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Posts Tagged ‘Canadian contemporary’

It’s been a while since I’ve done a restaurant review. My husband and I have started to notice that we might have been patronizing the more mediocre restos in the area. Uh-oh. More research required!

Fortunately, this one isn’t one of them and we’ve been here many times in the past several weeks.

Holder does a satisfying weekend brunch. My Eggs Benedict came with a cute cake of Potatoes Dauphinoise and a nice fruit salad. On another occasion, their fish and chips were very nice – served hot, not too oily, and very tender and juicy on the inside.

For dinner, it’s important to get reservations or be told there aren’t any tables until after 9pm. It’s a bustling place with a sort of masculine energy during the week, as at least 60%-70% of the evening diners are groups of businessmen and the volume level is quite loud despite the lack of music. The bar has prominently displayed bottles and is well-stocked, seeming to have just about every whiskey imaginable.

The vegetable soup is fairly good, with rustic hunks of vegetables nestled in a tomato soup, which my husband says is like a minestrone without the noodles. The French onion soup is also very good, with a crusty top and dark broth soup that’s mostly onion. Tender fried calamari with just enough breading are also a good bet. I can heartily recommend the shepherd’s pie, which is a sophisticated mold of a very rich dish. Also, the unusually thick piece of calves liver. You get the idea – Holder is a keeper. The chocolate crémeux, coffee ice cream, cocoa and coffee sauce for dessert didn’t hurt, either.

Service is fairly good, though it is a busy restaurant. Pricing is reasonable for what it is.

Metro: Square Victoria

407 Rue McGill, #100A and Rue Saint-Paul Ouest

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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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On the street that houses a number of closely packed, worthwhile restos, is yet another one in Reservoir, a casual yet trendy francophone bistro. Anglophones, bring a bilingual dictionary, as even the website’s English version seems to be perpetually “coming soon.” Still, the weekend brunch at this Plateau resto is something to look forward to when you want a contemporary Quebecois, foody-friendly repast.

The floor-to-ceiling windows are removed during nice weather, which suits the laid-back brasserie air. Service is friendly, but minimal and very slow. The main draw is the food, which is nicely presented, well-seasoned, and delicious. Selections are scribbled on a large chalkboard, but are also presented on a printed menu, ranging from eggs florentine with gravlax to thick crepes with fresh fruit compotes to juicy pan-fried mackerel on top of asparagus, fresh peas, and zesty citrus puree. My first brunch here was an unbelievable scallops with bacon garnished with cauliflower and citrus purees – I had seen it at another table, artfully arranged on a large wooden slab, when we walked in and thought immediately “I want that.” The chocolate pot de crème with fleur de sel topped with thick dulce du leche is unbelievable and very rich.

Metro: Sherbrooke

9 Ave. Duluth Est at Blvd. St. Laurent

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The most admirable feature in this upscale resto is by far the striking artisan glass serving plates. That being said, the appetizer was pleasing, a shredded king salmon and Alaska king crab salad with sliced granny apples; the main courses were just ok. The roasted U10 scallops were perfectly seared and tender, but the soupy barley risotto lacked texture and I craved a salty, citrusy, and/or crunchy accent. The underseasoned Boileau deer chop tasted like the grill, and the accompanying wild mushrooms were earthy and flavorful, but the aged cheddar shavings were poorly integrated into the dish.

Service, while friendly, was disorganized and would have benefited from more polished training. Table-side presentation was perfunctory and lacking in that extra flourish only found at upscale restaurants. None of the many dishes served, both ordered and amuse-bouche-style, stood out as wow-worthy. The main dessert was an underseasoned, rubbery panne cotta with passable citrus and marscapone topping (the server said she’d come to explain it and never did). The last part of dessert, which, like the steady stream of amuse-bouches throughout the meal, was an explosion of little things, and more pleasing due to its quantity than presentation or taste. The selection included comfort food blow-backs like fluffy cotton candy, hot mini madeleines, house-made candy and a selection of truffles. The charming take-home mini pound cake was delicious yet dry.

Overall, Europea goes through the visual motions of being trendy, with foams and structures, without flavorful success. There is a chef’s table, but I don’t think I could contain myself from making snide comments about flaccid parmesan crisps or tasteless foams and apple caviar.

metro: Peel or Lucien L’Allier

1227 Rue de la Montagne at Rue St. Catherine O. or at Blvd. Rene-Levesque O.

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