Brunch at L’Avenue St. Henri — Review

It was a beautiful crisp Sunday morning as I easily found parking on Notre Dame West in St. Henri. St. Henri is quickly becoming one of the IT (not I.T. Sorry tech nerds) places to be in the city. Once the poorest area in all of Canada, St. Henri has begun transforming into one of the trendiest places in the city. And its proximity to downtown makes it even more attractive. Those who took advantage of the forecasted boom a few years back can now see the chance they took was well worth it.

It was hard deciding where to go for brunch. There are so many different and varied choices. There’s anything from the typical to the bizarre, from ethnic breakfast fare to your greasy spoon, and everything in between. They’re almost all on the same street and within a 15-minute walking distance from each other. The queues were plentiful in all three of our targeted locations. We decided on L’Avenue because of it’s more centralized location, its sign, and its Google reviews.

The grungy feel amidst new condos and renovated and well-kept old apartments makes the area around the restaurant look like a Manhattan neighborhood. The apparent educated young population made it a mix between Greenwich Village and the West Village. But I shall digress with the NYC memories.

This is an example of the remnants of a dilapidated past. My mind here goes to some old areas of Krakow that tried to make it past the Communist era. This is what the old regime in St. Henri had to offer. This photo was taken just around the corner from the restaurant as I played neighborhood photographer while my dining companion waited in line (I’d say 30 people in the queue before us, but we had the 2-people advantage).

I’d say the entire waiting time was about an hour. Usually unacceptable as a wait time, I felt we could wait because it would be a new experience. I’d really be mad at myself were it not. After all, the food was secondary here. The neighborhood had a great vibe since I took classes here during my college years.

The restaurant offers free coffee for those waiting in line, albeit just the regular cheap Tim Hortons type. Still, it’s a move forward.

The first photo above is of the queue and what you can see from it. The latter photo is of a motorcycle apparently from the distant past.

Another surprising discovery was how 80% of the people in the queue and on or near Notre Dame street spoke English in what seemed to be their first language. Sure, there may be some foreign students amongst the rest in the crowd, but mostly it seemed to be young people who either had good-paying jobs, were using daddy’s car and part of his wallet for the weekend, or true artsy types. No matter which of the above categories they fit in, I wondered whether the original occupants of the neighborhood were economically forced out or given no chance but to move further north. With so-called progress came a price, and my bleeding heart was affected. The distraction of “2for Ted” quickly made that thought evaporate. I guess my mind thought it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t. Was it?

For those of you reading this strictly s a food review, let’s get to it.

The smoothie above was perfectly blended and just sweet enough to keep your sugar level at bay. It seemed, unsurprisingly, to be on almost every table. ‘Plateau West’, I thought.

I love the fruit in a skewer idea. Every customer got that as soon as they sat down at their table. Nice touch.

What endeared more to the place and the menu was that the chicken who’d laid those eggs were free-range. In y opinion, free-range eggs are much tastier. They have been proven to be healthier mainly because the chicken’s trauma while being enslaved and slaughtered goes into its premature eggs and in turn into our already-overused digestive and nervous systems. Anyway, whatever the case, it was poached and free-range all over the menu.

The French toast above was my order It was topped with your choice of ham or bacon or sausage and, of course, two poached eggs. I loved the salty flavour topped with some real maple syrup. It was simple yet unique, and the first time I’ve seen it around French toast. All in all, it wasn’t as good as it looks. But it was very good nonetheless.

My companion had the avocado toast. It wasn’t quite up to par. Two-thirds of the plate was green salad (most lettuce). The rest of the plate was fine enough, yet it was nothing special. It wasn’t bad in any way, but it could have been less bland.

The coffee was surprisingly not up to par. I ordered a double espresso lungo. Again, it was fine. But this is not a greasy spoon and the people that come here prepare for an outing per se, and they should get the best out of it.

My biggest complaint about the food was the poached eggs being overcooked. A poached egg needs to be a bit runny. Mine was a pleasant just-a-minute-overcooked light yellow to orange. Nothing wrong with the egg’s taste, but you’d figure a restaurant that almost exclusively poached its eggs would have a perfect grasp on how to make them.

The most surprising and fun part of the whole experience were the toilets. There are three single-user toilets, just like the WC in Europe. But the similarities end there. The photos above show the funky feeling in the toilets. My favourite was the red toilet that was more like a 70s discotheque than somewhere to relieve yourself. The music is loud, the lights are funky, and you feel like you’ve been taken back in time.

