Text

Best tuna sandwich in Montréal, Canada

When I first walked into Exception 2 Mk, all the staff saw me. But no one greeted me, and no one quite cared I was there. Fair enough. The cafe was busy, busy, busy. 

I ended up going to the counter and ordering my food. Pretty bad for a full service cafe. After ordering, I took a seat at one of them bar tables. There were dirty dishes on my right and left. And that’s where they would stay for the full half an hour I would spend here.

I must say, I wasn’t impressed by the lacklustre service or the fact that no one really seemed interested in my business. But such is life.

After a ten minute wait, my baguette arrived. Spicy tuna salad with tomatoes, lettuce on a multigrain baguette.

I’m really really hard to please when it comes to tuna, and this is one of the best tuna sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life. 

It was so good that a week later, I still remember the flavours in my mouth. 

I’ll be back.

Hopefully next time I’ll bother to leave a tip. 

Exception 2 Mk on Urbanspoon

Quote
"Palaces have always fascinated me, even a gloom-filled structure like my father’s that was a fitting carapace for his vengeful obsession. For isn’t that what our homes are ultimately, our fantasies made corporeal, our secret selves exposed? The converse is also true: we grow to become that which we live within. That was one of the reasons why I longed to escape my father’s walls. (But-unknown to me-by the time I left, it was too late. The creed he lived by was already stamped onto my soul.) Often I imagined my own palace, the one I would build someday. What would it be made of? What form would it take?"

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Text

Best dim sum in Montreal, Canada

I get cravings. I can’t help it. And on Sunday afternoon, I had a craving for dim sum. It’s hard to find places that do it right. 

Enter Sai Gwan. It’s not the best food I’ve ever had, but it is the best dim sum I’ve found in Montreal to date. Seemingly family-run and operated, the young lady who served us spoke Cantonese, Mandarin, French and English - pretty amazing, huh. 

The noodles were on the salty side for me, but yes, all of the dishes were good. I really have no other complaints. 

The next time I get a craving, I’ll definitely be back. 

P.S. Cash only. 

Sai Gwan on Urbanspoon

Text

A hidden gem in Montreal, Canada

Woah, woah, woah…. Are you telling me that this restaurant is only a ten minute walk away from chez moi? How come I didn’t know about it? I’ll tell you why. It looks like a dodgy hole in the wall restaurant from the outside. But after reading a few great reviews, I thought…hey, why not?

I was a little surprised when I first walked in. The decor is actually kind of nice. I was expecting a slightly wet floor, sticky tables and cash only kind of place. But Mei Restaurant is nothing like that. The ambience is warm, cozy and casual. The gentleman who served us was a wee bit shy, but still polite, friendly and patiently answered all our questions about items on the menu.

First up, we had a soy meat sandwich. My partner in crime wasn’t really pleased when I ordered this, but he was pleasantly surprised once he started chewing. Crispy bread, mocked meat that tastes like pulled pork, and just good old fashioned deliciousness. The portion is kind of small, so it’s a perfect appetiser. 

The second dish that arrived was the lamb soup with homemade noodles. I liked the handmade noodles, but the soup itself just didn’t do it for me. It’s got quite a strong flavour and is an acquired taste that’s just not for everybody. 

Next up came the sichuan beef noodles, a cold dish. When I saw sichuan, I expected something crazy spicy, but it isn’t. It’s kind of tangy, zesty, sweet and peanut-y thing. I don’t really like hard-boiled eggs, but the one that came with this dish was mmm mmm mmm. I preferred this to the lamb noodle. 

And then came the pork dumplings. Homemade, too. On the way to the restroom, I saw a couple (presumably husband and wife) making it swiftly and skilfully. You should have seen it. But even if you don’t, you should still try these dumplings. Not the best I’ve ever had, but if you have a craving, it’ll fix you up nice and good,

And then we had what is in my opinion the best dish at Mei Restaurant. Chicken and lamb skewers. I preferred the chicken. Oh good grief could I feel the happy explosion spices, grilled meat and freshness in my mouth. Love it! The lamb was good, too, but some pieces were a bit too fatty for my liking.

