Monday, December 10, 2007

Restaurant Review - Orexi, 1270 Avenue Bernard, Montreal

If there is one thing that Montreal is certainly not lacking, it is the Greek restaurant. Living in a predominantly Greek neighourhood, I have an unending plethora of tavernas -- from greasy, but affordable Arahova (my dinning companion swears by it), to pricier endeavors, such as the crème de la crème of Greek restos – Milos. So, it was with a weary eye that I watched the arrival of yet another Greek restaurant, Orexi, in Mile End/Outremont. While initially deciding to ignore it for the time being, I was recently persuaded to visit by a positive review in the Montreal Gazette, attesting to the good food, fine ambiance and personable staff.

To begin, my dinning companion and I chose to visit the restaurant on a blustery, snowy December evening. While snow and wind might not encourage one in the direction of grilled fish and other Mediterranean delicacies, it was, in fact, just the thing to counter the crappy weather. The interior of the restaurant is warm, boisterous and certainly Mediterranean – blue lights play off of exposed stone walls which are lined with fabric banquettes and light-coloured pillows -- not to mention the fully-stocked bar to the back of the restaurant. While I did find the requisite Greek statue, the rest of the resto was surprisingly un-tacky. In addition to the warm décor, I must say that the staff was certainly friendly. We were welcomed by no less than three fellows, all seemingly from the same jovial family.

It should be said at the outset that I think this restaurant fares best when ordering share-ware. Many serving dishes went by with entire grilled fish, family-sized portions of rice, potatoes, calamari, octopus and other sea-worthy items. We began by sharing a plate of feta and olives, which was very simply prepared, but with top-of-the-line ingredients. Surprisingly enough, the hit of the dish was the dried oregano, which the owners of the restaurant bring back from the family stead in Greece. We then shared a plate of grilled octopus. Now, I am only recently embarking on the seafood/fish train and even I could tell that this was delicious. The meat was tender, moist and with a light grilled flavour. It was tossed, seemingly, in olive oil and lemon, which played off the tender meat. In terms of main dishes, my dinning companion ordered the swordfish steak. With regards to my current introduction to fish, I am finding that I can handle most shellfish, but actual fish seems to be more of a problem. This swordfish though, was light, moist and fresh-tasting, nothing like a fishy tire. My lamb, the grandmother’s “special of the day,” was a little over-done for my taste. While it was a braised leg of lamb, it tasted like it had been recently reheated and lost a bit of its lamb-y flavour. The accompanying potatoes and rice (potatoes for the lamb and rice for the fish) were quite delicious. We finished off our meal with a nice glass of ouzo.

It would seem that the seafood is definitely the way to go at Orexi. In addition to the grilled fish, the appetizers, with their ample size, are perfect for sharing with a large group of people and could certainly constitute a dinner. One last thing -- the service remained attentive, energetic and Greek throughout the evening. As the evening wore on, large groups of women came in for martinis and a little male attention from the staff – they were more than obliging.

Mains: $18-30


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Album Review - Kevin Drew, "Spirit If", Arts and Crafts Records, 2007.

At the outset of this blog, I mentioned that this would be a place for me to revel in my various pastimes – one of such pastimes being music (the listening to, not the making of – unless car singing counts). And while I have been lax on this in 2007, I have, in the past, been rewarded monetarily for my cd reviewing skills. All of this to say, I will, on occasion, include the odd album review, which will go a long way in explaining the following:

One of the positive things about commuting to work – and I have a long commute – is the opportunity to listen to music uninterrupted. I am embarrassed however, to say that more often than not, I listen to Agatha Christie audio books– gasp!. Anyways, to break myself of this erstwhile habit, I decided to acquire some new music to listen to in the car, some kind of concept-ish album, that is experienced best when listened to all of the way through. Given that the last Broken Social Scene album was just such an effort, I decided to pick up Kevin Drew’s, or rather “Broken Social Scene presents Kevin Drew’s,” Spirit If, released last month on Arts and Crafts Records.

While not a concept album per se, it still feels like a unified album, rather than a collection of singles. Not surprisingly, most, if not all, of the fractured BSC members make appearances on this album, plus a number of greatly-appreciated guest spots - who knew I had such a fondness for Tom Cochrane? This album is a perfect melding of the last two BSC albums -- there are the spacey, sometimes discordant sounds of the last album, mixed with the more pop, melodic sounds of You Forgot it in People. Brought together, these two styles bring out the best in BSC, er, Kevin Drew. Thinking back to the first BSC album, it was those two songs “I’m still your fag” and “Lover’s spit,” both featuring Drew’s semi-whispered vocals, which were my favorites. Therefore, it should stand to reason that I would appreciate this album. Two stand-out singles from “Spirit If” include “Lucky Ones” and “Gangbang Suicide” (a song-titler par excellence, he is not). All in all, a very good album and one that provides a nice sound-track to the Montreal – QC trek.