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Montreal trip report

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I visited your fair city with 5 friends this past weekend and wanted to let you know what a wonderful time we had. I'm quite envious of the price points at your restaurants. We had some fantastic meals that would have cost 30% (or more) higher in Toronto.

Some quick notes below. We tried anywhere from 6 - 12 dishes at every restaurant, so I feel like we got a pretty good feel for each place we went. I won't go into too much detail unless requested, but here are the places we ate:

400 Coups — had a dessert tasting that blew me away with the subtlety of the flavours and textures. I look forward to seeing where the pastry chef goes next, because I will follow him there. And at $20/person, it was a ridiculous value.

Joe Beef — liked the atmosphere and the cote de boeuf was excellent, though I didn't care for the acidity of the red wine reduction. Great seafood and veg platter for an app. Good meal, not necessarily a place I'd run back to, given the other amazing options in your city.

Lawrence — so, so, so good for brunch. Would go back there in a heartbeat.

Kem Coba — really lovely sorbets. Perfect textures, bright, deep flavours. I totally loved the grapefruit and the passionfruit.

Kouign Amann — sadly disappointed in their kouign amann. Lacked the layers and caramelized sugar that I associate with a great version.

Guillaume Bakery — great fougasse and other breads.

APdC Cabane a Sucre Apple Season — shock and awe meal. Totally fun to experience, and while I enjoyed the meal, it was probably my least favourite in terms of the actual food. The sheer quantities of food was mind boggling.

Kazu — loved the quality here and would go back to try more dishes. I could eat a LOT of his fresh tofu and the 48 pork bowl.

Satay Brothers — so excited to have good Malaysian food! Would love them to amp up the fish sauce and the heat more, but still loved everything. Thought their steamed pork buns were better than Momofuku Daisho in Toronto. Hearing rumblings about them opening a restaurant — I'd definitely pay a visit if they did.

Damas — we focused on the Syrian specialties. Gorgeous to look at, delicious to eat. The fish dish was fantastic.

Schwartz — we stayed in the area, so had to pick up some for snacking in our rental, plus some for the road trip home. :)

Jean-Talon Market puts Ontario markets to shame. I'm totally jealous. Seriously the most beautiful produce I have ever seen. We went twice: once when we arrived in MTL to stock up our kitchen, and once when we were leaving to stock up for home.

Lots of other random snacks were had as we wandered around. Many dozens of bagels from both Fairmount and St. Viateur were purchase as we had fans from both camps in our group.

Thank you, Montreal for feeding us so well!

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  1. Glad to hear you had a good time, we certainly eat well here. =]

    1. Great revew Tojo!
      Like I mentioned on another post,I'll be dining at some of the same restaurants(400 Coups Lawrence and Joe Beef)
      The only one I'm still kinda on the fence about is Joe Beef,which is a pretty tough reservation to snag so I'm lucky,I've dined at APdC a few times and I'm worried that it will be too similar(very rich,large portions etc).What are your thoughts?
      I also snagged a reservation at Le Filet.
      Sounds like you had a great time!

      Cheers

      4 Replies
      1. re: petek

        While portions are generous at Joe Beef, I still found its food to be distinct from what I've tried at APdC. The food/menu at APdC appeals to me a little more, but I'm glad I tried Joe Beef. We had cornflake eel fritters, a big seafood/veg aioli platter, sweetbreads, tomato salad, a big hunk of beef, frites, can't remember what else. I really like Joe Beef's frites- I'm not usually that impressed by frites.Vibe is distinct from APdC, too.

        1. re: prima

          Thanks Prima..
          I'm traveling solo this trip hence my concern about "too much rich" food(if there is such a thing :D ) no one to share with and I can't/shouldn't put it away like I used to when I was a pup..

          1. re: petek

            What's interesting is that we ended up ordering a lot of the less rich items at Joe Beef and found ourselves with a fairly significant amount of fresh veggies in our dinner. And yeah, those frites were kind of awesome.

            1. re: TorontoJo

              I guess you're right...I shouldn't fear the food as much as I should fear my appetite :D
              Much appreciated!

      2. I thought Satay Brothers had a restaurant in St. henri?

        7 Replies
        1. re: williej

          It closed during the summer while their kiosk at the Atwater Market was open.

