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Délices de l'Ile Maurice

Saturday night, I ventured out for dinner with a few friends. Our destination: Les Délice de l'Ile Maurice, a small Mauricius BYOB seating approximately 50 people. Location: Beautiful downtown Verdun. For those of who have never heard of Ile Maurice, it is an island nation in the Indian Ocean, close to Madagascar. It's culture, cuisine and people are a mix of Chinese, Indian, African, Cajun & Creole.

This was not the first time I had attempted going to this restaurant. Last summer, there we were, just me and my dining companion, sitting in my parked car, bottle of wine in hand, eying a suspicious looking man smoking a cigarette outside the restaurant. The man in question wore a white apron, smeared with what looked to be a recent slaughter. "Go ask him if there is a menu and check it out." I urged my companion. Finally submitting to my persistence, she reluctantly got out of the car and slowly approached the man. A few words were exchanged, and my friend quickly scurried back to the car. " What did he say?" I asked. "That he is the menu" she responded. After several more moments of sitting in the car and staring at the odd character, we decided we did not want to be so adventurous, and drove off in search of another restaurant.

Since that night, I have been curiously scouring the internet for reviews of Les Délice de l'Ile Maurice. Reviews of the food itself was always secondary to the comments such as "quirky", "perfect place to kick you in the balls", and "snobby eaters stay away". So Saturday night, surrounded by my posse for support, we headed out to Verdun.

A rowdy atmosphere greeted us when we walked in the door. A waiter quickly seated us by the the window where magazines and books on the Maurtius Islands were strewn. The decor of the restaurant was eclectic and wall decorations included posters of Castro, maps of Ile Maurice, children's drawings, and oil paintings. A further look around and I noticed tennis balls on the legs of all the steel-framed chairs and, hey it that cologne by the decorative plates on the shelf by that table?

There is no menu at this place and no price list to be seen. Patrons freely get up and go to the fridge in the back of the restaurant to retrieve their own beer or wine which they have brought with them. Patrons mix together, chatting with one another from table to table.

Our waiter brings us our glasses (no two are alike) and a serving each of battered and crispy fried cabbage. He tells us it is to be eaten with any of the four sauces placed at our table in mismatched bottles. The cabbage was delicious, reminded me of battered fried onions.

We have a choice of appetizers: shrimp salad, smoked salmon salad, and chicken drumsticks. Among the salad, the smoked salmon stood out, being both flavorful and refreshing. Chicken drumsticks seemed odd as an appetizer, but were deliciously deep-fried - five drumsticks per plate! Our appetizers were followed by some uninspiring lentil soup.

Finally, chef/owner Sylvester makes his appearance at our table to take our order. A charicaturistic Asian man who exudes joie de vivre and looks as if he just walked out of a soup kitchen. Upon closer inspection, I notice that his apron is not smeared with the blood of a recent slaughter as I had assumed on my previous visit. The stains on his apron are, in fact smears and splatter of various sauces from the kitchen.

"For today..." Sylvester's voice booms "... in terms of seafood, we have scallops, we have shrimp, we have calamari, we have salmon, and we have bass." I quickly interject "What kind of bass?" "Wait, wait!" reprimands Sylvester "... let me finish, and then your questions." He continues: "For meat, we have chicken, we have jaret d'agneau, we have tongue, and we have le t-bone. Now, for your question... the bass is... BASS! You don't like it, I fire the cook. You like it, you pay double!" So Sylvester writes me down for the bass, but I tell him I was just curious about the bass, and was actually interested in oxtail which I had heard is often on the menu. Sylvester slips away into the back and shouts back"We have it... you want?" So, I order the oxtail in a curry sauce. My dining companion from my previous visit here orders le t-bone, but Sylvester won't let her choose a sauce"You leave it to me." he tells her. My other friends orders the jaret d'agneau with saffron sauce, the bass in garlic sauce, and the shrimp in garlic sauce. Other choice of sauces included Cajun, Creole, tomato, and honey.

