Bacchanalian Bargains

Montreal has long been viewed as a thrifty alternative to a trip to Europe for many down south in the States, but a burgeoning restaurant trend is making it even more of a bargain. According to the Web site, there are more than 120 BYOBs in the greater metropolitan area. While most of them offer fairly standard Greek or Italian fare for around $10 for a main course, a handful have cropped up recently that rival the best French restaurants this city has, minus the exorbitant markups on wine. One of the newer establishments to crop up is Les Infideles in the Plateau Mont Royal, an up-and-coming part of the city.

The entrance to the 40-seat French restaurant could be mistaken for a flower shop, with plants dominating the two bay windows on either side of the front door. The menu is simple, with six starters and 10 main dishes as well as two specials of the day. Entrées ($14-$20) include a trout paté and escargot topped with melted Camembert, portobello mushrooms and port sauce. Main courses include caribou in wine and cassis sauce and poached salmon on a bed of spinach and chives.

Like many local restaurants, Les Infideles prides itself on specializing in indigenous cuisine such as duck and caribou. The restaurant also serves a selection of four Quebec-made cheeses for $13.

The dessert menu is also reasonable, ranging in price from $3 to $6. Try the cheese cake and sour cream with wild berries or the tarte maison (homemade pie). 771 Rachel Street East, (514) 528-8555.

A little farther afield but well worth a visit is Bistro L’Entrepont, tucked away on a residential street that seems out of place with no other restaurants within sight. Recommended is an appetizer of warm goat cheese salad and escargot in puff pastry served with blue cheese and wild mushrooms in a wine sauce ($8). For the main course, diners can either order à la carte or table d’hote (all inclusive consisting of soup, entrée, a palate-cleansing sherbet, main course, dessert and coffee). For example, veal kidneys in Dijon mustard sauce is priced at $18 à la carte and $32 table d’hote. Likewise, quail stuffed with fois gras and port sauce is either $20 or $34.There are 12 main dishes to choose from, along with two daily specials with à la carte prices ranging from $18 to $28. The table d’hote ranges from $32 to $42.

The cheese plate is priced at $9.50, which includes a glass of port. Desserts, which include crème brulée and a trio of sorbets, cost $6.50. 4622 Hotel de Ville Montreal, (514) 845-1369.


The Brit Pack

Ring in the new year with a little retail therapy, London style. Burberry just opened a new store in Knightsbridge as well as Mary Quant, where her new clothing collection will be available. As of March, Alexander McQueen is relocating from Conduit Street in Mayfair to 51 Old Bond Street. Moving in on Conduit is the new Voyage Couture store (50/51 Conduit St., 011-44-0-207-836-5309) as well label-of-the-moment Gibo by Julie Verhoeven’s first retail outing (47 Conduit, phone n/a as of press time).

Other openings include Sonia Rykiel’s first U.K. stand-alone store in London’s West End (27/29 Brook St., phone n/a). Last but not least, the club to be seen at this season: Funky Buddha (on Berkeley Street in Mayfair), which opened during London Fashion Week in September with a party to celebrate the new Garrard store and later played host to a P. Diddy bash.

Jamie’s Joint

TV chef Jamie Oliver, who recently popped up on the Food Network with a new cooking show called "Oliver’s Twist,"(in which Oliver whips up meals for his mates) has opened his first restaurant in London, called Fifteen. The restaurant, so-called because of the fifteen 16- to 24-year-old trainee chefs working there, launched in November in North London’s fashionable Hoxton area. (Can’t get a reservation? Tune into"Jamie’s Kitchen," a documentary-style show on Britain’s Channel 4 chronicaling Fifteen’s launch). All profits from the restaurant will be donated to the Cheeky Chops charity, established by Oliver, which supports chefs’ training. The Italian-Mediterranean menu will change regularly, constantly growing as the trainees’ ability and confidence grows. Fifteen is located on the lower ground floor of an imposing red brick building, where large skylights flood the area. The bar, which will be open to the public, as well as diners, features aselection of antipasti and tapas-style small dishes. Got a sweet tooth? Fifteen also turns out goodies at an in-house bakery.Fifteen, Westland Place, London N1. Tel: 44 (0) 207 251 1515


The One-Second Shoppers Guide

Got only minutes to spare for a quick shopping fix during the show? Don’t miss Fay, Diego Della Valle’s new flagship store on Milan’s prestigious Via della Spiga. Located right across the street from Tod’s, the shop, which opened on Sept. 30, carries the entire line of Fay’s high- quality sportswear for men and women. (Via della Spiga, 15. Tel: 0276-17597. Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.). If the search is on for shiny baubles, try the newly renovated Damianion Via Montenapoleone in Milan’s elegant "golden triangle" shopping district. The shop was designed by Antonio Citterio, who also designed the fine jewerly firm’s boutiques in Tokyo, Berlin, Dubai and Honolulu. Citterio applied the age-old technique of chiaroscuro to the elegant interior, using natural and cream-colored Travertine marble on the floors, Brazilian rosewood and bronze lighting fixtures. (Via Montenapoleone, 10, at the corner of Via Sant’Andrea. Tel: 0276028088. Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.) Refuel before heading back to the booths at the Loft, Milan’s newest pub/bar/restaurant. Located behind Milan’s Duomo, just off of Vittorio Emanuale, it serves brunch on Sunday, starting at noon, and lunch and dinner throughout the week. If you are short on time, there is also a self-service cafeteria where you can grab a quick lasagna on the run. Manager Andrea Mezzanoglio is planning on installing a large grill and offering grilled steaks, chops and fish. The restaurant seats 300, and has a large covered garden. Galleria dei Cristofolis, 3. Tel: 0278- 3836. Open seven days a week.


