Pastaga

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Pastaga
6389 St Laurent Blvd/ Beaubien
Montreal, Quebec
H2S 3C3
Telephone: (438) 381-6389
http://pastaga.ca/
Cost: 172.01-for two-wine tip tax included
Chef Hats: 5

Restaurant Pastaga and Chef Martin Juneau need no introduction. Montreal Foodies by now should be very familiar with him. A prominent figure on Zeste TV, with his show Les Menu Zeste de Martin Juneau, endless television appearances , cookbooks and five restaurants under his belt.

Before Pastaga’s opening in 2012, Juneau owned and ran La Montée du Lait for seven years. It is here that we first learned that he was creating new and innovative cuisine that was different from the mainstream and what other chefs were doing. His creations were masterfully executed and beautifully plated, yet he was using regular simple local products in a new creative ways that were unimaginable. This theme continues at Pastaga, where simple ingredients are used to make masterful creations that are not only visually pleasing but an eye opener to the senses.

Contrary to what the name may sound like, the menu or theme is not Italian or Pasta. Instead the word “Pastaga” derives from the word Pastis, which is an anis flavored alcoholic beverage that is served as an apéritif before a meal, its origins stemming from Europe. Wine and spirits is a recurring theme and almost just as important as the food in many of Martin Juneau restaurants. His other venture a wine and spirits bar Cul Sec, which is just around the corner from Pastaga at 29 Beaubien that also works on the same principals.

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Brasserie Bernard

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Brasserie Bernard
1249 Avenue Bernard/Champagneur
Montréal, Quebec
H2V 1V7
Phone: (514) 508-5519
http://www.brasseriebernard.com
Cost: $83.29
Chef Hats: 2.5

Since its opening three years ago, Brasserie Bernard has become a popular local hangout in the heart of Outremont. It is set more in the style of a typical French Bistro than as what we consider a traditional Brasserie. It is quaint, fun, offers decent food and has solicitous service.

I came across it one evening during my walk on Bernard Street after having eaten at Les Enfants Terribles, across the street. I immediately fell in love with the look of the place with its black panel doors, sprawling windows and lovely terrasse. Of course, I placed it on my bucket list of hip and cool restaurants to try, after spotting Denys Arcand sitting on the terrasse with some friends enjoying a meal.

After doing some research I discovered it was owned by the Holder Brothers. Everyone should be familiar with the name by now. If not let me enlighten you, their name is not only synonymous with Holder Restaurant on McGill Street, which many foodies and business people alike have frequented and enjoyed over the years. The name is also familiar to the many fifty something who in their heydays were patrons of the popular club Business and Le Swimming on St Laurent Street. That was back many moons ago when St. Laurent Street between Sherbrooke and Pine Avenue was the epicentre of the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” or the wannabees of the Montreal “in crowd”. It was a cool era when everything was excessive and there was no limit to spending. Access to one of these joints almost guaranteed you were cool and hip or at least you felt the euphoria for a couple of hours that evening.

Times have changed and St Laurent is no longer as popular as it used to be. Those places are gone and the new generation has moved on to different parts of the city. That area of St Laurent has seen such decline in the last decade and is virtually dead, only but a few remain. The Holder Brothers have also moved on and since have had many other business ventures. Some fruitful and some not, but most have been memorable with a good winning formula and their name is synonymous with good quality, Avant- garde and fun and interesting establishments to party or dine at.

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Pick Thai

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Pick Thai
5221 Boulevard de Maisonneuve O. /Northcliffe
Montréal, Quebec
H4A 0A4
Phone: (514) 316-9696
http://www.pickthairestaurant.com
Cost: $140.15 (for two, tax & tip included)
Chaf Hats: 5

 

Thai and Szechuan cuisine used to be all the rage. Today, aside from fast food Thai Express counters that I frequent often for a quick fix, I can only count a handful of decent fine dining Thai establishments in Montreal. Many of Thai restaurants have been replaced by other types of Asian eateries that serve anything from Pho and Ramen soups to All-You-Can Eat Sushi or Izakaya’s. This is fine, as everything has a life span and innovation is a good thing if we must progress in food culture.

