Bus: RTL 1, 6, 55, 106
Visit: May 17, 2012
For the second burger in a row, I find myself in the South Shore of Montreal. Like many of the places I’ve been doing on my native shore, they all hold some semblance of nostalgia for me. This particular stretch of Victoria, in the downtown core of St-Lambert, is where all the town’s activity takes place. For me, it’s a street that’s been part of my morning commute during my 2 years in cegep. Over that time, little did I know that there was a restaurant, one called Kapetan.
Kapetan is quite the name for a restaurant. If you think about the name, there are probably dozens of different cuisines that would go through your head before ever getting to burgers. It’s one of those things that goes through my head whenever I come to doing another burger, the question of how a restaurant got its name. Some places make total sense, while others leave your head scratching. A name like Kapetan makes you think of Greek cuisine. The restaurant has been open for over 40 years and basically does everything.
A look at the menu and you’ll see that everything is up for grabs. Whether it be the salads or the pasta, there seems to be a choice for everyone. I was seated at a booth right next to the front desk and got a chance to really hear a lot. The phone rang quite a bit during my stay. Those phone calls were mostly for pizza. So, it was nice to see how people trusted this place for pizza. I was here for a different reason. I was hoping that they would be able to do their burgers just as well.
There was one thing about the way people were seated that caught my attention. The restaurant is spaced out in such a way that the banquettes are lining both walls. In the middle, you have all the tables. If you access the website, you’ll see how this looks like because they provide you with a tour. What was odd is that they sat everyone at the banquettes. There was no one on the floor. Even more puzzling was the fact that hardly anyone was sitting right next to the front window. If I were a restaurant owner, I’d make sure that people were sitting there to show passers-by that we were busy. Then again, I don’t own a restaurant, so who am I to say?
My pessimism turned to optimism when I saw something else start to happen. The person running the floor received a call. Almost right after that, they went to the main floor and started moving tables around. They were expecting a party of 20 people. That’s a good sign if there were any. I was captivated as I watched the many tables get shifted into position. The first thing that other customers asked when they entered was whether or not they were expecting a huge group. There’s something that has to be said about a place that is able to attract a large group, it has to be worth it.
Before I get to the important restaurant details that you’re probably all wanting by now, there is one more thing that I couldn’t help but mention and it really doesn’t have much to do with the restaurant. Have you ever noticed how there are those people who always seem to hang around places, but never eat anything? It’s not that they can’t afford to eat, it’s just that they hang around. In this case, there was one middle-aged man who came in and out of the restaurant. The staff all knew who he was. Even some customers who came in knew who he was. One of the servers was taking an order right behind me and this person stood right by the entire time. This had me really wondering. The order was then completed and this man started conversing with the customers, who apparently worked together at some point in time. It’s like a small town kind of atmosphere here. It goes to show you that you can still feel like you’re in a small neighborhood, even if it’s 2012.
The service was quite exceptional. The server assigned to my booth did everything attentively. There was even a moment when a plate was smudged a bit. There was no question of putting it down on the table until it was fixed. It’s those kinds of attention to detail that really puts an experience over the top. So, it’s no surprise that customers come back and their servers know them. A lot of the time, for me, that far outweighs anything that could be put on a plate.
Supreme Burger Platter
This burger contains lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheddar cheese, and bacon.
It’s quite a while since I’ve had a normal cut-and-dry burger. What strikes me at this point, as I have the pdf menu opened in front of me is how similar the picture is to the actual presentation of the platter. There are so many diverging opinions on having pictures in a menu. There are some who believe that it’s an act of desperation. For me, if you’re going to place a picture of your food in your menu, it better look like what I’m about to get. There might be a few vague differences, but I was happy that the picture was close enough for me.
The things that normally irks me about getting huge burger platters is the fact that you have to take the fries and the salad. I’ve been burned so many times when doing three components for a burger meal. It’s not that the food is bad, it’s just that it’s too much. I don’t know why I keep doing it, but I’m a sucker for the burger-salad-poutine combo. Despite the numerous times where the mortician is sitting next to me at the table, I still blindly and stupidly forge ahead and try to finish the plate.
Well, this time I was lucky. The portion seemed hefty, but it was really manageable. It didn’t really help my fears when I saw the platter coming, when it looked like a huge bowl of food. Going in, I was hoping to order dessert and if I were to get knocked out by the salad, I would not be happy to be deprived of you guessed it, chocolate mousse cake.
