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Posts Tagged ‘Old Montreal’

Since we’ve left Old Montreal, now seems like a good time for a review of our culinary experience there.

Chinese:

La Maison Kam Fung – dimsum everyday is ok, though dishes on the cart are sometimes cold or the carts don’t run very frequently later on in the service. Also has a sizable dinner menu, but the English translations of the Chinese menu aren’t always exact so the diner is best describing what they want rather than using names. Like Canadian-style eggplant (otherwise called hot garlic eggplant) and chicken with crispy fried spinach. Long wait for a table, though you can sometimes shorten the wait if willing to share a table with strangers.

Ruby Rouge – while the dimsum selection and quality here is not as good as La Maison Kam Fung, but there is much more seating in the huge banquet area.

Niukee – we stopped coming here because the food quality was variable and became more often than not not very good. Liked the green beans with pork stir fry and the crispy fried beef.

Mai Xiang Yuan – also known to us as the “Olympics dumpling place” because they seemed to always have a recording of the Beijing Olympics playing. No frills service, but the dumplings are very good – preferred boiled, not fried.

Qing hua Dumpling – not as good as the other dumpling place. Service slow, quality of food varies. Liked the spicy tofu appetizer. This resto has a sister resto downtown which is much better.

Korean:

Chez Bong – unfortunately, this hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown is the best Korean resto we’ve yet found in the city. The food is standard, but I find the kimchee to be a bit too sour for my taste and it is after all in a basement.

Ice cream:

Muki – our favourite artisan ice cream shop. The owner is always making improvements and the ice cream is very good if expensive. Excellent thin homemade waffle cones. Also offers waffle sandwiches for lunch.

Chez Catherine – our second favourite ice cream shop. Has soft serve ice cream as well.

Japanese:

Kagayaki – hole in the wall shabu shabu place in Chinatown. Service is very slow, but it’s fun to cook your own food in a hot pot.

Kyo bar Japonaise – new sake bar. Expensive. Service is good, small plate dishes hit-or-miss. Somewhat of a fushion place and not strictly Japanese.

Tatami – inventive sushi options with fish tanks for tables. The tempura usually comes out overly battered and burned, but the sushi rolls are interesting and we especially liked the “pizza” with avocado, salmon sushi, and shredded crab meat. Service can be slow, even during slow nights.

Tokyo – mediocre sushi restaurant, not really worth the effort. Quality of food is not that great.

Sumo ramen – if you want a big bowl of ramen, this is your place. I happen to enjoy ramen, and liked climbing up the stairs to the hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown.

Everything else:

l’Arrivage – pleasant contemporary bistro on the top of the archeology museum. Nice view of the Old Port and very reasonable brunch menu. Service can be a little slow.

l’Atelier Argentine – fairly new Argentine restaurant. Can be quite crowded, reservations recommended. We enjoyed the novelty when it had first opened, but thought the quality went down somewhat on subsequent visits.

Bonaparte – the food is somewhat old-fashioned, and I was disappointed when my entrees came out with boring little sections of plainly boiled or steamed vegetables on the plate. It’s all right if you’re just staying in the area for a few days, but it’s not a truly great dining experience, and the food unfortunately doesn’t match the romantic decor or service.

Boris Bistro – for some reason, we often had trouble locating the restaurant. The food is not that great, but we went back repeatedly for one reason or another and liked their small plates options the best.

Bourlingueur – only ate here once when we first moved in. Wasn’t impressed – felt like food could have come out of a can and did not want to go back.

Brit & Chips – somewhat greasy fish and chips place. Not bad, no frills.

Le Cartet – I never liked this place, as the line to get into brunch was always very long and I found the somewhat traditional Quebec brunch dishes overly large and not to my taste. Part of the bistro is a gourmet food store and the other part is a series of long tables.

Chez Delmo – oddly decorated seafood place. Food only ok and not worth a repeat.

Chez Queux – there’s something charming about such an old-fashioned restaurant, which seems stuck around the 1960s. Unfortunately, you can still hear the Old Port buskers through the walls, and the decor is horrible, but the table service is charming and you can enjoy sentimental dishes like sole meuniere prepared at your table.

Le Club Chasse et Peche – was taken here once. Food was only ok for the steep price. Decor is somewhat dim and almost dingy.

Dolcetto – we went here a number of times during the summer, but stopped going because the quality seemed to be slipping. Bread is offered with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Small plates. Can be noisy and crowded.

Eggspectations – unfortunately, the Old Montreal incarnations are never good – eggs are underdone, venue is dreary.

Epicier – we dined here once a couple of years ago, but I recall the experience with pleasure. One of those pretentious restaurants with single apples as centerpieces and decorated like a high end gourmet grocery store, this is a very nice fine dining restaurant with contemporary dishes and good food.

