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Our lunch visit yesterday to the new burger bar m:brgr left much to be desired. The burgers were good, yes, but definitely overpriced for what they’re worth. And it wasn’t anything that couldn’t have been made at home for tastier. The reasonable burger price of 8.75$ doesn’t reflect your total bill (as expected – I’d already peeked at the menu on their website) since toppings add up. A few toppings later, and your burger ends up being closer to 18$. The portobello on the boy’s burger were slightly lacking in flavour, and unable to hold up against the beef. My burger, topped with house-smoked bacon (which I will admit was quite tasty) and cheddar that was too mild for my liking (especially against the pickle). Moreover, our foodie companion’s fried egg was overcooked (isn’t the whole point to have the runny yolk meld with the sandwich?).

The one saving grace? Excellent coleslaw (also as expected – it’s the same stuff served at Moishe’s, and it’s the stuff that turned me onto coleslaw in the first place). Okay, and their lightly battered sweet potato fries were pretty tasty as well. But aren’t burger joints supposed to highlight burgers?

I’m glad I tried the restaurant, but the hype is overrated and my first visit was likely my last. Don’t be fooled by their tagline “required eating”.

2025 Drummond; 514-906-2747
Dinner for 2, before tax, tip and drinks: $45-$75

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It’s school’s bloody fault for getting in the way of updating, but it hasn’t stopped the snapping of photographs, but it’s somewhat blocked the uploading stream. Coming back from the (only) brew shop (I know of in downtown Montreal), the boy and I were feeling inspired enough to swing into a butchers shop on St. Laurent (around Pins).

“What do you have in the way of bones?”

The heavily-accented middle aged woman behind the counter looked at us, with eyes sparkling. “You own restaurant, yes?’

Well, no, we just wanted to make stock and have been trouble locating bones. We’re easy, really – chicken, pork, beef. Apparently kids these days don’t cook the way we do.

Not long ago, I was raving about the yummy poutine at Mondo Fritz (we had had a hankering for grease after beer at Brutopia). Within two weeks of that outing, I revisited Mondo Fritz for more of a lunch time meal, to catch up with a friend. Visite numero 2 has left me with complex sentiments about the restaurant, which I shall share:

Still a thumbs way up for their service: speedy, and pleasant, like last time. I ordered one of their burgers (I believe it was the “Danoise“) with a side of fries – fantastic toppings of blue cheese and sundried tomato, but the crux of the burger left me craving my own rendition (secret ingredient = soy sauce in the ground beef). The meat patty was a little off, size-wise, in comparison to the rather large bun (to be fair, the kaiser was quite tasty and fresh), but it was pretty standard fare, and rather overdone. As were the fries, they were much darker than the last rendition – though I wonder what the poute would’ve tasted like sans gravy. Crispier fries are certainly better at holding themselves up to ladles of gravy, but when when they’re on their own, even the Mondo Fritz’s tasty variations of mayo (the basil/pepper one rocks) can’t save overdone/burnt ones. Portions were, again, quite generous.

The boy and I went on a proper date Wednesday evening: having been finally released from opera rehearsals (and having just completed 8 of this semester’s 20 credits) gave us an opportunity to venture to Casa Tapas. Spotting a funky mural on the side of the building, we arrived at 7:30 or so, and were placed at the bar because of our sans reservations. Certainly a good sign, if business thrived late on a Wednesday evening.

Standard bread bowl, and olives served in a demitasse: warm? (sorely lacking in knowledge base regarding olives, I did a quick search on “warm olives” when I came home: they were certainly endorsed by the NY Times in 1987.) Warm is good! They were pretty damn tasty, and I’m not usually an olive-out-of-hand eater (the boy even less so).

Their rendition of a “Spanish Caesar” was interestingly done with greens in lieu of romaine: served with a toasted slice of herbed baguette, and a surprise cherry tomato in the bottom. Do they do Caesars in Spain? We were unsure of the dressing’s constituents (as the salad was severely underdressed) but were quickly distracted by the garlic saffron soup. Served piping hot (and still bubbling), it sported big chunks of fresh croutons. Stoneware definitely has its heat retaining benefits! In our excitement, lips and tongues were slightly burned, but no matter: the soup was fantastic, adorned with little bits of tomato and parsley. Note to self: splurge on saffron (time to do another run to Vieille Europe).

The tapas ordered were: 1) Grilled sardines with cumin – I’ve always loved sardines, and cumin’s my new favourite spice as of 2007. It was subtle on the actual sardines, but the paired julienned zucchini/red pepper salad was very satisfyingly cumin-ed. 2) Filet mignon of lamb done in an almond-tomato sauce and colourful peppers – wow. Simply, wow. 3) Artichoke served with aioli – surprisingly citrus and hinting of orange, the aioli was an intriguing pairing with a vegetable that has yet to grace its presence in our own kitchen. Sidestepping the orange-garlic-mayo topping, the boy raved of its grilled texture, while I tried to parse flavour combinations uncommon to my pallette.

