Boston Restaurant Blog -- November, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
A couple of weeks ago, several of us took a trip up to Montreal, Quebec. It was the first time I had been there in about 5 years, and the city was every bit as great as I remember it being. Food-wise, we had a few forgettable meals, but there were also some memorable spots as well. Since we went to so many places while we were up there, I'll concentrate on some of the highlights.
The night we arrived in Montreal (Friday night), we didn't want to travel very far from the hotel, so we walked over to the hip and trendy Rue Crescent on the southwestern edge of downtown to a bustling (and not quite so hip) Irish pub called Hurley's. The dark, cozy, cave-like atmosphere of Hurley's was instantly appealing, with lots of nooks and crannies throughout the sprawling spot. Because it was an Irish pub in a city known for its cosmopolitan cuisine, I wasn't expecting a whole lot from Hurley's, but the food was quite good, especially the roast beef au jus and the similar roast beef with cheese on a baguette. The beef stew was also decent, especially for the type of raw night that we had to deal with. Service was friendly, and both the waitstaff and most of the patrons spoke English (in this part of Montreal, especially heading west toward Westmount, English was heard much more often than French). All in all, it was tough to beat the atmosphere, the service, and the food at Hurley's, which really wasn't what we had been expecting when we walked into the place for a quick bite.
On Saturday morning, we went to Boulangerie Premiere Moisson on Rue Sherbrooke Ouest (around the corner from Rue Crescent as well as our hotel) not once, but twice--the first time to get some of their impossibly good bread, and the second time to have a sitdown breakfast that included some less-impressive food. I had been to Premiere Moisson on my last trip to Montreal, bringing a few loaves of bread back to Boston that I still consider to be among the best I've had anywhere, and this time was no exception. The baguette with sesame seeds that we brought back to the hotel was tremendous, with a freshness and a taste like nothing I've experienced from breads made in the Boston area. But unfortunately, our second trip to the bakery/cafe that morning wasn't all that memorable, as the food we ate in their dining room was mostly basic, run-of-the-mill stuff. But oh, that bread...the next time I will definitely stick to what they do best there, and the bread is surely that.
After breakfast at Premiere Moisson, we headed over to Old Montreal, where we wandered through the charming streets, checking out some of the sites along the way. A bit after noon, we stopped in at a place called Restaurant Papillon on Rue Saint-Paul Ouest. Like so many other dining spots in this section of the city, it seemed to be a place that catered more toward tourists than locals, and the rather bland, generic atmosphere felt more like something you'd find in a chain in the states than in a charming city such as Montreal. But to their credit, Papillon did have a few interesting dishes on their menu, including a shark steak with homardine sauce, which is what I ordered. The sweet taste of lobster in the sauce helped make this a tasty dish, but there was a good amount of waste on the steak itself. The club sandwiches and roast beef that were also ordered at the table were average at best, and the French onion soup, while tasty, actually had a bay leaf left in one of them. Service was about as friendly as we had on the whole trip, though, and the prices, while just a tad high, were kept down a bit by their lunch specials, which included soup/salad, entree, and coffee/tea all for one price.
Both Sunday and Monday mornings were spent at a popular breakfast spot on Boulevard De Maisonneuve Ouest (very close to the hotel) called Eggspectation. And on both days, this restaurant greatly impressed, with fresh crepes, tasty grilled potatoes with lots of flavor (and very little grease), delicious ham and smoked meat (the latter of which was a little like pastrami and was mixed into scrambled eggs), and perhaps the best dish of them all, strawberry French toast flambe with brandy and whipped butter. This last plate, which I ate on our last day, filled me up so much that I wasn't all that hungry until I got back to Boston. The atmosphere at Eggspectation was interesting, as it was located in what looked like an old warehouse, with two stories of dining and lots of exposed brick and concrete. Service was prompt and professional both times we were there, and the prices were quite good, considering the quality of the food.
On Sunday morning, after a quick trip up Mont Royal, we returned to Old Montreal to check out a few of the sites we had missed the previous day. We ended up having a very quick lunch at Montreal Poutine along Rue Saint-Paul Ouest near where we had lunch at Papillon the day before. The little quick-food spot had a pleasant outdoor patio in the back that was surrounded on all sides by other buildings, making it a rather cozy, appealing place. A few minutes after we ordered, our server brought out a plate of poutine with smoked meat along with a plain version of the dish. Both were very good, with rich, thick gravy smothering the French fries, and lots of slightly wobbly (and squeaky) cheese curd added to the dish. The smoked meat made that version a bit tastier than the plain version, but both were impressive. By the way, if you are squeamish about eating something with cheese curd, it really is quite mild and has a pleasant taste. The look of it may be a turnoff, but it's worth trying if you happen to be in Quebec, which is where poutine is very popular.
Before we made the trip to Montreal, we decided that Moishe's, a high-end Jewish steakhouse in the bustling Mile End section of the city, was a must. So we saved it for last (more or less), heading over there on Sunday night. And what an experience it was; everything, from the professional service to the old-school dining room to the mostly outstanding food, made this a place I won't soon forget. We ordered a lot of different dishes, including a sirloin au poivre that was so tender it could have been cut with a butter knife (and was one of the best steaks I have ever tried); potato latkes that matched the best I have had in New York City and Boston; Kosher pickles that had just the right amount of sourness to them; fresh cole slaw like nothing I have ever had; and so much more, including good versions of tuna steak, chicken teriyaki, fried rice, and Monte Carlo potatoes. For the kind of food that we had at Moishe's, the prices weren't terrible, as the bills averaged out to well under $100 per person, including drinks.
We went to a number of other restaurants, bars, and food places on our trip to Montreal, including KJ Diner in St. Albans, Vermont (on the way up), Sir Winston Churchill Pub, a restaurant and bar on Rue Crescent in Montreal; Patisserie Belge, a wonderful pastry shop in the Outremont section of the city; Marche Atwater, a huge farmer's market southwest of downtown; and Ken's Pizza in Burlington, Vermont (on the way back). And then there's a big tip of the cap to Ziggy's Pub, a salt-of-the-earth watering hole that is the least "cool" place on Rue Crescent, and for that we salute it. On both Saturday and Sunday nights, we were welcomed with open arms by the gracious owner and bartender, and by late Sunday night, it was if we had known the pub--and the people there--for years. Even though Ziggy's serves no food, it is certainly worth a mention here, as it is one place that stands out more than perhaps any other on our trip to Montreal.
Related Blog Entries: Quebec restaurants
No visit to Toque?
Posted on 11/13/09
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