XO Cacao

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XO Cacao
3343 Boulevard des Sources (Centennial Plaza)
Dollard-des-Ormeaux, QC
H9B 1Z8
Phone: (514) 683-3050
http://www.facebook.com/ xocacao
Cost: $ 34.37 – tax and tip included.
Chef Hats: 4
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Montreal has weekly restaurant openings but so is not the case in the land of suburbia. Openings are few and far in between, but a few days before Valentine’s Day in February a new dessert place called XO Cacao quietly opened on Sources Boulevard in Centennial Plaza. Aside from the sign in the window that once housed Pasta Tutti Giorni, no one was aware this innovative desert shop came to fruition at the most opportune time. Long awaited by some West Island Foodies, who were fed up with the handful of usual café and desert shops that have existed for years, we craved something different.

I have said it many times that West Island falls short of original ideas when compared to Montreal and that the suburban landscape as that of Laval is splattered with too many chain restaurants that serve a generic menu and favors only consumption for the mass market. For the Montreal foodie, the maximum allowable shops allowable to not fall into the chain category is two. Anything after that is considered a franchise. A friend of mine who once owned a Second Cup explained this to me that to turn a profit one had to own a few franchises to be making any kind of money. This is a fact that does not cross a regular patron mind and that a foodie surely does not care about; we abhor franchises and look for originality. Our proverbial mission is to always find a new place that serves innovative cuisine by a renowned chef that will bring his craftsmanship to our fickle palates. These days many restaurants are owned by a group of people, branded with a name synonymous to a lifestyle. We can count a few in Montreal who have and still do turn a profit, get into trouble and open and close restaurants as soon as they have become outdated.

But West Island is not Montreal and we want our restaurants to stay as long as our children are all grown up. We establish a rapport with our shop owners and they become an integral part of our community and an extension of our family. We are loyal and go more than often.
I would like that for XO Cacao and felt at home and was awed when visiting shortly after its opening. The new local looked amazing with its streamlined black and white décor and beautiful mural of photos of the great European cities. The opposite wall features a splash of color with artful paintings made by local artists that can be purchased for a small price.

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The ambiance is classic in a European sort of way. Tastefully decorated, minimalistic and uncluttered, and fitting the recent mold of many urban modern cafes and chocolatiers. The décor itself will take you to faraway lands. The service although local and unpretentious is super friendly and accommodating.

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This dessert shop is definite contenders for all those die-hard chocolate fanatics that like to quench their weekly cravings in fine chocolates. We are pleased now that we don’t have to wander too far to satisfy all of our chocolate cravings. XO Cacao is comparable and better than many of the in town chocolate dessert places I have frequented of lately.

XO Cacao also serves a plethora of sweet & savory crepes with a choice of fillings to satisfy all taste buds and sweet tooth’s desires du jour. A must for me was the waffles topped with my choice of fruit and a mix of any chocolate desired , white milk or white and that extra maple syrup for an added touch of extra sweetness.

XO also serves delicious fondue with fruit for a convivial partage a deux, for those romantic date nights or long chats between girlfriends. Gluten Free-Gelato and sorbet creations made in-house for those ice cream aficionados, or simply crepes for lunch stuffed with anything from ham and cheese, chicken or spinach, egg and goat cheese, they come served with their house salad and secret house dressing. Desserts such as cheesecake, fudge cake and brownies can be sampled with any type gelato and a list of specialty coffees and teas and hot chocolate beverages of course, because where would any good chocolaterie be without it that magical blend of hot chocolate drink that adds sweet ambrosia to life.

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Waffles with Strawberries White Chocolate

Everything we sampled on our first visit was delicious from the Nutella crepes to the waffles with white chocolate and fresh strawberries. To compliment that we sampled two herbal teas of our choice, picked from a tea box for $ 3.00 each. The prices at XO Cacao are very reasonable comparative to other desert shops, our crepes were only $8.00, but can range from $ 6.25 to $ 12.95 and the waffles were $ 12.00 but range from $ 11.00 to $14.00. Although the menu stipulates $ 13.95 the numbers are rounded off on the bill. You can blame the government for that. But it is all worthwhile.

