1624 Rue Sainte-Catherine O. /Guy
Montréal, QC, H3H 2S7
Cost: $ 58.18-tax, tip & alcohol included
Chef Hats: 3
Japanese Pubs are becoming all the rage these days. Since 2010 we have seen a slow rise of at least a dozen izakaya’s in Montreal. The draw is not only the Japanese tapas style food (portions are small), but the convivial and fun atmosphere that can be found in all of them.
Warning: Ear plugs are in order as these types of places can get loud and within reason and Kinka Isakaya is no exception. Upon entering the restaurant everyone will receive the traditional loud welcome “Arigato Gozaimasu” from across the kitchen; which is open concept. This is part of the ritual here as well as the imminent “Sake Bomb” which occurs at least every fifteen minutes throughout the evening. A touch gimmicky, this adds to the fun and festive atmosphere. It is a new way to experience a taste of Japanese dining and drinking that deviates from the usual foodie adventure.
Kinka Isakaya Montreal is located downtown in new Chinatown, on la rue Ste Catherine between Guy and St Mathieu. Opened in early 2015 by the Kinka Izakaya’s franchise of Toronto it delivers all the fixings for a modern day Japanese pub. The décor is minimalistic with clean lines and boxy simple furnishing. The colors are simple, black slate walls and floors and light colored pine furniture. The scene is straight out of Japanese catalogue, the look is very Zen, until the place starts to fill up and the noise level gets louder.
I was surprised to see the new restaurants that now line the exterior of Le Faubourg, Kinka Izakaya’s and Kampai Garden are some of them that are bringing a sort of revival to Le Faubourg which has been in a slow decline over the last 15 years. The interior of Le Faubourg is no longer accessible and remain a shell of its former self; part of it is being used by Concordia University for classes. Parking can also be found underground if you can’t find parking on the street.
Tonight we were celebrating an anniversary and we were a group of at least twenty. Our party organizer negotiated the special party menu created for our group for a flat rate of $ 30.00 plus tax and tip, sake was not included for $14.00 extra. We sampled seven dishes, and Kinka‘s original sake shared between two.
We started with Miso Soup, which was somewhat generic. It lacked the usual seaweed and tofu cubes; instead it came garnished with floating sliced green onion. The broth was laden with dark soya sauce. I would have preferred a seaweed salad or Edamame instead. Not a good start to the meal.
The next dish was called Gomaee-Blanched Rapini with sesame sauce. We received a generous portion of sautéed Rapini with a drizzle of sesame oil and sesame seed garnish and a base of soya sauce. The Rapini were overcooked and wilted. They lacked texture and crunch. Nonetheless, they were better than the soup.
Our next dish was Maguro Tataki, slices of lightly grilled Albacore Tuna with a base of Ponzu sauce and green onions garnish. This tuna was perfectly cooked, medium rare and very tasty. This dish and the Black Cod were my favorite, unfortunately the portions were too small to be shared and completely enjoyed, but I would return just for this.
Soon afterwards we received the Karaage, deep fried marinated and coated chicken pieces. The food choices were getting better and started arriving quickly. The chicken was marinated with soy sauce and the batter was supposed to be infused with Sapporo beer. It came served with a garlic mayonnaise aioli sauce on the side, a lemon wedge and some lettuce. The chicken was very crispy on the outside, perfect flavors and not too oily. It was super tender and delicious on the inside. We got six portions for two.
The entrees kept coming and next we received Karubi, a side of beef marinated and grilled Japanese style. The beef was flavorful and delicious, except for its uneven texture it was a little chewy and tough to eat. I believe this stems more in the cut of meat chosen than anything else, and maybe a different choice of cut would have been better to eating without knives.
Next was the grilled Gindara, Grilled black cod in yuzu miso sauce, this was absolutely divine and the favorite of the table. The fish was totally blackened on the outside, once cut up it reveals mounds of white fish that fell apart in thick slabs, absolutely decadent and flavorful.
It was served along with Unagi bibimbap, a favorite Korean dish of mine that satisfies every time. A rice dish with eel, burdock and egg served in hot stone bowl.
For dessert, we had a piece of festive vanilla cake that was mediocre at best that was provided by our group organizer. We would have preferred the green tea ice cream that we were charged an extra $ 1.00 for anyways.
Sake bombs were ordered for our organizers and they are always fun to partake in or just too watch and cheer on. I liked Kinka Izakaya’s, it’s a fun place and the ambiance is not only cool but the décor very nice. The experience is different from just a regular pub. Bear in mind that Kinka Izakaya’s falls under the pub banner. First and foremost it is a place to drink and have fun .The food seems secondary with small food portions to quench your appetite, more than a culinary experience.