All in all, quite an illuminating experience. I definitely recommend it.

Atmosphere: 10/10

Service: 8/10

Food: 7/10

Coffee: 7/10


Tripoli Restaurant Laval — The Definition of Food Porn

I hadn’t been to Tripoli Restaurant in Laval in a couple of years. We decided to go there on a whim; and we’re glad we did.

It was about 12.30 PM. A perfect time to dine on a Saturday, because you get to be in a mostly-empty restaurant and get a chance to breathe in the environment without being rushed.

The walls were full of pictures associated with the city of Tripoli or other parts of Greece. The tables and colours were mostly Greek-flag blue and white, like when you reach the island of Paros in the Greek Cyclades.

The waitress was a Greek-Canadian young lady who barely knew enough Greek for an order. I switched to English and she was very helpful. I was, as usual, very peculiar and difficult about the way I wanted my fish cooked. I had a sea bass and my companion took the traaditional salted cod (bakaliaro) with a side of skordalia (greek side that combines mashed potatoes and mashed garlic), see below. I took a Greek salad and my partner a lettuce salad, both with a healthy sprinkling of crumpled feta.

My salad was delicious, although there was a hint of lemon on it. It was fresh and very tasty.

The waitress brought some less-than-fresh bread to us in a basket (as per Greek tradition) but forgot the butter. A customer on the next table and I lifted the bread slices looking for the butter, but to no avail. It took a good 5 minutes to getbit after we asked for it. I wondered if this was restaurant policy or if the waitress had just been aloof. Either way, it was the only bad part of the serving, alongwith the arrival of foods at disproportionate times. But it’s nothing to reallycomplain about. The waitress more than made up for it by getting the order perfectly right and apologizing and being polite.

The guy at the next table got his lamb chops. I’ve had them before. They’re absolutely perfectly done with just enough sauce and lemon on them.

Then he received his traditional Greek fries, just the way grandma used to make them. Slightly burnt. Perfect for fish and chips, yet perfectly round.

The fish was mouthwatering. Just a bit of oil and salt and pepper. I didn’t add any lemon. It was perfectly grilled. All I needed was a chair and umbrelka in front of a Greek beach.

For dessert, on the house this time, were the ever-famous loukoumades (Greek dough puffs with a dash of sugar and plenty of honey.

I strongly recommend Tripoli. An amazing dining experience.

Parking: Yes

Atmosphere: 9/10

Cleanliness: 9/10

Food: 9/10

Service: 7/10

Sub-par Brunch at L’Oeufrier Chabanel 

The L’Oeufrier franchise has been growing in the Montreal area and is one of the biggest breakfast/brunch chains. It’s closest franchise to me is on Chabanel Street. Though manufacturing is still the main employer in the area, outsourcing has caused it to transform some of its buildings from factories like this 

to lofts.

This is the same building 5 years ago and now. It is an attractive neighbourhood and a very busy and happening one during business hours. The reason I decided against buying a loft here was the absolute lack of traffic at night and most of the weekend. 

This is the newly-renovated street to go along with the lofts, chic boutiques (if you know where to find them), classic Italian cafes and a bar or two, and just a general modernisation of the place.  There is a train station near here and a car will get you to civilisation in less than 5 minutes.

This is the inside of L’Oeufrier, thankfully smaller and more quaint than its namesakes. Leaving home, I had a feeling there would be no lineup. Even at 11 AM, it was half-empty. 

There was no air conditioning on a hot muggy day. It was at the border of warm and sweaty, something reserved for a cafe near the beach when I’m on vacation. 

They have a unique, attractive, and excruciatingly long menu with great catch phrases and options. My favourite meal name was Justin riding a caleche in Ottawa. Cute. We’ll let that one slide. The coffee had an even yet unamusing and incomplete taste. It tasted like coffee-flavoured tea. I put extra sugar and took it down like a man. 

The eggs Benedict looked delightful. I had never seen such nice presentation and lack of overwatering, if you know what I mean. They looked dry and firm. Unfortunately, they were overcooked. Had they poached them or just boiled them for 8 minutes? Unremarkable. 

Then there was the bagel with salmon and cream cheese with lettuce.  The lettuce was stodgy. I took it out of the sandwich and proceeded. The bagel was amazing only because it was that wonderful St Viateur bagel. The burnt sesame excited me so. The cream cheese was of an inferior variety. The smoked salmon was disappointingly dry. The sandwich was passable by the skin of its teeth,

Overall,  an utter disappontment. 

