***The team of Kitchen Galerie has opened a Mediterranean bistrot called Briz. Those folks do deliver some of the most delicious and better executed bistrot food in town, so I am looking forward to try their new establishment which has Chef Fabrizia Rollo at the helm. Briz, , 6950, rue St-Denis ***I recently tried three Indian restaurants in “Little India” (the area around Parc Extension): Indian Curry house, Flavour of India, as well as Bombay Mahal, which I have just listed in order of preferred to less preferred eatery. For my taste, Indian curry house had the most delicious sauces, the nan bread having also the edge for its enticing tandoor oven flavor. Nothing wrong at all with Flavour of India, I just found ICH to deliver flavors that are a tad more eventful. Bombay Mahal was just ok, for me, though certainly better than some of the Indian restaurants that are outside the Little India area. By now, I have also tried Malhi sweets (which I found to be surprisingly pricey for what I get….surprising as Little India features, usually, very affordable Indian food – it is not hard to find as good, if not better Indian food, at a better cost performance, in Montreal), as well as India Beau Village (the food generally reliable, though, perhaps, a tad behind ICH in terms of the mouthfeel excitement, at least for my taste and I,at times, found their sauces to taste pretty much the same regardless of the featured protein element – still, great cost performance,here, and one preferred Indian eatery for sure ). Little India’s Indian eateries make some of the Indian restaurants of the rest of Montreal pass as amply overrated (except for nice little findings like Thali near the Mc Gill ghetto – I also heard that Sahib in Pointe-Claire was good but I have never tried it).
***In Laval, I did try a Haitian casse-croute called Wilou express (3278 Boulevard Saint-Martin O, Laval, 450 934-4666 ). Haitian food is well represented in Montreal and its surroundings, since the Haitian community is one of Montreal’s most important ones, so those familiar with Haitian food know exactly what to expect. Having spent 15 years enjoying it in all its mom and pops renditions, I certainly know what I need to expect. There are below average Haitian casse croute here, but Haitians themselves will tell you that the few great ones are as good as on their own land. Wilou Express has a lovely owner, but I need to visit the place again as, based on my sole visit at his casse-croute, the pork meat was way too dry to be enjoyable, the accompanying sauce needed to dazzle a bit more (as it is the case with its better versions at some other Haitian eateries in Montreal — this one, in comparison, was way too mild), and the pikliz was not as vibrant, its piquancy and acidity not in evidence as I am used to . Dry meat is a mistake that is hard to forgive in a Haitian pork griot (because of the cooking method –for eg, boiled for a long time then fried — used to make griot, the meat is expected to be a bit dry, so there’s a certain level of dryness that you need to accept with your griot. The trick is to get the meat not drying beyond that point. Passed that level, it is simply just way too dry,to be properly enjoyed,which was the case on that visit), but again, perhaps just an off day. I’ll give it another try. By now, I have tried most of the Haitian casse-croute in Laval, with most I find average (for eg, meats which cooking is not consistent, sometimes way too dry, sometimes ok, but most importantly food that is oftently not as flavorful as it is possible to find in the finer Haitian casse-croute in town), and one that is,for now, the one that seems to stand out from its direct competitors: the casse-croute of the Salon de coiffure Complexe 1354 Curé-Labelle 450-934-2433 (virtually everything here tasted as good and was executed as well as at the best casse-croute of Montreal, the pikliz, here, particularly fresh and vibrant in mouth. Only the sauce accompanying the griot felt a bit too light in density for my taste, but that is not a quibble, rather a question of personal taste. The only issue I found is that,if you want to order a dish of fish, you need to call in advance so that they prepare it for you.). As ever, a casse-croute is hardly your idea of some cosy and refined food destination, rather a moms-and-pops sort of eatery, obviously not an option if your are on a diet, quite an acquired theme for those not used to traditional rich flavors, and it takes time and years of trying Haitian food in various places, cooked by different people, to truely know what to expect. It is, personally, in my top 5 cuisines alongside Chinese (Pan-China), Indian (Pan-Indian), African (Pan-African), and of course Classic French cuisine.
***In Montreal, I tried Lavenderia, the Argentinian inspired bistrot of Antonio Park. I salute Antonio’s courage as it is never easy to convince people that food that’s already stellar in its casual version (the case of Latin American cuisine in general) can also appeal when delivered with contemporary refinement. But again, there is no rule to what needs to be kept casual or not as that is basically an issue of perception, so I was curious to see how Lavenderia would fare. My meal at Lavenderia was certainly an above average performance, but for food that’s inspired by Argentinian cuisine, even by equivalent standards in the Western world, I came to expect more eventful flavors. The flavors here were fine, but way too refined to be associated with Argentinian cuisine. The dessert I picked (Pan de naranja con truffas de café) felt, in mouth, more “contemporary Western” than “contemporary Argentinian” . I understand that Argentinian cuisine has a strong Western influence (obviously Italian), but it is no rocket science to make some contemporary rendition of their desserts…taste exotical. Coincidently, weeks prior to this meal, I made, at home, this pasta frola shortbread recipe as well as couple of contemporary desserts around the theme of the “Dulce de membrillo” and –despite my limited access to great ethnic ingredients –they all tasted far more Argentinian than the Pan de naranja con truffas de café. That said, Lavenderia is a successful concept that’s already attracting hordes of patrons (newer generations of Mtl diners and most local foodies and food journalists will certainly love Lavenderia). My review can be found here.