Posts Tagged With: Little Italy

Christmas in NYC

My friend and I decided to go to New York City for Christmas long weekend. It was 3 months worth of planning because there’s tons to do in New York City so we needed to focus and conquer. We were lucky to get cheap plane tickets with Air Canada for $258.36 CAD round trip between Pearson and LaGuardia Airports. We decided to stay at Row NYC which is located on 700 8th Ave and really close to Times Square, Rockefeller Center and the Theatre District. There is a Shake Shack at 44th St W and 8th Ave that my friend and I took advantage of getting take out and eating it in our room because of the proximity and not having to wait for a table to open up. We stayed on the 22nd floor and the elevator itself is a good security measure. You have to insert your card into the card reader and press your floor and it’ll tell you which elevator to take and inside the elevators there aren’t any floor buttons. Since it’s New York City I wouldn’t have been surprised if the hotel room is as small as some of the hotel rooms in Hong Kong. Our room, while small, was laid out well-enough for the two of us to move around. The beds were soft and clean. There were ample plugs spread out around the room and enough room to put our bags and suitcases without having to pile everything on top of each other. There are blackout blinds which is nice since New York is the City of Lights. We were high up enough that I couldn’t hear any noise from the street although this may be because our window had no view which meant that it would be quiet. The hotel provides towels, shampoo/conditioner, soap and cups but no kettle so you can’t boil any water. For Christmas long weekend, the room was $976.04 CAD for three nights which is fairly reasonable considering the location albeit staying in a room with the bare essentials. We had requested to be on a higher floor, early check in and late check out and all three were fulfilled so I was quite satisfied with my stay at Row NYC, all things considered.

In terms of what my friend and I wanted to see and do in New York City, I wanted Broadway Shows and Christmas stuff while my friend wanted to go to museums. My friend was willing to go see Jersey Boys and the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular with me. Front row Mezzanine seats for Jersey Boys on Christmas Day was $229.49 CAD while Orchestra seats for Christmas Spectacular on Boxing Day was $125 CAD. We also got the New York City Day Pass for 3 days for $184.44 CAD. The New York City Day Pass gives you free admission to all the museums in New York City along with tours and other popular tourist attractions such as the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Another neat feature is the Fast Track option at several popular tourist attractions such as Top of the Rock, Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Natural History, MET, Madame Tussaud’s and Discovery Times Square to name afew. The Fast Track option allows you to bypass the regular line up for faster wait times. This helped us with saving time waiting in line when visiting museums and observation decks. I recommend getting the New York City Day Pass if you are interested in visiting museums, partaking in tours and generally doing fairly touristy things. My friend and I were able to get more than our money’s worth in terms of the admission price we saved on the museums, attractions and tours we saw and did. New York City is a place where you have to focus on a certain aspect of it that you want to see if you’re only visiting. I was abit ambitious in wanting to watch afew shows, eat at really good restaurants, do afew tours and see the famous sights. I sacrificed eating at spectacular restaurants for seeing the famous sights. You really can’t have a cake and eat it too in NYC in a short period of time. I also found that planning, at least when it’s your first time there, to be quite crucial. The New York subway line at first glance is the most confusing thing I’ve ever ridden in terms of public transportation. Hong Kong, London, Singapore, Taipei and Bangkok aren’t nearly as complicated and Toronto, Waterloo and Montreal are simple things to navigate compared to the maze that is the NYC metro, at least in Manhattan. After riding the NYC metro, it actually isn’t that bad but for a newcomer it definitely takes some getting used to.

Click here for the link to more photos of my Christmas in NYC
My friend and I had a morning flight on Christmas Day and I was slightly surprised to find that there was no customs to go through at LaGuardia Airport when you exit the plane. You just exit the plane, pick up any checked luggage and catch a taxi. We took a taxi to Row NYC and were able to get early check in to our room as specified when we booked which was really nice. Once we put down our luggage and freshen up, we went to window shop Fifth Ave. The stores had their Christmas displays which I enjoyed looking at. We wandered inside Trump Tower and it was festive inside with nutcrackers posing as musicians and Christmas wreaths. The outside of St. Regis Hotel was very festive with nutcrackers and tiny Christmas trees outside their main entrance. We went inside St Patrick’s Cathedral and saw the end of mass. After window shopping and taking pictures of high end stores and their festive displays, we took the subway to Chinatown. We bought the 7 day unlimited Metropass for $31 USD. I had calculated that it would take a minimum of 11 trips to breakeven.

