By Jennifer HoFeb 01 2013 · 0 comments · Events
Despite it being one of the coldest days in Montreal to date this winter, excited Dishcrawl Montreal participants gathered together to begin a food adventure. For the uninitiated, DishCrawl is the culinary version of a pub crawl. Sounds more familiar doesn’t it? Basically, throughout the evening, diners move from restaurant to restaurant – all within a few moments walking distance – and sample a dish at each. On average, about four restaurants are visited per event. The dishes are made to match the order of patronage, so the first course at the first restaurant is lighter and more like an appetizer, the second and third restaurants are charged with making heavier, more robust dishes, and the last, focuses primarily on dessert.
This was actually our first DishCrawl. Though we had heard plenty about it from previous years and other sources of online media, we never really got around to doing it ourselves. This was a great first experience. I think DishCrawl picked a beautiful neighbourhood full of fantastic restaurants – St. Paul can be particularly enchanting at night. People were extraordinarily friendly – events like these are perfect for those looking to mingle, meet new people, discover their own city through a different perspective and obviously, eat well at the same time. I think DishCrawl would be particularly fun for newcomers in the city. What better way to get involved?
The evening began at Chez L’Epicier. After an introductory welcome from our DishCrawl host Jenny King, the maitre d’ took over and gave a brief history of the restaurant, the cuisine and the food to come. Red and white wine were on special for $5 a glass. Note: the drinks are not included in the $60 DishCrawl ticket. We sat down and bumped into some friends we hadn’t seen in a while. Just our luck! After a few minutes, our plates came out: beef tartare on a home made brioche bun, a grilled cheese lollipop and a Jerusalem artichoke soup shooter. The soup for me was the most interesting of the three. All but inhaling the three components of the dish, we had to remind ourselves that we weren’t having a traditional dinner, and were moving on soon for our next course.
Putting our coats back and and bundling up to face the cold outside, we headed to our next destination. Everything but the meeting point was kept secret until the night of. Even then, we didn’t find out where we were going until we actually got there. I get it – keeping an element of mystery keeps everyone excited and on their toes. It definitely worked. Our next stop was Brasero Hardi, a newly opened Brazilian restaurant a couple blocks down. Walking in, we were immediately taken by the eclectic decor, bold wallpaper and the collection of photographs of nude women from the 20s and 30s. It was our first time even hearing about this place, so it was nice to spend a bit of time here and sample the food.
The owners were generous enough to provide each diner with a full sized cocktail. We had a concoction called “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”, made with chartreuse, Midori melon liquer, cardamom, green tea syrup and egg whites, all topped with pinch of seaweed. Interesting mix but a little on the soapy side for my taste. None the less, the gesture was much appreciated.
I think the food we had here was overall the most thoughtful and delicious. We had six hour marinated spare ribs on top of pork lardon mashed potatoes along with house smoked salmon on top of horseradish panna cotta. Yeah, that sounds really good. The meat was perfectly tender, juicy and flavorful supported nicely by the creamy potatoes. The smoked salmon was smooth and had a great texture. Additionally, the contrasting temperatures of the food on the plate was an interesting twist. The little taster caught our attention – we’ll be paying Brasero Hardi a visit in the near future!
At this point we actually started to get a little full. We were halfway through and knew we could pull through but eating over longer periods of time always seems to have the effect of making you fuller before you’ve had the chance to decide you’ve eaten your fill. We packed our things again and stopped in at Dolcetto, otherwise known as the cutest restaurant in the Old Port. Decor in line with its Mediterranean roots, nautically themed lights, colors and plates make this place eye catching and special. We had a trio of pizzas that represent the restaurant quite well as they are all available in full size on the regular menu: foie gras and fig, margherita and burrata and pear, gorgonzola and pine nuts. The foie gras provided was generous albeit making it a little on the rich side (obviously). I found the margherita and burrata a touch too salty and the gorgonzola and pine nuts sharp in taste. Once you get over the initial sharpness of the cheese, you can actually come to enjoy it – I know I did! Our experience at Dolcetto this time was slightly different than when we last came over the summer. Check out our post here.
Finally, we ended things at Santos. In comparison with the other restaurants, this particular choice seemed incongruous with the vibe and the food quality we’d had all evening. The food at Santos felt like part of a low-end catering service as opposed to a real restaurant. I’ve got to say it – everything here was pretty unappetizing. The salmon tartare was weak: the fish didn’t taste fresh and the spice mix was bland. The paella was in rough shape – the rice was hard and tasteless, the seafood included (shrimp, squid, unidentified cubes of dry fish) were clearly frozen. The vodka-strawberry shots sounded good when we first heard they were being offered – after throwing them back, we all noticed something wasn’t quite right. It couldn’t have been the vodka because that stuff tastes similarly across the board, so our process of elimination pointed at the strawberry mixture. It tasted somewhat rancid, leaving a cloyingly sweet, syrupy taste in the throat… The churros were hard, leading us to believe they too were not fresh. Though full at this point, the ending to our meal wasn’t as satisfactory as what had come before.
While there were ups and downs in the food we had throughout the evening, the experience itself was wholly positive. We had an amazing time talking to our fellow foodies and meeting new people. DishCrawl is a fantastic idea that deserves more attention in Montreal.