Montréal Plaza: A Diamond in the Rough

If there’s one restaurant that has mastered the small plate, it’s Montréal Plaza. I’m not sure if the owners are trying to be ironic by opening a restaurant in Plaza St Hubert amongst the wedding dresses and anime stores, but I’m happy to say that it works. The restaurant is a lot bigger than I was expecting, with a green house nestled in the middle. The kitsch items hanging from the ceiling work well with the architecture of the space.

We began the meal with drinks. I had a refreshing Quebec white wine, prepared in house.  Beer Guy had a ‘4 surfeurs de l’Apocalypso’ by Trou du Diable, a fruity IPA. We ordered the night special, raw scallop with strawberries. It wasn’t a strong start. I liked the taste of the chives and crispy bulgur, and the texture of the scallops’ was nice, however the vinaigrette overpowered the sweetness of the scallops.

IMG_0553

We were really excited about the stuffed zucchini flowers. A second waiter appeared with the dish and his description as he placed it on the table indicated the presence of rabbit despite being very clear to the first waiter that we did not eat meat. Luckily, he got the hint as to our displeasure, apologized profusely and turned things around quickly with his charm. We just couldn’t stay mad.

We were brought the Food Chain salad, a beautiful composition of radishes, asparagus, bok choy, red onion, and flax seeds. I felt healthier just looking at it. It was a pleasant interlude before our next dish, the artic char tartar. The crunch of puffed grains lifted the monotony of the bitter greens. Underneath the salad were little jewels of soft, succulent fish. It was a nice change from the usual salmon or tuna.

IMG_0568

The next dish was unforgettable. Do you remember those snails drowning in garlic butter, circa 1990? Now picture an elevated version of that: miso butter whelks with milk brioche. It was a spectacular combination of warm, savoury, spicy, tart and rich. The whelks were mixed with carrots, garlic, chives, and maybe parsnips. A word of advice, keep a piece of brioche for the end, to sop up all the left over juices.

IMG_0569

If that wasn’t enough, next up was the “Tomato+Shrimp”. This was the replacement they recommended to make up for the rabbit meat in our zucchini flowers. This dish was a piece of art: it was shaped playfully into a colourful, bright burger. My knife sliced through this masterpiece like butter. The blanched tomato was succulent, the shrimp, salty and creamy. The combination of textures, saltiness, and temperature made this dish one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. It will be hard to top this one.

IMG_0567

To end the night, they very graciously made us our own dessert, a combination of house-made blueberry, strawberry and rhubarb sorbet. It was obvious the sorbets were made with fresh and and not frozen fruit. I especially liked it because it wasn’t over sweetened with powdered sugar, and balanced well with the tartness. I couldn’t get over the pairing with tarragon-it worked so well!

IMG_0570

I’m not surprised that Montréal Plaza made it to #31 on Canada’s Top 100 list. They managed to wow me despite a shaky start. I would very highly recommend it, even if it means spending a little extra, if only to try the whelks and the tomato+shrimp.

Beer Guy Pro Tip: Go with the 4 surfeurs de l’apocalypso. It had a sweet aroma of malt, citrus/mango fruit, hops and caramel. It poured a slightly hazy golden colour with medium off-white head. Its flavour delivered on the smell with a medium sweet malt. The complex flavours included fruit, spice, caramel, grass, with the citrus hops offering grapefruit with peel. It was a little dry to the tongue and finished on a slight bitter note. It paired very well with this pescatarian meal.

Verdun Monkeys Elevate Street Food

Another double date with Chris and Andy led us to Street Monkeys, which specializes in Cambodian street food. This restaurant just opened this summer in Verdun and quickly gained popularity among Montrealers. We were excited to finally get a reservation! A visit to this restaurant is hardly reminiscent of street vendors, with its sophisticated window display of bottles over bottles of wine.

Our upbeat waiter greeted us with lots of positive energy. He explained the majority of dishes in detail. We ordered medium spicy papaya salads and the Mee Siam to begin.

Medium-hot was an understatement. This dish was so hot I could feel steam whistling out of my ears. While it was difficult to pin down the flavors because of the hotness level, I can say that the dressing was delicious. I think I’ll go for mild next time. Beer Guy said he enjoyed the medium, I guess he’s surpassed me in chili tolerance.

The Mee Siam is a must. Deep-fried vermicelli noodles are coated in a soy paste/chili oil sauce. It reminded me of bhel puri, one of my favourite indian snacks. Two thumbs up on this dish. The flavours are complex and unique and left us wanting more. I was so excited I forgot to take a picture.

Next, grilled calamari with a garlic, ginger, lime and fish juice dipping sauce.  I would recommend skipping this one. The char on the squid was good and the pieces smelled like the charcoal fire but there was nothing extraordinary about the dish.

IMG_0598

Finally, our fish dishes arrived. The Amok fish was well executed. The plating was beautiful. Morsels of breaded white fish were intertwined with a coconut curry sauce and strips of taro and red pepper. The only problem was that the portion was too small, even for two people.

fish

We also sampled the other fish dish, pan fried trout on a tomato salsa. While cooked to perfection, it lacked the flavours and uniqueness of the other dishes.

Street Monkeys boasts a lengthy cocktail menu, however we decided that our street food experience wouldn’t be the same without beer. I had a Belgian Moon on tap. It cut well through the spiciness of the papaya salad. Beer Guy had an Infamous IPA on tap. It’s a light IPA with an understated aroma of caramel malt with earthy hops. There was a light citrus taste and mild bitter finish that did not overpower the dishes. He recommends pairing this beer with flavourful foods.

While I would recommend this restaurant because it offers some excellent dishes, I would suggest to stop in if you are in need of a snack, not a meal. Each dish is perfect for one person. Nevertheless, the service is friendly and helpful, and the atmosphere is welcoming.

Les Street Monkeys

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer was fun

Hi everyone,

Apologies for the long hiatus. This summer was particularly fun (festivals, a wedding, a baby shower, Florida, lots of Pokemon, great prime time TV, birthdays, hanging with friends, etc etc). While the good times kept us  away from the computer, the good weather is now winding down and so are we. We promise to share posts of the restaurants and beers we tried this summer shortly! Stay tuned.