To honor the month of January, I am going back to the first day of the month to bring you one of my prized recipes. This is my version of a traditional holiday meal with a new twist on how to present turkey in an innovative way; or just a way to use leftover turkey and creating something new. It combines all the traditional holiday favorites in a small package, neatly presented to impress any guest. It can be served as an entrée or main meal.
1-10 lb fresh or frozen Turkey (Used Butterball-dethawed)
½ c. Butter stick (cut in squares)
Salt & pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. Poultry Seasoning
1 tbsp. Paprika
1 Tbsp. Onion Powder
1 tbsp. Garlic Powder
1 tbsp Dried Parsley
1 c. Chicken broth
Preheat oven to 375F. Wash turkey and remove giblets, heart and liver in cavity. Place turkey in a large roasting pan. Lift skin gently, and place butter under skin and in cavity. In small bowl combine all the herbs. Rub herbs on skin and add broth to bottom of pan. Cover and cook 2-3 hrs till skin is golden and crispy. Meanwhile cooking start on stuffing below. Once turkey is cooked remove from oven and set aside.
2 c. cubed dried bread (soaked in 1/ 4 c. milk)
½ c bread crumbs (opt)
2 minced celery stalks
1 large Macintosh apple- peeled, cored and cubed
1 small onion minced
1 garlic clove minced
1 egg- lightly beaten
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
¼ c dried cranberries or raisins
1 tbsp butter
In a bowl, add soaked bread and set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter, sauté celery, onions, garlic, and apple for 10 min till browned. Add pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Remove from heat and add vegetables to bread mixture. Add beaten egg, and parmesan cheese. Add extra bread crumbs if desired for thicker consistency if too moist. Add cranberries or raisins last.
Stir to incorporate. Set aside or refrigerate.
Mashed Potatoes/ Ingredients:
5 Potatoes-peeled and cubed
Salt & Pepper to taste
¼ c butter
½ cup milk
¼ c sour cream
2 tbsp minced chives
In a saucepan add cubed potatoes, cover with water and place on stove top at high heat. Boil potatoes till tender. Drain water and mash with potato masher. Add butter, milk, sour cream, salt and pepper and chives and stir till mixed and creamy. Set Aside.
Cranberry Sauce: Ingredients
1 c. fresh cranberries
¼ c. water
1 c. sugar
1 – Zest of orange and 1 tsp rind
2 tbsp. triple sec or Cointreau liquor
In saucepan add water, cranberries and sugar and liquor and place on stove top on high heat till boiling, reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally till thickened. Add zest and juice of orange last 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
2 c pan Drippings and liquid
1 tbsp beef Bovril or beef stock
2 tbsp flour
Salt & pepper to taste (opt)
Remove Turkey from Oven. Drain 2 cups of Juices into saucepan using a sieve to gather residue. Add 1 tsbp. Beef stock or beef Bovril. Add 2-3 tbsp flour and stir with whisk till smooth. Taste and add salt & pepper if needed.
Mis en place:
1 c Mozzarella or Gruyère cheese
¼ c chives- minced or sprig
Remove one of the turkey breasts and shred or pull apart meat. Place in bowl and add gravy to moisten. Set aside.
With an emporte piece, place stuffing mixture on bottom of emporte piece, press down with tamper, then top with shredded turkey meat and tamp down gently. Last layer- top with mashed potato mixture. Lift emporte piece up slowly. With spatula, transfer Parmentier to baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Make another Parmentier and repeat steps. You can make 4-6 as preferred (more or less). Top all Parmentiers with shredded cheese, Mozzarella or Gruyère preferably. Bake in oven at 350F till cheese is melted and golden. Remove from oven and set aside.
On a plate, place a layer of cranberry sauce on bottom, place Parmentier on top of cranberry sauce and garnish with chives. Serve immediately.
Makes 4-6 Parmentiers, depending on size of emporte piece.
Maison Birks Café
1240 Place Phillips Square/St Catherine
Chef Hats: 4.5
Type of Cuisine: Tea Service
Cost: $ 26.50 per person
I always celebrate the holidays by doing one traditional outing in Montreal. This year we wanted to choose something memorable for the girls. Since they love tea we decided to take them to Maison Birks Café. We wanted to choose something of value or something they would not choose to do on their own. Included in that, a sort of lesson about Montreal’s historical past combined with something of the present that they would enjoy immensely. My parents used to do this with us and we always had the best of times and learned life’s lessons that stayed with us forever.
