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Jul 18, 2013 08:52 PM

Some new-ish restaurants that deserve a nod

All too often I rely on all of you to give detailed reviews of restaurants in town, so I thought I'd post a few short reports of my own. I'm listing a few places that don't get much discussion here but are operated by people who genuinely seem to care about their food and customers, not just the bottom line.

Patisserie Rhubarbe: I had brunch here on Sunday in the extreme heat. Even with no air conditioning in the building it was one of the most pleasant meals I've had this year. In a moment of panic when my initial order was sold out, I pointed to a "continental breakfast" that turned out to contain elements that I don't often order or just plain dislike. What I received changed my opinions entirely. For $18 we were each given homemade pink lemonade (or several other drink options), the very best scone I've ever eaten (truly the best - I do not usually like them), and a small tiramisu to finish. As the main course I received a perfectly soft-boiled egg with buttered 'soldiers' that just fit the the pre-cut hole in the shell, rhubarbe jam, whipped yogourt with granola and dried fruits (usually a hated dish), and a large kouign amann. My partners in crime ordered very runny scrambled eggs (in the best of ways) with truffle oil. This was my favourite brunch in recent memory. Both servers were overwhelmingly lovely people.

Pain d'Epi: Given that this is one of the few decent, independently-owned bakeries in the South-west, I find it surprising that it isn't busier. Add to that the delicious sandwiches, wifi, and tree-shaded terrasse, and it's a miracle one can get a seat at all. I won't say their breads are the best I've ever eaten, but I absolutely love the fig & walnut loaf and their chocolatines. Very low prices as well: standard baguettes for $2, and a few fancier varieties for a quarter or two more. Check them out if you've not already. The entire staff is always very kind.

Tripes & Caviar: This is a restaurant I was very excited to try. I visited on a quiet Sunday during their opening week. It was also during a Habs playoff game so the place was nearly empty. Right off the bat I'll say that T&C was not at all what I was expecting. Clearly the proprietors have chosen to embrace the run-down room they've taken over. Although parts have been completely redone, others have been left essentially how they found the place. The presentation of each dish also seemed to be playing off this theme. It was perhaps an intentional decision to serve food in such an extremely casual manner (i.e. fried calf brain nuggets haphazardly sprayed with tiziki all spilling out of a toppled plastic popcorn bag, or a tongue sandwich perched atop a greasy brown-paper takeaway bag) that it mimicked the pretentious food towers of 1990s fine-dining. These dishes were much less innovative and exploratory than I'd expected, but each was delicious. The prices were so low that I misunderstood the serving sizes and ended up ordering what amounted to two main dishes and an appetizer. Needless to say, I stuffed myself in a way I never have before, and literally damaged my stomach severely enough that it hurt for a week. The chef/owner came to talk to us a few times during the meal to tell us about the preparations and what he hoped to offer on the menu soon. I'd love to return to see what's changed here, as I've got a great feeling about this place.

EVOO: The stupid name of this restaurant kept me away for far too long. I finally visited for lunch last week, and was VERY impressed by the entire meal. A 3-course lunch for $21 is already a steal, but even more so when taking into account the complexity of the dishes. We started with great cappuccinos, which is always a good sign. For her appetizer, my girlfriend ordered a hand-picked (by the staff) strawberry and green bean salad that was simple but delicious. I ordered pork rillettes served with a variety of colourful, freshly pickled vegetables and sauces. A spectacular dish that reminded me of a classic from the Noma menu. Next my accomplice received a very impressive sous-vide/seared chicken leg with tomatoes, leeks, and some type of tequila-based Purée. The chicken was uniformly moist throughout, and well finished on the exterior. The sauce was an excellent pairing, though I thought the leeks could have received a bit more attention. I ordered a perfectly cooked veal+foie ravioli with what I remember to be a summer squash sauce with crispy-fried sage leaves. Each of the many ravioli was large and almost too generously filled with meat: foie is a flavour I sometimes find overwhelming, though I expect others might have been carried to heaven on these puffy pasta clouds. We both finished with a dessert of strawberries, rhubarbe, whipped cream, etc., served in a dish made of meringue. All three members of the staff seemed to be working the floor, and each was more charming than the last. This is the best lunch I've had in 2013 (and that includes multiple Michelin-starred restaurants). Based on the complexity of the dishes this is also the best lunch deal in the city, hands-down. During July they also apparently have 3-course dinners at $35. I'm not a huge fan of the decor, but with the windows open on a mild afternoon it was truly beautiful.

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  1. I agree with you on Evoo. Stupid name, awesome food. For anyone interested their coordinates are:
    3426 Notre Dame O 514.846.3886

    1 Reply
    1. re: EaterBob

      Thanks! I forgot to post addresses! Pain d'Epi is at St. Antoine and Greene, T&C is on Wellington in Verdun, and Patisserie Rhubarbe is just off Laurier East on de Lanaudiere.

    2. EVOO's brunch is also wonderful.

      I love this place because they truly care about their craft and it shows in the détails.

      1 Reply
      1. re: carolilas

        This is very apparent. One cannot fake this sort of care. It was also nice to have a server who didn't disappear after we chose not to order a bottle of wine (or two). I'll come back to buy those very soon, which Id say is more important.

      2. Tried Rhubarbe for the first time for brunch today and loved it! My partner had the scrambled eggs with truffle oil and I have to agree, finally someone in Montreal making scrambled eggs as they should be, all creamy and light. Delicious!

        I had the poached eggs dish. It was served on a large piece of crunchy toasted bread, smeared with ricotta and topped with thinly shaved cucumber, halved red grapes, pinenuts, and a few leaves/herbs and maybe a drizzle of olive oil. I would never have thought to pair cucumber and eggs, but it was actually a deliciously refreshing summer brunch dish!

        1. Recommend the evoo lunch over Quartier General then? Thinking of trying one or the other tomorrow (or is CCP much better) Thx.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Chester Eleganté

            I think these all fall into different categories... and parts of town. Like Evoo, Quartier General is a great deal for lunch, especially given the BYO option. QG has some well prepared, innovative dishes, but generally they are not quite as unconventional as Evoo's, which tends to use unusual cuts/parts/preparations for their meat. If you're a bit adventurous you'll likely find Evoo's menu a bit more exciting. Really I can't comment on which to choose: QG is one of my favourites, EVOO I've not visited enough to strongly recommend.

            However, I infer that you're visiting from Ontario, so unless you plan to visit the canal, Atwater market, etc, you'll find that EVOO is rather detached from other sights you might want to see. QG is a bit off the beaten path in the plateau but still close to plenty of things.

            CCeP has been confusing me as of late. I know their outdoor seating has been scrapped, but now I see no indication of lunch at all. Can anyone else confirm?

            1. re: Fintastic

              Ya we're staying at a great spot in the Mile End and taking the metro all over so most locations are fine, and Evoo is a short walk from Lionel Groux. Wish we made it in time to hit the QC lunch yesterday but I'll let you know where we end up. Anyway, thanks for the original post, Rhubarbe is one of our favorites too.

              1. re: Chester Eleganté

                Just a quick update, ended up at QC as we were right there after eating at Does and Thunder, plus the menu there for the day sounded more varied and interesting, and the meal itself turned out really well, especially at the price. But I wanted to mention as well that I had my best meal of the year tonight at 400 Coups. That place is great on all counts.