Q-ZN, as it is cleverly called, recently opened in the industrial sector of St. Laurent. When Dan and his partners, Jason Nishmas, Jason Martin and Steve Merling, were putting the concept together and approaching restaurants he began waxing nostalgic about Cattlemans. Before you could say “pepperoni,” a plan was in place. He approached the owners of Quebec Pizzeria in Laval (order.quebecpizzeria.ca) and with the blessing of the Blutman family, he gave them the Cattleman’s (now reborn without the apostrophe to please the language police and known as Cattlemans Retro) pizza recipe. The Papa family from Quebec Pizzeria nailed it.
Peter Morentzos is behind the development of more than 50 restaurants, with the Queue de Cheval always serving as the flagship. Others included Moe’s Deli and Bar, Weinstein and Gavino’s and 40 Westt Steakhouse, just to name a few.
La Queue de Cheval Steakhouse and Raw Bar, (www.queuedecheval.com), located at 1181 Avenue de la Montagne, has been a powerhouse for 22 years. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Morentzos tried to develop a curbside pickup service. The food was delicious as always, but economically the format was not sustainable.
Morentzos tells me that he fears La Queue may never open again. Last summer he was supposed to open a Toronto edition, right in the heart of the popular theatre district. That project is off for good as well. However, the pandemic has not resulted in a total loss. In 2014, while he was preparing to reopen La Queue in a new building, Morentzos launched a new brand called QDC Burger in the back alley on Avenue de la Montagne. It was such a hit that he placed the burgers on the regular La Queue menu and then opened standalone locations at 210 St. Viateur Ouest in the Mile End District and another at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport in Dorval.
QDC Burger is a throwback concept that has a down-to-earth feel. Burgers are simply spectacular as they are uniquely created with a secret recipe of USDA Prime & Canadian AAA “steak-cut” along with QDC a signature brioche bun. Amazingly delicious! The taste profile on its own has the ability to create a loyal cult-like following the menu has two options: Build Your Own Burger, for adventurous foodies, or, choose one of the Chef’s selections of 10 mind-blowing burgers. From crowd favorites like the Surf n’ Turf or the MOB Burger to the health-conscious Kong Burger (Ahi Tuna) or the creative À Louer Burger (Organic King Salmon). Really hungry? No problem add two bucks and go from the large 1⁄4 lb to the extra-large 1/3 lb of USDA steak-cut beef.
This is where Morentzos is focusing his attention now. The airport locale has been closed since the spring, but business at St Viateur is booming. I recently did a pickup for the family and it is an understatement to say how fabulous these burgers are.
There was Peter himself cooking the burgers and placing them into neat containers. I dropped a classic half pound burger and fries at my mom’s first and then went home. It was about 35 minutes door to door. At my household the selections were Lefty’s Burger, the Steakhouse Burger and the Jefferson. I added the lobster roll sandwich for the following day as an extra treat.
“QDC Burger is shining for us during this dark period,” says Morentzos. “Business is up 40 percent over last year.”
And yes expansion is on the agenda. Another location will open in Old Montreal by the end of November. That will be followed in December by what Morentzos calls a “dream spot” downtown on Cyprus Street, between Peel and Stanley, right near Le Windsor ballrooms. In the spring QDC will land on trendy Monkland Avenue in NDG.
“It is an amazing kind of business,” Morentzos says. “You get a high-end quality product in between some bread for less than $20. Of course, we look forward to opening our doors again to dine-in customers, but pickup and delivery work well for us and the clients.”
Morentzos paints a dreary portrait of the future. “Big-box restaurants will not be back for three to five years,” he predicted. “Everything has changed.”
QDC Burger is located at 210 rue Saint Viateur Ouest. Opening hours are Wednesday to Sunday from Noon to 9 pm, with a curbside service takeaway menu and delivery available via Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes and Door Dash. For more information go to www.qdcburger.com or call (514) 312-0321
For so many years now I have walked or driven by Sushi Shop (www.sushishop.com) locations, but never stepped inside to order. With our family focusing exclusively on take-out and delivery options during the COVID-19 pandemic, we agreed to finally give this place a whirl. Let’s just say they can count on us being regular customers from this day forward. What a pleasant surprise the entire experience was.
