6827 Rue Saint Dominique/Dante
Cost: 166.60 (4 persons-tax, tip & wine included)
Chef Hats: 3
WARNING! This article is subjective and purely my opinion. After eating at GEMA Pizzeria a year after its opening I can say it has dethroned the King of all pizzerias, Pizzeria Napoletana on Dante Street.
For many years Pizzeria Napoletana was the forerunner for anyone who wanted to eat a good thin crust Neapolitan pizza in this city. For many years on any given weekend the line ups were long. People came from all over the city with their bottles of wine to sample a slice of authentic Neapolitan thin crust pizza. It was difficult to get a seat.
Other pizzerias have popped up over the last 10 years in the environs, like La Bottega on St. Zotique and this year its casual sister restaurant San Gennaro’s. There was always Piatto Pieno and then many of those whose little restaurants around the market who served pizza. Then word got out that Stefano Faita was opening another restaurant called Pizzeria GEMA on Dante Street with much fanfare.
The true story of the rival pizzerias is set in the heart of Little Italy on Dante St. with Napoletana and GEMA going head to head on this quiet street that has been basically monopolized by the Faita clan. Opened with his partner from Impasto Michele Forgione, this small space is an acroynmn of their children’s initials on a street that has become synonymous with the Faita name. It may be a family affair, but it started a war among pizza foodies on who has cornered the pizza market on this block the last year.
GEMA wins by a long shot, because the reputation that follows them wherever they go. GEMA is unpretentious with its whitewashed walls and wood tables and banquettes. The space has been modernized, but some elements of the old space remain. Like the industrial green lamp post fixture in the center of the room, and the wall encased fan ventilators that keep the heat out; all these old style elements blend well with the style of the place. It has a modern urban chic feel that welcomes the local young urbanites who have moved back into the neighborhood to regain a feeling of their Italian roots. At GEMA you will not find any of the cheesy and outdated decor of past pizzerias with their checkered table cloths and murals of some Italian scenery. It is cool and subdued, but it does slap on the back of the head with it have “looks at me attitude”.
The small white bar serves as a focal point showcasing a black wood wine cupboard, its wine selections and a few mismatched seats. It is the place to sit for a quick bite or a slab of pizza.
GEMA does not use a wood burning oven to make their pizzas; instead they use a Moretti deck oven. So if you are expecting the taste of wood burning pizza, this may not be the place for you. GEMA serves a crispier thinner crust pizza. What makes the pizza special at Gema’s is the fresh local toppings. They use the best of fine ingredients, fresh from the Jean Talon Market around the corner. Like, local Quebec mozzarella di buffala made from bison milk and homemade ingredients like their porchetta and pepperoni. Every month a new pizza is introduced, starring some famous Montreal food industry giants or chefs and of course Michele and Stefano’s ideas and whimsies of the month also make an appearance on their pizza menu.
We started this evening with a bottle of red Donna Marzia-Conti Zecca -Negroamaro-2011 for $ 30.00 or $7.00 for the glass. Reasonably priced, this wine from the Puglia region of Italy with its dark aromatic berry fruit flavors earth tones and hint of clove, cinnamon and allspice can be slightly medicinal to some, but went well with the tomato topped pizza.
For starters we had two very refreshing salads that were original in flavors the- Salad MJT- salad du Marche Jean Talon for $9.00, which consisted of a mix of greens, fresh peas, endives and cucumber. Lightly oiled and seasoned. The exceptional difference here was the crunchiness of fresh peas and bitterness of the endives. What an ingenious idea I thought, something usually eaten warm in a cold salad, was a first for me; original in thought and concept.
The second salad was an Insalata di Polipo (Octopus), with copious amounts of fennel shaving and potato salad at $ 12.00. It was also very refreshing and pleasing on the palate with the flavors of anise, red onions and pieces of large firmly cooked potatoes. The only drawback was the scarce morsels of octopus that occupied this salad, just not enough for my likely.
Our start of the pizza’s tastings was the Pizza 1889 at $ 13.00, similar to the Margherita; it is Gema’s take on the classic pizza with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella di buffalo and basil. This pizza had all the classic flavors, the ingredients were fresh, but it was too thin and difficult to cut. It was best eaten by ripping it apart folding it and chewing it with your teeth.
The second Pizza called Yann at $ 16.00 was basically the same as the Pizza 1889, thin crust except it was topped with homemade pepperoni. This is no ordinary pepperoni, you can taste the difference compared with the generic store bought ones, minus the heartburn from the nitrates. It was the only time I have eaten pepperoni that did not repeat on me all night long. For all those pepperoni lovers out there this is the way to go. The flavors were all there on the toppings but crust was too thin and hard to cut.
