89 De La Commune E.
Metro: Place d’Armes, Champ-de-Mars
Bus: STM 14, 55, 129, 715
Visit: January 20, 2012
I’ve been waiting months to come to this location. I first found out about Taverne Gaspar around the same time I was doing Burger 105 at Méchant Boeuf. It turns out that those two restaurants are part of a family of similar establishments that are all located in the Old-Port area of Montreal. As a matter of fact, you can easily walk from each of their locations within minutes.
Since July, I’ve been looking for the right moment to show up at Taverne Gaspar to try the burger that’s on their menu. Well, with the right amount of timing, January happened to be the same month that Happening Gourmand was taking place. For those of you who are unaware of what that particular event is, let me explain. The family of 7 restaurants, for a limited time, are offering a fixed-price menu which includes appetizer, main course, and dessert. The majority of those restaurants offer that menu for $23. That’s too good a deal to pass on.
I wasn’t about to let this whole deal go unnoticed. Trying to earn brownie points with my colleagues, I went around and gauged interest in visiting this restaurant after our pedagogical day. I managed to get almost 20 individuals who were more than interested in making the trek to the Old-Port. That was the easy part.
Little did I realize that this was one heck of a popular event. I was browsing OpenTable trying to make a reservation and couldn’t come up with any leads. I even tried all the other restaurants and came up equally as short. Now, this is the part where someone would tell me to pick up a phone and make a call to simplify matters. Well, little known fact about Mr. Lew is that he despises making phone calls. You may judge me now. So, I took the next most realistic step I knew to make.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably know that I can easily run on a tangent. That particular night, two weeks prior to the visit, I was on a good one. I contacted the Taverne Gaspar account over Twitter and “negociated” a reservation. I was completely expecting to get an answer forcing me to make the dreaded phone call, but I got something a lot better than that. I actually got a reservation over Twitter. Mind you, it wasn’t what I was originally looking for and it cost me half my group, but it was still pretty awesome. So, it was set, a 9:45pm outing for Happening Gourmand.
So, I spent the next 2 weeks before the reservation, checking up once again with my list of interested diners. I was somewhat disappointed because I lost a few, but what stayed was more than enough to make an evening work. It reminds me how much I’m starting to hate organizing large groups outings. I think I’m going to stick to simpler things. With a reservation in hand, there was only one thing left, showing up and eating.
Taverne Gaspar is located in one of my favorite parts of Montreal. On a nice day, it’s one of the few places where I wouldn’t mind walking around for a bit. The sheer amount of restaurants in this area is absolutely astounding as well. I decided to take the “new” 715 bus to the restaurant. As I got off at Place Jacques-Cartier, I could easily hear IglooFest raging on. Alright, it wasn’t really raging on because all I could hear were the announcements telling potential partiers where to buy tickets and that no one under the age of 18 could show up. All that to say that IglooFest was one of the reasons De La Commune was packed with people even at that hour.
Now, another little known fact is that Mr. Lew is always painfully punctual, unless there’s some sort of weather delay. I arrived at least half an hour before my reservation. I was actually planning on taking a walk around the block to see what’s what, but I crossed path, surprisingly, with one of my colleagues, who was set to join the group tonight. So, my walk was immediately cancelled. Together, we searched for the entrance, following the arrows posted on the window to the entrance of the Auberge du Vieux-Port. Much like Méchant Boeuf, Taverne Gaspar is also attached to a hotel.
The lobby of the hotel and restaurant were quite something. For one, aside from Moishes, it has to be one of the nicest ones I’ve ever seen. I also liked it because it was quite expansive. It’s not until you make a few turns that you actually enter the restaurant. I actually really enjoyed the seating in the waiting room, as staff came around to announce that tables were ready. I also observed as one staff went to the clear wine “cellar.” It made the 20 minute wait for our table bearable.
In a way, I found the reaction of the hostess a little amusing. The colleague I came in with checked us in at around 9:20pm. So, we took that time to sit/stand and talk as we greeted the rest of our party. We had a lot to catch up on since we were all over the island today for our ped day. At 9:50pm, the hostess comes around and asks about our reservation. She seemed worried when she found out we were waiting a while. I didn’t see the fuss or the worry. I was just happy that my reservation wasn’t lost.
