Posts Tagged ‘best tapas in montreal’

Time for a long break. I shall be gone till November. Leaving you on the following notes:

-My recent restaurant reviews: Thursdays, Tapas 24 MtlVertigo StkBar, Gia BaRestaurant Mercuri, Bar Mercuri, Le Serpent, La Chronique, Jun IL’Européa, Sushi Yasu, Kyo, Peter Luger, Kam Fung, FiregrillPatrice Patissier, Raku, Au cinquième péché, Au Pied de Cochon, Callao , Shinji, Mochica, Bottega .

La Porte, a restaurant that I have always regarded as Montreal’s #1 (click here for past reviews of my meals at La Porte ) has recently closed. Chef Rouye’s food has always fared, to me, as one of the very  best that  Mtl has ever been able to offer and he was pulling it off on a consistent basis. Couple of weeks ago, Chef Rouyé has opened a more humble restaurant in Val David, called La Table des Gourmets (https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-table-des-gourmets/1463806720537762). It’s, apparently, already a big hit overthere,which, knowing Chef Rouyé’s talent, came as no surprise. Check that out: La Table des Gourmets 2353 rue de l’église, Val-David, Quebec (819) 322-2353

La Queue de Cheval,  Montreal’s very best steakhouse,  has now re-opened. Lavish/luxury/pricey, whether you like it or not, it leaves no one indifferent. I’ll leave the debate over cost performance/price/tolerance to lavishness/perceptions based on price…  to your discretion (you’ll have a lot to say about it, trust me) and will stick to what matters to me: not one single steakhouse in Montreal masters the nuances of  its steak as well as QDC. Just remember, it is very pricey (though ,the Q is aware of that and is consequently also offering  affordable lunch and late night menus).   La Queue de Cheval 1181 Rue de la Montagne, (514) 390-0091 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/queuedecheval  .

I finally tried Tapas 24 Montreal, which is is affiliated with Barcelona’s reknown Tapas restaurant Tapas 24. I was very pleased with both the food and the experience, and if they pursue with the standards I found on the evening of my two visits, then Tapas 24 Montreal will easily rank among the few truely great  restaurants in  Montreal. Keep in mind that it is bite-size food (which is what tapas are), so obviously  not your usual ‘big eater’ destination .My review here. Tapas 24  420 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montréal, Phone:(514) 849-4424

I recently tried couple of places in Laval, a city North of Montreal: Enotecca Mozza did nothing for me, Pirate de Laval continues to be a decent restaurant by local standards, Le Cosmopolitain remains my preferred breakfast place in Montreal and its surroundings and my once preferred poutine place in Laval (Le Croque) is not what it used to be. You can peruse that report here.

Went back to my other preferred Isakaya in town, Kazu, after a previous meal that was average. This time Kazu was in top form with the best Japanese-isakaya inspired roasted salmon that I ever enjoyed in a restaurant of Montreal as well as a spectacular soft ice cream tasting of the raw fresh cow milk of my tender childhood. I could have a bone to pick over the fact that their omnipresent secret homemade sauce lessens  (a bit, I find) the enjoyment of the food, and the more affordable offerings are  generally not what you should come here for, but Kazu continues to deliver the most delicious Isakaya fares of this city.

