I was last in Montreal around 2003, I believe. And before that, I went on a Chinese tour with some aunts sometime in the ’90s. In 2003, Lil Sis indulged me in a romantic notion to take a train from Halifax to Toronto and we ended up in Montreal after 20 hours of train riding from Halifax. We had 12 hours between arriving at 8 a.m. until our departure on the overnight train to Toronto and we explored a bit, as much as we could. Mum got wind that we were spending a weekend in Montreal and she was looking for a reason to take the weekend off and tagged along. So it makes for a different kind of trip and the dining experiences, of course.
The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro (Kingston)
It only took five years for me to get back to a Works Burger. In 2007, I went for the first time when Mona took me in Ottawa and although there are several locations in Toronto, they are just far enough I haven’t gone yet.
Lil Sis loves a good burger and mum would be impressed by the variety. We tried to visit Wok-In which was very highly recommended to me but logistically it did not work out. We ordered two burgers, each coming with a side, to share between the three of us. Because we are not over-indulgent (!!) and three small-sized (or wishing to be) women.
The “light” burger, which was my choice, was Tony’s Nirvana which was topped with avocado, beechhouse sauce, sundried tomato and feta cheese. Mum suggested that we could add avocado to any burger but I don’t like to mess with the original creation of the burger. We got the ground turkey patty for a different taste, to lighten the meal, and to assuage mum who was concerned about the recent ground beef recall due to E. coli concerns. It was truly a light tasting burger when the feta was really mild.
When Lil Sis pointed out the Sexy Burger, I did not like the idea of cream cheese but it was her burger to decide on and we went with a beef patty because beef is “sexier”, haha. This burger was topped with cream cheese, pineapple and hot banana peppers. The heat was nice and I do like heated pineapples but I did not like the cream cheese on a burger still.
To be honest, with everything else going on, my “trip planning” for Montreal consisted of checking out Urbanspoon Montreal and picking an establishment from each of the price levels. As it turned out very little of my plan worked out and that’s where I need to just accept the way life goes.
Going to Au Pied de Cochon was exactly according to plan and I saw how my foodie meet-up group tried to go there during a recent trip to Montreal and then I saw it under the $$$$ category on Urbanspoon. When in Montreal… have some French food! The place was more casual and louder than I expected but we had space to ourselves and privacy amidst the din.
I would have thought we’d order a French onion soup for mum and a tomato tart but we went with the guinea hen liver mousse and mushroom tart (a daily special) instead. The liver mousse arrived in good quantity but, as always, lacking in bread. We had polished off the delicious baguette that was brought to our table and laughed to recall how when we were searching for the restaurant, we passed by a restaurant staff walking along the street with a big brown paper bag full of long, crusty and fresh baguettes. Turned out the bag was for Au Pied de Cochon! The tart was quite nice with flaking pastry and an aromatic assortment of mushrooms. The price was not so great and I would not have imagined that the mushroom tart was three times more expensive than the tomato tart listed in the menu. :(
Mum went with the swordfish that came on a bed of lentils. She found it dry and I’m guessing she really only likes salmon texture fish. The swordfish was definitely filling and very much like a dry meat.
I knew I was going with duck from the moment of looking at the menu. The sauce was rich and salty and there was another assortment of mushrooms and a good number of duck breast slices. Lil Sis was going to go with the pork chop and I deemed it as “boring!” and she changed her mind to the PDC Melting Pot after I looked it up and told her it would have blood sausage. We really liked the blood sausage we had in Quebec city … but it wasn’t the same. The second sausage in the melting pot was just like an oversized hot dog and the potato that was the carbohydrate bed was a crazy cheese mashed blend. Lil Sis did not enjoy the potato or the texture and ate my roasted potatoes instead.
Bakery, could have been Pain Dore
It was my romantic notion to go to a cafe each day for breakfast but I found in Quebec City that I’m picky about my cafes, that the pastry doesn’t look enticing enough. Our hotel had complimentary hot Continental breakfast so we couldn’t really pass that up, could we? On our way back from the marathon expo, I was all too happy to duck into a bakery with mum and we gazed longingly at the pastries. Well, with mum, we couldn’t deny ourselves and picked up six bakery items including a chocolate croissant, chocolate almond croissant, butter croissant, apple pie, palmier and a chocolate twist.
The one item I ate mostly was the chocolate almond croissant that was super flakey and the almond was not overly artificial and complemented the chocolate well. Later that day, we would see an apple turnover in a Chinese bakery strongly resembling the one we got here but for 80% of the price, darn.
