My personalized tour of the Casino de Montreal was very interesting and taught me many different things that I had never known about casino operations. My learning experience was followed by an opportunity to sample the Casino’s hospitality first hand. Alexandre took me up to the top floor of the Casino and handed me over to Benoît, the restaurant manager at Nuances, the Casino’s gourmet restaurant.
Benoît, the Restaurant Manager at Nuances, and Alexandre, my Casino guide
I had a perfect table by the window with a beautiful view overlooking the St. Lawrence River and the downtown Montreal skyline. The sun was just starting to set and the entire scene was bathed in golden hues. Benoît even took me out on to a terrace on the top level of the Casino that offered a completely unobstructed 180 degree view of downtown Montreal and the entire island. The vista was absolutely stunning. The Casino de Montreal is definitely one of the best places to view Montreal’s skyline.
Nuances is a highly acclaimed fine dining restaurant that has been awarded the coveted CAA-AAA Five Diamond Rating. This 72-seat restaurant has a sophisticated atmosphere and a highly dedicated staff. Once I got comfortable, Gérard, the waiter for my table, brought an “amuse-bouche”, a starter plate that featured frozen goat cheese on ice in a reduction of apple cider. The mixture of sweet and tart flavours definitely perked up my taste buds and got them ready for the culinary surprises yet to come.
As an appetizer I enjoyed mixed a vegetable salad and mesclun lettuce with vegetable chips and a sherry vinaigrette. This entrée was accompanied by three different types of bread with home-made butter, made from heavy cream. Gérard explained that the breads were a French baguette, a hazelnut/ honey / raisin bread and a so-called Lodeve bread from the South of France.
I also got a quick peak at Nuances’ three different wine cellars: the wine cellar behind the bar features wines that are organized carefully by region and type of wine. One of the cellars holds extremely rare and expensive wines. I asked for Benoît’s suggestion to select a main course as well as a wine to match. He recommended that I try the Chilean sea bass. The black rice accompanying the fish is also referred to as ‘forbidden rice” since only the Chinese emperor was allowed to consume it. Benoît suggested a glass of German Gewürztraminer to go with this dish.
Shortly after I received my meal and enjoyed the delicate taste of the sea bass, accompanied by mixed vegetables such as wild asparagus, bok choy and parsnips. The fish was drizzled in a yellow wine sauce, made with wine from Jura in the French Savoie region. Some drops of parsley oil rounded out the medley of complementary flavours.
As I would have to rush off shortly to go to the fireworks which would start at the La Ronde amusement park, Benoît ensured the speedy arrival of my dessert: a Muscat wine jello with strawberries combined with a vanilla and Szechuan pepper mousse on a chocolate base with a pistachio sauce, a delicate treat. We even had a chance to visit the kitchen to meet the chefs who had prepared my gourmet meal. As I got back to my table and got myself organized, Benoît dropped by with a “petit four”, a “little oven” of baked goods that included miniature biscotti, fruit jelly, pistachio jelly and American chocolate. I just loved the creative French terms used, “amuse-bouche” and “petit four” are perfect descriptions for these culinary delights.
This multi-course meal combined with the personalized and highly attentive service and the stunning views of Montreal made my evening at Nuances a very special experience and a definite highlight of my trip. When I had to leave Benoît took me personally down to the main entrance of the Casino where he flagged down a taxi for me to ensure I would make it on time to the fireworks at La Ronde. The staff at the Casino de Montreal went out of their way to make this evening a memorable experience.
My five-minute taxi ride took me back across the bridge to Ile Sainte-Hélène where my driver dropped me off in front of the main entrance at La Ronde. La Ronde is Montreal’s amusement park and first opened in 1967 as part of Expo 67, a world fair that really put Montreal on the map. Today La Ronde is a member of the famous Six Flag family of amusement parks.
My seat provided a perfect view of the soon-to-come spectacle and the huge crowd was filled with anticipation. What seemed like many thousands of people were located inside the La Ronde amusement park in different seating sections and many thousands more were planning to watch the fireworks from the Jacques Cartier Bridge.
The fireworks today were part of a competition series called “L’International des Feux Loto-Québec” which features a schedule of 10 pyro-musical events between June 17 and July 29, 2006. Countries participating in this competition include Switzerland, Italy, Argentina, South Africa, Portugal, Canada, the United States, France and Australia with a special finale on July 29.
Our presentation tonight was put on by the Cienfuegos Fireworks company from Argentina, which is a key player in the field of pyrotechnics due to its unique know-how. Tonight’s program was anchored around the personalities of Evita Peron and Che Guevara and enchanted with classic Argentian melodies and music from Central America. The stunning fireworks displays were choreographed in perfect harmony with the music and lit up the sky with stunning multi-coloured displays of light and sound.
This fireworks presentation provided a dramatic artistic ending to three and a half wonderful days of Canada Day festivities in Montreal. As I sat in the subway on the way back from Jean Drapeau Park I realized that I would only have a few more hours in this beautiful city before my train was going to leave tomorrow just before noon. But I was determined to take advantage of every minute here to discover yet another facet of this fascinating city and sneak in one final walking tour of the city before my departure.
Susanne Pacher is the publisher of Travel and Transitions (www.travelandtransitions.com), a popular web portal for unconventional travel & cross-cultural connections. Check out our brand new section featuring FREE ebooks about travel.