Couple of places visited this summer: (1)Bier Markt 1221 René-Lévesque Boulevard West (514) 864-7575- I tried their hamburgers as well as silders which I did both rate with a 4/10 as, for my taste,they lacked the deep beefy bold flavor that such basic fares have no choice but to deliver. Furhermore,  the meat was overcooked/border dry  on both instances. The  variety of beer is amazing, indeed, for a beer destination in Montreal but I wish the food could be up to par. The welcoming, at the entrance, could be warmer.  (2)Le Hachoir 4177 Rue Saint-Denis, Montréal (514) 903-1331- It’s being a while that I wanted to visit Le Hachoir which  name aroused  the carnivore in me. Here, I tried their trio of mini burgers which was  certainly not bad at all, the quality of the meat really good, but I wish theirs had a beefier kick. The quality of the meat was also the saving grace of a nice fresh meaty tartare that I also enjoyed there, but the seasoning lacked  spark. I get their point though: they want the main ingredient to shine through, but in both cases a beefier kick for the trio of mini burgers as well as an exciting seasoning for the tartare, as long as it’s judicious…they would have brought those items a long way. A 5/10 for me,  but this place is popular, fun, the service amazing so consider this to  be a NO sour 5/10 (you can see that they are capable of better). (3)-Reubens Deli 1116  Ste Catherine  continues to impress me. It is the only other restaurant in Montreal, alongside Bottega on St Zotique, that you can rely on, in my view, in terms of consistency.It has been consistently good,for me, year after year. This summer I   had my share of sliders in town and theirs simply blew away any other serving of  sliders I have enjoyed in town. The beefy flavor as well as superb  moist meaty consistency of those sliders were ages ahead of the rest. Their 10 oz “famous super sandwich “continues to be the most refined smoked meat in town. This is not refinement sacrificing flavor, to the contrary it’s technical prouesse in demonstrating that you do not need messy smoked meat to pretend that it is good or authentic, you just need one that’s deliciously meaty, the meat of top quality, the seasoning exciting. Their Montreal-style cheesecake  is also one of the few tastier and better executed ones out there,with strawberry of spectacular fresh ripe /wild flavor. Overall, a 9/10 by Delicatessen standards. Reubens Deli’s refinement may hit on the nerves of those who believe that delicatessen should taste,look and be served in rustic settings –which is pure BS as food is well done or it is not, delicious or not…and nothing else—  , but ultimately it  is one excellent Deli, one of my few preferred Delis anywhere around the globe.

 

On a non-foodie subject, the habs have signed Pk Subban for 8 years worth $72 million. This is little money for one of the greatest athletes of our decade, an exemplary ambassador of his sport  . I think we are lucky, in Quebec, to have such inspiring  athletes such as PK, Georges St Pierre and of course, our latest rising star Eugénie Bouchard.

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Tapas 24 Montreal

Tapas 24 Montreal is affiliated with Barcelona’s reknown Tapas restaurant Tapas 24.

UPDATE: I went back there  some few week  laters. At the end of the current post, please find my review of that second meal

It is a restaurant that is owned by Barcelona’s highly regarded Chef Carles Abellan as well as two other local Business partners (Journalist  Sébastien Benoit and restaurateur Jorge Da Silva), so a sister of Barcelona’s Tapas 24. According to the facebook page, the Chefs are  Haissam Souki Tamayo as well as another Chef who goes by the  name Ildemar, both names sound  unfamiliar to me, so this was the  opportunity to discover their craft.

As it is always the case with tapas outside of Spain, the ingredients can rarely ‘speak for themselves’ , so sticking to items relying heavily on the ingredient is a bit like expecting the sun to shine at night .  However great the ingredient, it simply won’t reproduce the effect of its Iberian counterpart. So, I picked couple  items where the skills of the kitchen would have to ‘walk the walk’:

Kicked off with

Tapas 24 Montreal - Bomba de barceloneta

Bomba de Barceloneta (potato croquette) $6 is, of course, not a big deal as every decent kitchen will not fail to deliver a decent one. But unless someone is devoid of any ‘sense for  nuances’, the appreciation of that croquette I was having had lots more to reveal:  the technique in keeping the croquette low in fat while maintaining the taste delicious/rich is not a secret but few are delivering it this well.  A fabulous croquette of the sort that only a handful of  the finest restaurants of Montreal  can  pull off. The accompanied aioli and salsa brava simply perfect. 8/10

Tapas 24 Montreal - Rabo de toro, queue de boeuf braisée

Rabo de toro – braised oxtail $14 was another display of assured cooking technique coupled with superb palate , the braising perfect, seasoning exciting.  The meat was covered with a layer of an impossibly light ‘moussy’ take on the potato purée, tasting delicious. 9/10

