L'Auberge Saint-Gabriel, Koko, Juste Nouilles
For some reason, as a person and as a band - I/we used to hold a massive misconception of Canada. We used to get bummed when we'd have to do the trek over the border into our Northern neighbor. It may have been due to the fact that first several shows we played in all provinces of Canada - the shows were always lined with disaster.
I recall on the Dillinger Escape Plan tour (Trivium was first of 4, Read Yellow second, The End direct support, DEP headlining) that the crowd hated us. I think one night they sat on the floor during our set (that may have been Montreal), in Toronto on that tour, the local sound guy started literally throwing our drum kit pieces around after our set… I exchanged some words with a woman there who was the promoter rep (I wish I remembered her name - I'd happily write it down with her cell phone number if I had it all) - I said "We have never been treated this badly - I will be having a word with our booking agent." Her response was something along the lines of "Fuck you kids - get the fuck out of my club - I am going to end your career in Canada. No one will ever book you again!" The security guards swarmed around as all 4 of us Triviums got in a screaming match with the venue - then were basically thrown out.
Every time we've ever crossed into Canada - for some reason, their border guards are harder on us than even in Eastern European countries whose border guards carry machine guns (this is still a fact for us). We've had tours in a van with drives so long in Canada that we spent the nights sleeping in freezing Tim Horton's parking lots - selling about a t-shirt a night, not even coming close to be able to cover a tank of gas.
First time we played Quebec City, supporting In Flames in '06 - I was actually egged. People threw raw eggs at me. The very first time we were ever in Canada… I remember we went to a strip club at 8:30am after eating at a Pizza Pizza - awful. I'm talkin shark-bites and coat-hanger scar F-minus squad… Bad times.
So maybe it was all of the above that created that initial misperception of Canada…
However! Very shortly after 06/07 - Canadian Trivium fans began overtaking the volume of Trivium-fans in the USA even. We started having some of the best damn shows in North American in Canada exclusively. We would have the highest merch numbers of entire tours in places like Edmonton; have entire crowds singing guitar parts as loud as the PA. It was starting to come around.
When my love for food started coming around, and then my serious blogging - it was really on the Dream Theater tour (at least for the first time in North America/ Canada for my bloggin-era) - I started seeing better areas of Canada. I started noticing that the major cities were on an economic upswing… the cities looked futuristic (Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto) - the shows were beginning to over-sell-out.
The venue area we were playing on the DT tour was insanely gorgeous. All museums, restaurants, new buildings, all sorts of exciting and new looking things. One of my uncles lives out in Montreal - and he knows all about my obsession for food.
I met my uncle at a location of his picking: L'Auberge Saint-Gabriel. I think this place is like - one of the oldest restaurants in Montreal. On the outside, it looks like a country-side vineyard - but also sort of like Bilbo Baggins' house in Lord Of The Rings. Inside, you are greeted with some intensely cool stuff: glass containers display their charcuteries being made; there is a giant spinal column on display; these odd elk-bodies conjoined at the head with a singular light bulb as it's shared head. It's like a modern art museum in this old building.
The menu design looks like a minimalistic Mastodon album-cover; the fonts, the lighting, the interior - it's all a mix of country-side rustic and modern art museum. Glancing at the menu, you know this is some seriously good stuff - we are brought a fancy water bottle reading "Eau Filtree" and slamming French bread.
I start with a glass of the house red (not sure what it was - but it was damn good and damn buzz-inducing (especially at 12pm)) - my starter was the Beef Tataki: meaux/arugula cannily, marinated mushrooms and tomato confit. The presentation of this entree' was art in itself: every ingredient displayed on a heavy black stone… the meat was very lightly seared, insanely tender (sashimi-tender, almost), all the components of the dish both aesthetically complimenting each other while certainly complimenting each other's taste. The use of a small amount of sea salt on the meat was all that was needed, the rustic vegetables all played off of one another.
The main for my lunch was Moussaka with tomato/cucumber salad and mint. If you haven't had moussaka before… it's a dish found in several middle eastern cultures - sort of a cross between lasagna and shepherd's pie. Saint-Gabriel's came in it's own cute-little mini baking dish - the cheese and eggplant were gooey and wonderful - the meat (it was most likely lamb) in that crumbly ground-beef texture. This thing was stupidly good.
When at a place as good as this - you gotta have some sweets. I finished up with a chocolate cake with cream and a cappuccino. Pleasantly harder on the outside, molten-moist on the inside; airy (but thick) cream complimented so well. All their dishes look like little works of art delivered on their heavy black/grey stone plates. The cappuccino was even something special.
This place is intensely freaking good. Get over there.
After a wonderful catch up, my uncle and I went our separate ways, I hit up the modern art museum for a fantastic wander for a few hours,Trivium had an incredible gig - then it was after party time…
We have some really great friends in Montreal that we typically meet up with for food and drinks after the show. Some of the group went to a rock bar, me and a very small-group went to a place called Koko.
I've never been to a bar this fancy. It's basically an ultra-lounge where the coolest of the cool of Montreal come to spend way too much money. Don't get me wrong - this was a fun spot… but it's not something for me, or most. The clientele looked like something out of a rap video: it was all models, aspiring actors and actresses, the super-rich and famous of the young Montreal scene. It certainly was amazing to be able to experience this kind of life for a night though.
Since my friends in Montreal are so plugged into the scene there - it was all free drinks (and free drinks in a "bottle bar" are something pretty uncommon). A bottle bar is somewhere where you have to buy a bottle of Grey Goose marked up to 200-400 bucks a pop just to claim a spot to hang out at. It was all blaring club music and sniffling, sparkling boys and girls. I met a lot of people in suits more expensive than my guitar all from ultra-rich families from Africa and the Middle East.
That was a time-warp for a metal kid from the 'burbs.
I got super-frickin plastered on Vodka/Soda/Limes and Moet and it was time to head off. I don't often drink Vodka… but it seems that each time I do - it's a loud-Heafy-insane night; thankfully - there was close by late-night Asian noodle places.
We hit Ivy on the way out for another beer or something… then to Juste Nouilles for Phad Thai and Fried Rice. I have a passionate obsession with greasy, traditional, late night drunken-Asian noodles and rice - this place frickin ruled. It was all smashed Asian kids chowing down on greasy, fantastic street food-style noodles. We inhaled our 5-pound plates of noodles and rice and stumbled back to the bus so I could hit the coffin.
Montreal - you are truly a fantastic place. A'bientot.