Water Music

While most Berlin trade-show visitors will probably be chomping at the bit to get out and experience the city’s legendary club scene, it’s good to know that relief is at hand should the late night action become too much.

The Liquidrom is the perfect place to lie back and de-stress. Located beneath the soundstage of the concrete canopied Tempodrom — one of the city’s favorite music venues — the Liquidrom is an elegantly minimal water world.Liquidrom’s centerpiece: its large saltwater pool, described as "a water filled concert hall" or "amphibian theatre." Here, under an arched ceiling, city sprites can loll in thermal waters and experience "liquid sound," a computerized multimedia system that projects sound, light and video underwater. On Fridays, the program features "classics under water," whereas on Saturdays, deejays spinning techno take the plunge. On nights when there’s a full moon, live acts take over. Visitors also have the run of a sauna; steam bath; an "Om bath," where you meditate while standing in waist-high salt water; an outdoor hot-water Japanese onsen bath; private therapy rooms for massage and beauty treatments; aqua wellness sessions, plus one of the longest bars in Berlin.

Forty to 50 people can enjoy the saltwater pool at one time, and the entire Liquidrom can accommodate 100. Unlike most Berlin thermal baths, bathing suits are required. The use of the premises, private treatments not included, runs $15 for two hours.

Möckernstrasse 10, 10963 Kreuzberg; Tel: (49-30) 74737171. Web Site: Open daily 10 a.m to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to midnight; full moon, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.


Just Grand

The Grand Marina, Barcelona’s newest five-star hotel, might have a somewhat corporate feel, but it sure has a fab location — in the city’s old port with great views of the Mediterranean and the Catalan capital, including architect Antonio Gaudí’s terminally unfinished Sagrada Familia cathedral. Be sure to request a room on a higher floor, though — otherwise you could look out on the steel girders of the harbor’s cable-car station.

Good-sized rooms feature fabrics from Gancedo, a luxury textile retailer; sober color combinations like navy and chocolate brown; dark wood flooring, and grained marble baths with whirlpool tubs. There is a sun deck and spartan swimming pool on the roof and a poolside snack bar for burgers and sandwiches. ( The kitchen is still working out a few kinks, but don’t miss the lavish breakfast buffet.)

Designed by U.S. architects Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, the Grand Marina is part of a business-and-leisure complex — lamentably called the World Trade Center — and a 10-minute cab ride to Montjuïc fairgrounds.Prices range from $350 for a standard-deluxe double to $1,510 for the two-bedroom Presidential Suite. Moll de Barcelona, s/n;Tel: (34) 93-6039000;


Art Smarts

Paris keeps percolating with art exhibitions. Here’s a smattering of what’s on in the first half of 2003:

"Modigliani, L’ange au Visage Grave" at the Musee Luxembourg from Oct. 23 to March 2.

The largest retrospective of Amedeo Modigliani’s work, including 100-plus portraits. 19 rue de Vaugirard. Tel.: (33) 01 42 34 25 95. Open Mon. and Fri. 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Tues. through Thurs. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"Jacqueline Kennedy, The White House Years" and "The Sixties, Use of Style," both at the Musee de la Mode et du Textile from Nov. 19 to March 16.

The first exhibition includes more than 70 outfits worn by the former First Lady. It is run in tandem with a show analyzing fashion’s evolution during the Sixties. 107 rue de Rivoli. Tel.: (33) 01 44 55 56 50. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tues. through Fri. and 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.

Henry Clarke at the Palais Galliera’s Musee de la Mode et du Costume from Oct. 23 to March 2.

This exhibit includes more than 200 of fashion photographer Henry Clarke’s shots, contact sheets and magazine covers. 10 Avenue Pierre 1st de Serbie. Tel: (33) 01 56 52 86 00. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Mon.

Philippe Starck at the Centre Georges Pompidou from Feb. 26 to May 12.

A look at how the creative process of the prolific designer adds up to an oeuvre. 19 rue Beaubourg. Tel: (33) 01 44 78 12 33.Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wed. through Mon. Closed May 1.

Sweet Sixteen

Out with the old and in with the new. Seize au Seize, one of Paris’s hottest new restaurants, opened this fall in the space previously occupied by Michelin-starred chef Ghislaine Arabian. Her protégé, Frederic Simonin, a 27-year-old who honed his craft at Le Meurice and Taillevent, has assumed control of the kitchen.His cooking is deceptively simple, but the small but carefully selected menu shines with refinement. Standouts include sea-scallops with watercress sauce and a perfectly cooked sea bass flavored with thyme and lemon. There’s also turbot served in a beer sauce — the same sauce that was Ghislaine Arabian’s trademark. The pastry chef, also a holdover from Arabian (as is much of the staff), creates spectacular desserts, while the sommelier has packed his cellar with French classics as well as a host of international wines at a variety of prices. Dinner for two runs around $150 excluding wine.

