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With several locations across the city, Le Commensal offers a veritable buffet of vegan and vegetarian foods both hot and cold. This was not my first time visiting the restaurant, but it has been years since I last patronized the place. My memories from my previous experiences were not rosy and sadly, my return only reconfirmed the sentiment. Hot dishes are served lukewarm as they sit in buffet style trays for an indeterminable amount of time, placed on an island in the middle of the self-serve area. There are a good variety of dishes to choose from and I appreciate the fact that there aren’t too many vegan restaurants around but unfortunately for me, this place doesn’t cut it. Taste-wise the plates I sampled were okay, verging on flavorless and unappetizing. Here, you pay for what you choose by weight. I got about three bites of the five different items I chose and it cost just over $9. I got a serving of pesto penne which was dry, tasteless and room temperature, half a black bean quesadilla and a scoop of chili on white rice which were actually pretty good and some tabouleh and chickpea salad which were both tolerable. To me, it isn’t worth the money. At most other places, vegan or not, paying the same amount or less sates the hunger in your stomach and doesn’t leave you craving for food an hour later. Places like Le Panthere Verte, Crudessence or Lola Rosa are in the surrounding area and offer much more for the same price – my suggestion is to go to one of those restaurants first.
On the upside, Le Commensal on McGill College has a beautiful view of the downtown core. When we went, the sun was shining and it was a lovely spot to catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages.
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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.
This is an okay spot for some quick, cheap and easy Korean food downtown. If you don’t care much for quality and place more emphasis on price, this may be the place for you. Because of the cold weather I was more in the mood for something warmer so I got a hot noodle soup with vegetables and beef to warm me up. My friends both got the stir fried noodles, one with beef and the other with chicken. To be honest, this time going to La Maison Bulgogi wasn’t anything to write home about. All dishes we had were on the blander side, and were fairly standard if not slightly below average expectations. The only dish I would go out of my way to recommend here is cold buckwheat noodle soup, ideal in the summertime. Bathed in ice cubes on the hotter days (I’m serious), it is quite the vinegar-y dish. It comes with a bottle of vinegar so that you can add as you like. That one is great. Otherwise though, you can choose to pass by here. Or not.
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.
Hungering for something cheap and delicious, we stopped by the legendary Cuisine Bangkok for lunch. Located in the low-key setting of the Faubourg right by Concordia University, the restaurant can be found on the top floor and is easy to pick out by the usual lineup of people around lunchtime. Awarded “Best Thai” restaurant in the city by the Mirror, it is no wonder the place is almost always in customer overload. The pad thai here is famous (whether you order it with shrimp, calamari, chicken, beef etc.) as is its eggplant and chicken dish. We ordered one shrimp pad thai and one chicken pad thai, with extra lime. When they ask you for how spicy you want it, be careful. They don’t kid around with the spice level – if you ask for spicy, you’re going to get it. And remember, cash only. For those of you who haven’t tried it yet, stop wasting time!
Buns is a small, hole-in-the-wall hamburger joint on St. Catherine street that Montrealers love to love. While Burger de Ville remains at the top of my list, Buns comes in as a close second. The limited menu and the dingy interior adds to the charm of the place, not to mention the chipper single staff member acting as the chef, the cashier and the server all at once (St. Catherine location). Expect to pay little for decently fast service and a juicy burger… what else can you ask for?
Every summer since 2008, St. Catherine has been closed off from Amherst to Papineau to create a car-free zone. Encouraging pedestrian foot traffic and the emergence of a multitude of terrasses, the Gay Village is known for its vibrant community and colorful events. Steak Frites, being located at the center of all the commotion is appropriately equipped to handle almost any size of a crowd, with a private party room to boot. Elegantly decorated and dimly lit, the ambiance is cool yet inviting. Despite arriving ten minutes after our reservation time, we were asked to wait another twenty five minutes. Otherwise, the service was great – the servers were courteous and attentive.The specialty is steak, so it only make sense that the menu is composed primarily of it. Every main comes with a house salad, green beans and all-you-can-eat fries. We ordered the chevre-chaud, St. Paul, the duck confit (which was exceptionally tender), salmon, the steak frites in 7 oz. as well as the 9 oz.
With three locations across the city, Yeh! has steadily risen in popularity since its opening in 2008. Being the first self-serve frozen yogurt bar in Canada, customers are invited to choose from a variety of flavors that change seasonally and mix and match toppings that range from fresh fruit to Captain Crunch cereal to Reese’s Pieces chocolate, among many others. Costing 48 cents per ounce, Yeh! is as expensive as you want it to be. Fat-free and low in its calorie count, Yeh!’s tasty treats are readily available to satiate your desire for cold sweets on a hot summer’s day. There is usually at least one staff member around the self-serve yogurt area with paper cups in hand ready to give you a tester of whichever flavor you desire. With its open concept, FatBoy bean bags (St. Laurent location), and its vibrant color scheme, the place is casual chic – perfect for an afternoon snack, a meeting place for friends or even a date!
Conveniently located in the Montreal core, Kazu montreal is a small Japanese eatery with a flair for the authentic. Wait lines are not uncommon – eager foodies show up a half an hour early to secure a spot. After reading so many good reviews about the place, I decided to check it out last week for the first time with a friend. We arrived at 5:15 and managed to get in on the first seating, but just barely. I would suggest lining up between 5:00 – 5:10 if you want to get in for the early dinner set. After the first seating, you can expect to wait around 45 minutes to get in. Also, the prices are very reasonable – the most expensive item on the menu is $15!