Our second Montreal lunch adventure proved much more satisfying than the previous day’s mediocre hot dog and poutine. Acting on a tip from friends, we set out in search of another local delicacy: viande fumée (smoked meat). I was told the best smoked meat could be found at Schwatrz’s Deli, so we walked a mile uphill on the Boulevard St. Laurent until we reached our nondescript destination.
We joined a rapidly growing line of people waiting to be seated inside.
While we waited I tried to figure out just what “smoked meat” was supposed to be. The sign’s description, “charcuterie hebraique,” wasn’t much help, but they had thoughtfully piled a heap of the stuff in the front window:
It looked like pastrami to me: whole slabs of brisket covered in black peppercorns. Once we were seated, we checked out the very brief menu before ordering our sandwiches (He Who Must Not Be Ignored, true to form, ordered a hot dog). The only other choices were how fatty we wanted the meat – we all requested “medium” – and whether or not we wanted mustard. We also ordered dill and half-sour pickles, which our waiter kept misidentifying (Tip: If it still looks like a green cucumber, it’s a dill pickle. If it has a translucent appearance, it’s a half-sour.)
Within ten minutes we had our sandwiches:
And yes, “smoked meat” is pastrami, but not as heavily brined before smoking, It had that lovely pink color, but tasted less pickled and more smoky. The huge pile of thinly-sliced goodness was served on plain rye bread.
Was it good? You be the judge:
When the plates first hit the table, everyone said “I’ll be taking some home.” Nobody did – there was nothing left but a few crumbs.
A few days later I ordered smoked meat at a different establishment. It was good, but not Schwartz’s good. I’m glad we tried the best first.