Caribbean Tasty Treats
4410 Boul. des Sources (between Roger Pilon & Belcourt)
Dollard des Ormeaux, Québec
Telephone : (514) 542-4410
Cost : $ 28.74 (tip excluded)
Chef Hats : 3.5
When passing in the vicinity of the rows of stores in the mall that houses Caribbean Tasty Treats you can smell the aroma of grilled meat wafting through the air. It is not the regular aroma of your typical BBQ, but that of a specific and particular spiced smoky air filling and permeating the skies above. By now from the name of the restaurant you can imagine that it serves Caribbean food.
I have walked by here many times taking in the great smell of what was cooking in their kitchen. The local who once housed a sushi restaurant seemed small and almost obscure. Very different from what you would find in West Island with their clones of fast food big market chains. How quaint I thought, must try this one.
It is not often I get cravings for this type of food, but once in a while I get cravings for a Rôti, a particular one that I used to eat at work that was sold by one of my colleague who wanted to make an extra dollar here and there.
A Native of Jamaica, his wife used to make them and he would sell them to anyone at lunch who forgot to pack one of their own that day. After leaving that job I tried many roti’s around Montreal but none did the trick like this one I used to have, until I went to Caribbean Tasty Treats.
Caribbean Tasty Treats is owned by Andre Campbell and his dad Danny. A resident of the area for many years, his idea was to bring to the West Island the basic everyday dishes of the islands and of his homeland’s cooking. The restaurant is a definite first to the West Island, I know of none other that serves Caribbean food in this hemisphere. It has all the Caribbean favorites like jerk chicken, Jamaican patties, and Rôti and more.
Nothing is synonymous to the islands than fish and here you will find the most popular ones like codfish, snapper and King Fish.
All meals are served with rice and salad and/or plantains. The portions are generous, the prices are reasonable and the taste authentic. Caribbean Tasty Treats is a cute little restaurant, painted with bright colors and a wall to wall mural of a tropical beach that serves as a back drop against the sunny walls and tropical dreams of vacation.
The place evokes relaxation and the slow pace of the islands. The service was one on one, friendly and very amicable, like you stepped into some one home and we did. We were served by the owner on this quiet night. With only a few tables occupied, we had his full attention, which made our experience genuine and convivial.
We started our dinner with some beef patties for $ 1.50. I was craving Rôti, so I ordered that as my main meal.
They did not have goat Rôti this evening so I opted for a chicken Rôti for $9.50. Served with fried plantains and salad. The Rôti was huge and took up most of the plate. It was mildly spiced with curry and had a good spicy kick, just perfect. Inside the chicken pea wrap was tender morsels of chicken in a chick pea wrap. Even to bring home and have for lunch the next day and just as flavorful. My dining partner had the Jerk Chicken, which came with three pieces of chicken, a mound of rice and salad for $9.50 as well. More than satisfied and with our doggy bags we opted not to have dessert.
Caribbean Tasty Treats is a must try for a casual night out when you don’t feel like cooking or to experience good home island cooking with friends. Reservations are not a must on quiet nights but always a safe bet on the weekends. Caribbean Tasty Treats is great experience for locals and for those who want to venture out to the suburbs, but a pleasant break from the chain restaurants that permeate the West Island.
Bistro des Artistes
489 Rue de l’Église,
Phone: (819) 320-0899
Cost: $54.29 (tax & tip included)
Chef Hats: 3.5
This is my second article in my series on day tripping around Montreal and Québec. The article may be a little late for a visit in the summer months, but just in time for the winter season. You can always revisit next year in the summer, when the snow has melted. Val David is charming in all four seasons, the little town is a replica of a small Swiss town, both in feel and setting; a true hidden gem in the hills of the Laurentians. The town during the winter season becomes the ideal spot for cross country skiing, with the P’tit Train du Nord being the longest of trails for outdoor sports such as snowshoeing and cross country skiing. In the summer it turns into a bicycle path, a hiking trail or a in- line skating track. You will experience miles of beautiful majestic scenery on Le P’tit train du Nord, which once served as railroad for a commuter train which ran from Montreal to the Laurentians for 90 years from 1891 to 1981. I just discovered that the area is also a very popular for rock climbing. The town has a vibrant artist community and some great dining spots. Except for skiing and aprés-ski, which are the only sports I do in winter, I would rather be lounging in a café or restaurant talking, eating and people watching.
Being the perpetual gourmand and always looking for a fix, for years, Hotel La Sapinière was my favorite go to place in Val David. I would venture there at least once a year for either brunch, dinner or to spend a long weekend during mid-term break skiing with family in the national park just next to the inn. I loved it; I thought the trails were perfect for small children. It was quiet, serene and calming to the senses; away from the crowds, with its picturesque overpass bridges and half frozen streams and super smooth trails surrounded by pristine and an undisturbed nature.
