Saturday, June 30, 2012

La Dépense (Montréal, QC)

7070 avenue Henri-Julien
Montréal, QC

Elle has been raving about the accras and bahji at La Dépense in the Jean Talon market. Unfortunately, they only offer the fried treats during the warmer months and so I was only able to try them in May. La Dépense is a specialty spice store in the market. Elle gifted me with six different spice blends one year. The package also came with a little recipe booklet and I made very good corn and shrimp fritters.

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La Dépense.

A sign on a table outside right outside the store announces that hot bahjis and accras are back. You have to head into the store, and your order is taken at the cash. One portion is $3.

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After you pay, the cashier gives you a token and you head to the back where all the magic happens.

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Bahji token.

We decided to order the bahjis, which are made with carrots, leeks and lentil flour.

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You can then head back outside where there is a variety of sauces to eat your bhajis with.

Bhaji close up. 

They're a perfect treat after doing your shopping at the market. Next time you visit Jean Talon market, make sure to leave some room for some fried treats!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tasso Bar à Mezze (Montréal, QC)

3829 Rue St-Denis
Montréal, Québec

My sister Elle has been crazy about online group coupons: Groupon, Living Social, etc. This time it was a $69 tasting menu at Tasso on Tuango. Elle purchased the coupon for her and her hubby, but a few days before the coupon was to expire, and her hubby still in Iceland, I got to taste the 7 services menu instead. I neglectfully brought my camera without a memory card, so all pics were taken with Elle's i-phone.

Tasso Bar à Mezze, located in the Plateau Mont Royal neighbourhood, specialises in seafood and small plate mezzes. The restaurant has a Mediterranean by the sea vibe. We were served complimentary grilled bread with olive oil to dip, bonus points for the nice char on the slices. Then came out the amuse bouche; the first was smoked mackerel and rémoulade and the second one was sea urchin and beets. Nice start to our seafood meal.

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Complementary bread and amuse bouche.

The server explained to us that there were going to be five courses, mainly focused on seafood and meat at the end. The mezzes came out in pairs. Somehow, Elle understood that there were 5 dishes in total and convinced me of this. It was only halfway through our meal when we thought we were near the end that we realized there were still more dishes to come, for a total of 10 mezzes to share.

The first course consisted of a tartar of plaice and a shrimp salad over a chilled cucumber soup. Elle loves all fish or seafood tartars and this one with shaved fennel served on a cracker was no exception. We both thought the perfectly cooked shrimp salad was well seasoned, and a good combination with the fresh cucumber soup.

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First course: tartar and shrimp salad.

The second courses were two similar fish dishes. One was a grilled porgy served with beans. I really liked the combination of creamy beans with fish. The second was a pan seared fish with cauliflower.

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Second course: grilled and pan seared fish.

The third course included grilled sardines with a mackerel potato salad. Our absolutely favourite dish of the meal was a fried red-skinned fish on top of a polenta cake. It was one of the best polenta I ever had because it was creamy and smooth. When I asked the server what was in the polenta, he laughed and said polenta. I specified that it tasted like there was cream and eggs possibly, to which he replied he would check in the kitchen. He came back and said my guesses were spot on. This is good to know for the next time I attempt polenta.

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Third course: grilled sardines and fish on polenta cake.

The fourth course consisted of cedar plank roasted black cod on a risotto croquette with eggplant caviar. The black cod was good but the dish was too similar to the previous fish on polenta cake. The accompanying mezze was clam chowder originally combined with braised pork, which added a smokey dimension to the chowder, and fingerling potatoes. I appreciated the fresh clams used.

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Fourth course: black cod with risotto cake and clam chowder.

The final course focused on meat. Unfortunately, we were so focused on the challenge of finishing our meal like champs that we forgot to take pictures. The meat mezzes were braised duck and date purée in a phyllo pastry, and a smoked quail served with cabbage and squash.

Finally, the dessert course were a squash cake with caramelized apple purée toopped with cream cheese frosting and a flourless chocolate cake with orange marmalade and white chocolate frosting. Both desserts were a solid end to our meal.

