Archives for posts with tag: restaurant review

The décor is always festive.

One of the joys of living in a cosmopolitan city such as Montreal is the grand variety of restaurants. We recently enjoyed a couple of meals at El Chalateco, an El Salvadoran restaurant located steps away from the Beaubien metro.

A full, nourishing meal.

Pupusas, the national dish of El Salvador, are a specialty of the house. They are served as a street-food in El Salvador, and here in Montreal at El Chalateco they are served on a plate with accompanying house-fermented cole slaw. A pupusa is a filled, fried corn tortilla. They come with a tasty tomato sauce and a spicy hot sauce on the side.  One of our favourites is Queso y loroco, which is filled with cheese and an asparagus-flavoured flower called loroco. At $2.25 a piece, one pupusa is insanely inexpensive, so it’s only polite to order at least two or three of them.  If you come as a large group, you have the option of ordering large amounts to be served family-style.

The Queso y loroco pupusa is a must-eat.

Besides pupusas, there are many other dishes to be tasted at El Chalateco. Vegetarians will be happy here; there are not only veggie-based pupusas but a healthy handful of other meatless choices. Vegans can enjoy a bean pupusa with the fermented cole slaw, and there is a delicious-looking plate of beans, rice, and vegetables.  Flexibility is an option because the kitchen is small.  About three people make the food as it is ordered.

Layers: Fried tortilla, beans, cucumber, cole slaw, guacamole, egg, sweet onions. Delicious and refreshing.

For meat-eaters, this restaurant provides many satisfying choices. Among the appetizers are traditionally-cooked tamales. The masa is infused with other flavours because it is wrapped into a plantain leaf along with other ingredients such as olives and chicken. The tacos Salvadorenos are crunchy rolled-up meat-filled tortillas, served with veggies and a very hot sauce. With a pupusa they are a plentiful good lunch, or they can indeed be eaten as the appetizers that they claim to be. Another specialty of the house is the El Salvadoran version of the Québécois “Hot Chicken” sandwich, the Pan con pollo y escavechi. It is enormous and full of not only chicken and flavours, but vegetables too. The sauce is rich (but not overly so) and delicious. Pastelitos de carne are hot, crunchy packets of spicy goodness.  Definitely give them a try.

In a word, the food here tastes of nourishment.  The dishes are made with care, served hot and are nicely filling.

Pastelitos de carne are the "petits cousins latins de la tourtière."

Even though our visit was in the dead of winter, the ultimate summer drink had to be tested. El Salvadorians call it ‘Michelada‘, which is a mixture of lager, salsa juice and lime served in a mug with a spiced and salted rim. One sip led to dreams of relaxing in the shade with the good company of several drinks shared with many friends.

There are some good dessert options.  Bite into a Torreja.  It is a warm and delicious french toast-like dessert.  It has a depth of sweetness that makes my heart race.  Chocolate caliente is a rich, full-tasting and lightly spiced experience. Although my mug stayed very hot for a full half hour, my hot chocolate was always easily drinkable. Chilate is the choice for a ‘super-sized’ dessert or a meal all in itself. ‘Chilate’ is a warm and filling drink thickened with corn flour and spiked with a sprig of lightly crushed cocoa seeds. Drinking Chilate is thought to strengthen someone and it is often served to the convalescing.  It seems like a good meal for this time of the year.  The drink is served inside a calabash gourd, accompanied by a dish filled with slices of fried sweet-potato and a plantain; these are garnished with a sweet, cinnamon sauce of cooked plums. Each taken in turn makes for a delightfully filling combination.

Chilate!!!

The atmosphere in El Chalateco is relaxed, family friendly, yet quietly festive.  There are always seasonal decorations suspended from the ceilings, it looks like the place is ready for a party. It is clean, inexpensive, friendly, and welcoming.  It is easily a go-to place in the Beaubien area!

(El Chalateco, 520 Beaubien Est, 514.272.5585)

El Chalateco is licensed, so if you do not want coffee, water, or Horchata, you could have a glass of wine or beer to go with your meal.

Tammy Schmidt and Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Experience Deux: La Bistro Sur La Rivière.

by Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Le Bistro Sur La Rivière… it is a small bistro. It is a bistro that takes pride in its meats, in its generously overflowing presentations of food. It is a bistro that is on Larivière, the street that is behind my massive studio building.

The Quebec Flag

My first experience eating here was on the eve of the first La Virree des Ateliers event. I was new to the Grover Building, I was one of the rare anglophone artists who rented there. I felt a little foreign, and that these open-studios could be an opportunity to break into the new culture in which I felt myself surrounded. I’d have a chance to make new friends, new connections, and learn new things very soon. I was right, in certain respects, on all accounts.

Anyhow, on that eve in May, I went in for a delicious sandwich and frites with accompanying salad and beer to celebrate the future. Since that date, I’ve been back twice, once because I’d recently sold three paintings, another time just because I was hungry. As a semi-vegetarian, I received upon my first visit a sandwich with a bit of ham in it, when I’d thought I’d ordered a simple tomato and cheese sandwich. I didn’t kick up a fuss. I am “semi”-vegetarian, and I knew that my Francais was pretty rusty… so I was willing to bend. Since going back two more times, though, I’ve found the wait staff to be supremely giving and forgiving. It is a predominantly Francophone neighbourhood, complete with the de rigueur fleur-de-lis on the front door of the place. It’s one of those places that, as I enter, I couldn’t help but put up my guard, just a little. They might all stare at me if I try to talk! However, upon further experience, I’ve had some very nice chats in a blend of Franglais with the people who work there.