638 Notre-Dame St W/Rue Richmond
Telephone: (514) 925-7007
Cost: $311.89 for three including tax & tip
Chef Hats: 4
The first time I walked into Foxy`s was by accident, I was looking for some friends who were having drinks next door at Le Bureau. My visit was too short to think much of it; in fact it looked like just a local watering hole. Then I heard from some colleagues that they had a great time and some good grub one evening there. I figured they had too much to drink and were delusional. Being my inquisitive self I did some research and found out that it had opened in late 2015 by the owners of Olive & Gourmando in Old Montreal.
Dyan Solomon and Eric Girard both of whom worked and trained at the reverable Toque, where many of the city`s new and best upcoming chefs have at some point done stints there. Dyan is no stranger to television; she has been on numerous television shows like Josée Di Stasio sharing her famous recipes and appears often on some media outlets both in English and in French to discuss food in general. She has become the go to person for great healthy ideas, her cooking is known to be downright homey, packed with flavor yet made of simplicity.
Olive & Gourmando has been around since 1997, and in the last twenty years has built up a reputation not only has an exceptional bakery, but a great place to stop to have great soups and sandwiches in Old Montreal. Asked many times over the years if she would open another resto, she held off till now and then she and her partner Eric decided to open Foxy`s. Half way between Olive & Gourmando ,so she does not have to go far to oversee both.
They enlisted the help of Chef Leigh Roper who is no stranger to the Montreal Food scene. Formerly of Vin Papillon, she brings a heaping ladle of experience to Foxy`s, at the young age of just 30 years old. She has also trained in the South of France and USA at Chez Panisse, Chez Quince and Tartine Bakery and brings a phletora of new ideas to the table.
Foxy`s concept is all about cooking on open fire and in a wood burning oven. The food is all about simplicity but packed full of flavors with lots of vegetables playing a main role alongside meat and fish dishes. The portions are small and Foxy does not serve bread on the onset of the meal. Instead, delicious flatbreads can be had for a fee. The menu is limited and not extensive but everything is absolutely delicious. The goal here is not to binge on big plates but to eat well and healthy. The food can best be described as market cuisine du terroir.
What sets Foxy’s apart by a long shot from many restaurants is the outstanding service and extreme friendly atmosphere; stuffy dinner guests need not apply here. The staff is uber friendly and in your face. The clientele is a mix of young cool urbanites that come from all over the island because they have heard of Foxy’s great food and fun ambiance.
The décor is minimalistic. Éric Filteau the contractor who had a hand in Foxy décor has worked with the likes of Zébulon Perron and Bruno Braen, who have established a name for themselves as masters of cool hip restaurants designers of Montreal.
You can see the resemblance in design in the long narrow room with rows and rows of communal wood high bar tables and stools and open bar / kitchen design concept. The draw here is the open kitchen and wood burning ovens, which create a feeling of warmth and coziness. The front of the house and back contain some low-lying tables. If it is privacy you need ask for a table at the back, they have a great nook for a romantic tète a tète.
The room is very dark in the evening with minimal suspended lighting over the bar and tables, creating a clandestine aura, yet it are also very communal and convivial, the noise levels can get high.
This evening a lovely waitress sat us for cocktails before our table was ready at the floating bar across from the wood burning oven. We ordered a Vera Cruz, with a cayenne pepper rim, Honey Bee for $ 15.00 made with gin and honey and a glass of Toscana Cinque red wine for $ 13.00. The cocktails were original and delicious. Just before we melted from the heat of the oven we were moved to a table in front near the window.
For entrees we shared the Flatbread with Kale, Escarole, Shallots and three cheeses, Winter Coleslaw salad and the Pita Salad with marinated Feta, citrus and spices for $ 17.00. The flatbread although delicious was a small portion for $19.00, but it was outta this world. The dough was cooked just right and had smoky flavour from the charcoal oven. It was fluffy and chewy and packed with flavour. The topping of kale, escarole and cheese mixed with shallots was one of the best things I ever tasted.
The Winter Coleslaw Salad for $ 17.00, which had came highly recommended, also hit the mark. It is worth going all the way too Foxy for just this salad alone. Top with pulled duck, it was a mix of charcoaled greens, with an aïoli sauce and parmesan shavings.
