I went to Cartel when they opened. Their chicken karaage and yakitori are delicious. The papaya salad was watered down, don't expect thai-style or anywhere close to it. One thing I loved was the drink menu. Although slightly expensive at 12$ a drink, the Tenessee Highball and Singapore sling pack a serious punch, so I guess it's worth the price.
Recently I went back, and since it has grown in popularity, the portions have gone down in size. They also don't seem to put as much care in prep as they used to, which was to be expected from a Crescent street resto. The one thing I will say, I tried their crispy duck with mirin soy sauce and glazed ham, it serves 4, costs 20$ and is finger-lickin good.
I went to Cartel a couple of weeks ago with friends. We had a good mix of people in our group from foodies used to gourmet dining to the casual dine-out occasionally at a pub person. Everyone enjoyed it.
I was anxious to try it out because of its focus on sustainable ingredients. Aside from a few vegetarian places downtown, there is nowhere that serves affordable food that sourced from local and mostly organic suppliers. Cartel does just that.
Our big disappointment was with the lack of local brews on tap and with the deserts. The lobster in the lobster roll was also rubbery. Those things aside, we all loved it.
In a nutshell, overall, I love the concept of Cartel and the savoury bites were delicious. I feel it is worth a visit, especially if you’re just looking for a quick bite with friends or small portions. Skip the deserts and keep to the mains and salads, which are clearly the restaurant’s focus. The atmosphere is definitely bar-like, so don’t expect quiet conversation. The wait staff were attentive, informed, cheery and not overly intrusive. They were just perfect actually. It’s not really vegetarian friendly, although there are a few salad choices and I bet they’d do a veggie taco if you asked. It is friendly for folks who are gluten sensitive.
Now, if they’d only add a few local micro-brews on tap, some cider or an Ontario wine, Cartel would probably become a regular haunt of mine."
Stopped by Cartel on a dreary mid-December afternoon around 2:30pm. Ordered their $12 lunch special which turned out to be really to my tastes. There was a huge serving of fresh guacamole with homemade tortilla chips served with a cup of tasty black been soup. There was a choice among 6 tacos; the special included three. I had one with pulled-pork, one with beef shortrib and one with duck confit meat. The tacos were small but served on the best tortillas I've had since I left Southern California decades ago, all with tasty, fresh and somewhat unusual garnishes. All was washed down with an interesting, well-made "tropical" Pisco.
The chef stopped by as I was finishing my meal to chat about Mexican food; he seemed like a rather passionate foodie...There were only two other tables occupied at that hour. Both groups were voluable in their praise (and surprise) at the high quality of the ingredients. For me it was a perfect tapas-like light lunch!
I visited Cartel last night for taco Tuesdays - all tacos are two dollars. They also had five dollar margaritas. The place looks like a cross between an Irish pub and a cocktail bar. It's all very dark, but there's a sunroom, veranda, conservatory, whatever you call those things, at the front. The music is loud and even with about ten people in there we almost had to shout to have a conversation. The highlights of my visit where the margaritas and the chairs. The margaritas are very good and chairs are really nice and comfy.
As for the food, it was ok, but nothing to shout about. We started with fish, shrimp and duck tacos. The duck tacos were pretty good. Small bits of tasty, crispy duck meat with red salsa, coriander, onion and a wedge of lime. I would have those again. Fish tacos were bland. The batter had no flavour and the fish was watery. The shrimp, fried in the same batter, were mealy and flavourless. The toppings saved the tacos, but didn't do enough to make me forget mealy shrimp.
Despite the so so food we ordered a second round. My companion who liked her first fish taco, ordered another one and a steak taco. I ordered the pork belly bao. The bao was quite good, but minuscule for the four dollar price tag. I enjoyed it, but wouldn't order it again. I didn't taste the steak taco, but was told it was good.
I don't really feel compelled to go back and try the other menu items. I had a glimpse of the "Belgian fries" and they looked anything but Belgian. My friend who's tried them confirmed that they're not what they claim to be. We've both had our share of Belgian fries and know from the real deal. These are just regular greasy, brown pub fries. Based on those and what I ate there yesterday, I'm no longer intrigued by the other "street food" items. Maybe I'd go back on a Tuesday for a margarita and a duck taco, but it's not going on my short list.
Got to try Cartel last night with a few friends with mixed results.
We were 4 of us and ordered a bunch of food, Chicken Karaage, Chicken Satay, Chicken Yakitori, mesclun salad, all the taco flavors, the Charlevoix burger, Belgian fries and fried Clams.
The good: Chicken Yakitori, Chicken Karaage, Fried Clams, Belgian fries and Charlevoix burger, all of these dish were good, with nice seasoning, for the fried items, no oily after taste.
The so-so: All the tacos, they were not bad, but all lacked a bit of salt or flavor, the one we liked the less was the short rib taco, the meat had absolutely no flavor. A little more seasoning and it would be good.
The bad: Food wise, the Chicken Satay, meat with lots of gristle and the peanut paste on the side not really good.
