36hrs (or so) of eating

My first day (of 3) on my first trip to Montreal

It was an impromptu decision, but I’m in Montreal. I know I’ll have a great time exploring the city for the first time, but I can’t shirk the feeling that I’m not in New York. I know it’s sounds ridiculous, but even moments before I purchased my ticket to Montreal, I thought I’d be spending the May long weekend in my favorite city. But for some reason, the prices for flights and hotels for NYC were exorbitantly high so it became clear that if a weekend away were to happen, it was going to be in Montreal.

I arrived in Montreal with a great attitude and amazing food itinerary. Even though I had less than a few weeks to plan, I was able to secure reservations at some of Montreal’s “musts”. On great advice from a friend, I chose a cute boutique hotel in Old Montreal.

"Le Petit Hotel Montreal"

Arriveing at Le Petit Hotel’s doorstep at 8:30am and they were happy to check us in right away. I didn’t know if it was the lack of sleep from taking the red-eye, but I almost cried when I put my bags down in the room. Every time I’ve taken the red-eye to New York, I’ve always requested early check-in, never gotten it and have spent the first morning walking around like a zombie in the street.

I loved the charm of the renovated old building and my excitement about being in Montreal started to build for the first time.

"Le Petit Hotel Montreal room"

One of the reasons I chose Le Petit Hotel was for their free breakfast. I liked the idea that I could roll out of bed and wander down for a croissant and cappuccino. We were invited to eat breakfast that morning, even though we were just checking in. I knew that I’d sleep better if I had food in my tummy so we went to have a bite.

"Le Petit Hotel breakfast"

Breakfast was simple, but I’d happily take simply delicious over mediocre variety.

After  a nice nap in a comfy bed, I was ready to eat again. I had marked Olive + Gourmando with a big “STAR” beside it and it was conveniently located a few blocks from our hotel. We arrived at 11:45am and were lucky to get one of the last seats available. If we were 10 minutes later, we would have waited 15-20 minutes. I didn’t know it at the time, but the wait would have been worth it.

"Olive + Gourmando Montreal cuban"

Ben’s Cuban chicken sandwich

Olive + Gourmando Montreal ricotta

My ricotta with broccoli rabe, parmesan and pine nuts.

Our lunch was delicious and the diners around us were eating food that looked very tempting. My only regret was that we were too full to think about buying any sweets.  I thought I’d return to try some of their decadent baked goods, but missed out because they’re not open Sunday/Monday. Oh well, next time I guess…

I had an afternoon meet up with some friends and we decided to enjoy the weather on some of Montreal’s fantastic terrasses.

"Boris Bistro Montreal terrasse"

Boris Bistro was lovely and very relaxed. The facade of the building shelters a quiet tree-lined patio behind a busy street. I celebrated my arrival in Montreal with a glass of sparkling rose wine.

My group was wanting a bit more action, so we hopped over to the Place D'Armes hotel.

My group was wanting a bit more action, so we hopped over to the Place D’Armes hotel.

"Place D'Armes Montreal terrasse"

The terrace had a great view and even better people watching.

I wandered back to the hotel through the cobblestone streets trying to maintain positive thoughts about being in Montreal. I spent a lot of my first day pining for New York and feeling like Montreal just couldn’t compare. But negative thoughts can grow exponentially if you let them and quickly ruin an adventure. As I walked up the stone steps back into the hotel, I reminded myself to embrace what I have and make the most of my weekend in Montreal.

I was hopeful that the dinner I had planned that night would be just the thing to make me appreciate my Montreal experience. If you’ve read any of my Japan posts, you’ll know how enthusiastic I am about David Chang’s Mind of a Chef PBS show. Frédéric Morin and David McMillan of Joe Beef/Liverpool House were featured on that show as well as a few of Anthony Bourdain’s show’s recently. Both Bourdain and Chang seem to love these guys, and from what I’ve seen, I knew I would too. I was too late in planning, to be able to get reservations at Joe Beef, but was able to secure a late reservation at Liverpool House.

When we walked into Liverpool House, I noticed Fred sitting at the end of the bar. I’m always comforted when I go to a restaurant and see one of “THE guys” there. It means there’s still a connection with the face to the food. Our seats weren’t ready, but we were happy to sit at the bar for a cocktail. I was even happier still to sit beside Fred… I’m such a chef dork.

Ben and I were served a couple decent cocktails and were enjoying ourselves so much, we didn’t realize that it was almost an hour past our reservation time. Fred had left the restaurant and come back to see we were still there and comped us one of our cocktails before we were taken to our seats. Thoughtful gestures go a long way to enhancing a dining experience.

I had troubles reading the menu written on the chalkboard at the back of the dark restaurant, but our server offered great assistance. The lighting was also an issue for my photos and although I don’t feel my photos do justice to the fantastic meal that follows, I am posting them nonetheless.

"Liverpool House Montreal oysters"

Seafood platter with 2 kinds of East Coast oysters.

"Montreal Liverpool House oursin"

When our server told us they had sea urchin, I knew I had to have one.

"Liverpool House Montreal shrimp"

Matane shrimp from Quebec were sweet and deliciously prepared with a unique combination of peas and potatoes. Also the platter were razor clams, which I haven’t had since Barcelona.

"Liverpool House Montreal beer cheese"

Homemade beer cheese was a selfish choice, because I knew Ben wouldn’t really like it. I felt pangs of guilt as I devoured the plate myself.

"Montreal Liverpool House risotto"

Snow crab risotto was intensely flavoured and delicate at the same time.

Too full to tackle dessert, but completely satisfied from our experience, I finished the evening happy that Liverpool House was exactly what I’d hoped to experience in Montreal; great food in an unpretentious environment. As we meandered back to our hotel that first evening I was eagerly anticipating my next few days in the city to explore the uniqueness that Montreal has to offer.

Le Petit Hôtel: 168, Saint-Paul street West, Montréal

Olive and Gourmando: 351 Rue Saint Paul Ouest, Montréal

Liverpool House: 2501 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montréal

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