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Kam Fung is probably the only respectable dim sum place in Montreal. That being said, it is important to note that there are only two locations where you can get your fill: one in Chinatown and a much larger counterpart in Brossard. Both are ridiculously busy during the lunch hour, especially on weekends. With lineups that you would not believe, it is advisable to head over for an early lunch and show up no later than 11 am, that is, if you don’t want to wait. As far as I know, that’s true for the downtown location. In Brossard, you’re playing a whole different game – with a greater Asian population in the surrounding areas, the place is in high demand and the competition to get a table is fierce. The wait system involves telling the hostess the number in your party, getting a ticket and waiting for her to yell out your number over a PA system. The place is loud, filled with children, large families and couples (mostly Asian, but non-Asians have begun to trickle in) sitting around round tables, mostly yelling, gesticulating with chopsticks and stuffing their faces.
As soon as we sat down, the feast began. The cart ladies are hawks – don’t be fooled, because they know exactly what’s going on: who’s not been served, who’s about to leave, who’s going to order more and who’s not had what they’re serving. And if they’re ignoring you, well… you’re going to have to flag them down by wildly waving or shouting at them. Yes, they can be intimidating, but don’t be shy! We started with the classic taro puff pastries stuffed with pork. Delicate and crispy on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside, the dish is more filling than you would expect. The combination of taro and meat is unlike any other – just divine. Next came the pork, shrimp and chive dumplings and the spring rolls, both fried to perfection. The tripe with ginger and shallot and the chicken feet are some of my favorite dishes – pretty much get these every time. The tripe is slightly rubbery and has a nice crunch to it and the chicken feet are mostly skin, cartilage and tendon. Yes, there are a lot of little bones – you’ll have to spit a few out with every bite, but I can never resist this dish. It’s a childhood favorite and it’s too good not to get! We had the usual shrimp dumplings – steamed in a way so that the rice wrapping remains moist and tender and the shrimp stays hot. The pork dumplings with shrimp and coriander were treated similarly aka also very delicious. Also got the bean curd roll with chicken and vegetable, pork and preserved egg congee – a light, hot rice based porridge with thousand year eggs (love, love, love!), as well as a rice noodle roll stuffed with fried bread traditional in Chinese cuisine.
To finish up we had sesame balls with lotus inside which are a touch sweet, but not remotely cloying. It’s a great way to end the meal. Another equally satisfying dessert are the egg custard tarts. Yum!
PS The Chinatown location has been previously reviewed on the blog. Check it out here!
PPS People seem to hate on Kam Fung because of the service factor. This restaurant is not a place that highlights that aspect at all – it’s roll in and roll out. Go here for the dim sum experience and the food. That’s it!
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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.
After visiting the Librairie Drawn and Quarterly to pick up issue number 2 of David Chang’s new food mag Lucky Peach, we slid next door for some eats at Nouveau Palais. We usually come here late at night to get delicious Grumman tacos but it was nice to come at a more reasonable hour and check out the regular menu.
GT Fish and Oyster, named after chef Giuseppe Tentori, is a seafood specialty spot in the river north area of Chicago. The decor and design of the restaurant’s interior is both upscale and laid back at then same time. This is indicative of what I hear from Chicago based chefs and staff time and time again particularly when faced with the New York – Chicago question. They maintain (and I would tend to agree) that Chicago has all the culinary muscle of NYC with a generally more laid back attitude.
We’ve all had those nights. You know, the ones where you crave greasy fast food (cue the thought bubbles filled with cheesy, gravy-soaked poutine, thick burgers and steamy hot dogs) so bad that almost nothing can come between you eating it (think Harold & Kumar and their epic search for that perfect White Castle burger). This hunger is often magnified after having a few drinks at a place like the Distillerie, one of the city’s most popular bars. Guess where La Paryse is located? Right next door – which couldn’t be more perfect. At the ready to feed the inebriated masses coming in from nearby St. Denis or just next door, La Paryse is as busy at 5 pm as it is at 11 pm.
Established in 1919 by Russian immigrant Isadore Shlafman – Fairmount Bagel is Montreal’s oldest bagel bakery and I believe its best. I stopped by recently to get a half dozen sesame bagels. I was greeted by a giant wall of bagels which must have been on its way out to cafes and restaurants around the city. After carefully sliding through the towering stacks of bagels I got a deep whiff of delicious freshly cooked bagels being handled by handsome team of bagel professionals. It was all there, the huge mound of uncooked bagel dough the size of a fatboy, the giant wood fire oven and the piles of classic sesame bagels.
