Aug 30, 2010

Noa Sushi Lounge is Globe's newest neighbour on Saint Laurent Boulevard







It's not like Boulevard Saint Laurent really needs another loungey restaurant with sexy waitresses, but hey: nothing like an opening to get me out of the house. So there I went, last Saturday night, Nascar weekend, no less. The boulevard, closed to traffic for the weekend, was even more jammed than usual with a fun mix of locals and tourists, total party vibe going on.


I was there to check out the opening of the Noa Sushi Lounge, an all-white space lit in green one second, hot pink the next. The crowd was the usual mix of St. Laurent girls (think tiny dresses, platinum blonde hair, boobs spilling out), muscle boys and scenesters.


Yes, this is meant to be a restaurant, but on Saturday at 10 PM it definitely felt more like a small club gearing up for a big night: huge bottles of Grey Goose, DJ dancing to her own mixing, big tables set with jugs of OJ and cranberry juice and Hype energy drink (how else d'yathink they'd down all that vodka)?


It seemed fun and, more surprisingly, the sushi looked better than average (I'm a sushiholic who's been desperately seeking a top-notch Japanese restaurant in this town, so far, with no luck...).


That caught my attention, in fact - and only later did I find out, reading Tourisme Montreal's blog, that for the opening "Cordon-bleu trained creative director Nacim Louali invited two Japanese chefs : Taketsuna Araki (formerly from Kaizen and Soto) and Koichi (from Kioochi Club Hotel & St-Malo Kasukabe in Tokyo) – flown in from Japan for the occasion – to shake up the new sushi kitchen.
The sushis served presented a mix of traditional techniques and ingredients less common to japanese cuisine, like a beef tartare rolled up in cheese with tomato confit, truffle vinaigrette and pickle. "

Sounds like the guests at the opening ate very well, but what happens next? I just hope that once Araki and Koichi are gone the ones left in charge take the food seriously - not usually the case at Montreal's sushi joints, sadly.





After Noa, I stopped by neighbour Globe - yet another resto-lounge famous for the hot waitresses with deep cleavage in skimpy dress - for a nightcap and.... WHOA! The place was jammed with Nascar drivers, their entourages, poseurs and girls playing sexy, and the atmosphere was hot!

Waiters scrambled to clear the tables and whisk them away to make room for the revellers who kept streaming in, and the restaurant had pretty much turned into a nightclub by the time I left. Buckets with huge bottles of vodka and sparklers kept whizzing by, as girls danced on the tables. And I thought Globe had seen its glory days and was now all but forgotten... Ha! Little did I know....

But you know what? I was actually very glad to be proved wrong: despite the chaos the manager was a perfect gentleman and the girls behind the bar were super efficient, I was quite impressed. And what's more: restaurant critic Lesley Chesterman reviewed Globe recently and.... she actually loved it! You can download a PDF of the review on Globe's homepage (link below).


Globe: 3455 St-Laurent, tel. 514 284-3823,

Noa Sushi Lounge: 3509 St-Laurent, tel. 514 903-4431,  www.noasushi.com

Aug 27, 2010

The Place d'Armes and other Montreal rooftop terrasses: last few weeks!



Being outside, for Montrealers, is almost an obssession. And when they happen to be downtown or in Old Montreal, where there's less green, then... they simply go hang out on the rooftop of the buildings! Here's the same scene as above, zoomed in:




But.... it's that time of the year again.... sigh... when evenings feel chillier, and the summer starts drawing to a close: a sign that "rooftop season" is nearing its end. Soon enough, many of the city's rooftop bars will close.

There isn't an exact date when this happens, of course - it basically depends on the weather but mid-September is usually when it turns too cold to justify keeping them open for business.


The other night I checked out the rooftop bar at the Auberge du Vieux Port and... it's fine, I guess.




Great view of the Old Port:





But to me it doesn't compare to the rooftop bar at the Place d'Armes hotel.




