21 St-Viateur O.
Bus: STM 46, 55, 80, 160, 435
Visit: September 28, 2012
Last year, I made a big decision that I hoped would lengthen the shelf life of the Burger Search. We all have to admit it, there isn’t an endless amount of beef burgers out there. There are places that specialize in putting other types of burgers on the eating scene. Selections such as bison, veggie patties, and chicken are other types of burgers that you can find in the greater Montreal area. This week, I turned my attention to a burger that’s been getting a lot of hype, a fish burger from the St-Viateur street hole in the wall known as Comptoir 21.
Following the promise of making every future tenth burger one out of the ordinary, it was time to look up something that wasn’t your average beef selection. I’ve had Comptoir 21 on my radar for the last months. Various internet sources and even in-person suggestions made sure that I wouldn’t forget to come here. While the restaurant offers your traditional burger options, it just wouldn’t be right for me to ignore the bread and butter of the establishment.
Located on the famed St-Viateur, you know that there is a lot of great company. Even if you don’t stick to the street, you have Fairmount, Bernard, Saint-Laurent, and Parc Avenue nearby to make sure you won’t ever run out of options. Comptoir 21’s location makes it easy to observe the quaint part of Montreal. People walking their dogs and riding by, all without a care in the world.
Upon entering the restaurant, you see immediately why the place is special. It isn’t able to hold the entire capacity of the Bell Center, but what it does hold, is enough to guarantee quite a unique experience. You just have to look at the metallic keg-like drums at the door to see just how different this place is. The door was kept open at all times and the stream of people coming in for take-out was constant during my visit.
After signalling that I intended to eat in, I was allowed to take my place in the dining area. For my first time here, I didn’t really choose to sit against the wall. I chose the comptoir portion of the restaurant. From where I was sitting, I had a tremendous view of St-Viateur and all the people walking by. Even to my right, I could see all of the action going on.
From the window, I still had a good view of the dog that was tied up to the specials board as its owners dined. There was even a passerby who took a few moments to meet with the pooch, as the couple looked on finding the whole thing amusing. Only in Montreal would you not really have to worry about anything sad happening with a situation like this.
The counter eating situation puts you into close quarters with the other diners. Even if you don’t interact so much with them, there are things that happen which put you directly in their path. Case in point, the squirt bottle of vinegar liquid was being used by another set of diners to my right. One of them profusely apologized as the squirting got out of hand and went in my general direction. However, with apologizing being the Canadian custom and all, no liquid ever landed on me. That’s just how we are in Canada. It just shows how this is a dining experience you just can’t get anywhere else.
Probably the highlight of the visit was the level of service. There was only one server working the entire floor, which is understandable when you really think of just how big this place is. All my interactions with this individual were quite cordial and I felt comfortable the entire time there. Even a small mix-up in my order was rectified quickly and without any fuss or hesitation.
The set-up of Comptoir 21 allows you to see how the staff works really well together. The cook and the server exemplified the perfect what teamwork is all about. Even when you have a few moments to let loose and dance, you just have got to take it. You could really tell that you had a close knit team here, which makes any place all the more successful.
What Comptoir 21 offers is a simple menu of food that revolve around the fish and chips concept. It’s not something that is readily available on every street corner. So, when you find your place, you hope that they do their thing well. The other item you can’t miss from the menu is the fact that the prices are some of the most reasonable and affordable on the entire island of Montreal. There aren’t very many places that offer any kind of quality burger for under 5 dollars. On top of that, even fewer places offer a good finishing dessert for under 3 dollars.
The food was presented in an interesting way. It was a box-like basket with two compartments. The compartments were covered with a thin paper. On one side, you had your fish burger and on the other, a generous portion of poutine.
I’m probably one of the few people who goes to a fish place and orders a poutine, but that’s how I am. I just have to try a poutine whenever I can, like it’s going out of style.
All in all, I have no real complaints about the poutine. The cheese curds came in cold and required a good drenching of the sauce to be truly effective, something that wasn’t hard to do. The fries were on par with just about any other top notch poutines you’ll find in the city.
The unique feature of this poutine was that the sauce was touted as being vegetarian. As I mentioned previously in the past, I’m not true poutine expert, so I couldn’t tell you much about this different sauce. What I’ll tell you is that I was hard pressed to find a real difference between the vegetarian sauce and other carnivorous examples elsewhere. That’s telling because it was really a good compliment to the cheese and fries.
This burger contains lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and fish.
Before I get to the obvious difference about this burger, I want to touch on the normal aspects that I usually like to discuss. The look of this burger, when you take your first glance, is quite fetching. You can probably give the credit to the lettuce used to pretty up the burger. Then again, we don’t judge most burgers on how they’d do during a pageant.
I decided to go for the all-dressed option, where they would just put whatever they thought was necessary for me to have. I also opted for an additional slice of cheese. In the end, I was glad that the cheese was there because it added another angle to the non-anglerfish burger. What put the burger over the top was the tartar-like sauce that was amply covering the fish and lettuce.
If there was one slight issue in this burger, it was the bread. Structurally speaking, the bread was quite strong and pretty much stayed intact during the entire meal. However good that might be for most aspects of the burger, it did cause one thing that made feel a little bit uneasy. With each bite, I had a hard time pulling the bun apart with my teeth, which is a sensation that I didn’t appreciate. Even if that was the case, the rest of the burger was able to overcome this one, slight issue.
I can’t go much further without delving into the sea of the burger. This burger is obviously unique because it comprises a crispy fish piece. I did a little bit of research to find out what kind of fish was being used and all signs point to haddock. For me, the type of fish didn’t really matter, since I’m in no way a fish expert. All I wanted to see is if this was worth eating and there was no time like the present to find that out.
The batter on the fish was actually light and flaky. With each bite of fish, you didn’t have to really force yourself to tear into something overcooked or with a really tough crust. Like a beef patty, the less you fight the burger, the better. The taste was probably the toughest thing for me, since I wasn’t used to the whole idea of fish burgers. I eat fish about once a week and I couldn’t really compare the two so much.
I think it would be best to judge the burger as whole and not solely on the basis of the fish alone. If you think about the proper use of the normal burger ingredients and the sauce that was included, you have a really good package. Together, they all work quite well and not one bite was a regret. Even though there was a slight hindrance in the bread, I wouldn’t hesitate in having this burger again.
Thought out the visit, I was strongly thinking about ending things off with a dessert. At about $2.50, this was something that was really tempting. The only mystery was wondering what the daily dessert would be. When the server mentioned chocolate and cheese in the same sentence, I was sold.
Putting your fork through the cake isn’t quite an easy feat. But once you take a bite, you see that it is an issue that isn’t worth thinking about anymore. The combination of chocolate and cheese isn’t one that you would immediately go to, but it’s one that works. What helps even more are the chocolate chips that are lodged in the cake. It was well worth the three dollars.
I came to Comptoir 21 looking for a fish burger and found a nice, quaint little restaurant that does things simple. The service keeps things nice, as you’ll feel like you’re in good hands. If the fish burger is any indication of how the other items on the menu are, I would be very willing to see what else I could try.