The third Pizza was the Capricciosa for $ 17.00, the more topping, the more expensive the pizza gets. The Capricciosa consisted of tomato sauce, ham (prosciutto cotto), mushrooms, red onions, marinated artichokes, and Quebec mozzarella di bufala. All the toppings were deliciously fresh but the crust was the same, too thin to hold the heavy toppings and fell apart when trying to cut it.
I prefer the crust a little thicker and chewier. With pizza the flavor is mostly in the white fluffy dough. With the right toppings like these, the taste would have been heavenly. By now I was getting lockjaw with all the heavy chewing and breaking apart.
To complete our meal we had for dessert a Costarde Garnie-Frozen custard ice cream- with chocolate sauce for $ 6.50, it must have been sitting out for too long because by the time it came to the table it was semi melted with hardly any discernible chocolate sauce topping. A bit of a disappointment and very different from the perfect meal we had at its sister restaurant Impasto located across the street.
As for the service our waitress was more than accommodating at the beginning of the meal. After ordering our meal, we did not see her much throughout the service and we kept getting served by different waiters. The service was a little erratic and amateurish. The bus boys kept filling our water glasses every two minutes and interrupting our conversation. Service felt rushed.
Nonetheless, Pizzeria GEMA has a young vibrant atmosphere. With all that in mind, Gema can be fun and if you like thin crust Neapolitan Pizza, the sauce and topping are exceptionally fresh and tomato sauce authentic.
During my visit last December at pizzeria Napoletana, I was totally disappointed at the quality of the tomato sauce and ingredients. It was probably my last visit, because if I need to go have thin crust pizza anywhere, might as well go to GEMA, at least I get excellent top grade ingredients. Could not help notice either that the line ups at Napoletana for a Saturday night had dwindled. Quel dommage, vive le nouveau Roi des pizzas!
1052 Rue Lionel-Daunais,
Boucherville, QC J4B 0B2
Tel : (450) 906-3886
Cost : $ 101.18
Chef Hats : 4.5
Chef Ian Perreault’s Chez Lionel in Boucherville is a definite must for all those die-hard foodies. One cannot be serious about the Montreal food scene and omit this one because of its location. I may sound biased and that is because I am. For the last twenty years, Chef Perreault has wowed me with his cuisine. My first experience was at his restaurant Area on Amherst Street in the Village in 2002, then Prêt a Manger in Outremont. Both now defunct, I was happy to hear he had opened another restaurant in Boucherville in 2013. I was again very excited to be able to try another one of his establishments. I can remember that his presentations and combination of foods were out of this world. The decor of his restaurants was fresh, young and cool. Area was predominately decorated in white, with white leather banquettes, walls and rectangular white dishes. It was a happening place but contained an aura of serenity. Food presentations were avant-garde and he was venturing were no man had gone before… long before The Globe and Buonanotte burst on the scene, he was at the forefront of a different dining experience, he led the way in concept and innovation at the age of twenty four.
Feeling creative and adventurous we headed for a ride to the suburb of Boucherville . In a mall housing a few restaurants and businesses we found Chez Lionel nestled in a corner. I was happy to see they had a terrasse. We opted to sit outside since our summer is short and wanting to get in as much of the good weather as possible. There terrasse is great, it is shielded by glass panels and black awning for those extra windy days or scorching hot days. Optimal comfort for its patrons I thought. A walk inside the resto showed me that with the passing of time we all grow up and things really change, so has taste in decor. Mature and serious, the surroundings are beautiful, the restaurant is divided in two different sections, an area with burnt sienna oval banquettes and tables, and the wall is wall to ceiling glass panel that houses hundreds of bottles of wine. Two magnificent crystal chandeliers hang in the center with other subdued lighting illuminating the counters and silver steel plated bar. Behind that you will find a row tables and black chairs, less comfortable but nonetheless masculine and still very appealing especially at night with the effects of the lighting. It is very different from the antiseptic whiteness and look of restaurant Area of the 2000’s.
We started our diner with two glasses of Rioja, Tempranillo, Lopez de Haro, Spain, 2013 a private import for only $8.00. On the wine list you will find many great imports by the glass at reasonable prices. I wanted something bold and strong with my dish tonight. Temparanillo is one of my favorite Spanish wines and a good choice to go with any meat dish.
For appetizers we shared an entree of Arancini, three crispy rice balls made with smoked cheese in the center and dried tomatoes, served on a bed of parsley salad, with pieces of chorizo bacon bits, black olives and classic romesco sauce. Delicious and bursting with flavor of light lemon and thyme. Not the classic Italian arancini, but done differently à la Ian Perreault way.