The Place d'Armes hotel and its rooftop terrasse


The Place d'Armes' rooftop has a more loungey feeling and more space between the tables, even if the view isn't anything special:




The choice of wines is ultra limited and a bit over-priced but... that comes with the rooftop terrasse territory, I guess. The important thing is.... to go while there's time and take in the great vibe.




Terrasse 701: Place d'Armes Hotel, 55 St-Jacques Ouest, Old Montreal, tel. (514) 842-1887

Aug 24, 2010

Winemaker Michael Marler of Les Pervenches to conduct tastings at Manoir Hovey



It's harvest time in the Eastern Townships, the beautiful region just 30 minutes South of Montreal, which means the annual celebration of wines and fine foods called Fête des Vendenges will take place in Magog, on the first two weekends of September. Which is basically a big party under a huge white tent by the lake with hundreds of winemakers, jam-makers, honeymakers and other mom'n'pop farmers and artisans showing off their stuff and offering tastings. Here's the link to the full program.



Timed to coincide with the Fête, the Relais & Châteaux Manoir Hovey in North Hatley (a 20-minute drive from Magog) will serve, from September 3-30, a tasting menu in partnership with one of the most respected wineries in the province, Les Pervenches.

Manoir Hovey was an early supporter of this very special boutique winery run by Michael Marler, a young French-trained winemaker fiercely devoted to his terroir, near the village of Dunham, in the heard of the Townships winemaking region.

Les Pervenches wines are a cut above most other Quebec wines. Marler is daring and talented enough to bottle, in the better years,  a Chardonnay - something unheard of in regions with such harsh winters. The very small production is bought up by regular clients and high-end restaurants, leaving only a small quantity of bottles available for sale at the property. The sheer  scarcity of these wines, which are made a mere 30 minutes from the Manoir, means even getting a chance to taste them is quite a treat.



Marler worked closely with chef Ménard on this time-limited menu, which will be offered at dinner only. Marler himself will be at the restaurant  on some evenings (September 4, 6, 18 and 19) speaking to guests and presenting his wines.

Aug 21, 2010

Georges Marciano, ex-Guess, opens LHotel in Old Montreal



I've got to admit this bit of news struck me as a bit odd.... Georges Marciano of Guess fame all of a sudden has become a Montreal hotelier! 

His brand-new hotel has a very silly name: LHotel. Confusing? Yes. Missing an apostrophe? Absolutely! But the place - formerly known as the Hôtel XIXème Siècle (another less than ideal brand name) - is open for business all the same, with bright orange awnings livelying up the ornate French Second Empire façade. LHotel's biggest draw? The pop art collection of monsieur Marciano himself (think Warhols and Lichtensteins galore).

Their website is a bit shabby and the room descriptions sound.... less than alluring:
"All our rooms are equipped with cable television, three telephones, and a fax-modem outlet. Our Suites and Junior Suites also have a radio with Ipod system and flat screen TV. Some rooms are equipped with a whirlpool bath/steam shower."

But then today I had lunch with a friend who's VERY close to the Marciano clan, and only heard great things: the art is amazing, Georges Marciano is living in the hotel himself and overseeing each detail, the rooms are all being redone, each one with authentic art by a boldface name, etc etc etc.  

We shall see....

I've got to admit: I'm pretty curious. I'll got check it out asap, and will report back!


 LHotel: 262 St-Jacques St. W., tel. 514-985-0019, lhotelmontreal.com

 

Aug 12, 2010

Montreal in a nutshell: poutine, surfing the St. Lawrence, festivals, art, fashion




Montreal, like every other heavily-touristed city, is generally depicted in stereotypical images. That's why I love this video that I discovered today: although it does actually show a few tired clichés - smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz's, anyone? - in this case it works because the photography is groovy, the editing too, and the more obvious Montreal is juxtaposed with images like a dude surfing the St. Lawrence river rapids.



Love it!





The vid was done by ad agency Sid Lee and I just can't figure out why it only got a measly 377 views on Youtube!