Food: 6/10

Coffee: 4/10

Atmosphere: 5/10

Service: 7/10

Stay away!!!!

Brunch for All Tastes at La Bete a Pain Fleury 

The popularity of Fleury West Village has brought about quaint and hip restaurants, cafes, and specialty food stores that make the northwestern enclave of the north-central Montreal borough of Ahuntsic into a mostly sustainable and walkable community that is beginning to burgeon. On the down side,  some properties, mostly commercial surrounding the village, have now been turned into hideous condos. This almost makes me want to not speak of this little 500 metres of modern commercial infrastructure, to out it blandly. 

The first progressive establishment to open up in the village was Le St. Urbain Restaurant, on the higher end of the scale, serving nouveau French fusion cuisine.  The owner decided to open up La Bete a Pain on the next street. 

It’s name, translated as The Bread Beast, properly represents its great array of artisanal bread. My favourites are the sesame-poppy seed, gamut, country baguette, and the pumpkin seed breads. Take the time to ask its surprisingly bilingual staff what texture and ingredients each one has. 

When you walk in you’ll be greeted with a choice of the sweet and savoury, such as the artisanal muffins and nut-filled croissants,  as well as the salty, such as their fabulous date scones and plain croissants. There isn’t what you can call an abundant amount of choice, especially after 11 A.M.,  but there is an adequate amount. 

If you leave you pay. If you wish to sit down in the adjoining room,  you continue there to order your coffee or wait for table service. 

Here’s a good description of a possible brunch experience. It’s also a great place to sit down and just enjoy your java and croissant. The coffee, while not a standout,  is very good. 

There is the drawback of problematic Wi-Fi reception. But I guess you shouldn’t be there on a weekend morning to write blog posts. 

Overall, this is a nice cafe with the problem of being too diverse. This is why I try to avoid it at peak hours.  

Atmosphere: 7

Service: 9

Food: 9

Coffee: 7

Overall: 7.5

Ostria Cafe — By the Mediterranean 

Art imitates life and life copies,  or assumes, art. When watching television became too much, the owner took a hatchet to it.  No improvisation. No thought. Just reaction. And it’s so glamorous that the hatchet will be a permanent wall fixture. 

I’m guessing the above sign is referring to Greek director Theo Angelopoulos’ great film  “The Beekeeper”. You need to look for it and make the connection,  but you know there’s something there that needs to be alluded to when the hatchet meets the sign. A double epiphany perhaps. Hope and fear, as the TV represents the film and the fear, while the hatchet kills life, whether bad or good. Then there is the renaissance, the post-nirvana existence of what is hopefully peace of mind, catharsis, and epiphany. In the least, let’s hope for empowerment. 

This is also the best place in Methoni to get a morning coffee. They’re all made well. And the wind just blows enough to make sure the coolness is retained.  

Sit down and wait for friends and acquaintances to show up. Talk in Greek,  French, or English, to the owner, Corenne.  Give your order to the lovely Greek-Romanian girls. 

Before you know it, it’ll be time for a swim, the beach being about about 100m.  away.

Sapienza Restaurant Methoni — Revisited 

This is my previous review of Sapienza Restaurant.
Now let’s get better acquainted with the food. 

Stifado is a veal and onion stew with a sweet cinnamony taste. Some refer to it as Greek ghoulash. This is intentionally heavy an filling. 

As you walk into the kitchen, this is what’s on top of the oven. Stuffed courgette flowers, orzo and beef, chicken biftecks, and stifado. 

This is the food in the oven. Thanassi can explain it in detail to you. 

This is the epitome of homemade Greek comfort food.  

Thanassi decided to expand the menu.

This is the bean salad. 

These are the courgette cakes. They are absolutely delicious and surprisingly light. Great as an appetizer or side dish. 

These are the traditional papoutsaki (stuffed or topped aubergine), stuffed peppers and tomatoes, and briam (a mix of assorted vegetables including courgette and potatoes, cooked in a very heavy tomato-oil sauce). These are as good as you can get. 

It’s rare to see improvement in what’s already an excellent reastaurant just meters away from the beach. The additions to the menu and the relaxing family atmosphere makes Sapienza Restaurant a must in your Methoni itinerary. 

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