Our group, all 7 of us, entered the dining room around 10pm. The dining room is quite dark at first, but you acclimatize yourself quite quickly. You also can’t miss the numerous screens showing the Canadiens lose another game. One of the most frustrating parts of my dining experience is having to watch Scott Gomez’s shoot-out attempt over and over again. We all should know by now how I feel about him and his abilities. There are also a good number of tables around the walls and few bigger ones in the central part of the room. We were shown to our table and the night was officially on.
I want to reward those of you who managed to read this far by showing you a picture of bread. Those of you who read regularly will know of my steak eating Greek teacher colleague, who accompanies me quite a bit on my food outings. Well, on this evening, he was in rare form. It didn’t help that we both sat through long training seminars earlier in the day, so I have to mention that. I think he was the only one who was clearly frustrated with waiting. For reference, we all ate lunch at around 11:30am. Some of us ate snacks when we got home, myself included. So, the water was delivered to the table and my colleague adamantly asked for bread. When I asked him, he stated that bread should be an automatic delivery to the table.
I’m the more level-headed diner, so I’ll defend who needs to be defended. The restaurant was extremely busy. The room was full when we got there. I’ve never seen so many people speed-walking around with probably a hundred things on their to-do lists. For me, I didn’t really expect bread. In my opinion, water should be a automatic. For bread, I believe it depends on the restaurant. So, when we finished the first batch of bread, my colleague was so please to find out they had to put a new batch in the oven. We kind of placed a bet to see whether the appetizers would come before the new bread. Well, when the appetizers showed up, I won the bet.
I may be sounding a little harsh or overly disappointed, but I have to note that the waiting was the low point and that everything else about the evening was top notch. The atmosphere, the repeated showings of Scott Gomez’s shoot-out fail, and the quality of what we were about to have all were things that made the evening memorable. We couldn’t of had that anywhere else.
For the purpose of the evening, I tried to get as many people as possible so that we could cover the entire menu. Even though I wasn’t quite successful, we managed to almost 70% of it. I’ll only be commenting mostly on what I tried. So, without further adieu, here’s the food.
Grilled Asparagus and Mushroom with Truffle Vinaigrette and Parmesan Shavings
Onion Soup with Bone Marrow
Over the last few days, I’ve been doing some reading to prepare myself for this latest outing. The mentions of the onion soup from Taverne Gaspar are numerous. In my observations, while sitting at the table, I noticed pots and pots of onion soup going to many tables. I’ve heard and read a lot of rave reviews for it. On this evening, the 3 colleagues who took the onion soup were ranting and raving. One of them even rated it a 10/10. Just by looking at it, I think I missed out.
Mini Lobster Rolls
The mini lobster rolls were something that I was going back and forth on when it came to ordering. I didn’t know if it was really worth paying the extra $6 to have something that can either be hit or miss. My first lobster roll experience came in September 2011 at java u. Yes, I do realized that there are better places to get a lobster roll, but that one had bacon in it. Without trying that first lobster roll, I wouldn’t of taken that Seinfeld caricature picture and I wouldn’t of had an idea of what lobster rolls were all about.
So, upon taking a first glimpse of the plate, I was impressed at bit. There were 2 things that really gave me that feeling. The first was the fact that I wasn’t expecting the bowl of chips. The second was that the lobster rolls looked really good aesthetically.
The lobster rolls weren’t half bad. The lobster meat isn’t too overpowering and doesn’t leave a lasting taste in your mouth. That’s good because you don’t want that staying with you as you’re trying to have your main course. The lobster roll you see in the background gave me a little trouble as some of the contents fell out as I picked it up. But, that wasn’t such a big deal as I scooped it up so that I could get as the lobster goodness.
The chips were interesting as well. At first, I didn’t know what I was getting. It wasn’t until I took a bite that I could really put a finger on what I just had. It may of been a little out of place to have as an appetizer, but it went really well with the lobster roll. I decided to let the whole table try a chip and they all game back with positive reviews.
THE MAIN COURSES
Roasted Salmon with Sauce Vierge and Lentils
Of my 6 colleagues, 2 of them chose to go with roasted salmon. What came back was unanimous satisfaction. To me, the plate looked pretty good and that’s coming from someone who isn’t really a salmon fan.
Steak Frites (10 ounce NY striploin with Maître d’Hôtel Butter)
Upon seeing this plate and having his own choice, my steak eating colleague, in a way, had some regrets. That’s some good looking steak. The one person who had this one was just as satisfied as the salmon people.
