Le Filet: a new fish restaurant in Montreal

I have a confession to make: I’ve never been to Club Chasse et Pêche! Yes, I know, it’s one of the best restaurants in the city and I still haven’t been, shame on me! It’s on my list though and I will hopefully get there soon but in the meantime, when I heard that Le Filet - CCP’s little brother - was opening soon, I got there asap, on the 4th day after they opened to be more exact.

Le Filet is discreetly (read: hard to find) situated on a stretch of Mont-Royal Avenue one doesn’t normally think of when searching for good eats. It is across the street from Jeanne Mance Park which will be nice in the summer when their terrasse opens. The decor is contemporary with an open kitchen in the back and a built-in aquarium in one of the walls yet the wood chairs and vermilion coloured table cloths lend a touch of old-world charm to the restaurant. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, which is why we put our fate in the hands of our waiter Alex and let him decide on our meal that night. It would’ve been impossible for me to pick only a few items from the menu because everything sounded absolutely delicious! The menu is divided into a few sections: Small Plates, Oysters, Broths & Shellfishes, Mont-Royal Salads, Raw, Warm Tide, Home Made Pasta, Amphibians and For Two People. With the exception of the “For Two People” section, all plates are made small and can be shared “tapas” style.

The plates started coming and kept coming until we decided we’d had enough. In all, we ended up sharing 11 dishes including 2 desserts. I wanted to share my favourites with you but I found myself listing everything we ate so I will refrain and let you drool over the pictures instead (thanks to Nabil for all the photos!)

Mackerel rillette, lemon oil, toast

Beets, crème fraîche and marjoram

Lamb, goat cheese and couscous

Voted one of the best dishes that night: Fluke, Japanese plum, wasabi, cucumber

American Wagyu tataki, ginger, sesame

Grilled octopus, marrow, tomato

Snail tart, mushrooms, bacon, fluffy garlic cream

Half lobster, hollandaise, urchin

Chocolate and cranberry cake

Lemon tart with soft mascarpone cream and meringue

This was an absolutely great meal but I do have a point to raise: it is very hard in Montreal to find a restaurant where the desserts are as good as the rest of the meal. Although the desserts at Le Filet were good, they just weren’t at the same level of perfection as all the other dishes. I am a dessert lover and I find myself often disappointed when the end of the meal approaches. With the exception of Les 400 coups and one or two other restaurants I feel like the dessert menu is always an afterthought. Is it because most restaurants don’t have pastry chefs in their kitchens? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

Le Filet
216 Mont Royal East
514 360 6060

Tuesday-Saturday 5:30pm-11:30pm

Best dessert in Montreal at Les 400 Coups restaurant

To do the 400 “coups” - to get into all kinds of mischief

I had been anticipating the opening of Les 400 coups for a few weeks now. I was especially anticipating tasting some of pastry chef Patrice Demers's desserts. I couldn't get there soon enough so I made reservations for their second day of opening this past Tuesday night.

The restaurant is located on Notre-Dame street in Old Montreal where the old Resident used to be. The space is airy with very high ceiling, a bar on one side and an open kitchen in the back. A huge painting of Nicolas Ruel covers one whole wall of the restaurant. We were greeted by sommelière Marie-Josée Beaudoin - who is one of the 3 owners - seated by the window and of course offered a nice glass of Sauternes. Chef/owner Marc-André Jetté’s menu seemed very interesting and creative but I couldn’t make up my mind and asked the waiter for an omakase-style (up to the chef) appetizer and main meal. A tasting menu is available but we weren’t hungry enough for a 5-course meal.

Jerusalem artichoke soup with buttermilk mousse and bottarga shavings

The first course we got was a Jerusalem artichoke soup with buttermilk mousse and bottarga shavings delivered by Demers himself. This meal was boding well because the soup was absolutely spectacular! 

Yellow beetroot salad with crispy beef marrow, radish, yogurt and yuzu

Beef tartare with mustard ice cream

It was followed by our 2 appetizers: a yellow beetroot salad with crispy beef marrow, radish, yogurt and yuzu and a beef tartare with mustard ice cream. The beetroot salad was so fresh and who knew I would enjoy deep fried beef marrow so much? The tartare could very well be the best beef tartare I’ve ever had! And the mustard ice cream? Absolute genius!