Last year, Frenchie had suggested we try Birks Café in the Birks Flagship Jewelry store in downtown Montreal for lunch after one of our downtown shopping sprees. I remember as a kid always being afraid to wonder into Birks as it seemed so opulent and foreign to me. I remember my aunt discussing how they had the finest things there and since the turn of the century it was the go to place for most of Montreal high society and aristocracy. Apparently they only shopped there for their finest accoutrements. I remember receiving a wedding gift from Birks in one of their prized blue boxes. I prized it for many years, till the box become old and tattered.
That is when we saw the Tea Service Menu and decided it was going to be a great idea. Birks is packed with history and class. I knew full well that Brains would love the historic aspect, and value of the building and Petit Pois would love everything about the experience. She is so dainty and delicate like a fine piece of jewellery and would fit right in among them. So we booked a Saturday afternoon for 3 o’clock tea service. Both of the girls had never been inside the Birks building on St. Catherine, even though they have passed in front of it a dozen times. Upon entering, they looked around timelessly in awe and entire splendor at the different ornate cherub moldings and marble flooring, mesmerized by the architecture and feeling of time past. Like a museum we looked around and read all the historical information that you can find at the back of the store in a virtual time capsule to Henry Birks and the era. The restaurant is situated on the mezzanine of the store a few marble steps up, in a space unlike the rest of the store it has a modern contemporary feel with its brown leather chairs and draped tablecloths, glass display counters of products and lit mural showcases.
Opened in September 2010, Birks Café by Europea is the brain child of Jerome Ferrer the executive Chef behind Europea, Restaurant Andiamo, Beaver Hall, Café Grévin and TV host Francis Reddy. Ferrer who was already established in France as a master chef with lots of experience behind him and lots and lots of accolades, made a bold move and invested in Quebec in 2001. Considered a grand Chef de Relais and Chateaux, a prestigious nomination and part of the grand tables du Monde. Chef Jerome ferrer is a force to reckon with and you can count that his establishment are a well thought out and oiled machine. I have only heard many good things about his restaurants. Birks Café is the only one I had the pleasure of going to as of yet. But my introduction was a good and satisfying one from the onset.
The afternoon Tea Service at Birks Café is served weekdays from 2:30 and 3 pm on weekends, it will set you back $ 26.50, not a steep price to pay for the quality, service and fantastic experience. We got the best seat in the house, the table in the private corner nook completely at the back for four amidst the displays of Blue Birk boxes .Special!
Included in the tea service is a choice of tea (pot) from Marriages Frères with milk and lemon, mini tea sandwiches with cucumber and shrimp, Finger appetizers of duck foie gras and chutney, and smoked salmon with Abitibi Temiscamingue Caviar, mini club sandwich with crispy prosciutto and scone, Devonshire cream and homemade jams, two dessert in a terrine (chocolate and raspberry and cream and apricots, and chocolates. We got about two each and it was more than satisfying.
We started by choosing our teas, Marco Polo, Russian Breakfast, Jasmine Mandarin and Earl Grey Imperial. We were brought our teas with big fanfare and an hourglass system that was explained to us on how to use, making the seeping method and infusions clear. Genial! The girls were totally impressed and so was I for that matter.
After a short wait our platters arrived with big fanfare and another explanation of the food. Two platters for four, filled with mini sandwiches, canapés, terrines, macaroons, scones and Devonshire cream, jam and chocolates.
The mini sandwiches and canapés were soft, fresh and the flavors inside delightful. The desserts were perfectly sweet and appetizing for the “sweet tooths” in our group. The macaroons heavenly, the scones were totally filling with all the Devonshire cream and jam and my teapot seemed endless. It was plenty enough to not have to order another pot, even though I would have enjoyed sampling another one. The terrines hit the mark but I couldn’t complete it, as I found it very sweet and filling. The girls marvelled at the array of choices and enjoyed everything to the last crumb. It was a different experience for them and a great history lesson as we discussed the landmark building and Montreal’s past and the places that had special relevance in our city’s that are now defunct. Our two hours passed quickly and we would have loved to linger but it was time to head back home to enjoy the rest of the holidays in another traditional sense.
2156 MacKay, corner of Sherbrooke
Tel: (514) 989-7514
Type: Cafe Casual- Persian
Chef Hats: 2.5
Afternoon Tea and High Tea Services have become quite the rage the last few years in Montreal. With all the specialized tea shops popping up everywhere, specialized cafes, tea rooms and hotels are serving anything from a simple cup of tea and a few cookies or a complete tea service with scones, tea sandwiches, crème fraiche and jams. There is no shortage of places to go indulge in your tea fantasies in Montreal.
One may think it is quite British, but in fact, high tea was introduced to ‘The Downton Abbey” crowd by the Portuguese and was the opposite of what we call High tea in the afternoon for the bourgeois class. It was served more during supper time and consisted of a heavier meal of cheese, bread and meat. It is the Brits who notably made it into a 3 pm ritual to appease their appetites before their usual supper which is served in Europe around 8 pm.