The Pita Salad was just as good for $ 17.00. Original in concept it is not the usual Greek Feta Salad, but a mix of greens, radishes and micro greens atop a base of marinated oranges and feta crumble, an infusion of flavours mixing citrus blends, spices and bitterness. On the side a large puffed pita that was freshly cooked in the charcoal oven. Simply delicious!
For our main meals we ordered two Roast chicken for $ 32.00 each to be shared by three, a steep price to pay for roasted chicken. The chicken came served with shallots, avocado and some tomatillo; not much in accouterments as sides. The chicken was perfectly grilled and very tasty, except for the price we expected more than less than quarter of a chicken.
Then, this is where Foxy is considered more of a bar and the food is more of a snack than a meal.
With our meal we ordered two glasses of Toscana Cinque 2014 at $15.00 a glass and a white wine by the glass called Juste Ciel for $13.00. The alcohol tab alone was $105.00. We could have had a good bottle of wine instead for that price. But we were so happy revelling in the moment of being in such a happening place, that we forgot the cost and went with the flow and just enjoyed it.
For Dessert we ordered a Crème Brulee à la Vanille which came infused with hints of vanilla bean. The dessert was creamy, and absolutely delicious.
Coffee came served in a carafe of and was enough for two and for our non coffee drinker a green tea which was too strong. Bitter and overpowering.
This all to say completed our meal and we were very happy and content with everything we tried at Foxy. Not too much food but just right. Like its neighbouring restaurants, Foxy is a place to go to be seen and to enjoy being with the in crowd of Griffin town, while getting some original healthy dishes with a twist of “je ne sais quoi”. Just be prepared to spend the cash, everything comes with a price.
376 Chemin Cherrier/Ave du Manoir
Phone: (514) 305-1229
Cost: $ 70.08-Tax & Tip included
Chef Hats: 2.5
The Montreal Foo-Foodie has high expectations when I going out for dinner. I basically like to eat for two reasons, first for sustenance when I am starving and then secondly for pure enjoyment. When dining out the complete package is very important especially if I will be spending close to $100.00 or more for myself. This means, that I not only choose a reputable place, but quality of food is high on my priority, decor is has got to be optimal and service has to be on the ball. I can’t change what many years of dining out have innately conditioned me to be, a foodie snob.
I am a good cook, not a chef, as this takes accreditation and many years of schooling and experience to master, I stand firmly on this conviction and do not make any claims. For the foodie snob, table settings, ambiance and fresh quality produce is important for my dinners at home when entertaining. The idea of dining out takes on a whole new meaning when I have to spend my hard earned dollars. This is when I expect my experience to not just be quasi good but something beyond what I cannot replicate myself in terms of plate presentations and food combinations.
So when my dining group friends make a suggestion I trust their judgement as they are like minded. This evening I jumped at the chance to dine with them at Bistro 1843 located in Ile Bizard. It is rare that I don`t know about a place or even heard mention of it ; as I am an avid reader and follow many blogs and make it a point to learn about new restaurant openings. I had my trepidations about anything West Island these days.
Bistro 1843, used to be the historical leisure home of Denis Benjamin Viger, a prominent 19th-century Lower Canadian politician, lawyer, businessman and Patriot Movement Member. Many Montrealers are familiar with the name as with the street that bears his name. His home in Ile Bizard built circa 1843 as the name surmises is deemed an historic site and over the years with a few modifications and many changing hands it has now become a restaurant and home to a young couple Sara & Tarik.
Bistro 1843 opened about seven and a half years ago, over time it has built up quite a reputation as a good place to go to celebrate a special occasion or for a fancy night out on the town for locals and those who come from afar. I hear reservations are hard to come by and tables are booked months ahead.
Bistro 1843 has no liquor license, website, or listing of their menu online. But I was told ahead of time to BYOB it. So with a bottle of Château St Antoine in tow from my cave à vin and I headed over to Ile Bizard. We had no problems finding the place with our GPS and there is parking at the side and back of the restaurant and that was easy enough for me.
The Bistro consists of two open concept main dining rooms, one different from each other. As you enter you feel like you are dining in someone’s house. Once seated, you can be in the front dining room or in the back near the kitchen. The daily specials are listed on a chalkboard, and repeated by your waitress and given a menu to order à la carte or from the daily specials. The choices on the menu can be described as a combination of French local market cuisine, with inspirations of fusion here and there. The menu consists of prime cuts of meat, chicken and fish and delectable desserts. There is something for everyone on the menu and some dishes are a hit or a miss.
I started with Seared Scallops St Jacques which was just perfect. Unlike the name states, they were not traditional done St Jacques style, which consists of heavy cream. Instead, I received three huge Sea Scallops in lemon beurre blanc with light citrus hints, garnished with micro greens, not too overcooked.
