Back in San Francisco I’m always chasing the next hot restaurant opening, and that hunger didn’t change while on vacation in this cosmopolitan Canadian city.
One of the more highly anticipated restaurants in Montreal (at least according to Eater Montreal) is Montreal Plaza because of its young chef Charles-Antoine Crete. The restaurant had been opened just seven weeks when I dined there, and it’s located in the Plaza St-Hubert, a kind of outdoor shopping center out in the neighborhoods.
The large restaurant had a polished look with a whimsical feel with wooden houses hanging upside down from the ceiling or animal heads on the wall. The bar runs along the full length of the restaurant leading up to the open kitchen where you can watch Chef Crete command an amazingly large kitchen crew.
The menu has a mix of small and large plates with regular items and daily specials, and some of the ingredients were the most unusual I’d seen on my trip, such as venison, duck hearts, or whelk (a sea snail).
But my favorite dish and one of the most surprising of the night was my starter of smokey tomato broth (CAN$20 or US$14.20) recommended by my server. It was a beautiful bowl of a chilled clear tomato broth that was light but had a distinctive smoke flavor, and was filled with plump mussels, vegetables and edible flowers. Genius.
The next course showed some of the whimsy of Chef Crete. The salad of venison (CAN$20 or US$14.20) was listed on the menu as “salad of venison + ?” The question mark, I assumed, referred to a mystery ingredient in the course, and that turned out to be (wait for it) popcorn!
Yep, have you ever had a salad with venison and popcorn? Totally unexpected but not totally off. The popcorn added a nice contrasting texture to the lovely medium rare venison meat tossed in a salad with cucumbers, carrot strips and strawberries. The last item, however, may have added too much sweetness to the salad.
In fact, the sweetness factor continued with my main course of roasted tuna with mushrooms and vegetable glaze (CAN$26 or US$18.50). The glaze was a tad on the sweet side, which I felt took focus away from the chunky cubes of tuna meat. (I also wished there was more sear to the tuna.) I also ordered a side of cauliflower and almonds (CAN$8 or US$5.70).
My meal ended on a high note, though, with the arrival of the “crispy fruit” dessert (CAN$12 or US$8.50). It was like a cup of parfait with macerated raspberries covered with cream that had crunchy bits almost like broken meringue pieces. This is topped with thin raspberry-flavored crisps and a scoop of raspberry gelato. Even though it was cold outside, I didn’t mind having this cold dessert that was like a bowl of surprise.
The last bite
Montreal Plaza’s menu is creative and innovative, and it seems to be off to a strong start. The staff seems polished and the kitchen crew experienced. If I lived in Montreal, I’d probably go back often to discover Chef Crete’s many surprises.
The rating: 3 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Montreal Plaza, 6230 St-Hubert, Montreal. (Nearest metro station: Rosemont) PH: 514.903.6230. Open daily from 5 to 11 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. montrealplaza.com
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