Having heard so much about their Homemade Ricotta Stuffed Ravioli, I decided this was the way I was going tonight. It was a fantastic choice and one I did not regret, as I have had this dish in many restaurants, but the flavors at Chez Lionel are so enhanced and like no other place I have ever eaten them at by a long hot.
For $ 24.00, I received a generous portion of tender ricotta filled ravioli in a light organic mushroom sauce, topped with a generous portion of pulled confit de canard. It came garnished with parsley and truffle oil, which added a woodsier flavor to the already delicious mushrooms.
The mushroom sauce was heavenly, I scooped up the liquid with every morsel, and it was totally addictive and delicious at the same time. The duck was not fatty, nor tough or gamey and complimented the organic mushrooms sauce well. I used the delicious bread we were served from L’Amour du Pain in Boucherville to gather the last bit of sauce that remained.
My dining partner had the Atlantic Salmon Poêlée au beurre for $ 23.00. He received not one but two pieces of pave of salmon that sat atop a light smoked sour cream and asparagus puree, roasted potatoes, cherry tomato confit and sautéed whole asparagus. It came garnished with radishes and coriander salad. It was absolutely mouth watering and delicious. Also one of the best smoked salmon he had ever had and packed with flavor. Not overcooked, not dry, the pieces of fish flaked off the fork.
The mix of radish and coriander enhancing every bite.
For dessert a deconstructed tarte citron en verrine at $8.00, the dessert was served in a mason jar on a slate plate for different angle on presentation, on the side, a crumble of almond praline and Italian meringue swirl. The verrine contained a tier of meringue, and lemon custard with a layer of almonds in between, topped with zests of ginger slivers marinated in syrup. To cap off our meal two very good espressos’s at $3.00.
I believe the formula at Chez Lionel is a winner; not only for the young suburbanites of Boucherville and the environs but for fans of Ian Perreault. I believe the drive is worth it. Although I am not a fan of restaurants situated in malls, I would prefer they stand alone. Sometimes we don’t have that luxury.
This was definitely different and I left with a good positive feeling and totally content. Sometimes we have to venture out of our comfort zone to find great things.
Le Cheese Casse Croute
5976 Avenue de Monkland (between Hampton & Royal)
Telephone :(514) 487-3316
Cost: $ 29.01
Chef Hats: 3.5
Sometimes you just crave cheese! Le Cheese Food Truck has got to be one of Montreal’s best food trucks and definitely the most popular since spring 2013. As of June 14, 2014 they have now opened up Le Cheese snack shop on Monkland Avenue, serving all their cheesy treats and you no longer have to chase down the location of their truck on any given day on Montreal streets when your cheese craving is very strong.
This was the case this particular night when Brains and I were in the mood for something cheesy. Having tried the grilled cheese from the truck at the Big food truck rally at the Esplanade of the Big O, last fall. I wanted to take Brains to try other items from their menu. I had heard their Mac’n’cheese was to die for.
So we headed to NDG on the trendy Monkland Avenue to try Pascal Salzman’s new shop. The place is unpretentious; a narrow local painted white with yellow hanging lighting and a huge blackboard on one wall.
The decor is clean and crisp and not fussy. You will find a few long table and banquettes on one side and some tables for two under the huge blackboard that house their daily specials. On a busy night, seating may prove difficult. At the back is the kitchen with a counter where you can order your tasty treats that were brought to our table on this quiet night.
This evening we wanted to sample a few items. Their Mac n cheese was priority. I started with their cheesy creamy tatter tots and aioli sauce on the side, and Philly sandwich combo at $12.18. The tots were perfect crispy deep fried potato pockets but meltingly soft on the inside. The best I have ever had. The Philly sandwich came on a soft pannini with house coleslaw, not heapingly full but not messy either. The flavor was good and it did the trick. Satisfyingly enough.
We also ordered ¼ lb Mac n cheese for $ 4.35 that came in a takeout container, the smallest size .Their Mac and cheese can be ordered at three different sizes and prices range, $17.00 dollars for ½ lb to, 1 lb at $ 23.00 for those hungry eaters. Filled to the brim, it was enough for two people to sample. The Mac n cheese was delicious with pieces of bacon and peas, it was the right consistency. Light and not overly creamy, but the taste overwhelming good. Brains favorite is the poutine a must have for $ 6.96. Also served in a takeout container, it had copious amounts of cheese curds, the fries were not laden with oil, the gravy just the right amount.
What is great about Le Cheese is that you can have your favorites just the way you like them. Flexibility in their menu is optimal. They serve any of your favorite classic sandwiches, with choices of soup, salad, potatoes or pasta.
