Cartel Street Food Bar ▪ Montréal

1433 Crescent Street
Montréal, Québec

With the availability of deals on a weekly basis from Groupon, and in this case LivingSocial, it really gives a chance to try out different restaurants. So on Elle's $20 for $40's coupon, we headed with our family friend A to Cartel for some "street food" style eats. However, I'm not sure that I would qualify the menu items as street food, but rather as small plates, tapas style food.

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Since the dishes come in small portions, we hemmed and hawed to come up with the 4 to 7 plates our nice waitress (in very short and tight shorts - I guess this is Crescent Street) suggested for 3 people. After making up our minds and about to order, the waitress told us of the specials, and we had to regroup to reconsider our choices.

Keeping the dishes in the order they appeared, the first plate that came out were the Kuala Lumpur chicken satay (3 for $4) from the "Asian Hawker" section of the menu. The star of this dish was really the peanut butter sauce, that had a slight kick and coconut note to it. They were demolished quickly by 3 hungry girls.

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Next up came the Maine oysters (3 for $9) that Elle wanted. Each oyster was topped with a mignonette and quite briny. I have to admit that I haven't had oysters since I was young, when I tried one attempting to be one of the grown-ups. I think it's definitely an acquired taste, but I did really enjoy the natural savouriness of the oyster. (And if you're an oyster lover, they have a special on Tuesdays for $1 oyster with $5 sparkling wine.)

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The first special of the day we ordered were the causa de langusta (2 for $7). Causa is a Peruvian dish made up of mashed potato, topped with avocado slices and in this case a bit of lobster and crispy potato sticks. We mainly ordered this dish out of curiosity. It was good, but not as exotic as expected.

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Our next item of Tuna and Seaweed ($12) came from the "Salad" section. Elle had ordered it previously and raved about it. The tuna was quite good but it seemed to have been sliced a bit sloppily, resulting in unevenly thick pieces of fish. I really enjoyed the seaweed salad, which had strong sesame flavours and really want to try to replicate this salad.

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We were tempted by other diners' basket of fries and decided to order our own Cartel fries ($4). The hot and crispy thick cut fries were accompanied by an addictive spicy mayo. We were quite content by our addition.

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The menu includes individual portions of tacos in the "Mexican Street" section and burgers in the "American Shack" section. Our friend A really wanted a burger and we agreed on the Swiss bacon  burger ($7). Though the burger was small, we managed to split among the 3 of us. The burger was quite good with a moist patty that was generously covered with bacon and cheese. However, at $7 for the size of the burger, I think this was rather expensive. It seemed the tacos at $3-$4 were much better value.

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Finally, the special that changed our original game plan, was a Teriyaki duck and pork dish ($25). The waitress and manager raved about this dish (we also overheard other tables being sold on this dish). The dish was quite impressive and the meat did taste very good. The fat was completely rendered resulting in an extremely crispy duck skin. We cleaned out this plate. Although the dish was larger than the other ones, I think $25 for 4 pieces of duck and 3 pieces of pork was on the pricey side.

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I love the concept of small plates. I enjoyed the variety of food and being able to share it with my dinner mates. The food was good but I thought overall, dinner was on the pricey side, especially without a coupon, as we didn't feel quite satiated for the close to $90 we spent (before coupon, taxes and tip).

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