The food: meals at a French bistro and Neapolitan-style pizzeria
E and I spent a few days in Montreal last week, visiting neither of our ancestral neighbourhoods (my mother’s or E’s), but acting like tourists: we walked through the charming cobble-stoned streets of Old Montreal, rode Bixi bikes along the Lachine Canal path, and visited my nephew Nicholas, who has just transferred to McGill University.
We also ate well, at two hip, happening boîtes in my favorite style: artisanal casual.
First up was Brasserie T!, sister restaurant to the more expensive and much-praised Toqué! Brasserie T! is located in a rectangular glassed-in stand-alone space on the sidewalk in front of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal in the Place des Arts.
Its plastic chairs notwithstanding, the space was warm and welcoming, even on a gloomy rainy day, the waiter was charming and informative, and the place was hopping on a Thursday night: reservations are essential. The waiter sold us on a daily special tomato salad, which he said featured different varieties of tomatoes from the farm of an esteemed tomato-grower named M. Bertrand.
The salad looked very nice, but some of M. Bertrand’s tomatoes were lacking in flavour, colour and ripeness, the croutons thrown into the bowl appeared to be the store-bought variety, and the $12 price seemed a little steep considering that local field tomatoes were $3 for 5 large at the Atwater and Jean Talon markets that week.
Like many other patrons of the restaurant, we ordered the flank steak with frites ($20) and the hamburger with frites (ahem, also $20). The steak is shown above, and the hamburger here (the meat is hidden in the pic, but the patty was substantial and cooked properly to order):
Both meats were meatily flavourful, and the fries had a good outer crispness to inner softness ratio. The burger also came with a quality bun and condiments, including a slice of tomato tastier than M. Bertrand’s(!).
The next night, we took Nicholas to dinner at a Bottega, a pretty, busy spot in Montreal’s Petite Italie neighbourhood that E’s friend Emile had recommended. By the time we arrived there (reservations also essential – there was a line out the door by 7 pm) I had thoughtlessly let my camera battery run out. Luckily, Nicholas stepped into the breach and took the photographs that follow with his phone:
In keeping with my order-arancini-whenever-available policy, we ordered two (@$4) of the Arancini Bella Napoli:
They were lovely – slightly crunchy on the outside, creamy within, and stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto.
E was even more impressed with the beet, brie and walnut salad, a daily special:
He pronounced it delicious, admired the tenderness of the perfectly cooked beets and thought it was, at $10, a far better value than our $12 tomato salad of the previous evening.
Nicholas had a Diavolo pizza, with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh Fior di Latte mozzarella, basil, salami, and chilli peppers:
while E and I shared a Caprese pizza (not shown). Both embodied the Neapolitan spirit with their puffy cornichiones and thin, soft centres.
The topper to the dinner: a creamy, sweet Crème brulée flavoured gelato that E and Nicholas shared:
With restaurant meals like this on offer, we may have to go to Montreal more often.