You can add to those, bacon, onions, pesto, steak or peppers, creating your own specialities. I say be creative, go all out and try something different. You will be surprised at the flavors. Anything goes at Le Cheese.
438 Place Jacques Cartier,
Telephone :( 514) 396-3330
Chef Hats 3.5
Cost: $ 110.18
There has been lots of talk the last month about Harlow Restaurant, located on Place Jacques Cartier square in Old Montreal. Harlow opened quietly last fall in 2014 amid little fanfare with a few special invited guests, bloggers and media, while everyone else was getting ready to start hibernating as the cold winter months approached. Then this summer it seemed suddenly to have appeared on the map as Montrealers awoke from the deep winter chill and took notice.
It got a ‘’ not so good review ‘’ by The Gazette’s –Lesley Chesterman this month , but that did not stop Kylie Jenner , the youngest sibling of ‘’Keeping up with Kardashian ’’ Hollywood reality fame from visiting it later that week one evening after her birthday bash appearance at ‘’ The Beach Club’’ in Point Calumet.
Harlow should not be such a novelty for us either if we pay close enough attention to the media buzz surrounding the restaurant scene in Montreal these days. The brain child behind the concept of Harlow, co-owners Stevie Hamron of the Time Supper Club fame and Brahm Yaiche are not unfamiliar names to the late party scene here and in Miami. Their names are synonymous with party goers with or without the media buzz and the publicity surrounding any opening of their clubs or events since the early 2000’s. Their events & clubs have attracted not only big media personalities, but the avid party goers of both the Montreal & Miami scene. With lots of experience and golden Midas touch, they turn their events and party palaces into premium venues and with a great combination of thematic décor, great music, food, and drinks galore. They are the places to be seen in and to go to for not only special occasions, but when you really want to have a wild time.
The theme at Harlow Restaurant is inspired by 1930’s era Hollywood glam and art deco styles; the name comes from the famous Hollywood actress of the 1930’s Jean Harlow. Thus giving it a further air of mystery, infamous notoriety and illicitness. It sits in the middle of Place Jacques Cartier Square in Old Montreal, in full view and frequented by tourists.The interior designed by Philip Hazan is a multi level effect of bar, dining rooms, lounge areas and terrace. The décor definitely evoking, intertwined with a mix of contemporary styles with its dark wood furnishings and red velvet plush banquettes and chairs make it relaxing and laid back. The bar, although not large, is almost at arm’s length as you enter. Lit in blue against a grey stone brick wall and a decorative steel grid it is impressive. The colors are soothing, the feeling electric.What amazed me upon walking into Harlow was its exquisite décor. As I stood by the door waiting to be seated on the terrace, I looked at the mural at the right of me and started having hallucinations. Not inebriated or intoxicated in any manner at the time, the mural seemed to be morphing into a skeleton head as I stared attentively for a while. So evil & decadent I thought… that is if you like danger.
Shortly afterwards we were escorted to the terrace and took a seat in a corner spot, wedged between the wall and rows of tables. The terrace was completely full on this hot summer evening and we were far away from the droves of tourists walking up and down the square. This was a plus but not too romantic and far away from the plush comfortable decor of the inside. We started by ordering cocktails, two Monroe‘s Cocktails which cost $ 14.00 a pop. Named after the iconic actress Marilyn Monroe, They were sweet, made with honey, vodka and champagne. The cocktails were very cool and refreshing for a hot summer night, the perfect drink.
The cuisine at Harlow’s is considered a mix of French and American gastronomy, catering mainly to the American tourists that frequent the streets of Old Montreal and us locals when the tourists disappear during the cold months. ” The menu draws upon the elements of Nouveau American Cuisine and a touch of French classics using local Quebec products.” Examples of what can be found on their menu are re-invented Waldorf salad & Foie Gras Tourchon with Calvados. The menu is broken up into six sections the Social Plates, Farm & Garden, Homemade Pastas, Fish & Meats, The Royal Treatment and Something Sweet.
The Executive Chef at Harlow is Jason Bivall a relatively new name on The Montreal food scene but a familiar name in Ontario having worked in numerous famous Toronto restaurants like “Didier” under master chef Didier Leroy, at “Scaramouche” with Keith Frogett, then at “Canoe “ alongside Anthony Walsh. He moved to Montreal to work at Martin Picard’s, Au Pied du Cochon and eventually became Executive Chef at Hotel Gault for two years.
