I went to Cartel last year and was greatly disappointed. Recently, I received an invitation from Cartel’s chef/owner to try out Cartel again. He said my experience on Cartel might change if I give it another try, especially when the location has been changed. I was awed by his approach, showing that customer’s opinion matters to him.
At first, I was very worried about this invitation because I was afraid how I would tackle the review. I was afraid that I had to compromise my honesty once accepting the invitation. However, the owner did not give me any pressure at all. I was doing my own thing and he would check at our table once in a while. So rest assured, my review is not biased.
And here goes my second experience at Cartel. Almost 180 degree turn around! It was what I had hoped to experience the very first time I visited Cartel.
This is definitely a drastic change. It’s no longer on Crescent. It’s on Fairmount, close to st-laurent. Which I find the neighborhood is much more suitable for the restaurant’s concept. I did wish that Cartel could show something different on Crescent, but it just isn’t fitted for the crowd. As the sun went down, the restaurant just got more and more livelier. It seemed like Cartel has already gained popularity around the corner!
Because it has changed location, the decor of the restaurant is changed as well. I find it much more aesthetically pleasant and representative to the concept. It’s casual dining with a hint of chicness. With the lights resembling lanterns, it almost felt I was actually on the street in some asian country. I only wished it added a few more red “lantern-like” light hanging on the ceiling to emphasize on the concept. But i guess that could be overwhelming.
One big like is that their tables are designed for groups. This means I could easily come with a group of 6 and more people without any problem!
Another thing that I find it quite a unique experience is their bathroom! I didn’t take any picture…but you will understand what I mean if you go to the ladies room. I really like the door’s concept.
Nothing pretentious. But it’s still a nice place to drink and dine with your friends.
If some of you have read my old reviews, I am very picky when it comes to…serving water. I expect water to be the first thing to be served within the 5 minutes I get seated. Well… Cartel did not meet that. I had to ask for water after they had served my drinks, shown below. ok…diva rant is over.
I remembered I wasn’t impressed with the drinks last year. Drastic change! This asian pear…I love it SO MUCH. No exaggeration. It was sweet, very fruity, just like the name says!
The drink is made of sake, orgeat syrup, lime juice, pear nectar and ginger beer. I think most girls would love this drink.
Mr.Butter ordered Old Fashioned. It was STRONG. I tasted bourbon alright! Mr. Butter was satisfied with the drink.
So, the day we went was Tuesday. What does that mean?! TACO DAY! 2$ taco as long you purchase a drink. Indeed, the tacos are small. But! I assure you, they fill you up very quickly. To be honest, I was 75% full when I ate my third taco… just to let an idea of how filling it was. And so was Mr.Butter. And, in case you don’t know, we don’t eat very little.
Camarones del Diablo – the taco on the left.
Meaty shrimps. Another reason why it’s filling! This taco was warned by the chef that it’s REAL spicy. Well, I didn’t believe him, because when people tell me it’s real spicy, it’s just a bit spicy for me ( I love spicy food, remember?) I have to give him credits that he was speaking the truth. This taco is spicy. Just spicy enough for me to handle it, without suffocating and killing my taste-buds that I wouldn’t be able to taste any flavor anymore. I adored this taco, way better than anticipated. The ingredients were screaming fresh and light. No grease at all. This is my favorite taco of all the ones I tried in the evening.
Grilled pork – the taco on the right.
This has to be my least like tacos of the bunch. Why? I find the pork way too stiff. The meat was getting stuck to my teeth too! The chef did mention that the pork was local but that did nothing to me… it would if it wasn’t so hard. Aside from the pork, lychee was one of the ingredients of the taco. I wouldn’t have known if it wasn’t actually written in the menu. The lychee added nothing to the taco. Why? Their sweetness was near to none. I could only taste it just eating it by itself. The problem here is that the lychee is from cans. Fresh lychees would be a different story, but then the wallet would bring a lot of more issues… Another thing, it could be that I ate the other taco first and left this taco sat a bit, this taco became a bit soggy…so little warning, either eat your tacos fast or have it come one by one.
This taco was with chicken. I can’t exactly depict the taste of it. It was something new. I preferred this one over the Grilled pork one for sure. However, this one was one greasy taco… Other than that, it tasted decently good.
