Oh Golden Square Mile. Not that I ever called it that when I lived there. Downtown Montreal was golden all right, but I never figured that the sheen of the streetlights on the mirrored shops and offices had anything to do with the area’s non-colloquial name. Home of the student, the barhopper, the vagrant, and the seeker of fantastic cheap asian food, I alas had a student’s budget to contend with when I actually *lived* there, and so had precious little exposure to the panoply of affordable bite ’ems that really do tumble from the kitchens all around. Cartel Street Food, one of the newest on the block, features street eats (the funnest, bestest, most delish and usually most crispy-awesome type of food out there – *humble opinions*) at prices that students can actually swing some of the time.
I mean, it’s tapas, so yeah the portions are well, wee. But herein lies the fun: the whole menu becomes a gleeful christmas wishlist of foodie proportions – the urge to simply point, request, and consume a smorgasbord of the dishes becomes SO easy and so irresistible that it’s exactly what we ended up doing. Within reason. Sort of. Heehee.
Started with a big ‘lo bowl of fried clams with tartar sauce (8$), which might have been the most memorable bite of the night for me. “like bubblegum made of seafood,” but more accurately, like fresh, sweet and tender morsels in a perfect ethereal breading laced with a detectable amount of pepper. It’s fried foods, but it doesn’t *taste* like fried foods (i.e.: not greasy in the slightest). A must try.
We also tried the duck taco (3$). Best with a green rain of lime juice (for needed acid) and eaten while still hot, I could have had even a few more of these. Not incredibly spicy, nor particularly special, but a pretty nice combination of flavours nonetheless, and like, it’s a handmade tortilla. I could spread a bit of sriracha on a homemade tortilla and it would taste great. Mm.
Third up, we splurged on lobster roll for $14, which arrived as a cold claw in a hot, generously buttered bun. It was a curious combination! I should admit that I’ve never had a lobster roll before, but I guess I was expected at least a cohesion between the temperature of innards + bread. That said, it was huge piece of lobster (1/2 a lobster!) and dressed lightly with citrus and what my memory is telling me might have been tarragon (but please don’t quote me on that, Internet) – very enjoyable and surprisingly light as a centrepiece to our fancysnack™-manging.
Also as a special that night, there was… POUTINE! Can we ever resist? I mean, especially not when it’s described as being doused in a veal & chanterelle stock gravy. *pause for insane drooling noises******
ahem. So! Right. This was mad, mad, madness good poutine. Crispity, fluffy and flavoursome fries with almost-squeaky cheese and covered with some goooooood gravylove. Mmmyam, come to mouth! I wish chanterelles were in season forever…
Finally, at last, our sammiches arrived. I say at last because the service was incredibly slow. Incredibly slow and incredibly friendly. No really. Just sayin’ is all. But the sandwiches were well worth the wait. At least, the pork belly boa (4$) was a little bit of a letdown after the previous delish – suffering from tough meat, overly sweet hoisin, and a steam bun that did nothing more special than emerge from the freezer section at D&G and get hot – but the Charlevoix mini-burger with foie gras (6$) was a toothsome and rich finale to the meal with an excellent bun-to-meat ratio and just greasy enough to inflame the carnality within.
Cartel has a dessert menu. It has things like maple syrup pie, dulce de leche cheesecake, “real” key lime pie presumably made with nonfake key limes, and lavender pot-de-creme. We didn’t really check this out even though I kind of wanted to and probably should have to see what was going on pastry-wise at this place.
Nah, we went to Swurl instead. Chilly Octember be damned, I was going to try the special Pumpkin and Caramel Apple flavours!!!
Swurlgurt’s last day of the season was today, which I didn’t realize until right now as I made this post. So it’s too late to capitalize on that and on the TARO freaking flavour that they’ve had on this week. But gee, aren’t they nice that they’ll give out free birthday-gurt if you ask them, supposing that your birthday falls somewhere before November 25th and after sometime spring-ish? And I still can’t get over that fruit-caviar shit.