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Nutella Crepes

XO Cacao is truly a gem and one of a kind with their philosophy not only to shop local, but by enhancing their community through local artist exhibition; all the while by preparing high-end desserts that are affordable in a setting and ambiance unmatched in every sense.
XO Cacao Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The West Island Deli

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West Island Deli
3689 Boul. Saint-Jean
Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Québec
H9G 1X2
Phone: (514) 624-3354
http://www.westislanddeli.com
Casual Eats: Chef Hats 3
Cost: $ 39.66

I can’t say how many times I have eaten smoked meat in my life, let’s just say allot. My dad was an avid fan and when I moved to the West Island his normal routine after visiting me was taking a trip down to Chenoy’s on St John Boulevard to get the snack pack. He loved it and I still have till this day fond memories of those days.

It was circa 1999, when we heard about Abie’s; it was the place to go in the West Island if you wanted a great smoked meat sandwich comparable to Schwartz on the Main. Situated in a mall a hop and skip away from Chenoy’s it was the real deal, without having to actually drive to the Plateau and lining up to get into Schwartz. Rumors were that Abie’s Deli had purchased the old grill from Schwartz’s were John Haim had worked for 34 years. It was the best grill for liver steak and even Schwartz with their new grills couldn’t compare to the old taste. I loved Abie’s and would purchase whole briskets to bring down to my friends in the US, who were smitten with the old European way of smoking meat.

It was a huge disappointment to hear about the fire at Abie’s in 2013 and its slow return, then the news that they were not being able to negotiate a new lease agreement in its present location and were closing; but moving down the street to new digs in the Blue Haven mall and rebranding with a new lease on life and a new name. On lives a new era where even a long time West Island favorite McBay’s had to close after being a fixture in the West Island for 40 years due to hard times and bad management. For a while smoked meat no longer seems to be the favorite of local West Islanders, and delis were a thing of the past with all modern bistros opening up everywhere, but tradition must prevail. The West Island Deli is the only place left in this neck of the woods that serves a real decent smoked meat and all the deli favorites; like it is suppose to be. It would be a real shame if we would lose that too.

On a more positive note, the West Island Deli merits a visit, as its new location is not only much cozier, but has been totally renovated in a modern theme with grey and white brick tiles. It has a very bistro feel to it with its black tables and chairs and comfortable leather banquettes. With its surrounding white paned windows it looks more like something you would find in Paris than an old fashioned Jewish deli. Even the new logo which is splashed across each paned window has a modern European twist. Its cool urban decor is a sure draw for those late night eaters and the twenty-something’ crowd after a late night of partying. Or it is simply a great place to grab a bite, with family or go watch the hockey game with friends on the multiple TV screens that have been strategically placed above, so you get a good angle from wherever you are sitting.

Even though West Island Deli is meat heavy, it also serves great breakfasts and some healthier sandwiches, what is so beneficial here is that the deli does not use sodium nitrates as a preservative on their cuts of meat instead they use a special in house rub, a mix of pickling spices and a $ 70,000 smoker to lock in the juices creating perfect briskets that can be ordered to your choice, fatty, medium lean or dry.

We ordered two smoked meat sandwiches, two sodas and a large poutine to share. The medium fatty smoked meat sandwich was perfectly tender, tasty and juicy with the perfect amount of fat. The dry smoked meat sandwich was good but I prefer the medium fatty to the dry. Our large poutine came served in a mound of crispy fries, ample gravy and cheese curds. We received coleslaw and pickles to go with our sandwiches. The portions here are big and this was more than plenty for two small appetites.
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Our sandwiches came served with mustard, and extra on the side if we wanted, which pleased me greatly because at Chenoy’s a few months earlier, I was told by a waiter that smoked meat was never suppose to be served with mustard. Unless he misunderstood my request, which meant he was not listening, this is totally preposterous, as I had always eaten my smoked meat with mustard my whole lifetime and had never heard of such nonsense.

The customer is always right and if they request something, they should be accommodated. It is not like I asked for foie gras for free, last time I checked condiments were at your discretion.

The service at West Island deli is courteous and fast. Our waitress was ever so accommodating and agreeable; she was pleasant, talkative and cheery. What a difference! We decided to drop in at the spur of the moment, to grab a bite to eat after shopping. It was a quiet night, a few patrons sat at the pick-up counter waiting for their orders; we liked the place so much we decided to dine at the restaurant to enjoy the whole feel of the place. Abie Haim was there behind the counter to greet us and let us sit wherever we wanted. Transplanted and hanging next to us in our booth were pictures of various past Montreal scenes that hung in the old Abie’s Deli, which created a great conversation piece in regards to the old Jewish community on the Main and gave us food for fodder while we ate a piece of history.

