Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Eating Drinking and Being Merry in Montreal - Day 1 and a bit

Hi all,
So I just returned from my gals weekend in Montreal and what a wonderful weekend we had. I was there with some of my closest girlfriends as well as a few ladies I had never met before. We were all coming together for a bachelorette weekend of fun. We stayed at the Onmi Hotel downtown which was kinda outdated.  The rooms were spacious though, the linens were decent and the roof top pool was clutch. We were banking on having the opportunity to take advantage of the pool which lucky enough we did. The weather was just perfect for a weekend of strutting the city in sexy shoes on the pursuit of eating and drinking until our hearts content, 
or rather our stomachs. 

We kicked off the weekend with a late night order in to our old school favorite delivery place Alto. We were exhausted after driving for almost seven hours, and desired something familiar and satisfying. This place was the go to for our University late night greasy lazy fix of chicken fingers and gravy or sauce brune as they call it in MTL. We were totally overzealous with our ordering which consisted of two orders of six chicken fingers & fries and gravy with extra gravy, a large poutine, greek salad and three diet pepsi's. Not exactly sure why we ordered diet pepsi after all the other crap, like it made any difference whatsoever - but we did. 

The food came in a matter of minutes. Something we always really appreciated about Alto's the complete understanding of hunger and convenience in a timely manor. As soon as we tore into the paper bags the smell of our youth took over our tacky hotel room. I looked at the food and instead of feeling excited and eager to quench my hunger my stomach began to turn. The meal looked so much less appealing then it had in the past. I took a bite of my gravy drenched chicken finger and was immediately disappointed.  "This is bloody nasty ladies" I exclaimed. "It's absolutely disgusting" Jill confirmed as gooey cheese oozed off the plastic fork departed from her mouth, "but I can't stop eating it!". I'm not sure if it was Haley or myself who actually posed the question "has Altos changed? or have we?" We all pondered the possibilities. After picking creepy bits of breading and fat off two chicken fingers, and dodging large slices of onions and cardboard refrigerated tomatoes on the Greek salad, I retired into my tightly tucked single bed. "You're on your own gals, I just can't do it" I said. "I'm donzo!" They looked defeated as all well, our dreams of a delicious late night greasy meal was a complete bust, and we could only feel shame and indigestion. Good thing we were all too exhausted to bitch about it for too long before 
we fell asleep. 

The next morning we moved into our sorority like suit and were joined by the West side contingency. We quickly decorated the room with balloons and bottles of champagne, vodka and an abundance of gummy candy and melted chocolates before the bride to be and other guests arrived. All the memories of last nights terrible delivery were long gone, and we were ready to officially start the party of with a proper meal.

We decided a nice lunch on a beautiful patio with mimosas would be great. I was not in to drinking at that point so I decided to go for a pineapple juice with club soda in a champaign glass would do. The restaurant was called Chandelier on de Maisonneuve O. It was quite beautiful with great service, but the over priced was not very good. I had a grilled club sandwich with chicken, turkey bacon and truffle aoli with frites. There was a decent lentil and mushroom soup. The mini burgers and pizza just looked boring, definitely not worth the money! Oh I apologize for my  lack of photos these days, my camera was stolen in Mexico, and I've yet to replace it. I'm saving up for a DSLR. Soon my little Tomato Snobs, I promise. 

So after our over priced lunch we walked around for a bit but once we realized that nothing was open because of Canada Day we decided to pick up a board game from Indigo and head back to the hotel for a lazy afternoon of drinking games and sitting in the sun. 

That night we decided to go for dinner at a friends restaurant called Voro in the Plateau. After calling all my favorite restaurants without getting a single reservation anywhere I was super surprised when he said he could get us a table for six no problem the day of. My immediate thought was that this place was probably brand new, and not very good. We arrived a few minutes late -  very Montreal, and to my surprise pulled up to this super cool space. High ceilings with industrial accents, sleek modern light fixtures, and product display wall.  This place had a great vibe, super hip but not trying too hard. Great chilled out music that wasn't so loud you couldn't have a good time laughing and chatting with the people at your table. Most hip restos in MTL are supper clubs that are great for eating, drinking and listening to music but not at all conducive to having a conversation with the people you are dining with. 

The menu was an interesting with tapas style dishes full of Middle Eastern, and North African influences. There was also a great sandwich selection as well as some interesting mains. As we were all pretty starving I decided to just take charge and order a bunch of items for the table. 
1 - Za'atar bread and artichoke dip - absolutely delicious, there was enough of the yummy spread to slather the house made focaccia after we devoured the perfectly rectangles of smokey crustini 
2 - Salmon gravlax with shaved fennel salad and caperberries - the salmon was silky and just divine, the fennel salad could have used a little more citrus and some finishing salt. 
3 - Moroccan lamb in phyllo - another surprise winner. Not overly greasy I loved the undertone of mint and pop of green peas in the flaky crust. 
4 - Latkes with goats cheese - these were ok, the goats cheese was a nice addition but the latkes were slightly burnt. * I think there may have been an issue with the deep fryer as they apologized for not sending out our polenta fries we were told there were some "problems with getting them perfect" There was also a need for some finishing salt on this dish. 
5 - Chorizo with caramelized onions and orange - this was interesting, I really liked the smokey sausage with the sweetness of the orange. 
6 - short rib sandwich with pickled red onion and taleggio cheese - This was absolutely amazing! It was almost like a pulled pork sandwich with sweet rich pulled meat  and delicious tang from the onion and smooth melted cheese. 
7 - roast beef sandwich with virgin pickles and parmesan - Not quite as good as the previous sandwich but the yummy jus made up for the overly toasted bread. * There was a bit of an issue with the toastedness of the bread most of the sandwiches were way too crunchy, and others not crunchy enough. 
8 - plain old grilled cheese - I didn't try this but I hear all sorts of yummy noises from around the table, so I could only assume it was well received. 
9 - giant cubes of bacon glazed in what I can only  assume is maple syrup with super finely shaved sweet potatoes. This was some of the best/ most ridiculously glutenous cubes of pork goodness I have ever experienced - I can;t believe I for got about it. Thank you Jill for reminding me. 
The cocktails were also good, and fairly priced under 10 dollars. This is unheard of in Toronto were most restaurants think it's normal that a proper mixed cocktail should run between $15 - 20 bucks. 
I tried the dark and stormy - which was super stormy and not very dark - they didn't use the traditional dark spiced rum, but made up for it by using a very good quality proper Jamaican ginger beer. The Gin and tonic with infused cucumber was both a refreshing drink and delicious snack. 

All in all I would definitely recommend this restaurant for a group looking for a hip and reasonable place to have a nice dinner in MTL. They are hoping to make this place a neighborhood hang out, and since it's opened all day I think it has real promise. The kitchen is a young group still learning, but once they work out all the kinks it should make for a great night out. 

Stay tuned for Day 2, and I'll have some photos once the girls send them to me. 

Ciao for now. 

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Thanks for your two cents. I love change!