I give up, it seems that, barring me winning the lottery, I won’t have any opportunity to catch up on my writing in the short term so I’ve decided to post again more of less directly and I’ll write my previous entries in my (spare) time…
So another year has come and gone and I have little to show for it. I didn’t have anything specific planned as Invasion Cocktail is already in full swing (but more on that later). In fact, this was probably one of the most subdued day in the past few years.
Not quite whether it’s a French RPG that got translated into English or the other way around, but it reminds a lot of the classic Pendragon RPG, with maybe a tad more fantasy attached to it… Definitely something to keep an eye out for…
Since I had to devote as much free time as possible for my bar-hopping, I ended optimizing my routes for data collection. That probably meant I got access to less interesting content than usual, but I’m happy with what Ive got.
On to Invasion Cocktail, expect a wall of text as the event started last week and I have visited all but 2 of the establishments that weren’t present last year.
Instead of going through a chronological journey, I’ll just list the whole gamut with my notes and appreciation. Overall, it’s been a very good year with a few sour notes but no no-shows like last year.
First my “coup de Coeur”, places that I were pleasantly surprised and will definitely return in the future.
Barraca Rhumerie & Tapas as (DUN, DUN, DUN) a well-stocked Rum list (although, for a weird reason, they didn’t have the one brand that was part of the promotion, Trinidad’s Angostura) was a logical starting point, especially as it’s relatively close by to the Jack of Hearts.
I’ve decided to start with a simple pick, the Scarborough Bomb, which is much like a boilermaker with a shot of Rum resting in a glass of Ginger Beer with a slice of pineapple as garnish. I’m usually more a Mojito fan, but this is relatively high on my list that I could see myself sipping it on the terrace this summer.
Haven’t tried their menu yet but that’s something I’ll rectify on my next visit, especially as it seems I have to give a critique to my boss as she’s interested by this place too.
Next on the list and nearby, is a great wine bar called the Rouge Gorge, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by this place and while the wine list is extensive, I have to admit I have a thing for white wine and especially Vinho Verde (I don’t know why but ever since I’ve read a piece in Monocle about Cities that never sleep where they list the usual suspects like New York or Seoul but added Lisbon, mentioning how to a glass of this wine was the perfect drink when the sun rises, I feel the need to get a glass from time to time.
For now, I tried their take on the Paloma, called the Palo-Mont-Royal, with Tequila, Grapefruit juice, Lime, Agave syrup and Grapefruit bitters. It felt more like a Greyhound (with Tequila in lieu of Vodka). Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
Next, Mayfair is an odd duck, a mix of a British tea salon and a cocktail bar, which makes for an eclectic clientele, I kept waiting for the gang of Hustle at one of the tables. The funny thing is that a coworker of mine had actually visited the place a few weeks back and given the proverbial thumbs up, to which I have to concur. Here I tried the Castaway which is Rum, Cointreau, Earl Grey tea, Pineapple juice, Lime, Orgeat syrup and Strawberries and a rim of Sugar and Black Pepper.
Last but not least is Chez Victoire, This bistro-style restaurant is an hidden gem. It straddles the fine between a straight-up neighbourhood joint and New French cuisine with a razor’s edge. I was surprised that it’s from the same group that owns Mimi La Nuit (more on that later) and I can see the similarities.
I decided to try their Mr.Gentleman (Gentleman Jack’s with Lemonade topped with ginger-infused whipped cream and cardamon). While the cream was probably a bit much, I suppose that it’s a way to give the drink a richness that one would probably try to get with egg whites, like in a Fizz.
This year, the people behind the event brought some interesting changes. First, was the addition of bars in Québec City. Even though, I won’t be able to visit this week, I have taken notes for places to visit the next time I head over there.
