IMG00072-20110212-2041

Montreal Stop Four – Juliette et Chocolat (bustling on St-Denis)

The last thing we did in Montreal was that we paid a quick visit to Juliette et Chocolat in the Latin Quarter, which had been highly recommended to us. Even though it was just past 8 pm, it was already quite the popular spot. We lined up for 15-20 minutes, but unfortunately for the group who was behind us, they were still waiting when our food started to arrive.

atmosphere

Do not be deceived – despite this shop being in a “basement”, it was very brightly lit. The space is long and narrow, with some prep action happening right at the front of the store. Also, the cafe was noticeably clad in red, white, and pink, but that might have been because it was close to Valentine’s Day (yes…this post is also long overdue).

As you walk in, you are hit with the smell of deliciousness (i.e. butter and flour). The place looks like it’s going for a local neighbourhood hangout feel for couples and groups. There was something a little bit off about the store, but we soon figured out that it was the lack of appropriate audible background music.

what we ordered

Juliette et Chocolat has a vast menu, with diverse options for chocolate drink, but also many other drinks (alcoholic coffees, smoothies, teas, beer). Generally this wouldn’t be a place I’d go for a full sit down dinner, what with the predominantly dessert-centered menu. They offer crepes (sweet, savoury, and flambe), fondue, ice cream, brownies, and other foods too!

M and I both got hot chocolates. Juliette et Chocolat offers two different types of consistency in their hot chocolate. Grandma style is thicker, whereas classic style is more liquid (the difference is in the amount of milk the drink has). Also, they arrive in this little personal pitcher that you pour into a bowl. We enjoyed that thoroughly.

I got the classic milk ($4.85), which was realllly nice and smooth, and M got the Grandma’s dark semi-sweet ($5.65), which could be likened to drinking delicious frothy chocolate. Both welcome changes to the usual thin hot chocolate you get when you’re on the go. If you let these hot chocolates sit in your cup, though, it solidifies almost into a pudding, which I found really awkward to drink.

The two men decided to kick some caffeine into their system, with guy C ordering a cappuccino ($?) and K getting a coffee ($?). Both had a good aroma to them, but you could taste some coffee grind. (Only the cappuccino is pictured above; the coffee just came in your typical mug)

In addition to the drinks, we also ordered two crepes.

This is the Normandy crepe ($7.85) with apples, ice cream, and chocolate of course. We were expecting some big “Opa!” Worthy flambe, but it actually is lit in a smallish pitcher and then poured over the fruit. You can see the blue flame run in a line across the crepe. Initially you can taste the flambe, but it wanes over time. I preferred this crepe to the following one.

This is the Antillaise crepe ($13.95). The bananas are hidden behind the pineapples in this picture, and this crepe also comes with ice cream. You might be able to tell from the picture, but the fruit in the crepes was mostly canned, with the exception of some of the chunks on the side. We could really taste and see the difference. The vanilla ice cream was really great and smooth, and the crepe was quite good too.

One last thing – perhaps we haven’t been to enough chocolate cafes, but we noticed a couple sitting at another table with fondue, and it wasn’t hot! Rather the two were served a plate of fruit with a small bowl (like what they use to hold creme brulee) full of chocolate. Just wanted to put that out there for any of you hoping to get a chocolate fountain when you order fondue.

overall

3.0 (out of 5) for food

3.0 (out of 5) for atmosphere

All in all, Juliette et Chocolat holds an interesting niche, but it still needs a little more quality for us to place it in the “must-visit” column. This place can’t be compared to the likes of Max Brenner, but it’s a cute little place you might want to visit. It doesn’t seem as if K and I will be back any time soon, but if you’re in the area you can pop by Juliette et Chocolat at 1615 St-Denis, Montréal or online at http://www.julietteetchocolat.com.

