980 Place Jean Paul –Riopelle
Telephone: 514-499 2084
Chef Hats: 5
Type of Cuisine: French
Cost=$ 317.33 (excluding tip)
The first thing that struck me when I walked into Toque on this peacefully quiet rainy evening was not its convenient location next to Palais de Congrés in Old Montreal, nor the carefully planned space and décor of this upscale restaurant. It had to be what I call the wall of chefs. Hidden in a corridor next to the bar you will find a type of Andy Warholesque display of some notorious and other famous chef’s that have been influenced by Normand Laprise . Through this display I saw an inkling of the greatness that is Toqué and the sense that it is the driving force in this city when it comes to creating culinary geniuses.
Anthony Bourdain coined it well in a segment of his “Layover” show when he called Normand Laprise the Godfather of the culinary world in this great city of Montreal. Anyone who claims to be a real foodie knows the story of Normand Laprise and has followed him from his humble beginnings at Citrus on St. Laurent, to the opening of the original Toqué on St. Denis Street in 1993. Fans of Normand Laprise have followed him to the move at the new location in Old Montreal, and the opening of Brasserie T in Quartier des Spectacles. They have bought the Toque cookbook and have read the countless write ups. They have watched him on the media making numerous guest appearances over the years thus making him a household name and cementing his reputation permanently as more than just a top chef in this city.
A forewarning that most of you are already aware of, going to a place such as Toqué comes with a hefty price tag and do not expect cheap when dining here. Lots of my friends and acquaintances are afraid to eat here and may have stayed away because they feel spending so much money on dinner is way out of their budget and ridiculous. All I am going to say is save up your jellybeans and go to Toque once in your life time, it is a must do experience and incomparable to any other dining experience you will ever have.
Once here you can go all out by getting the complete tasting menu with wine pairings at $200 a person or scale back by ordering à la carte and you can save a few hundred dollars. I suggest Toqué for those specials occasions when you want to go all out or impress that special someone or for a business lunch or dinner. Whatever your choice, they will be impressed. This was the case for me this evening when going to Toqué.
Let me be honest with you and tell you a story, the first and last time I went to Toqué was 20 years ago when it was situated on St Denis. It was a much smaller space back then but the reputation was just as grandiose as today and I was forewarned it was pricey. I knew what I was getting into but it was for a special occasion, a Valentine dinner celebration with my husband. Dinner at Toque back then put us back about $220.00 for two. After dinner, I heard it all the way home. The experience was none to pleasant and I Iearned quickly that not everyone was the ultimate foodie and willing to spend lots of money on a gourmet dinner. In another time and continuum, things changed and I met Frenchie who appreciates the finer things in life as much as I do. Hence the return this evening for Frenchie’s birthday after so many years and it was all worth it.
Toqué is perfection all around, from the start, it is total professionalism. The staff and waiters are of the highest caliber, our waiter was French and they are the best. You may beg to differ, but their training is like no other. He was great at suggesting the perfect wine with our meal, a Beaune -1er cru 2004-Les Coucherais, JC Rateau at $116.00, even if it was a little above what I wanted to spend, it was perfectly aged 10 years, strong but not overpowering and complimenting our meal perfectly.
Tempted to try the tasting menu this evening but I opted out as it was too much food and wine for me. The tasting menu has to be ordered for the table, therefore if one does opt out its not possible for the other to order it. It worked well with us this evening as Frenchie also just wanted to go via a la carte.
Our wine was decanted and set behind us in a nice carafe and they delivered two amuse bouche of cubed watermelon in olive oil topped with meringue. Very refreshing and a great palate cleanser. The olive oil was so light and the flavors very delicate. A very innovative combination. I would never have thought of.
For our entrees, Frenchie had Foie gras Terrine $27.00, served with peach, brioche bread, pistachio crumble and camelina oil. The nutty and crunchiness of the pistachios added an extra zing to the usual foie gras.
I had my sautéed wild mushrooms for $ 23.00, mixed with fried bread, soy, radish, yuzu sabayon, black garlic puree and sesame. This is a must try for mushroom lovers and totally decadent. It is made to perfection here with the different flavors and even for those non mushroom lovers; you will really enjoy this dish.
For my main dish I had the Beef Rib eye at $52.00, done medium rare on the inside, it was tender and delicious, topped with a mix of crispy greens, served with raspberries and sauce, sliced broad beans and more chanterelles mushrooms, black garlic puree, in a bordelaise sauce minus the extra foie gras.