Tapas 24 Montreal - Arroz Barcelones

Arroz barcelones $24 featured carnaroli rice cooked to the bite, as it should, with four big plump shrimps as well as several fresh mussels.  This is as close as you’ll get, at a tapas restaurant in Montreal, to what’s done in Spain. Only one Spanish restaurant in Montreal, Casa Galicia, had once impressed me with a paella that managed to teleport me to Spain but that was years ago and I haven’t revisited Gasa Galicia since then, so I do not know if CG is as great as it used to be. As great (by Montreal standards) as this paella stood,  it could have been even  better if cooked, imagine, on straw for eg…but that is a different story (that’s not allowed in Montreal, anyways).. Still, a superb  paella by Montreal standards 8/10

I took no desserts.

Before heading there, I have read couple of online comments on Tapas24 Montreal and some of those did mention the slowness of the service as well as meager portions, but I saw no problem in both regards: the pace of the service was perfectly timed, with meals that take longer to cook taking the relevant time it needs to be served. As for the portions, it was in line with the quantity of food that is usually served nowadays at most contemporary restaurants of this sort in big western cities. Furthermore, they bill themselves as serving tapas which is bite-size food (obviously).

PROS: If you ever find a tapas place you believe is better than Tapas 24 in Montreal and would like to share with me, do not bother…I won’t believe you!

CONS: On an evening like this, with cooking this assured, we can cover an aspect (not a problem) that is proper to most tapas restaurants outside of Spain…the genuine flavors of the Tapas in Spain. For eg, paellas oftently  taste a bit ‘smokier’ in general on the Iberian peninsula, seasoning usually a tad spicier. I gather that this is to  reach out to the most, and few places in Montreal do take the risk of insisting on such exotical flavors (Casa Galicia  is the only place comes to mind, but it’s being 7 years that I did not go back so I do not know how it fares nowadays), but those who  have tried tapas in Spain will have the feeling that there’s a little something that’s missing.  With that said, make no mistake…this is  as close as you’ll get, at this moment, in Montreal, to what good tapas tastes in Spain.

My personal verdict for the food: 8/10. Strong performance by Montreal tapas standards. What I did sample is all I needed in order to assess the cooking  skills at Tapas 24 Montreal, which were items forcing the kitchen to ‘focus on the substance’: personal touch of the cook, his sense of flavors,  his palate, his ability in extracting the most out of the least (maximum flavor out of simple ingredients or from simple  flavor combinations which is essentially the point of tapas) . I doubt I could have done that with, let us say, the pa amb tomaquet which is bread  with tomato, a lovely item to be enjoyed as a tapas in Spain, but oftently …outside of Spain….it is delivered as a pale version of  its Iberian counterpart.

Conclusion: I love tapas as it forces a good kitchen to extract a lot out of virtually very little, which for me is what cooking should  be all about. Coupled with the stellar ingredients of the Mediterranea, those can oftently turn into mouthfuls of bliss. But we are not in Spain, therefore I substituted expectations for one reasoning: when Tapas are moved from their original humble conditions (as well as relevant pocket-friendly tab)  and priced as up-market food, I want to see where my hard earned money is going and what I ordered did not disappoint in the sense that  good ingredients were used and the cooking was diligent. Still, there’s always the question of cost performance when eating tapas at an up-market restaurant,  and my bill helped to keep that debate alive. Tapas outside of Spain, as good as they can be, they are simply pricey for what they are,  I find. At least, what I was enjoying on this evening at Tapas 24 Montreal had the edge over all other tapas that I have tried in town and they are doing it in the warmth of a hip and elegantly / cozily designed establishment, located in the enviable location of Old Montreal.

