As promised another Montreal post. Saturday we slept in but awoke to a beautiful but cold day. We headed out to discover Old Montreal around noon. On the agenda was the Basilica and lunch! Other than that we figured we would just see where the day took us. To start it was frigid and the sidewalks were covered in ice. A logical person would take a taxi but us we wanted to walk, so walk we did, alot! But to be honest walking really was the best and any excuse to cozy up to M works for me. Fist stop was the Basilica d’ Notre Dame. A miniture version of the 1 in Paris. It did not disapoint. It was majestic and awe inspirering. It had me thinking the whole time that this was only a minature of the original! After that we were famished! After wondering down a small cross street we found a nice cafe with a wonderful brunch menu of crepes, eggs benedict, and the like. Across the street we saw a dive hole in the wall advertising pizza and puotine. We walked right in! This place tiny. We were immediately sat at small (small really doesn’t describe it, more like miniture) table in what seemed to be an old alley that had been converted into a room. M ordered the pizza with a side of poutine with bacon and I ordered a grilled four cheese sandwich with a side of puotine. For those not in the know, puotine is this wonderfully heart attach inducing dish made with french fries, a veal or chicken gravy and fresh cheese curds. It is sinful and it took the chill right out of us real quick!(Sorry cell phone pic)
After that we walked around down to the river and stumbled upon a festival; The Festival of Lights! They had actually built an ice slide in the heart of Old Montreal and people were lined up to take the plunge! I didn’t grab any pictures because honestly my hands were just too cold.
We made our way back to the hotel and relaxed and warmed up till dinner. We took a cab this time back to Old Montreal to an old women’s prison. Yes you read that right, a women’s prison. The restaurant’s name was Da Emma; a quant and qwerky Italian restaurant. As soon as we walked it we were welcomed and seated at a table for 2 in what felt like our own person spot in an other wise busy dinning room. The decor was dark wood beams and stone and cement walls and a mesh of contempary and traditional styles. It actually came together quite nice and had a very warm feel despite once being a penatenchery. We were quickly served an amuse of fresh tomato bruschetta and our drink order (Chinati) was taken as well as the menu presented to us. The menu is hand written on a chalk board entirely in Italian. I was surprised I was able to make my way through the menu ok but the assistance of the waiter was much appreciated!
I am going to forwarn you, the dinning room was very very dark (just the way I like it) but I have this thing about not using my flash at restaurants so the pictures barely came out. I did the best I could but what ever you see imagine 10x more vibriant!
To start we enjoyed an appetizer of smoked salmon carpaccio. This generous portion of salmon concealed a bed of pickled onions and dressed with a healthy drizzle of fruity olive oil and finally topped with fresh baby arugula for a nice peppery bite at the end. I have to say when I first saw this on the menu I was not compelled to order it but M wanted to try it and it was well worth it. However, I was still hankering for sliced prosciutto and fresh buffula mozzerella. Again nothing extra ordinary but so delicious. It was like I had never had either, it was so simple and fresh; it was perfect.
After appetizers we shared 2 entrees. 1 a fresh fettuccine with wild mushrooms and grilled sword fish with cherry tomatoes and cured black olives in a spicy tomato broth topped with fresh baby arugula. The freshness of both were paramount in their success and they were unbelievably successful. The sword fish dish was surprising. I was not expecting the spiciness and the oil cured black olives added that pop that really made the dish stand out. The pasta could not have been better; freshly made and simply dressed with a little garlic and olive oil. The mushrooms were tender and flavorful. Again it was like I was experiencing pasta for the first time. These dishes made me really appreciate the simplicity of fresh ingredients and how wonderful these flavors can be without all the fuss you often find at say some of those chain “I”talian restaurants you find everywhere these days. Along side these dishes was again another simple dish of room temperature grilled eggplant and zucchini dressed with just salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil.
The major disappointment of the night was dessert. I had been looking forward to the Tirimsu all day. I had heard it was the best tirimsu ever and I was going to find out! However it was not to be. They were sold out so I had to settle for a cup of esspresso and an apertif of amoreto.