You may have heard about Hof Kelsten. In a short time, the legend has grown about the bread guy, Jeffrey Finkelstein. He is Montreal’s prodigal son, who has worked at some of the top restaurants around world. His list includes Toque, French Laundry, Per Se, and even El Bulli. Now back in Montreal he has been making bread over at Hof Kelsten and also has some other items that are a little more than just bread. Simply put Hof Kelsten does brunch. So one Saturday morning, the Montreal Food Divas were miraculously awake and not hungover so it seemed logical to do brunch. Now finding a spot that will impress the Divas is not always an easy task but we knew that Hof Kelsten would not disappoint.
Hof Klesten is an un-assuming place, not too fancy, with a long table on the right, some smaller tables on the left and a counter by the window. Lots of people come in for take-out as the space available is limited and you may have to wait a while to get a spot. The process is that you place your order, pay, they take your name and call it when it’s ready so you can pick it up and seat yourself.
Food Brunch is available Saturday and Sundays from 10am to 4pm. The menu has a handful of items each priced at around $12-$14 with coffee at $3.75. So your bill will get to a little under $20 when you factor in taxes. There is no filter coffee so no refills, and payment is by cash or debit card, so no credit card. The menu draws inspiration from an historical Montreal Jewish breakfast food scene – the use of Challah, Schnitzel and salmon has the old school Eastern European influence you can still find after all these years, and the Shakshuka has that North African (Morrocan) flavour that we are seeing more and more of in brunch menus which is great for mixing things up on the menu.
- Shakshuka $12
- Schnitzel $14
- Salmon croquettes $12
- French Toast $12
We started with the French toast $12 which uses challah bread and is topped with a fried egg and veal pancetta and maple syrup. Using challah bread for French toast is the right thing to do and Hof Klesten understands it. That coupled with the fact that they make all their bread and they do it well, guarantees you superior French toast bread. The slices are thick, generous and tasty, nothing short of perfection. The pancetta and egg on top add a little extra to this dish and the fact that it is served in a deep dish is mechanically brilliant so that they ooey gooey mess that occurs when you eat this dish doesn’t ruin the table or place setting.
Next came the salmon croquettes $12 comes as two croquettes topped with an egg, as well as strips of salmon and a side of salad. The croquettes are filling as they are breaded so you load up on carbs and seafood. The salad works well with this and accompanies it nicely without distracting the taste , it’s natural and fresh. The egg on top brings it all in and reminds you that it isn’t brunch without an egg.
We also had a Gravlax sandwich $9 which is not exactly on the brunch menu. The sandwich has thicker than usual slices of gravlax salmon in it, and uses excellent bread that is neither too dry or gets wet and falls apart. The taste is phenomenal although it is a small dish and should go with a side if you are hungry, so keep that in mind.
Service Service interaction is limited – the person at the cash takes your order and someone later on calls you name. Everything else is self-serve, the menu is straight forward and descriptive. I did wish there was more seating space. In fact, the way it’s set up, seating is so scarce that you hover near an area you want and then when the people seem to be ready to get up you pounce on that spot. I kind of felt like a leopard waiting patiently for its prey. Fortunately I was with the Montreal Food Divas and our conversation became so inappropriate and NSFW that the old lady seated nearby left quickly as did a family and small child. I realized that when you swear and recap the exploits of the last couple of days people feel uncomfortable and leave. On the plus side, we got our spots and no longer had to stand.
Vegetarian Since this is a bakery you can cobble together some vegetarian bread based dishes. Most of the menu has either some meat or fish in it but it is not the main emphasis of the dishes so you are safe, unless you are gluten intolerant then you really should not be in a bakery.
Wrap up Hof Klefsten knows their bread. The French toast was one of the best I have had in a while, the experience that Jeffrey Finkelstein brings is nothing short of impressive. It’s great to have someone that is world class set up shop in Montreal and give us a new take on some classic dishes. From an historical/cultural point of view we needed this. It has been years since we had something open up keeping those old Eastern European Jewish traditions alive. My only criticism is that they really need to do something about the seating situation. Capacity is too low, and waiting for a spot to open up while our food gets cold is not an enjoyable way to spend brunch. But this can only be attributed on the popularity of the bakery.
| 4524 Blvd St Laurent
|Bottomless Cup Of Coffee||YES|
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