What I think days later: If they continue to cook the way they did on the evening of my meal, then you can count Tapas 24 Montreal among the few dining destinations that can truely standout in town…not because of buzz (which is sadly the case of a myriad of bars/restaurants in town), but because of effective cooking (cooks with a good palate,good sense of seasoning) and a genuine vision of what a restaurant should be about (serving good food, delivering an overall nice experience). It’s hip, fun and already very busy. Based on this visit, I’d say that it is an amply deserved success.

UPDATE  – Went back on Sept 9th 2014, 18:30 – Here’s my report about that second meal:

HAMBURGER

Hamburger/foie gras emulsion–  $15 will probably be divisive as it was tiny portioned by usual hamburger standards. From the usual burger, we expect  hamburger to be filling and this one might not. We expect the big fluffy /thick buns, this one was flattened round  thin bread. We expect big juicy patty of fat grounded meat, but this contained a small quantity of  meat.  So why am I still going to rate this hamburger  so high? Because I did enjoy it for what it is:  a creative and amusing twist on the hamburger, not a hamburger in its popular form. And at such, it was flawless: the meat (real filet mignon) of top quality, served as an effiloché on this evening, the taste delicious,  textures mastered  really well (for eg, the bun having the consistency of freshly baked quality buns, the meat cooked by a kitchen  who clearly knows when cooking should start and when it should stop…meaning far from the usual misteps of offering dry/overcooked meat).  The take on the hamburger came with a ganache of foie gras which unctuous texture was beautifully achieved, the flavors refined (the right ratio of foie gras to cream, which means none of the components overwhelmed/ everything was complementary)  8/10

Ceviche

Ceviche de Mero (grouper) $18 was not going to be criticized for its sze as it starred generous (relatively to what you`ll find at most tables of this category in big Western cities) morsels of fish of great quality, the fish seems to have been sliced just a few minutes before serving, such was its fresh effect in mouth. A healthy conscious cook thought about not saltying too much the fish (instead, it’s the acidity dimension of the ceviche that was intensified), which  was, in this case, the right thing to do. Quality onions and avocado completing the dish, which was seasoned with a bit of the ceviche’s leche  de tigre.   One  great (contemporary) version (there is a myriad of versions of the ceviche)  of  ceviche by Montreal standards. 8/10

Lamb brochette

Lamb brochette $10 – The big majority of skewers at most of our local restaurants always have a problem, sometimes overcooked, sometimes it’s the quality  of the meat  that’s questionable,  sometimes the meat is dry, sometimes the meat is not of the quality avertised, etc.  This skewer could be accused of none of those issues: well sourced lamb, timely grilled, the meat (on this evening) seasoned with a  flavorful curry-based marinade. At $10 for one skewer, I find this offering pricey…though, indeed, skewers are not oftently done this well in restaurants  of Montreal and here, they do not just advertise quality, they deliver it. Very good. 8/10 (Still, a skewer at$10 …however great it is,  it’s pricey by any standards that I can think of — fortunately, I am not rating cost performance but cooking skills solely…).

Conclusion regarding this meal sampled on Sept 9th 2014, 18:30 It’s obviously hard to fall in love with  bite-size food at ambitious price tag, but Tapas 24 Mtl cooking is easily in the top 10 of this city,  the sourcing of their ingredients simply admirable, the technique too. Of course the portions of some of their items left me with the impression that there is an emotional limit to what can be justified by the quality of the produce (the Mc Foie Burger, the lamb skewer),  but at the end of the count the fact of the matter is that you won’t oftently,  in Montreal, stumble upon food benefitting from such good standard (flavors and textures have been flawless on each of my two visits here).  Regardless of  the shortcomings that I have just raised, the food here  is really well executed  and certainly in the leading pack by our local standards.

What I think days after the second meal : Yes, it’s tapas, food that’s supposed to be sold at low cost,which is not the case here, and I have to concede that it is not  place where I would go if I need something robust on the stomach,  but it’s not often, in Montreal, that you’ll come across food done consistently this well. When you’ll enquire about Tapas 24 Montreal, ensure that the person voicing his opinion is not mixing up proper proper assessment of the food (which is well executed here) Vs its perceived value.