Wyclef Jean was in town and the hip hop fan in me could not have asked for better. Mr Jean’s performance was one that can only be described in superlative terms, a performer of incredible talent. The hip hop world is blessed with outstanding performers, from the Destiny’s child to Usher, but Mr Jean did, in this instance, way more with far less. This show was a reminder that spectacular effects and showcasing big means is just a way to show the container because there’s perhaps no content to offer: with just basic light effects, a guitar and a DJ, the crowd never stopped jumping, singing and dancing under the genius sense of festivity of one of this world’s most talented artists. If you are depressed, no need of any medical intervention…just go to concerts of such festive power. Please do not come back for a while, Mr Jean…such highs need to be savoured for a very long time! It needs to transcend time. Magical, indeed (for those who like that style of music, obviously). WOW!
La Référence is a Congolese (RDC) restaurant nightclub. I heard their Chef makes some decent Congolese food and seized the opportunity (of dining with a Congolese friend) to sample their grilled goat meat, which is one of my favourite Congolese dishes as I am fond of the way the Congolese (from the region of l’Équateur, but the baluba in the Kasai region do grill and season their goat in almost similar fashion, too) do generally spice and prepare their goat meat. Goat meat spiced and grilled by Congolese, when really well done, are among world’s tastiest food-street style goat meat preparations. I am not too sure if this was just a bad day for them, but the goat was goat only in the imagination, but beef in reality, on my visit. Trying to pass beef as goat is a practise that eludes me, especially given the obvious difference, in taste, between grilled beef vs grilled goat. But worst, the grilled meat — of the special beast that once lived as a goat but ended on my plate as beef – was dry and tasteless (barely no seasoning), the consistency almost leathery, then, to complete the exceptional feature of messing with what’s supposed to be some basic grilled meat, it lacked the grilling flavor that is expected from such dish. I never thought that I would one day suggest that perhaps grilling a simple piece of meat could be a daunting task . 0/10 for the grilled goat meat that happened to be beef. This was served with a flawless chikwangue, which seemed to indicate that the Chef can indeed cook well (if it’s her who made the chikwangue), as well as fresh slices of onions (classic Congolese accompaniment to grilled meat). My overall food rating: N/A (I need to pay them another visit, to get a definitive idea of what they are capable of, since this was perhaps — I hope — just a day? or just a dish?? ..to forget). La Référence, 808 Rue Beaubien Est, Montréal. (514)805-7606
Since it’s summer, I seized the opportunity to try couple of food trucks. One that caught my attention was the food truck of a restaurant that I have not revisited for years but that pleased me a lot when I dined there on that sole visit: Lucille Oyster dive. I recall that the quality of their seafood, by our local standards, was particularly good, though, as expected with seafood-centric restaurants in Montreal, pricey. Lucille’s food truck had a crowd pleaser among its offerings: the lobster roll. The folks at Lucille do not mess with quality, thus, as expected, the lobster tasted as good and fresh as a lobster roll can taste in town. The bread of the lobster roll is unaltered, for ie not fried nor baked in butter, which is my preference as I believe that a bread that’s buttery would distract from enjoying the star ingredient, the lobster. A lobster roll is admittedly no rocket science, and yet I oftently tend to think that perhaps it is: plenty of lobster rolls in town taste mainly of buttery bread or mayonnaise, hiding the flavor of the lobster. In contrast, this one at Lucille’s food truck featured lobster tasting of the sea, the quantity of the mayo just right, meaning not overwhelming, so that the fresh maritime fragrance of the lobster can express itself. One fine lobster roll, indeed, which is a rarity in town despite online claims of the opposite (when you read online accounts on our local lobster rolls, you would think that Montreal is a great if not better than serious lobster roll destinations like the Maine – the reality of Lobster rolls in Mtl is nowhere near those standards), but charging $4 for some french fries, which although beautifully crispy and tasting great, SHOULD BE …included in the $12 lobster roll offering. Or else $16 for a lobster roll and some french fries (which most ppl would certainly expect as the default accompaniment to their lobster roll) is quite pricey for some street food. Clearly, Montreal food trucks are among this world’s priciest food trucks. My overall food rating: 8/10 by the standards of lobster rolls in Montreal. There are plenty of supposedly fabled lobster rolls in town, most of them characterized by an overuse of ingredients and condiments as to mask the taste of the lobster, but Lucille’s tastes of what it should: lobster, lobster in its fresh maritime form. Lucille’s food truck http://www.lucillesseafood.ca/en/food-truck
Atelier Asie (situated in the Business district downtown Montreal) is a humble eatery serving pan-Asian food such as ramen soup, gyoza dumplings , braised pork steamed bun (Bao). I picked 1 serving of gyozas (5/10 – the chew fine enough, meaning the consistency was decent as it was not mushy, not hard neither, but the taste of their filling— which consisted of pork, veggies and mushroom in this instance– was not apparent). The restrained flavor was also an aspect of the Bao (what they call Bao is, to be precise, their take on the Taiwanese braised pork steamed bun / gua Bao): here, again, the pork belly barely tasted of pork, its usual bold and meaty mouthfeel — typical of most Bao – was absent on my visit. The texture of the bun was not going to make up for the downsides of the pork filling, neither: part of the surface of the bun peeling off easily under barely no pressure. A good gua Bao should always boast a soft surface and fluffy/smooth consistency, whereas this one was rather slightly sticky and a tad firmer to the touch. 5/10 for that Bao I was having. My overall food rating: 5/10 by Montreal pan-Asian casual food standards – I gather that this is no dining destination given the low cost of the food, but food…should always taste of what they are made of! Atelier Asie, 453 Avenue Viger O Montréal. (514) 508-9998