Europea Espace Boutique – high end takeout sandwich shop. When I really want to treat myself and if I’m home for whatever reason during the week, I go here for a takeout bag of sandwich – I liked the pomme et brie or the boeuf et chevre – beverage and dessert.

Restaurant Gandhi – ok but nothing special Indian resto. Nothing to draw us back there again.

Holder – noisy, boisterous masculine restaurant with equal room on the menu for alcohol as for food. But if you can squeeze in, the food is very good, though the menu does not vary.

Keg Steakhouse – unfortunately the best steakhouse we’ve been to so far in Montreal. Plates are sometimes greasy, service can be a little slow, and I think the bread is microwaved. A little expensive for what it is, too, though all right. Liked the appetizers like artichoke dip and shrimp cocktail. Bar selection is fine, too. Sometimes I felt like I went here just to stock up on their little mints with chocolate inside.

l’Arrivage – this bistro has a nice view of the Old Port on top of the architectural museum. The brunch menu doesn’t vary, but is a good deal for what it is. Service can be slow, but the 3-course experience is usually worth it.

Mechant Boeuf – one of those somewhat sleazy steak restaurants where the music is too loud and the other patrons are mostly older men dining with much younger women. Food wasn’t worth the headache.

Ming Tao Xuan – exotic-looking Chinese tea shop. Nice for an afternoon tea.

Modavie – the sort of mediocre steak and jazz resto that attract starry-eyed tourists. Food is only ok, music not so great (though I admit that I don’t care for jazz myself).

l’Orignal – pleasant little high end basement bistro.

Olive et Gourmando – our Saturday brunch ritual. Difficult to get a table, we often took our orders to go and ate them in a nearby cafe. The menu changes a little seasonally, and the service is a little odd – there’s a certain ritual to ordering in one place and then lining up in another to pay or order drinks. My favourites were the chevre chaud sandwich with homemade ketchup and the salty ricotta maison.

l’Orignal – went here once and always intended to go again but never did. A sort of upscale basement bistro with a lot of game. Felt very Quebecois for some reason.

Osteria Venti – it can be very hard to get a reservation here, but we rarely tried reserving a table in advance. The menu changes often. I especially liked the tender spare rib with creamy polenta and we long for the slice of bread spread with creamy marscapone, roasted squash, and fried sage.

Safran et Cannelle – the set up is odd, as you’re greeted by a nicely set up table setting when you walk in through the door…but are then directed to walk upstairs which looks nowhere near as nice. Not sure if anyone is allowed to sit downstairs, perhaps it’s just for show. Moroccan food was only ok, and nothing to really draw you back again and again.

Stash Cafe – the only Polish restaurant I’ve ever been to. Always get the borscht (which they spell differently) consomme and either the stuffed cabbage rolls or the placki. Avoid the fruit squares, which are served cold with sour cream. Service can be a little too laidback. Live inane piano music.

Titanic – popular weekday lunch spot. I didn’t care for it, mostly because my sandwich ended up completely drenched in mayonnaise and it was impossible to get a seat. The sort of place that you go to if you work nearby, but which leaves newcomers a bit lost due to the ordering system as you wait awkwardly by the cashier for your order to be ready.

Toque – I only ate here once, and had the tasting menu, but was disappointed by the over application of soy sauce to all of the dishes and the lack of artistry in the presentation. It’s supposed to be one of the best restaurants in the city, but aside from the imposing service regime and large amount of space between tables, the food did not recommend itself.

Vallier – we basically only went here when we couldn’t get into Holder, which is next door. Service is slow and inattentive, the menu never changes and is limited. Hamburgers are served on enormous bready buns with a sizable side salad and fries and the soups are never quite properly seasoned. My favourite part of coming here was eating the bit of wet maple sugar that comes with my husband’s latte.

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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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Osteria Venti – or is it Venti Osteria? – is a small bistro, with a small bar area with flat-screen TV and small dining area beyond. It’s located on the quiet side of Old Montreal, but the noise inside is rather loud and I left with a headache after having to shout through my dinner conversation. I’ve been trying to get reservations here for a while, and finally, while heading to another place, we stopped inside “just in case” and got seated at a table right away. But then we sat for an interminable time waiting for service. Service was extremely slow once we were seated, whether it was to bring us something to drink, to take our order, or to bring our food. Fortunately, the food is delicious and has that delightful Italian simplicity that many Italian restos lack.

We shared an enjoyable yet forgettable eggplant mush on toast and a delightful caprese salad, which consisted of various sizes and colours of tomatoes with just the right amount of basil, olive oil, and salt. After another long wait, my husband got delicate ravioli stuffed with radicchio and rabiola cheese tossed in chervil butter sauce and I got wonderfully fluffy little ricotta gnocchi which were like little clouds of ricotta in a simple tomato basil sauce. Both were half portions, and were just the right amount. All told, two appetizers, two half portion main courses, and one latte came to over $50. We drank tap water.