It is hard to believe but 2020 marked Sushi Shop’s 20th anniversary. Owned by the MTY Group, there are now 165 locations across Canada.
The menu is full of innovative, original creations that excite the most devoted sushi fanatics and appeal to sushi newbies.
Prepared fresh with care by their chefs, Sushi Shop products offer great flavour and superior freshness. Their popular poke bowls, sushi tacos and blossom and temari collections are just among a wide selection of unique creations available
In 2000, when Sushi Shop opened the doors of its first location at the Atwater Market in Montreal, sushi was a long way from becoming one of the most popular foods in Canada. Sushi had a small and loyal following, and the few sushi restaurants that were open catered to the already-initiated. As the internet worked to increase awareness of global cuisine, sushi became a cultural mainstay and Sushi Shop emerged as one of the fastest-growing brands in the nation.
Sushi Shop has been passionately committed since its beginning to being unlike any other sushi experience available. Its progressive approach to sushi pays homage to the artisanal beauty of traditional sushi, while also pushing the boundaries by combining sushi with other global cuisines and flavor profiles. The result is a wildly unique experience that appeals to sushi fanatics and to those who have never tried sushi before. It has helped us win thousands of devoted fans who make Sushi Shop a part of their daily lives.
Sushi Shop goes far beyond the traditional and cliché California rolls with its own creations, which seek to blend high art with new and exciting flavor profiles. The Blossom Collection artfully shapes rolls such as our teriyaki salmon and salmon truffle into bursting petal designs. The temari collection literally rolls exciting flavor profiles such as tuna tataki and crispy lobster into delicious and bite-sized balls.
Sushi Shop also takes sushi where it’s never been before by offering such genre-bending products as sushi tacos, sushi pizza, sushi burrito and black sesame ice cream. The brand also appeal to those who may not be in the mood for sushi by offering a fresh twist on Japanese cuisine. For example, the Poke bowls are delicious, nutrient-packed, flavor explosions that use several core sushi ingredients but are styled more like a salad.
I called in my order at 5:10 pm on a Saturday and they told me it would be ready in 30 minutes. When I arrived, everything was packaged and ready to go.
We started off with the Umami poke bowl with crispy sticky rice. Beautifully presented like a tartare, their poke bowls come with the choice of white rice, brown rice and Sushi Shop’s unique crispy sticky rice or lettuce. We shared this three ways and each agreed that we did not want it to end. Every morsel was so delicious.
The delicious sushi pizza recipes come with crispy rice and cheese crust, served with your choice of spicy light mayo, soy, sesame or Yin Yang sauce. We had the one topped with lobster, crab, shrimp, spicy light mayo, mango, red masago, green onion and sesame.
I must say that the menu is overwhelming: so many amazing choices. We studied the selections closely and settled on a nice variety. In the temari section, we went for the bomb. Now each temari is prepared with distinctive ingredients, inside and out, giving them a unique character and personality, with spicy light mayo, soy, sesame or yin yang sauce. The bomb has Japanese mayo, teriyaki sauce, sesame and Japanese spices, crab, shrimp, mozzarella, spicy light mayo, Japanese mayo, teriyaki sauce
For maki, we went for the black mamba. These are medium sized rolls served in eight bite-sized piece and containing all sorts of flavour combinations for the beginner to the sushi expert. In the case of the black mamba, there is shrimp tempura, salmon, kanikama, red and black masago, spicy light mayo, Japanese mayo and green onion.
The sumomaki rainbow features large rolls, cut into five pieces. Simple as well as more complex flavour combinations ours had tuna, salmon, avocado, green onion, cucumber, tempura, spicy light may and spicy sauce.
