1. Baked brie at Saint Bock’s
Feast your eyes on this Quebecois appetizer: baked brie with roasted pecans and maple syrup (above). I smooth melted cheese and warm nuts onto my baguette, and bite into a medley of smoky and sweet flavours. It’s a simple but gourmet appetizer, and best paired with a Montreal craft beer. The dish is easy to make home too – and for extra deliciousness, bake the brie on the barbecue.Head Chef and owner, Emma “Mama” Risa may not speak English or French fluently, but can easily communicate with patrons through her authentic Italian cooking. Locals and tourists alike flock to this Old Montreal restaurant for its gourmet dishes and a touch of romance in the 19th-century stone building – that was once a women’s prison.
It’s not just common folk who dine at Emma’s – photographs of familiar Hollywood faces decorate the walls.Our waiter informs us that Mama rarely emerges from the kitchen – except to greet Julia Roberts, of course. Another time, Johnny Depp sat in Mama’s kitchen, munching on her famous homemade meatballs (below) and watching the World Cup. It’s the sort of place where legends and stories are made.
As an appetizer, I order bruschetta on garlic bread and the spicy arugula salad – a bowl of fresh greens and Quebec cheddar tossed in a light oil dressing (below). The vinegary dressing helps quench the spicy zing on my tongue.
As a main course, I feast on four meaty shrimps, sautéed in garlic and olive oil, and homemade rotini in tomato sauce (below).
My pants are ready to burst when dessert arrives, but I happily accept a bowl of tiramisu cake sprinkled with cocoa powder (below).3. Labo culinaire/Food Lab
Located in La Société des arts technologiques building, Food Lab embraces gastronomical exploration. Chefs Seth Gabrielse and Michelle Marek experiment with fusing international cuisine and local ingredients, creating unique dishes at a reasonable price point. The menu changes regularly – themed according to selected countries and with seasonal fare. For once, I’m thrilled to volunteer as a test subject in this science lab.
Upon arrival, I’m handed a modest menu of Jerusalem inspired dishes. The starters of warm olives, hummus, and grilled pita bread (below) disappear within moments, forcing our table to order a second (and later, third) helping.
I savour the crispy Falafel, seasoned with sesame seeds and topped with pickled turnip, tomatoes, romaine, herbs, and tahini sauce (above). I leave the table feeling sated and impressed that my meal rivaled food that I feasted on in Israel.
4. Montreal Smoked Meat and Poutine at Reuben’s Deli
Walking through its front door, Reuben’s resembles a typical New York delicatessen – except that it’s been serving hungry Montrealers since 1976. The house specialty is the Reuben Sandwich – slices of Montreal smoked meat heaped onto rye bread, with a side of coleslaw and Yukon gold fries (below). I actually pause to consider how to maneuver this giant sandwich from the plate into my mouth.
If you’re an herbivore, there’s another classic Quebecois dish on the menu: poutine. I nibble on a shared plate of fresh-cut fries slathered in brown gravy and melted cheese curds (below). Make no mistake – it’s hardly a second choice to the Reuben sandwich.
Details:To plan your trip to Montreal, check out the Tourisme Montreal website.