New places are turning up in Montreal on a more frequent basis of late. One such place is the hipster-friendly Maïs, on St. Laurent, on the corner of St. Viateur. It was recommended to us by a friend who wishes to remain anonymous, despite our good intentions. And who constantly frustrates Diva #1
This was also a mini celebration of sorts, as Diva #1 had completed her first year of her Ph.D. See, we’re not just pretty faces! The drinking started at Diva #1’s house as soon as Diva #2 arrived after work. The usual was poured and enjoyed before heading out to meet Vegan Vixen who accompanied us to Maïs, she unwisely thought that she would be safe from meat related products at a restaurant named after a vegetable. She also still believes in the Easter bunny but we love her anyway. Too bad the Divas ate the Easter bunny a few years ago.
We walked around the neighbourhood and Diva #2 pointed out where she previously worked, her go-to bakery, and other spots she knew of. Eventually we made our way back to the restaurant to check on our table because we were getting hungry. And when we get hungry, we get unstable. Sometimes Diva #1 gets a twitch in her eye and this time around, it got us our table faster.
We were seated at the back of the small, narrow restaurant, overlooking the open kitchen. Vegan Vixen joined us shortly after our drinks arrived. Diva #1 and Vegan Vixen ordered the Big Kahuna, made with rum, orange juice and bitters. Usually when rum is involved we’re having mojitos but this drink was really good and on the strong side. Diva #2 had the Paloma, made with tequila, grapefruit juice and hibiscus. It was refreshing, you could taste the tequila but it did not overpower the taste of grapefruit and hibiscus.
We spotted a bowl on the counter with something that looked deep-fried and sinful. We asked one of the chefs what it was and we were told they were chicharones which are served alongside a specific taco which we had not ordered. Two minutes later, one of the chefs handed us a plate and coyly told us to “shhh” and winked. Guess women who love deep fried pork fat are attractive! God knows it was delicious.
This held us over till our appetizers arrived. The first was the squid. It was a nice combination of flavours with the orange segments and the crunchy almonds nestled in the frisé, niçoise salad. Not the usual suspects that are paired with squid, it really was a great dish that’s worth ordering.
Our second appetizer was the scallop ceviche, with citrus on a tostada with delicious guacamole. If they can’t do guacamole right you may as well get up and leave. But thankfully, Maïs has a very fresh and light tasting guacamole that you could easily get carried away with and was perfectly paired in this refreshing tostada. The coriander and razor thin radish slices added a nice edge to this appetizer.
We decided to order the taco platter so that we could sample the most tacos on the menu. They were all filled to overflowing with ingredients and some stood out more than the others. And there was extra hot sauce served on the side, with a creamy coriander sour cream and lime wedges.
Each taco arrived open and topped with coriander, the presentation was beautiful and we were soon eager to dig in. We had ordered a few more vegetarian tacos than we would have liked, but we need to placate Vegan Vixen and her “vegetarianism” some of the time.
The arctic char taco with avocado and slaw was surprisingly good. Arctic char usually doesn’t have that much taste and this was light-tasting and the slaw added a nice contrast to the fish. The avocado was the perfect addition to this taco and we enjoyed it.
“Poison et avocat: avocat, chou mariné” 4.50$
Pork belly is a beautiful thing and when sliced thick and cooked right, it’s great. The fat layer melted just enough to keep the meat moist and flavour the marinated black beans and the watercress added a nice peppery bite which was cooled slightly by the créma. Definitely one of our favourite tacos!
“Flanc de porc: fève noires marinée, créma, cresson” 4.00$
A good option for vegetarians and fake vegetarians alike (ahem, Vegan Vixen), was their butternut squash taco, which isn’t something that you often see on menus. The pumpkin seed purée was smooth and delicious, but the pumpkin seeds still had a crunch and the cheese and green onions added another dimension of flavour.
“Courge et fromage frais: purée de graines de citrouilles, oignons verts” 3.50$
The Divas would order this one again, regardless of it being a vegetarian option. You see, we’re accepting of others!
The carnitas taco was spilling out of its shell. The meat was very tender, the coriander was a nice touch and the salsa gave it the ol’ Mexicali feel.
“Carnitas: oignons, coriandre, salsa verde” 3.50$
The black bean taco was the most disappointing. The beans needed to be cooked longer and the Divas barely touched this one. Not something we would recommend, it left much to be desired.
“Fèves noires: jalapeno, créma, noix de grenoble, betteraves” 3.50$
Our last taco was the beef taco with an onion purée, jalapenos and marinated onions. Heavy on the onions, this is not the taco that you order on a first date, especially if you are interested in a second date. We loved it but we weren’t on a date so we didn’t mind the strong onions and carbonised jalapenos.
“Palerons de bœuf : purée d’oignons, et jalapeno carbonisés, oignons mariné” 4.00$
Before leaving Maïs, we had a round of really strong, oversized sour tequila shots. The Divas swore off tequila in 2012 when both Diva #1 and Diva #2 (on separate occasions) spent their night hugging the toilet bowl, or Diva #2’s case a tree outside a restaurant, and saying bye-bye to a love of tequila that used to be unrivaled. Sweet Pea and Bellatrix were there both times and are still recovering from those two separate fiascos.
We left Maïs feeling satisfied, it is a cute little place for a bite to eat on a hot summer day. We decided to head to Café Olimpico for their famous cold coffee. We went outside to sit on their side terrace and enjoy the night. After tagging ourselves at Maïs on facebook and twitter our Sensei soon called telling us that he was there and we were not. We told him we were down the street at Olimpico and he met up with us for some more coffee and abuse. Who meets up with three women and doesn’t expect abuse?
We talked and joked and even got our Sensei to agree to take the Divas to a yoga class with him. Though we’re almost positive we’ll be the two at the back of the class talking and laughing and Sensei may be asked to never return. Our night came to an end when they shut the outside lights, a sure sign that the owners were ready to go home. Montreal is lacking in some great cafés, and Diva #1 can commit murder without a few coffees a day, thankfully Café Olimpico offers wonderful coffee, and by coffee we mean espresso, not the percolated variety.
All in all, Maïs is a good little place with some good tacos. The atmosphere leans heavy towards hipster, it’s a fun ambiance with a friendly staff and it’s a good place to grab a quick bite before heading off to start your night. Sadly it is cash only which the Divas hate and we hope to see that change in the future.
Maïs Rating: Average
Café Olimpico Rating: Splendid
Tagged: Arctic Char Taco, Average, Bar, Beef Taco, Black Bean Taco, Butternut Squash Taco, Café, Café Olimpico, Carnitas, Cash Only, Chicken Wings, Cocktails, Coffee, Créma, David Schmidt, Gil MacNutt, Guacamole, Mais, Mexican, Montreal, Pork Belly Taco, Saint Édouard, Salsa, Squid, St-Laurent, St. Viateur, Tacos, Tequila, terrace, Tostadas, William Cody