The Montreal Bread Company (“MBCo” for short) has added their shingle to the block of food-related businesses to the south of the Summerhill LCBO on Yonge Street. With this opening and Thuet’s across the street the Five Thieves (Harvest Wagon, All the Best, Oliffe, and Pisces–no one is really sure who the fifth thief ever was) are now Six Scoundrels. Kat and I chose last Friday afternoon to give this new sandwich joint the once-over.
The offerings at MBCo are visually appealing but as a whole the concept strikes a discordant note. Between eleven and thirteen dollars seems much too high for a simple sandwich counter (even in Rosedale) but these sandwiches are noticeably better than what is offered at Druxy’s; in fact they are at the level one would expect from a bistro or a casual restaurant. Okay, fine, then why can’t I get a bowl of frites here or a glass of beer? MBCo does offer such frills but not in Toronto and their website is so hipster-cool that I can only be sure that they do so in Dubai. The idea that we are only getting a light version of the original would be easier to handle if the full version were less than a ten-hour flight away. Everything looks so appetising that it’s not difficult to keep an open mind.
I had the ham and swiss on a croissant ($10.99) for lunch. This is definitely not a croissant. It is a very good brioche roll full of tiny, egg-enriched bubbles but doesn’t have any of the flaky, buttery striations that make a croissant what it is. False advertising but not a deal breaker–just more confusion because ordering is a matter of pointing to what you want in the sandwich case and I could easily tell at that point that this was a brioche. At heart this is a fancy ham sandwich and it manages to succeed at the first qualification of a good ham sandwich by offering a generous heap of thinly sliced meat. Both cheese and ham are of top quality here and I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you that their flavours work well together. As I hope the picture indicates the portion was such that I definitely could not have left hungry.
The shrimp in Kat’s lobster and shrimp quesadilla ($12.99) was perfectly poached so that it was toothsome (not mushy) without being stringy and exhibited a pleasantly assertive shrimpy flavour. The absolute secret to this creation, though, are the flecks of minced celery so white and crunchy that that were almost unrecognisable when compared to memories of the stringy green stuff that plays ubiquitous backup to chicken wings. It seems strange to sing the praises of celery (especially when it is on the same plate as the much more luxurious shrimp and lobster) but it really does make this sandwich exceptional.
Both dishes come with a generous dollop of probably house-made (or at least house-doctored) mayo. In some situations I might have been critical of a one-sauce-fits-all approach but here I am pleased to see an establishment realising that they have something worth showcasing. Adding dijon to the mayo for the ham dish and tarragon or maybe smoked paprika for the quesdilla would have been more in keeping with fashion but I’m glad they didn’t mess with a good thing here. Also, I would have been disappointed if cleaning Kat’s plate hadn’t allowed me a second serving of mayo.
We decided to stay for dessert and coffee. The lemon and coconut square ($4.50) was a risky venture for me. I really like lemon desserts but usually find myself in a six-hour, tooth-picking battle after eating coconut. Luckily, MBCo uses meatier, teeth-friendly shreds of coconut and the lemon flavour is outstanding. It performs the rare trick of bursting at the top of the palate without being sharp or cloying. The americano looked and smelled good–good enough that Kat finished it before I got the chance to try a sip.
I’m usually not a big commentor on decor but I liked the clean, white starkness of the space that is lengthened by the ingeniously-tilted, giant mirror at the back of the room. I can see that winter in Toronto will make this place feel cold without more on the walls to break up the whiteness. The lit-from-below communal table made from a mystery material (Kat says marble, I say something manufactured) definitely adds interest to the room.
As long as I kept my expectations and preconceived notions under control this was a very enjoyable lunch. If I had to guide someone on how to enjoy their experience at MBCo I would say to remember that the food is really good–better than the sandwich case indicates; the prices are higher than they should be but only so that this should be considered an unusual treat and not an everyday standby; and you should definitely stay for dessert.