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Months ago in the summer, we spent a couple weeks abroad in Turkey. Istanbul was one of our most anticipated spots to check out – the things we’d heard from friends about the food, the culture and the weather were beyond excellent. While we don’t typically engage in food tours for fear of them being cheesy, too touristy or inauthentic, the hype around the formerly called Istanbul Eats Istanbul Food Tour, now Culinary Backstreets, was real. Listed as one of the top ‘things to do’ and Istanbul Food Tour on TripAdvisor, raved about by bloggers and publications alike, including NYT, CN Traveller and HuffPost, we were convinced we had to try it.
You’ve already heard the hype. You don’t need me to tell you that Jeffrey Finkelstein has an impressive resumé of work experience at world famous restaurants Noma, El Bulli and French Laundry and that he’s set up shop here in Montreal. You know that the bread from his Hof Kelsten has fed diners at likes of Le Filet, Club Chasse et Peche, Toqué, Dominion Square Tavern, Nora Gray, Joe Beef, Toqué and Les 400 Coups because you’ve already tasted it. Yes, you can breath a sigh of relief. We’re finally in on secret source of good bread in this city.
The County General is a lot of things – brunch, lunch, dinner, take-out, delivery, cocktails, wines, micro-brews and above all: bastion of southern hospitality. We couldn’t help but feel like we were stepping into a southern home kitchen when we visited the long, narrow restaurant for brunch last weekend.
Tsukiji Fish Market is the central hub for the buying and selling of fish and seafood in Tokyo. Anything that lives in the sea can be found here – from above average quality to the most premium sashimi grade kind of stuff that is not only hard to find but costs an arm and a leg too. There are also fish auctions that are held here. If you’ve seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the scene where Jiro’s son attends the tuna auction at the market is pretty spot on.
La Famille des Oeufs occupies the space formerly known as Eggspectations in the West Island. Funnily enough, the place has hardly changed – the decor, the layout, the staff… even the menu itself. Granted, the fonts are a little bit different and the paper maybe a little bit newer but everything else? Same kind of food, different names (ie Yolk Around the Clock = Bagelette).
Intuitively, you might guess that from the name of this restaurant, a mash up of Asian and Western food would be served here. For better or for worse, there is no trace of Asian-ness in the food, the decor or the atmosphere. Instead, it is a modern, rock-themed diner that serves up greasy diner food (for the record, the music that was playing when we went was amazing). Shanghai Cowgirl is simply a name – and an intriguing one at that. I just keep imagining this fierce Asian lady in a flower printed high collared cowgirl outfit on a horse kicking ass somewhere in the South. Is it just me?
Desperately searching for a last minute brunch place to take my parents to Saturday morning, I came across Julieta’s after a few minutes of research. See, my parents are hard to please when it comes to the food department. They have a natural, predominant preference for ethnic food regardless of what time of day it is – and they love to try new restaurants as much as I do.
Yes, the consensus is that brunch is one of the most hated courses among the majority of chefs. The thing is though, places that serve continental or Western style breakfasts have got it all wrong. Out with the boiled eggs, hash browns and sausages and in with grilled vegetables, feta eggs and healthy meat and veggie dips. Places like Byblos have managed to revitalize the way the meal is served and turned into one of my favorite spots to get some amazing late morning grub.
Waking up to clear skies and sunshine is the best feeling. It just automatically puts you in a good mood – one that makes you feel like you can do anything. Heralding the start of spring and the end to a long, sporadic winter (fellow Montrealers know what I’m talking about),
There is a distinct New York vibe about Le Cartet. With an upscale gourmet foods boutique at the front of the restaurant, diners are encouraged to check out the goodies while waiting in line during the busy weekend brunch rush or upon leaving the restaurant during regular hours. The trendy design of the place features minimalistic art, colorful ransom lettering of select menu items on the front welcome board and long communal tables where diners sit alongside one another, strangers and friends alike. The hustle and bustle of the place doesn’t take away from the quality of service at all, contrary to what you might think – we were served promptly and courteously from the moment we walked in.