At Chinatown we wandered around and went inside Ten Ren’s to look at their interesting tea pot collection. We then went inside Yunhong Chopsticks Shop to look at their very decorative chopsticks and accessories. We were feeling abit peckish so we went to eat at a Hong Kong Cafe restaurant. My friend and I split the spring rolls and assorted curry fish and beef balls. I had also gotten the Hong Kong style milk tea. The food was ok, the decor evokes the feel of being in Hong Kong and the service was reminiscent of some Hong Kong Cafes in Hong Kong. After we were fully rested, my friend and I continued wandering around. We went to Columbus Park which is now across a funeral home. The location of Columbus Park is where Mulberry Bend used to be and it was the worst slum in the city. The buildings were torn down in the early 1900s aside from the Chinatown section. We then went to Chatham Square to see the Kimlau War Memorial and the Lin Ze Xu statue. The memorial is to honour Chinese American soldiers who died in World War II. Lin XeZu is a 19th century anti-opium government official and hero. The first ever story I heard about him was about Lin Xe Zu destroying opium in an attempt to rid the Chinese of their drug addiction and to curb the negative effects of opium on Chinese society. The destruction of opium lead to the Opium Wars which would lead to China ceding Hong Kong to Britain. My friend and I then walked along Doyers St which is a narrow crooked alleyway with an elbow or a sharp bend in it which makes it impossible to see who is around the corner. It used to be a site for gangs to meet up to fight it out. There is currently a famous tea shop located at the elbow since there was a crowd of people loitering around the door, waiting to be seated. We passed by the Edward Mooney House which is a red Georgian brick building and it’s the oldest row house in New York City dating back to George Washington.

The closest we were to a bridge in NYC was Manhattan bridge. It is a suspension bridge from 1905 with a Beaux Arts colonnade and arch which makes me think I’m back in Europe. We then went to explore Little Italy and while there were light signs spelling out Little Italy in the street there were Chinese stores around those signs which didn’t give me that complete Italian vibe and feel. When I visit Chinatown, Little India, Little Italy, or any ethnic enclave I have this expectation that the stores would only be selling Chinese or Indian or Italian goods and food rather than have a mish mash of cultures because it is an ethnic enclave. Little Italy itself looked very festive with lights in the shape of Christmas wreaths and we went into a store called Christmas in New York wherein it was filled with a myriad of Christmas decorations. It had a huge variety of Christmas tree ornaments, a funny selection of Christmas stockings and other paraphernalia. After window shopping at Christmas in New York, we hurried to the metro in order to make it in time for our Broadway show. We had some spare time so we went to Times Square to take pictures and made our way to August Wilson Theatre.

What I like about August Wilson Theatre is that it didn’t allow filming or photos during the show so you could fully experience and enjoy the show in the present and not be distracted by other people’s cell phone screens or cameras in the air. The front row mezzanine seats were worth splurging for because I had nobody in front of me to obstruct my view and I could fully enjoy the show. Jersey Boys is worth watching on Broadway albeit I haven’t seen the movie yet. I feel that Jersey Boys is the perfect mix of a musical and a show. There was a good mix of talking and singing so anybody who isn’t into being serenaded for 2.5 hours could still potentially enjoy watching it. I have a friend who went with me to see Les Mis when it came out in the cinemas and she wasn’t into musicals while I thought the movie would be based on the book rather than the show. If it was Jersey Boys, she may have enjoyed it more perhaps. I didn’t grow up listening to The Four Seasons or most of the 60s bands so while I heard of Big Girls Don’t Cry and afew other songs it was nice to be introduced to the band’s discography and history. For my first ever Broadway experience, it was very enjoyable and it made me want to see another Broadway show soon.