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Elle and I really enjoyed our meal at Tasso. The service was a bit funny with the server laughing at my polenta question, and having too ask multiple times for a spoon, and then a second spoon, even though we were clearly sharing our mezzes; but the food made up for it. Although the coupon was a good deal ($69 for a $152 value), it was still an expensive meal after the drinks, taxes and tip (on the whole value). So I would save this for a special occasion outing.

Tasso bar à mezze on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 25, 2012

Le Valois (Montréal, QC)

25 Simon Valois Place
Montréal, Québec

After my tennis match with MC on a Sunday morning, we grabbed breakfast at Le Valois in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood. The HoMa neighbourhood had sparked my interest when I read about ArHoMa on Lake Jane. Le Valois also happened to be in Place Valois. We were nicely surprised that it offered a beautiful terrace so we could enjoy breakfast outside.

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 Terrasse at Le Valois.

After our workout, we both enthusiastically ordered a fresh juice to hydrate ourselves. The Elixir ($4.95), a blend of mango, orange juice and strawberry juice was quite refreshing. We also noticed other patrons ordering sangria, maybe an idea for next time.

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 The refreshing Elixir juice.

MC was intrigued by the croquette de chèvre, served with a beet sauce ($9.50). While she enjoyed the fried croquette of goat cheese, she was disappointed by the small portion. It would have been nice if it had come with a more filling salad, or a piece of bread.

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 Croquette de chèvre.

I ordered the Spécial du Valois ($8.95), which consisted of 2 eggs, sausage, bacon, a baguette and potatoes. I had assumed correctly that “oeufs miroir” meant sunny side up. Good to know for next time as I don’t like my eggs that runny. The special was quite enough to fill me up, having both bacon and sausage on the dish. My favourite part was the pommes de terre rissolées; they were well cooked, well seasoned with a good amount of onion.

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  Spécial du Valois.

Le Valois is a good place for breakfast, especially if you’re looking to sit on a terrace on a sunny morning. They also offer a late dinner special that would be nice to check out one day. Place Valois seems to have a lot offer when it comes to food. I’ll just have to come back to check out ArHoma another time (and fine sausages at William J. Walter).

P.S. this post is my first post using my i-phone and Instagram for pictures. This might be my preferred means of taking pics as it is much more convenient than carrying a camera all the time!

Le Valois on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sain Bol (Montréal, QC)

5095 rue Fabre
Montréal, Québec

As mentioned previously, brunch seems like the quintessential weekend activity here in Montréal. The blog Montreal Breakfast Review even focuses on brunch and breakfast only in Montréal! This time, our friend E picked Sain Bol, in the east end of town, to meet up for brunch with Elle, Em and J.

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Upon coming in, we were served complementary chai tea with almond milk. Not only was it a nice way to warm up to the rather still chilly spring air, the almond milk was a great compliment to the chai – I did not miss coffee at all. It was also nice that they refilled our mugs for free. We all thought the little crushed mugs too cute.

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Sain Bol offers a small menu, that offers both savoury and sweet items. I ordered the combo ($14.95) that allowed me to taste nearly the whole menu (except for the grilled cheese) in small portions. While I appreciated that the gravlax was homemade, everyone who ordered the salmon thought it was too strong; it might have helped if the gravlax had been sliced a bit more thinly. I did really like the accompanying olive focaccia. I loved the yogurt parfait; it had pieces of honeycomb that added a nice sweetness against the tart yogurt. Finally, the goat cheese omelette with Portobello mushrooms was topped with fresh sprouts.

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Combo: gravlax with olive focaccia, yogurt and omelette.

The French toast came in a perfectly sized small portion to end the brunch on a sweet note. It was topped with pineapple and plums.

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French toast.

Everyone else got an item from the menu as individual portions: gravlax on focaccia ($12.95) and the French toast ($10.95).

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Individual size gravlax with a side salad.

If you’re looking for a small local place for brunch, that is vegetarian and vegan friendly, Sain Bol is a great place to check out. Sain Bol is a small place, so call for a reservation if you want a table and note that they only accept cash.