Unfortunately, in December 2013, after 77 years of being in operation La Sapinière closed and was put in receivership. The closure, I hear was due to the high cost of operations and millions of dollars in expenses for major renovations that were needed badly. The fact was that it had declined severely in popularity over the years and people stopped coming. I had stayed there one last time in 2010 after an office Christmas party in the Laurentians. I was really unfortunate to stay in a motel room across the street from the main hotel. The room was so outdated. The heating did not work, the comforters and decor were from the 1960’s and the room had mildew, moldy odor. I was horrified that they would even rent this room to anyone.
The next morning brunch in the dining room proved just as disappointing. The salle à manger looked dark and dingy with stains all over the carpets. No maitre D to greet you at the door. We were told to grab a seat. There was a small buffet with basic items, gone were the elaborate dishes of endless food. The food being served was basic b for the cost of $ 25.00 per person, obviously a rip off. Hailed for being a gastronomic destination in the early 2000, their dining room had won many gastronomic awards. After our experience there in December 2010 we nixed La Sapinière and I am sure many others did too. Although I was somewhat sad to see the little Dame fall, as we had many good memories of the place.
I did not return to Val David, until this year with a friend to visit the 1001 pots exhibit in August. Once there I discovered a different aspect of Val David with its artist community and little cafes and restaurant on de l’ Église Street. The 1001 pots exhibit is a must for all pottery makers and home makers alike. There is a big array of beautiful ceramics and art that you can purchase for very reasonable prices. Each piece is original in design and made by creative local Québec Artists. The exhibit held outdoors is visually appealing and stunning with all its different forms and shapes of pottery. Held in a beautiful hidden garden on the corner of De l’Église Street and Ruelle des Artistes, the location is expansive and beautiful with its different nooks and different gardens.
While at the exhibit, we stopped for tea and a snack at La Maison Camelia Sinensis located in a private corner of the garden surrounded by beautiful elephant leaved plants. The exhibit is held in partnership with teahouse Camelia Sinensis, which promotes many of the ceramics on display. The experience was totally soothing and Zen. You can take your tea in a newly purchased cup in the Mousse, Zen or Secret Garden. They also have workshops on tea discovery and floral ikebana or just listen to musical concerts and poetry readings in the Silica Garden.
After wandering around the gardens looking at the pottery and taking lots of pictures for the better part of the afternoon, we had worked up quite a thirst and went walking on restaurant row looking for a terrasse to have a brew and a casual bite. We found Bistro des Artistes which suited everyone’s palate.
Bistro des Artistes owned my Nathalie Monette is not a pretentious place, situated on Main Street /de L’Église in Val David’s town center it is housed in a store front building next door to a Boulangerie. We chose it basically for its lovely exterior teal green colors and its long terrace. Inside you will find the warm colors of cream walls, red chairs and wooden tables. The walls with its wainscoting give it a timeless classic look. The menu is casual mix of French and Italian dishes. Let us call it fusion cooking. You can find items like duck or bavette on the menu as well as pastas, pizzas, burgers and sandwiches. Bistro des Artistes is a sure crowd pleaser for either the simple eater or the gourmand with a more sophisticated palette.
The chef Pierre Andre Cantin, who started at Le Lutéce, but has worked in some notable places like Bistro a Champlain, Le Club St-James and Fourquet Fourchette. The menu is a good mix of dishes and sure enough to please anyone. The presentations are modern and you can find some of the items served on some of Montreal finer table; like poutine with duck, salmon tartares, bavette and frites and of course all your Italian favorites.
They have a good list of wines and some good local and imported beers.
We started with the poutine with confit de canard at $ 12.00. We were served a generous portion of crispy homemade fries in gravy topped with shredded duck meat and cheese curds. This was delicious and very filling and satisfying on its own. The duck meat was tender and not at all dried out.
For our main meals, I had a beef burger for $ 14.00, with a mix greens house salad and aioli sauce served on a slate plate. The burger was a generous patty of Angus beef that was charcoal grilled on a sesame bun with fresh tomato slices, lettuce, and condiments on the aside. Just the way I like it and to compliment my burger a local pale ale beer- La Blanche de Chambly for $7.00, definitely the influence Chef Cantin from his days at Fourquet Fourchette or I like the fact that they are promoting local microbreweries. These days you can get Blanc de Chambly at your local grocery store as well and is one of my favorites.