C

Juliette Et Chocolat on Urbanspoon

IMG00062-20110212-1840

Montreal Stop Three – Holder Restaurant (Value in Old Montreal)

After a few leisurely rounds of snow tubing at Mont Royal and a lovely stroll along the ports of Old Montreal, we were eager to visit our third stop on this Montreal food whirlwind. Though we had made reservations for 6:30, we found ourselves at the restaurant well before then, but they were still able to seat us right away. There is no shortage of fantastic restaurants in the Old Montreal area, but we chose to check out Holder because their menu looked great, the reviews were pretty consistent, and the prices were very reasonable.

atmosphere

When you first enter the building that Holder is in, it feels very much like an office building, with a store on the right and Holder on the left. That was a little bit weird, but once you enter the restaurant, you will find that it has a very nice ambiance, with appropriate lighting and separate bar and dining areas. As we were really early, there weren’t very many people in the room.

Service was great at the start. The server was very affirming of our selections and made great recommendations. However, as the restaurant filled up, service started to suffer, and by the end of our evening, we were waiting a ridiculously long time for the server to come around to our table.

what we ordered

Just to put it out there, Holder has a GREAT menu. We literally spent 20 minutes trying to decide what to eat, and we had to ask the server for more time because we just couldn’t decide. The food won us over right from the beginning…even with the bread basket. The portion sizes were great, and the flavour very palpable.

I am not usually a wine drinker but M and guy C thought it would be nice to get something so we got a bottle of 2009 Riesling white wine. I will withhold my comment on the wine, because I really don’t know how to appreciate it, and I don’t want to give an uninformed decision when it comes to this.

Despite changing my mind multiple times when it came to what dish I should get as my appetizer, I finally decided to get the french onion soup ($9.25) to start. A very large soup, It was deliciously subtle, staying true to its flavour without being super salty or cheesy. One of the better french onion soups that I’ve had in my lifetime.

K had the beef tartare ($10.25). I’ve never had beef tartare before, but I  have always wanted to try it. K thought that the appetizer presented itself as a pleasant surprise – the texture was perfect and the use of onions to punctuate the dish was a welcome touch. The taste was nice with an almost sour and spicy ending. After having some myself, I personally wouldn’t order it on my own, but definitely as a sharing appetizer.

On to the main course. I went with one of the evening specials – the Filet Mignon (I believe it was $32). It came with sweet potato puree and asparagus and a horseradish-esque sauce.  The meat was so very tender, cooked medium rare instead of medium like I asked, but still so good. The sauce paired really well with the meat, and needless to say, I was in beef heaven.

K got the regular grilled steak ($19. 75) with shallots and house fries. You can see that they really loaded those fries on. Unfortunately, K had actually asked for the fries to be switched to green beans and they forgot about, but as a consolation, they gave the beans to him on the house. The meat wasn’t anything to write home about, but it was filling.

overall

4.0 (out of 5) for food

4.0 (out of 5) for atmosphere

Holder has a really nice and lively atmosphere without being snooty. The prices are very reasonable, and we will definitely be coming here again. There are so many appetizers that we still want to try! Definitely worth a visit, visit Holder at 407, McGill Street in Montreal or take a look at their website (http://www.restaurantholder.com).

C

Holder on Urbanspoon

IMG00052-20110212-1315

Montreal Stop Two – La Banquise (poutines for all!)

No visit to Montreal is complete without a visit to La Banquise. This eatery is located in another hip area of Montreal (but honestly, what part of Montreal isn’t hip?), and it almost jumps out at you in an odd sort of way. The restaurant is seemingly housed in a very large building, and upon entering, you are most likely going to encounter some sort of line up.

atmosphere

Unlike our visit to Schwartz’s, we had to wait for around 10 minutes to get a table. The tables are colourful, the atmosphere is vibrant, and the collection of people is eclectic. Young families, students, and friends alike all gather at La Banquise for one thing: poutine. Sure you might hear orders for burgers or even salads (whaaaat??) But let’s be real, were here for the poutine.

what we ordered

On their delightfully yellow menu you’ll find an enormous variety of poutines. We made our way through three different ones: the classic, rachel, and one frighteningly named the t-rex (yeah, the carnivorous prehistoric predator). In general, the fries are a little sweet, and the curds have an awesome rubberiness to them.

C’s fave was the Classic ($ 5.80). Despite not really having an affinity for poutine, she loved it for the back to basics look and taste. Nothing like some good fries, curds, and gravy.

The Rachel ($ 6.95) was our veggie option, and the others really liked it. It was the classic, but with mushrooms, onions, and green peppers on it as well. You still don’t feel particularly healthy eating it, but the flavour is good.