Growing up I remember my mom always have pot of tea and a platter of cookies ready after school when I returned. It was a mom and daughter ritual that was passed on to me unknowingly. It was a way to relax after a cold day, appease our appetites before dinner time and also to sit and chat to catch up on the day’s events. I have to admit that I prefer much more the flavors of coffee and I have not been much of a tea drinker these days. I limit myself to drinking a few cups when I am not feeling well. A sort of comfort ritual, but things are a changing, as my daughter has begun to reintroduce me to the whole culture of teas as I had never known existed before. She had shown me that there are more than just Tetley’s orange pekoe and has helped me sample different imported teas from all over the world. We have discussed the different between the various speciality shops in Montreal and their products. She has shown me the way to properly seep tea, the various methods and the different temperature one must use for ach tea. She has explained the different flavors that emanate from the infusions. She has become an avid only tea drinker and had quiet mastered the skill along with her plethora of friends who go as far as drinking bubble tea in Chinatown on their afternoons off. I am reveling in the fact that I am able to learn from her and funny how the tables have turned.
So it was apropos that after a day of walking the Golden Square Mile, shopping and visiting museums with Frenchie, we decided to go for a relaxing tea. I remembered that Nocochi Cafe on MacKay Street was around the corner and decided to revisit it for some rest and relaxation and of course their delicious Persian cookies and Bergamot infused tea. I had been there a few times with a girlfriend of mine and Frenchie for a Pied a Terre after a busy afternoon shopping downtown. The place is absolutely soothing!
Minimalist in decor and pure white everything decor, it is unassuming. It is very pleasing on the senses and very comfortable with its white wicker chairs, white tables and banquettes. There are enough comfortable pillows that you can prop against your back and the banquettes to soothe your achy back from a whole day of walking. There is nothing bohemian about the place, but you can sense the exotic.
The café’s name is derived from the word “nokhodchi,” that’s Farsi for “chick pea”. Presently owned by Marc St. Jean who took over a few years back, Nocochi was originally opened by an Iranian ex- pat, whose family hailing from Dubai owns five pastry shops under the brand name of Vivel. Vivel was founded by Shahnaz Bahgerzadeh whose mission was to bring her high end delicacies of Persian cookies to markets across the world.
Here at the café you will find an array of fine imported cookies and teas for your tea service and much more on their menu, including breakfast and lunch. It serves up specially prepared à la carte afternoon tea service that goes well with their long list of exquisite imported teas.
A must try is the Nocochi or British Tea service which I sampled today which included a trio of mini sandwiches made with Canadian rock crab, ham and brie and Beef and Brie, or simply order a platter of delicate flavorful Persian cookies. All was good except the bread on the sandwiches was a little too dry for my taste. The cookies were delicious as ever and the tea heavenly.
As for the teas, there are over 20 types to choose from starting from $2.50 for a teapot of strong Sri Lankan Ceylon Bop Shawland black tea to $9 for Gyokuro Bio, a Japanese-grown variety considered one of the finest green teas in the world. I sampled two types here the Serenity at $ 4.00, a blend of rose hips, sage, lemon, orange blossoms, zest and tangerine. It has a very calming effect and The Earl grey Green with bergamot at $ 3.00 a teapot to go with the cookie platter.
If you go you have to try at least one of the delicate and beautiful decorated Persian cookies made out of finely ground chickpea flour, shaped in array of squares, diamonds, golden crescents and rounds they all have their distinct flavorings and topping, such as chocolate, hazelnut and pistachio, honey and are flavored with exotic aromatic spices and rose water and much more that make them look more like jewels than food.. Purely Decadent! The cookies start as $.80 cents each and are sold for $ 8.00 a gram. Platters start at $ 16.00 and go up to $ 31.00, if you want to indulge get the biggest platter take home.
Nocochi Café has flown under-the-radar in Montreal for almost 10 years now. Frequented often by the mostly the Concordia University crowd and not known by many others except some in the Iranian/Arab community. They have kept it a secret because it is really a small gem and have not wanted it spoiled. It is a very casual refreshingly quiet isolated spot that is rarely busy or full. It is a type of place that wants to make you linger and that inspires those great ideas, it wants to make to hang out all afternoon and night and discuss life away with lots of tea and cookies.
It is the perfect place for a romantic afternoon tea with your other half or a good girlfriend, friends or family to just chill-ax and a secret place to hide and enjoy another world away.