The second main meal was a Chicken Croissandwich -$13.00. Not served on a croissant as led to believe, but on a multi- grained pressed Panini from the bakery next door. It was heavenly, served with grilled chicken breasts and bacon, cubed tomato, lettuce and their speciality aioli sauce. With a side order of crispy Belgium fries and an accompaniment a Yulupa Red Cabernet for $ 9.00, it was a really great lunch break.
The next time in Val David, I will try the new Tables des Gourmets that has been getting rave reviews this year.
But Val David has no shortage of great places to eat at after a day of visiting. You can always pick up fresh produce from the Farmers Market on your way home, held every Saturday morning on rue de l’Église and Academie.
You can pick up some local specialities like Gaspor pork and maple cream from Domaine Kildare. Otherwise there is plenty of other fresh produce from other local farms that would make a great addition to any meal.
4230 Boul .Saint-Jean (corner Shakespeare)
Dollard-Des Ormeaux, Québec
Tel : (514) 624-6010
Cost: 122.73 (tax and tip included for 3 persons)
La Perle Restaurant has been a staple of Sichuan and Thai cuisine in the West Island since 1990. In its heyday the line ups to get in for a meal at La Perle were long, but once inside you were guaranteed and served the best all you can eat Asian food on this side of Montreal.
I remember going there with family & friends almost once a month for a couple of years to enjoy a convivial meal together. We enjoyed it so much, that it inspired me to take courses on how to make Sichuan & Thai food at home. Soon afterwards I was branded the Queen of Sichuan by those friends who I invited over for dinner. That was 25 years ago and a lot has changed. Today, the line ups at La Perle have withered and the “in thing” has become all you can eat sushi and Japanese food.
This year while driving by with my daughter she mentioned that a friend of hers always goes there with his parents and asked why we had never been to La Perle. I attempted to explain much to my embarrassment that I was not sure why; was it because we had been there so many times that we decided not to revisit it. The truth being I had forgotten it was there. Neatly tucked away in the corner this building on St John’s Boulevard, we decide to try all the other new places in the area that opened over the years that we forget it was there, and how much we used to enjoy it. It is only when we pass by that we are confronted with the reminder that it still exists.
So I made it a point to return to La Perle this year with the family for her birthday. Stepping inside was a blast from the past. I found not much has changed in terms of decor and ambiance, but it still serves great and tasty all you can eat Sichuan and Thai dishes that will warm up your soul any day.
For 29.95 (except Saturday $ 30.95) you have a choice of 115 dishes and you can order all of them if you wish. The menu contains many of the all time favorites and more. We ordered as much as we could for her to savour. She is by far the perpetual Asian food lover. She was not disappointed and is quite used to all this all you can eat type of venue. But in all honesty, we did not get to finish lots of the dishes. No qualms by the staff. Our waiter did not make any comments and was pleased to serve us, even if he knew we were over ordering.
La Perle is best enjoyed with lots of friends, if they don’t mind spending $ 29.95. You can try as many of the typical things as most of us are accustomed to by now like Soups, Hunan dumplings, which are perfect here, Crispy spring rolls, shrimp toast, satay chicken in peanut sauce, General Taos, crispy beef etc.
There are other items on the menu like shrimp and chicken in coconut, basil & curry sauces which are to die for. Get a good mix of both Thai and Sichuan to get the full effect of this great cuisine. The portions are generous but they adapt the portions to the number of people you are.
All in all the experience was good. I asked myself why we had not been here more often over the years. Note: You can order a la carte as well and they also have take-out and delivery service if you wish. At a time in West Island when many of the Chinese restaurants have closed, La Perle is still a gem in an ocean of businesses that has stood the test of time.
Guaca & Molé
11597 boul. de Salaberry/ rue Du Marché
Dollard des Ormeaux, Québec
Tel : (514) 542-4452
Cost : $ 109.69 (not including tax and tip)
Chef Hats: 3.5
The suburbanites of the West Island have been waiting for a while for the opening of a good Mexican restaurant in the area. In the last year, we saw the opening of Quesada, a fast food chain restaurant on Sources Blvd that serves tacos, burritos and nachos. We were still lacking a good Mexican fine dining restaurant where one can sit, eat, and relax with a good alcoholic beverage in a nice festive atmosphere. It had not been since the bygone years of Chi Chi’s Restaurant on St John’s or Mexicali Rosa on St Charles that this sleepy community had experienced a good Mexican restaurant without having to travel miles into town.
So the level of anticipation was at an all-time high until Restaurant Guaca & Molé finally put an end to so many years of waiting. That being said, I was one of those sleepy suburbanites who passed daily in front of the site of this new restaurant at the Marché de L’Ouest since its announcement in spring. Eagerly anticipating and waiting for its opening in July, in the spot that housed the now defunct Pêche Peche or the late Katoreya.
