Check out my newly revived Ottawa food blog: Bowsing Nom Noms! The newest blog post is about a local upscale Middle Eastern restaurant – rated #46 in all of Canada! Please check it out and let me know what you think!
Photo of the day: Poutine @ La Banquise. Photo credit: Aaron.
After a late night last night, we decided to slowly get out of bed just in time to check out of the hotel. We drove over to St.-Viateur Bagels for some classic Montreal-style bagels. We picked up two sandwiches – the smoked salmon, cream cheese one on a sesame bagel, as well as a smoked meat sandwich on a rosemary and sea-salt bagel. They had in-house seating with pretty good looking salads to make it a meal, but it was a nice day so we took our sandwiches over to a bench at Parc La Fontaine. This reminded me so much of my days as a student here, when I would bike through this park to pick up bagels on the weekend. My bagel sandwich was quite disappointing. The meat juice has soaked through the bagel and made it very soggy. At the same time, the parts which were soggy were very hard and dense. The meat itself was not as good as the ones we had yesterday at Schwartz’s. Aaron’s sandwich, on the other hand, was nice and soft with quite generous amounts of cream cheese. I’ve realized that Kettleman’s Bagel in Ottawa is actually quite comparable in quality so it’s a great alternative for those who do not want to drive the 2 hours for Montreal-style bagels.
Le Moineau Masqué
After breakfast, we walked around the park and checked out the neighbourhood of Plateau Mont-Royal before stopping at Le Moineau Masqué for some coffee. This was a very cute cafe with a lovely outdoor area with bean bags, a nice cushioned bench and even a cat to hang out with. We are not sure if the cat is a store cat but nonetheless, it stayed there on our table the whole time we were there. I quite enjoyed my iced matcha latte, which was nicely unsweetened; however, I will pass on the shortbread cookie here next time.
We were not too hungry at this time but figured we were in the neighbourhood so we must check out the popular La Banquise for some poutine. Our friends tried to come here yesterday but gave up because the line was too long. When we arrived today, around 4pm, the line was not too bad. In a matter of minutes after we joined the line though, another 10-20 people appeared behind us. The wait itself was not bad, especially if your phone is already preloaded with podcasts for your road trip. We decided to just split the regular-sized classic poutine and I tried a bottle of local Bec Soda, sweetened with maple syrup. I chose the lime-flavoured soda and it was an interesting twist on a Sprite-like soda. It is less sweet and does have a very distinct taste, which makes it not as easy to drink as any regular soft drink. The poutine itself definitely lived up to its name. The potatoes were nicely sweet and seasoned, the gravy not too salty and the cheese curds were nice and “squeeky”. If you prefer the soft, melted cheese curds though, you will not find them here. See photo of the day for a visual representation of this deliciousness.
Before we headed back to Ottawa, we decided to stop by Old Montreal for some exploring. There seemed to many events happening here including a poutine festival as well as a cultural festival called Orientalys showcasing many different cultures, from Moroccan dance performances to an animated wood sculpture craving show by a man from France. Aaron really wanted to do the zipline across the Old Port, so we paid our fees, donned our gear and hiked up the metal scaffold to the top and experienced maybe <1 minute of zooming across the sky. For those who have done ziplining previously, this is not too exciting but it’s a great chance to experience it for those who have yet to do it.
After our mini aerial adventure, we walked by a truck called M Churros Mme Banane selling churros and you know Aaron had to stop for one. It was a clever concept. They only sold 2 items on the menu here – churros and frozen bananas. These can both be customized with your favourite filling/coating. It looked like both items were equally popular and most groups bought one of each. We just got the original churro without any filling and the frozen banana with milk chocolate and peanuts. The churro was pretty average while the frozen banana was quite a delightful way to end our trip to Montreal!
And this marks the end of our 26 hours spent in Montreal. It was definitely food-heavy but we’ve both been here in the past to do all the touristy things. I should really be renaming this post “26 hours of eating in Montreal punctuated by minimal exploring while digesting our food”. Till next time!
A few weeks ago, we decided to take an impromptu trip to Montreal, Quebec, Canada and of course, my #1 priority is food. 7 years ago, I spent one month living in Montreal as part of the Explore Program, so I already had an idea of what spots I had to revisit.
