Harvey Cohen
  Harvey Cohen, Style by Jury

Smoked Meat. This is an interesting name which to the untrained ear could represent delicacies coming from any variety of sources. We’ve all heard of smoked chicken, turkey and ham all of which definitely fall under the category of ‘meat’.

So why is it that when Montrealers say “smoked meat” they are referring to only one source… that being beef? Furthermore, why aren’t they more specific and call it ‘smoked beef’ rather than the vagueness of the all encompassing moniker, ‘meat’?

Regardless of whether this is truly one of the world’s great mysteries or not, the taste of the real thing should never be mistaken for the many pretenders trying to pass themselves off on the unsuspecting.

Smoked Meat (Montreal style) does have a taste of its own. It has a melt-in-your-mouth texture that can only come from the highest quality cut of beef, in this case ‘the brisket’.

When prepared properly the ‘cut’ must make the cut… and this too is an art. The artisans of the past actually carved Smoked Meat by hand as one would a turkey. Cutting against the grain rather than with it will make for a tender, easy to bite-into sandwich, one that is more often than not two inches of hot, steamy, thick cut (not shaved) meat between the perfect rye bread. Nirvana!

There are those who understand the difference between one wine and another; there are folks who recognize the best timepieces over those made popular by marketing and yes, there are those who know Montreal Smoked Meat from Montreal-Style Smoked Beef.

There are many restaurants serving the latter but when it comes to British Columbia there is only one serving the real McCoy, and no, it’s not in Vancouver. Anyone who knows and loves this deli-cacy has probably traveled by air to Montreal only to stash a brisket in her/his luggage, probably a temptation too cruel for the pups residing as neighbours in the aircraft’s luggage department.

Well if one can travel many miles to get the real product from a very limited number of restaurants in Montreal (and there are only a few now serving the real thing), it shouldn’t be too tough to venture out to the City of Langley, BC for the Smoked Meat treat of the year.

The place is called Estrella’s, owned and operated by Mike Estrella, a true expert in this business.

Once you venture into this quaint and impeccably clean eatery, your sense of smell will be greeted by the aroma familiar to Smoked Meat connoisseurs. Although not overpowering, you will most definitely recognize it.

One stop in front of the display cooler and your sight will be rewarded with the vision of these magnificent briskets awaiting their fate… which is of course to make the ‘eater’ say, WOW!

The smiling face behind the counter will ask you if you want your sandwich prepared ‘medium’. Those ‘in the know’ know what that refers to, and in this case it’s not the redness of the meat… it’s the meat-to-fat content. (Medium Smoked Meat served steaming hot is the way to go. Your arteries will thank you for it, believe me!)

The pickles served are Mrs. Whyte’s in the original brine. What does this mean? One word… taste. These are the same cukes served by those who know Montreal pickles. Then there’s the coleslaw. Sorry, no creamy stuff here; this is the oil-vinegar variety… tart enough to make you taste it… and sweet enough to make you want more.

Now Estrella’s serves other things as well… paninis, for those with a taste for another sort of hot sandwich, salads for those who prefer to graze and hot and filling home-made soups. Their cheesecake (yes, it’s homemade) is amazing with the texture Montrealer’s have grown to know and love.

This writer has traveled from one Canadian ocean to the other and at the risk of sounding slightly obsessed, seeking out any place I could claiming to serve Montreal Smoked Meat.

I have found just three in Montreal… two others that are very close to the real thing in the Toronto area, and… Langley. Estrella’s serves a product that is second-to-none. You won’t be disappointed. If you’re a Smoked Meat snob (you know who you are) from Montreal, you will without a shadow of a doubt agree whole-heartedly with me. In fact even if the product comes from Montreal doesn’t guarantee the recipe is that of the original masters.

So allow me to repeat myself please. Nothing. Absolutely nothing anywhere being served as Smoked Meat… being called Smoked Meat… being photographed as Smoked Meat apart from what you’ll find at Estrella’s IS Smoked Meat in British Columbia. Period.

One last comment. I understand it’s all a matter of taste. What one person likes may not be what others prefer. Take Montreal Bagels for example… there’s bread with a hole in the middle… then there’s the real thing. There are only two places in BC… oops… I’m getting carried away.

You LOVE Smoked Meat? You WANT Smoked Meat? Save the trip to Montreal and drive to Langley. Estrella’s. It’s really how you spell “Montreal” in BC language.

Harvey Cohen is seen as the Sales / Business Coach on W Channel’s hit TV show, Style by Jury. He is an internationally renowned speaker, author and true lover of Montreal Smoked Meat.