After the show my friend and I headed towards Lincoln Center because I heard that there were suppose to be spectacular Christmas decorations there. Along the way we got some food at the ubiquitous metal hotdog stands. My friend got a hot dog ($5 USD) while I got a really big pretzel ($4 USD). The pretzel was really salty so we stopped at Duane Reade Pharmacy to buy water ($1.13 USD for 1.5L sparkling water). When we arrived at Lincoln Center I was disappointed to find absolutely no Christmas decorations although it had a romantic atmosphere with the water fountain and the lights pointing at the Lincoln Center theatres reminded me of Paris. We then went to Rockefeller Plaza to see the Christmas decorations and skating rink. Normally there are three entrances to the famous skating rink and Christmas tree however they cordoned off two of the entrances so that they were only exits and there was a nice entryway wherein you walked on either sides of these trumpet playing angels and get closer to the skating rink and Christmas tree. There were nutcrackers on the side posing as musicians and all the trees had Christmas lights in the branches so it was very festive. It’s difficult to get a good shot of the rink and tree with and without yourself in the picture because of the dense crowds of people there. When the rink closes at midnight the lights on the Christmas tree turn off so while it still has a festive feel it’s not as festive looking as when the lights are on. We then headed back to Row NYC after taking more pictures of Christmas decorations on our walk back.

Categories: New York City, Sightseeing, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Road Trip to Ottawa and Montreal

My university friend and I decided to do a road trip to Ottawa and Montreal for the Victoria Day long weekend. My university friend hadn’t been to Ottawa or Montreal before while I was interested in the tulip festival. We stayed at Barefoot Hostel which another university friend had recommended to me. Barefoot Hostel is located near Byward Market and is a really cool, chill place. There’s only 2 bunk beds in each room and there’s four rooms in total for the entire hostel which are all located on the second floor. Two nights is $64. Barefoot Hostel has free wi-fi, free shampoo bottles, a hairdryer and straightener that you can borrow, a locker to lock your valuables and belongings and a nice common room with a large flat-screen TV and DVDs. The bathrooms are nice and clean. This hostel reminded me of the EDU hostel I stayed at in Yogyakarta/Jogjakarta, Indonesia. The Yogyakarta EDU hostel is a 5 star hostel if there is such a thing as a 5 star hostel. Barefoot Hostel is a 4.5 star hostel.

Inside Notre Dame Basilica

Inside Notre Dame Basilica

Inside Notre Dame Basilica

Inside Notre Dame Basilica

Tulip Festival at Major's Hill Park

Tulip Festival at Major’s Hill Park

Tulip Festival at Major's Hill Park

Tulip Festival at Major’s Hill Park

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location of Byward Museum

location of Byward Museum

Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill

Tulip Festival at Parliament Hill

Tulip Festival at Parliament Hill

Tulip Festival at Parliament Hill

Tulip Festival at Parliament Hill

Tulip Festival at Parliament Hill

Tulip Festival at Parliament Hill

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a view from the double decker shuttle bus

a view from the double decker shuttle bus

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After driving from Toronto to Ottawa and checking into the hostel, we decided to walk around downtown Ottawa. We meandered through Byward Market, toured the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica and meander through Major’s Hill Park and Parliament Hill for the tulips. We walked past the Rideau Canal and the Fairmont Chateau Laurier on our way from Major’s Hill Park and Parliament Hill. The Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage site. the Fairmont Chateau Laurier is part of the Canadian railway hotels. While at Parliament Hill, one of the guides told us that the tours were all full for the day and that they were open on Victoria Day. We walked down a part of Sparks Street which is classified as an outdoor pedestrian mall. We then waited for the free tulip festival shuttle bus at the corner of Elgin and Sparks Street. The shuttle bus turned out to be an open top double decker bus. The bus passed by the Ottawa City Hall and Confederation Park to drive along Queen Elizabeth Dr to reach Commissioners Park and Little Italy. Queen Elizabeth Dr is a very scenic road which follows the Rideau Canal to Dow’s Lake. We decided to first walk around Litttle Italy before having dinner at La Favorita.

Tulip Festival at Commissioners Park

Tulip Festival at Commissioners Park

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Man with 2 Hats near Dow's Lake

Man with 2 Hats near Dow’s Lake

 

 

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fireworks at Dows Lake

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After dinner, we walked back to Commissioners Park to look at the variety of tulips planted there for the tulip festival. The variety at Commissioners Park is much larger than the varieties at Major’s Hill Park and Parliament Hill. We then waited by the north side of Dow’s Lake for the firework show to start. The fireworks show was quite pretty with a nice variety of fireworks. After the fireworks ended, we walked to Preston St/Gladstone Ave to take the 14 bus back to Byward Market. The OC Transpo fare is $3.45 per person (check the OC Transpo website for the most up-to-date fare price).