The rib eye was done to perfection and very tasty, the topping a melange of crispiness and flavors indescribable.
Frenchie had the Mont Laurier Cockerel, at $50.00, with pieces of lobster, mushrooms, leeks, in lemon thyme sauce. It was tender, juicy pieces of chicken in a delicious lemon flavoured sauce, with pieces of sautéed leeks totally mouth watering.
Cockerel is a young Rooster, this one comes from in Mont Laurier in Québec from Societé -original, raised in a natural environmental setting, this society is a conglomerate of family companies featuring poultry and game of all sorts. They trap and raise poultry and game in a respectful manner locally in Québec.
Normand Laprise is known to get much of his produce from local farms in Quebec and helps to promote products from the terroir, always featuring the best products from Quebec in his restaurant. It is his way of him giving back to the land, a pioneer and trend setter in this sort of thing he makes no qualms about it, this is a known fact that Toque is among one of the first restaurant in Montreal for last 20 years that follows this tradition.
You can obviously taste the difference in your meal while dining here and we sure did. After dinner we lingered to finish our great bottle of wine. It was at this point that our waiter did not return to ask us about dessert. Only to discover that a misunderstanding had occurred with the waiter, when Frenchie mentioned we would finish our wine, he believed our meal was complete and after finishing our bottle of wine he promptly brought us our bill. This kind of suited me fine as I was full. I did not really want dessert, but a coffee may have been nice. Frenchie was left a little perturbed and believed the waiter let the ball drop on dessert. I was sure it was a misunderstanding, clarity is important especially when dealing with waiters who are very skilled in client psychology, they are skilled on picking up cues. It did not cloud my opinion of Toque, just reinforced it. I was glad to be back here again and enjoyed every minute, the hefty price tag and all, a definite return someday soon but not in 20 years.
465 Rue McGill/ rue des Récollets
Telephone: (514) 848-9575
Cost: $ 76.46
Chef Hat: 3.5
Cuisine: French Bistro
Do not get fooled by the name, “Boris Bistro” is not a Russian Restaurant. Though, it has got to be undisputedly one of the best open air restaurants in Old Montreal serving French Bistro type food. What makes Boris Bistro different from the rest is its old world charm. Housed between two buildings on McGill Street in the financial district you get the feel that you are dining in an ancient city of roman ruins but it’s actually a courtyard. Similar in look to the proverbial tourist trap Le Jardin Nelson in Old Montreal, this place is much classier, serving classic French favorites, fantastic cocktails and great wines. From the exterior the façade is a shell of what was once called a building, except once inside it reveals itself as an outdoor terrace with wooden tables and white umbrellas, trees, potted plants and walkways. Very romantic I must say, especially at night when it is lit up oh so nice!
The other half of Boris Bistro is on the interior for those oh so cold romantic Montreal winter nights. Done up in white walls with dispersed huge art pieces hung here and there, the look is clean fresh, crisp and minimalistic. You will see a scatter of modern glass vases of flowers and plants set against a predominately white backdrop. White tablecloths adorn the each table and a light wood bar and stools can be found against the wall alongside the restaurant.
I had visited Boris Bistro a few times over the years, the first being eleven years ago in January 2003 for a late night snack with my colleagues after our trade show. We were seated inside on this cold winter night. Being too tired and hungry I did not recall much about the place except that we chatted up a storm about the events of our Snow Show, which brought together the ski industry giants across Canada and the U.S. Those were the good old days and we shared a lots of laughs that evening and drinks.
The second time was in summer of 2008 when I sat on the cool terrasse enjoying a glass of wine and listening to some good music.
This evening after picking up Frenchie at work I decided to surprise him and suggested an impromptu dinner at Boris Bistro around the corner. Frenchie was in awe as he entered the terrasse; he had never really remarked the facade and did not expect to discover that this hidden gem lay behind this exterior. Unfortunately there were no more tables available on the terrasse that evening but our kind considerate hostess suggested an interior table near the large opened window overlooking the courtyard would be better on this evening when it looked like rain. To my surprise the interior had changed a lot and I found it to be more comfortable. Our view was perfect, the menu even better. We watched the people in the courtyard for a while before our waitress showed up to take our order and I spotted Michel Girouard with his Yorkshire terrier sitting next to him on a chair under one of the vast umbrellas in the yard. At first recognizing him but not being able to place his name, Frenchie and I discussed back and forth for a few minutes throwing out names of past of Quebec TV personalities of the 70’s and 80’s. If one was born at the time one would remember that he was quite a flamboyant character and opening gay at the time. When only but a handful of media personalities at the time in Quebec would dare, he was quite modern and avant garde for his time, a quite a trend setter. Well, this can be said of the people who dine at Boris Bistro.