I had read that the Chef-owner, Hugo Leon de Gante, a native of Mérida, and part of the team at the much applauded Mezcla Restaurant, was going to spearhead the project. I knew that it was not going to be the typical Tex-Mex type restaurant that most of us are used to eating. Anyone who is familiar with Mezcla restaurant knows that they are very creative and different with their plates but still infusing it with the authenticity of its regional cooking.
At Guaca & Molé, Hugo Leone Gante, not only showcases the flavors of his homeland but different dishes from other Mexican provinces done in a contemporary style with his special touches producing a true soulful experience of different flavors of the region of the Yucatan.
This 120-seat restaurant boasts a 40-seat terrasse that is privately secluded with cedar trees where you can enjoy a multitude of your favorite Mexican drinks. Inside you fill find a tequila bar with long high tables for quick bites and drinks and a more formal dining area with tables and banquettes alongside the wall.
The premise is bright with a mix of chic modern style, glass doors and floor to ceiling windows all around. Suspended lighting in various forms, with white walls and colorful decorative masks. The decor is easy on the eyes with light wood tables and brown leather banquettes, with splashes of color like sky blue/yellow tables and chairs all evoking the colors of Mexico.
The awe inspiring factor here is the painted mural of faces symbolic with the Dias des los Muertos. In Aztec culture, skulls are positive symbol, not only meaning death but also of rebirth. The painted faces are a powerful symbol for the ability for humans to get in touch with their darker, chaotic side and to overcome fear of death and celebrate life. Its tradition is a mixture of Catholic beliefs with the religions of indigenous Mexican people. Although a bit scary to some, the mural and its mysteriousness create a festive fun and vibrant ambiance. It also may bring good luck to a restaurant situated in a spot that has not had much luck lately. I am keeping my fingers crossed and was eager after such a long wait to start off my celebration in this beautiful locale.
We started our celebration with two large margaritas for $9.00, shaken and frozen and a strawberry daiquiri for $ 8.50. The drinks were potent and powerful, and not at all watered down even with the ice. They came rimmed with cayenne pepper for added punch, not the usual salt or sugar. I enjoyed my margarita this way better and thought it different from the norm. Served on the house with the margaritas was a bowl of fresh homemade nacho chips and fresh salsa. They bring you as much a requested and keep refilling these all night long at no charge.
For my entree I ordered Tortilla soup which came served in a colorful Mexican carafe, enough for two or three people .It was packed with flavor, a dark tomato base and stock broth with large chunks of avocado and radishes and thin strips of tortilla. It was very tasty and not too thick, very light and enough for two, perfect soul food.
Second entrée was the guacamole for $ 7.00. It came served in a large mortar type bowl with fresh tortilla and more nacho chips. Equally good with both nachos and tortilla, the guacamole was creamy, with little chunks of fresh avocado and pieces of tomato salsa, garnished with sprigs of fresh herbs for $ 7.00. All entrées are priced between $7.00 to $13.00, all being of generous portions.
The third entrée was the Mexican Poutine for $7.00. For those die hard poutine lovers, this is a must. Slathered in their delicious Molé sauce, panela cheese and coriander aioli, it was decadent and packed with flavor. A creamy cheese mound atop golden crispy fries, this was more than enough for two people.
Other items on the menu for small eaters are the Quesadillas, starting from basic with cheese at $7.00 or with chicken, steak or chorizo varying in prices till $12.00. We had the basic cheese, served between two tortillas, great for a late night snack at the bar when continuing your festive partying with a few drinks.
For a palate refresher before our main meal, we had the Caesar salad -$9.00, which they boasted was invented in Tijuana Mexico in 1925, at least they claim this one was. Romaine lettuce leaves with cortija cheese, chorizo bites, tostadas slivers and Caesar house dressing. I loved the crunchiness of the chorizo bites and tostadas. The Caesar dressing was homemade and not overpowering. This is a perfect combination as a side to a heavier meal or alone for those who want to eat light.
We continued our meal with Chicken Burrito ‘’Pollo a la Parilla’’ for $11.00, two large tortilla wraps filled with marinated chicken in maple and chipotle, filled with guacamole and marinated radish and black bean purée that were really creamy. This was delicious and very filling, enough after our large meal to take home. The chicken contained a hint of sweetness, with the chipotle enhancing the flavors with a kick but not making it too spicy and just perfect.