Sain Bol on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tuck Shop (Montréal, QC)

4662 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest
Montréal, Québec

My sweet agent and friend MJ invited me out for dinner to celebrate the purchase of my new condo in Montréal. MJ suggested Tuck Shop and snagged us last minute seats at the bar for dinner. Tuck Shop is a bistro style restaurant located in the Sud Ouest neighbourhood.


Our bartender/server enticed us with a fish taco as the starter of the day. Unfortunately, when we ordered, they ran out of fish, so the fish was replaced with deep fried buffalo mozzarella. The outside was fried to a golden crisp, while the cheese was still oozing and exhibited stringy mozzarella properties. The taco was also filled with guacamole, beans and fresh lettuce which helped balance out the fried cheese, and made for a great starter.


For a main, MJ ordered the Boston Cod ($32), served with new potatoes, asparagus and fiddleheads. She really enjoyed her dish. When she accidentally knocked her wine glass into her dish, the server was sweet enough to quickly take the dish back into the kitchen and clean it up.


I ordered the fresh crab from Gaspésie ($35), served with asparagus, fiddleheads and sautéed mushrooms. The crab mixture was served into the crab shell, which made it easy to eat, although I did struggle with the crab claw that was served. The crab mixture was very good and I quite enjoyed the mushrooms. My small complaint is that the portion of vegetables seemed small. This seemed like the perfect "girly" dish, with no carbs in sight. I longingly looked at the steak dishes served with a massive amount of frites.


Tuck Shop is a gem in the Sud Ouest neighbourhood. I loved the bistro ambiance. The menu seems to change regularly to accommodate seasonal ingredients, so this would guarantee variety whenever you visit.

Tuck Shop on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Nonya (Montréal, QC)

151 Rue Bernard Ouest
Montréal, Québec

Elle and I decided to treat our mother for her birthday and gave her a few choices. She decided to try Indonesian, and so we headed out to Nonya, Montréal's only Indonesian restaurant in Mile End. My mom and I ordered the table d'hôte ($29) that included an appetizer, main and a dessert, while Elle and H ordered the tasting menu for $40 each (2 people minimum required to order the tasting menu).

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We were served complimentary roasted peanuts with deep fried garlic slices that imbued the peanuts with flavour.

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For an appetizer, I ordered the lumpia goreng, Indonesia's version of spring rolls which were nice and crispy. I did really like the side of simply pickled cucumbers and the accompanying dipping sauce. My mom ordered the laksa, which was topped with a large shrimp and a quail egg. Other appetizers that were part of the tasting menu included a gado-gado salad and a potato kroket, filled with ground beef. I loved the kroket's presentation with the fried basil leaves on top, which made it look like a pear.

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A dish consisting of udang mangga, which are grilled shrimps and sate kambing, grilled lamb brochettes, was also part of the large tasting menu .

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Some side dishes brought out for the tasting menu, that were also part of the main dishes, were gule tahu (tofu in yellow sauce), eggplant slices in a tomato sauce and tempe bacem, as well as (Elle: crack-like addictive) sticky peanuts in a fish sauce and a shrimp cracker. The peanuts reminded my mother of ones her mother served her back in Vietnam.

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My main dish was the bebek bengil, which consisted of Balinese style duck, served with coconut and curcumin rice and a side of chayote. It was nice to have vegetables in the chayote, but they were on the salty side.

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My mom ordered the grilled cornish hen in red curry sauce and she thoroughly enjoyed the flavours of the cornish hen.

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For dessert, we had a choice of black rice pudding or pandan flavoured crème brûlée. My mom really digged the black rice pudding in coconut while I quite enjoyed the pandan flavour in the crème brûlée.  The dessert plate on the tasting menu also included homemade mango ice cream.

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If you want to try different dishes, the tasting menu is a great way to go. However, there were enough components in the table d'hôte that made me feel like I tried an array of food. This is a great place to try out Indonesian for the first time. There were definitely flavours that were reminiscent of other Asian cuisines, but it also was unique enough to feel like I was trying something new!

 Nonya on Urbanspoon