Service wise: Delivery of items by food runners who had no idea of who was getting what, and what was on the plate. They were bringing tacos 3 at a time in a plate, mixed according to what everyone ordered, but when on the table, the food runner could tell us without mistakes what was on the plate (we were told porktaco when it was duck) + a bit of misunderstanding as to how the items are arriving at the table (everything at once vs. whenever it's ready)
However, our waitress was very apologetic about the situation, made sure we got all the food we ordered, asked us what was wrong with the food so that they can improve on those comments, and then we were offered a drink by the manager as an apology for the situation.
Price: about 30$ per person for a drink and the food, i must admit we probably over ordered a bit, but we were eager to try the different offerings on the menu.
Will we return? not in the immediate future, they probably still need some time to fix things up, and we were a bit put off with the confused delivery of items, however, we all agreed it could be a place with a nice potential if they can work out the problems.
I went to Cartel for lunch today. It was better than this thread gives it credit.
I could understand how for dinner the price can be steep, but for lunch it's actually reasonable.
I had the Mexican lunch special, which comes with 3 tacos, a green salad with a sesame dressing and tortilla chips with guac and smears of sour cream and salsa. They also threw in a side of homemade hot sauce. It cost $12.
First and most importantly, I left full but not bogged-down-heavy, having eaten everything on my plate.
Service was good, which makes sense given that it was pretty dead. Everything was served at the same time, more or less, which makes sense given that it's supposed to be tapas-esque but felt strange given that the guac and salad were decidedly more 'appetizer' than the tacos. The place felt trendy, which is not really my cup of tea. I'm a hole-in-the-wall girl. Yes, it felt like it was trying pretty freaking hard but give it time (it's just opened, after all) and maybe this feeling will soften a little.
The food was also, in general, good. I'll go dish-by-dish:
- I'm a pescatarian, so I asked for 3 fish tacos instead of the usual variety. The fish was deep fried and a little tasteless. The tortillas were nice corn tortillas. It could have used more sauce but there was enough cilantro and other green things to keep me happy. Overall, though, I could have used a bit more of a punch . . . Not bad, though.
- The salad - I'm not really sure how sesame is Mexican, but the salad dressing was delicious nonetheless. Not too heavy but very flavourful. I enjoyed the salad. It was nice and fresh.
- The guac plate - Good guac. Decent chips. I never quite get the whole 'smear' thing. Usually, I either want a good serving of something or none of it at all. Yes, I was happy that the salsa existed but, to me at least, fancying it up wasn't necessary. Salsa and sour cream are comfort, down-home foods. Making them delicate defeats their purpose in my mind. Besides the smear issue, though, they were welcome additions and it was a mighty tasty plate.
- Hot sauce - I'm a member of a hot sauce of the month club. I can take heat. This hot sauce did not have it. However, when I mentioned that I like heat to the person that I assume was the owner, he quickly brought me out a habanero hot sauce from the back to supplement the homemade one. It was real hot sauce . . . from Mexico . . . not Tabasco or *shudder* Red Hot. I amused myself adding heat to my fish tacos and enjoying it directly on my tortilla chips. Mmmm . . . spicalicious!
In conclusion, Cartel would not be a place that I would want to spend $30 unless I was out with a big group (I'm more willing to deal with pricier meals when there are more people, who are pickier than me, to keep happy). However, for lunch, I would really recommend it.
After trying it a second time, I now have a much worse impression of the place. Not sure if it was the horrible dead monday night vibe I was feeling or the fact that it took 45 minutes to get my food even though there was only 3 other people there, but I now feel like this place will be a failure. The food is just not that great. Again I left hungry and had to finish myself off elsewhere. To fill yourself up here would just not be worth it. Basically you can get a much better more fulfilling meal elsewhere for less. But if youre looking to go for drinks and have some snacks then its a decent place to go.
Just a quick note to let everyone know that they are offering free lunch today (drinks extra). They have a set menu of their items offered as a tasting menu. Places have filled up fast... maybe some places left after 1:30. I am going at 1:00... fill you in later.
Cartel: 1433 Crescent - 514.985.8887
Finally went last night. First glance at the menu I realised that the prices were cheaper than I had seen the other day , like for example the tacos instead of being 4.5$ they were 3$, papaya salad 4$ instead of 6$, and this charlevoix burger with foie gras and chantarelle mushrooms for 7$!... Me and my girlfriend looked at eachother and were like this is too good to be true especially on crescent. So I went ahead and ordered a short rib taco, alabama pulled pork bun and papaya salad, she ordered the tuna and seaweed salad and duck taco. Everything came nicely presented. The papaya salad was pretty good but very small portion, the short rib taco was ok but I found bland and the alabama pork bun while somewhat enjoyable reminded me of eating a tuna salad sandwich but with pork instead, both were pretty tiny as well. She enjoyed her tuna and seaweed salad and duck taco. which were also pretty small . I guess its understandable considering the prices. But as much as it seems cheap it really isnt. The bill was still 30$+ with no drinks and I was still hungry for more and if I came hungry could of easily spent 30$ on my own. I cant say anything was great either but nothing was bad. I do love the concept though, almost like street food tapas and it is a nice place. Finally a decent option in tourist ridden crescent!