Fine dining is great but we need more places like The West Island Deli this to bring us back to our roots, and don’t forget the pickle.

West Island Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info – Zomato
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West Island Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Labarake

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Labarake
3165 Rue Rachel E / Between Ave. Du Midway & Dézéry
Montréal, Québec
H1W 1A3
Phone: (514) 521-0777
http://www.labarake.com
Chef Hats: 4
Cost: $ 287.74 (6 persons)

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Labarake Caserne Salle à Manger is located in the neighborhood of lower Rosemount at Canadian Pacific Railway old Angus shops in a defunct fire station building that some may remember two years ago once housed an SAQ outlet. It may seem a little far and out of the way to trek there for simple comfort food. For the local young urbanites that now live in the multitude of new townhouses and condos that have sprung up from ashes in this area in the last decade; it is a neighborhood bastion.

Who would think, that over twenty years ago, an area that housed a defunct railway yard would become a hip and upcoming area to hang out in. Along with rue Masson, this area has also become a local foodie haven. Well times have changed and I am always amazed at the gentrification of some old neighborhoods in Montreal. I have been meaning to visit Labarake since hearing of its opening in May 2014, that summer I kept hearing repeatedly that their terrasse was great and the food even better. So I jumped at the chance when it was suggested we celebrate Chipmunk Birthday in a place that was cool and young. Very befitting for a my sprite young sister and her clan of friends who made the suggestion, not only are they perpetually young at heart but have discernible taste when it comes to eating out and a good appreciation of the quality of finer things in life.

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Labarake was started and is owned by three friends and principle investors, Andy Aboushaybeh (Terrasse Bonsecours), Denis Sobolj and Emmanuel Besnier (Auberge le Vieux St Gabriel), along with Chef Aurelien Mallia who worked alongside with Besnier at the Auberge. The idea came about when Denis Sobolj who lived in the area and would visit the local SAQ outlet and loved the look of the building with its red bricks and tower. They had been looking for a while for a restaurant to open together. When the place came up for rent they jumped at the chance and the rest is history, or so to speak. They enlisted the help of designer Mara Castachescu who emphasized the historical perspective of the building with murals which are exhibited along the walls at Labarake and that follow you all the way to the bathrooms.

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The place is immense and airy with its high ceiling which I really liked with its reflective lighting and red brick walls. The decor has been recycled from materials from the old Angus train yards and the fire station. The long bar, tables and chairs and spiral staircases are made from recycled wood and steel. The place has a special kind of charm with its slate floors and very cool casual pub feel reverberating in this cavernous space. Yet it is not a typical tavern and quite urban chic. There is an occasional deejay and a very festive atmosphere of good cheer is represented here. The service is amicable and professional. Even though an error was made this evening and we were brought a second trio of tartars, the waitress was very apologetic and offered to compensate us. Slated as a Quebecoise Brasserie, it is definitely a gastro pub and no less. The meals are definitely a notch above typical brasserie food. The menu has lots of classic French Bistro favorites, for all age groups including kids and everything comes with fries.
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A must is their plethora of fantastic beers. We started with a Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc-$8.00 this evening, a beer from France with a citrus fruity flavor, perfect as a starter. Labarake also has a good wine list that is reasonably priced, but it was not an option at our table this evening; instead some of us opted for raspberry mojitos at $ 10.00 and White Velvet for $8.00 which is a mix of part beer and cider, Brand name of the beer is not known. It was the first time I discovered the 1664 Blanc having seen it occasionally on some grocery store shelves, but never having picked it up or tempted to try it either due to the overload of beer available on the market and/ or out of pure ignorance for just not knowing. It was actually very good and I really enjoyed the taste and will be my go to beer this summer.

Raspberry Mojito
Raspberry Mojito

 

For entrees we started with a dozen oysters at $ 3.00 a pop, classic and simple served in a steel casserole pan on ice, with only wedges of lemon, these were fresh and devoured very quickly. Next served was a round of house specialities that were shared amongst us or eaten individually, but were sampled by all. First a large cauldron of mussels in a sauce made with Crème au Lard for $ 17.00, more than enough to go around.

Raw Oysters
Raw Oysters
Mussles in Cream au Lard
Mussles in Cream au Lard

These were tender and not chewy at all, the cream sauce was divine, mussels are not one of my favorite’s dishes, but I am starting to eat them especially in some restos as they are done well and very tasty. The sauce and juice from these mollusks and the manner in which they are cooked makes all the difference I am discovering.

