Food & Drink

Café Vasco Da Gama

After discovering this little downtown gem less than a year ago, we’ve found ourselves using downtown shopping sprees as an excuse to come here for a cup of coffee – and    nothing soothes the post credit card bingeing blues like a warm latte. Ten months and too many shoes later, we now count Vasco Da Gama as one of the best coffee shops in the city. If you’re a tourist and looking for an authentic gourmet coffee experience, head no further than this quaint downtown locale. 

Considered the younger sibling of Café Ferreira nearby, Vasco Da Gama offers more than just great coffee and delicious pastries. While we could go on about its mouthwatering cappuccinos, the food here is equally spectacular. Stop by for a healthy breakfast of goat milk yoghurt topped with fresh blackberries and kumquats, or a custom-made omelet.  The array of burgers, sandwiches and paninis makes for some difficult decision-making at lunch time. Prepared on-site, each is a creative combination of ingredients, flavors and color. When half the workday has passed and you’ve already been worn down to a drooling buffoon at the site of any kind of nourishment, how can you choose between the eggplant goat cheese and the duck confit panini, topped with caramelized figs, mango and St-Jorge cheese? To make matters worse, you have to choose a side salad from a spread that would rival the health factor over at Liquid Nutrition. Each is expertly dressed, and a color palate coordinated to perfection. The celery root is speckled with dried cranberries, and the baby string bean tomato salad was like summer in a bowl. Our favorite is the simple and understated Ferreira Club with a side of quinoa salad. And why not enjoy a glass of champagne with your quick and tasty panini, followed by a frothy cappuccino? Or how about trading in that after lunch breath mint for a Fleur de Sel caramel at the check out counter?

The menu isn’t fussy – only pure flavors arranged in fresh, innovative ways.

The room is a narrow stretch of brilliant ocean blues and pale creams – reminiscent of a Mediterranean dream. Tall arched ceilings and painted mosaic tiles on the walls offer a much-needed sunny escape from the dreariness of Montreal’s winter weather. The ambience is always quietly buzzing, and you’ll likely see an eclectic mix of business people, students, couples, and exhausted shoppers. Cordial and efficient, the staff is always on top of their game, along with the manager –who comes around regularly to mingle with patrons. With the convenience of coffee to-go franchises around every corner, it’s easy to forget to take the time to visit the smaller, lesser-known cafés the city has to offer. 

Vasco Da Gama is a small place that packs a big punch. Alone or with friends, this downtown gem is definitely worth the visit.

Café Vasco Da Gama
1472, Rue Peel
Montreal, Quebec
(514) 286-2688
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Galo - Best Kept Secret in TMR
Every once in awhile a restaurant opens up in the most unlikely of places with such authenticity and genuine appeal, you feel like you’ve been admitted into a secret society just for having discovered such a gem. For fear of betraying the trust of this covenant, you never suggest this place for a birthday party or friendly get together. You keep it all to yourself and you revel in your ingenuity and Bacchanalian pleasure with every meal you consume here.

Such is the case with Galo. Think of it as a classier, less chaotic version of Coco-Rico where you can enjoy fantastic Portuguese cuisine at its finest. The dining area may be as small as the average living room, but that is what lends to its charm; and like a J.K. Rowlings’ style magic, there always seems to be a place waiting for you no matter what time of day. The owners are a mother and daughter team who take care of you like you’ve come for a meal at their home. As the service is gracious and affable, so is the décor with its warm Mediterranean undertones and casual flair.

The more often one frequents this paradise of Portuguese home-style cooking, the more one develops a collection of favorites among the menu’s offerings. While we encourage you to try everything on the menu because without exaggeration or pomp - everything will be delicious; there are a few must-try dishes.  Since this is first and foremost a rotisserie, a newcomer’s first visit should include a sampling of the mixed meat grill – a combination of chicken, chorizo, and pork flank enrobed in a succulent blanket of garlic and herb seasoning. The flavors are bold but never overpower the taste of the meats. Cooked to perfection on a real charcoal grill, we have never once encountered a dry piece of meat- which tends to be the danger at many rotisseries. The mixed platters are accompanied by the humble French-fry; a perfect accompaniment since they are not overly greasy and cooked with the skin-on. If you’re one of those who come here to order a healthy salad with grilled chicken on top, go home. Don’t bother taking up the precious space of this small eatery with your healthy request, because there’s some real food lovers waiting for a table behind you.

Be sure to accompany your meal with a selection from the array of Portuguese wines available – from the fruity to the dry, they will complement the richness of the meats or the daintiness of the seafood with perfection. For desert, you have no choice but to have a nata –which we dare you not to try. These small custard pastries go quickly over the course of the day, so we often reserve one as soon as we order our meal. Gentleman and ladies, impress your significant others with a quiet evening of succulent food and wine, without the gregarious pomp of the higher-end locales. We guarantee you will leave Galo with a warm tingling sensation that often accompanies a new discovery, just keep it to yourself okay?

1970, boulevard Graham
Mount Royal, QC H3R 1H3, Canada
(514) 504-5110

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Faros - Get Me To The Greek
While it’s safe to say that Montreal is not without its supply of Hellenic cuisine, finding a chic, upscale Greek restaurant where you won’t have to take out a second mortgage on your house after an evening out can be a bit of a challenge. Stripped of all the pretentious opulence you see down the street at Milos, Faros delivers equally, if not superior, quality dishes to satisfy your inner Spartan.

Faros holds a special place in our hearts because it is the site where a dramatic transformation amongst us took place. A fish-hating dinner companion of ours was officially transformed into a fish-lover. And by lover, I mean he suggested we pay a visit to the quaint Greek eatery because he had been craving their fish all day. I of course stared in disbelief, but happily made my way over to this quiet Park Ave site. It was their magically marinated swordfish that was responsible for this transformation and is guaranteed to have the same effect on any fish-hater out there. I will never understand you fish-haters – I can only assume your avoidance is due to a traumatic fish-eating experience (as was the case with the afore-mentioned dinner companion).

Do not fear coming here with a huge appetite. The generous portions are prepared quickly but at no expense to their quality. Start the meal off with a crispy serving of fried zucchini and eggplant, piled onto a heap of hidden creamy tzaziki. Although octopus is not for everyone, the salad is made with expertly dressed tender pieces of this seafood. The Greek salad is a wonderfully refreshing primer to the main course but can sometime be a hit or miss. At our recent dining experience here, the kitchen had seemed to run out of cucumbers since our salad was comprised of mostly onion and tomato. It can also be said that every option of main courses is a safe bet. The lamb is always perfectly seasoned and roasted, the chicken equally tender and tasty, and I’ve already mentioned that the swordfish is divine-incarnate. Sharing concept is key at Faros, which makes it an ideal place for a dinner date, a birthday dinner with friends, or a night out with the parents. End the meal with a clever and complex fruit platter to share amongst your fellow epicureans. Even mid-winter, the fruits are unbelievably fresh and when do you ever see slices of succulent dragon fruit on a desert plate?

The flavors are genuine and uncompromised by its simplicity. A casual ambiance ensconced by professional service makes Faros a comfortable and satisfying dining experience.

Restaurant Faros
362, avenue Fairmount Ouest
Montreal, QC H2V 2G4, Canada
(514) 270-8437
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