wandering around Old Port

wandering around Old Port

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Notre Dame

Notre Dame Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

inside St Patrick Basilica

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stain glass at place d'art

stain glass at place d’armes

stain glass at place d'art

stain glass at place d’armes

On Saturday morning, we drove from Ottawa to Montreal. I thought that there would be English road signs in Quebec but I was sorely mistaken. There are only French road signs in Quebec. We found cheap parking at UQAM via the Best Parking app. This particular part of the campus is close to Place des Arts metro station and downtown Montreal. A STM day pass is $10. It can be bought at the ticket booth or the electronic ticket booth. We first went to eat brunch at l’Avenue. After brunch we took the metro to walk around Old Montreal. We passed by Chateau Ramezy, Place Jacque Cartier and Bonsecours Market. We went to the Clock Tower to see if we could climb up but the door to the stairs was locked and there was a spiderweb around the door handle and wall. I had asked the parking attendent working at the Clock Tower parking lot if it was possible to climb up the Clock Tower and he said that it was possible, I was misinformed yet again. We meandered around Old Port on our way to Notre Dame Basilica, the Berlin Wall in the Centre de Commerce Mondial and St. Patrick’s Basilica. We then went to Marie Reine du Monde Cathedral in which we discovered that there was mass at 5pm. So we walked around Dorchester Square. We then took the metro to Place d’Armes to see the stain glass window effect before taking the metro to Mont Royal to meet my friend for dinner at la fabrique bistrot. I had hoped that we had time to go to Mont Royal Park before dinner but we only had 10 minutes before we had to meet my friend so we settled for walking around a part of the Plateau.

at the War Museum

at the War Museum

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Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall

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On Sunday morning, we lined up for over an hour for the Parliament tour tickets. After getting the tickets, we checked out of the hostel. We then went to Shawarma Palace so we could eat brunch. After brunch, we went to the War Museum. My friend was told to go visit the Civilization Museum in Hull, Quebec. I managed to convince my friend to go to the War Museum instead. When I lived in Ottawa back in 2010 I toured the Currency Museum, Royal Canadian Mint, Cold War Museum aka Diefenbunker Museum, the Library and Archives Canada, Canadian Museum of Nature, National Gallery of Canada, Canadian War Museum, Civilization Museum and the Canadian Postal Museum. My favourite museums were the Currency Museum and the War Museum. My friend wasn’t interested in looking at money so I pushed for the War Museum. The admission price to the War Museum is $14.69. The War Museum showcases the War of 1812, the battles prior to the 1900s, Canada’s involvement in World War I, World War II and the Cold War. It also showcases some of Canada’s peacekeeping missions.

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House of Commons

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in the Library

in the Library

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Diamond Jubilee stain glass window

Diamond Jubilee stain glass window

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Senate

Senate

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at Byward Market

After touring the war museum, we went to Parliament Hill for our tour. We had to first pass through security then wait for our group. The tour took us to the House of Commons, the library and the Senate. This is my third time touring Parliament and the newest thing to the tour is the stain glass window commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Currently the reign of Queen Elizabeth II is as long as the reign of Queen Victoria’s at 63 years who is Great Britain’s longest ruling monarch, an achievement unto itself. After our tour of parliament, we went to Byward Market to get beaver tails before beginning the drive back to Toronto.

Categories: Canada, Montreal, Ottawa, Sightseeing, UNESCO World Heritage Site | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

la favorita

My university friend and I were wandering around Little Italy in Ottawa on Saturday afternoon. Stonefaced Dolly’s and Two Six Ate both declined us for not having reservations for dinner. We ended up eating at la favorita. It’s fairly dim inside and the decor is quite rustic for an Italian restaurant. We were given a basket of bread and butter once we’ve ordered. I didn’t have any but my friend did.

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My friend had the Veal Piccata ($22). Veal Piccata is thin slices of milk-fed veal that’s sautéed in white wine and lemon sauce and served with either potatoes and vegetables or pasta. My friend didn’t find it extremely filling.

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I had the Deep Ocean pizza ($16 for a small). The Deep Ocean pizza has Alaskan king crab, mussels, shrimps, scallops and lobster for the toppings. It’s baked in a wood-fired oven. I found it to be a fairly thin crust pizza and it’s quite delicious. The small pizza was very filling for me.

If you’re in Ottawa’s Little Italy, this is the restaurant to go to for seafood pizza and pizza in general.