After a little name dropping and people watching our waitress arrived and we ordered two glasses of wine, a Domaine des Trosi Noyers Rose 2012 – pinot noir de Sancerre –Loire at $11.00 and a Gelso Rosso Basicilcata 2010, Tenuta i Gelsi at $11.00. I must mention that their cocktail list is also fantastic with a mix of old favorites and some really cool cocktails. Worth a try!
For starters I had an endive salad at $9.00, which I had been craving for a while now. Tiny bites of chopped endives with large chunks of blue cheese, swirls of cucumber and beets and large pieces of walnuts, a different twist on the classic endive salad, but this one was better. The bitterness of endives and sweetness of cucumber and beets made this salad lighter and balanced in flavors.
My second entree was a salmon tartar at $11.00 served with baguette crisp and arugula salad side. Nicely presented, served on a slate plate and filling enough to satisfy.
In case I was still hungry I ordered a side of frites maison at $5.50 to go with my tartar. A generous bowl of crispy fries served with mayonnaise aioli dip. Delicious and complimenting the salmon tartar perfectly.
Who would have thought! Of course I was not alone in my demise of the French fry eating and Mr Frenchie helped me with the consumption of the frites…now making him Mr. Frenchie Fry!
Mr Frenchie Fry also opted for two entrees, the Old Fashioned Cream of tomato soup served cold like a gazpacho for $ 7.00, one of his all time favorites and a dish called Fiochetti -$ 12.00, dumpling stuffed with rabbit in duck broth. These five large pockets of noodle bundles, stuffed with ground rabbit meat were delicious. They were tender and savoury, the duck broth served as a delicate base. Topped with bitterness of arugula lettuce, as a garnish, but enough to be a side, you get the best of both worlds.
Les Enfants Terribles
1257 Bernard St W. /Champagneur
Cost: $ 64.39 (excluding tip)
Chef Hats: 3
Type of Cuisine: French Bistro/Brasserie
The name ‘’Les Enfants Terribles’’ taken from Jean Cocteau’s 1929 novel of the same name evokes a tale of tragedy for two siblings, Elizabeth and Paul who after their parents’ death go through hardships, their jealousy and tragic games finally result in their untimely death. As negative in connotation as it may sound, this restaurant does not harbor or exhibit any of these trends. As a matter of fact as un-apropos as this name may sound for a restaurant, clientele do flock here in droves and have been since April 17, 2007. It must be the notion of children playing or the fact that maybe here you can act out your mischievous tendencies. Whatever the case, this branché Outremont restaurant, is easily one of the most happening places on Bernard Avenue and their terrasse is always filled to the brim on a summer night with people enjoying themselves.
Opened by Francine Brule and Serge Bruneau, Restaurant “Les Enfants Terribles “ has garnished quite a reputation for being very good in this upper class neighborhood where tastes are considered a little more elevated from the rest of us plebeian Montrealers. The type of food served at Les Enfants Terribles can be categorized as French bistro type fare, but this restaurant calls itself a brasserie.
Expect to find on the menu, anything from soups and salads, as well as their renowned Classic Caesar Salad, Fried Calamari, Foie Gras, Beef Carpaccio, Tartars, Fish, Flank Steak and fries, burgers, and pasta. What makes this restaurant so appealing to the locals is its comfort food, friendly unpretentious service and reasonable prices. The place is vibrant and fun making it a goldmine for the affluent Outremont crowd ,as well as the young professionals, couples and families who come from near and far, to enjoy a convivial meal.
As for the décor, it is basically lots of wood, school room type chairs and wooden tables. Some wall accoutrements can even be classified as rustic with a farmhouse décor feel. The center of the conjoining rooms sport a large central bar and in the corner of the adjacent room you will find a floor to ceiling glass wine cellar that exudes a very urban chic feeling.
