Wednesday, December 08, 2010

one fine weekend of dining in montreal (1)

I Heart Cheese (2)
Rather than wrack my brain in an attempt to start this post off by waxing poetic about all things Montreal, I’m going to cut to the chase: Sarah and I recently spent a weekend there and made our stomachs very happy.

Disclaimer: Two Montreal food staples we didn’t have or barely sampled on this trip: smoked meat (almost got into line at Schwartz’s, but decided to keep my rough pattern of indulging in their famous sandwiches on every other trip to the city…and I wasn’t really in a smoked meat mood this time around) and bagels (did have one as a morning snack on Saturday, was going to bring a bag home but determined we had enough stuff to lug onto the train).

One related amusement: posters around the core for a musical about Schwartz’s. Hey readers: which Toronto culinary landmark deserves a song-and-dance ode?

Day 1
Eduardo
After dropping off our stuff at the hotel, we headed north into the Plateau to find dinner. I wanted to see what was new and/or interesting looking along St. Denis. Our backup plan if we found nothing to tempt our growly stomachs was an Indian restaurant near Sherbrooke we enjoyed last year despite an ongoing bout of tummy troubles I battled on that trip—Sarah reminded me that I felt that I’d enjoy the spot even more with a clean bill of health. We walked as far as Rachel then looped back via side streets to Duluth, where we hit the row of bring-your-own-wine restaurants east of St. Denis. We settled on Eduardo, a cheap, dark and cozy eatery serving up old school red sauce Italian. After the long train ride, it was a comforting meal. Here’s what we ate—apologies for lack of photographic evidence:

  • Me: Escargots in garlic butter atop mushrooms, piping hot and loaded with buttery goodness. Main was spaghetti in meat sauce, which lacked the overwhelming taste of tomato paste sometimes found at cheap pasta joints.
  • Sarah: A salad with large slices of various veggies, followed by spinach and cheese cannelloni.
  • Both: baskets of hamburger bun-like white bread toasted and made tasty via a dusting of herbs.

We noted that out of an increasingly-filled restaurant, only one other couple didn’t bring a bottle of vino to share over dinner. We gazed admiringly at dishes in front of the wine drinkers, especially those loaded with veggies.

On our way back to the hotel, we made our first stop of the trip at Suite 88 Chocolatier on St. Denis. The last time we visited it appeared to have closed/moved, but it was back in full operation. After dithering over the tempting array of choices, I settled on a dark chocolate bar with cayenne chili. The cashier warned us about the heat level but I was prepared, having sampled the same flavour there in gelato form a few years back. I enjoyed the mix of potent burn and fine chocolate, while Sarah found it a tad too spicy.

Day 2
Reservoir - Looking out the Window at the Crazy Photographer
For brunch, we were going to try Aux Vivres, a vegan restaurant on St. Laurent whose colourful online menu drew us in. The walk along the Main proved longer than we expected and further than our growling stomachs could handle, so we stopped at Duluth and settled on what had been planned to be our Sunday morning dining spot, Reservoir.

Reservoir Menu (Chalkboard version)
It seemed like one of those restaurants that are full regardless of time of day. We snagged seats at the bar, which gave us a prime view of the kitchen. Feeling fatigued and cranky, it took me awhile to settle into the vibe of the place as I took my time contemplated the printed menu and the bill of fare on the chalkboard to the side of us. Sarah, though, felt immediately at ease on the swivelling metal stools, amongst the mussed-hair and French-language newspapers.

Reservoir - Beignets Maison with a Puree of Carmelized Pineapple and Madras Curry
The only disappointing note came at the start with an order of beignets maison. The stiff texture was reminiscent of a yeasty sugar twist left to linger too long at a neighbourhood donut shop. The accompanying sauce, made from caramelized pineapple and madras curry, compensated in the flavour department. I would have been happy to order a solo bowl of pureed fruity goodness.

Reservoir - Omelette with Parisian Mushrooms, Spinach Puree and Cheddar
Our mains more than compensated for the appetizer. Sarah ordered an omelette with spinach puree, whole Parisian mushrooms and cheddar. The texture was unlike any omelette we’d ever encountered: creamy. It was as if my Mom’s scrambled eggs had been wielded together. The whole mushrooms pleased the fungus fiend in Sarah. That the only coffee beverages served were those espresso-based also pleased her, as did the tall stainless steel tumblers of water repeatedly filled by the woman behind the bar. Sarah thought these basic things were the makings of a perfect bruncheon.

Reservoir - Eggs Benedict with Bacon and Leeks in Hollandaise Sauce
I ordered eggs Benedict with leeks and bacon in hollandaise sauce. Neither of us had ever received a piece of bacon so thick and meaty. If not orgasmic, it was pretty darn close. Despite the large quantity, we secretly wished it were part of an unending ribbon of a food we normally stay away from. We could have eaten that bacon forever. Each smoky bite was precious. The long strands of leek were nicely caramelized, the hollandaise creamy but not overwhelming.

Reservoir - Cooking Area and Fish and Chips
We stared at the other dishes pushed onto the kitchen ledge and pondered their degree of tastiness. We looked at each other and knew we’d made a good dining choice.

Coming in part 2: bistros and bineries. - JB, SO

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