The other thing is their embracing of places which are focusing as much on the food side as their mixology skills. That’s why i tried the Victoire’s “Smoked” Meat sandwich, which is definitely different than what has made La Cité famous. Still the meat was flavorful and the salad and fries were just as delicious. I find it funny to have it served on what looked like a cutting board as I read that morning that one of critic’s pet peeves on restaurant was their usage of eclectic implements where a plate would be just as good…
Next come the Round 2 gang, places I’ve either visited at last year’s or later on during the year
On the top of the particular list is the Red Tiger, where I actually picked this year’s passport. I’ve selected the Pear Pressure Dan, a Muscat des Papes, Vermouth, Earl Grey syrup, Lemon & Asian Pear juices concoction. I have to admit that it was a very refreshing drink.
What’s more enticing is that they will be celebrating their first anniversary soon and they are planning to sell caps with their logo on them.
I can’t wait!!!!
I managed to visit the third and last Distillerie location. Although, each one is a different neighbourhood and as a certain feel to them, they are enough similarities between them that each feel different (which might change once they started selling their Momofuku-inspired fried chicken sandwiches in our their establishments).
I tried their Yellow Brick Road cocktail, with Ungava Gin, Basilic, Green Tea syrup, Lime juice and soda. I’m always intrigued when I come across a drink that will use a fragrant herb like rosemary or basilic, but I’ve rarely been disappointed when I try them
…On a side note, I’ve tried the Pepsi Ginger Cola and I was a bit underwhelmed, the mix of Cola and Ginger was okay, I guess but by the end , it was too much. Maybe had Coke tried it…
On a similar vein, my visit to what I found out was the original location for L’Assomoir. I was very much disappointed with my visit to their Old Montreal place as I found it pretty much a tourist trap and their reputation as a cocktail mecca to be undeserved. Visiting this place, I can see the “better-than-thou” attitude is a bit turned down at this location but still… It’s a bit too “Old World” for my taste, even the shot of Mandarine Napoléon the barman offered by way of apology for messing a patron’s order. Ironically, the cocktail I tried was called the #IKNOWMYJOB (Jamieson Whiskey, Prunelle de Bourgogne, Cinnamon, Coffee, Pink Grapefruit juice and Plum & Root Beer bitters
As luck would have it, right next to L’Assomoir was the Gros Luxe, I’ve tried their Longueuil location for a Brunch a few months it was okay but definitely not worth all the publicity this place receives. When a place takes pride is selling a Bloody Caesar with a BURGER as an add-on, I’m pretty sure that subtlety has gone out the window.
I’ve tried the Pas Game (Jack Daniel’s, Pineapple-Chipotle liqueur, Smoked Chili bitters and Citrus rinds). Interesting, but at the end of the day, I’m not sure it’s interesting enough to warrant a return visit
All and all, It felt like a glorified dive bar
I’ll close this section with the restaurant I visited for my birthday, Mimi La Nuit, which I had visited last year and was a little disappointed. Not taking any chances as I planned to visit this Old Montreal hot spot on a Saturday night, I made a reservation, which provided mixed results as the place I was given was a bit out of the way and it felt that I had only walked in and asked for a place at the bar, I would have been better seated.
On my first visit, I was deterred from ordering any food but this was not a problem this time around. I’ve ordered the Gyoza dumplings with Quebec Pork as a starter., along a Mac’n’Cheese with smoked Gouda, Pork Shoulder and Jalapeno. The food was top-notch, for the price, and although I expected a little more kick from the Jalapeno, it was still a good meal.
For dessert, I’ve tried their Carrot Cake. I was surprised to see my order arrived as it felt anything but the traditional dessert I expected. Instead, it was a “bizarro” offering with just a minimal amount of scrumptious cookie-like carrot “cake” with a good mix of spiced (was there anise seed in the mix?) and a ton of cream cheese filling. A bit rich for my blood but still a pleasant enough indulgence.
On the cocktail side, I tried the Corpse Reviver No. 4 (Havana Club 5 Years Rum, Vermouth, Lemon juice and Absinthe) and the Kentucky Sour ( Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack, Lemon Juice, simple syrup and Red Wine). A much better offering than the last time around, which seems to indicated the staff have fine-tuned their skills. The only reason, why I would be hesitant to return over there was the price they charged for beer and cocktails.