11798 Boulevard de Salaberry ( Marché de L’ouest)
Dollard-des-Ormeaux, QC H9B 2R8
Telephone : (514) 542-3222
Type Cuisine: Casual Fifties Diner
Cost: $ 64.25 ( not including tax and tip)
Chef Hats: 3
No reservations required
Unless you were born during the 50’s and have a good memory of the times, there is not much those born in the sixties and afterwards one can remember about this era today to really talk about it. Of course there are a few remnants of the fashions and hairstyles of the day in books chronicling the period, we can spot cars in movies, or while on vacation in Cuba, or see them in car shows. Some of our grandparents may still have in some of their homes, furniture and decor that evoke a sign of the times. The music, I can say is what lingers mostly and is still prevalent and can be heard from time to time as well. Basically it is a bygone era where life, people and everything seemed so simple.
My curiosity about the fifties peaked while in my teens in high school when all the rage was the” Happy Days “television show. Who can remember the gang sitting around Mel‘s dinner, eating burgers and drinking malt sodas in red and white stripped vinyl leather booths, with tunes from Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly playing on a jukebox. We all wanted to emulate them and be like them. In the years that followed, the American Diner type places in terms of decor and ambiance were far and few in between in Montreal. We have the Belle Province restaurants that play on that theme and decor, and a few others like Nickels, but over the course of the last 30 years, The American Diner had virtually disappeared in Montreal and replaced by gourmet burger shops playing on the French Bistro themes.It was a whole fun era that the kids of today had little exposure to. It was a wholesome innocent time, clean puritanical fun. The food was not much too write home about, it was just classic comfort food and large portions.
In a bold venture move in October 2010, Marc Emond opened Jukebox Burgers in the Marche de L’Ouest in Dollard des Ormeaux , when the American type diner were almost but extinct. The decor is a real throwback to the 50’s and he has single handily managed to re introduce a slice of this era to the kids of this generation. You will even find a large jukebox playing music at the front of the house. But most of all you can find every combination and permutations of piled high burgers and fries, dogs and salads and other foods for all to indulge in their Classic American Diner experience.
I have visited Jukebox burger a few times now while making a hungry man pit stop from my weekly market shopping spree at the Marché de L’Ouest in Dollard des Ormeaux. But none was so eventful as the day I introduced Brains to it, this year while on our usual rounds shopping at the Market during the holidays, we were both craving a big red meat juicy burger and curly Q fries. Jukebox takes burgers and diner type foods to a whole new height. You can choose how many patties you want in your burger, ( The Burger Tower has six), the type of bread, type of cheese, a plethora of different toppings and the any variations of French Fries, from straight cut to, curly to sweet potatoes or mashed and your own choice of sides, like chili, onion rings , coleslaw or salad. To boot it is very vegan and gluten free friendly. There are many other classic American dinner items on their menu such mac’n’cheese in all its glories. Hot dogs in all its variations and forms, all types of poutine with anything you want on it. Any combination salad that you can create on your own and any type sandwiches including a pretty mean Philly Cheese steak, submarines and wraps. For those that really want to indulge in a slice of Americana they even a dairy bar for those decadent milk shakes, floats and smoothies. For the diehard drinkers, there also have an alcohol permit and a cocktail menu.
I started my introduction at Juke box Burgers on my first initial visit with a Classic Simple Dean Cheese with Monterrey Jack Cheese, simple, good and satisfying. Everything was fresh and tasty. I graduated to the Elvis with carmelized onions , mushrooms and Swiss cheese. Simply decadent. On my subsequent return I had the Philly Cheese steak sandwich; I have to admit this was pretty good. Not many places truly know how to make the original version, but I found the meat really tender, with the right combination of Worchestshire sauce and cheese. The bread was the perfect medium to carry this all forward.
On this lazy Sunday, Brains, Frenchie and I decided to show Brains the history buff, who this year is taking an American Film class, a slice of the typical Americana history. Sometimes I feel the need to share what I know with Brains, so I can peak her curiosity and make her discover a piece of history we would sometimes not venture to. A passing of my knowledge, or so to say, of my pioneer days. Brains was excited and thought it was a good idea, she found upon entering the restaurant’s the red and white, stripes and checkered tiles on the wall alarming to the senses, after a few eye accommodations to the decor, we explained this was the classical decor for these type of diners in the heydays and of course the jukebox is a must and the one at Juke box is gigantesque, the decor is the typical M.O. to say the least.
