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Lenny Lighter

Last February, just a few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I was so excited to attend the grand opening of the new La Cage: Brasserie sportive (www.cage.ca)  at the former P.F. Chang’s location at Rue des Jockeys near Decarie Blvd.

Formerly known as La Cage Aux Sports, the two-level, 317 seat restaurant barely had a chance to attract a following and showcase its $1.5 million makeover before shutting its doors.  Featuring a completely modern look, designed to offer an immersive experience in this legendary sporting atmosphere, there are several giant screen walls, not to mention three new private rooms, perfect for business meetings or groups. The open kitchen concept adds a nice touch.

Lenny Lighter and Jean Bédard

Groupe Sportscene President and CEO Jean Bédard slowly began to open the 37 La Cage properties in Quebec in June.  The company also owns breakfast restaurant L ’Avenue on the South Shore, P.F. Chang’s at Carrefour Laval and Moishes Steakhouse. The latter just had its iconic property on St. Laurent Blvd sold. It will resurface sometime after the pandemic is over at a new venue.  The location being eyed is the former Houstons Restaurant at Victoria Square, right by the Palais des congrès. I hope they bring back Paul Dinelle, the parking attendant who worked there for an incredible 41 years. He never gave you a ticket, remembered every car and could see you returning from a block away. Ditto for Yoga at coat check. No tickets were required with him either, for he recalled every single coat. 

Besides its restaurant operations, Sportscene is active in the sale of La Cage and Moishes branded products in grocery stores and of ready-to-eat meals.

Restaurants Reopen

I was a regular at P.F. Chang’s on Decarie until it was transformed into a La Cage and I developed a nice relationship with managing director Emile Haykal. So, I was delighted when he was charged with overseeing the new La Cage in the same location. A finer restaurateur you could not find.

At the La Cage restaurants many measures have been thoughtfully considered and implemented by the operational and human resources teams to provide customers with an enjoyable experience in a safe environment, while respecting all mandatory social distancing guidelines.  

“The rigorous protocols we have implemented allow us to offer an enjoyable dining experience while following government guidelines to the highest standards in order to ensure the health, safety and comfort of our customers and employees,” said Bédard.

The crisis certainly highlighted the enthusiasm of Quebecers for local products, which confirms the strategy that was already initiated by the company. Sportscene will therefore continue to include on its menu and promote Quebec products, including beers, wines, and spirits. In addition, to serve customers outside of our dining rooms, they officially launched “La Cage – Chez vous” with an enhanced offering of delivery, take-out, and ready-to-cook meals. In addition, retail sales of the La Cage and Moishes products continue to grow as they extend their distribution in several new food banners.

Moishes Decarie?

In an interview with me, Bédard would neither confirm nor deny the possibility of a select number of Moishes and P.F. Chang’s items being added to the Decarie menu. Last year there was a Moishes steak at all of the Cage restaurants. I went for a try and it was great. However, the average patron in Boucherville or Rimouski probably did not appreciate the significance of this cut of meat. The thing with Decarie is so many Moishes loyalists live close by. For dine in or delivery, I think it would be real hit. They can add in the Moishes chicken and the Monte Carlo potato as well.  As for P.F. Chang’s, business in Laval is booming. They were already set up nicely for takeout, so it only seems logical for some of the signature items like chicken lettuce wraps to become available at their original home. Haykal worked in Laval during the lockdown and he was pleasantly surprised to see how many people from Côte Saint-Luc and Hampstead were coming for takeout.

La Cage at Home

This is where I stepped in.  I have been enjoying the food and ambiance of La Cage restaurants for decades. That was not the case for my wife, daughter, and mother in law or father in law. None of them had ever tried the food.

“We rebranded and changed our menu five years ago,” said Bédard. “To many people we are still a sports bar serving chicken wings and beer. We have worked very hard to project our new image and it is working. Takeout and delivery are still relatively new to us. We started on this before COVID, so we were ready.”

Well I did not have to blindfold my family, but when Haykal advised me that La Cage had reopened at Decarie I shared the menu with them. They were pleasantly surprised, not to mention comforted by the fact that a curbside pickup option existed.

I am pleased to report that every family member gave a big thumbs up to the food, not to mention the packaging and preparation. It was unanimous that curbside pickup at La Cage will now become part of our restaurant routine, probably even after the pandemic is over.

For my mother in law and father in law, bag number one was dropped off containing a Blitz (100 percent Canadian beef patty) with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and mustard only and a fresh Atlantic salmon, served with croutons.  They were pleasantly surprised, so much so that they will order the exact same things next time out.

In my household, we ordered an appetizer of three lobster tacos, a green salad, two salmon poke bowls and a steak (60-day aged AAA striploin, with peppercorn sauce and another salad). I added some garlic shrimps to my meal. Lenny Lighter, who sold Moishes to Groupe Sportscene and still oversees the brand, would definitely give this piece of meat his stamp of approval.

We miss a lot of things about Moishes, so it was a treat to order the famous Moishes millefeuille for dessert.

One of the trademarks of La Cage is to treat yourself to a basket of popcorn from their machine when you enter the premises. As a COVID-19 precaution popcorn is already pre-bagged. When you do a takeout order, you will get a couple of bags included.

Oh yes, there is a 15 percent discount for takeout.

The tacos were fantastic, so it was a pleasant surprise to be treated with some ready-to-cook kits created by executive chef Louis-François Marcotte! Every week La Cage is introducing delicious recipes that you can make by yourself at home.  The principle is simple; they provide you with the ingredients and the steps to follow. All you have to do is prepare! So, the following day the three of us sat down for a delicious lunch. For the lobster tacos, it was easy to prepare and tasted just as delicious as the night before. As for the lobster sandwich, all you have to do is take one of their buns and the container of lobster spread. Wow was this great!  

Other menu items I will be eyeing next time include the fish tacos, the fried chicken & waffle, the tartares (beef, salmon, and tuna) and a meal-size salad.

A revamped Carrefour Angrignon location will be the next to reopen once the pandemic is over. And after closing the Pointe Claire restaurant last year, Bédard said he and his team are seeking a new location to open on the West Island, but again post-COVID.

La Cage Brasserie Sportive Decarie is located at 5485 Rue des Jockeys, Montréal, QC H4P 2T7. Hours of operation are Monday to Friday (11 am to 11 pm) and Saturday & Sunday (4 pm to 11 pm). You can order via  lacagechezvous.comubereats.com or doordash.com or call (514) 731-2020.