Long Montreal Review
Just got back this afternoon for a WONDERFUL couple of nights in Montreal. I ate and ate myself sleepy for two+ days.
Dinner Thursday: ChuChai on St. Denis, read about it here in the archives. Upscale Vegetarian Thai. We had the "fish"=Tempeh wrapped in Nori and fried crispy, which was delicious. The sticky rice was perfectly cooked and came in cute little plastic-lined bamboo basket. Sweet and Spicy "beef" was a fairly well balanced ratio of hot to sweet. The protein were thin strips of sauteed seitan covered in sesame seed. Appetizer of "duck" salad was chopped seitan over mesclun with sesame oil and cilantro dressing. Everything was consistently good next time I'd like to try the breaded seaweed appetizer.
Breakfast: Eggpectation on Rue de la Montangne, it's been called the IHOP of Canada here but it was still very good as my wife's salmon omelette was delicious. I'd avoid the pancakes as they are purely plate filler but the omelettes and crepes are nice and everything is prepared with more care than an IHOP.
Lunch: Dim Sum at Lotte in the Days Inn. AWFUL. Rude servers who mocked my questions with laughter and calling other servers over to add insult. Stale dumplings in steamless steamers. Everything was old and lifeless looking. We should have known with no families in the place and only other gringos. When I asked to see the tripe they just said I wouldn't like. The sesame balls were the only saving grace.
Dinner: L'Express on St. Denis. quite the intimidating place to me. I'm not attracted to French food in general but my wife is an afficinado of French culture so I thought it would be fun. The menu was hard to disseminate as it was hand written in that casual French way. The service was very accomodating. We arrived an hour late for our reservation and they still seated us at our reserved table despite a line. Appetizers of a very competent green salad and a terrine of Rilletes(is that correct?) .My wife ordered the grilled salmon on a bed of spinach and I ordered the Pot Au Few. The salmon was nice and beautifully cooked. The perfect light meal she was craving. My Pot Au Few was a bit depressing looking with a bitter parsnip, two carrots, a piece of boiled beef, a chicken thigh, and a bone with marrow. Everything was a bit dry and flavorless and only served to make me more fearful of the subtleties of French cooking. Overall a fun place to take in the crowd of wannabe Parisian's and ordering simply you can do quite well for not much money.
Breakfast was at Byblos Le Petit Cafe on Laurier. A very pretty little place serving Iranian breakfasts. The breads were all homebaked and were ok, but the selection of homemade jams were excellent. You choose one per person with your "combo" meal. Selection included mango, pear(delicious with clove aroma) apple with rose, plum... We got a delicious date omellete which was like unscrambled fried eggs with bits of chopped dates and sweet spices. (they also had an "Oriental" omelette with rose petals, cardamom, sugar and flour). My wife was feeling a cold coming on and ordered Hyma(?) a hot cream of wheat with sugar, spices, and Turkey??? We found no trace of the bird in it but the flavors were unique and the spices were strong but balanced.
Snacks the most important meals of my days:
Lots of Lebanese culture in Montreal so I thought I'd eat it.
Chicken Shish Taouk at Taouk Express on St. Denis. Abysmal. Mayonaise on the pita instead of yogurt sauce.
Caters to drunks and the tasteless.
Sara on St. Laurent.
Kafta Kebab, Lahmajoun(1 thyme and 1 lamb) and potatoes.
Everything here was great. Fresher than anyplace else in town. Clean flavors, clean countertops.. The potatoes were fried cleanly and were like golden garlic based bombs that exploded on contact with my palate. WOW. The friendliest place of it's kind as well.
Basha on St. Catherine upstairs. Chicken Shish Taouk. What is it with these kebab houses that they don't want to put anything on the grill. I always get strongarmed into getting the doner or chicken after threats of how long it would take and numerous requests of my assuredness of wanting it. Lentil/Rice salad was excellent, chicken was well spiced and tender, and the fresh squeezed g/fruit juice tasty. Not as good as Sara but close. Short on atmosphere, everything looked better at the other location in the Rue Peel mall.