This evening we were out to enjoy drinks and a light snack only. We were not much up to eating because of the hot weather, we just wanted to sit on the terrasse and people watch and enjoy the luxury of Harlow. After our cocktails, our very amiable waiter Louis Charles took our order of Carpaccio to be shared and two Waldorf Salads. Our Carpaccio at the cost of $ 14.00 was perfect, thinly sliced colorful red beef slices, topped with caramelized onions, parmesan shavings, and a generous portion of baby watercress sprouts and dollops of garnish of celery root puree. We were given a generous two baskets of bread to eat with our Carpaccio that was in itself satisfying.
We also ordered two Waldorf salads at $12.00 each were made with celery root remoulade, crispy apples, grapes, scatters of artichoke here and there and toasted walnuts. This came in a decorative and original tower of strips of apples forming the letter H for Harlow, topped with one jewelled carved red grape. It was very original in concept and design and a very different style of serving the old classic typical Waldorf salad.
The flavors of the celery root remoulade were refreshing to the palate. The crunchiness of the toasted walnuts was original as well it added a particular kick to something new.
For desert we ordered a strawberry shortcake for dessert, not the typical presentation as nothing at Harlow’s is typical. A small round cake stuffed with strawberries and topped with strawberry coulis and crème fraiche. To complete the meal and linger on the terrasse we capped off our evening with a generous glass limoncello for $7.83 and a glass of McManus Cabernet at $9.00.
We were completely satisfied with our meal, the evening, the service and our drinks. We even chatted up a storm with our neighborhood table, two very drunk Parisians who were complaining about the liquor prices for a glass of Porto.
Supper clubs get a bad rap; it is not fair to say that all supper clubs are bad. Minus all the critics bad reviews Harlow can hold its own with Chef Jason Bivall. Supper clubs may not be taken as seriously as newcomers on food scene compared to other fine dining establishment in the rest of Montreal. But at Harlow’s this evening I felt miles away from a supper club with it’s the loud music, young party goers dancing on tables and very expensive bottle service. Because of where we were sitting, I felt like we were just in anther Montreal establishment that housed a terrasse to the view of the world. I found the concept cool, vibrant and the food descent.
Harlow is definitely worth a second visit, this time indoors in its plush interiors amongst the fame and fortuitous ones on a cold winter romantic night in the destitute streets of Old Montreal.
1458 rue Crescent
Chef Hats 3
Cost : 3 persons= $ 140.00 approx.
Kyozon is a fresh concept in dining new to Montreal, since this past year. It’s a “Kaiten” style restaurant where diners pick up food of their choice from a rotating conveyor belt. Moreover, Kyozon means to merge together in Japanese. So apropos is this name of this restaurant/bar as it melds well together two experiences. Housed in a historic grey stone former home at the turn of the century that is situated on Crescent street, it once was the old now defunct Hard Rock Cafe; if you can remember. The 8500 square foot space has been totally redesigned by a team of designers at Andres Escobar and Associes. They have even won an award from Commerce Design Montreal, but we will have to wait till Fall to see if they have won the “People Choice Award for best new commerce design in Montreal for 2015.
As we stepped through the door, we were in awe with the massiveness of the space. The center of the room has an epicenter bar and soaring ceilings. Above it the chefs elevated kitchen gazes over the room with its exposed hanging sake barrels and terracotta brick walls, and exotic wood finishes.
The expansive room easily fits 250 people. The top floor or level of this restaurant is where you will find long table counters with chairs and the conveyor belt where New Asian food is served. New Asian food is a term referring to a mix of Asian food, not fusion, but a mix of Japanese, China Thai, Vietnamese and Cambodia all wrapped up into one. The idea came from co-owner Brian Bendix, who lived in Japan in the early ‘90s. He wanted to recreate in Montreal something he found often in Japan, with its crowded multi-generational streets but where tradition deeply rooted still can rubs shoulders with modern concepts. He wanted something old, yet newly exotic with a touch of warmth and authenticity. He has managed to create this in Kyozon decor.
For those of you who don’t know who Brian Bendix is, he is also the”CEO of Stambac International, a company that specializes in supper clubs or entertainment type restaurants and venues’’. Along with Thomas Nacos Group of Weinsten & Gavinos , Newtown, Decca 77 and Atelier Argentine fame and two other partners Steven and Marcel Elefant they decided to invest and create this new start up on Crescent street. That is lots of experience and knowledge under one belt and it will be a winning formula for some time.
Kyozon with its subdued lights and lounge music and great innovative cocktails has more of a nightlife atmosphere and is more of a bar than a restaurant. With its award-winning mixologist Lawrence Picard of Nectar & Mixologie, the cocktail list here features creations such as the Shojo Sour , Kato Martini, Paradise Swizzle and Monkey Juice, the list goes on and you want to try them all at $ 10.50 a pop.