Sandwich of My Dreams

Oh, and the sandwich that I order… it’s good. It is very, very good. I don’t know how certain restaurants are able to make a sandwich into such a special experience. For me, at home, when I make a sandwich it is a utilitarian expression. I have bread, and I have something to put in between two slices of that bread. A good restaurant’s sandwich, that becomes something of a capital “E” Experience.

So, the sandwich to order at Le Bistro Sur La Rivière is the tomato and brie and pesto on Baguette. Please order that, when you go there. It is divine, a perfect blend of tastes and textures. The house salad and frites with mayonnaise that come with it are just the icing on the cake. Cake? Who needs cake after such an incredible, fresh, fantastic meal? No, no cake. This will do. Perhaps an Oatmeal Stout beer to go along with… or a coffee after. The wait staff is always keen to refill your water-glass, and they always check in to see how you are enjoying your meal.

This Bistro has an extensive menu, and, upon discussion with the workers there, they do have a vegetarian plate for Supper-time, too. The stuffed pasta… does look pretty good! Some day, perhaps, I will order it. But the tomato/brie/pesto sandwich… oo la-la!!!

Find Le Bistro Sur La Rivière at 2263, rue Larivière, Montreal, QC. Find Natasha eating there soon.

Experience #1: Khyber Pass Afghan Restaurant

by Natasha Henderson, Montreal

In recent months, I have been working on becoming 95% vegetarian. When I tell people that I have a Once-A-Week-Meat-Eat, they usually laugh and say “then you’re not a vegetarian!”. That is true. I am not a full vegetarian. However, I am aware that there are many, many positive things about being mindful of what one eats. I think it is necessary to understand that if you buy a typical “steak”, this piece of a cow will have been born, raised, slaughtered, and chopped up in the factory-farming system. I would prefer to not support that system. So, I am trying to be more vegetarian both at home and in restaurants.

Fried Eggplant with Yogurt

I recently enjoyed a trip to an Afghan restaurant in Montreal. The Khyber Pass is a medium-sized restaurant, decorated to feel cozy with richly embroidered and decorated tapestries and textiles on the walls and ceilings. For a textile-loving-girl such as myself, this was a wonderful distraction. However, once the food was served, attention shifted from the surroundings to the table.

The meal began with little flat squares of Afghan bread, served warm in a basket. Dipping sauces accompanied them. The sauces were delicious, and varied greatly in flavour, colour, texture, and spice. This all went well with our wine… my group of six people all brought our own wines. The corking service is a delightful advantage of many restaurants in Montreal.

I had walked by the Khyber Pass several times before, usually stopping to read the menu posted outside. Cauliflower, yogurt, eggplant… all looked delicious to me. Of course I also saw lots and lots of lamb. When my friends and I were settled inside, I mentioned what I’d seen on the menu, and my own assumptions about Afghan cooking (lots of lamb). Fortunately, our waiter overheard me, and corrected me. “In Afghanistan, lamb is only cooked for celebrations. Here, Canada, every DAY is a celebration.” His explanation clarified why most every dish on the menu featured lamb. All my friends ordered various lamb dishes (I heard that it was “divine”.) I went Veggie.

My order: Red Lentil and Fresh Coriander soup, Fried Eggplant with Yogurt appetizer, Veggie Combo main dish (eggplant, cauliflower, spinach, okra, and three types of Basmati rice), dessert was a delightful Rosewater with Pistachio pudding.

Red Lentil Soup with Fresh Coriander

The soup was a tangy and pleasantly warm beginning, what one would expect from a spiced lentil soup. Not “remarkable”, but for the warm-up dish, who’d want that? It was similar to soups I make at home. Perfectly fine.

I had the fortune of dining with friends who were so kind as to share their appetizers. Once I’d bitten into it, I realised that my pal’s dumpling actually was filled with (a very tasty) meat. Well, I recommend it for someone who likes their meat, and is looking for something filling and satisfying. They reminded me of my Mom’s “won-tons” that she’d make at Christmas. Deep-fried triangle pockets, filled with hashed meats and diced onions… delicious indeed. I wouldn’t order them, personally, because on a Once-A-Week-Meat-Eat diet it would, perhaps, be a little disappointing.

Meaty Dumplings Ooops!

Another wonderful appetizer that was fortunately shared was the spicy Pumpkin Borani. This was a stewed pumpkin, softly mashed, baked in a small casserole. Served with yogurt and tomatoes, it felt warm and stick-to-your-ribs, full of both vitamins and comfort. The subtle taste of pumpkin was allowed to glow forth in this wonderful dish, I would eat it every day if I could.

My Main Plate

As for the main plate, my friends didn’t offer forth any of their lamb. Granted, I didn’t ask to try any of it, but I think they knew it would be good. There certainly were no complaints! I found my gently flavoured Basmati rice to be divine, the spinach and yogurt and eggplant were all very rich yet homey-tasting. I could feel the vitamins and nutrients concurrently providing energy and flavourful pleasures. Pure and healthy comfort-food.

Everything that I ordered this day, I would order again. Next time, though, I must have some of the Pumpkin Borani, perhaps two or three of them!

Natasha will continue her voyage into Vegetarian Cuisine in Non-Vegetarian Restaurants next week, with a visit to the Bistro Sur la Riviere…

%d bloggers like this: