Bellatrix has been raving about El Meson for awhile. The restaurant is located on the Lachine canal and boasts a terrace overlooking the water; she has been suggesting that we go there all summer. For a multitude of reasons, we always had other places to go and people to see, and let’s be honest, the trek to Lachine wasn’t very appealing. But Whitey kept expressing her love of queso cheese, and Bellatrix kept repeating that she knew the best place to eat queso in Montreal. So on one fine night Bellatrix invited Whitey, Diva #1 and Sweet Pea over for wine and cheese, and since she lives near Lachine, we made our way over to satisfy our craving for Mexican food.
It started off a little rocky. We called for reservations and we were told that the kitchen closed at 9:00pm on a Friday night. Therefore we were forced to make reservations for 8:00pm and finish our meal by 9:00pm, which was aggravating. The Divas like to take their time eating, drinking, talking and enjoying the night. We don’t like to be rushed, so Diva #1 warned Bellatrix that this better be the best Mexican food of her life or she wasn’t going to be pleased. Unfortunately, when we got there at 8 we were forced to wait until 8:20 for a table. The small restaurant was packed and we were annoyed that they had made such a fuss about the kitchen closing when it seemed like it was going to be open past 9:00pm.
We started off with a pitcher of Margaritas. Unpretentious, the margarita came in a large plastic pitcher and tasted heavenly. Diva #1 cannot really drink tequila anymore, they broke up two Halloweens ago after she spent the night hugging the toilet bowl and sleeping in her brother’s bed while drooling – Diva #2 can attest to this. He still isn’t quite over that one…. But nonetheless this margarita was perfection, the lime very apparent and tasty, and the tequila subtle but evident. We really enjoyed this cocktail and had we not been so rushed, we may have ordered another pitcher.
There were many appetizers on the menu, the salad with marinated cactus sounded very interesting. Usually we are drawn to raw dishes like ceviche, but it was worrisome that the menu did not state what type of fish made up the ceviche. In the end Diva #1 started with the gazpacho, a summer soup that she loves dearly. This cold potage is made with cucumber, tomatoes and green pepper. It was very fresh tasting and still a little chunky, a nice start to the meal. In her late teens, Diva #1 and her friends used to frequent a restaurant that would have gazpacho as the soup of the day during the summer. Diva #1 would make them call the restaurant regularly to see if the soup of the day was gazpacho, at one point it was her weird signature thing. Some of those friends don’t talk to her anymore…
Of course we had come for Whitey to enjoy her queso, so we ordered the nachos con queso. The nachos were simple, gratinée-style with a generous amount of queso cheese. There were other nacho options with additional toppings, but Bellatrix assured us that this one was the best. Diva #1 and Sweet Pea had never tried queso before and Whitey was shocked when she saw the dish because in the US, it is more of a cheese sauce than actual cheese. Diva #1 and Sweet Pea love a good dirty melted cheese sauce with tortilla chips when completely drunk, but cannot deal with the stuff when sober. Nonetheless we were all very happy with this cheesy appetizer, especially because it was actual cheese and not a sauce, and it was quite nice with our margaritas.
Since we all love guacamole, we also ordered guacamole with nachos. Fresh and creamy, this was perfect, especially when paired with the queso nachos appetizers. They both complimented each other very well and we were soon scraping the dish clean. We were impressed with the food but felt rushed by our waitress. We were also quite pleased with the prices at El Meson, which were more than reasonable. We regret not trying a few more appetizers, but we were full from too much wine and cheese at Bellatrix’s.
The restaurant had started emptying and we felt the need to rush. Bellatrix and Whitey both ordered the tacos. They had the choice of beef or chicken but they both opted for beef. The plate consisted of two flour tortillas rolled with steak and served with cheese and tomato sauce. A touch of sour cream and lettuce topped the two tortillas that sat on a bed of tomato sauce and cheese. This dish was not smothered in sauce or too much of a mish-mash of ingredients, it was tastefully presented. Refried Mexican beans with a few tortilla chips were on the side, along with Mexican rice and marinated cactus. The beans were delicious and made into a purée-like consistency, and the Mexican rice was well seasoned. Bellatrix was disgusted by the marinated cactus simply at the thought of it, and Whitey couldn’t deal with the beans…. Picky picky picky. Diva #1 and Sweet Pea ate everything!
Diva #1 and Sweet Pea shared the Nopalitos Con Carne. We followed Bellatrix’s advice to order a dish with steak, but we wanted something with more of a flair. Served in a cast iron pan, it was composed of sautéed steak and cactus gratinée that you stuffed into a tortilla and prepared yourself. According to the menu it came with three tortillas, but since we were sharing they gave us four without even asking. Long after we were full we continued to pick at the steak and cactus gratinée. It came with a side of vegetables, including more fresh and delicious cactus, and Mexican rice. We really enjoyed this sizzling dish, it was well seasoned and original. It would have been better if it were served with a few more condiments such as sour cream and guacamole, but we were content.
Other interesting main dishes included the sweet peppers stuffed with beef, chicken and fish that arrive covered in melted cheese, tomato sauce and with beans on the side. We enjoyed ourselves at El Meson but we were frustrated because we felt rushed. There was room for improvement, but the Mexican food was really rather good and non-commerical. We may consider returning in the summer and sitting on their terrace overlooking the Lachine canal. That is if you can get us back to that neck of the woods…
Our Rating: As Expected
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