Mum’s request in Montreal was to go for dim sum. Originally, I thought we would try out Qing Hua for a dumpling dinner but I’m glad to have changed our plans and visit what seems to be a long-standing establishment in Montreal. It was raining buckets on Saturday and I was easily frustrated with one-way streets and the complete lack of street parking (at pay stations) and the exorbitant rates of parkades. But we eventually got in and waited for a few minutes for a table. We are totally naive but we marveled at hearing Chinese immigrants who speak French.
Kam Fun has serious old school charm, using an upstairs space in an old shopping center and with servers pushing carts with the dim sum. Modern updates include the relatively low volume at which they called out their wares and lots of plexiglass shields so the food is shielded from … things that could fall on them.
We ordered all the usuals including siu mai (I liked it, good pork), har gow (they really liked the dumpling skin), vegetable rice rolls (they really liked that skin but the greens were old-tasting), sesame-coated glutinous rice ball with lotus bean paste (ball was good, paste was not), dumplings (although good, made me realize I did not want a whole meal of it), sauteed gai lan with oyster sauce (okay) and, last but not least, a bowl of tripe and offal. The sauce it was braised in was good and I primarily stuck with stomach (the honeycombed pieces) and radish. Mum was really delighted to have and ate all the pieces that looked like lung.
Lil Sis ran through the rain to the car after dim sum lunch but mum and I wandered to the shops on the pedestrian street Rue de la Gauchetiere. After visiting one traditional bakery, it dawned on mum to go into the bright and modern one and I’m really glad we did. Patisserie Harmonie reminded me of bakeries in Beijing and Hong Kong with novel creations. Knowing that we had the six pastry items from the morning, we had to restrain ourselves and limit ourselves to one Hokkaido milk bun dotted with chocolate chips and a Taiwanese style “pineapple” bun in chocolate. The former was intensely good and I wish I could have one daily. The Taiwanese bun was odd. It was pleasantly not overly sweet and a strange sensation to taste the “pineapple” crust of the bun but it is chocolate flavour instead.
Cafe Bistro La Marinara
In response to my original dinner plans on Saturday, Lil Sis wondered why I did not plan for a pasta meal. Because … there’s so much to try? But I needed to do what I could to be prepared for the run so I tasked her to find an Italian place since mum didn’t want to to go to Universal near our hotel for fear it was noisy like the night before. Lil Sis turned up La Marinara just a short walk away.
It is a decidedly traditional but casual feel. Apparently their specialties are veal and gnocchi but none of us ordered those items.
We started with the Escargots Beaujolais which included six escargots removed from their shells and sauteed in a rich and creamy wine sauce with mushrooms. It’s the best sauce to soak up with baguette. Lil Sis ordered fettuccine Amatriciana which had a good spicy sauce and the fettuccine is fresh.
Mum ordered the penne Arribiatta which was underwhelming and so under-sauced that Lil Sis shared with her some sauce. I ordered the fettuccine Papalina and should have gone for Alfredo, all the while wondering if I wasn’t shooting myself in the foot. After the Beaujolais sauce, my cream sauce was underwhelming and not at all complex.
La Marinara also sells their sauce in 16- and 32-ounce portions.
More recently, I have gone to afternoon tea with my sister. She suggested it at Chateau Frontenac when we planned our trip to Quebec City and brought it up again at Fairmont Queen Elizabeth when we first talked about going to Montreal. I wasn’t so sure about afternoon tea again but Queen Elizabeth has a Viennese style Kaffee Klatsch in addition to Afternoon Tea set. Further, mum was along for the ride and I haven’t gone for afternoon tea with her for … twenty years?!
I was introduced to the afternoon tea by mum and we went, apparently, in Hong Kong at the Peninsula and (the one I recall better) Landmark. So it was a real treat for mum to go again.
When I made our reservation, they asked how many would order each set and since afternoon tea is more popular, we ordered two of those sets and one Klatsch, of course, to have more variety.
While the Queen Elizabeth is a sleek and modern-looking hotel by its exterior, the dining room is a tad tired and you could tell immediately how the service and touches were going to match the fair (as opposed to luxurious) price tag of the experience. In no time, we noticed the wrinkled tablecloth, lack of attention to an ugly spilt spot of tea and a chip in the serving stand.
The sandwiches that came with the Kaffee Klatsch were beautiful and served up on baguettes. I especially enjoyed the arrangement of the beef and pickles one (except for the presence of a sprig of cilantro hidden amongst the decoration) and the liverwurst pate. The desserts seems to be an eclectic mix and there was overlap with the afternoon desserts in the presence of the strawberry tart and macaron.
We had been enjoying a great deal of food and sweets but I thought I might have the appetite for the whole set but mum was shocked at the amount of food and couldn’t believe someone could finish it and so part of this was packed away and I have not tried it.
The afternoon tea set looks beautiful for there being two sets. I loved the presence of the macarons and eclairs and there was certainly enough scones for them to share with me.