          1. re: williej

            to make it a year round business, gotta go in when it's cold!

            they want to put down solid roots so that they can have real woks (wok hay in the food!) and have ambitions for expanding the menu significantly. they're in the process of putting it all together and said to expect an opening in the new year and some specific dishes come march.

            the chefs that are leaving 400 coups totally stole my heart. with only time for a dessert tasting, it was just nothing short of amazing. the dishes i liked least would have thrown down hard against any other wonderful dessert dish from a similar high-end resto. it was complex, not too sweet (i wasn't begging for salt at the end), playful, textural, and at the same time somehow nostalgic. i will follow them anywhere. a very perfect execution of a savoury lunch a year ago tops of my impression of them.

            the main thing that really got me at kazu was their 48 hr pork. it was the truest and most successful "fusion" that i ever did see. tortillas, pork that resembled rilettes and japanese sauces. none overwhelmed the other, nor felt out of place... it was a perfect merge. really surprised by that.

            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              I think the 48 hour pork was the rice bowl, psp. I'm pretty sure the dish you're talking about was the pork cheek. :)

              1. re: TorontoJo

                It was the pork cheek! :D

              2. re: pinstripeprincess

                Yes, this dish is definitely the pork cheek and not the 48 hour pork. The former is one of my favourite dishes as you described, while 48hr pork is thin slices of pork served with ginger on rice. Both are exceptional.

                1. re: Fintastic

                  Kazu was probably my favourite overall meal of the weekend, but I'm a sucker for good Japanese food.

                  1. re: TorontoJo

                    The meals at Kazu and Damas tied for my favourite meal of the weekend.

                    Completely different restaurant experiences, and I can't decide which I liked more.

                    I love that Kazu is the type of place I'd be very happy dining solo, and also very happy that it's located within a 20 minute walk of where I usually stay in Montreal.

            2. Had a wonderful time on this trip.

              I loved Damas and Kazu, and look forward to returning to both on future visits.

              I was a little underwhelmed by the Saint Donut donuts I tried (pb pretzel, choc mint and banana fritter)

              Enjoyed an orange flower lemonade at Fuschia, and my friend had an iced tea (cardamom something, I think). Neat little place.

              Although I prefer St Viateur to Fairmount for fresh bagels, I discovered I prefer Fairmount to St Viateur for toasted day-old and toasted 2 day-old bagels. And I found out I prefer Liberte cream cheese to Philadelphia Brand!

              9 Replies
              1. re: prima

                Always wondered why they don't sell the Liberte Cream cheese in Ontario.

                Funny I was supposed to be at the sugar shack the same night you guys were but I changed it to Sunday. I don't know how you guys even had room to eat after your sugar shack meal... You all must have more restraint than I did!

                1. re: ylsf

                  I think most of us at the dinner take a small amount first, to see how much we like it, before commiting to a full piece/portion of anything, so we're a little less likely to fill up as quickly as if we were trying to finish each course. We also brought home 3 large containers of the pork platter, most of our cheese and donuts, and we left a fair amount of risotto, soup, millefeuille and soft serve.

                  That being said, I didn't have much appetite during the day Sunday, although I became peckish right before our 8pm dinner at Damas Sunday night!

                  1. re: prima

                    Yeah, I think a larger group might have helped pace myself more. I ended up taking 4 containers home and I am eating some of the mortadella right now for breakfast :)

                    1. re: ylsf

                      The mortadella was so good! Also, those milk buns!!!

                  2. re: ylsf

                    FWIT, from the Liberté website,

                    "...The cream cheese product is sold in independant stores as Yummy on Dufferin st. and HIGH PARK MINI MART on Roncesvalles ave. We hope this will help"

                    Its apparently available in Kingston as well.

                    1. re: porker

                      Yeah, thanks, I saw that on their site... But, considering how many grocery stores carry their products it is shocking to not see it in other stores. I think it has something to do with their association/ownership/agreement with Western Creamery. I am not sure how the two are related exactly by Western does have a cream cheese product. I think I was told at one point that they are similar/same products as the Liberte Cream Cheese but a friend who compared both told me they tasted different to her. http://www.westerncreamery.com/

                      1. re: ylsf

                        I noticed St Viateur was selling both Western Creamery and Liberte cream cheeses.

                  3. re: prima

                    Just a few thoughts about Damas.

                    http://www.restaurant-damas.com/en/di...