Chicken Sandwich at Coco Rico. The best chicken I've had. Addictively squishy, freshly baked portugese roll, tender juicy chicken sliced freshly, beautifully roasted potatoes. So cheap and tasty it makes you guilty(For four dollars Canadian you get such a beautifully simple Chicken sandwich with five medium potatoes. They also have roast pork, and sausage and little egg custard tarts.
Bubble tea at Fauburg court. Might be the only Taiwanese fast food in town and I think the only Bubble Tea. B.Tea was average but hit the spot for sure. Taro had a nice sweet flavor but the Rosewater tasted like watered down handcream(my wife says just like here grandmother's. Yuck granma get your hand out of my mouth!) Pearls were a bit dry in the center. I've had worse.
Bagels at St. Viateur Cafe. Great but not as good as Fairmont in flavor or variety. Texture was perfect. Cinnamon raisin were all cinnamon and no raisin. As bad as they sound the Pina Colada at Fairmont are my favorite nouveau bagels.
I tried to digest everything on the ride home,my nose against the glass , adding up all of the places to try next time as we travelled through yet another neighborhood of restaurants we haven't explored.(Mont Royal East.) I'll be back.
Excellent post, but "Wannabe Parisians" at l'Express? My good sir: wearing a beret, speaking French and being rude do not a Parisian (wannabe or genuine) make. I regret to inform you that what you experienced were honest-to-goodness, self-assuming, authentic Montrealers (well, a certain breed thereof to be exact). Not the same crowd as at Eggspectations, I grant you, but then, as in any large(ish) city, different neighborhoods attract different crowds. To paraphrase the late great Douglas Adams, they are "mostly harmless", and occasionally quite entertaining. I would suggest that, by its very nature, the Bistro tends to draw patrons who consider dining out to be a (very) social exercise and who therefore act accordingly. In any event, the preceding can be attributed to the quintessentially quebecois unresoved issues regarding France and Paris in particular. On a more serious note, for your next visit, I would suggest Chez Léveque on Laurier West or Continental on St-Denis (though beware, the "Conti" is chock full of media types and ahhhtists who *do* love to make an entrance... good food though). Best Regards.
re: iron frank
Viet is not my strength. As for Belgian, Witloof on St-Denis *used* to be v. good, then they changed chefs. I had one uninspiring experience w. new chef a couple of years ago and haven't been back since. Perhaps others on the Board have been there more recently. Which, as far as I know, leaves only L'Actuel on Peel, south of Ste-Catherine. Quite good, but also quite exp. Lunch on the ground floor is more reasonable.
re: iron frank
I'm sorry the bubble tea at the Faubourg wasn't so good (I think I remember recommending it a couple posts back). I've never had any problems with their tea. I usually order the regular milk tea.
The handwriting at l'Express also flubbed me up. I accidentally ordered veal kidney (my French sucks, mon Dieu!).
Is Lotte on Renée Levesque? I know that the best place for Dim Sum is supposed to be in a hotel there. I can't remember if it's the Days Inn. I've only been there once, and I don't really know any other places for Dim Sum.
I'll have to try out Byblos, it sounds great.
Sera, I was glad to have the bubble-tea place. I just ordered wrong. I'm always drawn to the flavors I've never seen where my wife goes for the standards and she usually wins. I've still never found a decent one in NYC either.
The lotte place is in the Days Inn and I'd avoid. The best Dim Sum I've had is at Chez Chine in the Holiday Inn.
I noticed the first place we'd ever eaten in Montreal Jardin du Deer got a facelift? Is the food any better?
Thanks for all of the tips!There are so many cool places in your faire city.
re: iron frank
The restaurant is in the Hotel Lotte but is actually called Furama (Fu Lai Wah) -- I think there are other affiliated Furamas in other cities, including one in Hong Kong.
I've eaten there plenty of times (I used to live in Montreal) and aside from Kam Fung, it was the only place that had a large enough selection to justify dim sum. Never had a problem with the service, but it helps that I'm Chinese. It was usually pretty good, though nothing super-special compared to other places.