A TASTEFUL TRUTH

A glimpse into this exquisite world through my lens

LE GROS JAMBON

286 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest Montreal, (514) 508-3872

I was walking to the Couche Tard on Notre Dame 3 days ago, and almost missed this inconspicuous little diner in its discreet and somewhat dull location. The appealing array of deserts visible through the glass window is initially what caught my attention. When I realized it was the popular and admired Le Gros Jambon, I took note and promised myself I would schedule in a little visit by the end of the week.

I heard about how crowded it gets around lunchtime, and was a little worried since I justifiably find it difficult to enjoy a meal when I’m uncomfortably cramped into a corner without sufficient arm room. I walked in at around 3pm on Thursday afternoon, and thankfully the diner was almost empty. Considering it’s only 6 months old, they succeeded in delivering a truly authentic old-school diner vibe. Everything from the music, the décor and the southern comfort food (with a slight upscale twist) emphasized the theme.

The manager Sean promptly greeted and seated us, and was quick to suggest popular items on the menu. My companion ordered The Coca-Cola Burger, made with an incredibly flavored homemade patty, coca-cola mayonnaise and deep fried pickles, served on a bed of French fries with a small side of coleslaw. It’s rare that I thoroughly enjoy a burger, or even have one that impressed me enough to recommend to friends, but this was honestly one of the most delicious, mouthwatering and juicy burgers I’ve ever eaten. A must-try for all of burger lovers out there!!

I ordered the Lobster Grilled Cheese, which was also served on a bed of French fries with a small side of coleslaw. It was pretty good - simply just a grilled cheese with the addition of fresh chunks of lobster. It’s a fun idea but it was slightly lacking in flavour. I must admit that while eating the sandwich, I secretly wished I had ordered the burger instead.

We shared the Mac n Cheese with Duck Confit. My companion and I had conflicting verdicts on the plate. I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought the addition of the duck was so creative and complimented the dish extremely well, yet my companion thought it too was lackluster in regards to flavor. He was never a fan of Mac n Cheese so I agreed to disagree.

Overall, I had a wonderful experience. The staff was fun, welcoming and completely unpretentious. The atmosphere was upbeat and authentic - Definitely a memorable treat in itself! The food was great and very affordable. I will definitely be a regular customer and I’m excited to try what else this spot has to offer!

My Rating: 8/10

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TAVERN ON THE SQUARE

  • 1 Westmount Square #3 Westmount, (514) 934-2334

My perpetual search for the perfect Salmon Tartar is what initially brought my attention to this fine French restaurant. One of my close friends was aware of my deep devotion to the dish, and emphasized how I would surely taste the greatest Salmon Tartar at The Tavern.

Upon entering the eatery, I first noticed how uplifting the ambiance was. The staff all had such a positive and almost jubilant attitude towards everyone they encountered. Our waiter Paul was extremely attentive and informative; one of the most memorable waiters I’ve come across all year. The interior décor reflected the upscale reputation of the restaurant – French, elegant & timeless. The clientele was mostly business-people, but I did also notice a few scattered families and couples - all of whom seemed to be having a joyous time!

For our appetizers, we both first ordered Deep Fried Calamari served with cayenne and anchovy aioli. I have to honestly say it was a disappointment. It didn’t have that ever-so-essential crunch that I look for in fried calamari. It was mostly on the soggy/chewy side, which led me to leave my dish unfinished (Not a common occurrence in my books!) 

Next came the famed Salmon Tartar, made with lime, coriander and chipotle. It rested on a bed of fresh avocado and was served with deep fried pita bread. Goodness gracious me was this dish absolutely MINDBLOWING! I deeply apologize LEMEAC, but it’s time you step aside and hand over your title of “Greatest Salmon Tartar” to The Tavern. Never have my taste buds simultaneously shuddered in such pleasure. Every aspect of this dish was impeccable from flavor to presentation. The fried pita bread was such a welcomed change from the usual slices of toast. The tartar was perfectly creamy, tangy and as flavorful as it should be.  Excellent!