Tonight was a casual night for us , we sat inside as the terrasse looked too crowded and cramped. It was also very humid outside and I was already starting to overheat with my hot flashes. We started with two pints of IPA beers, which quenched our thirst. The heat was also not making us very hungry. It was a good beer and burger night for the Foo Foodie. So I ordered the Burger with Cheddar cheese at $ 15.00 plus an additional $ 2.00 for cheddar cheese, well worth it. The cheeseburger came with all the usual fixings and it was quite big. On the side as an accompaniement with the fries came two condiments an aioli sauce and mayonnaise. The burger was about a 1/4 lb. square patty topped with white cheddar, tomato and pickles . The ground beef was fresh, well done and very tasty. One of the best burgers I had in Montreal as of late . The fries were served Belgian style in a steel container with a checkered black and white paper wrapper, beautifully presented but lacked the crispness I expected and were a little overcooked. I had a few with my burger to appease my appetite but Frenchie found them good and ate the rest.
Frenchie, who is becoming the proverbial gourmand, had the Vine tomatoes stuffed with Beef confit, creamy polenta and arugula.
The Tomates Vignes dish is something more along the lines that Chef Éric Gonzalez would make. Who at the time of visiting Les Enfants Terrible was the Executive chef, but a few weeks ago I heard he has left “The Enfants Terribles”, as the word is he was brought on for a short period of time as a consultant. At least you can find Élyse Lambert there as sommelier, who has been getting great reviews for her work the last couple of years. Whatever the case, we went to Les Enfants Terribles because I like Eric Gonzalez work and you could definitely spot a little of his influence here.
Frenchie really loved his red plump perfectly round tomatoes, beautifully presented and mouth watering. The stuffing was delicious and creamy, perfectly complimenting the sweetness of the tomatoes. He really enjoyed it. No pretence here. Les Enfants Terriblse, is a great place for some fun, good beverages and great food, in a great locale. Our waitress was cool, competent, and attentive. She spoke to us in both English and French with no qualms. There was a real sense of neighbourhood friendliness to this to this place with no discrimination. On our way out, we decided to walk along Bernard Street to take a look at the neighborhood and I spotted Denys Arcand the film director seated at the terrasse with some friends enjoying a cool glass of white wine. Like I said the place does not discriminate and is definitely worth a try.
55 Brunswick Boul. /Sources
(in small mall behind Rockaberry)
Dollard des Ormeaux, Québec
Cuisine Type : Japanese /Sushi
Cost =$51.25- (excluding tip and no wine)
Chef Hats : 3.5
All good stories begin and end with tales of exploits and adventures in our favorite places, hence enters Madonna Bailey and Eric Payne, two loyal customers of Mikado on St Denis Street who over 10 years ago decided they spent so much money on sushi (approximately $8000 a year) and decided they should open their own place and so they did; but not only did they open one Japanese restaurant but two in Montreal, one located downtown and the other in the West Island and they took the chef with them.
One princess was called Sho-dan on Metcalfe Street and the other was called Aikawa situated on Brunswick Boulevard in an obscure mall in West Island. Both grew to become two very exceptional fine dining Japanese establishments in Montreal at the time. It was a period in this city where the sushi craze was really starting to take off and patrons couldn’t get enough. Sushi places were popping up all over this city like cockroaches from a Mexican sewer on a rainy day. Some were good, some bad, some generic but these two places always stayed on my mind due to their quality, freshness and innovative styles. The Chef at the time was Chinh Romeo Pham who left Mikado and to this day is still owner at Sho-dan.
Over the years I frequented them less often but decided to revisit Aikawa in the West Island one evening when Brains and I had our very very strong Japanese and sushi cravings. Some say that Aikawa is not what it used to be, rumors are that it has even changed hands, but Madonna Bailey is still listed as the owner. Hummmmm.. I found that Aikawa is still the same.
In terms of décor and food it had not changed much in recent years. The room still has a kind of warehouse feel, with open ceilings and exposed pipes, the inner bowels of the room are dark, the décor and lighting minimalistic. The kitchen and sushi counter can still be found totally in the back of this vast space seating up to 80 people.The location is yet another matter. Not much to write home about, it is tucked away in a small mall behind another small strip mall between Sources/ Davignon Street. A far cry from the neon lights of St. John’s Boulevard, St. Charles or even Sources. The view is not great and the best way to access the restaurant is through Brunswick Boulevard and or Davignon Drive (it is next to a local Indian grocery store called Singh Farms).
