Review: Modavie in Montreal
I didn't grow up with much. After my father passed away when I was 13, my family slipped from "comfortable" to lower-middle class real quick. My mom worked three jobs to support me and my sister. and I quickly realized not to want more than I needed.
This mentality has followed me throughout my life and has weaseled its way into my relationship. I'm not very materialistic and, lucky for Adam, I don't tend to ask for much. So about after a year together, when we started to run out of gift ideas for each other (there are so many BS holidays - birthdays, Valentine's Day, anniversary, Christmas, Hannukah ... oy vey), we decided that we would only do gifts twice a year. For the other two holidays, we would take the money we would spend on each otherzand buy ourselves experiences instead.
For our three year anniversary in June, we decided to take a trip to Montreal. It's only about a five hour drive from Boston, and neither of us had been in years. We were excited to explore somewhere new, but I was especially pumped to dig my fork into such an epic food city.
There are a lot of great restaurants to choose from in Montreal. From bagel bakeries to speakeasies, it's a lively city just waiting to be explored - one bite at a time. But when I travel to a new destination I don't really want all the razzle dazzle, I want want to eat where the locals go. I want to taste the flavors of a destination as they were meant to be experienced, cooked with tradition and passion. That's why, for our big three-year anniversary dinner, we chose a classic: Modavie.
As the second-largest French speaking city in the world (after Paris), Montreal's French cuisine is really where it's at. This old school bistro/live jazz club/wine bar is everything you want in a restaurant - both low-key yet classy, paired with good food and good vibes. With dark wood finishes, exposed copper pipes, tiled floor, and vintage posters, it's easy to let time slip away for hours, lost in the low hum of the bass and a delicious bottle of wine.
If you know anything about the Montreal food scene, you know they're known for one amazing dish: poutine. These french fries drowned in gravy topped with cheese curd are one of the best food combinations known to man, and I made it a mission to try the real deal. At Modavie, they have a version with a braised lamb gravy, taking the appetizer to the next level. It was salty and rich, making you forget that you're basically eating cheese fries at a sophisticated French bistro. There's a lot of different types of poutine around - crazy versions topped with mac and cheese, some that come sprinkled with smoked meat (another Montreal staple) - so it was great to try the dish in its truest, most delicious form.
Since I was finding it real hard to share the poutine, we also ordered the French onion soup because, when in Rome, right? Er... Montreal. This is the ultimate comfort food dish to me with its warm, bread-soaked broth and topped with ooey, gooey cheese. Of course Modavie had an amazing version as well, which had me picking the brunt cheese right off the rim of the crock.
Four our entrees, Adam got the Beer Cassoulet, a rich, slow-cooked casserole with meat and white beans. Modavie's take on it had duck confit, Toulouse sausage and braised pork flank, making it a hearty dish with a lot of soul. It's the sort of belly-warming tastiness, with its beautifully blended spices dancing its way into your nostrils as the server walks over from across the room. It's home, if your home was a small village south of Castelnaudary. Knowing I could take a bite of Adam's dish, I went for the Wild Boar Osso Bucco, paired with a Milanese sauce, saffron risotto with sage, parmesan, and hazelnut. It was then when I realized Modavie is truly known for its meats, simmered for hours making the boar fall-off-the-bone tender. I loved that there were flakes of fresh parmesan, making it easy to mix into the risotto and get myself a melty forkful. If I could describe this dish in one word it would be "dynamic." The hazelnuts added a much-needed crunch, and I could taste the love in the meat, a special flavor that can only be accomplished with years of practice and hours in a Dutch oven. The saffron risotto was a great balance to the dish, not too heavy and certainly not an after thought.
We argued about dessert for a good 15 minutes. Crème brulée, pistachio opera cake, brownie sundae, lemon meringue pie. All of these were basically our favorites but we (sadly) had to limit ourselves to two. Surprisingly Adam chose my favorite, the coconut crème brulée. I suspect because he wanted me to make the hard decision. I went for the brownie sundae, because I was both feeling that comfort food theme and was also curious to see how a French restaurant would do what I consider an American mainstay. The crème brulée was bomb. I was worried about adding coconut to, in my eyes, an already perfect treat. But it wasn't overpowering, and there is nothing in this world more satisfying than that first crack of a fresh brulée. The brownie sundae, though, was a true surprise. The brownie itself was extra dark and indulgent. Over the perfect ball of sweet vanilla ice cream balanced on top of the cake, a cascade of caramel sauce oozed down the dessert. Real magic was formed as a took a bite into the warm brownie coated with cool ice cream, the caramel adding an extra dimension of flavor. I can't describe the nostalgia mixed with sugar that a brownie sundae brings, and I may or may not have pushed aside the crème brulée for this decadence.
If you plan on spending your life with someone, I would strongly recommend you give each other experiences instead of gifts. Life is all about creating infinite memories, happy moments in time to reflect on when the going gets tough. It's also an opportunity to grow together. It's the chance to learn more about your person, are you a planner or spontaneous? Do you run out of things to talk about in a long car ride? Do you like to immerse yourself in the culture or take it on one baby step at a time? There's only so many material items we truly need, and although you should never feel bad about wanting what you want, sometimes a new adventure can be just as exciting.