Mackerel with Peking duck raviolis, parsnip purée and brussels sprouts

Black cod with dashi, rock shrimp, oyster mushrooms & green apple/wasabi condiment

Not knowing what to expect adds so much to the dining experience. The element of surprise is like receiving a gift from the kitchen. From where I was sitting I could see Jetté and Demers hard at work in the kitchen and I couldn’t wait to see what they were going to be sending our way. We got the mackerel with Peking duck raviolis, parsnip purée and brussels sprouts and the black cod with dashi, rock shrimp, oyster mushrooms and a green apple/wasabi condiment. Both fishes were cooked to perfection, tender and moist and absolutely scrumptious.

Green: apple, pistachio, olive oil, coriander and creamy white chocolate yogurt

Araguani chocolate mousse

The time had come for my very favourite course of any meal but especially this one, since I was so looking forward to Demers’s desserts. We picked the desserts ourselves and I went for the chef’s signature Green dessert, a mix of apple, pistachio, olive oil, coriander and creamy white chocolate yogurt, absolutely divine! We also tried the Araguani chocolate mousse with pear sorbet, caramelized nuts and sapote which was amazing as well.

One would think that for a chocoholic like me, the choice would be obvious - and it usually is - but I walked out of Les 400 coups seeing the world though green-tinted glasses! I wanted to take a green home but was told it wouldn’t make it. I guess that just means I’m going to have to go back soon.

Les 400 coups
400 Notre Dame East
514 985 0400

Bistro Bienville, convivial haven in the heart of the Plateau

I had been hearing about Bistro Bienville for a few months now. It’s one of my friend Line's favourite restaurants and to tell you the truth, I had been feeling a little bit out of the loop for not having been there yet! After all, it has been open for almost 4 years now! That was remedied to a couple of weeks ago when I finally made it out to the heart of the Plateau, to a quiet residential street where the restaurant is unassumingly taking up a corner spot with a lovely herb garden in front. Upon walking in, I was immediately struck by how tiny the place is; only a few tables and some bar stools, about 25 seats in all.

The rather small menu (4 appetizer choices, 4 mains, a cheese course and 2 desserts) is however packed with very interesting items. These are meant to be shared by 2 people and if there just happens to be 3 of you at the table – as was the case with us – then you can trust your very knowledgeable waiter to direct you in your choices. We decided on 2 appetizers and 2 main courses to be shared by all 3 of us. It was more than enough.

Tomato tart with caramelized onions and Manchego cheese

Pork and clams with sweet potatoes

If you do go - and I strongly recommend that you do - I urge you to please order the tomato tart. It is a simple tart but oh so flavourful, with the sweetness of the caramelized onions, the acidity of the tomatoes and the sharpness of the Manchego all making beautiful music together. Absolutely divine. The pork and clams appetizer, although very well executed, played second fiddle to the tart that I absolutely adored.

Angus beef with Béarnaise sauce

Cornish hen with oyster mushrooms and zucchinis

The main dishes we ordered were the Angus beef with Béarnaise sauce and the Cornish hen. The hen was tender, juicy, the vegetables tasty and the jus very flavourful but my heart went to the melt-in-your-mouth Angus beef! I am not a big meat eater and I usually tend to pick the fish dish when at a restaurant but I couldn’t do that on Friday night because of a fish allergy at our table. So we ended up with the beef. The juicy, tender, tasty beef and the perfect Béarnaise sauce that accompanied it. Let’s just say I was very grateful for my friend’s fish allergy, although I must note that I saw the daily catch served at the next table and it looked beautiful!

Strawberry bagatelle and Valhrona chocolate cream with home-made rice Krispies treats

The two dessert choices ended up at our table. One was chocolate and the other… wasn’t, guess which one was my favourite? :) OK, so I’m biased but this was made with Valhorna! and it included some home made Rice Krispies treats for dipping! Delicious! But to be absolutely honest, the restaurant’s strength lies in the savory dishes. I will be going back to taste that fish!