Next sampled were the Trio de Tartares at $ 19.00. It was a hit or miss with some of my fellow dinners, a combination of beef, salmon and tuna, these came served in three square bowls, M- The vixen did not particularly like the Salmon Tartar, the Tuna and the beef were the best .

Trio Tartar
Trio Tartar

 

The salmon tartar lacked that oomph, a little flavor less, it needed more of a kick, like wasabi, citrus , spice or just plain salt and pepper. It feel a little flat, the redeeming quality of this dish was the large salad portion and three long pieces of fresh baguette. Vixen’s Handsome husband T, the Egyptian God tried his hand at a large portion of Beef Tartar topped with a halved hardboiled egg and parmesan savings for $ 27.00 , this came with a large portion of salad baguette and a bucket of frites.

Beef Tartar with Egg
Beef Tartar with Egg

The Angus burgers with or without egg came served on a brioche bun, the hamburger featured a thick, juicy patty layered with caramelized onions, bacon , cheddar cheese and tomatoes and pickled mayonnaise and a side order of fries. The burger was excellent and you could taste the quality of Angus beef. This was one of the best burgers I have had in a long time. It was delicious and satisfying.

Angus Burger
Angus Burger

We were so full with all the sampling we had no room for dessert. We completed the meal with coffee and more beer for some.
Dinner at Labarake was a big success and very enjoyable. As the evening progressed, the family feel to the restaurant was transformed by a large number of attractive 20 & 30 something’s’ taking up the tables for large groups. The music was good and I hear they have a DJ on occasional evenings. The atmosphere is festive and loud, but you can hear yourselves speak. I like the open kitchen concept design where you can watch the chefs cook, and if you want to be different you can sit at the Raw Bar and enjoy the oyster fest. Labarake is in the forefront of innovative, creative cuisine and very urban, the menu is diverse but affordable and everything is good. A notable return is a must.
Labarake - Caserne à Manger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le St-Urbain

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Le St Urbain
96 Fleury St. W. (near St-Urbain St.)
Montréal, Québec
Phone: 514-504-7700
http://www.lesturbain.com
Chef Hats; 4
Cost: $ 224.78 ( 4 persons, excluding tip)

It is not a common practice to venture out to different neighborhoods to discover the local food scene; we tend to stick to what we know. So often, we need to break with tradition and venture out to discover things that are different from what we have in our own backyard. This will enlighten us, open our minds to change and make our lives a little more interesting. From our new found experiences we develop a new take on life. We recharge, revitalize our senses and change our thoughts.
I made a promise a few years back that I would not remain stagnant and would constantly educate myself by forcing change to my routine. I try to bring knowledge to my life by doing different things as well as revisiting places of the past to see how they have progressed. Upon hearing of something that peaks my interest, I set forth to discover new ideas on the subject through research, experimentation and education. With this method I have had some interesting outcomes and have managed to find a sort of new lease on life. I did just that after hearing about how Fleury Street in Ahuntsic (one of my old childhood haunts) had become very popular due to some great restos and speciality shops. The favorable media buzz further anchored and intrigued me, so that I planned a walking tour of Fleury St to witness its gentrification firsthand.
Ahuntsic was a neighborhood I often frequented when I was living close by in neighboring St Michel. I had many Italian friends that lived in the area and would often go visit during festival season or to hang out at the local fast food joints. Ahuntsic has changed lots since the days of Chez Ma Tante, Tommy’s Drive In and La Standa. Mind you, some of them still exist and have become landmarks; kudos for having survived all these years. But a little further down on Fleury Street you will find a whole new world that has somehow become very upscale with its high end boutiques, urban chic restos and renowned speciality shops.
Over the years I kept hearing about this little bakery that served great sour dough bread called La Bête à Pain, located at 114 Fleury st. It was opened in 2011 by Chef Marc-André Royal, who is also the owner and chef of Le St Urbain. It was the first place on my list to visit. I was surprised and ecstatic at how things had changed from the Fleury Street I had known back in the 70’s and 80’s. Long gone are the days of only Italian grocery stores, pastry shops and butchers. Replacing them is a plethora and mixed bag of shops and restaurants selling anything from gourmet French to Asian food, to high end speciality items, kitchen gadgets, designer clothing, chic and fancy hair and nail salons and day spas. I was even more pleased to discover that La Bête a Pain not only sells good bread, but doubles as a brunch spot and cafe and also serves prepared take-out meals that are similar in quality to what is being served at Le St Urbain. The quality of the food was so good that it was only befitting that the Foo Foodie try le Restaurant Le St-Urbain which has been open since 2009.
Le St-Urbain has become since then, a very popular branché local neighborhood restaurant in this sleepy district of Ahuntsic. The restaurant seats about thirty people and serves local market cuisine, showcasing seasonal local Quebec products. Their wine list boasts many private imports and there is a good choice of wine by the glass. The food is comforting, yet refined and of good quality. The decor is urban and hip but minimalistic, with its simple wooden tables and chairs and subdued colored walls it has a casual bistro feel. The place is packed to the brim on weekends and a reservation is a must. This evening the resto was noisy with the sound of voices reverberating against the chalkboard walls.
We started our evening by ordering wine by the glass in lieu of a bottle, two glasses of Vino Rosso di Montalcino, Sangiovese, at $11.50 per glass. This is a Tuscan wine from Italy, brother to the Brunello di Montalcino, minus the cost. It is a full bodied young wine, with hints of black cherry and wild-berry, spice and vanilla. It mixes well with any meat dishes on the menu. The third glass of wine was Montrose- Murcie, Jumilla Comoloco 2013 from Spain, for $ 8.50, a white muscatel grape like wine for a decent price, a little fruity for my liking but it went well with the risotto dish and my dining partner liked it.

