from the island of Réunion, like a mix between creole and Indian. The falafel-like beet based fried ball was my favorite there. Across from them, we got a very nice plate of jerk potato plate but forgot the name. All sorts of nice artisanal action on that particular isle. But the ground cherries and the corn were the highlights for me. Peaches and Cream corn was perhaps the sweetest corn I ever tasted. Picked up some baguettes at Joe la Croûte (good), and later excellent coffee at Café Larue & fils. Though passing by Le Pain dans les Voiles, I regretted not going there for pastry and coffee. I suspected they were just a bakery like Joe la Croûte but looked more than that
Bier Markt – Spotted this fancy bar for a break on our way to the hotel. The place looked very inviting and “happening”. They walked us to the second floor which looked like fun as well. Pretty people, large screens everywhere, nice looking sprawling bar. The anticipation started to grow… which table are we getting, this place looks awesome, this is gonna be great. Then they lead us to another floor up, to an empty hall that now resembles an empty Chinese palace with round tables. We were too tired to complain, and convinced ourselves that we can use the quiet. A huge beer selection that looked more impressive than it actually is. I got a nice local IPA, pretzel, wings (not bad at all), and more poutine.
L’Express – So this was our only disappointing experience. All signs pointed to this being one of Montreal’s most popular traditional bistros if not the most popular. Although I visted Paris a few times, and these types of bistros before, I wasnt entirely sure what to expect in Montreal. Looked and felt very old school. Menu translated in three languages. The waiter suggested a Bordeaux which we liked. Chicken liver pate was fine but came without anything else, just pate to be used with the table bread they served. Octopus covering lentils like a hockey puck didnt have any distinct flavor. The waiter enthusiastically talked about the tartare. He asked whether I want it spicy and I said yes. I liked it, but got tired of it in a hurry, and hardly detected any heat or much flavor. Unlike many tartares I’ve had it also didnt look very appealing. My wife’s steak with fries looked and tasted fairly pedestrian. Desserts here were more interesting. Got the last ‘floating island’ French classic which we enjoyed (thanks for the tip), and the coffee creme brulee special was pretty unique and excellent. The saving grace here was that out of the six of us, my wife and I were the only people disappointed with our meal.
Bagels – I wind up trying both of the institutions. Hard to fall in love with these coming from our NYC bagel culture as these felt a little bland, and sweet, but I appreciated the light and airy texture. My sesame bagel with cream cheese at Fairmont was fine. At St-Viateur I ordered just a plain one and got it fresh out of the oven.
Salmigondis – Enjoyed this brunch in Little Italy. Nothing too unusual or unique about this place (that I can see) but no complaints about anything. “Fried Rabbit” is their take on Chicken with waffles. Nicely cooked rabbit loin with rye waffles, Lapsang tea marinated soft boiled egg, and watercress. The watercress is a good example of how greens can elevate a dish, while the egg added nothing. I rather have a freshly boiled egg. French Toast with peach, oat granola, and lemon curd was nice and rich, like any higher end French Toast. Everyone else enjoyed their meal.
Bouillon Bilk – For my friend’s 50th I felt like I scored a home run with this one. More like a Delino Deshields inside the park grand slam on a bum knee (ok, that was the first expo that came to mind). A sensational meal to say the least. Very plain but smart decor, unassuming looking on a somewhat weird location. You can easily walk by without noticing it, tho you will notice all the gentleman clubs nearby. Their tasting menu card means all the items that arent on the menu are also todays specials along with other specials they may have (a Guinea hen on this night). That meant something like the first course, an Amuse Bouche special ($6) of bay scallops with corn and potato was available. Great little amuse to set the tone. The starters, Hamachi, yuzu kosho, grapefruit, fennel, cucumber, and the Cavatelli with truffle, almonds, quail egg, parsley were flawless. Australian shaved truffles needed a lit more truffle lift from truffle cream but the end result was great. The halibut, gnocchi, nordic shrimps, artichoke, seaweed butter dish my wife ordered was excellent, but mine was better. Scallops, cauliflower, shiitake, pear, watercress, beurre noisette (brown butter). The scallops are perfectly cooked and seasoned and are fine as is, but once dipped in that light greenish brown butter, heavenly. And those shiitake, confited with awesomeness, pure joy with every morsel. The Perfect dish. The ricotta cream won the dessert round. One of those meals.