This fish taco was recommended by the waitress and chef. It was light. So light that Mr.Butter had trouble tasting the fish. That wasn’t an issue for me though. However, I don’t see the “punch” of the taco. I would go for Camornes del diablo!
Second round of drinks. I was VERY tempted to re-order the Asian pear. But it’s the occasion to try new things. Mr.Butter ordered the Dark and Stormy while I ordered the Basil Mojito, as suggested by the waitress.
The mojito isn’t very strong here. Highly infused of sweet lime juice. It is a very girly sweet drink, obviously the reason why I like it…
Dark and Stormy
A drink I would normally order because I still can’t find a place served it better than Blizzart. I shied away from it this time because last year I had one in Cartel and I wasn’t impressed at all. Mr.Butter still ordered it in pure curiosity if it improved. Well, it was sweet…maybe a bit too sweet for a dark and stormy…But it’s still missing a something something from Blizzart.
Mr.Butter really wanted to try the lobster roll because last time, they weren’t available. The lobster was meaty! They aren’t being cheap with the portion at all. Mr.Butter said that it was better than the average lobster roll, but cannot be compared with the one he had in Maine. He loved how he could taste the butter on the lobster…go figure how come he’s named after butter…
As for me, I don’t see the appeal of lobster roll as I find the bread conceals too much of the lobster’s fresh and light taste. I find there are better ways to bring out the flavors of lobsters…therefore, I am not one to judge lobster roll…
However, I can definitely judge the fries served beside the lobster roll because I am a total fries junkie! or…expert. lol. The fries have improved so much. I remembered they used to be thicker and much more soggier, which results greasier. Not good at all! Not the case anymore! Their fries are addictive! They are julienne cut! Thinner and crispier! But too salty! Remove the salt and I’ll approve!
In the menu, there are many meals that aren’t full blown menu – just like the concept says, street food! However, Arroz verde is one of the exception.
At this point of the evening, I was completely full. Not hungry at all. It’s when you’re not hungry that you know if the food is good or not. Because if you are full and still want to continue eating it, it’s because that thing is damn good. Arroz verde fits that description.
Arroz verde is a peruvian dish, where it has cilantro rices and a choice of meat. In our case, we had a duck leg. And you see those orange things? They are sweet potatoes! YUM! You squeeze the lime into the rice. And mix the rice with all the goodies in the dish, let it be the sweet potatoes, pieces of onion, bits of the duck leg…sums to GOODNESS.
I have to emphasize on the duck leg. This is how we should all cook duck leg! Or duck meat in general… The skin was crisp! Yet, the meat was not overcooked that it was mushy. The meat was nicely defined into pieces. The best way I can explain it is that the meat kept its form in perfection – if that makes sense at all.
I was full and I kept eating this! This portion is generous! There was so much rice. This meal is good for 2 normal people. Good for 4-6 people if you are ordering other stuff.
It could be a bit greasy, but that could be ignored at how great it tasted. The dish did get a bit heavy eventually, which is why i suggest to share…
Highly suggested dish!!
You know how girls are, before we even get to order, we are already checking out what’s for dessert. Well, I saw no dessert on the menu! I was sad at first but sort of glad in the end because I was so full. But guess what! The chef let us know that there was churro for dessert! I love churro, how can i refuse!
The churros served here was spanish style. I don’t know what’s the main difference from other churros… I think I have only eaten american style churros…you know, from DisneyWorld and other parts of United States.
What’s different here from what I am accustomed to is that we dip the churros in the chocolate. The chocolate wasn’t that sweet, so no need to worry about how sweet it would get. However, what I usually like about churro is their crispness and intense cinnamon flavor. Although the churro was very nicely made, it was too thick to my own liking and lacks cinnamon. So in the end, it just tasted like a fried plain dough shaped like a churro, ready to be dipped in chocolate…
I did not enjoy it very much.
All in all, I already recommended some of my friends to check out Cartel. It has definitely changed a lot, which I am grateful of. It would be somewhere I would bring my group of friends, just not a place for 2 people. The price of the menu is very reasonable. Cartel surely brings something new to the table in Montreal’s restoration. Looking for street food? But can’t find any off from Montreal’s street? Cartel can fix that!