We loved the blossom volcano mini (eight pieces). The top mimics the beautiful Japanese flower. This one had torch-seared salmon, avocado, tempura, red masago, light and spicy light mayo, sesame and soy sheet.
Still on the blossom section, we tried the phoenix. There were six pieces, containing popcorn shrimp, kanikama, avocado, crispy sweet potato strings, tempura, red masago, sesame sauce, spicy light mayo, Japanese spices, sesame, and rice paper.
The tartare maki tuna is slightly spicy, tasty and crispy. It represents your ultimate choice of fresh fish or seafood wrapped in lettuce and rice paper. The four pieces contained tuna, tempura, lettuce, cucumber, carrot, green onion, spicy light mayo, spicy sauce, orange masago and sesame, rice paper.
There were no sushi tacos available that night, so something for us to try next time as well as a number of other items being rolled out; a new maki green crush, combo bamboo and two new poke bowls, all made with their new bamboo rice. The taste is described as light. delicate and packed with nutrients like vitamin B and antioxidants. In fact, all of their rolls, poke bowls and combos can be made with this new rice.
States Marc Benzacar, the chief operating officer of MTY’s Fast-Casual Division: “We strive to be different, and we have a unique vision of what sushi can be. We don’t just do the common rolls, we do rolls our way — and it’s an art. We deliver all of the artisanal quality of high-end sushi, and we deliver it at an affordable price. This is why fans are so happy with us, and it’s why business took off so quickly in Canada.”
Like all restaurant chains, the pandemic has not made things easy.
“We had more than half of our locations closed during COVID and the pandemic was an extremely difficult time for our franchisees,” said Marketing Director Emilie Mercier.
Sushi Shop locales had to cope with a lack of staff, constant change from the government’s measures, rental fees, food supply interruption, a loss of traffic and delivery services not being readily available in certain regions. “We can now say that most of our locations are opened and we are slowly catching up to where we are in sales before COVID, but the battle has not been won yet,” said Mercier.
For 2020, Sushi Shop had planned to open 10 new locations. Expansion will still occur, but not at the intended rate.
As for the large menu options, Mercier notes: “We are known by our fans to have an extensive menu, as well as new menu items every few months. Our team helps each location with training. We also try to create new items with ingredients we already have in our store.”
Delivery orders can be made via Skip the Dishes, Uber Eats, and Door Dash while for pickup you can call it in yourself or use bon app or ritual. Check each location first to which of these services is available.
By Mike Cohen
For the past few weeks, my family and I have gone through some major sushi withdrawal. So we were delighted to hear that Ryú Sushi (www.ryusushi.ca) had reopened its Peel and Westmount locations for take-out and delivery.
Ryú (Japanese for Dragon) is known throughout Montreal for its fresh ingredients and a unique philosophy of respect for the environment and one another. The place specializes in high-end sustainable sushi.
Peel is open from Tuesday to Saturday whereas Westmount is open from Thursday to Monday, both with different menus. We decided to order from Peel first; Westmount is penciled in for next week.
First a little bit about the precautions they are taking during this COVID-19 pandemic.
With COVID-19 bringing the world to a standstill, the Ryú team wishes to reassure clients that health and safety remain their top priority at both locations. For starters, manager Jorge Da Silva notes that they work with a limited staff: three on the floor and three in the kitchen and it always the same staff to ensure safety.
- All staff wear gloves and face masks and disinfect their hands as much as possible;
- Sanitizers/disinfectants are everywhere on site;
- All take-out bags are sealed shut;
- For the client’s safety, there is a vestibule area that separates the clients from staff. Clients enter the vestibule area to pick up their bag, where there are sanitizers all over the place.
- Orders are pre-paid and no contact with staff is necessary;
- Curbside pick-up is available for clients who request it;
Ryú has established an employee fund where 70 percent of the sales of gift cards go to these individuals. They are also encouraging people to donate to the Montreal Relief Workers Fund, which has thus far raised over $80,000 for those in need in the industry. Ryú has also created a short private import list of wine/sake, for which prices are reduced by 35 percent.