Sylvester disappears into the kitchen and within a few minutes, our main courses begin coming out of the kitchen piping hot. All dishes are served with plain white rice and a bit of salad. At this point, I am reminded of my father, who regardless of what type of restaurant he was in, be it Italian, steakhouse or Chinese, would always ask "Yeah, but does it come with lots of gravy, because I don't like it dry... I want lots of gravy." These dishes were so full of gravy that my father would have been a very happy man. My dining companions found their shrimp and bass in garlic sauce much to their liking. I, however found them a little bland. The lamb was fork-tender and her sauce subtle yet flavorful. Le t-bone was peppery and bold. My oxtail was succulent and tender, the curry sauce savory and slightly spicy.

Dessert at Les Délices de l'ILe Maurice consists of a small Tupperware container of sugar-coated gummies. Don't feel let down however, Sylvester will re-fill your container if he notices you have finished them off. My friends claim that the coffee was the best they have had in a long time... they had run out of real coffee, so the waiter brought us steaming cups of water and packets of Sanka.

The real fun begins after closing. At about 9:45, Sylvester prances around the dining room chanting "On est fermée... we are closed!" He pulls the curtains behind us closed (actually mismatched shower curtains), and secures them with a chip bag clip. From behind the counter, he grabs (intentional omission - well, I really don't want to divulge too much). I am suddenly transported into a house party at it's best. Sylvester goes from table-to-table, making sure everyone feels equally "welcome". A hockey game is on the television set atop a high shelf. Patrons quickly place their bets. Sylvester, cheers of his team mimicking voodoo-like gestures at the tv set anytime anyone approaches for a goal. The cheers get louder as the end of the game approaches... who won? Who knows... all I know is that Sylvester set about the room dancing.

As we were leaving the music was cranked and a few people began dancing by their tables. Sylvester came to kiss us all good-bye and asked us to return soon. The cost for all this, including tax... less than $20 per person. Will I return? Absolutely... who's in?

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Les Delices De L'ile Maurice
272 Rue Hickson, Verdun, QC H4G2J6, CA

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  1. Thanks for a fantastic review. I've been meaning to try this place for god knows how long, and now I am bumping it to the top of my list.

    1. Wow! Great review, sounds like a great evening! Fried chicken wings and oxtails? I'm in! It does seem that Saturday is the ideal time to go to really enjoy the atmosphere.

      Were the oxtails braised?

      2 Replies
      1. re: moh

        I hear Fridays and Saturdays are best, but they take no reservations. Some people were turned away at the door. The chicken drumsticks were not wings but real drumsticks. I do believe the oxtails were braised... very tender! I love oxtail.

        1. re: Andria

          The trick with Saturday is to get there for early dinner, and you're pretty sure to get a table, but it will fill up fast.
          The review is a picture perfect description of one my favourite "lesser know" eateries. I emphasize lesser known, because despite the fact most people you talk to have never heard of it, it's always full.

          The only suggestion I'd add is to avoid the curry. It's nice enough and is a bit like a Singapore style curry, but there's just too much of the sauce, and it easily overpowers anything they put it on.

      2. Its a blast.
        Just a few words of caution, don't expect the same menu at all times. Most every time I was there the chicken drumsticks (COUNT 'EM - F-I-V-E!... AS AN APP...) were served. Sometimes oxtail, sometimes not. Sometimes cuttlefish, sometimes not.
        Also, don't get Sylvester's ire up: he's kicked people out for asking how large the shrimp are. He's also kicked people out for asking to change table.

        Don't let these details scare you. As you can see from Andria's post, it can be quite an evening, just be prepared for the quirky side of things.

        Friday and Saturday are certainly hopping, but on off, quite evenings, after closing, you can actually speak to Sylvester and get a feeling of what makes him tick. Quite interesting. Andria, "...exudes joie de vivre.." hits the nail on the head.

        2 Replies
        1. re: porker

          The oxtail wasn't actually an option that night, but I asked and Sylvester checked anyways... as long as you have a good attitude and keep the fun atmosphere, I don't think it ticks him off. Best advice is to go with an open mind, a fun-loving attitude, and go with the flow. Sylvester may have found "How big are the shrimp" insulting, but the person asking may have been one of those whiny, picky diners. Which brings me to another question... why would anyone ask for a different table? Seriously, is one area in that place actually better than any other?

          1. re: Andria

            Oh yeah, I forgot, I also saw him kick out a group of young guys. They asked him "What time are you going to close?" too many times (I think it was twice).
            First time the wife and I ate there, we felt like George Castanza at the soup nazi - scared stiff that he was going to throw us out.
            He's really a nice and gracious host who basically doesn't accept pettiness.