Baby Back Ribs with Jim Beam BBQ Sauce w/Mashed Potatoes
This is the version of the baby back ribs that my steak regretting colleague had. Like I said before, he was in fine form on this evening. Everything from shop talk, to bread, and sangria, he was on his game. The ribs were good to him, but he went out of his way to tell us he had better. My only observation is that I felt that these ribs didn’t seem to look as good as the other two plates of ribs our table had.
Baby Back Ribs with Jim Beam BBQ Sauce w/French Fries
These were the other options when you chose baby back ribs. Just by looking at this picture, I’m salivating. The 2 colleagues who had this plate mentioned how the meat just easily came off the bones. For those of you who love ribs, you’ll know that the easier the meat comes of the bones, the better they’ll be.
This burger contains lettuce, manchego, pork belly, and pimenton aioli, accompanied by 4 large onion rings.
I guess after putting up with almost 2,000 words of an overly verbose narrative, it’s time for the main event of the evening, the reason why I’m here, the burger. Before I ever received me burger, I had a few preconceived notions of what I was about to get. The day before I came to Taverne Gaspar, I read a review of the burger that wasn’t exactly glowing. I had that in my mind all day. Then again, was I coming here to have the burger or to make my colleagues happy? Only time would tell. It was a small relief to see so many other streams of burgers headed to various tables.
As the burger came to the table, some of my colleagues mentioned to me that the burger looked weird. One told me that it looked small. Another colleague told me that the bagel bread was something. I had to do my best to keep my opinions to myself, as I was the final judge of burgers.
What I will say about my first impressions is that the burger was extremely tough to get a good picture of. I looked at all my pictures of Taverne Gaspar and I was overly impressed by all of them, that is, except the burger ones. I tried taking a picture of the burger on the provided platter and that didn’t turn out to my liking. I then took the burger and moved it to the small plates that were intended for the bread. I took a better picture, but it wasn’t perfect and to my utmost liking. But I have to say the following, I’m not here to take the picture, but I am here to eat the burger.
The difficulty in picture taking was in the slanted positioning of the burger. When I see something like that, I get worried. I wonder whether or not it was supposed to be like that. So, I repositioned it a bit and that was the last issue with structure I had during consumption.
The burger itself looks quite tiny at first glance, but when you pick it up, you get something different. With the different ingredients and the size of the meat, you get something that is a good handful. They say that appearances can be deceiving and that’s what it was.
Outside of structure and sizing, the pork belly’s inclusion gave me a bit of concern. Biting it caused few issues. The bites weren’t as clean as I would’ve liked. When I took a bite, I found myself pulling too much burger out. When you eat a burger, you want a good simple bite that doesn’t take the whole burger with it. So, as you’re pulling the pork belly out, you start dragging out things that were better off inside.
The real highlight with this particular was the meat. The meat was cooked to my liking. Each bite was easy and full of flavour. If I were to judge the burger on meat alone, it would rank right up there with some of my better burger outings. Despite a few slight issues, this burger wasn’t half bad. I actually enjoyed eating it. It made me forget that there wasn’t any bacon in it, which is something that’s very hard to do. Was it the perfect burger? No. Was it a good burger? Yes.
Bread Pudding and Caramel Ice Cream
Dark Chocolate Flan with Vanilla Crème Anglaise
This dessert best reminded me of a chocolate brownie. Each bite of this dessert was great. Dragging the chocolate portions through the vanilla cream made it all the much better. This being a chocolate related dessert made it the easiest choice to make for dessert.
Even though the menu is a tremendous bargain, as you save a lot of money off the regular menu, it should be noted that this was the most expensive Burger Search location to date by a good $7. But, what I’ll say, compared to one of the last record holders, it was worth every penny. I was surprised that the iced tea only cost $2. That’s nice because I’ve known other places that charge double that price.
What Taverne Gaspar is to Montreal is a place to be seen. It’s a place to unwind after a long week of stress-filled work. On this night, the food delivered as it satisfied all of the members of a 7 person party. Taverne Gaspar goes out of its way to welcome women in its establishment. Even though that was indeed the case, I also felt more than welcome.
My first ever Happening Gourmand was deemed a success by all. I’m definitely hoping to gather my colleagues once again for the 2013 edition, but this time, I’ll prepare so much earlier for it. As for me personally, I’m not done with the 2012 Happening Gourmand. As you’ll soon see, I have at least one more visit to make.