For dessert, I had the barbecued marshmallow, which presented itself like a biscuit sandwich.

All in all, it was a great meal. Food is not salty (no msg, hooray!) and the restaurant does have a family-run kind of vibe. Decent prices, and generous portions. 

I’ll be back. 

Mei Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Text

Opening Review of Beauty and the Beef in downtown Montréal

I finally got to meet downtown Montréal’s new kid on the block. I’ve been walking past this restaurant for weeks and waiting oh so patiently for the day that its doors open for business. I’ve been a meat lover for as long as I can remember, and there’s something about the name of this restaurant that conjures up a delicious happy image of juicy meat in my belly. 

This evening, I finally had a meal at La Belle et La Boeuf

This establishment is still working out some of the kinks in terms of its liquor license, so there’s no drinking if you sit outside. But no big deal, I was here for the food anyway. Oh, and if you’re dining with kids, you have to leave by 8pm. I don’t have kids so… 

The gentleman who served us was friendly, warm, and kind of funny; but admittedly it was a bit hard to get his attention to take our order. We waited around 20 minutes. 

But once he took our order, the food arrived promptly. For starters, my partner in crime and I shared the queso cheese sticks which came with a side of jalepeño sauce. 

image

It is a crime for something to be so delicious, so satisfying and so good. I think these are probably the best cheese sticks I’ve ever had in my life. I was hungry when I arrived here and I was even hungrier after this appetiser. 

For mains I ordered the mushroom burger which came with swiss cheese, shallot sautéed with Parisian mushrooms, caramelised onions and wine sauce.

And then it arrived. An eight ounce patty accompanied with a towering happy mess of madness.

Just look at that. 

image

It probably goes without saying but you better show up starving cause the portions at this restaurant are HUGE. I thoroughly enjoyed my burger, but I was kind of sad that I couldn’t finish it. 

My partner in crime ordered the Captain Flam on the waiters suggestion. It came with: monterey jack cheese, smoked bacon, caramelised onions and spicy mayo. 

image

It was really tasty - the spicy pink mayo sauce is real good. My partner in crime also switched his regular fries for sweet potato fries (a dollar extra, I think). I’m not a big fan of bacon, so I preferred my mushroom burger, but my partner in crime said his burger was AMAZING.

He didn’t manage to finish his meal either. 

Nevertheless, we were peckish and ready for a sweet finish twenty minutes later. But I just couldn’t find our waiter. By the time he finally came around to ask us for dessert, it was too late, and we had to leave to go meet someone. 

All in all, it was a great experience. La Belle et la Boeuf is still working out some of its opening operational kinks, but other than that… It was all good. 

The food itself was amazing.

I’ll definitely be back. 

La Belle Et la Boeuf Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Text

Food Review, Les 3 Brasseurs in Montréal, Canada

The first time I came to Les 3 Brasseurs some six months ago, I wasn’t impressed. I ordered the lamb shank and it was tasteless and undercooked. The service was horrendous, too.

I’ve walked past the microbrewery several times since and was always surprised at the crowd the restaurant manages to pull.

So I decided to try it out again. I probably missed something on my last visit. 

It took around 15 minutes for the waitress to come and ask us for drinks. A bit of a long wait, but when she did arrive, her recommendations were spot on. 

I ordered a beer cocktail called white banana which is essentially a white beer with banana liqueur. 

I couldn’t tell that it was a cocktail, but it was nice…

On the waitress’ recommendation, we decided on the calamari platter. I must say, I was pretty impressed. The batter was surprisingly not as oily as I expected it to be. 

But the star dish was the Venetian flammekueches. Described in the menu as ‘an artisanal flat bread tarte developed in the Alsatian region of France’. It’s kind of like a pizza.  

Like pizzas, the flammekueches come with a variety of toppings. The Venetian, which we ordered, came with tomatoes, crushed hot peppers, prosciuttos, capicollo, roasted peppers, red onions, Kalamata olives and mozzarella cheese. 

It was really good. Hit a spot somewhere….