            The shrimp thing was due to the fact that EVERYTHING on the menu was $6.95 at the time. He was really ticked-off that for $7, someone thought it important to know the size of the shrimp.
            For the table, I think he was exactly along your line of thought - why WOULD anyone ask for a different table? You don't like where we sat you? GET OUT.

            For a little added insurance, I once brought him el cheapo 1/2 gallon of, ahhhh, "well, I really don't want to divulge too much".
            I might have made a permanent friend.

        2. This place sounds awesome. I'm in.

          1. Fantastic review - you've piqued my curiosity. I'm totally in!

            1. This sounds like a place for nexts months dinner short list!

              4 Replies
              1. re: bigfellow

                bigfellow, plan a meet here and I'm in.

                1. re: porker

                  On next months list for sure!!!!

                  1. re: bigfellow

                    Funny how service at Toque! is unacceptable but this absolutely revolting character that passes for a chef is on the short list for Montreal chowhounders. Funny what a different reaction you get for a different price point...

                    ... Yes, I have been. An absolutely bland and forgettable meal. There is nothing Mauritian about the place. Unless that that is why the gummie bears at the end of the meal are there?

                    1. re: 1Marlowe1

                      I have put it on this months list for our chowdown due to popular demand.
                      As to comparing it to Toque, you are comparing apples to oranges. At the price point I pay at Toque, I expect excellant service. I have yet to recieve it there.
                      I will also say that a friend went to Delice last week. His wife gat there 15 minutes before he did. Even though she felt insulted by the owner, she felt that they sould stay and see if the food lived up to the acclaim. According to both of them, it fell drasticly short of good. They own a restaurant in the US. He is of South Asian descent and she is from Mauritius.

              2. Let me just begin by saying that prior to my first trip last year, my boyfriend went with four of his guy friends and had a blast (they even wrote a song about their adventure!), so I was psyched to check this place out.

                After waiting for a table for 25 minutes outside in the spring thaw, we finally got a table for six. He came to our table, in a ripped and grease-drenched t-shirt, and took our order. I, being the adventurous one, ordered pork tongue. He scoffed at my asking him which of the 6 sauces he'd recommend with it. He doesn't skimp on quantity (we were stuffed by the second round of appetizers), but I can't say the same on quality - details later on.

                By 11:30pm, with three tables of guests, he brought out his prized "poison", but instead of a hockey game, he turned on the Bleu Nuit channel. He slumped on a chair with his poison and watched soft porn. I kid you not.

                Right before we left, he asked me some question about dating and marrying my non-Asian boyfriend and when I even dared to smirk an answer, he hushed me with: "I like my women quiet. You talk too much."

                Details about my meal: Before you judge me on the insanity of ordering tongue, I grew up with braised tongue with Shiitake mushroom as my grandma's speciality. The texture of the meat at Sylvester's was way too soft (more mush than bite is not a good sign) to be fresh. Needless to say, I was up all night in the bathroom.

                I am not one to be easily offended, but the man is piggish and chauvinistic. A warning to women or anyone who doesn't want to be abused by the host.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kwy_li

                  Wow, if we end up going there for the May Chowdown I'll make sure to leave before he brings out the "poison"!

                2. But the food isn't necessarily the draw here.
                  Its, what? $8/plate, BYOB...whattya want for nuthin...rubber biskit?
                  Its like going to the soup nazi after seeing a seinfeld episode - you experience the craziness, then come away and say the soup was mediocre at best and the propritor was insulting? THATS the point.

                  I've eaten here a few times and the food was hit or miss, but I always enjoyed myself thoroughly. Sylvester is part of the show.

                  7 Replies
                    1. re: emerilcantcook

                      I have a sweet spot for dive bars as well...

                        1. re: porker

                          Now that you mention it, porker, where are the good dives?

                          1. re: Shattered

                            Well, 'good' and 'dive' are not always synonymous.
                            Was driving along Lakeshore a couple of weeks ago and discovered The Green Hornet. Not a true bar since they only serve beer, but a dive with great regulars.
                            Main Street on St. Laurent comes to mind.
                            Dianna on St. Catherine.
                            Goldies on St. Jacques W
                            Ziggys on Cresent (OK, not a dive, but an oasis on Cresent)

                            Hey Shattered, start a new thread!

