Sunday, September 2, 2007

Montreal Part 6: Bahn mi, Mazurka, and another nostalgia tour

Bahn mi: Where have you been all my life?

On the Thursday, Darcy met up with his old work friends for lunch, so I took the opportunity to finally try bahn mi. It's everywhere both in Toronto and Montreal but I'd never got around to having it. It's basically a Vietnamese baguette sandwich stuffed with meat (chicken, beef, or pork), picked vegetables (carrots, radishes, onions), and fresh cilantro. It sounded so like my kind of thing and it was.

I selected the pork one to try first. The 'pork' meat is like the Vietnamese sausage that I had at Pho Pasteur in Toronto. It's basically a kind of bologna or spam, ground and pressed sausage meat. The man who served me asked if I wanted it spicy (I always say 'yes' to this question). He added a vinegary kind of dressing with sliced red chilis in it. So hot and so good. The craziest thing about these is that they only cost $2. I think you can find some in Chinatown in Toronto that are $1. How is that possible?

Mazurka: It's too good to be true, but it is!

After a rainy (it actually hailed!), lazy afternoon inside, we ventured out to go to the next place on the list, which was Mazurka, a Polish restaurant that has been around since 1952. It's located in a very fun, pedestrian-friendly area of the Plateau on Prince Arthur Avenue, which is just down the street from where I used to live. It is exactly the same as the last time we were there, which must have been at least 7 years ago. The decor, waitresses, food, and prices are all exactly the same. It's so comforting.

We both ordered the Mixed Plate, which includes (brace yourself) two perogies (one meat; one potato), a cabbage roll, a potato pancake, a grilled sausage, and some bigos (sauerkraut, sausage and mushroom stew). Darcy made the happy revelation that if we order the same thing, he doesn't have to wait for me to take a picture of his food because I can take a picture of mine.

Before our mixed plates, we had a pitcher of sangria and they served us small appetizer salads that were very simple (iceberg lettuce, green peppers, tomato, celery, pickled cabbage), but astonishingly fresh. Usually the free salad that comes with every meal is nothing to write about, but everything on the plate was so crisp it could have been just harvested. I love that.

When drinking the sangria we had one of those crazy moments where a taste transports you back in time. That particular sangria picked me up and dropped me back in 90's. It reminded me of Carlos and Pepes, Annie's, Gert's and all those other places where I was when I should have been studying.

Let me say that every single thing on the mixed plate was the best thing I've ever eaten. We were both floored by how good everything was. We knew we liked this place, but we didn't remember it being this good. The perogies were a completely different animal from any that I've had anywhere else. The dough was pillow soft and the filling was creamy and light at the same time. The bigos was savoury and sour without being too salty and the potato pancake was crackly, crunchy delicious. We ate every single bite of everything. And to top it all off, our bill came to less than $30 with tax included. This place seems to good to be true. I will break down and weep the day when Mazurka closes. I can't encourage you enough to go there.

Cafe Frappe: Fantastic patio for a quiet drink

After dinner, we went for a drink at Cafe Frappe, another nostalgia place with the most adorable patio on the top floor in the back. This was another former sangria watering hole. This patio reminds me of the Paris Casino in Las Vegas. The walls are painted to resemble a town square complete with windows and real flower boxes. What's funny is that the rest of the bar is a total studenty-arcade games-pool tables kind of place. I think it's cute though and I'm glad it has stayed the same.

McGill Ghetto: this is where we used live

After our drinks, we walked around another old neighbourhood, the McGill Ghetto, which is named as such because it's immediately adjacent to the university. Rents are usually high in this area due to student demand, but it's a pretty neighbourhood that must have been a lovely place to live back in the day before all the students and fraternities moved in. The apartments are old and beautiful (for the most part) with lots of character. One year, I lived in a fantastic, old top floor apartment that had a unheated sun room (great second freezer during the winter) and a functioning woodstove in the dining room (which was converted into my bedroom). I used to love burning my apple cores and making my room smell like potpourri.

I always have mixed feelings walking around the Ghetto because even though I had a lot of fun, it reminds me of being really stressed about school and not knowing what the future would be like. It's nice to be all grown up and not worrying about fulfilling your potential. :)

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