All meals were served with salad or soup of the day. I had the house green salad as opposed to the soup which was a cream of carrot with ginger. My salad was perfectly seasoned and dressed with a good mix of julienned vegetables, Spanish onions and mixed mesclun greens.
My main meal was a little bit of a disappointment. I ordered Supreme de Volaille/Chicken in a Cream sauce. It was one of my old classic favourites that I have cooked many times in the past years. It used to be a monthly staple on my menu at home. Although a thing of the past, I hardly make it any longer. This evening I wanted to revisit this old favourite. It is easy to make and always a crowd pleaser. My supreme at Bistro 1843 came served with potatoes and vegetables. The presentation of this dish was not appetizing, the sauce was a little too thick and the chicken undercooked a big faux pas.
My girlfriend ordered the salmon pave in an orange glaze sauce; this was delicious and cooked to perfection. It came served atop snow peas. She loved it and said it one of the best she has ever had.
Our friend Margaret had a veal chop in its jus, with zucchini, carrots and potato. She found it tender but a little fatty.
Nancy ordered Flounder from the Special Menu. I was beautifully presented with a pink edible pansy flower and micro greens. It was divine with its ginger infused sauce, Brussels sprouts, snow peas and potatoes and slivers of carrot.
Also ordered was the filet mignon, which came sliced served in a demi glaze wine sauce with peas and topped with chives. The filet mignon was served medium rare and very tender. Bistro 1843 does its meat dishes very well. The accompanying sauces are delightful and flavourful.
The desserts are also top notch here, with some of the classic favourites, like crème brulee and cheesecake.
They also had this evening on their menu a special double stuffed crepe with chocolate and caramel, and a pudding Chomeur marble cake topped with ice cream; everyone seemed to love the Bistro and the desserts and overall a good feeling about the place.
They definitely enjoyed the food, the experience and the company. The prices are reasonable, but do not expect to pay $ 25.00 for your meal. It will put you back at least $ 60.00 to $ 70.00 for a three course meal depending if ordering al la carte or from the special menu. This does not include the cost of your BYOB wine.
This die-hard foodie was not so convinced about Bistro 1843. The experience was inconsistent. As I looked around I felt the decor to be outdated. The heavy drapery was discoloured and needed refreshing. The dining room was a mish-mash of styles of furniture. The fire place seemed like a thing of yore with its brown bricks. I felt I was sitting in someone’s outdated dining room and a big rehab was in order.
This may seem subjective to some as they may not be so discriminating about the decor, but I look at everything and it sets my mood. I would prefer something a little more upbeat and new when dining out. For those who don`t mind, Bistro 1843 is a decent contender to dining out in the West Island especially if you don’t want to go far. Have the meat or fish dishes and definitely the desserts, they are totally worth it.
1055 St Laurent Blvd, / de la Gauchetière
Telephone: (514) 508-9636
Cost: $ 20.67
Chef Hats: 1.5
Foodies can’t always be ultimate Foodies all the time. Sometimes in my case I just need to just eat. That was the case this day, looking for a quick bite while spending the morning at an event in Chinatown.After walking up and down St.Laurent and de la Gauchetiere a few times looking for a place to sit down for an hour or two, we came across NUDO in the basement of a building on St Laurent street. Not my type of place as I get the “schievvies” from a place like this, especially in Chinatown, and I don’t mean underwear either in this context. But Brains somehow convinced me and I was starving at this point.
So we descended into the bowels of NUDO, and stopped at the entrance, still reluctant to walk in, we were greeted by a hostess who told us to sit anywhere. The place will not win prizes for décor. A long room that held a few dinners, it is decorated with a few television screens, steel tables and cheap leather chairs.
As we passed through, I spotted a chef behind a window, twirling long threads of noodles and stretching them out over his head. Having seen this many years ago at Chez Chine in Chinatown long before the boom of Ramen came onto the scene in Montreal. I knew he was making ramen style noodles from Yunnan China and later found out that Nudo was started by the same guy who owns Yuki Ramen in the Faubourg.
Still intrepid I walked on and sat down and scanned the menu. I ordered crispy barbecue pork noodle. It came served in a bowl with a Chinese “tea egg. This is boiled in a mix of soy sauce, Chinese five spices, usually eaten as a snack but also added to dishes as décor and a plus. Alongside were bean sprouts, julienned carrots, cilantro and scallions and a carafe of dark broth. You can put in as much broth as required or needed and keep pouring. The pork was tender and flavorful. The “tea egg” was delicious and a good source of protein and filling. The noodles were fresh and sweet. The texture of the pork, crispy vegetables added a nice texture to the meal.
