Sunday, July 29, 2007

Montreal - O'Chalet; Tres Gay

I wanted to sample the nightlife in Montreal, so we made a reservation at O'Chalet, a quaint family-run place at the edge of "le Village," the uber-gay area of town. This was to be followed by a cocktail and sight seeing at one of the local watering holes.

We enjoyed O'Chalet's simple finely tuned approach to French Canadian fare. We started with two appetizers - Tempura Shrimp with a finely chopped sprinkling of pineapple (not sure how this is Canadian) and a veal ravioli in a rich butter/egg sauce. The shrimp were delightful but the ravioli sauce was a bit rich and and the meat texture too rustic for my taste.

For my "plat", I enjoyed a duck confit with roast potatoes and a lightly dressed salad. I'm not used to seeing a duck confit served on the bone (chefs in high-end US restaurants tend to shred the meat and serve it in an over-engineered manner), but the flavors were simple and satisfying. Given that I only understood about 20% of the French menu, I think we fared well.

As we dined, we found the surrounding tables were filled with gay male dining parties which seemed odd among the rather drab surroundings. Clearly regardless of decor, solid good food appeals to all.

After dinner we walked Rue St. Catherine searching for a good place to cozy up for a drink, but nothing seemed quite right. It was only 10pm and Montrealers are notoriously late-night people so many of the promising locations looked too empty to bother.

We made our way back to the east side of downtown (Centre Ville est) to catch a little of the Montreal Jazz Festival. We saw one poor singer (Robin McKelle) fighting to keep her dress from blowing up and revealing her high notes in the mid-summer breeze. Moving on to a stage uphill, we encountered a massive crowd dancing almost club-style in front of a stage where a DJ, guitarist, 2 horn players and a woman with a traditional African percussion instrument (which looked to be a gourd wrapped in beaded netting) were whipping the crowd into a frenzy. As we stood enjoying the beats of Moses Mayes, I noted that this was a very appropriate end to a night in a city jostled between languages and cultures in such a 21st century manner.

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