Restaurant-watchers take note: Théodore Margellos, the Greek entrepreneur who owns Seize au Seize, is also backing the much-anticipated return of chef Joel Robuchon, whose Atelier Joël Robuchon is set to open in February. 16 Avenue Bugeaud. Tel: 331 56 28 16 16.


A Foodie’s Fantasy

If performance art holds little appeal, it’s always worth checking out the culinary arts in Hong Kong. Home to about 40,000 restaurants, the city is literally a food paradise. If you’re in the mood to go local, then start with yum cha, the Cantonese traditional brunch. The city’s taipans can be found enjoying shumei (pork dumplings) and cheunggun (spring rolls) at Luk Yu, a teahouse famed for its tradition, dim sum and brass spittoons. Expect to sit on wooden stools and wait for a table at this most popular restaurant. (24-26 Stanley Street, Central. Tel: 852-2523-5463). Hankering for a spot of tea? On the Hong Kong side, there is only one place to go: the Mandarin Oriental. The hotel’s famed rose-petal jam and hot scones go down best in The Clipper Lounge, where eyeing socialites is a much-loved pastime. Look for the paparazzi at the main entrance. (5 Connaught Road Central. Tel 852-2522-0111).

While there are thousands of options at dinnertime, it might be wise to check out the offerings at another hotel. At the Golden Leaf in the Conrad Hotel, you not only get five-star Cantonese cuisine, you also get a lesson in traditional Chinese medicine. The menu guides you as to which dishes improve circulation, purify the liver or even enhance beauty. The chef might even have something for jetlag. (Pacific Place, 88 Queensway. Tel: 2521-3838).

Best of the Fest

Frequent visitors to Hong Kong already know that the city is chockablock with cool architecture, great restaurants and clubs. What they may not know is that the city is also home to the region’s most respected arts festival. If you’re in town for a fair, you should certainly check it out.

The 2003 Hong Kong Arts Festival will take place between February 14 and March 9. Attendees can check out everything from a Japanese performance of "King Lear" to performances by Herbie Hancock, Laurie Anderson and Cesaria Evora. Maestro Kurt Masur will also be in town to lead the Orchestre National de France.

Of course, no Hong Kong Arts Festival would be complete without plenty of Chinese culture. Among the highlights: Singaporean Mark Chan has composed a new score for the classic Chinese film "Little Toys;" award-winning pianist Yundi Li will give a recital, and Qing dynasty opera The Gold Chrysanthemums will return to the Hong Kong stage after a 50-year-long absence. A schedule of events and ticket information can be found at

Shanghai Surprise

Shanghai is without question the most happening city in Asia. While the rest of the world talks of economic slowdowns and joblessness, Shanghai’s a veritable boomtown. Across the city restaurateurs are vying to have the hottest table in town, and hotels are aggressively wooing tourists.

As it stands, the people of Shanghai are just getting their feet wet in modern cuisine — which typically means that monied locals head to establishments run by Hong Kongers. Such is the case with Shanghai’s most famous restaurant, M on the Bund. Run by Michelle Garnaut (the force behind M at the Fringe in Hong Kong,) M on the Bund has unparalleled views, good food, so-so service and very high prices. Still, it’s worth stretching one’s budget just to try the famed Pavlova in an outdoor setting. Reservations are a must. 7/F, No. 5, the Bund. 86-21-6350-9988.

New to Shanghai is the Grand Hyatt in Pudong, the city’s recently built-up business district. It is impossible to miss the Hyatt — it’s the tallest building in town and is situated alongside Shanghai’s futuristic landmark, the Television and Radio Tower. Head to the Hyatt for dinner and you’ll enjoy the most astonishing views imaginable. You’ll also have some pretty fine food without traveling too far from Shanghai’s newest exhibition center.If you have time, head to YuYuan, home to a 16th century garden and plenty of tourist traps. The walled treasure is a great example of (restored) classical Chinese gardens and offers a true respite from the bustling city. In that same bazaar, you can try the city’s most famous xiao long bao (pork dumplings). Just look for the long queues of hungry locals or ask your hotel concierge for directions. But be advised, the line downstairs is for takeaway only. To sit, head upstairs, buy advance tickets for soup, drinks and dumplings (16 per order) and grab the first stool that becomes free.

As for shopping — skip Dongtailu, the most famous antique street in town. It is now full of factory knockoffs being snapped up by unsuspecting tourists. On the other hand, no visit is complete without a nighttime stroll down pedestrian Nanjing Donglu. If the walk gets to be too much, hop on one of the minitrains — they’ll take you to the end of the street for only 4 yuan (about 50 cents U.S.).

Lastly, when in doubt, look for a free copy of Shanghai Talk, a monthly English publication that gives the lowdown on what’s happening where. It’s available all over the city.

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