Brains had the braised chicken noodle soup, served with plenty of scallions, bok choy and cilantro in a clear broth. The bowl was fresh and plentiful as well. This dish comes with a small bowl of soup on the side. The noodles were fresh and stuck to each other. The deal is that you put as much noodles or vice versa as required to loosen the noodles. We were given a trio of condiments of soya, spicy sauce and oyster to add to our liking to our meals. The chicken was tender and moist; the broth was tasty and heartwarming.
KYO Bar Japonais
Hotel Place d’Armes/St.Jacques
711 Cote de Place D’Armes
Chef Hats: 3.5
Cost: 3 persons= $ 151.54
KYO Bar Japonais, located on the ground floor of Hotel Place d’Armes on the Cote of rue des Fortification and St.Jacques is yet another brainchild of the Antonopoulos Group. For those who are not familiar with the name, they own many of the fine Boutique hotels and a slew of restaurants located in these hotels in Old Montreal; like Verses, Maggie Oakes, Méchant Boeuf, Bevo, and Modavie.
KYO situated in the spot that use to house the now defunct AIX- Cuisine du Terroir was one of the first in the area. Opened in summer of 2013, it serves great Japanese Isakaya type fare in a fun atmosphere that was lacking in this part of Montreal. On board you will find Chef Terrence “Ding” Ting formerly of Zenya showcasing his beautiful presentations, mastery of sushi making and his minute attention to detail and taste. Every dish is packed with great flavours and incorporates local produce and with a mix and fusion of Quebecoise favourites. The setting and decor like most of the restaurants located inside this hotel whisper shades of sexiness with its billowing curtains of colored themes. See Suite 701 on upper floor with its pink and purple hues of color.
KYO is different from the rest of the hotel with its old historic charm; the only thing reminiscent of most buildings set in Old Montreal is the red brick walls. KYO has an urban clean look to it with its panelled wood walls, Asian themed lighting and red curtains. Like a cute Bento box, it exudes charm and looks like it has been lifted out from the future and planted there. Once you cross the threshold of the elevator doors, you feel like you could be in any modern day pub from any area of Montreal, with its rows of high wood tables and black leather stools lining the center of the room. KYO has a little nook for private dining for four and this is where we sat this evening. The alcove facing the street was our own private haven from the hustle & bustle of this busy Japanese Isakaya and it can get loud with the echoes of voices, music and festive atmosphere as the evening progresses.
KYO is known for its extensive Sake list and great cocktails, this evening it was only befitting that we start with Hakutsuru Junmai Sake for $14.00, recommended by our waitress Chloe; who treated us with white gloves and was very attentive to our needs for the most part of the evening. Going on the week we dined there was the Annual Happening Gourmand Festival, so we ordered from the special menu for $ 26.00 per person for a three course meal. It is a steal and worth going this route if you plan on sampling the food and drinking more.
I had the pleasure this evening of dining with my side kick and better half Brains and my friend the Indian Goddess whose birthday we were celebrating this evening. Brains, who is on an endless quest for good Japanese food ordered a Miso soup and the Indian Goddess ordered the Kaiso Salad. The Foodie ordered the Tataki Maguro for an additional $ 6.00, but well worth the price. The drawback with the menu for festival is that you only have two to three items to choose from.
Nonetheless, the Miso soup was packed with fresh ingredients like tofu cubes, green onions, shitake mushrooms and fresh seaweed. It did not taste like instant Miso soup base mix that you find in other lower end Japanese restos. It hit the spot on this frigid cold Montreal night.
The Kaiso salad consisted of a mix of meslun greens, seaweed, slivers of green onions and halved cherry tomatoes with and sesame salad dressing. Goddess was a little disappointed, the salad she thought was sparse, but it was a decent start and healthy.
The Tuna Tataki was a generous portion of six slices of raw tuna on a bed of shredded daikon, green onions and rounds of marinated jalapenos peppers packed with kick and flavour. Everyone thought that this was the better of all the dishes sampled from entrees.
For mains we ordered Chicken Yaki, Marinated salmon and Yasai Yaki Udon. The chicken Yaki with Mirin came beautifully presented on a slate plate. Served with kimchi, large king mushroom, zucchini, potatoes and green onion garnish, it was delightful and sweet.