Cocktails on the 12-15$ range, I could live with, but when beer is in the same price range, it makes one wonder whether it’s worth it…A place to grab a drink after work, if they manage to let me in… Interesting side-note, my boss was VERY interested in my critique of the place, as it shares her nickname and she’s keen to visit and I learned from a third-party that a colleague went over there to celebrate her 50th birthday, which fits well the mind’s eye I have for the target clientèle as it feels perfect for a Girl’s Night Out type of outing…
And the rest, places that didn’t quite make the cut, and some that dd not seem to care about it…
The least worst of the bunch was Quai No 4, an oddly maritime-themed brasserie in the middle of Vieux-Rosemont (far from any water).. I tried their Bramble No.4, which is a mix of locally-made Cirka Terroir vodka, Blackcurrant syrup, Lime juice, simple syrup and berries.A nice enough drink that could be a nice stand in for sangria, but I would have do without the sugary rim as it felt out of place.
Not a bad place per se, but I would not myself see came to this place, as I’m not that much of a seafood fan and there’s already SOOOOOOO many places on my dancing card…
The next deserve a special place in Hell they are beyond Bar Rescue and if there’s any justice in this weird, they would disappear in the ether…
First is Grenade, a “trendy” (blah!) Asian (BLAH!) Street Food (BLAH!) that is supposedly the latest “it” thing. I had read lots of good things about the place but I was a bit weary as these “flavour-of-the-month” places always hits a sour spot for yours truly.
Haven’t tried their food as the place was packed to the gills and I had to ask for my order 3 times before finally getting it with much (insincere) apologies. As I sipped my Norther (Angostura Rum, Almond liqueur, Red Vermouth, Orange bitters and a MIA caramelized Orange zest, although they gave a piece of chocolate, a nice touch as it complemented the drink), I look around, I recognized the cast of a nightly talk-show that was probably having a post-production party and looking at all the pretty and important people, I made my decision right here and now that I would probably never step back in this place…
At the other end of the spectrum is Monsieur Smith, a “glorified” Dive Bar form the same people of the above mentioned Barraca and Quai No.4.. Again bad vibes set in as soon as I stepped inside the place as I found myself non-plussed yet again by the atmosphere. I’ve been to a few Dive bars in my day (Hello, Miss Villeray, it’s been a while…) and when it’s done organically, I can live with it. But if you just open a bag of “Instant Dive Bar Mix” and use bad attitude and lukewarm service as your branding, it feels cheap…
Having said that, the Bizarroïde that I tried was good, with Sortilège maple whiskey, White Vermouth, Chili syrup, Lime juice, Five Spice-Ginger-Black Pepper bitters and soda. Enough that I’ll probably try and order at another place but never again over there.
One last thing about this place that really stuck in my craw. For Invasion Cocktail, it’s not surprising to see participating bars use new drinks but they will also showcase some that are on their regular menu, which is fine – especially for some such as I who visit for the first some of these places. But, Monsieur Smith has taken it to a weirdly new level by re-using the same names for drinks on the Invasion menu. For example, whereas the Invasion’s “Viau” was a Cognac-coffee liqueur-Cherry affair, on the regular menu it’s Vodka and Chocolate Milk, WTF???
…OK, I lied I almost always drink cocktails!
In closing for this first entry, here’s a cool old-style Volvo that is definitely not beige that I saw on Mont-Royal avenue as I was making the rounds…
Today’s MtG Tarot is SNOW-COVERED PLAINS (HA! It seems the Fates have been looking at the weather forecast for the weekend. Hopefully, La Cité will be spared with this but some other ares in La Belle Province are due to receive over 10 cm of snow!
Feels like: Dorky
Playing on CJFL: Jeu De Boussole – Les Soeurs Boulay