I was also at Cartel last night.
I had the papaya salad first. The dressing was better than at Satay Bros but still too sweet. I had to squeeze the lime wedge to even it out. The beef jerky served was smokier than what I'm used to. The vietnamese version isn't smoky but has pepper flakes.
The fish taco was good except the fish was battered. Maybe it would take too long for them to freshly grill the fish every time it was ordered.
The bao uses the mantou bun and not what you see at Momofuku. The pork is tastier than at Satay Bros but still far from Momofuku's. To their credit they don't over sauce with hoisin.
I tried the swiss/bacon burger which is like a large slider on a hefty bun. The beef is very tasty I wish they had a larger size burger.
The chicken karaage is crunchy although not the same way that Imadake serves it. It's also not better than Furusato which has bigger chunks of chicken. 3 different styles of preparing it, each good in its own way. The spicy mayo sauce was not needed.
The mexican Coke bottle (355ml for $4) was good as expected.
The restaurant is already open, you probably caught them when they were closed because they do not open for lunch yet. Yes the quality of the food is excellent but it is too good to be true. The prices, at a glance seem reasonable, but the portions are incredibly small. We are talking two minuscule pieces of meat on a stick (smaller than your pinky finger) for a satay. Everything follows suit; to actually order enough to make it close to a meal you are paying over 20$ and that is excluding drinks, which mostly cost over 10$. The food tastes good but there is simply not enough. The restaurant needs to change portion sizes to do well. As it stands now they do not serve enough to customers to call it a restaurant and the prices make it extremely expensive bar food.
Well if it's called street food then I would assume it's small portions. Some stuff are priced higher which probably means the portion is bigger as well. We'll have to see when people try the whole menu.
Personally I never eat that much, restaurants usually gives you plates so big you can't eat the whole thing anyway, let alone have space for desert. Not everyone eats like a big trucker guy =P So for me I welcome this type of restaurant.
Get a couple tacos, then a delicious key lie pie, all down with a Cuba Libre, yes!
"David Chang did not invent gua boa. It's Taiwanese street food" - People are getting so confuse about (but they can be excused when "professional" food critics like MC Lortie peddle such fallacies…)
"Finally fish tacos in Montreal" There been fish tacos on the Icehouse menu the whole summer - two tacos (with a lot of fish, way more than filler) for 9$ (or 8$). This also brings a question regarding tacos: 4.5$ is for one taco right?
I went over to try it only to find out it only opens on the 29th. Took a picture of the menu (which i wont post cause theres a reflection of me on it )
Theres a taco section which consists of
Beer Battered Fish tacos 4.5$
Taco Carnitas 4.5$
Short rib taco 4.5$
Taco carne asada 4.5$
Duck taco 4.5$
Shrimp Taco 5$
All on homemade tortillas
Alabama BBQ pulled pork bun 5.5$
Charlevoix burger 9$
Bacon Swiss burger 8.5$
Maui Tuna burger 11$
Lobster Roll market price (1,000,000$) :>
Fried Clams 9.5$
Bangkok Beef Satay 3$
Kuala Lumpur Chicken satay 3$
Tokyo Chicken yakitori 3$
Pork Belly bao 5$
Chicken karaage 4.5$
Green papaya 6$
Tuna and seaweed 12$
Mozzarella di buffala 12$
Mesclun green with miso and ginger 6$
Belgian Fries 4$
Maple syrup pie 5$
Dulce de leche Cheesecake 7$
"real" key lime pie 7$
While it sounds promising the location is what makes me think otherwise, but you never know! Will try asap and let you guys know how it is.
I rolled my eyes at the storefront of this place when I passed the first time: trying to serve all that is great about local street foods in a single establishment seems like it lacks restaurant experience and general awareness of tastes. This article makes me feel pretty good about the idea. Lord knows crescent needs a change (and Montreal needs street food), but I think advertising the satay, tacos, and fries on the outside of the building in large letters will repel most discerning diners.
Good luck to them - I honestly hope they pull it off, both for their wellbeing and mine..
A few problems with stuff stated in that article.
1) Why is there no good food on Crescent Street?
Ever heard of walking a couple of blocks? Like Toronto, the world doesn't end at Crescent Street's boundaries.
2) “Instead of serving a grass fed steak for $800,” said Sanchez. “You can get a grass fed beef taco for $4.50.”
Really? $800 for a steak? The Crescent Street Merchant's Association must be lying through its teeth when they scream blue murder about losing F1 and NASCAR if they can charge those prices.
3) “Montréal doesn’t need another restaurant,” said Sanchez. “So if you’re going to come into Montréal, you need to do something that people have a hard time finding.”
What city can't do with another resto? Let me think..... oh.... MONTREAL! How about finding a crab shack downtown (or anywhere on the island........ sigh)
On the upside I have to give them props for not opening yet another Italian, Lebanese or Greek establishment, of which this city has more than its share of.