So now I am in Montreal. I love it. It is quirky, friendly, independent in spirit and has a near permanent circus (Cirque du Soleil comes from here and is in a giant circus tent in town). I have seen so many restaurants, a raft of independent shops near my rented flat and hardly a supermarket. This is my kind of city and I am glad I found it.
Montreal is rumoured to have more restaurants per capita than any city in North America. In parts of the down town area and Old Montreal, there are 74.3 restaurants per square kilometre (figures from 2009). A mix of normal every day bistros, delis, cafés and more upmarket restaurants. That is a lot to explore in just a couple of days.
It is quite a challenge but I compiled a list. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hit everything on it as Joe Beef was full and there were no cancellations (but there is a fine reason to come back). I went to their excellent bistro style restaurant Liverpool House instead. So, here are some highlights before I bound out into the day again.
Smoked Brisket Sandwich at Schwartz Deli
Schwartz deli is the deli of legend, with queues every day even in the deep winter snow. The smoked brisket sandwiches are immense and if that isn’t enough, Leonard Cohen lives around the corner and is rumoured to eat there.
Hunks of smoked brisket sit inside the window. It is salted and spiced, cured for a bit, smoked and then steamed. The result is tender flavoursome brisket. The queue was short when I arrived and when I asked what I should order, I was told the smoked brisket sandwich with pickles and a cherry cola. Done. The waiter asked how I liked it, I said medium. Which means medium fat. You need it for the flavour.
How was it? Deserving of the hype, the deli was bustling and fun and the food really delicious.
St Viateur Bagels
My next stop was St Viateur bagels. People travel for miles for these (and also Fairmount Bagels – locals feel very strongly about which they prefer). Arriving at the shop I note bags of flour and an instant smack of amazing hot fluffy bagel smell. A sirens call for a food lover. Inside there was a pile of dough that I wanted to bounce on, bagels pre boiling, post boiling, dipped in sesame seeds, in the oven and then ready for me to eat.
OH MY. I had just had my huge sandwich at Schwartz’s so could only have a bit. I stored the rest in my bag and every time I opened it, it was like a little delicious tickle of my nose that made me want to eat it. I resisted, I had yet more to eat.
Liverpool House is ever the bistro. First impressions were that it was dark, candle lit, and there was lots of wine. The large daily changing menu was in French and written on a big blackboard. My French is rusty, so I almost missed the sweet breads ($16), which were cooked like buffalo wings, crisp and spiced with crudites and dip. Honestly folks, this is a death row dish if ever there was one. The best thing I have eaten in a while, I love twists on perceived dirty foods and this was wonderful.
I couldn’t resist the fiddleheads, as you know I am obsessed, so I ordered the capeletti with fiddleheads and pork ragu (also $16), it was wonderful although I will say it was very difficult to follow those sweetbreads and I should have eaten this first.
For mains, I had to try the onglet, very reasonable at $25 and with a perfect char, almost bark, bright pink inside and tremendously flavoured. They are sourcing their meat very well. It was served with leaves, mash and gravy, all perfect. With the onglet I had a wonderful natural red wine, Roagna, which was as ballsy and flavourful as the steak itself. Recommended by the waiter and a perfect match.
Desert was irresistible maple beignets with smoked cheddar (forgive my terrible French translation!). You can imagine that by this point I am starting to fill up. But these were like crack. WOAH. Such a well priced meal and packed full of flavour, I was very impressed and I need to go back.
A lot of food, eh? I can hardly move today, although it is nothing that a brisk walk can’t sort out.