And for a sweet finish, I ordered the caramel waffle with ice cream.

Small, decadent and divine.

All in all, the food at this microbrewery isn’t really all that special. It’s one of those places that has a fun and chilled out atmosphere, making it a great place to hang out with friends. The food’s good, but nothing to write home about.

But I think I’ll be back.

Les 3 Brasseurs on Urbanspoon

Text

Carifiesta 2014 in Montréal, Canada

I was listening to one of Eckhart Tolle’s lecturers when I heard a knock on the door. Confused, I went to see who it was. I squinted one eye and peered through the peephole. 

There was a man there. Tall, dark….and….half-naked. 

Who is this muscular guy and what does he think he’s doing half-naked at my door? Is this someone’s idea of a joke? Am I in danger? What’s going on? Is that a male stripper? Why is he here at noon?

I stood there, frozen. As a female home alone, there was no way I was going to open the door. The stranger realises this. He rolls his eyes and walks away.

Relieved, I continue watching Eckhart’s lecture, secretly praying that he doesn’t return. 

My partner in crime returns home 10 minutes later and tells me that Carifiesta is going on outside. 

Cari-what?

A quick change of clothes later, I’m on Rue Sainte-Catherine, where just about everyone is half-naked. They’re dancing, singing and having a ball. 

Established in 1974, the event is coordinated by the Caribbean Cultural Festivities Association to celebrate Montreal’s Caribbean community. 

The gentleman who knocked on my door was probably trying to gather people for the parade.

I wonder what would have happened if I’d opened the door.

I can only wonder…

Text

Authentic South Indian Food at Thanjai in Montréal, Canada

Whenever a lot of people think about Indian food, they seem to inevitably reach for the butter chicken. I consider it more of an Indian diaspora dish. I never order it. And I never let anyone else order it either.

I am always on the prowl for a good Indian restaurant. After a raving recommendation from an acquaintance of mine, off I went to Thanjai

Friday night, 7.30pm.

The restaurant was half empty when I first arrived, but it quickly filled up and before I knew it there was a queue at the door. I was assaulted by the scent of a happy mix of familiar spices the moment I walked in. 

Thanjai’s menu largely consists of South Indian favourites like dosa, with a variety of different (and interesting) fillings, as well as biriyani and kothu parotha.

The speciality of this place is a six feet paper dosai. Imagine a dosa the size of a tall friend of yours. The TVs at this restaurant show how the chefs make this tall dish. Pretty crazy stuff. 

So I ordered samosas as a starter.

Piping hot, fresh, delicious, satisfying. They didn’t have mint chutney, much to my dismay. But other than that, it was all good. 

And then came the chicken kothu parotha, which the menu describes as chopped parotha with chicken vegetables, eggs and a spicy gravy. (Lamb, egg, vegetable options available.)

I must say, I don’t think I’ve ever had anything like it. The spices tasted familiar, but the dish itself was really something unique. I ordered the medium spice level; and that prompted my partner in crime to order a lassi.

I didn’t think it was that hot, but everyone is different. 

And then arrived the dish I came to this restaurant for. 

Paper dosa!

A childhood favourite of mine. I’d make it at home, but it’s just not the same. I hadn’t had it in ages, but the moment the dosa touched my lips it felt like the most ordinary experience. 

I loved it.

All in all, great food, good service, nice ambience and reasonable prices.

I’ll be back real soon.

Thanjai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Text

Refined Burgers at Burger Bar Crescent in Montréal

Whenever I think of a burger, there’s always one thing that comes to my mind. 

Grease.

As much as I love burgers, I don’t love grease. I don’t like that heavy, guilty, gross feeling that comes after consuming a burger with far too much fat, cheese and oil.

Enter Burger Bar Crescent

First impression: sticky table with crumbs. C’mon guys, you can do better.

After my initial irritation, I noticed that the restaurant has a lively and chilled out ambience. Perfect place to hang out with friends. 