We had to wait for a while to get service as our waiter was very busy. It was full house tonight and the atmosphere was manic, our waiter seemed none too happy . His demeanor was very cut and dry, and not at all friendly or bubbly. But I can live with that. It is very dark by nightfall and the lighting makes it very difficult to see the blackboard from where we were sitting. We were told about the $ 41.00 tasting menu this evening but with no further explanations to any of the dishes. The Tasting Menu consisted of 3 choices of appetizers and 3 choices for the Main meal. Third service, dessert had two choices on the menu a white cheese cake tourchon and a Chocolate ganache cake. Not an elaborate choice but we were happy to be here and nothing would spoil our mood. We could have also gone a la carte which would have been the better option tonight, but did not have the patience or chutzpah to ask the waiter to repeat the blackboard listings, so due to better price options we stuck to the tasting menu.

Three of us ordered the Chioggia beet salad, with watercress, Jerusalem artichokes, almonds and the fourth person ordered the cream of parsnip soup, with smoked sturgeon corn and cilantro. The salad was well presented and very different in flavors. A mix of cooked beets in light vinaigrette, the beets were not overcooked and still had a crunchiness about them, topped with watercress and slivers of Jerusalem artichoke that tasted like a cross between ginger and potato. Nutty in flavor this came topped with almonds which were a trick on the palate as Jerusalem artichoke also have nuttiness about them

Chioggia Beet Salad
Chioggia Beet Salad

The Parsnip soup was a thick starchy soup with a smoky flavors; the addition of corn and cilantro adding a Mexican twist on the dish with the sun packed flavors. Very appetizing and an ingenious creative idea.

For the mains, the Black truffle risotto, with duck confit and parmesan had a very natural woodsy flavor with ample amounts of duck meat making it a meal in itself. Satisfying and very filing.

Black Truffle Risotto
Black Truffle Risotto

Three of us, (yes not too original tonight) ordered the braised short ribs with Brussels sprouts poblano pepper and roasted shallots. The sauce was decadent. The ribs fall off the bone tender and not disappointing at all.

Braised Short Ribs
Braised Short Ribs

For dessert we ordered three White Cheese Cremeaux, a tourchon made with pistache nougat, raspberry basil meringue, this was the way to go, delicious and the perfect compliment and conclusion to a perfect meal that was finely executed.

Le Cremeaux
Le Cremeaux

The Palet d’or chocolate ganache with buffalo milk yogurt and caramelized almonds was very good if you are a big chocolate fan. You can tell that the desserts came from La Bête a Pain; these were the highlight of the evening. Their forte lies in this domain for sure. A third dessert was put on the menu as they ran out real fast of cheesecake. This is easy when your sister restaurant is a hop and a skip next door.

I enjoyed Le St Urbain, but not more than that. It is a quaint neighborhood restaurant and a gem for the locals. Amid all the fanfare, it is pricey, too busy and too noisy for my liking. The service left much to be desired and not worth my while for an eminent quick return. But then La Bête à Pain is a different story. It is one of the top bakeries in Montreal these days amongst a few notable mentions and a new one has opened in Griffintown as of late. They are definitely hitting all the marks in that respect.

