Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Montreal - A "Fabuleux" Culinary Scene!!!

So on the eve of Edgar's business meeting to Montreal, I thought, what a great place for foodies and what a great new post idea.

In her opinion:

To say I have had extensive culinary experiences in Montreal would be lying.  I've been to Montreal a few times.  First, with my parents on several occasions which were all definitely not culinary adventures.  Then with my university housemates.  During that visit, we were more interested in having a good time rather than where the hippest restaurants were located.  But the last time I was in Montreal was last spring of 2011 and I was with my family.  Now, that was a culinary adventure to write about.

We spent a couple of days in Montreal, exploring the city and enjoying some really good food.  Montreal is my little piece of Europe in Canada.  I love it!  And I love the up and coming food scene in Montreal, although some would argue that it's already arrived and I don't think I can argue that point after our weekend.

I did a lot of prep work researching where I wanted to eat in Montreal.  I used my Fodor's guide book and the website, as well as, ChowHound to get honest opinions about different places to eat.  I made sure that our dinner reservations to Garde Manger and Au Pied de Cochon were made several weeks prior to arriving in Montreal.

During my research on ChowHound I found out about Rotisserie Romados. A Portuguese bakery/rotisserie place on Rue Rachel. 

There is not a lot of seating at this place but don't let that discourage you.  What's important is the delicious rotisserie chicken that they serve here.  It is so good and they have the line ups to prove it.  A chicken dinner comes with a delicious 1/4 or 1/2 chicken, amazing fries and salad all with a roll and a pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tart) for a very reasonable price.

There was so much food I could barely finish.  The skin on the chicken is crispy and succulent and the fries are hand cut, crispy and delicious.  I was so grateful for ChowHound and this little tip of information.  I still dream about this chicken from time to time! 

Rotisserie Romados on Urbanspoon

During the day we stopped at Cafe Vasco da Gama to grab my son a grilled cheese sandwich and have a cup of coffee.  This is a little bit of Portugal in Montreal.  Loved it!

Our first night in Montreal, we had dinner at Au Pied de Cochon.  This is 'The Wild Chef", Martin Picard's (a very good friend of Anthony Bourdain by the way)restaurant and it was outstanding.  It's located in the plateau of Montreal at 536 Avenue Duluth E.  I am warning you now, parking is an issue in this area of town, but do not give up, this is so worth it.  We started out with the "Cromesquis de foie gras" or simply foie gras croquettes.  Little pieces of foie gras which have been fried in a crispy coating.  The foie gras is melted inside and hot.  Very good! (Just ignore my son's plastic snake in the picture below - it's not part of the Wild Chef theme!)

I ordered the "happy pork chop".  This is a monstrous pork chop served in a delicious sauce with red cabbage, roasted garlic, thyme and mushrooms.  This was cooked to perfection and delicious.

Edgar ordered the "foie gras poutine".  These are duck fat fries, rich and smooth gravy and big pieces of foie gras instead of the cheese curds.  Edgar was smiling from ear to ear after eating this. 

The only bad part of our meal at Au Pied de Cochon was that we didn't have room for dessert!

Au Pied de Cochon on Urbanspoon

Montreal is not Montreal without having bagels and that's exactly what we did the following morning.  We headed over to Mont Royal and St-Viateu Bagel.  These guys have even been on an episode of Glutton for Punishment with Bob Blumer.  The bagels are baked in front of your eyes, come out of the oven and right to the customer.  They are the best bagels I have ever eaten in my life.

After enjoying our bounty of fresh bagels and cream cheese, we did a little touring of Old Montreal.  That of course works up an appetite.  

St-Viateur Bagel on Urbanspoon

For lunch we ate at La Sauvagine right in the heart of Old Montreal at 115 St. Paul Street East.  I ordered one of my favourites "Moule et Frites" or simply fries and musells. I really enjoyed this simple lunch with a glass of beer.

Edgar had the duck confit.  A delicious duck leg cooked in the confit method with roasted potatoes and veggies.  It was cooked perfectly.  He enjoyed his lunch very much.

We didn't bother to order dessert since we knew that that evening's meal would be outstanding. 

For our last night in Montreal, we booked Garde Manger.  This is chef Chuck Hughes' place at 408 St.-Francois-Xavier in Old Montreal.  Chuck Hughes is the cutie from the Food Network's Chuck's Day Off.  Getting a reservation at his place is a task all in itself but it was so worth it.

Outside Garde Manger.

The entrance of Garde Manger.

The menu for this restaurant is a couple of giant black boards where you pick what you want to eat.

Two of the blackboard menus.

To start our amazing dinner, we shared the Salmon Tartare.  This is served with house made potato chip on top.  The crunch from the chips was amazing with the tartare preparation.

Salmon Tartare.

For our main courses, Edgar ordered Chuck's famous beef short ribs and I had duck breast, with seared foie gras and house made cream corn.  Both entrees were so delicious.  Chuck really knows how to cook!

Chuck's beef short ribs.

Duck breast with seared foie gras and cream corn.