After scanning the menu, she ordered The Franky, the basic hamburger on white with tomato, lettuce, and condiments to start with, and Suzie Q curly fries and a cherry coke. Frenchie had a club sandwich and sweet potato fries and vanilla Milkshake and I had Rocky Marciano with a Beef and Bacon Poutine and a beer. I graduated.The service was uber friendly, quick and accommodating. The vibe was fun and as the tunes played on, we explained the various memorabilia plastered on the wall that evoke the old film star days. You will also find lots of hockey memorabilia and TV screens, which probably are good for the days where hockey matches our prevalent in our Belle Province.
The food arrived and the portions were huge. All was to our liking and good. The beef tasted Angus; the buns were fresh as well as the topping, not a delicate gourmet presentation. But heck! This is an American style dinner folks. It is simple, nothing fancy and or minimalistic about presentations here, just a good ratio for the price worth the quality and quantity. Life made simple again. It was fun, the food was good and what more do you want, the owner would say!
Jukebox has been garnering such publicity these days it even made it on John Catucci –“You Gotta eat Here! Which will air in the New Year sometime on the Food Net work, date not yet disclosed.
I would definitely recommend Jukebox and especially for the kids and if you don’t have any, you could be the kid for a night. I would go all out and do the whole kit and caboodle, on a Friday or Saturday night. Schmaltz and ALL!
378 Avenue Victoria / Sherbrooke St
Cost: $ 230.71 (3 persons, including tip and tax)
Cuisine: Japanese, Sushi with Mix South American flavors
Chef Hats: 3.5
Victoria Avenue in Westmount has a special place in my soul; it is the place I healed. For five years I worked on this quiet Westmount Street and had the best years of my life. I grew as a person, ventured forth and discovered new skills. I walked the street daily and visited all the shops, chatted and made friends with many interesting people. I further mastered my skills by taking lots of cooking classes at La Cucina with Max Pompei, shopped at the Metro supermarket daily and ate at all the little restaurants lining the Victoria and Sherbrooke street. Long gone is The Mess Hall, Scola Piatto, Sapori Pronto, La Transition, even the Crossroads is gone. I met lots of great interesting people that are cemented in my memory. It was a real growing curve and I will never forget it. When I left it in 2005 with a sad heart I returned a few times to reminisce about what was. So in 2012 when I heard that the area had gone through a few changes I have been meaning to return to my old digs and see what had become of the neighborhood.
Enter Chef Antonio Park and his new restaurant by his last name. Having garnished quite a reputation since quietly opening in February 2012, Chef Park has added to his roster this year two more restaurants Lavendria and Jatoba, it was time I pay the restaurant a visit. With Brains and Frenchie in tow we headed there one late afternoon for shopping trip to visit Jonathan Cheung at Appetite for Books to purchase some classic cookbooks that I had wanted to acquire for some time to complete my collection; and an eminent pit stop for early dinner at Park’s.
The restaurant is tucked behind a row of cedars on the street level in an industrial building housing the Victoria Park Spa. The decor is loft/warehouse style with open cement ceilings and hanging ventilation ducts and lighting. A simple decor with white walls, dark wood tables chairs, banquettes, blackboards (no menus), and L shaped wine bar. Very simple for a renowned world chef making big headlines across the board, but his creations are nothing but simple, with its intricate displays of fish, meats and sushi. Best seat in the house is the counter at back sitting in front of the chef watching him create his magic. A show in itself, you will be mesmerized.
This evening we arrived early to an empty restaurant and got to sit in a large banquette facing the window. Regal! Our waitress Michelle, so patiently repeated the menu and explanations as the blackboard was not visible from where we sat and there are no menus here to ponder for hours.
We started with half Hakutsuru Sake, at $ 14.00 for Brains and I, a bottle of Mineral Water to cleanse the palate in between meals and a glass of Cabernet for Frenchie at $ 16.00, very steep and grossly overpriced. Brains decided to go with her favorite bowl of Edamame beans and I opted to share a deconstructed salad with Frenchie at $23.00.
The huge deconstructed salad came on a large rectangular plate, it may seem overpriced but it was huge and easily was shared by three and with lots of leftovers. Simply divine and beautifully created and paired with right ingredients. We were served three sauces to top off our greens, a composite of shredded lettuces, cabbage, broccoli, green peppers, carrots, squash, Mesclun salad, beans, celery and scallions.
We had a difficult choice to make in terms of main meals, as we definitely wanted to try the sushi, but were also temped with the short ribs, and angus Steaks dishes. But having heard that Park serves the famous Kaimin Tai Fish, or acupuncture fish, we were tempted to go with the sushi. Park is one of the first that brought this type of fish to Canada from Japan. A novelty in itself, the fish is still alive when it gets to Montreal. Let me extrapolatehe fish is actually induced into a coma-like state by inserting acupuncture needles in it, a humane method of killing fish developed by the Japanese in 2005 in their constant quest for freshness. The restaurant is the only one nationwide that carries Kaimin Tai; the fish is so fresh when it arrives to Montreal that it has been said that its eyes are still as clear as if it was fished a minute ago. It still holds its shape and its organs are still perfectly intact. Chef Park serves his acupunctured pink snapper topped with chimichurri, homage to his native Argentina. The tart flavor of the chimichurri is a perfect complement to the sweet fish. Last summer Neil Patrick Harris and Katty Perry dined at Park just to have his famous dish.