This is a true West Island hidden gem and a great romantic getaway for those who want privacy. Aikawa can be listed amongst one of the local restaurants that is above the rest and different from ‘’all you can eat’’ sushi places clogging the arteries of the West Island.
Aikawa serves Japanese fusion, done the modern way and with an “out of the box” concept. It is not a traditional Japanese restaurant, but then who wants boring! Yet on this particular night we noticed some Asian men enjoying wine and eating up a storm. The only thing missing was the Geisha’s. Instead we got a young Japanese waitress dressed in black pants and white crisp shirt with a really funky blue spiky hairdo.
On the menu you can find your typical and not so typical Japanese fare and some of my old favorites like the Besamo Mucho and French Kiss or any of the chef creations which are truly worth the steep prices.
Tonight was a cheap casual night for us and I really wanted a tempura, so I ordered the combination shrimp and vegetable tempura. Our plate came beautifully presented with four long shrimps that were crispy, flavourful and fresh. The vegetables consisted of zucchini and sweet potato tempura . Not rancid or oily and enough to be shared by two. We also ordered Green tea for two at $ 3.25.
Brains and I also shared the Sushi for two platter which contained a mix of Sashimi, nigiri, makis, futomakis and one chef special and some salad – a total of 31 pieces for $ 40.00. Maybe a little pricy for lots of people, yet this was not the generic type and everything tasted fresh and delicious. Sometimes you need to pay for quality.
What we liked most at Aikawa was the comfort level and friendliness of the staff, the quiet ambiance the look and feel of the place and mostly the food. “Dommage as it can be steep for a quickie night but then a few weeks before we picked up sushi around the corner at another local shop and 24 pieces of sushi cost $ 38,00, at least at Aikawa for $ 13.25 more, we received 7 extra pieces of sushi, vegetable and shrimp tempura and a pot of tea. I call that good price for the quality. Aikawa, you are not completely de-throned yet. Still a gem, just wish the prices would be a little lower and the location a little nicer.
345 Villeray Street/Drolet
Chef Hats: 3
Cost: $ 258.00 for 8 people, 4 glasses of wine (tax and tip not included)
Méson opened in late Spring of 2014 is a casual neighborhood Iberian style Bistro located in the heart of the Villeray district. It serves Spanish inspired dishes fused with fresh local ingredients. Owned by Victor Afonso, Sebastian Muniz, and Pedro Oliveira, and Chef Marie Fleur St Pierre of Tapéo, this restaurant is located on same street a few blocks down between Drolet and Henri Julien.They say if you find a good formula you should stick to it. But Méson is very different from its sister restaurant, as it serves very little tapas and more home comfort food. The portions are generous but not gigantesque. You can find almost anything to please any palate on the menu and if Marie Fleur St-Pierre has got her hands in it, it’s a sure guarantee that it is going to taste good.
I am a big fan of Tapéo and I had the pleasure of going there in 2013 with my mom for her 75th Birthday. My mom, the proverbial Italian martyr, never ever goes out to dine. But at Tapéo she ate to her hearts’ delight and enjoyed it immensely. She raves about it till this day to all her Italian friends. So it was only fitting that this year we celebrate Brains 22nd birthday with the family at Méson.
We arrived early, and got the private banquette in the corner of the room. We were immediately served a few plates of Foccacia topped with tomato, pepper and manchego cheese while we poured through the wine list. We decided to order wine by the glass as some wanted red and others wanted white. The wine list consists of mostly Spanish wines; unfortunately there was no sommelier to help us with our choices. So we were left to our own demise and picked, 2 glasses of Riojas Muga Reserva 2010 at $ 11.00 a glass, a white Valencia 2012-Bodegas Los Frailes, BLANC DE TRILOGIA for $11.00 and a rosé Empordà 2013 Espelt, CORALI at $ 10; this ended up being a good way to try different wines and we found all to be an exceptional accompaniment with our food.
Méson décor is minimalistic and very urban chic, my sister loved the décor and thought it was very urbanite, with its bare tables and chairs in done in black and in honey wood, non-descript walls and steel grid bar placed in center of the room and wall to wall windows. But at night it is very dimly lit with industrial lighting making it hard to view the menu. The noise level and loud music is also another annoying thing, cool and hip for the young locals but not appealing for the older generation.