Aug 11, 2010

Amazing hotel deal: Chateau Versailles for Can$ 131/night!




I can't recommend the site Travel Zoo highly enough: they always find the best deals ever. Case in point, today I got in my inbox the following offer from them, which is a huge bargain:

"Studio category rooms at the Chateau Versailles hotel (pictured above) are going for $131 per night with a three-night minimum stay. Upgrade to a deluxe category room for an additional $8. Jump on this deal, as peak season rates can soar to $281 per night. Even better, daily Continental breakfast is included in this offer.
The discounted rates are available with a three-night minimum stay on these dates:
  • Sept. 5-20, 26-30
Located within the "Golden Mile" district of art galleries and shops, the hotel is minutes from the Museum of Fine Arts. Situated in an original Victorian building, the Chateau Versailles retains much of its original detailing, and is decorated with original art, antiques and more.
Book by Aug. 18: Click here for more information and to book with Expedia.ca. Note: Minimum three-night stay is required to secure the best rates."

Aug 9, 2010

L.A. Times praises Quebec's wine route, which is only 30 minutes South of Montreal



What? You didn't know Quebec makes very decent wines? Well... think again.

There's a wine route that starts a mere 30 minutes South of Montreal, in the region called Eastern Townships.

The LA Times story notes that "This is the heart of minority Anglo history and culture in Quebec. And despite its whispered reputation as the next Canadian wine and culinary tourism must-see, this isn't a place accustomed to drawing attention to itself.


Few Quebecers, in fact, know that there are 84 wineries across the province, out of 400 in Canada, which makes Quebec the third-largest wine region in the country (after Ontario next door and temperate British Columbia on the Pacific coast)."

It also talks a lot about the region's top winery, Les Pervenches.

I've tasted the chardonnay made by Mike Marler at Les Pervenches myself, and can attest that it's comparable to any good Old World chardonnay out there.

One place to taste the Pervenches wine is North Hatley's Manoir Hovey.


Quebec's wine route: Sampling the Route des Vins de Brome-Missisquoi - latimes.com

Aug 8, 2010

F Bar, by Carlos Ferreira: "gimmicky", but "terrasse rife with spectacle", says Hour critic


I always get a kick of comparing my impressions of a restaurant with other people's - specially when I think they know what they're talking about. Melora Koepke, a Montreal-based foodie and restaurant critic at Voir newspaper, is one such person: she knows her stuff. So I read her recent review of F Bar with relish: I found it fun, informative and unapologetically honest.


I've eaten at F Bar myself twice. Once, for lunch, before they got their liquor license (read about it here). And just the other night I went back for a lovely dinner with a girlfriend. Overall, very good food. The style of cuisine? Contemporary French, with a few Portuguese ingredients thrown in here and there to tie it all in with the flagship Ferreira Café and owner Carlos Ferreira's Portuguese roots.

I came out of both experiences agreeing whole-heartedly with Melora: those damned stainless steel pots they serve the food in (tachos, in Portuguese) are simply cumbersome and gimmicky. Had they been shallow, ceramic casseroles, fine. But these are too deep, making it hard to slice meat or reach the sauces. Lose'em, I say! 

Other than that, the place is very nice, even if more expensive than neighbour Brasserie T! - another thing Melora noted in her review.


Chef Normand Laprise's Brasserie T! - simply delicious haute-rustic fare





Right now, while Montreal evenings are still warm, I can't think of a more pleasant place for a great dinner than chef Normand Laprise's new Brasserie T!, facing the beautiful new public esplanade callled Quartier des Spectacles.
Book one of the terrasse tables and spend an evening of fun people-watching, as Montrealers of all walks of life stroll past. 
I arrived early and had a drink at the bar, which I highly recommend. They serve several very original cocktails created by barman Alexis Morrisseau that are very market-driven and seasonal. Right now, for example, they're offering this one, very reminiscent of a Brazilian caipirinha, with its muddled lime, yet lighter and fizzy:

 

The esplanade was designed with some very original water fountains that are like little holes in the pavement that spurt water at varying intervals, in a computerized and coreographed ballet of sorts. The tall jets of water change colours, too!