I left room for dessert because I had heard about Chuck's famous Fried Mars Bars.  This is a  Mars bar fried in a crisp crust served with ice cream.  OMG is all I have to say.

Fried Mars Bar!

Chuck did not disappoint.  This was not cheap but so worth it!  I really enjoyed Garde Manger and can't wait to try his new restaurant Le Bremner.

Garde Manger on Urbanspoon

Before we left Montreal the following day, we had breakfast at Eggspectation.  This was a cute and inexpensive restaurant close to our hotel. 

Edgar had the classic eggs bennie and I had "Yolk Around the Clock".  A sliced bagel, toasted and then put on the grill with two sunny side eggs in the hole of the bagel, covered with bacon and melted cheese, served with grilled potatoes and chef's fruit garnish.  Both were delicious and left us with an excellent taste as we left Montreal.

Eggspectation on Urbanspoon

Overall, I would say that Montreal is amazing as a culinary destination.  It is my favourite city in Canada (sorry Toronto, you are very close second) and I am so jealous of my husband who is going to dine there and write all about his "fabuleux" dinner from tonight.

I know that his portion of this post has something to do with this...

In his opinion:

Oh Montreal…the capital of great food in Canada. Toronto can claim the top spot for fine dining, but it is Montreal that excels in good, unpretentious, fabulously delicious food. 

Much like Julie, I had been to Montreal only a few times but my culinary adventures had not gone past good bagels, pitas and Montreal smoked sandwiches.

I often go to Montreal for business but it always seems to be too quick to enjoy the many culinary treats that this "piece of Europe in North America" has to offer.  But not this past Wednesday night.  I stayed overnight in Montreal, this meant I got to have dinner...but where?  After much thought and choices to pick from...I called Le Bremner and to my surprise was able to get a reservation for 6:30 pm.

Le Bremner is Chuck Hughes new restaurant at 361 St. Paul East near Bonsecour Market. It's in the basement Alex Bremner Ltd. Montreal Building (thus the Le Bremner name).  The only indication that this building is Le Bremner is the restaurant sign in red letters above the door.  The restaurant itself has a bar, with limited seating. It has quite a few fixtures that were salvaged from the old building where it is located like the windows and part of the old hardwood floors that were fashioned into tabletops.  Overall, it's a rustic look with exposed brick.  It is very welcoming and warm.

The staff is very knowledgeable about the menu and suggested a cocktail to start.  I had the Caipirinha with Aperol (which my waitress described as similar to Campari). It tasted sweeter then a normal Caipirinha because of the Aperol.  It was garnished with a slice of blood orange. I rather enjoyed this very much.

There was rosemary-ricotta and spicy honey bread sticks on the table. (As seen in photo above).  They were quite delicious and crunchy.  

For the appetizer, I ordered the Amuse Bouche, which was a crispy garlic toast with Burrata cheese in a sauce gribiche with micro greens topped with olive oil.

This was scrumptious.  The garlic was crispy on the outside but moist on the inside. The cheese was amazing.  The whole Amuse Bouche was so flavourful.

For the entree, I was debating about what to order.  I was torn between the "Cornbread with Broiled Garlic Shrimp" or "Pork and Shrimp Spicy Rice".  I opted for the rice dish.

This was an explosion of flavours.  From the very spicy rice to the crispy fried pork and lightly sauteed shrimp and mussels.  It was topped with a lightly seasoned salad. The combination of flavours and spices worked really well together it was reminiscent of the Portuguese dish of "Pork and Clams".  I enjoyed this very much.

For dessert, I ordered the Pear Tarte Tatin.  It was a puff pastry crust with caramelized pears topped with a soft goat cheese mixture sprinkled with orange zest.

I really liked this dessert.  It was quite big but very delectable. 

The staff was amazing. From the very helpful waitress to the host that took me to tour the terrace in the back of the restaurant that acts like a patio in the Summer. There, you can find additional seating and an Oyster Bar which is all enclosed by old buildings.  This gives you the sensation of being in Europe.

To add to the experience, I sat beside a very nice couple that were also there for the first time. They were there trying their son's (Chef Danny Smiles) food and couldn't believe how great their son cooked.  There were very happy that he had such a great mentor like Chuck.

To top the night off, I got to go to the Kitchen and meet the Chef himself, Chuck Hughes which is much taller and buffed than he looks on TV. He was extremely nice and seemed rather humble when I thanked him for the amazing treatment that my wife Julie, our 5 year old son and I got, when dining at his other restaurant Garde Manger last Spring.

The Good: Great atmosphere and flavorful dishes in a casual, rustic environment.
The Bad: There really wasn't anything bad but I did prefer the menu at Garde Manger.
The Verdict: A must try. It lives up to the hype and delivers excellent service and great food that will keep your palate engaged all through the meal/night.

I give it a 4 1/2 Olives out of 5 for rating.

Le Bremner on Urbanspoon


  1. I also tried Garde Manger first last year and have reservations for Le Bremner in 2 weeks time - very excited now since I read your blog! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. You are very welcome. I have yet to try Le Bremner but very soon. Enjoy your dinner! Julie