A rainy weekend in Montreal(VERY LONG)
- Iron Frank
I just got back from another GREAT weekend in Montreal. The weather is never good when we're there so it wasn't a surprise that it rained the whole time but it was annoying as we had to play tourguide to my parents in the rain.
Here's a meal by meal report.
Dinner at La Papaye Vert. This is an attractive and calming Vietnamese restaurant with very good food. The staff was friendly and helpful. I had a papaya and scented mushroom soup that was thin but very flavorful. My wife's green papaya salad wasn't too sweet and was very fresh tasting.
A main course of a steamed salmon with black beans was perfectly done, tender, and delicious. I ordered an assorted seafood dish sauteed with vegetables that had an impactful aroma of thai basil that knocked me out. Everything was great, especially the Salmon and my mom's chicken curry.
Breakfast at Beautys. A local legend that seems to be quite an institution complete with all of the prerequisite souvenirs. Nothing special besides a feeling of overwhelming nostalgia and at least the prices are a time warp as well. Kind of a real deal version of Jonny Rockets. I had the often reccomended Mish Mash omelette(fried eggs, salami, hotdogs, and onions). A real grease pit, not that appealing to me although the accompanying home fries were a near perfect representation of the greasy diner variety. The coffee was better than the food.
Lunch at Cafe Santropol. The stoners have raided the fridge and are making sandwiches. Well it just seemed that way reading the menu. The sandwiches are mostly very inventive and there is a heavy preference towards cream cheese and cottage cheese as fillings. They all come on doublewide brown bread that is sturdy and soft. Just perfect to support the heavy fillings they have. A "Sisters of Jeanne Mance" sandwich had an inch of cream cheese with pineapple then layers of turkey, tomato, and lettuce. The menu doesn't tell you that all chicken sandwiches are actually chicken salad. I got a ham sandwich with thin sliced apple and mint leaves. It was probably the most simple and balanced thing on the menu. My wife and I also split a nice ham sandwich with cottage cheese and pepper jelly. Lots of fresh fruit skewered all over the plate haphazardly. Although every sandwich was great I don't know if I could eat these sandwiches everyday. They're so heavy and dense. It's quite an eccentric place, very charming but the service was frustrating. Eat by the garden if you can.
Dinner at Witloof. The least interesting meal to me. Nice mussels in biere that were the simple highlight of the meal. The Waterzooie is a dish that I know is a national dish of Belgium but I didn't know it involved so much cream. Not my thing. My wife's skate with lentils was better. They were out of everything my parents wanted(it became a theme wherever we went for some reason). Not an exciting meal.
Snacks of Bahn Mi from shop on St. Laurent. I cna't find the name right now but my chicken bahn mi was excellent. The sandwich was fresh, large and filled with hot peppers. Probably the best thing I ate all weekend. Lots of interesting rice snacks. I got a banana leaf stuffed sticky rice in a banana leaf that was delicious but in a starchier way than I'd imagined. Another smaller sticky rice had a dense egg yolk and peanut mixture in the middle. They even have a club card.
Shish Taouk from Sara, on upper St. Laurent was ok. Salty, pickled turnip distinguishes the sandwich from what I usually get in New York as well as a final squash in a sandwich press that I really wish they did everywhere. Dolmas were really oily but nicely flavored.
Day Two: Eggspectation
No matter how awful people say this place is, it's consistently good. Current management has slowed down the service and taken away a bit of the festive atmosphere but the food is still quite good if you stick to breakfast items involving eggs. The pancakes are average but coffee is strong and flavorful. I had an omelette with shrimp and chives that had good flavor but the shrimp were microscopic. My wife's asparagus and swiss eggwhite omelette was conisderably better. My mom loved the exhausting menu of choices.
Lunch at Beijing Restaurant. Just stumbled in. I've never had luck with Montreal Chinese with the double language barrier always making the menu even more difficult to interpret than usual. This is an old school place with a Cantonese and Szechuan menu. Really nice, helpful staff. Ma Po Tofu was as oily as necessary and the hit of the meal. Seafood in X.O. sauce was very good. Pea shoots had some thick undercooked, or maybe just tough parts. The tender parts were delicious. My parents ordered American style and suffered the consequences with bland food that wasn't prepared as they do in their local stripmall.
Dinner at Milos. We went in at 9:30 because I was having Chowhound Paralysis deciding where to go. My internet connection was down so I had to just pick a place that I knew would satisfy the parents. The staff at Milos acted like they were doing us a great service by serving us at such a late hour. They were out of almost everything and strongarmed us into a Sunday night price fix with limited choices. Everyone was pleased in the end and it's probably the only semi-deal you can get in a place that charges over 58 dollars a pound for shrimp. The fish was St. Pierre and was overcooked but rescued by some powerful olive-oil. The arugula salad was perfect. A Greek Mezze assortment was pedestrian but the taramasalata stood out.
Snack of Bahn Mi from place on Lagauchetiere. Fattier pork bahn mi was only 2 dollars. Too much fat for my palate but other fillings might hold more promise but they were out of them. Hot peppers weren't as fresh. An odd rice ball stuffed with a semi-sweet green bean paste was nice and filling.
A Spanish "pizza" at Sara on lower St. Laurent needed much more time on the grill as the cheese had barely started to sweat when it was served to me. The shish taouk is just as good as the one up the block. It's just nicer surroundings and they have a selection of middle-eastern pizzas.
Day Three: Chez Cora Dejeuner
Chez Disaster is more like it. The menu read well and showed promise but the decor was inspired by Dennys, I wish the food was as good. The oddball waiter was less than helpful and more than patronizing. Every item came out slightly off from the menu descriptions. I ordered a smoked salmon omelette in a crepe that came out as four giant folded crepes, filled with sickeningly rich salmon and never before mentioned cheese. My mom's blueberry crepes were solid tire material and we all erupted into laughter when she slowly muttered "this...is...the...worst...thing...I've...ever...eaten while picking through her "eggs" which were watery crumbled chicken by products. After reading about how wonderful Cafe 24 I am still kicking myself for choosing this dive. My wife thinks we have a curse where the last meal of every trip is a disaster.
The curse was broken by the always great chicken sandwiches from Coco Rico on St. Laurent. Slathered with gravy and spiked with hot seasoning they were still good eaten lukewarm in the car halfway home.
Things to try next time:
Cafe 24, Andaloos Bakery, the Chinese "King's" brand packaged ice creams, the Peche place with steamed dim sum baskets available to go.