Located immediately next to Le Panthere Verte, Crudessence is in tied in tough competition with its neighbor, pulling vegans and vegetarians and those who have a craving for something a little healthier for lunch this way and that. Just by rough comparison, Crudessence seems to be a bit more trendy in style – walking in you’ve got a long row of wooden banquettes and stained glass windows in the back bouncing beautiful rays of color all over the wooden floors, giving the whole place an organic feel. Flipping through the menu, I was surprised and delighted to find so many interesting sandwiches, salads and cakes that used unconventional ingredients to spice up standard dishes. Places like these are bound to arouse curiosity and shock – how can something so healthy taste so good? It’s almost an oxymoron.
Club Chasse et Peche gives off an air of exclusivity in the discreet nature of the establishment: to the regular passerby it would be easy to miss the place and walk right by, blissfully unaware of the culinary delights that take place inside. The only indication that it even exists on the middle of St. Claude street is a large stylized logo that is at once easily recognizable while being somewhat indistinguishable at the same time – the icon resembles an eagle spreadings its wings, showcasing a torso made of a coat of arms. I think it’s open to interpretation. There is a little bit of snobbery that comes off as you experience the Club for an evening but it totally works in their favor. It helps that we were knowingly greeting with a warm “Welcome to the Club”.
There is no eatery in Montreal as sacred and untouchable as Schwartz’s Deli. While some claim smoked meat allegiances to The Main or Smoked Meat Pete – none can deny the history enshrined within Schwartz’s walls since 1928. Fans of the Deli will tell you that over the last 80 years, little has changed – and they may be right. Despite numerous rumored offers to create Schwartz’s franchise restaurants across North America, the owners have refused all and have remained in their iconic location on St Laurent Blvd. In the fall 2008 they expanded and opened an additional take out location next door.
Beauty’s is a historical and iconic symbol of Montreal. One of the first places in the city to serve breakfast (according to the owner, Hymie Sckolnick in Anthony Bourdain’s Montreal episode of the Layover), the luncheonette is clearly imbued with history. Just take a look around the place – old-school diner style banquettes hearkening back to the 40s, the classic and timeless items offered (bagel lox, the best milkshakes ever etc.) and the multitude of signed posters of celebrities that have visited the restaurant are proudly mounted on the walls further affirming Beauty’s as an old favorite.
iBurger goes for a cool, urban chic vibe with a live DJ spinning chilled out rhythms and laid back grooves, carefully chosen black and white graffiti artwork adorning its walls and staff is dressed in crisp white shirts and black suspenders further highlighting the restaurant’s modern and sophisticated appeal. There is no denying that iBurger has a cool concept: touch screens that feature the menu in HD quality, beautiful photographs with stunning color and detailed descriptions about the food. One can order at one’s leisure and can have questions about the menu items answered almost completely without the help of a waiter. You send in your final order and your server brings it to you. Easy peasy.
Mikasa has locations across the city, including Laval, the Rive-Sud, Marche Centrale and downtown Montreal. The latter spot is probably the most well known among Montrealers as it was the scene of a fatal freak accident back in 2009. The restaurant is relatively low key and offers decent sushi for a little above average sushi prices. We headed to the spot by Marche Centrale on Acadie which is a little trickier to find as the entrance is tucked around the back of a compound mini strip mall. We’ve been here a few times before but mostly for the lunch special.
Pikolo Espresso Bar is exactly what its name suggests and so much more. The place primarily serves coffee in the form of lattes, espressos and the like while offering some tea options for those who prefer the leaf infused hot beverages (I’m one of them). Walking – no, running in from the harsh winter winds whipping up a frenzy outside, we entered the toasty coffee shop with great relief, ready to be brought back to life by a cup of hot something. Decorated with Christmas lights and a small tree, the place emanated holiday cheer and a relaxing, comforting and soothing atmosphere. Most people inside on both floors were equipped with laptops, helping create a semi-studious, quieter vibe than your average Starbucks or Second Cup. That’s not all that makes this place different. The portions here are smaller but pack a very big punch. Pikolo doesn’t joke around – at least not about the coffee.
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!