 

It seems that Thai Cuisine was a thing of the past and while people move on to better things Thai Cuisine has taken to the back burner and can be considered a little démodé. When I think of Thai food what come to mind are the wonderful flavours of curry, coconut milk and basil. No one did this the better in the 90’s, than Chao Praya on Laurier Street in Outremont. It was one of my proverbial favourites and our go to place until that fateful evening when everything changed and we were banished from the place .The story itself is a funny one and a good example of how things can escalate when tempers flare. Since then, I have not come across anything good in the realm of Thai food to write home about until I ate at Pick Thai and discovered that Thai food was indeed not a thing of the past, especially when is as good as this.

 

Suggested to me by one of my foodie friends, I would never have known it existed. After it came highly recommended, I vaguely remembered having read a review but had filed it in my subconscious. Hidden in a commercial building on Vendome Street, Pick Thai it is a hop and skip away from the Vendome metro. The place is very popular with the Westmount crowd and for many of the employees of the Glen Site hospital. Since its opening over two years ago, it has gained a loyal following.

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Montreal Plaza

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Montreal Plaza
6230 St Hubert St, /between Beaubien & Bellechasse
Montreal, Quebec
H2S 2M2
Telephone: (514) 903-6230
http://www.montrealplaza.com
Cost: $ 85.94 (tax/ tip included for 1 person)
Chef Hats: 5

Plaza St Hubert is an unlikely place and an odd choice to open up a new restaurant amidst shops selling bridal wear, shoes and knick knacks. But not when the owners and chef happen to be eccentric Charles Antoine Crete and his partner Sheryl Johnson, both former chef de cuisine and sous chef at Toque. After their fourteen year stint in one of Montreal’s Top Fine dining establishments, they have chosen this location to branch out on their own and create their own pied-à-terre. They found the neighborhood cool, interesting, and full of life and decided to totally renovate the old and defunct Bistro Étoile and make it their own space.

What I like about St Hubert Street, besides it being my old stomping ground is its illustrious past. Over the years its deterioration has turned it into a mish mash of empty storefronts. Part kitschy, part weird, it has remained and has survived by constantly trying to reinvent itself. Word is on the street that it will experience a sort of revitalization soon by getting a new $50-million glass awning that will completely encase the street. It is trying to reinvent itself once again with a new found reputation as a great shopping & dining destination. Now the neighborhood will be lined with a mix of shops, old-school and family run eateries, hip bars, and the emergence of places like the classy Montreal Plaza, to cater to a new type of clientele. All that being said, it`s revitalization is imminent.

Le Montreal Plaza is now two years old, opened in September 2015 it has not only garnished great reviews but has amassed quite a strong clientele, which has allowed them to expand into other ventures this year with their new restaurant Food Chain . Both talents in their own right, Montreal Plaza are a sounding board not only for Mr. Crete whimsical nature but also serves as a canvas for is artistic flair, great cuisine and energy.

Montreal Plaza is totally the future. The space has been beautifully renovated by Montreal Top Restaurant designer Zebulon Perron. The feel is very French Bistro with its black paneled windows, high ceilings and white walls and frosted glass lighting fixtures which run the length of the restaurant. The room is a mix of furniture from banquettes, wooden tables and chairs, even picnic tables for larger groups and private rooms. Montreal Plaza is very popular with the in crowd, yet the restaurant is not pretentious or snobby. Service is impeccable, respectful and very accommodating. The food is exceptional and creative; they serve classic French bistro fare with fresh, local market cuisine at its best. The wine list contains lots of private imports and is carefully selected with dishes on the menu.

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Walking Tour Little Italy: A Day of Discovery

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Jean Talon Market- Henri Julien/Mozart
Charcuterie Balkani-Jean Talon Market-7070 Henri Julien Local # 2
Porchetta-6887 St Laurent
Milano-6862 St Laurent
Cafe San Gennaro -69 St Zotique
Alati Caserta Bakery-277 rue Dante

The best way to truly discover a neighbourhood and experience all it has to offer is by taking a walking tour. You can stop to visit all the little shops, restaurants and gems the neighbourhood has to offer. Along the way you may discover places that you were not aware existed. It will open up your mind, bring forth new adventures and open a new world of discoveries.

