Join Abbe and Jebby on their latest edible endeavor as they conquer and critique Montage and their attached lounge, La Merde.
Abbe’s Meal: Vegetable Gumbo with Cornbread
I was anything but apprehensive when this plate of glory was laid in front of me. My mouth was watering at the sight of the freshly diced tomatoes, warm cornbread, and the giant spear of jalapeño all framing the beautiful image of my gumbo. I dove in without hesitation and my enthusiastic taste buds were met by a delicious mosaic of peppers, onions, okra, garlic, and spices all cushioned by a pillow of fluffy rice. Although the flavor of my gumbo was more than enough to satiate my grizzly hunger, I poured on a healthy helping of jalapeno Tabasco sauce to heighten the sensation.
The cornbread was a fitting companion to this rich dish and I enjoyed ripping it into fluffy cubes with my fork and soaking it in my stew until it was soggy and delightful.
The fresh tomatoes on top really added another level of texture to the dish giving it a cool and fresh flavor on top of the spiciness of the gumbo and the sweetness of the cornbread. Even the spear of jalapeno added a nice kick-in-the-pants spunk to each bite.
Every aspect of this dish gave me an insatiable need to devour it in one huge gulp, yet the yearning desire to make it last all night. Sounds almost like a cheesy romantic novel with Fabio on the cover, groping some sweaty Latino women with a torn dress. Me like.
Abbe’s drinks: Hemotoma (sic) and Stinky Kitty
The Stinky Kitty is a brilliant blend of rum, peach schnapps, lemon, and cranberry juice. It’s basically the #1 girliest drink ever invented. Whoever thought of this genius concoction basically enveloped everything I want in a drink and gave it a downright dirt cheap price tag to boot. I like to taste the booze in my booze, but I don’t like to feel like I’m guzzling a glass full of fermented truck stop toilet water, aka whiskey, bourbon, etc. So I’m a happy camper when my drink has a nice mixture of milder alcohols and sweet juices of the earth.
Jebby’s meal: oyster shooter and Old Mac with chicken
Every time I go to Montage, I order the Old Mac. It is, to me, one of the most perfect foods in existence. It manages to define both decadence and comfort with only as many ingredients as you have fingers on one hand. It is rich, creamy and garlicky and cheesy – basically, everything I enjoy amalgamated into one impossibly flawless food. If I ever broke up with a boyfriend, I would turn not to booze or ice cream, but make a beeline straight for Montage, order the Old Mac, and tell the waiter to keep ‘em comin’. You all may have learned by now that my favorite type of food is “simple done right,” and the old mac at Montage is the pinnacle of that ethos. Adding seared chicken does not serve only to round out your food groups for the evening; it adds an extra dimension to the butter and cream-laden dish. The chicken has a delicate richness that lets the flavors of the mac shine through. It is always perfectly seared, tender and juicy. If you are a fan of mac ‘n cheese, I vote for Montage’s as the best Portland has to offer. If you order one thing here, you should order the Old Mac.
Jebby’s drinks: Lily White and Deep Sea Diver
The Pearl Diver was recommended to me by our awesome bartender for the evening and it contained Barbancourt rum, Luxardo maraschino, lemon, cucumber, and sparkling wine. Aforementioned bartender said I should order it if I like drinks that are off the beaten path. It definitely was, and in the best way possible. The flavor was very complex and hard to describe, but it tasted like the name fit. Hurry in if you want to try either of these cocktails: they are both seasonal and won’t be around long, but they’re definitely worth your time.
AND NOW... *drumroll* a special guest review from our friend Sarah, who shared this lovely experience with us!
Sarah's meal: oyster shooter and Spold Mac
All the noise and ironic moustaches in the world can't keep me away from this delicious food. There have been occasions at the Montage when I've ordered something besides the mac and cheese, but each time I come back to my old favorite, I wonder why I ever strayed.
Foodwise, the first thing you must do at the Montage is order a round of oyster shooters for everyone. Tell the vegetarians in your party to shut up; oysters don't have faces, it's ok. Even as a person who's not generally a big fan of oysters, these shooters, topped with the greatest cocktail sauce ever created, leave me wanting more, rather than recoiling from sliminess. We also shared a round of hushpuppies, which were perfectly golden brown and crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and not greasy at all, which I believe is the mark of a truly excellent hushpuppy.
The Montage's other signature trick is delivering your leftovers wrapped in artfully sculpted tinfoil. Your jambalaya can go home disguised as a flowerpot, a squirrel, or whatever else the staff feel like creating for you. But I know this entirely by watching the tinfoil artworks carried out by other diners, because when I order Montage mac and cheese, I finish it.
Sarah's drinks: Hemotoma (sic) and Slim Reaper
Before the cheesy deliciousness, we started off with a round of drinks. I ordered the Hemotoma, a rosy pink concoction of strawberry and grapefruit that had the potential to be fairly tasty, but came across rather one-dimensional, lacking the kick of fruity flavor I was hoping for.
For the second round, I opted for the Slim Reaper: Jameson, Pimms, cucumber and grapefruit on the rocks. This was excellent; refreshing cucumber and tangy grapefruit balanced with the sweetness of the liquor.
Our Overall Review of Le Bistro Montage/La Merde:
Montage is a Portland institution. Ask any 10 Portland food-types where a person visiting Portland must eat, and Montage will be on 9/10 lists. Abbe and I have a long history with Montage, but with good points and bad. They have amazing Cajun food. It is (mostly) cheap, and delicious enough to make a grown man weep tears of joy. The cocktails are expertly crafted and the family-style dining and colorful waitstaff makes for a unique, if unpredictable dining experience. But if you’re feeling irritable, which is easy as the wait for a seat on the weekend usually takes an hour or more, the unique dining experience of one night can turn into a living hell. Sometimes, you don’t want to rub elbows and share conversation with complete strangers, especially when you’re trying to have a hilarious conversation about feminine hygiene products and the couple next to you looks like they’re only here because they took a nap and slept past the early bird special at IHOP. The waiters can be surly if you say the wrong thing, which includes anything from “can I have another beer?” to “would you mind splitting the check?” If you go after 5:00 p.m. on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you may as well forget about being seated before the low blood sugar rage sets in. And after that, you can expect to eat your meal in silence after you’ve destroyed your vocal chords trying to shout at your friends over the noise. Still, this isn’t a Montage shitfest. We return again and again because the food is unbeatable and once in awhile you need some excitement in your “80-year-old-in-the-body-of-a-24-year-old” life.
|Jebby and our guest reviewer, Sarah with their Oyster shooters.|
One of the things that makes Montage so special is that you can entice your bored palate with exotic proteins like alligator, crawfish, oysters and frog legs. These delicacies tend to be more expensive, but it’s worth it to be able to try something new. My first time trying each of the aforementioned meats was at Montage, and I couldn’t think of a better place for it. Their dishes tend to be simple but perfect. Spicy Cajun classics mingle with traditional pastas and the results are fabulous. La Merde is the perfect solution to all the problems that Montage has developed by being so dang popular. In short, whether you are new to Montage or a regular who gets tired of the long wait times and screaming at your date over your delicious food, try eating at La Merde on a weeknight. The bar tends to be busy on the weekends, but it’s worth it to go on a non-traditional night and have the place to yourself.