Cocktails sampled this evening were Kato Martini, for The Foo-Foodie, made with Grey Goose Vodka, green tea, Midori liqeur and cucumber juice with a garnish of thinly sliced cucumber, it was very refreshing, another one was needed to in order to be intoxicating. Ordered as well were two virgin drinks the Buddha Temple & Pataya Beach at $ 7.50 for Brains and her friend Biff because they just were NOT in the drinking mood.
For starters the two BFF ordered the White Belt platter of 6 pieces of Shasimi and 6 pieces of Maki at $ 26.00 to share and two platter of Maki Salmon avocado at $ 14.00 each with a bowl of mixed rice at $ 8.00.
The Foo Foodie went the adventurous way and ordered Newstyle Ceviche which consisted of tuna, salmon and yellowtail thinly sliced with lime juice, shallots and purple coriander for $ 16.00 and an entree of prawns tempura for $12.50 . The Ceviche platter was totally refreshing with its lime juice and thin slivers of delicate fish topped off with scented aromatic purple Chinese coriander leaves. Visually it looks like a rainbow of colors on one plate and a dish definitely worth trying, not only for its taste but for its visual aspect. The plate which was the nicest part of the dish due to its colorful pattern made it exceptionally delectably eye catching. The prawns were also very good and had the right texture and freshness.
I sampled from the Biff’s platter a couple of makis, which were equally as pleasing and different in taste and conception.
Unfortunately that evening the upstairs was not open for business. We were told it was only open for lunch. The la carte menu was the only thing available. Dommage, as Biff said he had been there for lunch and the conveyor belt and choices were much more interesting and fun. I think this is the way to go when visiting Kyozon to get the full effect of the Kaiten style eatery and experience.
I also ordered a platter of Spicy Salmon Avocado Makis @ 14.00 , it was very good and fresh but twice their price at any other sushi restaurant .
Also sampled were the Prawn Tempura at $ 12.50 that were kind of limpy .
For a little addition we ordered a bowl of mixed rice, which was generic.
Leaving a little disappointed this evening and short $ 140.00 I feel the prices at Kyozon are a little steep for what we ate and drank.
The decor is great and the ambiance exciting, but it was also a very quiet Wednesday night and it left me wondering how long they can keep up the pace at this rate. It would be a shame if Kyozon is not as successful as its sister restaurants, being a fan of Weinstein and Gavino for many years, it became my home and the staff my friends for the best part of my weekends. I was hoping to find this here. The staffs are very accommodating, but young and inexperienced. Very few suggestions were made regarding the menu, our waitress disappeared for long periods not to return till the end.
On the onset, upon walking in, I was turned away at the door saying I had no reservations; which I had made weeks ahead. For a moment I thought they were not able to accommodate me even though it was an empty house. I had a fleeting moment of panic, and felt like Persona non grata! All the while, Brains and Biff waited seated inside at the best seat of the house waiting for me to arrive. Not a good way to start. Thinking in my head that Kyozon has ways to go in the hospitality area… the place is still young, it needs a chance. All I have to say is KAMPAI!
** as this time of publishing this article. I found out that Kyozon closed today.
3669 Boulevard St Jean / Blue Haven
Dollard-des Ormeaux Québec
Cuisine: Cajun Fusion
Cost: $ 132.00 Tax and tip
Chef Hats: 4
Bistro Nolah is the closest thing you will come to eating Cajun food in Montreal and one of the best things that has happened in terms of restaurant scenes in the West Island since 2012. It is a quaint little restaurant with a very quiet terrace, romantic atmosphere, exceptional food and very hospitable service. Located in Dollard des Ormeaux, it not only serves the local community but also those coming from all the rest of the island who appreciates down home southern food.
Bistro Nolah serves Cajun dishes with a twist; the plates are fused with local Quebec market products. Do not expect 100% proof Cajun/Creole at Bistro Nolah. You will also find on their menu such items as Steak frites, Duck Confit and Braised Short Ribs for those discerning palates. All dishes are beautifully presented, in a delicate manner with subtle flavors of Cajun themes, mixed in with fresh local Quebec products. Nothing is too spicy.
The meals I sampled were a real pleasure to the palate, but you have to appreciate this type of food. The reason I am saying this is from personal experience. Mainly, I know that Cajun food it not a favorite or even popular with the Montrealers. I used to give cooking courses and when looking for students, only handfuls were interested. For years I spoke of Cajun food to deaf ears, but never really took off in Montreal. I remember in the 80’s going to Cajun House downtown on a date, although a popular place and packed to the brim, the food was 911 mega hot, so spicy were the dishes, I started to have an allergic reaction to the spice and thought my guts would bust. Maybe this is how people all thought of Cajun food, too hot & spicy for them, so they stayed away
A few years later The Cajun House closed down for lack of interest and customers. At the Cajun House I got a taste of my first Shrimp étouffée. Some years later, La Louisanne on Sherbrooke opened up, it has been around for a while now, but it was never taken off as a real Cajun hot spot. I always saw it as just another bar and hangout for the locals. I heard that some chefs in the city were cooking hints of Cajun food here and there on their menus. But never a full blown menu is Montreal ever going to be ready for real Cajun food I thought.