Nonna looked tired after spending an afternoon at the pool in the sun eating Lasagna. She was not too hungry and very tired. I was kind of disappointed as I wanted her to enjoy Méson as much as she enjoyed Tapéo. It reminded me of the year I threw an all-out Tapas party for and spent a thousand dollars on food and liquor only to discover that someone mentioned to my guests that that tapas were small bite size entrees and that they better eat before coming over because they would leave starving. I had leftovers for two weeks. This would not be the case at Méson as although the portions are not large they are nonetheless filling.
Nonna decided to go with something light so she chose the Bacalao al horna at $ 22.00-Oven baked Cod Fish with potato salad and kale lettuce and corn. She cleaned out the whole plate and really liked the different flavors. The bacalao was tender, not overcooked and the side accompaniments were perfect. The warm potato salad and corn with kale was not too heavy for her. The portions were small; she did not have an entrée or any dessert.
The Foo Foodie ordered an entrée of Vanilla infused Scallop Ceviche with citrus accent. The initial bite was a delicate surprise, but I found the scallops too raw for my likely after a few bites. The scallops were whole and texture was gelatinous. I would have preferred them chopped or diced and maybe marinated longer in citrus juices. For my main meal I chose the Pollo de Cornualles Asado, Cornish Hen with roasted vegetables. I got two drumsticks that were undercooked and bland. Not a sign of Spanish paprika or any other flavoring. I had to dig deep between the legs to get a little white meat. I came out very disappointed and just ordered coffee for dessert.
Frenchie ordered an entrée of Gaspacho soup at $ 8.00 made with yellow tomatoes, yellow peppers and apricots. He really enjoyed the creamy sweet combination of peppers and apricots together. As a main he ordered the Fileta de Trucha for $ 24.00-Trout in a cauliflower purée with milk of green asparagus and vinaigrette of white asparagus. Two people had this at our table and they raved about it, I felt the presentation could have been nicer; it did not look appealing and seemed to be drowning in the purée. To complete meal Frenchie just had an espresso allongé as usual.
Both Chipmunk and Brains ordered an entrée of tartar de atun – white tuna tartar with pan con tomate. Fresh, flavourful, with a great texture they both like their choice very much. Brains ordered the Bacalao too and Chipmunk shared the trout with hubby. The boys, smiles and JD, ordered Fideos de con Queso- at $ 22.00 a Mac and cheese a l’espagnole to share. Unfortunately the waiter forgot about them and we had to remind him that their meal never came. While they waited we appeased them with tasting of our food but I considered this a big faux pas regarding service. The golden rule is always feed the children first, one can say Méson is not very child friendly, although I was asked upon reserving if we were going to need high seats for the children. I believe our waiter really dropped the bomb this evening or he was really totally clueless. Finally the Mac N cheese arrived with an apology but I found the service was rather slow and unappreciative. Our waiter was not rude but not overly accommodating. We hardly saw him and he almost forgot about us. It was an early Saturday evening during the first week of August, they were not extremely busy that evening.
For dessert, sis ordered the Cafe Flan to share with hubby, and Brains quickly ordered a piece of Chocolate cake at & $8.00 to complete her birthday celebration at Méson but knew that Nonna had some more cake waiting at home. As the meal progressed and prime suppertime ebbed and the night crowd began to arrive the noise level at Méson reached an extremely uncomfortable level for all entailed. So Brains scoffed the piece of cake and we downed our espressos and left to celebrate in a more quite place.
All in all Méson is a great neighborhood bistro for the up and coming young urbanite clientele of the hood. It’s a cool place with a great exciting vibe and great décor and fun music and above all great food. It is a great local bistro to hang out on a Saturday night that serves great food and spirits and can be classified as notch above the rest in this area. It is great to see changes in this old neighborhood with all the new and hip places popping up and it has been long overdue and we have to thank the Tapéo group for almost reviving this neighborhood, because it has been in decline for years.
Note to self it is not fit for old Italian tired grandma’s and pas du toutes kid friendly.
25 rue Mont Royal E/St Laurent
Cost $ 31.62
Our taste in fast food has evolved to different heights these days. The proverbial foodies are always looking for the latest craze in any type of food and gourmet junk food should have a category all on its own. With the resurgence of food truck last year, Montreal has gone junk food mad but as always with a gourmet twist. Leave it to Montreal to add a special flare to anything they do. The Montreal Foo Foodie can’t always eat expensive gourmet food made by the top chefs of the city, sometimes I need to break away from tradition and go slumming. So when I heard about Dirty Dogs opening on Mont Royal, I mentioned it to Brains. She giggled and agreed to go see what the craze was all about. I am sure she thinks I am insane sometimes!