The Salmon was perfectly cooked and not too dry. It sat on a bed of sweet potatoe puree with steamed bok choy and edamame and soy reduction. The flavours were heavenly with the sweetness of the puree and soy reduction against the bitterness of bok choy and edamame.
The Yasai Yaki Udon was one of the best that Brains had tasted in a while. Served with large cubes of Tofu, Japanese style Udon noodles, bok choy, red peppers, zucchini, asparagus and crispy seaweed garnish. Too bad the portion was small but expected for a tasting menu. Another bowl was in order.
For dessert, we had Pinky Ginger cocktails for $ 13.00 to ward off the cold weather blues. It is made with Shochu-a Japanese liqueur, Chambord and fresh crushed raspberries and ginger. This cocktail is a must and highly addictive. It is refreshingly good and goes down smooth and easy. Along with our drinks we ordered 2 portions of Vanilla Pudding cake with pistachio powder, served with custard cream and fresh fruit. The cake was sort of generic, but the cream and fruit made up for the dryness of the cake.
What we really enjoyed for an additional $4.00 were the Yuzu Beignets. These were decadent!
We got three sugared doughnuts for all to share. Suspended over the bowl by a chopstick below we discovered a rich sweetened condensed milk and sprinkled black sesame. Sugar overload but we just kept dunking our beignets over and over again in the creamy sweetness and could not get enough.
This completed our evening and we were perfectly satisfied. As we left the restaurant/ bar, it had completely filled up with young revellers and a real buzzing energy. We understood why it was so popular; we enjoyed everything at KYO, from our seating arrangements to the service, decor, and food above all.
We had a wonderfully easy and hassle free evening as we waited for the valet to bring us our car.
We were happy campers as it was easy sailing this evening all for except the Montreal traffic.
I definitely must put it on my best list for another visit. I would have loved to try so many other items on the menu. My list keeps getting longer. Hummm, I do love Montreal and the food scene.
6518 St Laurent Blvd/Beaubien
Chef Hats: 3.5
Cost: $ 69.95 ( 1 person, full meal with wine, tax & tip)
Restaurant Douro located on upper St Laurent Street in the heart of La Petit Patrie / St Edouard is going into its 12th year of operation this year. Flying below the radar, no one would expect to find a Portuguese restaurant in Little Italy. We are so accustomed to finding many of them lower on the Main in the Plateau. But Douro is very competitive in comparison to the Old Portuguese restaurants of lore. It has a modern twist, modern décor and a good menu with all the old typical Portugeuse classics.
Upon walking into Restaurant Douro, I found it to be very reminiscent of Café Ferreira on Peel Street when it first opened many years ago. With its blue & white tile mosaic wall, it felt like more like a sister restaurant but at affordable prices. In the evening the restaurant is well lit and bright; it has a clean crisp fell to it with its white walls, trimmed with yellow and splashes of blue. A fine dining establishment with white linen covered tables and wooden chairs; it takes us to the lands of oceans and sun. The menu boasts a good mix of fish, seafood and grilled meats and all the Portuguese favorites starting from Tapas to Grilled sardines, Bacalhau Potato Croquettes , Lobster and Shrimp, Caldo Verde soup , Pork and Clams, Grilled steaks ,chicken and heavenly desserts to boot, and of course the proverbial Portuguese favorites natas. We received copious amounts of food and everything tasted on par and authentic.
The wine list has all the Portuguese favorites and heavy on the wines of Douro. I opted for my usual a glass of Vinho Verde by the glass for $.12.00 but got a Douro Duas Quintas-Ramos Pinto 2014 –instead. It tasted different from my usual vinho verde, but I did not question it as I preferred it instead. It was crisp, light and refreshing a good start with my entrée of tapas. My fellow dinners ordered a bottle of Periquita, which they enjoyed very much and Super Bock Beer.
Service I must say was not top notch, I waited about 15 minutes at coat check and no one ever came. I then decided to bring my coat with me to the table and hooked it behind my chair. Everyone seemed too busy to be accommodating. Our boisterous waiter was very loud and nervous, maybe it was his first night on the job he kept going back to kitchen halfway between sentences, like he was checking on things and was not sure of the menu.
We were served olives and cheese as an amuse bouche for all to share and good Portuguese bread with olive oil for the table.
We placed our orders and our meals a mix of entrees and main meals arrived quickly. The presentations were lovely.
A few of us had the Soup of the Day as a starter which was a cream of watercress, their version of Caldo Verde for $ 5.95.This was light and creamy but lukewarm. It lacked a little flavor.