For my main, I had the Tuna Burger, made with fresh tuna, Asian spices and spicy mayonnaise.  It was a satisfactory burger, but was definitely a lot more remarkable in writing than it was in reality. My friend ordered The Mac n Cheese made with Comté (a potent and mildly sweet French cheese), Victor & Berthold (a light, buttery and slightly fruity Canadian cheese) parmesan, mascarpone, tomatoes, pancetta ham and truffle oil. It was the extravagant combination of different ingredients and flavors that made this dish so delightful.

For dessert, we shared the Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie served with a scoop of French-vanilla ice cream.  It was baked oven-fresh and literally melted in my mouth with the perfect balance of smoothness and crunch. Definitely a crowd-pleaser!

My Rating: 7.5/10

Tavern on the Square (Westmount) on Urbanspoon

LA PORTE GRECQUE

  • 4600 Boulevard des Sources, Dollard-des-Ormeaux (514) 683-4482

I’m honestly quite astounded that I allowed such a lengthy amount of time to pass before I revisited my beloved La Porte Grecque. I was initially introduced to this authentic Grecian wonder last summer for a friend’s birthday, and have been utterly smitten ever since. I blissfully dined there once shortly afterwards, and sadly not again until another opportunity arose a few nights ago. A close friend fortunately decided to host his birthday dinner there, and I was ecstatic at the thought of finally being reunited with my absolute favorite Greek restaurant. 

The restaurant is actually a beautiful historical stone cottage renovated into 3 large dining rooms. The ground floor is reserved for smaller groups and couples, while the upstairs offers a more intimate setting for private events like the one I attended. The entire restaurant is dimly lit, cozy and pleasantly decorated with vine-leaf lined interior terraces.

For our appetizers, we began with the Kria Pikilia (an assortment of cold appetizers) and it was a pretty basic start to any Greek meal. The Taramasalata (a pink paste/dip made from fish roe) & Pureed eggplants were definitely the most delicious aspect of the platter. 

Next we had the Zesti Pikilia (Deep fried zucchini, eggplants and artichoke heart croquettes). This is really such a treat and unlike anything of the sort that I’ve tried before. The outside is crisp while the inside is so juicy and almost meat-like in consistency. It’s served with a tasty, otherworldly butter-lemon sauce…Fantastic!!

I was greatly anticipating the arrival of my next platter - The Fried Calamari. It’s unquestionably The Greatest Calamari I’ve ever had in my life. I have the tendency to ensure everyone around me tries anything I list under my “Greatest Ever” category, and all of them agreed with my verdict. Perfectly battered (fresh, light & crispy) served with that famous butter-lemon sauce… absolutely marvelous.

For my main, I ordered the Filet Mignon Trio Platter (filet mignon medallions, scallops wrapped in bacon & butterfly garlic shrimp). The bacon wrapped scallops are always such a highlight! The filet mignon was perfectly tender and flavorful as expected. I certainly have no complaints about this meal! The service was prompt and our waiter ensured everything was always satisfactory.

The reason why La Porte Grecque is one of my favorite restaurants is simply because the food and service is CONSISTENT. They always use fresh, high-quality ingredients to deliver those bold, remarkable flavors that Mediterranean cuisine is famous for.

BONUS FACTOR – It’s a bring your own wine!! 

My Rating: 9/10

La Porte Grecque Estiatorio on Urbanspoon

L’AVENUE

  • 922 Avenue du Mont-Royal Est (514) 523-8780

I’m keeping this entry short and sweet, just like my spontaneous and quick brunch at L’Avenue. I don’t consider myself much of a breakfast person… I usually skip it altogether (yes it’s terrible, I’m aware) but I just had to experience this Montreal-favored breakfast spot for myself.. and it certainly delivered on the hype. 

I had a Mimosa, a Chocolate Blueberry Milkshake, and The Full Breakfast - EXCELLENT. I left feeling extremely content, slightly bloated and incredibly drowsy (Success). 

Fantastic service, great quality and a contemporary, entertaining ambiance. I definitely need to return several more times just to get a taste of what their extensive menu has to offer. 

My Rating: 9/10

L'Avenue on Urbanspoon

LA FABRIQUE

  • 3609 Rue Saint-Denis, Montréal (514) 544-5038

Located in the popular Plateau area of Montreal, this trendy bistro has an incredibly warm and earthy ambiance. My favourite aspect is the open concept kitchen, enclosed with aesthetically pleasing wooden tables and walls in addition to the main brick wall along the right side of the restaurant. 