I was introduced to Paul Prudhomme’s cookbook ‘’Louisiana Kitchen ‘’ shortly after my dinner at The Cajun House in the 80”s and I fell in love with Cajun cuisine. So much, that in 2010 I visited New Orleans ate at K Paul’s and took cooking classes at NOCE. Life has never been the same; I have become a Cajun Snob. My expertise became anything Cajun and I sold buckets of Chicken Creole and dumpling soup.
So you could imagine my skepticism when I heard Bistro Nolah had opened in The West Island. I shied away for three years for various reasons but mostly because I lack confidence in the West Island food scene and believing that it was not going to be much different from my many of the other experience I had with Cajun food in this city. Dismissing it because I thought wouldn’t last. I was totally wrong.
But it was during a Zomato meet up in spring that Bistro Nolah came up in the conversation and was strongly recommended to me by Genevieve via the Montreal Maven during our dinner. Trusting in one of my fellow foodie’s recommendations, then it must be good, so it was warranted a try.
Opened in Winter 2012, Bistro Nolah is co owned by Chef Richard Taitt (Auberge Willow’s Inn, Bistro on the Avenue and Rest Cajun Blues in Ste Anne de Bellevue) and chef Chris Eamer ( Willows Inn, Auberge des Gallants , Mimosa Cafe.) Their team is completed by Pastry Chef Isabelle Plourde. They bring lots of authentic Southern flavors and experience to the table.
One night, tired and not wanting to drive back into town, I made reservations for us to have a quiet dinner at Bistro Nolah. As we approached the gated wrought iron and brick arbor I liked what they had done with the space that previously house Momesso Cafe. The inside of the restaurant is a small nicely decorated space with dark wooden tables, chairs and flooring. The walls painted a burnt yellow like the Louisiana sun displays decor of musical jazz instruments and wall art. The terrace is spacious and privately gated with cedars and greenery. It sits on a quiet angle of a residential street, hidden a little from the traffic on St Jean’s boulevard. This is where we chose to sit on this warm summer evening with the sounds of jazz playing in the background.
We were given our menus and wine list. The wine choices are very reasonable and fair. We started with a bottle of Californian-Woodbridge Merlot 2013 from Robert Mondavi winery at $ 35.00, at a descent price.
For starters we were brought a two hush puppies amuse bouche from our more than hospitable and affable waiter Matthew. These were the perfect starters and a great entrance and introduction to this type of cuisine. Deep fried rounds of cornmeal on an aioli sauce. They were crispy and perfectly moist on the inside, with a slight hint of Cajun spice to accentuate the flavors of southern food.
Next I ordered an entree of Louisiana crab cakes $ 7.00 my next favorite thing in Cajun cooking along with beignets. Also a very flavourful mix of deep fried rounds of crabmeat, served with a medley of corn aioli sauce and chives. Rolled in cornmeal, so exterior was extra crispy and interior bursting with flavors of hot paprika and cayenne.
Frenchie ordered a cream of celery root soup -$8.00, which is his favorite. Served in a square bowl, with drizzle of olive oil and chopped chives. Perfect consistency and packed with flavors. For his main meal, he ordered the Braised Short Ribs -$26.00 with mashed potatoes puree and julienned parsnips and beets.
The ribs were fall off the bone, the sauce and jus, sitting atop some olive oil made it perfect for dipping.
I ordered the special on the menu that evening Southern Fried chicken with Nolah BBQ Sauce-$ 25.00.
It came with two pieces of fried chicken, homemade BBQ sauce, Mac n cheese and the house coleslaw. Southerners are known for their fried chicken, made in the simplest method, always perfectly crisp.
The chicken was a little overdone on the outside, but still moist. What threw this dish over the top was the homemade barbeque sauce, packed with flavor, a little sweet with a little acidic hints of vinegar and lots of spice and very tasty. I kept dipping the white chicken pieces in it. The Mac N cheese served in a small ramekin was really creamy with cheese. Very soothing and comforting even in the heat. The coleslaw was too chunky and lacked flavor.
Being full with all the food, we skipped out on the dessert, but vowed to return to try other items on their menu as they all looked equally good. The hospitality was just as sweet as Southern Ice tea and the overall feeling was very comforting. We were going to make Bistro Nolah our home in the future.
