for October, 2011
Noting the popularity of chocolate bars in parts of Asia and Australia, Easy Ying – the owner and the concept creator of Cacao 70 – was particularly surprised that nothing remotely similar had yet surfaced in Montreal’s diverse restaurant and culinary scene. So, he endeavored to create a unique and novel experience for those who had never been while bringing something new to the table for those who have. What differentiates the place from their competitors (say, Juliette & Chocolat) is the fact that all the raw materials used both inside and outside the restaurant are recycled and their selection of chocolate and raw cocoa is seemingly limitless and variety driven (their cocoa comes from Venezuela to Costa Rica to Tanzania to Ghana). While conceding to the fact that the restaurant’s look and concept seems to be more fitting for trendier areas like Mile End or the Plateau, it is their hope that Cacao 70 can perhaps kickstart the revitalization of the West end of St. Catherine street much like Joe Beef, Jane’s and The Burgundy Lion have done for Griffintown. They’re off to a good start, that’s for sure.
Serving up retro chic with a side of downtown glamor, Deville Dinerbar is the new kid on one of the busiest downtown blocks in the Montreal core. While the restaurant may be seemingly fresh faced and new to the industry at first glance, don’t be fooled. The owners are seasoned veterans in the restaurant biz as previous successes have included the more traditional Reuben’s Deli and the sophisticated cafeteria style Anton & James. Having opened just a few weeks ago, Deville is the newest ‘themed’ creation of the RD3 group. We were invited for the Media Launch earlier this week to sample the drinks, taste their vast array of food offerings and indulge in their sweet treats.
Situated on lower St Denis amongst great restaurants like La Fabrique, L’Evidence is a classic restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. During the summer the terrace is nearly always full for brunch and I visited with some friends of mine who are regulars. The interior decor has a classic french vibe in the style of L’Express but with a more down to earth mentality. The service was quick and efficient – don’t expect small talk but do expect perfect coffee refills.
Kam Fung offers the most authentic and traditionally found dim sum dishes in the entire city. Legendary by name, it is easy to see how popular they are by the hordes of people lining the restaurant entrance come noon. The best time to come in order to avoid the wait time is just before the rush, at 11:30. There is a tradeoff though – while service is quick (it always is), the food is hot and there is less clamor around while eating, there is greater variety in the dishes served during rush hour. By no means am I saying that the dishes served before aren’t good – on the contrary! There is just more choice later on. You’ve been told. For those who have never been, it is perhaps a good idea to go along with someone who has some experience in ordering dishes as it may seem overwhelming at first – people are constantly shouting, and it’s not in English. There is a regular flow of traffic in the restaurant, enabled by diners leaving after their meals or just settling in as well as the always moving body of cart ladies hawking their foods.
Terrase Nelligan is a restaurant and bar sitting atop the Nelligan hotel. The space and ambiance has a very 5 – 7 feel to it attracting mostly a late 20s to 30s affluent crowd. It is Old Montreal after all. Terrasse Nelligan is one of three restaurants in Hotel Nelligan, along with Mechant Boeuf and Verses. The menu is pretty basic and is comprised of mostly finger foods with some mains as well.
Looking for frozen turtles? Mangosteen, rambutan or fresh coconuts? A selection of dozens upon dozens of distinctive soya sauce brands? Specialty Asian drinks? I’m talking about Calpico, Pocari Sweat, Basil Seed, Ramune vintage soda, White Fungus Bird’s Nest, your choice of any Foco fruit drink and many, many more. Marché Hawaii has it all. I’m not joking. They even have a spa for shoppers needing some relaxation time as well as a small Vietnamese restaurant at the front of the store if, you know, you get hungry after looking at all the great food on display. Located in Ville St-Laurent, the Asian grocer is stocked full of ‘exotic’ and hard to find fruits, vegetables, protein, condiments, snacks and desserts all priced at a very affordable rate.
One of those quick in and out restaurants, Sumo Ramen specializes in… you guessed it. Ramen noodles. The large cartoon sumo wrestler that represents the place is instantly recognizable, giving the place a bit of edge over say, Hakata Ramen. With the majority of the clientele being student based, the prices are friendly and quite reasonable. We ordered a Heineken and a standard milk tea with bubbles. I have to say that the bubble tea here is not the best you can get in the city. The milk tea did not taste super fresh – more like it was made out of a powder or something concentrated. The tapioca balls seemed thin and lacked substance – they were not chewy or bouncy like you would expect them to be. I would suggest going to Magic Idea for a proper cup of bubble tea instead. I do definitely appreciate Sumo Ramen’s effort though.
Every time I stop by Le St. Bock, I’m surprised at how extensive their menu is. And almost everything on it has beer in it. It’s insane how beery things get. They even manage to put it in brownies… Definitely on my to-try list. The St. Bock is a good spot for an afternoon meal, a dinner on the terrasse as well as a drink with a couple of friends late at night. The virtue of the place is that it is perfect for almost any (casual) get together location-wise, atmosphere-wise and food-wise. For avid beer drinkers, the St. Bock offers a number of house brews that are listed here – the listings apparently change every week depending on what’s on tap and what’s new in house. From what I understand, they are quite good!
For the longest time the Faubourg on St Catherine (corner Guy) has simply been a place for me to get Phad Thai from Cuisine Bangkok. Recently, Yuki Ramen has caught by eye as there are two employees hand spinning Ramen noodles at all times. I can’t resist ramen knowing the noodles were stretched and boiled less than 5 minutes ago, so I finally gave it a try. As I ate and listened to the rhythmic slapping of the noodles on the counter, I couldn’t help but stare at the noodles being stretched and twisted with acrobatic precision.
One of the snazzier restaurants the West Island has to offer, Enoteca Mozza has a full bar as well as a separate dining area, both of which were incidentally humming as we stopped by for Friday night dinner. Boasting wood-fire ovens, an authentic selection of Italian eats and a penchant for simple, fresh cooking, Enoteca seems to be doing things right. Tailored to the suburban clientele, the place is accommodating to families (almost every dish on the menu is offered in ‘family size’, reinforcing this idea), larger groups and sports fans (large TVs broadcasting sporting events are strategically placed by the bar and in key spots in the dining room). In the course of ten minutes, we heard three “Happy Birthdays” sung around us.
Having opened its doors about two months ago, Restaurant Biarritz is a new restaurant venture headed by Stéphane Bouzaglou who has previously worked with celebrity chef Daniel Boulud (check out this post from Singapore for a review on his Bistro Moderne). The place is a cozy, tiny little thing that exudes friendliness and warmth, offering up a casual chic atmosphere to meet up with friends and family.
I first really took notice of My Cup of Tea when I went to Oysterfest earlier last month. MCOT had a booth during the event and were handing out free trial cups of tea that were absolutely delicious! I traded in my last two tickets for eight tea packets and since then, I’ve been hooked.
As we waited by the door to be seated at Holder, we were able to get a good look at the bar. The selection of wines and hard alcohol stocked behind the bar seemed endless and with that in mind, I asked for the cocktail list, excited by all the possibilities the bar apparently presented. To my chagrin, they didn’t have one! I feel like it would be a good idea for them to establish a section in their drink menu for specialty cocktails – I mean, they have the tools and the ingredients… why not?