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Posts Tagged ‘by the Place des Arts metro’

I’ll admit to not really understanding small gourmet boutique shops, possibly because, being from the NJ suburbs, gourmet shops are often mega gourmet supermarkets like Wegmans and Whole Foods. Fou d’Ici has a limited selection of gourmet, often all-natural and expensively packaged grocery items, cheeses, butcher, seafood, as well as a small pastry dessert counter and hot and cold prepared foods counter. Shelves only have a few items, neatly and evenly spaced apart. I’ve had good experiences with the overpriced mini cannoli and Petits Gateaux cupcakes.

The other day, I found myself at a meeting not too far from Fou d’Ici, and stopped in for one of their prepared sandwiches for lunch. To my surprise, it was quite enjoyable, and worth the price (just over $6 after taxes). The buttery and delicate salmon had been nicely seasoned with a strong black pepper, and was put together with tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise in a soft sesame seed-encrusted bun. There are small tables and chairs inside of the store, and a line of nearby professionals waiting for the hot taco station.

Metro: Place des Arts

360, boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest and Rue de Bleury

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Don’t let the shady exterior fool you (entrance in an alley, rundown look, rusty gate half-pulled over door, walking up creaking stairs to the 2nd floor dining room). It’s also just outside of Chinatown. Actually, the interior looks a little shady, too – plastic over the tables, rundown look, etc..

This hole in the wall is one of the better, authentic Chinese restos in Montreal, though food is variable. Round tables are big enough for large parties, lazy susans are propped up against the wall, a/c during the summer, and never more than 1 or 2 other diners when we’ve been here. Food is brought up from the 1st floor kitchen using a dumb-waiter. I loved their crispy salt and pepper beef, stir fried green beans with salty ground pork, spicy garlic eggplant and crispy shrimp (with the heads still attached), sizzling beef, and even the Kung Po Chicken. This is not a tourist trap – the prices are very reasonable and you’ll often see the servers busy making fresh little dumplings in the middle of the restaurant.

Service is a little spotty, sometimes due to language difficulties. I discussed language issues in Chinatown restaurants with one mainland Chinese server (who no longer works there) who said that at some places they require English (for customers), French (for customers), Cantonese (for the chef), and Vietnamese (for the chef and other servers). This particular restaurant seems to be primarily Chinese with a bit of English and French. I overheard some diners callously trying to play word games with the servers in an attempt to prove their intellectual superiority, and winced at hearing the servers try to earnestly answer the lateral questions (the diners thought that 20 dumplings for ~$5 had to be a typo on the menu; it wasn’t, but they insisted that there must be a translation error and refused to accept the server’s assurances that there were indeed 20 dumplings per plate).

Food quality can also be variable – 1st time willowy beef was phenomenal, but 2nd and 3rd time it was harsher and lacking in something. I don’t think they offer willowy beef anymore – the boiled spicy beef is similar without the tofu. Just don’t eat one of the dried red peppers or you’ll be very sorry.

1163 Rue Clark at Boulevard Rene Levesque Ouest

metro: Place d’Armes, Saint-Laurent, or Place des Arts

See my September 2009 review here.

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One of my favourite restaurants in Montreal is Brasserie T!. This contemporary, sexy bistro opened up just last year, and is a “little sister” to Toque! and Olives and Gourmando. Reservations are recommended, although it’s possible to squeeze in if one goes early.

Despite its tiny home right next to the contemporary art museum (Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal), Brasserie T! makes intelligent use of its space, and the decor feels a little like a minimalist airplane – first class, of course. Claustrophobia is averted by the large windows lining the walls that afford a nice view of passersby and the dancing fountain during the summer; during warmer days there is even outdoor seating. While sophisticated,  pricing is not outrageous. The service is smart and friendly, and the menu is a small yet sophisticated selection of charcuterie and contemporary Quebec bistro fare. It’s all delicious…well, maybe not the brandade, a bland mixture of cod and potato that I haven’t been in Quebec long enough to appreciate it. Last summer there was a tantalizing fresh tomato soup which was poured at the table over a waiting bowl of herbs, croutons, and spices. My favourite order is the salmon with dill, which is a delicately cooked and seasoned salmon filet with a fennel salad. My husband sometimes gets the burger, which is also good and comes with a gigantic mound of fries, which we split along with the vegetable of the day.

