Sometimes cultural fusion poutines yield good results, as with Déli Sokołów’s smoked meat latke poutine. Most of the time, however, the results are just wrong. Case in point: the General Tao’s Poutine at NosThés Bistro.
Category Archives: Montreal
CLOSED IN DECEMBER 2016
There’s a second-wave Jewish deli thing going on in Montreal these days.
The original wave dates from the first half of the twentieth century. With the mass migration of Jews from Central and Eastern Europe, Yiddish became Montreal’s third language This period gave us two iconic Montreal dishes. First, the local take on the bagel: sweeter, chewier, eggier, and tastier than the New York version available in most of North America. The second dish is smoked meat brisket, a local take on pastrami, but less sweet, with more pepper, also better. Some institutions survive from that period, namely Fairmount Bagel; Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen; Wilensky’s; and a slew of others. Some have disappeared, like the iconic Bens, which, even if I miss it more than any other restaurant in this city, had lots more going in terms of atmosphere than quality of food. Many Jews left the city in the second half of the twentieth century, and Toronto became Canada’s Jewish capital.
The deli seemed on the way out, but has since experienced a nostalgic revival of sorts with the rise of hipster-foodie culture. The opening of New York’s Mile End deli in 2010 put Montreal Jewish cuisine in the international spotlight. Since then, a new generation of Montreal Jews has been redefining the old classics at great places like Hof Kelsten bakery, Fletchers’ Café, and the annoyingly popular Arthurs Nosh Bar with its New-York-City-style line-ups (to which I say “Fuck this, I’m going elsewhere”).
Cinko is one of a slew of $5 restaurants popping up around town. They serve cheap food that is a notch above your usual fast-food fare, and make up for their slim profit margin with comparatively pricey cocktails. Cinko has an original menu, nice colorful interior design, and the place mats have been replaced by old vinyl records (in my case Genesis’ And Then There Were Three, an early glimpse at some of the horrors that Phil Collins would inflict on us during the 1980s–it was a pleasure to render it unlistenable by scratching away at it with my utensils). The actual background music was even less inspiring than my 70s prog rock placemat, consisting of the same dated 4/4 MC Mario beat that did not change for the entire duration of our meal. Thankfully, the volume was kept low.
There are two poutines on Cinko’s menu: one made with sweet potato fries that has become less interesting now that it is no longer served with the braised beef gravy it used to be served with, and the bizarre tempura green bean one that I review below.
Celebrity chef Stefano Faita, famous for his exagerrated permasmile, just opened a third restaurant in Montreal’s Little Italy with his comparatively non-hysterical-looking business partner Michele Forgione. First there was the well-reviewed gourmet upscale Italian restaurant Impasto, followed by an excellent Neapolitan pizzeria called Gema. Now, they’ve moved away from Italian toward traditional Quebecois fast food classics at Chez Tousignant.
Tousignant opened up yesterday in the former digs of Café Espresso Vittorio on rue Drolet near Jean-Talon Market. There’s a clean 1950s retro look to the place, with a hand-painted menu, white and turquoise tiling, and stainless steel tables. The unnecessary-yet-seemingly-mandatory big screen TV in the background played The Offspring videos on MuchRetro, (not quite the same kind of “retro” as the decor).
There used to be loads of these classic no-frills Greek-run places around Montreal, but they are either fast disappearing or have suffered one too many modernizing makeovers. This place, which has been around since 1962, still looks the part. It is dripping with grease, has the original sixties booths, a great decor with alternating white and red stripes, broken jukebox consoles, and a hand-painted menu on the wall.
L’entrepot is one of several new $5-a-dish restaurants that opened up in Montreal over the past year. The interior has a ramshackle ski chalet look with snowboards hanging from the walls. In fact, it is pretty much a perfect replica of the decor at Le Bureau de Poste in Quebec City, not to mention the same menu. I did some investigating and found out that it is the Montreal branch of a west-coast chain that started out in Whistler, and also has six restaurants in Vancouver. Whereas the west coast branches use mozzarella in their poutines, a similar strategy in Quebec would be suicidal. Proper cheese curds it is.
Le Ballpark is a charming little place on the border of Mile-Ex and Little Italy. They specialize in spherical food: onion bhajis, Italian arancini, lamb meatballs with coucous, etc. The place has a good vibe: a balanced airy mix of cold industrial and warm varnished wood, but the jury is still out on the upside-down lamps hanging from the ceiling. Le Ballpark also doubles as a watering hole, with a decent drinks menu, so it’s worth checking out even if you’re not hungry.