So we opted for Two sushi platters, the Special Maki at $ 35.00 and the Sashimi (18 pieces) at $ 39.00 and a Beef Teriyaki at $ 29.00 for Frenchie. The Sashimi came with five types of raw fish, salmon, sea bream, mackerel, albacore and yellowtail tuna. Mixed with vegetables, greens and sliced ginger and rice, each individual slices morsels between 4-5 pieces each were super fresh , and accompanied with four different sauces. Totally delectable and different. Brains, said it was the best she ever tasted and she has eaten lots of sushi.
The Maki platter came with eight pieces of sushi, resembling Dragon eyes, warm and with a crispy exterior and totally tender and utterly tasty. It was beautifully presented on a wooden chop block, atop a thick sweet ponzu type sauce garnished with jalapeño peppers. It was spicy enough and very addictive, but a stunning display of technique and balance of tastes. I was stunned with the quality and presentations. As the witching hour approached the restaurant started to fill up. The place started to buzz, every seat in the house was taken and we felt an urgency to hurry up.
We decided to order a pot of green tea to complete our meal and go out into the cold. I thought our waitress was going to drop dead. Extremely friendly, the color in her face had suddenly changed. She hesitantly accepted our order but returned minutes later to advise us that she did not want to be rude, but the line outside had gotten long and we needed to clear our table for 7:30. Feeling a little rushed we gulped our tea, but it left us with a sour taste in our mouths. I tried not to let us spoil the perfect meal, but Frenchie was none too impressed.
My experience at Park could have gone better. The fact that I was not able to see the menu and know what I was eating was not too conducive for the Foo Foodie. That is why you need to sit at the sushi bar and ask lots of questions. I did not get much of an explanation and came to here to have the house specialties and somehow felt I missed out. At the price we paid, I feel we could have walked away feeling a little more welcome or gotten more out of the experience. The time in Westmount has changed, out with the old guard of every customer is like family and in with the new “you are just another number attitude”.
Not that this will sway me from trying out his new restaurant next door or any of his other ventures. I am stubborn and when I set my mind to something it has to get done. I don’t scare easily and become adamant to prove myself wrong. That maybe it was a one time incident that was not handled appropriately, I can live with that. Twice shy, third time out. Then I get vocal.
Industria Brasserie Italienne
100 Peel St. (at Wellington St. in the Alt Hotel)
Chef Hats: 3.5
Sometimes one must venture out of their territory to find good and adventurous things. This was the case this time when our craving set in for a slice of good pizza and not much was to be found in the Grand Island of wasteland called the West Island. What is happening people!
While every neighborhood in this city is booming with new restaurants opening daily, the West Island has become stagnant. On top of that, the long list of restaurants cited for unclean conditions on one street alone is enough to make you hurl. Do West Islanders have no imagination; all one can find is a list of franchise type restaurants that can be found all over the city and the ones that are independently run are mediocre at best. I returned lately to my beloved Mozza Enoteca and their pizza fell flat, Del Friscos is pathetic, Le Vieux Four needs a whole rehab of their staff and menu and then we are left with the generic pizzeria, but who wants those. The crust is too thick, the tomato sauce is stale and the cheese looks plasticized. Not fit for human consumption, I wouldn’t even serve it to my dog. So for now till someone wakes up and realizes that some of us humans in the West Island do have discriminating palates and good taste buds, I will be eating elsewhere in our vast city.
Enter Industria Brasserie Italienne in Griffintown, situated in the new hip Alt Hotel (Le Germain Group) at the base of Peel Street. Industria has its soft launch on July 11th 2014, along with GEMA in Little Italy that day serving pizza for $ 5.00 a slice. Competing head to head with Stefano Faita may seem a little pretentious, but hey, if you think you have got it flaunt it. Industria is run by chef is Sergio Mattoscia of the now defunct Macaroni Bar on St Laurent. Mattoscio made his name as a contestant on Top Chef Canada and his claim to fame has got to be his famous gnocchi poutine.