The menu offers a good variety of innovative food. Everything we ordered was wonderfully tasty as well as beautifully presented - Most notable were the Pan Seared Foie Gras (extraordinary when combined with the pureed apple remulad), Preserved Tuna and Beef Tartare (lovely blend of textures when paired with the mushroom tart) - all of which were prepared with utmost care in regards to flavor.  I had a taste of the Braised Pork Shoulder Burger and it was just as tender and mouthwatering as it looked. 

There were a few negative points during the dinner, first being the awfully slow service. There was at least a 30 minute wait between finishing our appetizers and the arrival of our mains. It was probably the fact that it was quite busy, but our waiter really did seem to neglect us for most of the night. 

The most notable negative aspect was my main order: 3 by the knife plate: Beef + Salmon Tartare and Pork Foot. The Beef tartare was definitely the highlight since the Salmon Tartare (usually my favorite) was seriously distorted in flavor. The addition of ginger and several other ingredients (apple and cognac cream) were simply unnecessary.  I understand that the bistro aims to offer a unique twist on food but it just didn’t sit well at all.

Now onto the Pork Foot. I pride myself on being an adventurous eater, and am 100% set on trying everything once in life, but that was probably the most offensively foul things I have EVER eaten. It was sneakily hidden in the form of two spring rolls, probably to hide the fact that it looked like a slug once cut into and exposed. The only words I can use to express the flavour is that of raw pig. I’m currently shuddering in memory of that repulsive experience. AVOID AT ALL COSTS!

Excluding that gut-wrenching moment in my life, it was an enjoyable night. The atmosphere is enough to ensure that everyone has a generally good time. 

My Rating: 7/10 

La Fabrique on Urbanspoon

AU PIED DE COCHON

  • 536 Avenue Duluth Est, Montréal
    (514) 281-1114

This eatery has gained the reputation of being one of Montreal’s most popular dining-spots for adventurous, carnivorous food lovers who share an appetite for gluttony. Martin Picard is a world-renowned chef who created this restaurant to highlight the beauty of Quebecois cuisine. It has a warm, rustic ambiance - one that’s perfect for a casual night out with friends, or even for a not-so-romantic evening out with your significant other (Fair warning - It gets pretty loud)

First and foremost, I must emphasize how much I sincerely, unquestionably, undeniably ADORE foie gras. The fact that this restaurant is known for incorporating it in most of their dishes in unusual and innovative ways was completely mind-blowing to me! Foie Gras Poutine? Unheard of! And absolutely DELICIOUS! The fries were crispy and lathered in a distinctly flavored gravy, as well as the usual cheese curds. The foie gras itself was flawless; it was perfectly browned and crisp on the outside, and the soft,  creamy, rich texture was enough to make me swoon.  

The Beef Tartare was on an entirely new level. The presentation was unparalleled to any I have seen before! They were wrapped into seaweed cones on a bed of rice, and in these little cones were strips of french fries and half a quail egg with a yolk that I poured over the tartare. The flavors I experienced were immense. The yolk accentuated the perfectly seasoned, tender beef. It was so enjoyable to eat and surprisingly very filling! 

For my main, I had the Foie Gras Hamburger, and what a legendary burger it was. Resting on the beef patty was a large dollop of foie gras, and although it was delicious, it was almost overwhelming. My waiter provided me with a wet towlette beforehand and whispered “You’re going to need this.. you’ll see why soon”. By the end of it, I looked like I chewed a chunk straight off a living cow. It was impossible to eat it like a lady, based on the sheer immensity of the size. Regardless of the mess, it was one of the most tasty and flavorful burgers I’ve ever had!

Now the dessert. I decided to play it safe and order the Chocolate Molten Cake (My favourite dessert) and I wasn’t disappointed! The cake was warm and moist, and as soon as my fork pierced the exterior, a hot flood of dark chocolate erupted like a  volcano of sugary goodness. Such a delicacy! 

This restaurant was honestly such a memorable culinary adventure! I’m anticipating when the next opportunity to visit will arise!

Final words of wisdom - Skip breakfast & lunch that morning

Rating: 8.5/10

Au Pied de Cochon on Urbanspoon

LEMÉAC CAFÉ BISTROT

  • 1045 Avenue Laurier Ouest, Outremont
    (514) 270-0999

Leméac is considered to be one of Montreal’s finest French restaurants, thus I was greatly anticipating indulging in my first true authentically French meal. 

