Last Sunday I took a morning stroll along Saint-Laurent, the major boulevard that divides Montreal between the east and west sides, past colorful murals, vintage stores, and boutiques on my way to brunch at Lili Co.
The restaurant opened earlier this year in the Mile End, but it’s well-known by locals because this is actually a reincarnation in a larger space. Owners Catherine Draws and David Pellizzari opened Lili Co. (named after their then-newborn daughter) a few years ago in a smaller spot in the Plateau neighborhood, gaining praise for Pellizzari’s offal-centric menu.
I’ve never been to the old Lili Co., but Lili Co. 2.0 is a bright, open space with lots of seating. It’s actually ideal for solo diners because there are three spots for people to walk-in and dine: a large bar, counter seating in front of the open kitchen, and counter seating by the window, which is where I sat.
There’s an impressive cocktail menu for weekend brunch along with coffee drinks (I’m impressed that most Montreal restaurants offer everything from espressos to lattes to macchiatos). I started off with the Early Gin (CAN$9 or US$6.80), a solid drink made of Hendrick’s gin, Earl Grey, simple syrup, Boker’s bitters, and orange peel. Later, I tried the Bloody Cesar (their version of a Bloody Mary for CAN$8 or US$6), a spicy mix of vodka, gin, tequila, Clamato tomato juice, and seasonings. The glass was rimmed with celery salt.
For the menu, there’s your typical brunch offerings such as banana pancakes, granola, omelet (it’s refer to as an egg casserole) and French toast (known as pain dore). Nothing was really unusual (there wasn’t any veal tongue sandwich, for example) but there was an unexpected offering of banh xeo (the Vietnamese crepe). I ended up ordering the frittata (CAN$18 or US$13.65) made with black kale and wild mushrooms, and served with bacon.
But first I started with the scone au chai (CAN$9 or US$6.80), or scone with chai that was no scone I’ve ever had before. This was almost like a dessert plate because it was a scone split in half and then filled with caramelized apples with cinnamon, and served with pumpkin foam and creme fraiche. The scone was lightly toasty on the edge, giving it a bit of crunch and tasting drier than most scones. But the pumpkin foam and cream helped in the moisture department, elevating the dish to a sophisticated way to eat scone.
The frittata was also well executed, with the eggs firm enough to maintain a shape but still having the slight jiggle of creamy eggs. The kale and mushrooms had strong flavors indicating that they were fresh, quality ingredients. I ordered a side of potatoes (CAN$5 or US$3.75), which were also elevated with seasonings that looked like smoked paprika and chives, served with aioli.
The last bite
Lili Co.’s brunch menu may seem simple and straight-forward, but it’s nothing but. The cocktails and food are of the highest quality, the service is friendly and helpful, and the space is bright and welcoming. The new restaurant has garnered rave reviews and much buzz, and I can see why. Lili Co. is one of Montreal’s most refreshing restaurant.
The rating: 3 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Lili Co., 4675 St-Laurent (at Villeneuve), Montreal. (Nearest metro station: Mont-Royal.) PH: 514.507.7278. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to midnight; weekend brunch, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. restolilico.com
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