When Êat opened last December I called it a triumph and a creative shot in the arm for Montreal’s restaurant scene and that was before I had taken a single bite. Located in the W Hotel, the blended decor felt refreshingly new and featured a mix of graffitied walls that lead into a larger, more sophisticated collection of art. The paintings that decorate the walls were created in house as part of a special collaboration with some of Montreal’s most creative artists (you can read more about the special project here).
To kick start 2016 we wanted to make Êat our first big review of the year. Last week we stopped by the restaurant to test drive the food after an abbreviated, post-holiday break from the city’s nightlife. It’s safe to say that our return was in fine form. We arrived early are were promptly greeted by management and the wait staff. We were assured that we would be well taken care of and Êat didn’t falter on that promise. We occupied a long table that sits tucked away mostly behind the bar but still gives a great vantage point for people watching. We were introduced to our waiters who wasted no time taking our drink orders.
Cocktails are always a good idea so we decided to start the night off with an Old Fashioned and a Gimlet from the restaurant’s signature cocktail menu. The cocktail menu was designed with renowned NYC mixologist, Eben Klemm. The Old Fashioned was perfectly balanced with aged rum, whiskey, benedictine, amaro and garnished with birch bark from the trails Mont-Royal park. The Gimlet (gin, grapefruit, lime, celery) was another great choice, perfect for those who like their cocktails a little on the sour side. As we sipped away the last of our cocktails, the waitstaff came to tell us that the executive chef (the brilliant – and funny – Sebastien Giannini) was feeling inspired and would be sending us out a few of his creations to try. My one request was that I get to try their burger. I am a burger fiend and if I see one on the menu, I will order it.
The first of Chef Sebastien’s inspirations to arrive at the table was a three tired serving of seafood. Though the menu does feature meats, the restaurant serves about 85% seafood to its hungry patrons. For someone like myself who is still a little nervous around seafood, I treaded cautiously towards the oysters, the mussels and the clams (I tried absolutely everything and I enjoyed it) which were served with homemade sauces and mignonettes.
Once we got started, I threw my seafood caution to the wind and found myself enjoying the freshness of the shrimp, the deliciously blended ceviche, the tuna tartare and more. For seafood lovers, this will be a dream come true and a must-try. We were also served a delicious Caesar salad with wonderfully smoked cod (one of my favourite dishes of the evening) and a moroccan spiced tuna tartare which was hand-blended with dates, almonds and mint. The Chef outdid himself with this one. A unique feature of Êat’s table service has the waiters bringing each service out on white trollies. Food is prepared fresh right in front of you and we were lucky enough to have Chef Sebastien put together our seafood platter and blend the tartare on the spot. It adds to the service experience and stirs up conversation.
I have to add that when it comes to the burger, I got my way. The last of the main courses we tried were of our choosing. Without hesitating I ordered the burger and my photographer ordered the roasted lamb. Served a warm brioche bun, the burger was outstanding, the meat was perfectly cooked leaving it juicy enough to be a little messy and it was topped with bacon, stout cheddar, lettuce and onion butter (side note: the fries are also excellent) The lamb was also cooked to perfection (just pink enough in the middle) with fresh thyme and garlic confit. As a little surprise the chef also brought out a bowl of roasted cauliflower with almonds, raisins and curry oil.
No sentence is complete without punctuation and no meal is complete without dessert. The kitchen sent out two caramel lava cakes which were served with a dollop of french vanilla ice cream and a small broken column of meringue. Making a perfect lava cake takes time, patience and a flair for a little baking chemistry and this cake was the pinnacle of all those things. Cutting into the cake released a flow warm caramel lava that spread out, melting the ice cream and my heart. I loved it. It was amazing.
If Êat’s opening night party back in December won us over with trend-defining style, last week’s visit to try the food solidified that opinion with taste-defining substance. With exceptional service, detail-oriented decor and outstanding food, Êat is set to take a page from the book of the graffiti artists that were hired to paint the walls and shake up the establishment.
For more on Êat, visit their website here.
Image credit: David Major-Lapierre
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