That's not to say that the view of the Esplanade is the best thing about T!, because it isn't. To me, the place serves some of the best casual bistro food in town. The high-quality of the ingredients is pretty evident, even in what could otherwise be considered very déjà vu, such as the charcuterie platter. At T!, it's everything but déjà vu: all made in-house, with a sure hand and top-notch meats:



I had as a main course a salmon that sounds deceptively simple on the menu: "salmon with dill". It's actually much more exciting that one might imagine: the salmon is slow cooked at a very low temperature, like it were "confit", and it has a meltingly buttery texture, almost as if it were raw. On the side, a large heap of fennel salad, the bulb sliced paper thin. The constrast in textures couldn't be more satisfying.




I shared a dessert with my friend M: a chocolate éclair that clearly had been sitting in the fridge, thereby losing some of its crackle and softness, but which was delicious all the same. And on the side, ruby red summer strawberries that were intensely flavourful. No, not your standard supermarket strawberry - that's clear.

In fact, I think that's precisely what makes this place: the awesome ingredients, which are barely messed with. I've once ordered beets. Just that. Roasted, a bit of parsley, etc. But.... what amazing beets they were!


Same goes for the gazpacho. Not the best looking. Croutons messily cut. But the cold soup was simply the essence of the summer's best tomatoes, enhanced by an almost too generous drizzle of top-of-the-line olive oil.



And then there's the famous "saucisse de Montreal" that's been advertised as the house specialty. Calling it that was quite a smart (if gimmicky) idea. It's made with pheasant meat and probably wouldn't sell nearly as much had it been called "pheasant sausage" instead of "montreal sausage".... 
I loved the sweet-smokiness of this sausage, and how gently cooked it was - it seemed to crumble on the tongue, almost.





There it is: if I had sung the praises of Brasserie T! after my first visit (click here to read the post), now I've gone back twice and can safely say that it wasn't just beginner's luck. The place is very good, period.

1425 rue Jeanne-Mance (corner of St. Catherine), tel. (514) 282-0808


Aug 7, 2010

Festival Mode & Design ends tonight with Dom Rebel runway show








Yesterday I had another fun evening at Montreal's Festival Mode & Design. Nice sunset, big yet chilled-out crowd, a nice golden light. Can't say I loved the particular show I saw, Point Zero - but hey, that's what I get for showing up without checking the schedule first...
 

 Point Zero runway show


After that came a better show, called Défilé de la Diversité Corporelle. A really cool concept: casting models of different shapes and sizes to celebrate bodies that don't necessarily fit into the mold.

Truth be told, I was there to soak in the atmosphere, rather than actually pay close attention to the clothes on show, so all was good. Funny that the crowd at the VIP area was far more stylish than anyone I saw on the catwalk - have a look:






Local designer Marie-Ève Chagnon (left) of Mosaik being interviewed by Brazilian TV crew








The festival ends tonight, so as of 6 PM today (Saturday) the pop-up boutique will start liquidating its stock. Everything will be on sale at 30% off!
Pieces by 37 Canadian designers are on offer (all listed below).
Where? At the corner of McGill College and Sainte-Catherine, until 10 PM tonight.

