for December, 2011
After hearing so much hype and buzz around Les Enfants Terribles, we finally made it over last week. Excited and ready to be impressed by the culinary prowess we’d heard so much about, it was unfortunate that after so much build up and positive expectations, we were let down. To start off, we made reservations for 9:30 pm only to be seated forty-five minutes later. That in itself is unacceptable. I understand that the restaurant is busy and it is a Friday night, but so are most other restaurants in the city and from my experience, this has only ever happened one other time. Don’t restaurants have a system through which they organize the amount of seating they have available, the timing of those coming and going so that there aren’t these kinds of frustrating waits? Right off the bat, it was just a bad start to the evening. Most people I’ve spoken to about their tolerance for wait time averages around 20-30 minutes, and 30 minutes is reserved for restaurants that they really, really want to go to. This made the rest of the evening difficult to enjoy despite pleasant company of my dining counterpart. Note that I’ve tried my best to judge the food impartially.
It’s crazy how there are so many great restaurants in Montreal, whether on the main, in the centre-ville or tucked away in the plateau somewhere. Just when you think you’ve exhausted the list, dozens more pop up out of nowhere, each one as tantalizing and unique as the next. That’s what I love about this city. The restaurant scene is constantly evolving and branching out, adding and adjusting, diversifying in both cuisine and location so that there’s a bit of everything everywhere. I first heard about the Syrian Kaza Maza through a friend who went, loved it and had leftovers because they ordered so much. I tried them and was struck by how delicious they were even after sitting in a box for a few hours and losing their initial heat. I had a chance to go last week and again a few days later, so this is an amalgamation of the two meals.
The exterior of La Cucina caught my eye several times on trips up St Laurent to visit other mile end / outremont eateries. The full panes of glass and the fact that there was no information about the restaurant online (or even a website) intrigued me.
Lola Rosa is located in the heart of the McGill ghetto, making it a convenient and relatively affordable eatery for the multitude of students who live around and frequent the university campus. The restaurant is a small, vegetarian, indie-vibing kind of joint with some of the most friendly staff I’ve been in contact with in the city as of late. Here’s a unique feature of the restaurant you won’t likely find anywhere else: most of the vintage style tables in the place have little drawers filled with pieces of scrap paper with wishes, words of encouragements, notes and general comments scrawled on by previous diners. All are welcome to add their own personal messages and rummage through the ones already inside for inspiration or just for fun!
The Publican is the newest restaurant from repeat James Beard Award winning chef Paul Kahan. Kahan made his mark on the Midwest culinary scene with his signature restaurants Avec and Blackbird. The ethos of The Publican is best described on the Chicago episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations in which Bourdain is invited to a family meal with Kahan and the restaurants staff.
An Arepa is a traditional Venezuelan corn bread. Arepera du Plateau bakes these delicious breads and fills them with fresh ingredients ranging from boar chorizo, onions and peppers to minced stewed shark in tomato sauce. The restaurant is located on a very central spot at the corner of Du bullion and Duluth and has a decent amount of seating. The staff was extremely friendly, greeting diners with a joyous “Ola!” and singing along to Spanish songs as they worked. A veritable cornucopia of fresh fruit and produce are on display at the counter along with fresh juice for sale ranging from guava, tamarind, sugar cane and mango.
Just as we walked into Imadake, a large group was leaving. Sent off with surprisingly loud yells of “arigotou gozaimashita” – thank you in Japanese – we were immediately made aware that this was a real, as authentic as it gets kind of Japanese pub. All around us, groups of laughing, tipsy diners were egged on to do shots and chug their drinks by waitresses dressed in school-girl type kilts and thigh highs. The atmosphere is loud and convivial, definitely a good spot to check out if you’re in the mood to be around a lot of people, drink some good Japanese beer and eat tapas style typical to the izakaya way.
With 15 beers on tap and over 100 types in bottles, Bières et Compagnie had won me over before I even walked in. It was recommended to me by a friend who also praised their food, particularly their specialty – mussels. The menu has 30 different preparations of mussel dishes including many of which are prepared in… you got it, beer. We walked in on this night – the very first snow in Montreal – planning on a liquid diet of beer. After our first few pints of Krombacher (German Pilsner) and Sapporo (Japanese Draft), we were quickly enticed to order some food. We had the European hot dog, toulouse sausage with fries and house sauerkraut as well as the European Hamburger with Griffon Beer raclette cheese, house sauerkraut, house dijon mustard and spicy chili mayo.