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Val’s Bites

by admin November 10, 2009

Appearance wise, there’s nothing nice about Bishop St. Truth be told, this downtown Montreal street could use a bit of a facelift. However, I’ve always been a firm believer that some of the best places to eat are often tucked away in the not-so-attractive parts of town. I may be mistaken, but my theory definitely holds true with respect to Bishop St., seeing as how this charm-free street is full of amazing restaurants. And, the best part is they’re all right next door to Concordia University’s downtown campus. Happy study breaks everyone.

Man-na

1421 Bishop, 514-288-1703, Major cards accepted.

I adore Asian cuisine. Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Asian fusion &- you name it, I love it. In fact, the food snob in me will tell you I sometimes refer to myself as an Asian food connoisseur (shh… don’t tell anyone). So, you can imagine my surprise &- and embarrassment &- when a friend invited me to a Korean restaurant in New York this summer, and it dawned on me that I had never tried Korean food. It’s safe to say I’ve been addicted ever since.

Then one day, during a much-needed library break, I realized there’s a Korean restaurant on Bishop St. literally just steps from the SGW campus. Man-na’s decor is about as bare bones as it gets, but with food this good, who cares.
Traditional Korean dishes are centred around rice, noodles, tofu, vegetables and a variety of meats. Typically every meal is accompanied by numerous side dishes, the most famous one being kimchi. Kimchi is a general term for pickled vegetables, but usually it refers to Napa cabbage fermented in a brine of ginger, garlic, scallions and chili pepper. It’s positively delicious and almost every meal at Man-na comes with it, making that reason enough to go there.

Another Korean specialty is bibimbap, meaning “mixed meal.” This tongue twister of a dish consists of rice, vegetables, seafood or meat, a raw or fried egg and Korean hot sauce. It’s served either hot or cold, but I prefer the hot version, which arrives on a hot stone plate, that keeps your food sizzling throughout. The idea is to keep mixing the ingredients while you eat, but to be honest, the burnt rice at the bottom is my favourite part. I enjoyed both the seafood and beef bibimbap at Man-na , but the seafood version is spicier and hence more flavourful. My only qualm is there’s too little squid and shrimp considering the hefty portion size. Don’t forget to also try their beef stew and cold noodles.

Mains: $7.95-14.95 (plus tax). $28.95-64.95 (plus tax for shared meals for two or more)

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Le Gourmet Burger

1433 Bishop, 514-435-3535, Cash only.

A burger is not what it used to be. Over the last little while, it has shed its outdoor barbecue and fast food-joint image in order to be reincarnated as a glamorous dish offered at some of the finest restaurants and served at the hottest parties. Out are the days of uninspired toppings and condiments like ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato and onions, and in are exotic sauces, gourmet cheeses, hummus, guacamole, truffle oil, foie gras and anything else your little heart desires.

Le Gourmet Burger is the latest player on the Montreal burger scene, and with classic veggie, beef and chicken burgers priced at $5 (tax included) &- they’re pulling out all the stops to attract student customers. Upon walking in, I was instantly charmed by its sleek and modern design, and friendly staff. Every burger is prepared before your eyes on a charcoal grill and comes with lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions and a fluffy brioche bun. The best part is choosing additional toppings which cost $1-5. I dressed my chicken burger with marinated hot peppers and pickled beets and added their homemade spicy sauce for a little kick.

I loved it all, except that between the large bun and the sizable chicken breast I had trouble finding the extra toppings I was looking forward to. My friend added marinated eggplant to her beef burger and it was superb. Ultimately, I think a burger is best in its original ground beef form. Last but not least, our burgers were complimented by a cone of yummy sweet potato and regular fries.
The fact that Le Gourmet Burger is seconds from Concordia is just icing on the cake.

Burgers: Start at $5 (tax included).

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Bishoku

1184 Bishop, 514-876-0056, Major cards accepted.

Bishoku is hands down the best Japanese restaurant in Montreal. Let’s begin with the appetizers: their miso soup is significantly better than any of the others I’ve tried, and trust me &- I’ve tried a lot. It’s salted to perfection, isn’t watered down and has just the right amount of tofu and seaweed. Another favourite appetizer is the tuna carpaccio. Thin slices of raw tuna are doused in a sweet and tangy sauce with pieces of avocado and grated sweet potato. The tuna melts in your mouth and tastes as if it just came from the sea.

Onto the sushi: one of Bishoku’s specialties is their sushi pizza. Tuna, salmon, white fish, fried tempura batter and spicy mayo are layered on top of rice and seaweed to form neat little triangles resembling a pizza. I’ve eaten this dish at other places and it’s always been a disaster, be it because of too much tempura batter, the wrong ratio of tuna to salmon or because it momentarily fell apart.

I also love that their California roll is made with real crab and not with rubbery crabstick. Plus, we all know how much I adore lunch specials and Bishoku boasts a mean one. For $12.13 (tax included) the Sushi Combo B includes a miso soup, house salad, twelve pieces of maki sushi and one hand roll plus ice cream or sorbet. I’ve been a loyal patron of Bishoku for over seven years, and I never cease to be amazed by how tasty and fresh everything is. And, to top it off &- the service is impeccable.

Lunch special: $9.50-19.00 (plus tax) sushi and sashimi: $4.00-14.50 (plus tax) Dinner mains: $16-30 (plus tax)