We did just that this summer with The Food & Drink Meet Up 2017 edition of a walking Tour of Little Italy. I try to make an annual trek to Little Italy, either by sometimes attending some festivity or making a pit stop at Milano’s Supermarket to purchase some imported product. As a creature of habit, I always go back to my old haunts which are the usual landmark places that I have been going to for years. I sometimes do not know about new places that have recently opened and miss out, until someone mentions it. Today was a good opportunity to learn about these different places and our walk not only served as a sounding board for other ideas but allowed me to experience places I would not otherwise have tried or known about.

We started our walking tour at 10:30 am at the Jean Talon Market. The overall tour lasted three hours, with a few pit stops for food and relaxing. The market is a proverbial favourite and the perfect place to start; go early in the morning as it is less busy and you get prime choice of the best produce. By the end of the day, some speciality items may be gone and it is so jam packed with people, walking through at a decent pace proves difficult.
The market is also a great way to sample free things, one of the kiosks at the center of the market selling fruits and vegetables actually cuts up their produce so you can have a taste before buying. They have a phletora of items on elevated tablets and you can take as much as you want.

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Souvlaki Bar

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Souvlaki Bar
3310 Boul de la Cote Vertu
Ville Saint-Laurent, Quebec
H4R 1P8
http://www.souvlakibar.ca
Telephone: (514) 379-3798
Chef Hats: 3
Cost: $31.50- tax & tip included

In a building that housed a phletora of defunct chain restaurants near the Spheretech, Souvlaki Bar quietly opened amid little fanfare at the end of January 2017. I am not a big fan of franchises, the reason being that I strongly believe that the best operations are manned by one or multiple proprietors. There is a difference between a well known chef who has under his umbrella a few choice restaurants by different names and an owner who runs franchises. In the beginning they are all good and with time quality is forsaken, the theme gets old along with the décor and they become redundant. The Souvlaki Bar is a franchise with multiple locations already, at least four for now. The first opened at the Centropolis in Laval a few years back and the Saint Laurent location the second branch in Saint-Laurent also offers full dining and bar service. The Central Station and Vaudreuil locations are express counters.

The concept is a mix of good Greek food, a fun festive atmosphere with bouzouki music and of course a cool bar for drinks. What sets the Souvlaki bar apart from any other Greek restaurants is its fancy bar and thematic meals, it has combinations of Greek classic cuisine with a modern concepts. Their dishes have names like the Meat Shovels, Santorini salad, and Hercules, Zeus and Greek Massacres. Nothing says Greek like hoards of food.

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Le Fantome

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Le Fantome
1832 Rue William/Rue des Seigneurs
Montréal, QC
H3J 1R5
Telephone : (514) 846-1832
http://www.restofantome.ca
Tasting Menu: $ 65.00- without wine tasting.
Cost $ 254.53 (for two including tax and tip)
Chef Hats: 4.5

There is no doubt that the team behind Le Fantome is multi talented, they were voted #8 in En Route Magazine in 2016, a couple of months after they initially opened. Eater blog swears by them and Lesley Chesterman gave the restaurant a great review and dinners have kept coming for the last two years and it is not only the local residents of Griffin town that frequent Le Fantome but they come from all over town, to sample the ingenuity that emanates from this kitchen.

Jason Morris is the chef behind Le Fantome, a force to be reckoned with on many levels. His partner Kabir Kapoor comes from long lineage of restaurateurs, his Dad owns Le Taj downtown, a landmark restaurant that has been on the Montreal scene for over twenty years. This means he literally grew up in the restaurant business. This is evident in the manner in which he deals with his all his clientele. I can guarantee this, as I experience it first-hand this evening. He makes sure that when complete your meal that you are 100 % and completely satisfied. The hospitality at Le Fantome is amazing, the service outstanding, the food fresh, original, creative and out of this world. Yet this evening we experienced a few glitches, minor but enough to make you think twice about going back.

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