Categories: Canada, Cuisine, Food, Italian, Ottawa, Restaurant Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Montreal-Day 3

Inside Cathedrale Marie Reine du Monde

Inside Cathedrale Marie Reine du Monde

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After checking out of my hostel, I went to Cathedrale Marie Reine du Monde since I was unable to go inside the cathedral on Saturday. It’s very magnificent. Afterwards I took the metro and then I walked to Depanneur Le Pick Up (please refer to my review of it on an earlier post for details).

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Variety of honey sold at Marche Jean Talon

Variety of honey sold at Marche Jean Talon

Cider at Jean Talon Market

Cider at Jean Talon Market

orchids and peacock feathers at Jean Talon Market

Orchids and Peacock Feathers at Jean Talon Market

Lavender and orchids at Marche Jean Talon

Lavender and Orchids at Marche Jean Talon

Sunflowers at Jean Talon Market

Sunflowers at Jean Talon Market

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After brunch I walked around Little Italy and made my way to Jean Talon Market. There’s a variety of things for sale there, similar to St. Jacob’s Farmers Market in Kitchener-Waterloo. I was surprised to see maple syrup being sold in a can.

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Outside of Notre Dame de la Defense Eglise

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Outside of Notre Dame de la Defense Eglise

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Outside of Notre Dame de la Defense Eglise

I walked past Notre-Dame de la Defense Church on my way to Caffe San Simeon. I got a latte ($2.50). It was good.

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I then made my way to St. Viateur Bagel and got a sesame bagel ($0.75) for take out. Word of advice, eat it when it’s hot and not when it’s cold. I didn’t like it much since I had it the next day on my way home.

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I then meandered my way to Club Social and got a cappucino ($2.50). I prefer Club Social over Caffe San Simeon. They have nicer take out cups and they use brown sugar instead of white sugar. They also have cinnamon and chocolate sprinkles so it’s like getting coffee from Second Cup or Starbucks but at a much more affordable price and a healthier alternative from their usage of brown sugar!

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Menu at Club Social

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I enjoyed my cappuccino at Club Social for a bit before taking the bus to make my way to Square St. Louis. The houses surrounding the square are Victorian style so they’re very unique and interesting compared to the houses I’m used to seeing in Toronto.

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Fountain at Square St. Louis

Fountain at Square St. Louis

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Statue at Square St. Louis

Statue at Square St. Louis

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I then made my way to Chapelle Notre Dame de Lourdes. It’s a very beautiful church. It’s quite small in comparison to other churches that I’ve seen in Montreal however it has its own charm.

Outside of Notre Dame de Lourdes

Outside of Chapelle Notre Dame de Lourdes

Inside Notre Dame de Lourdes

Inside of Chapelle Notre Dame de Lourdes

I then made my way to the Clock Tower and found out that the stairs and viewpoint are closed for the season. I then meandered my way to Rotisserie Romados (please refer to my review of it on an earlier post for details). Afterwards I walked around the Plateau before making my way to La Banquise (please refer to my review of it on an earlier post for details). I slowly walked back to my hostel before heading to Place Bonaventure to take the Megabus back to Toronto.

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Categories: Canada, Montreal, Sightseeing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Depanneur Le Pick Up

I decided to go to Depanneur Le Pick Up for brunch before heading to Jean Talon Market and touring Little Italy and making my way to Mile End and Little Lisbon. Depanneur Le Pick Up is on a residential street, if you didn’t know where to go, you’d almost miss it. It’s very unassuming. Inside it’s a convenience store and a diner. There’s afew tables and a bar where you face the grill. They serve water in a Perrier bottle. The people who work there are all very nice and friendly people.

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I ordered their daily special, Madame Croque ($8.25) and a moccachino ($2.85). Madame Croque is comprised of ham, gruyere cheese and bechamel sauce with an egg on toasted bread and a small green salad. Bechamel sauce is white sauce so it’s made with butter, flour and milk. It was delicious. The portions were large, at least it was larger than I expected. The eggs were sunny side up so they were runny which is the way I prefer my eggs in a sandwich. I felt that the cheese was decoration rather than a substantial part of the dish. The bread was perfectly toasted and had a nice crunch to it. The salad was nice. The ingredients were fresh and crisp unlike the pre-made store-bought salads from grocery stores. I really enjoyed the dish.

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The Moccachino was dark with a hint of chocolate. It was very nice. Overall, if you’re in the area, I would definitely recommend this place for brunch.

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Categories: Canada, Cuisine, Food, Montreal, Restaurant Review, Western | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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