Annex 61: Cafe Ellefsen | Mr. Lew's Great Burger Search

414 St-Zotique E.
Montreal, Quebec

Metro:  Beaubien, Jean-Talon
Bus:  STM 18, 30, 31, 92, 93, 95, 99, 160

Visit:  February 8, 2012

The Fat Squirrel Society reunited for its fifth month of going out to various restaurants to try what they have to offer.  The theme of this round was to bring the other 2 members to places that are well outside our comfort zones.  Last month, the member I’ll call Ms. K brought the group to Carribean food at Kalalu.  That was a nice experience in all.  This month, it was my turn.  I tried my best to think of all kinds of things that I wasn’t used to and this is what I came up with.  Scandinavian food is definitely well out of my comfort zone.  Also, this restaurant was on my list of places to visit, so I was killing two birds with one stone.

I really like the fact that you can get pretty much any type of food in Montreal.  The concept of Cafe Ellefsen just shows you another wedge in the pie that is the greatest multicultural city on the planet.  Ellefsen is part cafe and part restaurant.  You wouldn’t know it by walking in, but they actually make food there.  There are a number of small tables around the main walls of the restaurant, with a larger tables, meant to be shared, at the back.  The kitchen is open and within view.  The decor is completed by a vast counter area.

While I was sitting in the restaurant, I was wondering what Ellefsen was all about.  I’m not talking about type of cuisine or anything like that.  My main question is whether this place is a place where someone eats or a place where someone lounges.  Cafes are mostly places where you have a coffee, study, and work on a laptop.  The menu, written out in chalk, in a way, screams out restaurant.  The menu is vast enough to be a legitimate restaurant.  It’s not that it really bothered me, but an identity crisis.

Our entry into the restaurant was like any other.  Just about every table was taken up by someone.  Even the large table was being shared by people.  The thing was that most of these people were in cafe mode.  We were coming in to be in eating mode.  The only option that was left was the counter directly in front of the kitchen.  That was going make things quite awkward when it came to taking the necessary photos. 

Getting to sit so close to the kitchen made it quite the experience.  In a way, it was more comforting to be able to keep an eye on what was happening.  If it wasn’t for the stacks of bowls, I probably would have been able to see and learn something.  It was probably comforting for them too to be able to listen to the people who were taking pictures.

The service was quite acceptable that night.  The server was able to answer all of the questions and concerns we had.  It was probably one of their first days on the job because I saw them questioning the cooks as to what was being brought to the tables.  Other than that, we were taken care of and no complaints were to be heard about their service.

Leek Soup (Ms. K.)

Smørrebrød (Ms. K.)

For those of you who don’t know what this is, these are open faced Danish sandwiches.  The combinations of toppings that you can get can be quite the list.  Those toppings are usually put over sour-dough rye bread.  On this evening, there were three sandwiches with three very different combinations.

This sandwich was topped with salmon and blueberries.  This was by far the favorite of the three.  You don’t really expect to see blueberries topped with salmon.  It was just the beginning of the strange combinations to come.

This sandwich was topped with arugula, apples, and bacon.  When I heard what was in this, I was kicking myself that I didn’t go ahead and try this.  It’s my dream to have apples and bacon in the same dish.  This didn’t go over too well because of the dislike of arugula.  So, our third member decided to finish it off.  He felt it was good, for him.

This sandwich was topped with pork, caramelized onions, and raspberry jam.  Much like the 2 previous sandwiches, the thought of putting raspberry jam with pork and onions were something that you probably wouldn’t ever think of.

Norwegian Meatballs and Sauce (photo by and eaten by Mr. S.)

For the purpose of his meal, the sauce was requested on the side.  Normally, it would be over the meatballs.  They obliged with the request and everyone was happy.

Norwegian Poutine

This poutine was the main reason for my wanting to come here.  It’s not every day that you put Norwegian meatballs in.  Known as Kjøttboller, these are a rougher version of a Swedish meatball.  Those meatballs are usually made with ground meat mixed with something like breadcrumbs.  I’m not going to speculate as to what’s in the meatballs themselves, as I’m no expert.

The regular poutine components were quite good.  If you pretend like the meatballs didn’t exist, you would get a sub-par poutine.  The cheese, which you can see when eating, were in various states.  The un-melted cheese were in the form of cubes.  When drenched in the sauce, the cheese melted and complemented the sauce real well.

The attraction of this poutine wasn’t so much the fact that it was poutine, but the fact that it had 4-5 good sized meatballs.  For those people who try the meatballs for the very first time, it can be a bit strange.  Once you continue eating, you can see how it fits really well with the rest of the poutine.  It’s something that you have to try for yourself.

Final Verdict

Somewhere, lost in this cafe, is a restaurant.  The cuisine being served goes well above the expectations you’d have when entering any kind of cafe.  This was a tremendous introduction, for me, to Scandinavian cuisine.  For those looking for a place to sit and lounge about, this place isn’t half bad at accomplishing that.  If you’re looking for something out of your comfort zone, I’d suggest coming here.

Cafe Ellefsen on Urbanspoon

  1. mrlewburger posted this