Restaurant Le Vestibule signé Aurochs
Hôtel Alt Quartier DIX30
9395 Boulevard Leduc
Brossard, QC J4Y 0A5
Cost : $ 143.75 (tax & tip Included)
Chef Hats: 4
Le Vestibule is a trendy lounge type restaurant attached to the Aurochs steakhouse in the ever so popular Quartier Dix 30 -Alt Hotel in Brossard. It serves excellent tapas like plates, has a cool terrasse and great music. It is very convivial and a good place for Happy Hour or just unwind after a long day of shopping in the huge mega-plex mall.
It offers a large variety of bistro fare at reasonable prices. All dishes are super fresh, well presented with the food right combinations, right down to the delicious desserts, cocktails and whisky bar. New and innovative, young chef Mitch O’Donnell hits all the right notes, his talents are at his best here. There was not one dish that I tasted that did not perfectly blend well together, in a medley of colors, and array of explosive flavors to the palate.
There is a mix of dishes to please every taste bud, from tartar’s of all kinds, to ribs, mini sliders, seafood and tacos all done with class. Why not splurge and try them all with the Table du Chef menu at $ 44.00. You can’t go wrong.
We happen to have literally stumbled across Le Vestibule, after picking up Brains from her friends place in St Bruno, after driving around for an hour looking for a place to eat. On our way back home, we figured that we could find a cool hip pub for the girls to snack at the Quartier. Petit Pois and Frenchie with the discerning taste opted for Le Vestibule after looking at the menu. Luckily, they were able to accommodate us without reservations and the festivities began.
Frenchie and I started with two glasses of Rose wine Gran Feudo from Spain -$10.00. Clean and fruity with aromas of strawberry and raspberry, it was well balanced with the perfect acidity to go with our choice of salads, vegetables, fish and charcuterie platter.
We also chose to go with a few entrees instead of a large main meal to leave room for dessert. Brains and I choose to share, the trio of salmon tartar with fried egg roll wrappers and slivers of cucumber beautifully presented on a slate plate. Exceptionally fresh cubes of salmon infused with lime and gin, green onions and tobiko wasabi. Not overpowering in flavor and very light. The fried eggs roll wrappers a perfect accompaniment, just wish we could have had more. The cucumber slivers a real palate cleanser.
Our second plate was a deconstructed Waldorf salad made with Asian Pears, celery, Boston lettuce, radicchio, red raisins and vinaigrette infused with gorgonzola and topped with walnuts. The combination was heavenly. The walnuts adding the right crunchiness, the vinaigrette with gorgonzola was light and not overpowering. The sweetness of the Asian pears, mixed well with the bitterness of the radicchio. A marriage made in heaven.
Our third entree was a platter of fried calamari with a piperade of sweet red peppers, rapini and parsley. The piperade in itself lightly marinated in vinegar was delicious on its own. The calamari, tender and crispy not chewy or rubbery at all. We could have gone for seconds on everything for how tasty it all was.
Frenchie and Petit Pois two dishes were equally pleasing. Frenchie took the platter of charcuterie, which consisted of a generous portion of two sliced salami’s, one spicy and one mild, rillettes de canard, mousse de foie de volaille. As a base a spread of confiture d’oignons au porto, a medley of black and green olives, and grilled raisin bread and a slab of semi soft Quebec cheese, missing was the pickles. The juxtaposition of the tartness of the onion jam and the marinated olives went well with the spiciness of the meat. The sweetness of the raisin bread also complimenting the flavors of the cheese and the chicken liver mousse. A good example of fine pairings and successfully mastered.
Petit Pois had the Panzanella Bresaola salad. Slices of deep cured meat with marinated artichokes, cubed bread, tomatoes, basil, onions and chunks of parmesan cheese. Featuring all the flavors of a meditterean summer and freshness.
To complete this fine meal, two decadent desserts of molten chocolate cupcakes topped with brandied maraschino cherries and whipped cream and an apple pie in cocotte infused with maple syrup al la mode with two scoops of creamy vanilla ice cream.
What more can I say…a perfect compliment and ingenious ideas for apple pie.
Le Vestibule not only gets points for their great food but decor as well. Decorated in black and red with checkered floor tiles, long flowing wall to floor silver grey drapes. Mirrors abound with black and red leather banquettes; it feels like stepping into a very masculine parlor. It feels totally Illicit, illegal and caché. It has a romantic and mysterious feel to it. For those whose senses are shocked, the terrasse proves to be a great place to bask in the sunshine or under their large red umbrellas. The name is so apropos, for a minute or a few hours you even forget you are in a mall but feel like to have stepped inside someone’s parlor.