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Treats for palate and pocketbook in Côte St. Luc

June, 2010

One of the finest pleasures of living in this city is stumbling upon its hidden treasures.

A finely carved gargoyle atop a crumbling building. A community garden flowering in the centre of the asphalt jungle. A world-class chef toiling in the kitchen of a tiny storefront restaurant.

The first two we’ll leave you to discover on your own. For the last, a hint: His name is Jean-Daniel Cuenat and he and his wife, Mia, run Manger Avec Eric.

Chef Cuenat has 30 years of experience in his mixing bowl, gained in prestigious hotels and restaurants in Dubai, Zurich, Toronto and as executive chef at the Old Port’s Hotel Nelligan.

Chef Jean-Daniel Cuenat (left) with Meir Zipper. Photos: Melani Litwack, Hayley Juhl

“Big hotels were not my thing,” Cuenat says of the move to this small space in sleepy Côte St. Luc. “And there can be a lack of communication there, between the server on the floor and the kitchen.”

Here you won’t find white tablecloths or a stuffy maitre d’ and communication is as simple as a soft word to Mia from across the room.

Cuenat and his customers also benefit from a more flexible menu. Breakfast, which is served all day, includes succulent omelettes with fresh vegetables and quality cheeses, pancakes, and homemade jam that tastes as though it’s flavoured with honey (it isn’t). He’ll make breakfast with just egg whites if you prefer, can prepare kosher-style food and is open to trying new things based on customer preferences or dietary restrictions.

As she does with everyone who walks through the doors, Mia greets Meir Zipper by name. He was one of their first clients when they opened 10 months ago. While he waits for breakfast – a smooth omelet and sliced tomatoes under a sprinkling of feta – he explains how Manger Avec Eric became part of his daily routine.

“If you don’t feel like cooking, you know, as a lady, maybe you would call him up,” he says, referring to Cuenat. “Tell him what you want and he’ll deliver it. It’s good for us senior citizens, because some of us are on a budget, a limited income, and we can eat here.”

Everything on the menu is under $10, which also attracts local students between 11:30am and 12:30pm on school days. Regulars are advised to come before or after that time, when it’s quieter, but the Cuenats and Zipper don’t begrudge the students. “Before, there was nowhere for them to go,” Zipper says. “Maybe up there for pizza. Now they come here and they eat well.”

“There are no hot dogs on this menu,” Cuenat adds. His 7-year-old son, for whom the restaurant is named, is used to great food – his favourites are lasagna and salmon. The restaurant also serves bubble tea, which can hard to find in N.D.G. and Côte St. Luc.

The restaurant seats about a dozen customers and the Cuenats treat all of them as part of the family. “I make special food for them,” the chef says. “If somebody wants something different, I can do it. It's important to play with them.”

There are so many ways to enjoy the food at Manger Avec Eric. To get the most out of it, have breakfast there with a large mug of Union Café coffee, then pick up a boxed lunch for later. You won’t find peanut butter sandwiches — how about a rosemary-marinated chicken breast with roasted peppers, swiss cheese and mixed leaves and sour cream scented with oregano? You won’t be hungry for some hours, but you can always give them a call later and place an order to pick up or have delivered.

Manger Avec Eric, 6408 Côte St. Luc Rd., 514-564-3733. Open weekdays from 8 am to 6 pm, Saturday and Sunday, 8 am to 3 pm.



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