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Food

Caffè ArtJava: Un petit café?

Posted by MP / March 13, 2007

20070313_artJava_cappuccino.jpgThere's a science behind latte art. I'm not sure what it is, other than good visuals are great selling features.

Caffè ArtJava (directly across from the McGill métro entrance at the corner of University and Président-Kennedy) is all about nice lines: attractive interiors, flat-screens on the walls, sleek furniture (upon which customer iBooks stylishly unfurl for free wireless), and of course lots and lots of latte art.

If you haven't seen latte art, it's hard to believe the intricate patterns and squiggles come from added milk which is held in position by the oily emulsions of fresh coffee beans. It's beautiful and it beckons, but what leads you to it is a line that snakes along a dessert display case and long red sandwich counter.

Okay, so how about the food? If the coffee's the hook are the lunches just window-dressing? I figured I'd dig in and see.

20070313_artJava_le_mont_royal.jpgLe Mont-Royal sandwich, which takes its name from the original ArtJava on the plateau, is tasty combination of basil-coated sliced chicken breast, avocado, alfalfa sprouts, lettuce, tomato and pesto. It's grilled and then served with a vegetable garnish of asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes and either the soup of the day or your choice of salads (the bean salad, with fresh herbs like cilantro, was delicious). For about $9 it made for a complete lunch, and was actually a buck cheaper than the chicken breast trio on sale next door at Subway.

Tuna, Italian cold cuts, lamb, duck and roast beef are some of the other items on their sandwich menu. Colourful wraps and salads are also made fresh throughout the day.

20070313_artJava_le_californien.jpgI later went back to order "Le Californien". I don't think I would've normally asked for it; I just thought I should present the salad option to voracious Midnight Poutine readers. This one was citrus and spinach with a sweet and fruity dressing. It struck an appetizing balance between sweet and sour. The Ruby Red grapefruit, baby spinach and raspberry vinaigrette had zesty and sharp flavours while the kernel corn, purple onion and cherry tomato came off nice and mellow. It was also served with the café's nicely seasoned basil chicken. It was slightly cheaper than the sandwich plate.

I was impressed that a place can focus on latte art with its state-of-the-art coffee bar and still have a food counter that serves quality food. I work nearby and have to make coffee runs. With reliable lunch plates, ArtJava offers more than most short-order lunch destinations downtown.

You can carry out or dine in. If you stay, the main area bustles with customers but there's a small room tucked away at the back. Leather chairs, end tables and soft lighting change the mood. It turns out that the two ambiances are the result of necessity rather than design: The backroom is a bank vault-cum-espresso lounge.

20070313_artJava_macchiato.jpg
Finally, the coffee. Capping my ArtJava lunches were espresso-based coffees, which are always made with double shots. (No offense Starbucks, but artistic baristas brewing two shots for the price of one on a machine that looks like an Italian sports car? Why wouldn't I spend my money here?) Taste-wise, if you are looking for something less bold than a straight espresso, the cappuccinos are a safe bet. The barista explained to me that they make the best canvases for art. I preferred the macchiato - flavourful espresso with a dollop of warmed milk that still found a way to get sculpted into a cartoon pet.

20070313_artJava_pecan_biscotti.jpgDesserts include homemade tiramisu or mango cheesecake. The tiramisu was tasty but my money's on the Italian cookies. In particular, get the pecan biscotti, flavoured with almond and chunks of pecan with a crunchy brown topping and soft centre. Miles from the tired and often stale biscotti you typically encounter. Remember: biscotti is Italian for twice-baked, not two-weeks-old.

Even with an espresso and cookie, your lunch comes out to about the same as a Subway run. (When you're going out to buy lunch, who wants to be paying for another stupid Jared television commercial anyway?)

Caffè ArtJava, 645 Avenue du Président-Kennedy (corner University); 514-350-5282

Discussion

11 Comments

Christopher DeWolf / March 13, 2007 at 06:42 pm
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I never really warmed to Art Java's original Plateau location. The servers were always a bit snooty and the front seating area made me feel like I was on display, especially when the street window was open.

The new downtown location is a lot more laid-back. There's no table service, it's a bit more discreet and there's a nice counter along the window that lets you peer out onto the ugliness that is the corner of President Kennedy and University.

Not to mention that Art Java serves what is probably the best shot of espresso in town. A coffee fanatic friend informs me that this is a "third wave" coffee house. Apparently the owners were inspired by Caffè Artigiano in Vancouver, which I visited when I was out west a couple of weeks ago. They're definitely very similar in terms of their approach to coffee. (I like Artigiano better, though.)
OJ / March 13, 2007 at 07:33 pm
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A while back Christy wrote an<a href="http://midnightpoutine.ca/food/2006/09/coffee_therapy_4_caffe_artjava/";>interesting</a> review of the plateau location.
Marcus / March 14, 2007 at 08:14 am
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I've heard great things about Artigiano. Anthony, the barista downtown, talks often about it. He's from North Van. But now he's in Montreal, which is awesome for people like me who've never been to Artigiano and can only hear about its legend.

I've been to the Oslo Coffee Company and Gimme Coffee! in Brooklyn. ArtJava uses Gimme espresso beans. Perhaps you could call it a "fourth" wave because, while it's very good and have been around much longer than ArtJava, Gimme's been known to namedrop Anthony's name instead of Artigiano. I was a proud Montrealer in New York that day.

Christy was the inspiration for my posting this review. You can only say so much in a comment or two.
Marcus / March 14, 2007 at 05:07 pm
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For the record, Anthony was a barista at Cafe Artigiano. Now he's gracing Caffe ArtJava.

I garbled what I meant to say about Brooklyn's Gimme Coffee! The guy who runs it called Anthony "a real treat" when he visited. That's pretty high praise for ArtJava, seeing how established Gimme Coffee! is. I know they share the same beans, but it still says something.

Plateau location of ArtJava has competent, courteous servers. That's always been my feeling. I only mention this because I go there frequently and the one time there was a problem with the order they handled it really professionally.
smd / March 15, 2007 at 02:53 pm
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Great coffee, great people, and a great counter for sitting and watching the snow fall. A good spot.
Jon / March 15, 2007 at 10:16 pm
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I'd like to see someone create the Virgin Mary on a double machiatto and try and sell it on ebay!
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