                    The current restaurant menu is somewhat different and more extensive than the current online menu. We ordered a maqlouba made with goose that isn't mentioned on the online menu (the online menu mentions a lamb or chicken version), and our fish dish was sea bass, prepared in a way that isn't described on the online menu. We also had a minced lamb kabob, much like a kofta, that I don't see in the grilled meats section ( as far as I remember, it wasn't the cherry kabob, which is mentioned under Syrian specialties online, but I could be wrong). We also ordered a mejadra (nice version), which I don't see offered on the online menu. We ordered a vegetarian bamia (okra), that I'd order again, and might try to replicate at home. I had never tried the Syrian type of babaghanoush before, more of a chopped salad with pomegranate and walnuts, which was a nice change from the Lebanese type.

                    This visit to Damas was my first visit to a Syrian restaurant. I'm really glad I enjoyed the dishes we ordered, and I'm looking forward to trying other Syrian dishes and restaurants on future visits to Montreal.

                    1. re: prima

                      Liberte cream cheese kills Philadelphia! It's so amazing. Especially with salmon (lox). (I add fresh dill, capers, and lemon juice to the cream cheese when eating with salmon)

                    2. +1 for our fantastic dessert tasting at 400 coups (especially the lime curd/strawberry sorbet with crispy matcha tea cake, vanilla & thai basil), brunch at Lawrence (highlights were the pig's trotter, kidneys & chanterelles dishes), lunch at Kazu (loved the pork cheeks, 48 hr pork and fresh tofu) and the mille feuille from Rhubarbe.

                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                      1. Great report and great photos to all three of you. You picked some great spots and yes Liberte is way better than Philadelphia which has preservatives and additives (none in Liberte). Seriously, no Liberte cream cheese in Ontario? OK, I need to get to Rhubarbe now, I've been meaning to try it out for the longest time and that mille feuille photo just clinched it.

                        1. ToJo or Prima..
                          How was the lineup at Lawrence? I'm planning to go Saturday morning before opening..How early??

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: petek

                            We went at 10, and it wasn't completely full yet, so I think you'd be ok as a walk-in. We brunched on Labour Day weekend, so a regular Saturday might be busier, but it still wasn't lined up when we left around 11:30 am.
                            We had a reservation for our group of 6 people.

                            Realize you didn't ask for specifics re: the brunch, but I thought I'd give my 2 cents. For our group of 6, we shared 6 brunch mains (we tend to share our mains, so this brunch became a family-style brunch), a bubble and squeak and 2 plates of 3 donuts. Their daily donuts were tasty (the 3 fillings were custard, lemon and chocolate). The people who like kidneys in our group really liked the kidneys. I liked the trotters dish the best, which included egg, zucchini and radish, but doubt I could finish a whole serving of it. If you like English breakfasts, their version is a good one. I liked their blood sausage more than most I've had in Canada. The eggs with chanterelles were also well-liked by our group. The gloucester pancake (a thick, almost biscuit-like pancake made with suet and served with blueberries, syrup and bacon) and breakfast sandwich were fine, but I'm not sure I'd reorder either.

                            1. re: prima

                              Thanks Prima! Sounds delish.
                              It's so close to my hotel and I'm an early riser,I'm sure there won't be a problem.

                              Cheers

                              1. re: petek

                                I was in the eggs & chanterelles and the kidney group. The kidneys were a saltier dish than the eggs, if that helps. They were both really great. Lawrence was one of my favourite meals of the weekend, actually.

                                Though honestly, it was pretty damn good all weekend long.

                                1. re: jlunar

                                  <Lawrence was one of my favourite meals of the weekend, actually.> Wow! Considering all the great places you girls went to,that's some pretty high praise indeed.

                                  Cheers.

                                2. re: petek

                                  saturday and sunday they open at 10.

                                  1. re: C70

                                    Thanks!

                            2. What kind of kouign-amann you had before? I already heard that comment before, but I think the thing is that there's not only one way to do kouign-amann. I've seen kouign-amann that are totally different than that one in Montreal, but some others that really looks the same.

                              I don't think their version is supposed to be super caramelized, like these ones for example: http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5260/5...

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Glaff

                                I am by no means any sort of expert on kouign amann, so you should totally take my feedback with a big ol' grain of fleur de sel. :)

                                I've only had it a couple of times before, but the one I loved was more like this one:

                                http://www.foodreporter.fr/dish/index...