I ordered two entrees this evening and opted out for a main meal. My entrée of mixed tapas for $ 27.95 was served as a main with the others. This came in a sectional plate with garlic shrimp, grilled calamari &, sardines, chorizo, cod ball croquettes and shrimp patties. The mixed tapas platter allowed me to try most of the entrée items listed on their menu. They were all very delicious and flavorful and filling. The Cod fish croquettes my favorite were perfect, they were not fibrous, overly fishy or oil laden or greasy.
The shrimp patties were just as good and different, a first for me. The portion of large shrimp, a meal in itself and the sardines, which are not one of my favorites, were tasty and not too salty. The chorizo which was lightly grilled was just as satisfying and with the good portugeuse bread was too much for me to finish.
Most of my dining pals ordered mains only. We had a mix of dishes but well rounded choices.The clams were plump and not too garlicky, a generous portion with a wine jus, that was just heavenly.The grilled calamari had come highly recommended and beautifully displayed did not disappoint either. Served whole and grilled with a mix of sautéed vegetables, the squid were beautifully browned and tender this also cost $ 27.95.
Main courses turned up one winner after the other. The seafood Casserole was amazing. Served in a steel dish casserole, the seafood rice was a stunning dish served in a portion that would easily satisfy two people. The broth was heavenly, the rice was flavorful, and the amount of fresh seafood was outta this world. Topped with a two scrumptious lobster tail, the dish included pieces of tender codfish, small scallops, clams, shrimp, squid and mussels. The dish is pricey ($44.95), but the portion size and the amount of seafood was a deal, especially if shared by two.
The grilled Portuguese-style chicken for $ 22.95 was a little steep in price compared to other counterparts, but it was perfectly grilled and tender, it came served with a nice green salad, and fresh vegetables and a side order of crispy fries and piri-piri sauce.
All dishes sampled were to everyone satisfaction and no complaints at this table.
For desserts I had a usual espresso and Douro’s traditional Pastel de Natas for $ 3.50 each. This is a traditional portugeuse custard tart, made with egg custard, which are at their finest here. Freshly baked and served warm the filling was melt in your mouth perfect. Order two as one is not enough.
The piece de resistance and a must is the Natas de Ceo” Natas from Heaven”. A vanilla pudding flan served in a glass goblet and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and a strawberry coulis . If you are the pudding aficionado, it is a combination of explosive sweetness; creamy, smooth, eggy and sweet.
I enjoyed my night at Douro and wished I would have had the appetite to eat more. But I did manage to sample a little of my dining pals dishes, which left me craving for more. The only thing that threw me off was the service, how can such a well rounded establishment miss the mark and lack professionalism. To differentiate yourself from all others, you have to offer what others do not. The prices are not cheap and Douro is definitely fine dining. I loved the décor more than any other Portuguese restaurant of late. But the service left me disappointed. I would return maybe in distant future, it is a good restaurant. But next time, I’ll settle on the seafood casserole to share.
538 Place Saint-Henri/ rue St.Jacques
Phone: (514) 316-7234
Chef Hats: 5
Cost: $ 176.55 (2 Persons cocktails, wine tip & tax included)
I am in love with H4C and its chef Dany Bolduc, so this review is biased. I fell in love with the food and the ambiance of the restaurant on my first visit. I love the way his mind works with his representations of culinary creativity. I love the way he is so meticulous, ingenious and original when it comes to choosing different produce and placing a multitude of different flavors on one plate. To some, it may seem too much to palate; but I love the explosions of different flavors that I get with every bite or morsel of food. I love the fact that I cannot or even try to replicate an iota of what I ate at H4C. This is what makes going to H4C not only and adventure but a worthwhile experience and different from many fine dining establishments.
I took advantage of this during last November Montreal à Table to try H4C and sample a three course meal for $ 41.00 per person. At this price it was a steal and such a worthwhile trip out to St-Henri.
H4C is relatively obscure to many unless you a real foodie, but it has been around since August 2013. H4C is the inception of Chantal Paradis and Marc-Andre Vallée the founders of the Architectural firm Dimension 3. Together they had a vision and created H4C. They enlisted the help of Dany Bolduc, who at the time was the chef at Reservoir and together set up shop in an old Post Office in Place St Henri.
The transformation of the restaurant in this old greystone building is not only quaint but charming.
It is not a large space, seating only about 60 people but it is functional and always full. The ambiance and décor is soothing, inviting and elegant; especially in the evening with its subdued lighting. I found it to be romantic, even though we were seated close together and the noise level is loud with its tall vaulted ceilings. It is a little gem of a box with its exposed brick walls, black leather banquettes and wooden tables, which add natural elements to the space. The old bank safe doubles a cool wine cellar and you have a bar at the far end of the wall that can accommodate those who just want to go for a quick bite or just cocktails. The service is very professional and the food is exceptional.