Anastasia Lomonova  www.anastasialomonova.com
Atelier B.  www.atelier-b.ca
Betinalou  www.betinalou.com
Birds of North America  www.birdsofnorthamerica.ca
Blank  www.portezblank.com
Bodybag By Jude  www.bodybagbyjude.com
Brazen Design  www.brazen-design.com
Ça va de soi  www.cavadesoi.com
Charlotte Hosten  www.charlottehosten.com
Clockuch  www.clockuch.com
Creation Make it Shine  www.youymakeitshine.com
Dom Rebel  www.domrebel.com
Guido & Mary  www.dominojeans.ca
Eve Gravel  www.evegraveldesign.com
Estrella Bijoux  www.estrellabijoux.com
House Of Spy  www.houseofspy.com
Judy Design  www.judydesign.com
Juma  www.juma.ca
Karv  www.karv.ca
Le Chat Clothing  www.lechatclothing.com
Lucky 7  www.lucky7clothing.com
Melissa Nepton  www.melissanepton.com
New K Industry  www.newkindustry.com
Noir Bonbon  www.noirbonbon.ca
Nu Fashion  www.nufashion.ca
Rachel F.  www.rachelf.ca
Rekognike Production Inc  www.bruxedesign.com
Roussel  www.rousselcollection.com
Thieves  www.thieves.ca
TXT Charbon  www.ladydutch.com
Uranium  www.uranim.ws
Valérie Dumaine  www.valeriedumaine.com
Vêtement OOm Mode Éthique  www.oom.ca
Voyou  www.voyou.ca
White Label  www.whitelabel.com
Tiny Little Chairs  www.tinylittlechairs.com






WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON TONIGHT AT THE FESTIVAL:



Festival Mode & Design's Official Website

Aug 5, 2010

Festival Mode & Design, on McGill College avenue, Downtown: free and fun!




Last night I had dinner at the F Bar then stopped by the Festival Mode & Design, only a couple of blocks away, on McGill College Avenue.

This is the 10th edition of the annual celebration of fashion for the people, which features lots of runway shows right on the avenue, for free, out in the open, plus a shopping rally sponsored by Loulou magazine, and DJ sets with Angelo Cadet, Nico Archambault and more.

Luckily, the opening night was warm and clear, and the crowd turned up in spades.

The Festival has set up a bunch of tents along Mc Gill College ave, including  a Design Zone boutique, featuring clothes and accessories by 30 local designers.

The festival will end on Saturday night with a Dick Walsh show.


TONIGHT
6 p.m. - Fashion show featuring looks composed with stuff from the Place Montreal Trust, the Eaton centre and Complexe les Ailes shopping centers
8 p.m. - Attik
10 p.m. - TransCanada Runway: creations by designers from all over the country.



FRIDAY


7 p.m. - The Bay runway show
8 p.m. - Forever XXI- MY FAVOURITE bargain paradise!!
8:30 p.m. - Foxy Jeans and Bauhaus
9 p.m. - Montreal Confidential
9:30 p.m. - Finn Cultured + Cured
10 p.m. - StyleXchange

SATURDAY
2 p.m. - Académie des arts et du design at Place Ville Marie
8:30 p.m. - Le Château runway show
9 p.m. - Guess runway show
9:30 p.m. - Dom Rebel runway sho
10 p.m. - I Love Sensation. The final blowout, orchestrated by Dick Walsh.

 Official website: www.festivalmodedesign.com

CLICK ON THE VIDEO SCREEN BELOW TO SEE IT FULL SIZE.
 

Aug 4, 2010

Montreal featured in new Travel + Leisure: high praise for city's restaurants

Travel + Leisure is my favourite travel mag, and Montreal, one of my favourite cities. So what good news it was to discover this feature about the city, its neighbourhoods and styles of food!
A must read.

Here are all the places mentioned:

Hotels:


Aug 2, 2010

Cavalli restaurant on Peel street: the hottest girls in town?


What's Cavalli, you may ask - isn't that a restaurant? Sure, it's that, too, and the food is actually pretty good, usually. But to my great surprise, I found out last Thursday that's it's a hopping 5 à 7 bar, too. Basically, tons of people congregating around a pink-lit bar, (mostly men) being served by hot waitresses in even hotter little dresses.



I figured I needed proof for those who might think I'm exagerating. So... voilà:




Now, Montreal's kinda famous for its waitresses - the hotness quotient is always pretty high in the more upscale restos. But... can't think of any other place in town where the dresses are quite so... umm... revealing!


Cavalli: 2040 Peel St, Montreal, tel. 514 843-5100



View Larger Map