Our Dining Experience
It is hard to believe that the Ryú team just recently introduced this process for that have nailed it effectively in every category possible. To say we were impressed is an understatement! For a ranking out of 10, I would have to give them an 11.
I requested for my order to be ready for 5:45 pm and opted for the curbside pickup option. Already bestowed with a loyal clientele, I could see that this formula has caught on. There were a number of cars in front of me. Some people went directly inside, where a staffer asked their name and pointed to the large white bag they could carry out. Others just called or sent a text from outside the door and a staffer came out immediately and placed the bag in the trunk or the back seat.
When I got home we opened the bag to find two beautifully packaged boxes with all of the food, some extra soy sauce and of course chopsticks. Everything was fresh. If I closed my eyes and merely ate the food, I could believe I was sitting in their Peel Street dining room. This was not your typical take-out order that a half hour after picking it up still tasted like it came directly from the kitchen.
We started off with something new for us at Ryú, the Classic Poke, containing tuna, cucumber edamame, wakame, papaya, tobiko, shallots, green onion, furikake, crispy noodles, sesame seeds, togarashi, nori and classic sauce. I am new to Poke, but this was the perfect way to get an amazing meal underway.
At Ryú we always look forward to the nigiri and sashimi platters. They are based on their Chef’s choice of daily arrivals of fresh Oceanwise fish which may consist of bio salmon, big eye tuna, hamachi, albacore tuna and when in season, Japanese sourced fish.
Nigiri is a specific type of sushi consisting of a slice of raw fish over pressed vinegar rice. Our platter of 12 consisted of two pieces each of albacore, sustainable salmon, ebi shrimp, big eye tuna, hamachi (yellow tail) and scallop.
Unlike ordinary tunas, albacore also contains more omega 3 fatty acids. This makes it a healthier food choice that is good for one’s heart and even fights certain types of cancer. These fatty acids actually increase the total fat content and the calorie value of the product. Albacore has a non- metallic and a non-fishy taste compared to regular tuna. It is said to have the lightest flesh, not to mention, the mildest tuna flavor around. The sustainable salmon, made from fished or farmed sources that can be maintained or whose future production does not significantly jeopardize the ecosystems, is so good I could have eaten a dozen pieces on my own. Ebi is one of the most common ingredients in Japanese cuisine and outstanding as a piece of nigari. Found in the open waters of all tropical and temperate oceans, big eye tuna is another addictive piece. Then came hamachi, also known as the yellow tail. It is included in a group of sushi fish called the “Big Three Yellow tails.” They consist of yellowtail and amberjack. These three fishes are classed as a luxury fish. They are all related, and similar in nature, but the yellowtail is considered the most valuable. Finally, I have always been a fan of scallops in any formation-, especially nigiri.
For the sashimi we ordered a platter of 24.It looked like so much to eat, but between the three of us it went so quickly!
Then came time to choose from the specialty maki part of the menu. We opted for California Dream (salmon tartare, crabstick, cucumber, tempura, tobiko, soy paper, spicy mayo and apricot), six pieces; Paradise, a big favorite of ours (salmon tartare, avocado, tempura, soy paper, sesame oil and sweet sauce), six pieces; Hamachi Baby (Hamachi, avocado, green onion,, nori, spicy mayo), six pieces: and Ryú rainbow (tuna, salmon, cucumber, wakame, tempura, soy paper, rice paper, spicy mayo and basil mayo), eight pieces.
It was a superb culinary experience and the huge bonus is that we had leftovers to enjoy the following day. We did order dessert, but plan to do so for our follow-up meal at Westmount.
To enjoy the Ryú experience in the comfort of your own home, go to ryusushi.ca or from one of their delivery partners: Uber Eats or DoorDash. They also accept orders by text (514-587-3244)/phone (514-446-1468) seven days a week/as early as 9 am. You can follow the restaurant at https://www.instagram.com/ryu.sushi.
Ryú is located at 1474 Peel Street.