This could be a romantic restaurant if it weren’t so loud inside, and despite the difficulty with getting a table, terrible service, and expense, this would still be worth a repeat visit.

Metro: Place d’Armes and Square Victoria

372, Rue Saint-Paul Ouest and Rue Saint-Pierre

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One of the highlights of summer in Montreal is the International Fireworks Festival. This year, they’ve crammed the performances into July, though in the past they’ve run from mid-June to August. I confess to ignoring the booms echoing against the stone buildings of Old Montreal the first year we lived here, but then we became determined to see them all. My paltry experiences of small town 4th of July fireworks displays in NJ and even a quite spectacular all-night show from one talented family in Kirksville, MO failed to prepare me for each 30-minute, music-coordinated spectacle. Some are more memorable than others.

Tickets priced between $26-50 are available for purchase at La Ronde, where the competition is headquartered, but most viewers have a favorite spot they find with a good view of the Jacques Cartier Bridge (I’m not sharing mine, but it’s somewhere in Old Montreal). Many of the Old Montreal restos with a terrace offer pricey “fireworks festival” prefix dinner seatings, but because of their angle and the nearby trees and, I doubt any of them have as good a view of the action as scouting out a good spot by the bridge. Bring your own radio with headphones to enjoy the officially synched up music accompaniment on 105.7 FM. And bring a big umbrella and insect repellent – fireworks are rain or shine. Shows are from 10:00-10:30pm each Saturday, with a couple on Tuesdays (hint: they start when the lights on La Ronde’s Ferris wheel go out, and end when the lights go back on). Go early to get a good viewing spot.

See my August 2010 review here.

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It’s definitely the season for ice cream, and one of the best places to get it on the Old Port is a small ice cream shop and crepe cafe distinguishable by its wooden cut-out of an iconic blonde in a poofy little red and white checkered dress by the door. It’s one of four or five ice cream shops right next to each other, but it’s worth waiting until you get to this one because the others are low-quality compared to the simple and refreshing ice creams at this place. Choices range from vanilla and chocolate soft serve, various hard ice creams, and a couple of sorbets. Service is friendly and helpful – although sometimes more helpful than efficient, as I experienced one time when my ice cream cone was dunked no less than three times into the hot chocolate shell topping, causing it to melt immediately in my hands. I disprove of their use of gummies in lieu of marachino cherries, but that might be the only hitch. They accept Interac and some credit cards and during the summer are open “until there are no people left,” which is sometimes midnight. There are several tables inside and outside, though there are other nearby public benches and places to lean while you eat.

metro: Champ de Mars, Place d’Armes

31 rue de la Commune Est and Rue Saint-Gabriel and Rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste

See my July 2011 review here.

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This seafood restaurant sits at the edge of Old Montreal, away from the port area. It has air conditioning in the summer and subtle piquant decorating via chandeliers and an intriguing mural of fish and human figures. This is a simple place without frilly names on the menu.

We were gently pressed to order cocktails, but since we don’t ordinarily drink we declined. For starters, the garlicky and buttery escargots were good, served without shells. The dark, rich lobster bisque was also good. A shrimp puree amuse bouche in a small cornet was served in between the appetizer and entree. I got the bland Filet de doré – meunière with the “house fries” or frites. The Saumon d’Atlantique – hollandaise also looked very mild, served with steamed vegetables and uninspired rice. I got the choco-raspberry “Delmo” mousse for dessert.

There were few people when we dined there, though I had called ahead for reservations. Service was fine.

Metro: Square Victoria

275 Rue Notre Dame Ouest and Rue Saint Jean

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Europea’s – and consequently its sandwich boutique’s – focus is on its image as a sexy, lavish place to eat. The sandwich boutique is really just a takeout place and there are only two small table areas by the door, but the little touches let you know that you’ve chosen your sandwich shop well. In addition to the sandwich counter and the macaroon counter, one can buy pretentious gourmet items like Himalayan black salt, an espresso machine, and bath salts. In my “boite” – a beautiful and reusable fabric lunch bag emblazoned with the Europea logo – I found my lightly toasted brie, apple, walnut, and grape sandwich, a bottle of Europea water, and chocolate mousse. The sandwich was just right – creamy, sweet, a little crunchy, and satisfying and the mousse was creamy and rich. That box option is just under $13, which is a good deal for what it is.

Europea Espace Boutique is only open for lunch Monday-Friday, and expect to wait in line during peak hours. It’s best to go closer to noon than 2pm for sandwich freshness, but anytime before then and all the desserts might not be ready…and we wouldn’t want that!

Metro: Place d’Armes

33, Rue Notre-Dame Ouest and Boulevard Saint-Laurent

See my December 2010 review here.

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