Ahuntsic is not a total write off and it was an educational experience in many respects. I will revisit again another time as there are many other restos in the area that are worth trying, the only thing is that it must be more than just a little special to warrant a trek in an area for many people other than the locals.
Le St-Urbain Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Letter to Juliette

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affiches fruits et legumes
Letter to Juliette,
Since the day I discovered your chocolate I have been in love. I wait patiently for the next time I will see you again so I can savour your sweet elixir. I will never forget that first night I dipped my first morsel of fruit in the hot chocolate fondant. It was a sweet love affair that has lasted for six years. Forever faithful I have never cheated; my devotion to you is unwavering. I patiently wait for the next moment, the next special holiday to sample your next creation of love. When I can’t wait any longer I secretly come to visit, incognito, to admire the love of chocolate you share with your many admirers‘s. I want you all to myself, but then I see the smile that you bring to everyone’s faces who enjoy your creative genius and partake in your pleasures, I am HAPPY!
Thank you so much for being you and making my Easter celebrations special with your whimsical and colorful creations. I will share your special Easter treats with young and old this holiday so they too can see the love affair I have for you.

Love, The Montreal Foo Foodie

Juliette & Chocolate ( see Various Locations)
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nouveau mouton fds
Lettre à Juliette,
Depuis le jour où j’ai découvert votre chocolat Je suis en amour. J’attends patiemment la prochaine fois que je vous reverrai donc je peux savourer votre élixir sucré. Je ne pourrai jamais oublier la première nuit, que j’ai plongéé mon premier morceau de fruit dans le fondant au chocolat. Ce fut une histoire d’amour douce qui dure depuis six ans. Toujours fidèle, je ne l’ai jamais triché; mon dévouement pour vous est inébranlable. J’attends patiemment le prochain moment, la prochaine fête spéciale pour déguster votre prochaine création d’amour. Quand je ne peux plus attendre, je viens de visiter secrètement, incognito, pour admirer l’amour du chocolat que vous partagez avec vos nombreux admirateurs. Je vous veux à moi-même, mais je vois le sourire que vous apportez à tous les visages qui apprécient votre génie créatif et de participer à vos plaisirs, je suis très HEUREUX!
Je vous remercie beaucoup d’être vous et faire mes fêtes de Pâques spéciale avec vos créations fantaisistes et colorées. Je vais partager vos friandises de Pâques spéciales avec jeunes et vieux ces vacances pour qu’ils puissent aussi voir l’histoire d’amour que j’ai pour toi.

Amour, Le Foo Foodie de Montreal

Le Restaurant XO-Hotel St James

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Restaurant XO –Hotel St-James
355 St Jacques St. O
Montréal, Québec
H2Y 1N9
514-841-3111
http://www.hotellestjames.com
Chef Hats: 3
Cost: $ 154.73

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This place has been on my bucket list for so long now that I had given up hope of ever getting a chance to dine there. Meanwhile, the hotel has also changed their executive chef many times since it opening that I feel it has fallen into obscurity. Amid the plethora of business suits and skirts who seem to be the only ones frequenting it lately on their business luncheons, Restaurant XO is very quiet on any given evening. We do not hear anymore about the great tea service they once offered or that it was once considered the best place to dine in Montreal. One thing that still comes to mind is the impressive elegance and sophistication of The St James Hotel and its reputation.

Le Restaurant XO is the hotel’s prestigious Salle à Manger and it is very opulently decorated in a modern baroque style. Housed in a former Bankers Hall it exudes refinement with is floor to ceiling white columns, two level mezzanine seating area, glass stained windows, black wrought iron railings and crystal chandeliers. It exudes richness and class. It is still the place to go for a special occasion or to really impress your partner or date. It stands alone in comparison to other Montreal hotels when it comes to hotel dining in an old world charm. Very European in feel, it is the epitome of era gone by with its white glove service and silver flatware and very professional service.

To some it may seem intimidating or downright snobbish, but rest assured you can meet just anybody here, ranging from all age groups and walks of life. This evening we saw a few couples young and old, elegantly dressed in long flowing dresses and tuxedos ,a dining group sitting on the mezzanine level and girlfriends sitting at the bar enjoying martinis. On a regular night it will cost you a few hundred dollars to dine here at minimum, but my suggestion is that during November you can attend or make reservations for The Montreal à Table event that will put you back about the cost of going to any regular Montreal restaurant; granted you don’t order a very expensive wine, which they have an extensive list of here claiming from the worlds’ best wine cellars. That being said, it is an experience that any Montrealer must regal in at least once in their lifetime.