Last but not least, this was the T-rex ($ 8.55). Despite being so meat-heavy, it was not too salty! Loaded with a smorgasbord of meat, including pepperoni, ground beef, bacon, and sausage, this came in at a close second for C.

overall

3.5 (out of 5) for food

3.0 (out of 5) for atmosphere

The portions are really large here (and we only got the regular), and we warn that you will most likely have trouble finishing a whole one on your own if you mean for it to be a snack. However, this was a great place for a Montreal favourite, and it really brought us back to our memories of heart poutine at the chalet after a whole day of tiring skiing. Check it out for yourself at 994, Rachel Est, Montréal (http://www.restolabanquise.com).

C and K

Resto la Banquise on Urbanspoon

IMG00077-20110221-1834

Wontonmama – Pan-Asian?

K and I love Ottawa, so we decided to head up to Ottawa on Family Day for the last day of Winterlude (yes, this post is long overdue =P). After a day of fun and a lot of skating on the canal (we went from the Rideau Centre all the way to Dows Lake!), we were really hungry, and were hoping for some delicious, hot Asian food. I had found Wontonmama on urbanspoon, and it was lacking in reviews, but we thought it might be worth it to give it a try. Now, before you read on, know that K and I are normally quite forgiving with dining establishments, but we are being entirely honest with this review.

atmosphere

According to their website, the restaurant had recently undergone a reno. The atmosphere initially was quite nice, with the typical crossed-wood pattern feature on the wall that you find in many Asian restaurants in Markham. However, the music was very odd, and the TV at the bar was really large and was the focal point of that end of the restaurant, which I didn’t feel really worked with the rest of the space. Also, despite the recent renovation, the door to the male bathroom had been completely smashed in, and thus the single female washroom became the only usable facility. The tables were oddly placed, and with everything, it made me think that this place doubles as a lounge or bar or something else after restaurant hours are over.

The service was terrible, and the people who owned the place (or who knew the owner) continually walked in and out of the restaurant. They spent more time talking to each other at the bar than waiting on the tables. On the up side, the food did come very quickly (which was great considering how hungry we were).

what we got

We were really quite hungry, so we made sure to order some apps along with our mains. We started off with the Tom Yum soup and the tempura.

This was the Tom Yum soup ($5). It was pretty flavourful, and not too spicy. The shrimp was very succulent, but there weren’t very many in the soup. They were strong on the coconut milk, which we both like, but it could have used more of a kick. Not the best Tom Yum soup we’ve had, but definitely a contender.

This was the tempura shrimp ($8). By far the worst dish we had that night. If you ever come to this restaurant, do not get this. They gave us soy sauce to dip our tempura in, and the tempura itself was a little soggy, instead of crispy like we like it. It contained a few zucchini and shrimp, and was definitely not worth the $8.

I had the Pad Thai with chicken ($13), which you can also get with beef, vegetables, or seafood. The flavour hits your palatte initially, but it is merely a fleeting taste. It wasn’t at all infused into the food, and it left me a little sad. However, it had a good meat to noodle ratio, and K ended up eating a bit because his meal was not very good.

K got the “Ramen” ($12), which definitely was not Ramen. It looked more like pho, they used the wrong noodles, and altogether it was really lacking flavour. The wontons were okay, but they weren’t anything that you couldn’t make at home with some beef broth and msg. The portion size was really small – it wouldn’t even suffice for lunch.

overall

2.0 (out of 5) for food

3.0 (out of 5) for atmosphere

It is unfortunate to say, but K and I had a thoroughly unsatisfying meal here. This was compounded with the fact that we were still hungry when we left. Perhaps the owners of this restaurant are a Thai family trying to break into the Pan-Asian market? Our Thai dishes were fine, but everything else just fell flat. In the end, we left and went to Beavertails to get our favourite Ottawa snack for the drive home.

This is the second big disappointment we’ve had dining in Ottawa, and we are hoping that this is an inaccurate representation of the food scene in our nation’s capital. If any of you have suggestions as to where we should eat on our next visit to Ottawa, please do let us know!

Wontonmama is located at 109 Clarence Street, in Byward Market, Ottawa. Their website is www.wontonmama.com.

C

Wontonmama on Urbanspoon