Dirty Dogs opened on April 26, 2014 in its present location by Alex Levi, Fred Bouchard and Dave Brunelle, but they have been serving their special hot dogs at food events all over the city and The Mad Hatters club since 2013. Actually Levi started prepping the ingredients for his hot dogs in his Dad’s restaurant Gibby’s. So his is not unfamiliar to the restaurant scene and a chip off the old block.
These dogs, which are really sausages are supplied by a local sausage maker by the name of William J. Walter and are in fact sweet sausages and not the generic hot dogs we are typically used to. They are done creatively by adding different toppings and giving them crazy names, like James Gandolfini, Morgan Freeman, Bernie Mac, Paula Deen and Bruce Springsten. There is a method to their madness and I guess you can figure it out, you got to give these guys big points for creativity. There is also some names dedicated to the local scene like the Maurice Richard and Denis Coderre and of course they serve the classic poutine deep fried in duck fat, with their decadent sauces and curds.
Brains and I really loved the name Dirty Dogs and I have to admit this is what attracted us to this joint. Once in a while when bored we indulge in our fast food cravings. So we set out on a hot summer weeknight for hot dogs at Dirty Dogs on Mont Royal Street, which is quite a long stretch from home.
I word of advice, park the car on St Laurent and walk Mont Royal on foot; cause if you are driving too fast or even slow you will definitely miss the place.
This narrow fast food joint is super small and reminds me of the old hot dog joints my dad would take me to in the 70’s for steamies. Except the aura when you step inside Dirty Dogs is electric, with its funky music playing loud, long counters, blackboards promoting the week’s events and hip young cooks in the kitchen. We quickly scanned their menu and decided to go with the James Gandolfini and Bernie Mac at $ 8.25 each. For sides we decided to go for the Dirty Poutine at $8.00 which was a large portion even for two persons. For drinks we took 2 cokes at $1.50 each. The James Gandolfini is a vegetarian sausage which came topped with bruschetta, mozzarella and pesto, sweet in flavor and different from the usual Italian sausage sandwich. The topping were plentiful and a perfect accompaniment to the sweet flavors.
The Bernie Mac came topped with macaroni and Cheese. Creamy generous portions of macaroni atop a dog which that was sweet in flavor and quite filling. The piece de resistance was the Dirty poutine made with duck stock gravy and onions, totally sublime and huge in size. We couldn’t finish it all and even at two we had half of it left to back home. I can say we left satisfied and enjoyed the hot dogs, the place and the friendly service. It may not be fit for some foodies, but a definite recommendation for a cheap fast meal.
48 Dante St. at St Dominique St.
Cost $ 129.00 ( for 2 not including tip)
Chef Hats: 4.5
Stefano Faita has become a real household name. You can see his caricature all over IGA flyers these days and on television both on English and French television. He has come a long way from his humble beginnings in Little Italy when his family owned Quincaillerie Dante. I remember going to the shop with my parents when I was a kid to purchase the latest in kitchen equipment or hunting rifles. His mom Elena, a pleasant Italian lady who manned the kitchen section of the store later opened Mezzaluna cooking school and was even an inspiration and influence to Martin Picard of” Au Pied du Cochon “. Stefano Faita is a chip off the old block and more. So one can only expect the best.
In July 2013, Stefano teamed up with Michele Forgione former chef of Osteria Venti to open a new Italian eatery on Dante St. called Impasto. For the last year I have heard many people marvel about how fantastic Impasto was and I decided to give it a try exactly one year later
.Impasto is not fancy but casual and not overly expensive either. The décor comes courtesy of designer Zébulon Perron who has designed some pretty hip restaurants in Montreal like Grinder, Hachoir and Lustucru and many more. You can check out his website at www.zebulonperron.com.
The interior of this little Italy restaurant is spotlessly white and all done in tile walls, beam ceilings and bare marble white tables. It is long and narrow and has an open kitchen where you can watch Forgione spin his creative dishes. The restaurant only seats maybe 30 plus people, and is located across the street from the Quancaillerie and across the street from his other new pizzeria called GEMA, which just opened last month. We should rename this area of the street the Faita Corner and change the Ville de Montreal logo on the street sign with a picture of Stefano caricature, like on the IGA ads. I could see this only happening in Little Italy. Wouldn’t it be funny…I am all for it! Pardon me, my mischievous side is surfacing.