As for dessert, I have had good luck with the eclair and other baked goods; the fresh sorbets and gelatos tend to be too sweet.

metro: Place des Arts

1425 Rue Jeanne-Mance and  Rue Saint-Catherine Ouest

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It is impossible to go to the F Bar without comparing it to its neighbor, Brasserie T!. The building architecture is the same, the inside set up is the same, and yet it is not to Ferreira Cafe what Brasserie T! is to Toque. Granted, I have not yet been to Ferreira Cafe, but there was a singular lack of attention to detail that is uncharacteristic from a place associated with a successful, high-end restaurant.

It was a weekday, it was during the bustle of Francofolies, but it was 6:15pm, the music outside hadn’t yet started, and the restaurant was only half-full. Still, they made me sit at the bar, watching Casablanca on their flat-screen tv.

There were but a few things on the menu, and I chose the beef/foie gras burger “with a wink to Daniel Boulud,” though I am certain that Mr. Boulud’s version did not resemble the half-hearted thing on my plate. The pattie was an unappetizing grey, it was well-done, greasy, not seasoned well, and I could not taste any foie gras. Plus, there was a repulsive layer of mayonnaise coating the bottom of the bun (had it been in the menu description, I would have forgoed it). The greens tossed in oil that accompanied the burger could have used some sort of seasoning or acid, and only succeeded in falling on my skirt and soiling it. Ten minutes into eating, the bartender came back and I was finally able to get ketchup for my half-eaten fries. The man sitting nearest to me at the bar had ordered some sort of salmon that came in a stainless steel pot, and I was actually nauseated by the aromas emanating from it.

Normally, I find myself ordering dessert at disappointing restaurants, not because I want more of the same, but because I am unwilling to let the meal end on a low note food-wise, and this is how I came to order the apple vanilla purée, tea infused figs, ginger crumble, goat milk frozen yogurt. The dessert was good, and was an interesting, sophisticated presentation of texture and flavors, and all qualities I would have appreciated at the start of my meal. My decaf cappuccino was also good.

By the time I got dessert – and it took a while to get – I wanted to leave immediately. It took an eternity for the bar tender to come back to me, longer for her to get me my check after I reminded her, and then she had me wait uncomfortably by the cash, dodging laden servers and customer alike in the cramped space, for me to pay. I wanted to run out of there, to be free of the insipid music playing on a loop throughout my meal, of the hostesses and servers standing around and chatting away about nothing at all instead of actively doing something job-related, and of the idea that I could have walked twenty feet more to get to a truly satisfying dinner at Brasserie T! instead of wasting a meal, time, and money on such a disappointing experience. This was the level and service and quality of food that would have been expected from a second- or third-rate resto, and not from a place affiliated with one of the most expensive restaurants in the city. I hope this experience was a fluke, and perhaps I will give them another chance when my anger recedes, but for now I have no desire to return to this establishment or recommend it to anyone else.

metro: Places des Arts

1485 rue Jeanne-Mance and rue Saint-Catherine Ouest

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My husband found this Spanish resto not far from McGill. A full yet sad-looking lobster tank sits by the window table by the door. As per many low to mid-level restos in Montreal, the interior is somewhat rundown and decoration is limited to a couple of weathered paintings, like the requisite matador and bull. A postage stamp-sized stage nestles in the middle of the room – for music? For a lone flamenco dancer? Who knows?

Food and beverage were not bad, but also not notable. The sangria Espagne was refreshing, sweet, and not too alcoholic. The soup of the day, potato leek, was thin yet well-seasoned and hot. Paella was small enough for one, slightly dry and overcooked. Generic flan dessert.

Metro: Place-des-Arts

3507 Ave. du Parc at Rue Milton

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Second Cup claims to be Canada’s largest coffee shop franchise, and is very similar to Starbucks.

This particular cafe is open 24 hours, due to its easy walking distance from McGill. Tables, counter stools, or large leather chairs are available and it’s usually possible to get a seat…unless it’s exam time. Typical coffee drinks, small selection of baked goods, and a couple of juices available. Large windows, clean interior – lacks the heavy coffee smell often found at cafes. Outdoor seating when weather permits.

metro: Place-des-Arts

3498 Ave. du Parc at Rue Milton

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Next to its affiliated resto, Chez Gauthier, sits a small bakery with simple yet well-done baguette sandwiches. The bread isn’t too hard, and it isn’t too soft. The staff are francophone yet don’t seem to mind communicating in English as well (je veux parle le français, mais quelquefois, c’est impossible). My favorite combination thus far has been brie, smoked turkey, tomato, and of course butter. Prices are reasonable and the pastries look flakey and delicious. There’s no place to sit inside, but you might be able to set up camp at the Second Cup across the street if you buy a coffee.

metro: Place des Arts

3485 Ave. du Parc at Rue Milton

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