Coffee break @ Pikolo Espresso Bar
It was an easy 2 hour-drive from Ottawa to Montreal and after quickly checking into our hotel on the west side of downtown, we took a nice leisurely walk past the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and through the beautiful campus of McGill University to our first stop – coffee at Pikolo Espresso Bar. It was a very small, hipster coffee shop with window seating, a small upper balcony, as well as a bench in front of the shop, which is where we sat to enjoy our good coffee while people-watching. The weather was perfect at this time, so it was nice to be outside.
Smoked Meat @ Schwartz’s
Next stop, the famous Schwartz’s. This is probably one of the must-visit places in Montreal. It is so famous their walls are full of photos of celebrity visitors. There was also a musical based on it! There is always a line-up but it moves quite quickly. For those who do not want to wait, you can go through the door on the left for take-out instead. We wanted the whole experience, so we patiently waited in line and were seated in no time at a communal table with 2 other couples. Aaron had the fatty smoked meat sandwich, while I chose the medium one. We also shared some fries and a dill pickle. The smoked meat was encased in a soft, unassuming bread as to not overtake the star of the show. There was a thick layer of mustard which paired perfectly with the smoked meat. I took a bite of my sandwich and immediately was impressed with the taste and texture of the meat. This was truly something you can only get in Montreal. The smoked meat I’ve had elsewhere does not compare to this at all as they were usually dry and tough. Then, I took a bite of Aaron’s fatty smoked meat sandwich and realized there was no turning back. The meat was so fatty, it just melted in my mouth with every bite. Immense regret immediately rushed through me as I wished that I had ordered this sandwich instead. The pickle was a nice refreshing touch but the fries were unremarkable. The set up here reminded me of Asia with the communal seating and the cash-only payment up at the cash. The service was super-friendly and efficient! If you haven’t had enough, feel free to purchase smoked meat by the pound to bring home.
My first VR experience
While walking to Schwartz’s, we came across a pop-up Samsung store advertising their VR technology. Now that we are contently full, we decided to drop in to take a look. I became extremely worried when I realized the VR experience was more than just walking around with a device on my head. It consisted of being strapped to a machine which not only tilted you forward and backwards, but also flipped you upside down. I signed the consent anyway and stood in line while hoping with all my might that I would not vomit since all I can feel is layers of smoked meat in my stomach at this time. After securely fastening the VR device on my head and getting strapped into this motorized seat, I was ready. The experience was actually a lot more fun and less nauseating then I expected. It was imitating an experience on a rollercoaster and to be honest, I felt that it was much less motion-sickness evoking than a real ride would. The only awkward part is when you’re on a real rollercoaster, it’s not strange to scream as those around you would usually be also screaming. In this case, I was the only one screaming while bystanders just watched and giggled.
From hip-hop to opera
We were told there was a graffiti festival near-by so we walked over to Saint Catherine Street and were greeted with some pretty impressive rapping with a very enthusiastic crowd. We watched that for a while before walking around to admire the artwork on the walls. There was even a DJ on the roof of one of these buildings while the audience on the street cheered on with their “beverages” in paper bags. We continued to walk along Saint Catherine when we came across an outdoor showing of an opera on a huge screen. We quite appreciated the juxtaposition between this and the hard-core rapping performances we witnessed a few minutes ago. On our way to the hotel, we had to stop by Pappa Roti for some nicely warmed-up coffee bun even though we were still full from our smoked meat sandwiches. It was actually pretty good, despite still not being as good as the one we had in Kuala Lumpur.
After changing into clothes more appropriate for the cooler evening climate, we stopped by Kampai Garden for some drinks. The cocktails here were pretty good and were sold by the pitcher – meant to be shared, but it did come with a large straw … for those who like to indulge ;). We decided to try the duck tataki, which was apparently entered into a local competition. It was served over sushi rice and coated with an amazing sauce – quite delicious! We managed to get a seat easily on the patio since it was soon closing but there was a long line to get inside the resto-club, which was open till 3am. After dinner, we headed over to meet up with our friends who were also visiting Montreal this weekend. Overall, an amazing and eventful first day in Montreal. We arrived quite late in the afternoon so it we did not get to try as much of the food as we wanted today but stay tuned for Day 2 for more local favourites!