We got in with very little traffic on the 31st of December. Probably the shortest wait I’ve ever had at the border. We were in so early, we had enough time to get reservations at my Must-Eat restaurant – Nil Bleu.
Albany John and I split a combo platter for two. $34.95 for (clockwise from top): Beef in berbere sauce, yellow lentils, spicy chicken, and lamb with potatoes & carrots. So good! The lamb was lamb-y and good. A nice warm comforting stew with such richness.
The chicken had a kind of sriracha kind of spiciness to it (way less heat-spice, though), so I wasn’t crazy about it. But it was pretty good. The beef in berbere was really good, too. Quite flavorful, and a teeny bit spicy. I was really surprised with how much I really liked the yellow lentils. Lentils usually have this scratchy texture to them, but these went down so easily and didn’t bother me at all. I need to figure out how to make this.
The spongy injera bread that comes with it is lovely too, although I remember it being served warm before. We had a bunch of different servers, and one of them mentioned that they had no managers on duty that day and were kind of flying blind. Yikes. But they did a good job. Except that all of the wait staff were grabbing injera out of a bag with their bare hands in between bussing dirty dishes. Not the most sanitary of conditions, but this germaphobe was willing to overlook it (albeit kind of hard, since we were seated right next to the kitchen).
We wolfed this down in record time. I guess that’s what not eating Ethiopian food for 5-ish years will do to an appetite.
My friends ordered some Ethiopian coffee, and I ordered an Ethiopian tea. The tea was pretty much like chai, but the coffee tasted like dirt. Maybe heavy on the chicory?
Then some dancing at Foufounes Electriques. $20 cover (inclusive of coat check), fairly non-packed and they had dollar beer specials until midnight. Worked quite nicely for me. Evidently Montreal isn’t that crazy on NYE, so this is a nice spot for me to head to.
A bit of rowdy fighting now and then handled fairly well by the large team of bouncers on duty. Some punk kids, some rock, some indie, some skaters, and a whole lotta plaid. Three stories, something for all of my tastes on all three.
The next morning Albany John went out to a grocery store and picked up some provisions to last our group through the rest of our trip. A fresh boule of bread. Their grocery store bread is so much better than our own in the states. Sigh.
Flax seed bread.
Eggs, juice, mushrooms, and spinach!
This will probably seem trivial to any Quebecois, but I love these trios of ground meat: veal, beef, and pork. The portions are perfect – about the size of a large ice cream scoop (or a handful) and the three meats complement each other to make meatballs, or just flavorful meat patties. Albany John made some bangin’ meatballs.
For breakfast he made a bangin’ omelette. Oozing with cheese and filled with fresh spinach greens. Nommy nom nom! I also came “out” to my new friends as Albany Jane. So yeah. That’s me. All anonymous and shiz.
Later on we went to a Hookah bar on St Denis. A lot of places were closed on New Year’s day.
We got a mix of apricot, pear, and honey shisha. Service here was very reeellaaaaxxxeeeddd. The staff were attentive if you flagged them down, and there was absolutely no rush to leave.
We got a corner big booth. It was nice, and you took your shoes off, but the cushions were all ripped and kind of dirty. Eh. At least there was no rush. We ended up spending about $40 for drinks and one head of shisha. Not bad for five people who were there for close to 2 hours.
I don’t normally like any kind of smoking, but flavored shisha doesn’t taste at all like tobacco, and the honey shisha was especially nice. The smoke is cool/not hot, so it doesn’t burn my throat. Nice little thing to indulge in during the new year.
Overall, a successful return to Montreal. The exchange rate is about even between USD & CAD, so things are no longer at a 20% discount like when I first began visiting. The culture hasn’t changed – there’s something about it that I really enjoy – laid back but vibrant, and filled with lots of good food.