I wanted to order the Firestorm burger, described in the menu as ‘AAA beef patty, spicy 911 sauce, banana peppers, spicy mayonnaise, tomato, jalapeno Havarti cheese, jalapeno relish’. 

The waitress who took my order talked me out of it by saying it’s ‘very spicy’ over and over again. She was also kind of impatient and rushed me into making a decision. She didn’t ask how we’d like our burgers (rare, medium etc). Maybe it’s restaurant policy not to, or maybe it was just her.

Who knows?

I ended up ordering the Mr Personality with Cheese: AAA beef patty, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion.

A minute after ordering it, a table next to me ordered the Firestorm, and boy did it smell good. I wound up with a horrible case of food envy. I tried to change my order, but the impatient waitress wouldn’t let me. 

Such is life. 

My partner in crime ordered the Bacon Royale with Cheese

The burgers were delicious. Not the best I’ve ever had, but they were good. 

Not greasy, not gross, and made with good quality ingredients. Good portions, but not particularly big. 

We also ordered a small side of sweet potato fries, which were GREAT.

Thankfully, we got another waitress at this point, and she was really friendly and fun. 

Good food. I’d be back here. But hopefully I don’t have to deal with the impatient lady again. 

And can I please get the Firestorm next time?

Burger Bar Crescent on Urbanspoon

Text

Writing those metaphors

I’m currently reading David Gerrold’s Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy

He says:

A metaphor is a one-sentence fantasy. It assigns lifelike or magical qualities to ordinary objects. Metaphor and fantasy are bedfellows-and many fantasies are intended as metaphors; George Orwell’s Animal Farm is the best example.

Be careful with metaphors. Don’t overuse metaphors. Sometimes they take on lives of their own and run away with your best intentions, turning your story into something that is neither fish nor fowl, that neither swims nor flies but flaps helplessly around, splashing and quacking, and leaves the reader shaking his head and wondering what kind of beast the author is trying to manage.

If a simile is garlic, then a metaphor is chilli powder. Enhance the story, don’t overwhelm it.

In real life and in writing, I am really fond of chilli powder.

Text

Overrated splendour at Joverse Bar-Cuisine in Montréal

Joverse Bar-Cuisine seems to be really popular, although I can’t work out why. The whole idea of coming to one of these places is to have small portions of overpriced food with drinks. 

There was nothing particularly wrong with my visit here. The waitress was friendly, the chicken karage we ordered was perfectly tasty, and the drinks were good, too. 

*Small portion alert!*

There was just nothing particularly special about this experience. Nestled in Old Montréal, I expected this place to have a little more character.

But that’s just me. 

All in all, it was good, just not that good. I won’t be back. 

image

image

Joverse Bar-Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Quote
"The job of the storyteller is to put the hero up a tree and then throw rocks at him. Surround the tree with rabid wolves. Light it on fire. Put a helicopter above with bad guys firing laser-sighted explosive rounds. Have an earthquake. The volcano blows up. Drop an asteroid on the planet. Aliens invade. And the tree has Dutch elm disease. If you’re doing fantasy, put the hero up on a tree, surround it with werewolves and put dragons in the sky. And the family curse is turning him into a frog. Meanwhile the druid who lives in the tree is having her period… Whatever it takes."

World Wonder: How to write Science Fiction & Fantasy by David Gerrold

Text

Eating Out in Mauricie, Québec in Canada

Eating out in the countryside, no matter where you are, has always been, in my experience, a tricky business. But when you’re on holiday, you don’t really feel like cooking either. Well, at least I don’t. 

Food in the countryside is also often fresher, tastier and just different to a lot of the stuff we get in the city. 

Upon arrival in Mauricie, my partner in crime and I drove around for a while - got lost a lot and then finally decided on:

1. Restaurant Toit Rouge

1011 Chemin. St. Francois, St. Mathieu-Du-Parc, Québec, Canada

Tel: 819-532-1919

The restaurant bills itself as ‘the last restaurant before the park’, and you better take their word on it (or find out for yourself, although I don’t recommend it).

The decor is cute and quaint. The restaurant’s got a fairly typical menu of pizzas, pastas, poutine, sandwiches etc etc. 