                            1. re: porker

                              The Green Hornet has been there at least since I was in High School 36 or so years ago. It was a dive then.

                    2. After spending a month searching the posts, trying to plan my trip to Montreal, this has been one of my mission meals. After checking into our hotel, and getting situated, we found a bottle and hopped the metro to Verdun. Hanging a left on Hickson, we thought we found it when we saw a crowd of hip-ish-stes hanging out. Turned out to be a local watering hole "Garage Cafe". Across the street sat the lonely facade of Les Délices de l'ILe Maurice. It was a tuesday, but it was also 8pm. Not a soul inside. Going in anyway, we grabbed a table. I'll cut to the chase. The meal was great. I think we could have stuck to apps, switching flavors w/ the 4 sauces. But in the end after fried cabbage (Who knew it could be so good), Pork wantons (fair), Fried eggplant (fantastic), and some amazingly subtle split pea soup my wife and I had lamb shank in curry, and beef tounge in a saffron sauce.

                      I kept eyeing the kind, thin chef who kept doting on our table, wondering if perhaps Sylvester lost some weight, but it turns out that he's passing the batton. Food seemed on par with everything I'd read, so it seems like the ship is still going in the same direction. I hope that the lack of any other dinners was due to the night, not the new face.(who is still from the same island), just not as surley.

                      Would write more, but am still very full from my 4 1/2 course (gum drops don't count as a full course) $45 (Total for 2 w. 20%) meal. If i can find 4 more places like this here where the food is what matters and not the ostension, I'll be a happy man.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: ChowSmith

                        Hey ChowSmith,
                        Just a couple of questions...
                        Its been awhile since I was at Sylvesters. On some nights, its a one man show, on others, he's had help (your description of the 'thin chef' sounds right). Just wondering about 'he's passing the batton' - for the night, for keeps, or what?
                        And just curious, where are you coming from?

                        1. re: porker

                          It appears that he is getting out of the business. If you go now, you will find a kitchen staffed with about 4-5 people doing the work of what Sylvestre did alone. Sylvestre was no where to be seen in the restaurant. He was planted at a terasse table at the Garage across the street.

                          I chatted with him after dinner, and he told me he letting his brother in law run the place. He did not elaborate whether this was a permanent of temporary situation... I suspect it is permanent.

                          The chairs with tennis balls have been replaced with newer chairs. the tables have menus, the prices are higher, the Blinds are replaced with new curtains, and the 'maintenant on fume' moment is gone. No doors locked, no curtains closed, no poison served.... We all knew it could no last forever. I suspect that someone applied a bit of pressure of Sylvestre...

                          Side note... Where did Sylvestre cut his teeth??? He used to work as a cook at Gibby's... perhaps this is why he insisted on preparing the T-bone his way....

                          I will miss his presence, he made the joint... without him, there is little reason to go. Aside from the starters the food is not great, really... don't kid yourself. However, his Civet de Caille is very good, and if he ever sobers up enough, he has a few off the menu items worth trying. I don;t remember the name he gave them, but one was marinated squid tentacles served cold pickled in an oil bases marinade with whole garlic cloves, chunks of ginger, coriander seed, and other spices. He did the same with whole small fish. Both would be worthy of a 50 km drive... Last time I spoke with him, he did not recollect this dish.... Funny, as when he first served it to me, he told me that this is a dish his mother used to make for him in Mauritius...

                          1. re: IPECAC Montreal

                            Thats really too bad. You're right, he was the reason I'd venture out to the restaurant, and it was he who made the place what it was.

                            I'm wondering if the new people have their finger on the pulse of the clientele, or are they thinking something like "it was fairly successful with Sylvester's antics, imagine the success we'd have if we 'cleaned it up'?" - missing the point altogether...

                            1. re: IPECAC Montreal

                              Say it isn't so! I have been putting off going since my last visit because of time constraints... and now this. This is bad news! I cannot imagine going without him there.

                              Any news on him moving elsewhere?

                              1. re: Andria

                                He doesn't seem the type to move for the sake of moving....
                                If anything, he might move to cuba for months at a time, or until the credit runs out.....|:'-(