The ambiance at Impasto is fun and intoxicating and very ‘casalinga’’ at home, especially when Stefano walks into the room and flashes his big smile and comes to your table to ask how you are enjoying your meal. It feels like you are in his own home and you are. Nothing at Impasto is excessive, the menu contains only, six starters and eight main dishes and four desserts. Do not expect huge portions, but only top quality fresh local market ingredients (Jean Talon Market is right down the street) and perfectly prepared. .
The staff which mainly consists of men on this evening is professional and very serious about their jobs. Tonight we got the sweetest Latina waitress, the only female amid all the testosterone. She had the gentlest demeanor and the sweetest voice and disposition. She was really attentive and careful, she kept refilling our break basket numerous times and pouring our wine and San Pellegrino every once in a while. Handsome Mr. Malibu and Charismatic Don Fanuccio blessed us with their presence and came to dine with us. They also had heard the rave reviews about Impasto and wanted to give it a shot. A word or two about these two guys, they like charming the pants off anyone! So it turned out to be quite an exciting evening of chit chat, stories and keeping our waitress entertained and lots of flirting. It continued into the wee hours of the morning on Prince Arthur St. while visiting the Sicilian Prince of the Night at his boite noire. Surreal! I felt I was on the set of Goodfellas movie.
Meanwhile back at Impasto we started off the meal with the usual a bottle of San Pellegrino and a bottle Chianti Reserva to be shared amongst us four. Figured we can’t go wrong with a wine from Toscana, we were having Italian food.
For the Primi piatti (entrées) I ordered a Carpaccio di Manzo to be shared with Frenchie, this is my favorite and I can’t get enough of it. It has got to be the carnivore in me. It came in a large square plat with bright red perfectly sliced thin slices of beef, topped with good olive oil, parmesan shavings and olives and a garnish of greens and just the right seasoning. I enjoyed this with lots of fresh bread from Le Pain dans les Voiles located nearby, the bread is decadent and if ever in the Jean Talon Market area a must try.
Mr Malibu & the Don ordered the chop block with charcuterie. Generous amounts of mortadella, pate de foie and duck prosciutto and porcetta head cheese and a side dish of green cerignola olives. The portion was big and we ended up sharing with them. All the coldcuts are made in house except for the duck prosciutto, very melt in your mouth fresh. We totally enjoyed it all the while still chatting up a storm, smacking our lips and teasing the waitress.
For the Secondi, the most part of us except for the Don, decided to go with the homemade pasta; all pasta is also made in house and it completely fresh and delicious. I went with a full plate of ricotta gnocchi; even a full plate was not huge but satisfying and filling. What I liked about these gnocchi was the lightness of them. Not heavy at all, light pockets of soft dough made with ricotta cheese and lightly smothered in a delicate marinara sauce. The pasta was really fresh and I did not feel bloated or sick after having devoured them and I am lactose intolerant. I really appreciated them here.
Frenchie ordered a full plate of Pasta Casarecce, homemade gemelli pasta, sautéed in garlic oil with pieces of pork sausages, removed from it casings and topped with grated parmesan . He really enjoyed the full flavor of the garlic . The pork meat was spiced with fennel seeds which added an over the top factor when it came to the pairing spices with certain food. Frenchie thought it original and had eaten them this way for the first time.
Mr. Malibu ordered Corone di Gallo Pasta, difficult to describe and new to me. Tubular pasta with a frill on one side, resembling the crown of rooster best describes it. This dish was topped with rapini and pork sausage. Mr. Malibu said it reminded him of the way his mom used to make it and it had the same flavor. Absolutely delicious.
Don Fanuccio had the roast pork, which was amazing. A large slab of roast pork not dry and in a little of its own jus, it was perfectly flavored with enough garlic but not overpowering. Tender and juicy, you really tasted the flavour of the Gaspor pork and it came topped with a sweet poached pear and a side order of broccolini. They must have been having a sale at the Market this weekend on Rapini and Broccolini.
For dessert Frenchie and I had the semifreddo –an ice cream on piece of sponge cake with raspberry fruit syrup topping and I had the pan cotta- in a mini mason jar, creamy mascarpone with maple syrup on top both dessert very good and complimentary to the completion of the meal with 4 coffee all around.