For dinner, the restaurant has two menus: the bar menu (yes it has small bar) which serves delicious snacks that can be shared among friends, and the full evening menu which offers a selection of delectable, seasonal dishes. Tonight we sampled the tasting menu for this special occasion at $41.00 each. We ordered two glasses of Rosé wine from Sonoma California, which was light and refreshing.

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For Starters we were brought a amuse bouche of mousse de foie gras, with confit de fruits and onions and two crostini. A perfect teaser and start to the meal; foie gras is my proverbial favorite and a common practice for me to order it when I see it on the menu. The Amuse bouche was the perfect start. I loved the sweetness of the confit paired with the mousse of foie gras. It was done well here.

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For the second course we sampled a squash apple soup with Goose liver Pastrami on rye crostini with Quebec Cheese and an heirloom beet salad, with pomegranate, goat cheese and pecans. The soup was a mixture of squash and sweet flavors of the apple. It was delicious; the goose liver pastrami on crostini with cheese was a good compliment to the sweetness of the soup. The beet salad was also another winner and a good representation of a Quebec classic.

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The main meals fell flat with Salmon confit with buckwheat puree and 3 clams for an extra $5.00. This came with a broth of beef consommé that really did nothing for the meal, other than make it soupy. The Grain Fed chicken with carrots and vegetables was another disappointment. There was nothing oomph or outstanding about the flavor of the chicken. The vegetables were perfectly cooked and tasty but it was too simple of a dish for such a grand dame of a place.

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For dessert we had a Maple crème brulee with a chai tea poached pear which was lovely and a tarte citron verrine with marshmallow cream cheese which was divine.

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The desserts were redeeming, but not enough to raise the bar on the meal as a whole. The surroundings were beautiful, serene, classy and inviting and truly an eye pleaser. We truly enjoyed our evening and glad to be here, we would fully recommend this restaurant for any occasion. The staff was friendly and attentive, the service was impeccable and professional making this experience all the more memorable, and Chef Julien Robillard’s talent definitely shine in this setting. Not all can be perfect and we noticed that others seemed to be enjoying the food. I would have loved if the meal would have been consistent throughout, but then I am very discriminating set the bar very high on a place like this. Sometimes décor isn’t everything.
XO Le Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Les Coudes sur la Table

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Les Coudes sur la Table
2275 Rue Ste-Catherine E.
(Corner Fullum)
Montréal, Québec
H2K 2J3
Phone: 514-521-0036
http://www.lescoudessurlatable.ca

Chef Hats; 5
Cost $168.72 ( tax included and tip included)

There are some restaurants that hit all the marks in terms of hospitality management. Les Coudres sur la Table is one of them. It has a great ambiance, perfect service and exceptionally good quality food. Located in the East end part of the city on Saint Catherine Street, it is worth the drive or trek to this part of the city by a long shot.

Since its opening in September 2013, by Chef Cedric Deslandes, Serge Gauthier and maître d’ Alexandre Jourdan; this team has definitely achieved a winning formula. Albeit the mixed reviews about the Les Coudes sur la Table, some good, some lukewarm. I don’t understand the extreme variations in opinion, but then I understand a little about humanity and our different and selective criteria of what expectations mean to each individual. At times I can only speak for myself and hope that your criteria meet mine. But I have a strong sense of admiration for hard work and a keen eye for my own set of rules that conclude perfection. Though difficult to obtain at times due to unforeseen exterior forces or circumstances, we all try our best in an imperfect world and sometimes situations beyond our control create imperfect situations. But good team work shines by far and must be rewarded and this can be said about Les Coudes sur la Table. So I had to venture there for myself to discover and form my own opinion.