Industria is located on the second floor of the hotel in an industrial looking space. The restaurant can be a pleasure or a disturbance on the senses. Depending on what type of person you are, let me extrapolate. The place is vast and can be a little cold. Not cold in the sense of decor as the red hues of the plush red lounge chairs add a vibrant color to the room, but cold in terms of heating. With its high ceilings, metal chairs, black leather banquettes and floor to ceiling glass wine cellar the feeling is cold especially if the heat is not turned up.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking the place. I loved the decor as soon as I walked in. A little Las Vegesque, I found the ambiance to be very hip young urbanite. The music was cool, the lounge area relaxing and the bar area fun. It’s a great place for all age groups, no matter where you sit. The space is immense and we got to sit in an area between both that was very private. I was in a good mood and looking forward to some decent food.
We decided to start of our meal by warming up with two glasses of red Santa Christina from the region of Tuscany, Italy at $ 10.00 each. Our waiter Marc, very hipster looking was very accommodating and efficient, not your average serious Italian waiter, he fit perfectly with the look and feel of the restaurant.
We ordered our usual, a plain Margherita pizza at $ 15.00 for Frenchie and a Pizza Freschezza -$ 19 for me which consisted of Prosciutto, arugula, cherry tomatoes, and parmesan cheese and truffle oil. A reasonable price to start with. We were brought a little bowl of red chili pepper paste as recommended by our waiter to enhance the pizza and a pair of scissors.
Our pizza arrived shortly thereafter on two separate wooden butcher blocks. Two slabs of thick square shaped pizzas with generous amounts of fresh cheese. The Margherita had one sliver of sardine on it, but could have done with a little more fresh basil. The Freschezza had a generous portion of prosciutto and not much arugula which suited me fine as I always feel some places top it with too much salad anyways.
What I found super different was the scissors and I made a comment to the waiter that I felt right at home as my mom used to cut her pizza with a scissor instead of a pizza cutter. The old fashioned way, we laughed about that. You can tell that the chef is a true Italian when he serves you scissors with the pizza. The pizzas were both tasty and of the right consistency and thickness. Not too thin and not too doughy. The pizzas were topped with fresh quality ingredients and they were just plainly delicious with the right seasonings. The spicy chili mixture enhanced the pizza furthermore, but I did not really taste the truffle oil. The pizzas were both filling and satisfying, we devoured the entire pizza not leaving a piece and we moved on to our night cap, coffee. We had the usual, one short and one long espresso. This completed the meal perfectly.
An hour and a half into the meal we were done. I was still cold and I opted for the warmth of home. Too bad it was about a 35-40 minute ride back, but worth every minute. Maybe I will move to Griffintown, the place needs more Italians.
1595 St-Laurent Blvd. (de Maisonneuve Blvd.)
Cost: $ 164.40 (excluding tip)
Chef Hats: 4
Don’t get fooled by it’s location, Bouillon Bilk is not situated on the coolest strip of St Laurent street but it surely can compete with the ones located a little further up on the street. You must have driven past it a dozen times or more, but would have never noticed it because it doesn’t have a flashy neon sign above the door. Situated in the old “Provisions” locale, it is nestled amid grungy clothes stores, wholesalers and camera shops and may seem a little out of place but not out of the ordinary. Bouillon Bilk is a must try.
I believe everything has a good story and a reason for its madness. This area which seems to be going through a revival since 2008-2009, was known as part of the Montreal Red light district. In 2009, I worked for a Real Estate developer for a couple of months who was revamping the area with new condo developments. The Spectacles des Arts was in construction and the idea was that with its completion the neighborhood would boom with young urbanites. Relegated to the bowels of a dusty building, I needed to get out for lunch. Provisions which had just opened its doors provided great food at reasonably good prices and seemed to be doing well. Then it closed, people were not ready for it as they seemed to still prefer the upper St Laurent area above Sherbrooke.
Then I heard that in 2011 Bouillon Bilk had set up shop in the same spot. It was getting good reviews with its innovative techniques and fancy dish preparations. Bouillon Bilk was at the top of the echelon with some of the best restaurants in Montreal. Owned by Francois Nadon (Bronte, XO, and The Globe) and Melanie Blanchette (Lemeac) the influence of having worked with the top chefs of these restaurants is apparent here. Each dish masterfully created and presented with an artistic flair and the flavors are beyond belief. Who would have thought that this obscure restaurant has made it to the top 10 best restaurants in Montreal the last couple of years!
Why the name Bouillon Bilk? Bouillon is deriving from a type of soup kitchen that appeared in Paris in the middle of the 19th century serving popular cuisine at small prices. The owners wanted to serve comfort food. Bilk was chosen as an afterthought because it stuck in their heads as a catchy word. One might think it is not an appropriate as it has a derogatory meaning, but it fit well and they stuck with it. Bouillon Bilk was born, but it is far from a soup kitchen and one may go as far as saying it is a far cry from comfort food as we know it. You will not find home cooked dishes here but beautiful master fully crafted representations of foods we like and the prices are high.
