Call me a faux foodie. Or maybe I’m no foodie at all.
I love good food. I especially enjoy food that’s tasty, locally sourced and carefully presented.
But I’ve had some dining experiences that make me wonder about Montreal’s foodie scene.
One of the funniest was at a Japanese restaurant downtown. The place is so popular you have to line up to get a table. Inside tables are tiny and diners are cramped together. It’s usually crowded and the staff makes you feel rushed. The prices are ridiculous.
The last time I went there with my boyfriend we ordered a turkey leg to share for $28. When it arrived at our table, I nearly fell down laughing. It was a huge turkey leg, true. It looked like something out of the Flintstones. It was ona huge plate, surrounded by mashed potatoes and gravy and I believe, green onions. But $28? We could have roasted an entire turkey for less.
There wasn’t even enough meat on that turkey drumstick for the two of us. For dessert we ordered homemade ice cream for $5 per serving. It came in these tiny cups and appeared to be melting.
An even funnier adventure happened on Valentine’s Day at a popular pizza eatery in Little Italy. When I think wood-fired oven pizza my mouth waters. I’ve had wonderful experiences eating pizzas from wood-fired ovens. But at this place the pizza was Neapolitan style and it was burnt. I’m not talking a little burning on the edges that gives your pizza a woodsy flavour, the outer third of the pizza had black bits that tasted like charcoal.
We looked around the restaurant and other people were happily chewing their way through very burnt pizzas. When we complained, we were initially told that’s the way they make their pizza. They pointed out we had eaten the pizza. We didn’t back down. Finally we were offered dessert, coffee and tea on the house. Even after coffee and dessert, the burnt taste of that charred pizza lingered in my mouth.
Recently we’ve visited some places that are known for their upscale coffee made with carefully selected and roasted terroir coffee beans. I love caffe lattes. I especially enjoy them when I don’t need to add sugar ( I think the foamed milk adds sweetness). The lattes I’ve drunk at these luxury coffee houses have been strong, bitter and expensive, a contrast to the great lattes served at a neighbourhood cafe in NDG.
For me the difference between these trendy places with their wine lists and fancy menus and casual dining places in my neighbourhood that serve mediocre meals is that the meh places in my neck of the woods are not pretentious. No one expects them to be great. They don’t pretend to be anything other than what they are.
But when a restaurant or cafe goes to the trouble of featuring famous chefs, nice tableware, wine lists and fancy decor, you expect the food to be mouth watering. When that doesn’t happen, you feel ripped off in a way you never would at a just okay restaurant.
Happily Montreal’s NDG neighbourhood has plenty of affordable restaurants and cafes that serve excellent food and coffee. Many of these places are nicely decorated but they’re not putting on airs. When I stop by I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. I’ll take that over a “foodie” restaurant any day.