The salad component of the platter was interesting. The croutons and bacon bits were good. The only thing that got to me was the placement. With everything in the middle of the salad, it made getting equal bites a little hard, but I have to admit, it’s like that with every Caesar salad.
The burger itself was a story of hit and miss. It was a kin to riding a roller-coaster, where you don’t quite know what you’re going to get next. I believe that consistency is the key to having a great burger. Each and every bite has to be equal, you can’t be forced to guess what you’ll get next.
Part of the problem is that the bun was too big for the rest of the ingredients. So, when it comes to taking those bites, there were times where you’d get no meat at all. The fact that the bun was far greater than the sum of its parts led to another thing I wasn’t too fond about. I didn’t have confidence holding the burger. There are some people who prefer to pick up a burger and never put it down. I differ in that respect because I need to be able to pick up and put down my burgers. The fact that the bun was bigger made the burger holding experience less stable. I felt the bottom bun wanting to give way, but luckily, it didn’t.
The importance of getting equal bites that has everything is vital for a burger. It was only when I got all the components in a bite where I felt like I was having a good burger. There were times where I had to bite away the outer rims to equalize the burger to meet my increasingly growing standards. By the time all that equalizing is done, what I was left with was a mini-burger.
In the end, I have to say that the flaws of the burger, in a way, lowered my enjoyment of what I was having. Even though I got a few good bites of burger in, there were too many filler bites to be had. As I mentioned earlier, a great burger needs to be consistent from beginning to end, something that few places are able to do well.
Chocolate Mousse Cake
We’re finally at the reason why Kapetan’s place in the Great Burger Search was expedited, the chocolate mousse cake. Those wonderful regulars who read these ramblings will know that over the last 6 months, I’ve come to have a lengthy love affair with this so wonderful cake of cakes. It’s getting to the point where I’ll fast-track a location just because they have this dessert on the menu. What has become of me?
My first impression of the cake was one of wonderment. I’ve never, up to this point, seen a chocolate mousse cake that had so much height. I’ve been so used to having smaller versions of the cake. I was hoping that the size didn’t compensate for something else that was lacking.
This cake only had one drawback and that was the bottom layer. The bottom layer was not cooperating with the more awesome chocolate mousse layer of the cake. The bottom layer decided not to be involved with the chocolate mousse venture into Mr. Lew’s mouth. So, when the mousse set out and travelled to Mr. Lew’s mouth, the bottom layer stayed behind. All that to say that the bottom layer wasn’t so attached to the mousse layer. It was kind of dry and didn’t give out so much taste. That was forgivable since there was so little compared to the better mousse part.
The chocolate mousse part of the cake lived up to my expectations. I was so glad there was so much of it, though getting mousse overload was something I couldn’t avoid in the end. What was fun was dragging the mousse part over the decorative sauces placed on the plate. For the life of me, I don’t get the purpose of putting decorations like that. Just give me cake and leave the rest at home.
Kapetan is truly a neighborhood restaurant that caters to the whims of what is a small town atmosphere in St-Lambert. Because of that, you’ll find nearly everything on a jam-packed menu. If you visit here, you’ll probably be better off ordering the pizza and finishing off with the chocolate mousse cake. What’s bigger than that, is the personable service which has led many local residents to come back and create links with the staff. In the end, it’s businesses that really care about their customers that last for over 40 years.
I want to leave you with some pictures I took of downtown St-Lambert. In my opinion, it’s one of the most attractive parts of the South Shore. Having had the opportunity to pass by here for two years gave me a real perspective about this area. Since then, I’ve been to many parts of the Greater Montreal Area and this part of St-Lambert still ranks above most of them.
Here is the full-frontal view of Kapetan, which has a possibility of having a terrasse on nice days. On this day, it was actually a little cool, which personally for me, is perfect weather.
The view of downtown St-Lambert if you were looking towards Montreal. What’s hard to miss here is Taylor’s, a department store which has been open since 1920.
The view of downtown St-Lambert if you were looking towards Brossard.
There is a park across the street from Kapetan. Also, this plaque signifies St-Lambert’s 150 years.
Downtown St-Lambert Park 1
Downtown St-Lambert Park 2
Gateway to St-Lambert
One of the more stunning buildings, which is nearly hidden from view.
To finish, I am somewhat of a bus fan and was lucky to spot this. This is RTL’s 9-001, which happens to be the oldest bus in the Greater Montreal Area. So, it was really nice to see it make an appearance.