The waiter then suggested desert to us, and deciding on a more Spanish theme, we tried their churros instead of the crème brûlée. Sweet, deep fried goodness! I suppose each culture has its own rendition of fried dough: Spain decided on pleasantly dense batons (piped directly into the hot oil?). A demitasse of chocolate sauce was served on the side; I stared sadly at the remainder when no churros remained, longing to spoon the rest in my mouth. I suppose that would have been imprudent.

I certainly look forward to tasting the other menu items; until then, we shall have to try our own rendition of garlic saffron soup.

Casa Tapas on Urbanspoon

Casa Tapas
266 Rachel Est, between St. Laurent and St Denis

The glory of St. Patty’s day includes city-block-long line ups in front of Hurley’s at 8:30pm, so we ventured next door to Brutopia instead. Of course, the female bartender served the men before even taking our order, but I would have acted similarly if it meant more tips in my pocket. Drinks in hand, (chocolate stout! – the boy was proud) we agreed that venturing out was indeed a Good Idea. Besides – I now own a button with a shamrock!

Onwards, upwards: to St. Laurent, where poutine lay to be consumed. Frites Alors was suggested, and I politely turned it down, offering an adventure to Mondo Fritz instead – I found the former’s poute to be ‘okay’ the last (and only) time I was there, as the ‘meh’ quality of their fries became the limiting factor. My only other encounter with Mondo Fritz was a couple of years ago, when the line-up for Schwartz’s was too long for my grumbling stomach – I remember the burger being okay, but fries plus flavoured mayos definitely hit the spot. Yesterday, we ordered the Alpine poutine to share (serving size = massive for just the two of us): chevre, mushrooms, grated cheddar, topped with peppercorn gravy. The fries were fantastic in their ‘european-style’ goodness – not too thickly sliced (definitely not shoestring, either), skin-on potatoes, deep fried to produce fries with the perfect ratio of golden-crisp-outer-layer to layer-of-inner-softness. Water is served in label-less wine bottles, and the woman who took our order friendly and efficient. Moral of the story: if you’re going to have a heart attack in a bowl, you may as well go all out. I’m definitely going to have to try their other variations – topped with sausage, or steak… To my veg friends: rumour has it that their gravy is meat-less!

Mondo Fritz on Urbanspoon

Vegetarian Thai dinner, for a vegetarian friend’s birthday. Where else in Montreal, but Chu Chai?

Located at 4088 Saint Denis (between Duluth and Rachel), the restaurant was packed, naturally, on a Friday night. The restaurant is victim to the Chinese floor plan syndrome (I overheard the waitstaff in Cantonese): business mentality of cramming more people than allowed by fire regulation policies. Not only did I worry about knocking people (and their dinners) over while squeezing my way to the restroom, we were made to wait 90 minutes before our orders were taken. But I should backtrack slightly: the birthday girl made reservations for 7:30, for 11 of us – and half of our party was standing at the door for 40 minutes because they only had a 6-person table available. Do ‘reservations’ not mean anything? Half an hour of waiting later, the waitstaff mumbled something about compensating our inconvenience with free drinks. That offer, they quickly retracted. And we ended up having to barter for a discount: at first, they agreed to 10% off all drinks (what does that work to, 50 cents per person?), and finally 10% of the final tab. Role reversal indeed: aren’t restaurant owners supposed to alleviate the situation and win-over their frustrated patrons? I’ve never heard of customers having to bargain for a discount when clearly they have been wronged.

Poor service aside, their pad thai was quite delicious, as was another noodle-ly concoction ordered by the boy: it sported generous amounts of thai basil, and imitation duck. I started with their tom yum nam khon- hot & sour soup with coconut milk, which was good, but I had slight doubts: I suspect that their broth sits in a giant vat, and the remaining ingredients of desired soup-type (soup with mock seafood/meat/tofu/etc) are tossed into the bowl of pre-ladled soup. Not impressed with the undercooked mushrooms, and wished the soup came piping hot. Washing the meal down with Tsing Tao, however, was definitely a good call.

Highlight of the evening, of course, was good company. And the backgammon and key lime pie: mmm.

ChuChai on Urbanspoon

Spanish cuisine? Yes please! Check out Zumaia, on the corner of Guilbault and St Laurent, just south of des Pins. Sardines, octopus, scallops, beef tartare, chevre stuffed roasted red pepper, duck and mushrooms with a sauce of cassis, paella, and truly professional and excellent service. I would’ve swiped a Spiegelau tumbler or two (or three or four?), plus a handful of Riedel wineglasses, if it weren’t for the great service and good food: I’ll have to look for a terrible restaurant that knows their glassware.

Speaking of Spanish, dinner tonight = homemade paella. I confess, I’m rather excited.