Les Coudes sur la Table is a small French style local Bistro located on a quiet stretch .It stands all on its own, which sets it apart from all the competition. Tonight we ventured forth to celebrate a belated birthday for that special person in my life. Even though it was six weeks later due to unforeseen circumstances we were finally able treat ourselves to a special dinner out. As mentioned by my dinner guest it was long overdue, but we were eager with anticipation. We were not disappointed upon entering the establishment, admiring the appealing decor like small children. The bistro is long and narrow but very quaint in its own way with its honey beige and red walls, modern bar set in a corner and dark wood table that create a warm and welcoming ambiance. We got a table all the way in the back of the resto in a quiet spot, fit for a private tète à tète, with French tunes playing in the background to remind us of Paris at the same time soothing our souls . We ordered two cocktails to go with that, which is not usually our thing, but I heard that the cocktails were a must try here. We chose two cocktails at $ 9.00, the Framboises en Colere , served in a short martini glass, it was a mix of raspberry liqueur with rum, sugar with fresh raspberries as garnish and a Grands Esprits cocktail, served in a highball glass which is a mix of Grand Marnier, cordial and soda water with a lime wedge . Both refreshing and a good appetite opener and starter to a relaxing evening before our convivial meal.

Cocktails
Cocktails

Our waiter Alexandre brought us our menus, from which we chose the tasting menu at the reasonable price of $40.00 and $41.00, the latter being more expensive because of the cost of the torchon de foie gras.

For Starters we sampled the Velouté Soup of tomato and fennel, with basil pesto, homemade croutons and lots of crème fraiche. The soup was indeed warm and velvety creamy, thick with hints of pureed fresh tomato and the sweet taste of anise, atop as garnish swirl of basil pesto, which gave it a perfectly paired Mediterranean twist.

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I had my favorite, the Torchon de Foie Gras de Canard; which I cannot get enough of these days. This came presented with a confit de fruits sec, with a slight onion medley, a side of sliced baguette style toasted sweet pain de brioche that beautifully completed the dish. The foie gras was silky and smooth, melting on your tongue, of superior quality but exceptionally simplistic.

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The appetizers were a sweet prelude and a good start and end to the completion our cocktails. All the dishes from the appetizers, to the main meal and especially the dessert served tonight display Deslandes’s talents completely.

For our main meal, we ordered two glasses of wine, a glass of Pinot Noir -VDP Côtes de Thongue, Pinot Noir, 2014, Moulin Montarels, France for $ 9.00 and a Rioja, Inedito , 2013, Bodega Lacus, Espagne for $9,50, a decently good price . Both revealed notes of fruit and spice, fresh, light and well balanced, with mild tannins pairing well with our dark meats.

Our second course was made up of Grilled Beef Bavette from Prince Edward Island, sat on a bed of creamy polenta infused with parmesan cheese and lardons of Brussels sprouts in a thick red wine sauce. The bavette was of a superior quality and a good cut, tender, tasty and devoid of any fat. Cooked to perfection and not overdone. The combination of polenta and wine sauce made it heavenly if you crave lots of protein in your diet. This has got to be one of the best I have ever tasted in town.

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The second plate was a Roasted Magret de Canard on a bed of pureed parsnip, with caramelized onions and a juniper pepper orange sauce. The sweet duck was perfection in itself, again another superior cut of meat that was not overly fatty, perfectly cooked and tender. Well balanced and different with the mixed flavors of the puree of parsnips and tanginess and hints of the juniper berries.

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The two desserts sampled were the pièce de resistance, chosen this evening were the Tarte au citron which is my dining partner proverbial favorite done by Chef Deslandes ‘’ à ma facon’’ ou à ca facon , beautifully presented with a piece of Breton Sablé, Meringue, caramelize marshmallow, garnished with teardrops of chocolate sauce and a ground cherry, and my choice was the Peach Melba which sat atop a chocolate sauce with whipped cream and pieces of nougat garnished with a strawberry. Although light, the better of the desserts had to be the lemon tart; just looking at it was a masterpiece in itself.

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Chef Deslandes food techniques are impressive and his displays of food and pairing skillful. It can be comparative to some of Montreal very high end restaurants; the only difference here is the prices. It is rare to find such good quality and quantity as we had experienced this evening without making a deeper dent in our pockets. It is a privilege these days to dine out in some of Montreal’s finer dining establishments without breaking the bank or bankrupting yourself for a few months. That is why we need to be selective these days. I am not sure about you, but I work very hard for my money and my experience needs to be perfect or close to perfection as I can get or my expenditures cannot be justified.
Les Coudes sur la Table, justifies this on all levels, not only is the restaurant very professional in every respect; it differentiates itself from others because of its caliber and finer attention to details; not only creating a memorable experience but an unforgettable one too. All that said, the ambiance and feel of Les Coudes sur la Table is very relaxed and familiar, it is perfect for any occasion and I would definitely recommend it on the top echelon of anyone’s “MUST TRY” list because it is just a real gem of a place.

Les Coudes sur la Table Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato