Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Travels in Taste - Ice House - Montreal

So it would seem that my destination of choice is Montreal, eh?

In this case, however, this was kind of a last minute decision. I was supposed to head to Montreal to visit a friend for the day, but those plans fell through at the last minute, after I'd bought my non-refundable bus ticket. So, with a spirit of last-minute adventure, Kari was able to book the day off at the last minute, we booked a cheap hotel, and off we went to Montreal!

Now, one of the main bases of any trip Kari and I take to Montreal is to try out a new resto. And then eat Schwartz's at some point.

This time, with the trip being kind of last minute, we hadn't really had the chance to save a lot of money and we were looking for something tasty on the cheap. Fortunately, both of us had heard good things about Ice House on Roy (right near Saint-Laurent - ironically-ish, just around the corner from Schwartz's!) so we decided we'd give it a go! I'd normally post a link to their Web site, but such a beastie doth not currently exist!

So, we arrived and were sat on the terrasse next to a couple of nice ladies and immediately got our forcefields up (oh well, sometimes shared seating leads to new friends, sometimes it leads to strangers ignoring each other; we got the latter).

Now, first thing to keep in mind is that this place is anti-fancy. It's low-key, you share tables with strangers, you use industrial paper towel as napkins, there are NO actual dishes (i.e. plates, bowls, etc.) and the kitchen is about the size of a walk-in closet... a very small walk-in closet... But, I've seen tiny kitchens, including my own, produce some amazing food and these guys wouldn't have a rep if there wasn't something to their food. Or their drink. There were repeated suggestions that partaking of the Bourbon Lemonade was a must... Naturally we ordered a round! More accurately, I ordered Bourbon Lemonade, Kari ordered Bourbon Iced Tea.

A cup of bourbony goodness!
 Wow, that was one hell of a drink! Really sweet, but countered well by the sourness of both lemon and bourbon. The bourbon was Maker's Mark, which is apparently to Jack Daniel's what microbrew is to Budweiser... (aaaaaaaaand here come the shoes, or biker boots, to the head). Either way, Maker's Mark and lemonade > jack n' coke. I enjoyed this drink so much that I had a second and NO beer. That, my friends, is rare like platinum.
Next came the food. Keeping up the vein of "anti-fancy", there were no menus, but rather a chalk board that listed all the items of the day and their cost. An added touch I thought was pretty cute was that the chalkboard paint was on a bunch of surfaces, so you to poke your head under an overhang to see what was for dessert...

Quite the interactive menu...

We figured tacos were a good way to go, so we each ordered one. I had the Pulled Pork Taco (or in French, "porc effiloché") with Dr. Pepper sauce, watermelon pickle, chicharonnes (pork rinds), candied almonds (although the menu said pecans, but they were almonds) and cilantro. Kari had the Teriyaki Beef Short Rib Taco with Green Goddess dressing, daikon radish slaw and jalapeno. Both were 8 dollars for two tacos.  

That's a pretty tasty-looking taco!

To be honest, what made the Pulled Pork Taco good wasn't the pulled pork. It suffered the same fate as many a batch of "porc effiloché" in that the meat itself was not as tasty as it could have been, it had a sort of wateriness to it. The DP Sauce (their term, not mine), chicharonnes and candied almonds were really awesome, unique flavours that mixed well to save the dish, but the pork was average (not enough rub?) and the pickle had little assertion in its flavour.
Since we had two tacos each, Kari had my second taco and I hers. Funnily enough, we enjoyed what the other had ordered more. The Short Rib Taco was spicy, but the flavour of the beef was front and centre with richness and depth. It was Just a great bite of beef.
But I needed more, I needed some sort of 'side'. When I saw 'beignets de crabe', it was "FRAK YES!" time. And I was so right to have ordered them, even if they were a bit pricey (12 bucks for 2 crab 'beignets'). Verdict? TOTALLY worth it! They were rich, buttery and loaded with crab, also coated in, I believe, potato chips, which was brilliant. They came drizzled with a Ranch sauce, but its flavour was outstripped by the cake itself. It did add a nice depth of creaminess though... Definitely the best part of the menu, except, maybe the Lemonade...

Best. Crab. Cake. EVER! (despite it being called a 'beignet')

Now, being crazy people, we decided to get MORE food and another round of lemonade after this first course of pigging out. I had the "Red Fish" Taco while Kari ordered the Popcorn Shrimp.
The taco was tasty (not sure what fish the "Red Fish" actually was) with black beans and chipotle adding a lot of flavour. The fish was also well cooked, if maybe a tiny bit overdone. There was also pineapple in the taco, but I could barely taste it. I suspect canned pineapple is the culprit... Either way, it was quite tasty and light. Too bad I already had two tacos and a beignet in my belly by then... Kinda getting full...
It didn't help that Kari had maybe 4 pieces of the Popcorn Shrimp before announcing her incapacity to eat another bite. So, being a human goat who prides himself on never letting food go to waste, I tried my best to finish them off. Well, they WERE super-tasty - an odd combination of sticky and crunchy and sweet and tangy, with just a tiny bit of peppery heat to bring it all together. I almost got through it all, but even the mightiest must fall. I could not get through the last 4 shrimp...

The mound of crustaceans that did us both in...
 And that was that. Our bill came and for all that food and booze for two, it was still less than 100$ (before tip). 
The rest of the night was spent walking off the meal, drinking a few beers (with some difficulty) and shuffling back to the hotel in a food-zombie-like state where we would pass out by 11:30 pm... WE ARE PARTY ANIMALS!!!!!!!!! But really, who doesn't enjoy a good food coma now and then?
So, if you're in the area and looking for cheap and tasty Tex-Mex/Soul Food, definitely check out Ice House. I'll be going back, because apparently they also have Buckets of Ribs or Fried Chicken...

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