I had reservations for 7pm and we were seated immediately. The restaurant was already crowded and bustling with excitement. It has an old-world charm that I rarely encounter, and fully encompassed the true meaning of ‘fine dining’ with its elegant and sophisticated Parisian decor.

Now for the food. Whenever I dine out, I always make it a point to order the Salmon Tartare. Leméac has the option of having your tartare prepared traditionally or with truffle oil. I chose the latter, and it was without a doubt, the GREATEST salmon tartare I have ever had the privilege of eating. It was perfectly spiced with a subtle hint of the aromatic, earthy flavor of the truffle oil. 

My next appetizer of Pan Seared Calamari and Zucchini was a bit of a disappointment. It was slightly burnt, over-spiced and tough in consistency. I have an adoration for deep-fried calamari so it was also perhaps the change of texture that thoroughly caught me off guard. 

Our mains of Roasted Duck Breast and Roasted Rack of Lamb restored my temporary loss of faith. Both were cooked exceptionally well. The duck was moist and succulent, especially since the skin was left on which only further emphasized the richness of the dish. The lamb was tender, juicy, seasoned perfectly and fell off the bone the moment I put my fork to it. One of the most beautifully cooked lamb dishes I’ve had. 

The star of this dinner was the GLORIOUS French Toast with Maple Caramel & Milk Jam Ice Cream. I’ve had quite the fair share of French toast in my life, but NEVER have I had it prepared like this. First off, the brioche itself was massive! It was thick and crispy on the outside, glazed with warm maple caramel, but the inside was soft and feathery, almost the same texture as cotton candy. What an absolute treat!! Definitely goes into my Dessert Hall of Fame!!!

Rating: 7.5/10

Leméac on Urbanspoon

DEVILLE DINERBAR

  • 1425 Rue Stanley, Montréal
    (514) 281-6556

This fairly new Montreal restaurant has already created quite a name for itself. Deville presents itself as a modern twist on a 1950’s American diner; adding immaculate interior decor, delicious gourmet comfort food and an impeccable ambiance to the mix. The service was excellent (our Bartender/ waiter Jonathan was exceptional) and the food far surpassed my expectations. Most notable - The Ahi Tuna Tacos, which were just such a delightful surprise to the palate. It was a little messy to eat, but the end result was a burst of flavors varying from the sweetness of the fresh asian coleslaw, the spiciness of the Wasabi Lime dipping sauce and the smooth texture of the seared Ahi tuna. 

I must mention the Baked Mac n Cheese. Ever since I first experienced Mac n Cheese at the age of 13 in a hotel restaurant in Orlando - Florida, I fell into a deep love… Albeit a tormented love since I could never recreate that first-love sensation with any other versions I encountered afterwards. A little over 10 years later, I can FINALLY say I rediscovered it. I had to lightly tap the crispy, baked cornbread crust to indulge in this divine gift from the universe, and what I experienced was a perfectly balanced blend of creamy and cheesy goodness. 

For their appetizers, my friends ordered the Fried Pickles as well as the Southern Fried Buttermilk Chicken Crispers on toasted belgian waffles, both of which were quite outstanding. However in my opinion, my Ahi Tuna Tacos were far more superior since it delivered entirely unfamiliar flavor experience.

My main meal was The Deville Burger, and I must admit I didn’t pace myself well during this dinner. I was already quite full by this point, but I still managed to finish off most of it. For the most part it was well prepared; the bun was crisp and buttery, the beef-patty was juicy and flavorful, and the fries were thin and extremely addictive. A taste of my friends choices: The Chop Chop Salad & The General Tao Salad - reaffirmed that Deville ensures all of their dishes provide a culinary adventure for their customers. 

One aspect which I was very impressed by was the Deville Music Application available for download, that allows you to personally select a song through your phone which will be played throughout the restaurant. Your personal jukebox! 

Overall, my experience was a thoroughly enjoyable one. I recommend this restaurant to all who wish to spend a comfortable evening in a trendy, friendly and unique atmosphere, since Deville is definitely a distinct marker in the midst of Montreal’s endless restaurants. 

My Rating: 8.5/10

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