                                1. re: Glaff

                                  I'm not sure which TorontoJo may have tried, but the versions I liked in Brittany are sweeter, stickier, flakier, more buttery, more decadent and more delicious than the ones I've tried at Kouign Amann last Saturday and in May 2011. The version at La Porte is very close to what I liked in Brittany.

                                  There's certainly a lot of variation among Kouign Amanns, just like there is with any other French pastry.

                                  I haven't tried the version at Rhubarbe.

                                2. Here is my recent trip report
                                  Le Bremner
                                  With a the fantastic Montreal food scene there are few chefs which are considered a must visit when visiting this great food city. I guess the chef that runs the show here is one of them. Reservation online were impossible to get for the group size we had even though we started to test the water quite early. Ah well I got a call back and we got a table to 6 for a 630 meal (a bit early but apparently they have only a few tables for 6 and the later seating was sold out). Ah well the entrance is unmarked. Once we got in we were walked to a nice veranda in the back which was mesmerizing and set the mood right for our group. I was surprised to see that they did have quite a few empty tables that could have seated 6 (more on that later)
                                  After a bit of deliberation we settled on the following
                                  Lobster sandwich with a 63 degree egg, fried quail, Spicy tomato salad, halibut cheeks, green pea shoots with bonito. I also added some oysters for good measures. The wine list is decent and reasonable. We were planning to drink afterwards as the meal was so early so didn't order much booze and stuck to their house made non alcohol drinks. The server was visibly disappointed and the service suffered.
                                  We did share the food so here goes
                                  Oysters very fresh and the sauces were quite good on the side
                                  Spicy tomato salad. Average at best and I am not sure why is it called spicy
                                  Halibut was quite good apparently though I didn't try it
                                  Quail was a hit among the diners as it was very meaty and had bread crumbs which reminded me of deep fried mutton chops from the subcontinent.
                                  Lobster Sandwich hmm a chef's whose claim to fame is this crustacean I would say it was very average. The sauce being the highlight as I felt the meat to bread ratio was off. The egg added a nice touch to an already rich dish.
                                  The price is on the high side (this is old Montreal area and one expects to pay more) and for the amount we spent I would say the service should have been better. There were quite a few tables that were empty so I am not sure why a later dinning time could have be There were quite a few tables that were empty so I am not sure why a later dinning time could have been accommodated.
                                  3 stars overall.
                                  and for the brunch at Lawrence Restaurant
                                  This place seems like a hot spot from brunch given there was lineup outside just when they opened. Ah well we put our name down and decided to walk around the area as we were told there would be an hour or so wait.
                                  The menu is simple with a few dishes. We decided to stick with french toast, pancakes and ordered a scone for good measures. We ordered some fresh apple juice and a cappuccino.
                                  The scone was quite good with decent sides of clotted cream, butter and fruit compote.
                                  Then the wait began for the mains and it went on and on and it was good 45 min before we got out stuff (unacceptable at any place as the server wouldn't even say sorry for the delay or give an explanation)
                                  French Toasts looked visually appealing with a good quantity of maple syrup and rhubab compote. Decent but not earth shattering in anyway.
                                  The pancake were weird and unlike something I have had before. The batter was hard to explain and had layers and had a weird dry finish. The maple syrup helped as otherwise they would be inedible.
                                  3 stars due to poor service and average food.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: elvisahmed

                                    I don't know when you went to Lawrence, but if it was this past weekend, you didn't have classic pancake, they were Gloucester Pancakes.

                                    1. re: elvisahmed

                                      Did your pancakes look like these? If so, then yes, those were Gloucester pancakes and are made with suet. They resemble a biscuit more than a North American pancake (in fact, if you look at the recipe for Gloucester pancakes, the only real difference between them and a Southern biscuit is an egg and kneading). I was quite fond of them, but they were way down on my preference list as I was totally in love with the chanterelles and other savoury dishes.

                                       
                                      1. re: TorontoJo

                                        Well I guess to each his own as I didn't enjoy them at all. For the wait time that we had to endure and the poor service I would rather go somewhere else.

                                        1. re: elvisahmed

                                          I feel like this must have been an unfortunate off morning.. Although it can be a very long wait, the service at Lawrence is usually not just good but some of the best I've ever experienced.

                                    2. Great Report! Short and to the point with really good picks.