Les Filles Du Roy is the restaurant of the Pierre du Calvet hotel. Located just steps away from Le Bremner and a few steps more from the Old Port beach (under construction in anticipation for next summer), the place can be easily missed. The novelty of the experience is probably one of the best parts of eating here – the building itself has been standing since 1725, so right off the bat you know that the architecture and the aesthetic of the place is going to be older, or shall we say vintage. Scattered throughout are remnants of life in the 18th and 19th centuries, from Victorian style paintings to mounted game to antique furniture, rugs and draperies. Towards the end of the reception area are several talking birds – if you’re lucky, you might be greeted with a squawk of a hello as you pass by the washrooms.
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.
At the corner of Mont Royal and Hotel de Ville, La Cantine bills itself as a Bistro Boutique. Word of mouth reached us of its weekend brunches so we decided to check it out for ourselves. The seating area is separated into two mid sized rooms, one feeling slightly more formal the other.
Attempting to ease our bodies back into normalcy, we opted for a light breakfast which consisted of soybean milk and a variety of Chinese steamed buns. There are two types of soybean milk: sweet or salty. These can be ordered either hot or cold. I had the sweet cold version, my brother had the sweet hot version and my parents had the salty one which comes in a bowl with some fried dough, black vinegar, dried turnips and small dried shrimp. I had the taro flavored purple bun whereas the rest of my family shared the brown sugar bun, the traditional steamed bun (white bun) and a deep fried bun wrapped in baked flatbread with sesame seeds on top. (In Chinese, these buns are pronounced “man-to”). These are not very strong tasting and are some of the most inoffensive foods Taiwan has to offer. Man-to and soybean milk can be found almost everywhere in Taipei – these are staples of a typical Chinese breakfast.
Almost every time I have gone to Chez Nick’s there has been a line up backing the place up from the inside out. This time, perhaps because it was a Monday, there was less foot traffic and we were able to get a spot immediately. One of the most popular diners in the Westmount area, Chez Nick’s is busy chiefly because of its historical past (founded in 1920) as well as its Kosher friendly menu options – the restaurant serves traditional food for a higher than traditional price. But that’s a given, considering the location in which it is.
If you’re looking for an alternative to your routine breakfast/brunch joint, you’ve found it. Byblos is an Mediterranean influenced Iranian restaurant that is one of Montreal’s best kept secrets. Located on the eastern most section of Laurier street next to Le Fouvrac (an amazing gourmet food store) and across from Frite Alors, this area of the city is beautiful in the summertime as the street is lined with trees and storefront flower beds. Byblos has high ceilings that give the place a lofty, open air feeling and wall paper that brings to mind a meeker, more subdued Pollock painting. Traditional Iranian swords, tea pots, plates and furniture are artfully placed throughout the restaurant further enhancing the authentic feel of the place.
Amidst a wealth of synagogues, Kosher grocery stores and smoked meat delis in Outremont sits the Bistro Le République. Advertising a deal for every day of the week, Tuesday’s special offered us $15 gourmet burgers, including two pints of Creemore Springs beer – not bad at all, if you ask me. Its enormous terrasse curves around the corner of the street, almost doubling the seating area inside. Raised on a platform, the wooden benches (softened by cushions) allow not only for a great view of the surrounding area but can also serve as an observation deck for some superb people watching (Shtreimel wearing Hasidic Jews, multiple children in matching clothes all riding scooters, well dressed and good looking youth etc).
Known as a kosher friendly bistro, Tiffany’s offers breakfast (served until 4 p.m.), lunch, and dinner in the mid-town area of Montreal. Many of the diners that were there during my meal seemed to be regulars, giving the atmosphere a comfortable and worn in feel despite the size of the place. The big leather booths, metal railings, and the style of the uniformed waiters and waitresses bring to mind the decor and ambiance of Baton Rouge which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on what you like.
I first encountered a version of this recipe at Trident which is an independent cafe & bookstore in Boston. Trident was named Best Neighborhood Restaurant, Back Bay by Boston Magazine and for good reason. Their version used thick sliced Challah bread which was stuffed with lemon ricotta filling while our creation on the left had the same filling sandwiched between two slices of cinnamon raisin bread. This is closer to a recipe posted on Always With Butter but we added wild berries. We used more then the recommended teaspoon of lemon zest in an effort to get a bold taste and came close to overdoing it. Overall it was great with or without maple syrup and was pretty easy to make.