Generous portions. Fresh food. Reasonable price. 

image

image

2. Auberge Refuge du Trappeur 

2120, Chemin St-François, Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc, Mauricie, Québec, Canada, G0X 1N0

Tél: 819 532-2600

Hostel, Native American museum, restaurant, and meeting point for bear-watching; all under one roof. My partner in crime and I ended up at this restaurant for dinner two nights in a row since it’s one of the few places in town that’s open late.

The menu was scribbled on a whiteboard so I’m assuming it changes seasonally. This restaurant also serves more ‘exotic’ options like elk and quail stuffed with wild meats. 

Pictured below is the soup of the day: Amerindian Soup. I’ve never had anything like it - but it was really hearty, full of corn, beans and little pieces of meat. 

image

On the first day, I had the dory with rice and salad, and on the second day and I had the trout. I preferred the dory. I also really loved the rice that comes with it, and the salad dressing was surprisingly good. 

image

image

On the first day, my partner in crime ordered the quail stuffed with wild meats, which was divine; and on the second day he ordered the elk. We both preferred the quail. 

image

image

For dessert on both days we had the maple mousse cake for a fluffy and sweet finish.

image

The food is pretty pricey, but delicious, nutritious and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The chef even came out to ask us what we thought of his cooking.

Rare, but hey…!

3. The Cafe at Le Roin Coin 

340, rue Saint-Louis, Saint-Élie-de-Caxton, Québec, Canada G0X 2N0

Tel: (819) 221-3332

This cafe is perfect for a light lunch. It’s also got one of the the cutest, loveliest and sweetest decors I’ve seen in my life. I would have been happy to just sit there and stare at all the paintings everywhere, but luckily they serve food, too. 

image

The menu consists of breads and cheeses - which you choose and then they grill for you. You get to pick your choice of side. 

image

image

Delicious and easy on the wallet.

After all that glorious food and rejuvenation, it was time to drive back to Montréal. 

Boo hoo!

Text

Mama’s cooking at Gracia Afrika in Montréal, Canada

I’m always on the look out for cuisines that are unusual (to me). I found out about Gracia Afrika a couple of weeks back when I was looking for African cuisine in Montréal. It’s probably not as rare as I think it is, but I don’t know of very many around the downtown area. 

Anyways, I make a reservation for two for 7.30pm. It wasn’t really necessary, the restaurant was mostly empty. A motherly lady with a big smile escorts me to my table.

The menu is written on a chalk board. Chicken, goat & fish prepared in a variety of ways and served with rice, plantains and salad. The motherly lady with the big smile tells me that the food is Creole - a mix of Congolese and South American. 

Sure, why not?

The service is kind of laid back. It is a family-owned and -run restaurant, so although everyone is really friendly, it took some time for them to take our order and serve us. There was a gentleman on the next table who was really annoyed about this - but too bad! You can’t ask for the manager!

We arrived at 7.30, they took our order at 8, and we ate our mains around 9pm. 

So be prepared to wait! It’s BYOB, so do bring some wine. I didn’t. 

For starters, we had the samosas. Served with a side of hot sauce. Hot sauce usually makes me very happy. 

image

image

It really reminded me of my mother’s cooking. 

For mains, we had: goat with gravy and chicken with peanut sauce

image

image

Both dishes were good, but I preferred the goat - probably cause it was unique, tender and I loved the gravy.

The rice tasted strongly of cloves, so if you don’t like that kind of thing, I’m not sure what else you’ll be able to eat here. 

Anyways, all in all, a great meal. I’d be back here, but I’d bring a crossword puzzle and a bottle of wine.

So long!

Gracia Afrika on Urbanspoon

Quote
"All we wanted was to work again, to be on the road again, away from all the problems, all the failures, all the messed-up relationships. We just wanted to get away from our miserable attempts at propping up falling lives, away from the dehydrating boredom of the daily round in this inferno that we call the modern world. We were just glad of anything, and if it meant going to some place called Arcadia, then so be it."

— Ben Okri’s In Arcadia.