The Chicken Enchiladas plate came with three soft corn tortillas and sautéed quash and yucca, the vegetables were deliciously crisp and tasty, but I found the mole sauce over bearing. A fine drizzle would have complimented this meal much more easily. Do not get me wrong the Molé sauce is really good here, but you need to be a diehard fan.
The Arrachera Steak Tacos for $ 12, 00, came in two small soft tortilla shells with slices of sautéed tender steak. Topped with fresh, coriander, marinated onions, avocado, pinto beans and green salsa and chorizo puree; they smelled and tasted like a Mexican summer breeze.
Service was genuinely friendly. Our waiter Luis was more than accommodating and he gave us tidbits of his native country. I was a joy to talk to and very attentive. He went his extra way to make sure our bowl of chips was always filled. When it was time to leave, he brought us our bill promptly when we asked for it.
Manoir St Sauveur-La Tablee
246 Chemin du Lac Millette
St Sauveur, Québec
Cost: $ 76.80
There is nothing like day tripping in the summer months. Long country drives to admire all that nature has to offer, with wind in your hair and sun shining strong and warming up the soul. It is during these long drives venturing out to the unknown, that I can work up quite an appetite. Eventually, stopping by a roadside café to grab a bite to eat and maybe experience something new. For me and many city folks it is a great way to unwind from stresses of daily life, to get away from the city buzz and totally unplug for a day without venturing too far or spending lots of money. Many times we are looking for a particular experience to satisfy our immediate cravings and are at a loss on where to go and what to do. I will enlighten you, with a few places that I have discovered over the course of the year that have pleasantly surprised me. This is the first in a series of articles I will write about places I have really enjoyed discovering. Some will be very local and some a few hours from Montreal.
Today we visit the town of St. Sauveur about 45 minutes from Montreal. It is not unfamiliar to us as it has been a ski Mecca since its discovery in the 1930’s. It has its charms as a four season playground for many of us. For those skiers who often frequent the Laurentians in winter to ski, many of heard of Le Manoir St-Sauveur since its opening in 1992 as the place to stay. It has been renovated with modern themes to make it one of the swankier hotels in the area for lodging and gastronomic dining. It has two restaurants and a lounge/bar area, L’Ambiance for fine dining, La Tableé with an Outdoor Terrasse for more casual fare and The Boudoir Lounge for drinks.
In the summer the small town of St Sauveur is very picturesque with its green mountains, you will find its rue Principale lined with restaurants, café and terraces, boutique shops and art galleries. Shoppers also have a choice of factory style outlets where they can spend their hard earned cash. I prefer to spend my money eating on the Terrasse at Manoir St-Sauveur. Its outdoor terrasse leading to the pool area with comfortable seating is very accommodating and inviting and a great place to chill with cold drinks on a hot summer day.
The courtyard leading into the swimming pool area is well maintained with a water garden in the center of the courtyard serving as a focal point with its cascading waterfalls. The feeling upon entering the hotel is one of serenity and peacefulness. The courtyard is very private and Zen. Hidden between the buildings that make up the hotel, you would never know it was there.
The European bistro-style menu at the Terrasse of La Tableé is simple, but interesting for any palate. You can get anything from Salmon Tartar, Fried Calamari or Brie Fondant to Veal Bavette, Mac & Cheese, Lamb and Fish. It also serves pub style food like chicken wings, burgers sandwiches and wraps, salads and pizza for casual day-trippers. Today we worked up a quite a thirst and stopped off at this hidden gem to grab a few frozen strawberry daiquiris and at the same time top it off with a late light lunch.
The strawberry daiquiris hit the mark for this hot day and were very refreshing. Made with fresh strawberries and crushed ice as opposed to the premixed kind. We started our meal with an entree or appetizer of fried onion rings, with a balsamic reduction drizzle. These came served hot and were deliciously crispy. The drizzle gave it a little kick and was not overpowering. It was followed by a Classic Caesar salad, topped with an original light dressing made from scratch and large pieces of croutons. Satisfying and a great balance to the onion rings.
For Mains, I had a pepperoni pizza with cheese filled crust. Not the best in taste as it was too heavy on the Gattuso style tomato sauce which lacked fresh tomato flavors. But the pressed chicken and ham sandwich with side order fries made up for it. It was fresh, tasty and packed with flavors. It came served Italian style with a little tomato sauce, mozzarella slices, fresh basil and prosciutto.
If the terrasse food was this decent, I could imagine the hotel fine dining Restaurant L’Ambiance, would be worth a shot next time. We truly enjoyed our little afternoon snacking al fresco. We lingered for a couple of hours before our drive back to Montreal. It felt like we sat in someone back yard with the convenience of a waiter and chef in a calm and beautiful serene ambiance. Service was attentive.
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.