This evening, even though parking was sparse on this side of town, I managed to arrive a few minutes late to hold our table. I was greeted by the maitre d with a smile and pleasant welcome and felt right at home. The bar area was already full and buzzing and I got a table at the back of the house, in a little corner, which suited me fine. I love corners and I had a great view for people watching. The crowd at Bouillon Bilk is of a mixed age group, we had a very young couple next to us that looked at the menu and walked out, and maybe they felt bilked. What a shame, because they surely missed out on a very special meal. Whatever their reason, it is not cheap considering the area. You will find a lot of older couples catching a pre show dinner. Then you will find the foodie who just comes for the good food and wine.
The decor here is minimalistic, white cream walls and wooden tables, yet its appealing, with a clean and crisp modern feeling. The place is busy, very busy and every table is full.
Our waitress Veronique brought me the menus and patiently waited for Frenchie to arrive as he was still looking for a parking spot. Meanwhile I ordered a bottle of Sparkling water and two glasses of Burgundy Pinot Noir Amiot by the glass at $14.00 each. Then I waited and waited and waited, no sign of Frenchie…I think he went to park the car in Quebec City! Finally I saw his head pop through the door, a little out of breathe he told me he found lots of parking at the UQAM building on Ontario St. (which is virtually empty at night).
After catching his breath and scanning the menu Veronique re-appeared and asked us if we were ready to order. She described their specials for the evening and proceeded to tell us about their amuse bouche, which we never received. We decided to share an entrée, as I wanted to leave room for dessert. I hear the dessert here are exceptional and did not want to miss out. Not being much of a dessert person I usually don’t go for them, but always end up feeling my meal was not complete.
We started with the Pork dumpling at $ 14.00 (not meant to be shared but we were advised by our waitress). The dumpling was one large flat dumpling topped with a tige of deep fried crispy rice, enobi mushrooms, sautéed green onions and celery, corn kernels, and cubes of sweet prune. This was delicious. The pork meat mixture inside the large pocket was flavorful and not overpowering with too much ginger or scallions. The toppings of vegetables really enhanced the dish. A mix of textures, with the crunchiness of the celery and sweetness of the prune and corn kernels. An earthy taste from enobi mushrooms and the sticks of fried rice were decadent. We should have had one each, sharing was not enough.
For our main meal, we both went with fish this evening, I took the Scallops, with shitake mushrooms, squash and pears topped with watercress and beurre noisette at $29.00. The scallops were perfectly sautéed in the beurre noisette giving it the whole dish an earthy taste. The scallops were tender and not overcooked, not rubbery.
They tasted very light, the mushrooms enhancing the earthy taste even more; the slivers of zucchini crunchy under the palate.
Frenchie took the Sea Bass with carrots, pistachio crumble, Brussels sprouts and a mushroom called “pied de mouton “at $ 30.00. A large portion of sea bass, with a sautéed charred cumin crispy topping surrounded by a pistachio crumble topped with slivers of carrots and sautéed mushrooms and greens. He admits it was one of the best fish dishes he has had in a while, the flavors complimenting each other perfectly, making this dish out of the ordinary. The presentations were magnificent and very artistic, very eye catching.
After marvelling at the creations we had just completed, we felt we had enough room for dessert. We decided both to order our own dessert and not share. I had the Pudding a pain at $9.00, with quenelles of granita, walnuts and maple syrup. I found my pudding a pain a little dry. Pudding a pain should be as it states, bread make with pudding, making it extremely moist. Almost creamy pudding consistency, this was not. The flavors were great but my quenelles did not taste anything granita, it had more of a creamy ice cream consistency, but was good. I focused on eating that and left the bread pudding on the side.
Frenchie had the Brioche at $ 10.00 topped with chocolate ice cream and peanut crumble, halved red grapes and foie gras. People with food allergies need not apply here. His dish tasted much better and the brioche was moist. This was the way to go here, but if you don’t like chocolate or can’t have peanuts it’s a no go. They do have plenty of other items for dessert that look equally as appetizing. But I feel my dessert fell a little flat. The presentations are great but I would stick with ordering more appetizers.
Upon paying our cheque a guy dressed with a colorful bow tie and hipster hair came to ask us how we liked the food and if all was according to our taste. He must have known we were bloggers from all the pictures we were taking. Frenchie being the ultimate ‘’ Chiaccarone” blabber mouth lately ranted and raved about the food.
All in all Bouillon Bilk is a great experience; maybe we felt bilked but did not mind at all.