I love the atmosphere that takes over a restaurant once all the patrons have left. The adrenaline rush is gone, the stress levels have dropped and there’s a camaraderie among the staff that only restaurant workers share. We were privy to that camaraderie on that night since we were the last table there. But what struck me most is how truly “convivial” Bistro Bienville is. The 3 synonyms I found for “convivial” in the dictionary are:

  1. friendly; agreeable: a convivial atmosphere.
  2. fond of feasting, drinking, and merry company; jovial.
  3. of or befitting a feast; festive.

All 3 are perfect fits for this lovely little place…

Bistro Bienville
4650 de Mentana, Plateau Mont-Royal
514 509 1249

Tuesday to Saturday: 5:30pm to 10pm

The best hamburger in Montreal at Tagada Bistro

I am feeling very lucky today because I have had an excellent few days of eating. In the past four days I have eaten at Bistro Bienville (post coming soon!), had dinner at Bistro Isakaya (and fell in love with the food there!) and today I had the pleasure of lunching in the sun at Tagada Bistro. It’s a new little place that just opened not far from where I work, with a cute and sunny little terrace. I have been intrigued by the construction that’s been going on in there for a few weeks now and was looking forward to the opening. Patricio, the charming owner of this little gem, is no stranger to the restaurant business since his family owns La Hacienda, my favourite Mexican restaurant in town and located about a block away from this new place. For those of you who don’t know, Tagada is a very widely sold candy in France, invented by the same company that invented the gummi bears. It’s made to look like a strawberry, has a very specific scent and is covered in hot pink sugar. It is not hard to see that the Tagada candy was the direct inspiration for the decor, which is white, clean and airy with bright bursts of hot pink. Very charming but is the food good?

Patricio, the charming owner of Bistro Tagada

Tagada has a lunch menu consisting of 2 appetizers and 4 main courses. We ordered both appetizers, a lentil salad with arugula and Parmesan cheese and a gazpacho. Both were perfect. The lentils in the salad had a nice bite, was mixed with finely minced french shallots and perfectly seasoned. As for the gazpacho, it was just what I was craving on this sunny day, refreshing and well seasoned, served with a dollop of sour cream.

The lentil, arugula and parmesan salad

For our mains, we ordered the beef tartare and the salmon tartare but then quickly changed our minds when we saw the burger plate go by! There was no way we were going to let such a beauty go by so the burger it was then for my dining companion while I held on to my order of salmon tartare. It arrived with a side of perfectly seasoned croutons and some sour cream. I could taste the freshness and fattiness of the fish mixed with some dill and chives, tangy but not overly seasoned, just the way I like it.

Salmon tartare

However, what I have written so far in this post were the preliminaries to this burger I am about to describe. I think the search for the best burger in Montreal can now stop because this, my friends, is it! It starts with 200 grams of Tagada’s secret mix of best quality minced meat topped with a generous portion of 6-hour braised short ribs meat, sautéed oyster mushrooms, tomatoes, home-made spicy ketchup and Parmesan cheese, served in a slightly sweet bun with a side of red cabbage and lardons coleslaw as well as new potatoes fried in duck fat. Are you salivating yet? Have you fallen off your chair? It was absolutely scrumptious! The only thing I kept thinking of is how close to the office this place is and how dangerous for my health that could be!

The Tagada burger: the best burger in Montreal

But that didn’t deter me from asking about the desserts, which included basmati rice pudding with caramelized peaches and, of course! a strawberry-flavoured pot de crème topped with Tagada jello and served with slightly roasted Tagada candy! It all tasted very… electric pink and made me feel like a kid in a candy store!

Electric pink Tagada pot de crème

So, do you see now why I am feeling very lucky today? And as if all that wasn’t enough, Tagada is offering free foie gras sampling upon request, so request away! 

In addition to their regular menu, the bistro offers daily Tagada menu surprises for lunch and dinner. The young team is extremely charming and talented and I can’t wait to go back soon to check out some of the surprises and maybe get another burger? How much is the daily recommendation of a burger topped with short ribs anyway? :)

Bistro Tagada
1199 Van Horne, Outremont
438 380 5858 (don’t be afraid, it’s just the new Montreal area code!)

Tuesday to Saturday: dinner
Thursday & Friday: lunch and dinner