The wine list is impressive with mostly private imports and their cocktail menu although short has some interesting drinks like Darth Vador. We started this evening with a drink called Jean Davant for $ 13.00 each, which is H4C version of a Mojitos, but better. It was very refreshing and had a kick of bitters and Vodka. With my meal I ordered a Rose Bohème- Languedoc 2015-Julien Peyras, a mix of Grenache and Mourvèdre by the glass for $ 14.00, a bottle is $66.00. A really good wine to go with any meal of fish or game, it was light and not overpowering.
We were starved and could not wait for food, so we ordered the Fresh Baked Bread with Country Style butter for $ 3.25 to wolf down with our drinks. This was worth the price if you need bread with your meal, but not necessary as the food here stands alone and bread is really not necessary. The bread was served warm and we found it was very good.
Along with that we were immediately served our amuse bouche on a flat slate plate; sitting alone on this large plate it consisted of a perfect shaped rectangular turnover stuffed with cooked cheese, like a tiropita. It was delicious and the perfect teaser, but we wanted more.
Next we had a choice of six items on the menu; we chose for starters the pancetta of duck on a papadum, with smoked onions and curry, and dabs of lime coriander sauce and tamarind. A good mix of Indian flavors, the papadum was crispy and the duck sublime. This was a first for my dining partner who is not much of a duck fan and was having it for the second time. The duck pancetta was fashioned -bacon style, thinly sliced atop the rectangular shaped papadum. The duck was tender and complimented with the onions and spurts of tamarind and lime. The papadum was crispy underneath and when mixed together the flavors were just heavenly. We loved the textures.
The foodie chose, for her appetizer a Gnudi Mtl for an additional $ 6.00. The ricotta Gnudi has been on their signature menu for some time and is a must try. Very original in concept, it is basically more of a soup than a plate of pasta. It is a powerhouse of flavors. It is an intricate creation which consists of a flavorful based onion soup topped with a creamy dollop of gruyere infused cream and fried rice cracker croutons. Hidden underneath the cloud of crema were three little gnocchi style pasta pockets. How ingenious mixing a fusion of three classic recipes in one French, Italian and Asian flavors. I loved this and would have wanted more, it was so smooth and velvety. The flavors were outstanding.
For Mains we both choose the Tandoori style Octopus on a sweet bed of coconut basmati rice, with red onions on the side stuffed with a caramelized yogurt and topped with crumbled cashews. This dish a first in my many years of fine dining blew me out of the water. Not only was it gorgeously presented, the mix of flavors just melded together perfectly. It contained the perfect mix of sweet and savory.The octopus was perfectly cooked and tender. The rice sweetness enhanced by the coconut flakes.
The two sides of red onions stuffed with yogurt were delicious, they were soft and creamy mixed together with the octopus it enhanced the flavors tenfold. The crunchy cashews added the perfect texture to the overall dish; if you do not have nut allergies. I can eat anything and this is what I look for when dining out. I admire creativity, structure and technique that is unattainable personally.It takes many years of experience and professional training to achieve this. This is why I like dining out at places like H4C.
Everything sampled tonight was not only fresh and delicious; it added a whole new level to dining out experience and it did not end there. Dessert was still in tow, and I will try to describe it as best as possible. It is all about deconstruction at H4C, another mix of flavors. Like creams, quenelles and small square triangles of deliciousness.
I had my proverbial favorite a lemon meringue dessert, with cucumber and gin. A wonton crisp atop a light lemon custard sauce, topped with a dollop of baked meringue and green onions. Served alongside a quenelle of cucumber sorbet. Who would have thought, such a mix of sweet and summer freshness was going to be so delicious and so so refreshing.
The second dessert ordered was Squash gelatin like squares with grated crumbled black Sapote, which a tropical fruit from the persimmon family, better known as chocolate pudding fruit, a pain d’epice, served with three quenelles of vanilla, mango ice cream and dabs of crème fraîche. No explanations needed here. Let your imagination go wild.
We loved H4C, but it was short lived as we ate and left. The line up at the door was growing and this is the disadvantage of booking a first sitting. Our table was needed, but we were not rushed out and after completing our meal, we decided to have our coffee elsewhere. If the bar was not full we would have sat there and had a digestive all night. H4C is just the type of place you want to stay and linger.