Two weeks ago Emiliano’s woke up the neighbourhood with a mariachi infused grand opening that sent the sounds of Mexico wafting through the corridors of Old Montreal. Hundred’s of people gathered at the 3 month old restaurant to mingle, try the food and get a feel for what they owners hope to accomplish with their take on Mexican cuisine.
Following the blow-out block party, where we tried the most amazing tortilla lasagna, a few of us gathered last week for a sit down dinner at the restaurant to see what else they have to offer. The explained to us that they wanted to bring authentic Mexican food north of the borders and we were hooked before we even took to our seats. That lasagna alone was worth trekking back to Emiliano’s for more.
We decided to take up a table for four on the terrasse just outside the restaurant. It was a beautiful night, the air was still warm and although dark was closing in a little earlier, we wanted to bask in the last days of summer terrasses. It wouldn’t be dinner without kicking things off with a cocktail. We ordered a round of margaritas and flipped through the menu. The cocktails got a bit of a mixed reaction from the table. A couple of us liked them but others thought something was missing. I’ve never been served a margarita in a lowball glass so I was surprised to see them miss out on a theatrical presentation of margaritas in overflowing glasses.
The chef prepared a selection of food for us to try during our couple of hours with them. We kicked things off with a spicy Octopus Inferno Ceviche, chunky guacamole, spicy Crab guacamole and Queso Fundido. The octopus was delicious and dangerously spicy, even if it was taken down a notch since the opening. I really enjoyed the first few bites. The chunky guacamole is as you would expect. I love guacamole so I ate it up. The spicy Crab was sweeter than expected but if you love crab and you love guacamole, you will enjoy this. There’s nothing overly exotic about it. The Queso Fundido was probably my favourite item on the menu. The grilled queso oaxaca cheese mixed with the chorizo, avocado and lime in a warm tortilla was wonderful. I would recommend this dish.
Continuing the meal they brought out a variation on the tortilla lasagna that we loved so much. This version wasn’t as well put together as the original. It was missing the flavours that I loved the first time around. The tortillas were soggy and drowning in a sauce that was also missing a little something. The crisp saltiness of the hard taco shells mixed with flavours of spicy cumin were fundamental to the dish and I felt that this was missing this time around. They told us that they were bringing back the original by popular demand. I don’t know why they took it off the menu in the first place. They also sent out a plate of enmoladas stuffed with carnitas that, like the lasagna, was missing something. The enchiladas had soft blanched tortillas wrapped around carnitas and topped with mole, cilantro, sour creme, onion and radish. The presentation wasn’t very elegant and because of the texture of the food, it difficult to share. We had to slide it off the plate to get it onto our own. At first bite I thought it was ok but the more I thought about it the more I realized that I didn’t taste any cilantro or onion.
The chicken with mole was was well presented and definitely stood out as a great dish. The chicken breast was stuffed with cheese and mushrooms, covered in lines of mole sauce and fresh cream. It was served with a wonderful coconut infused rice. We capped the night off with a selection of three deserts. We tried a delicious Patron flan, dulce de leche crepes and an amazing coconut cake.
During the night we were served by one of the very proud owners. He told us that he and his partners have been in the industry for sometime but this is their first restaurant together. They have high hopes about eventually expanding once they get Emiliano’s down pat. I think that they are going in the right direction and hitting the right notes with decor and service. The service was outstanding, both inside and outside the restaurant. The dishes that are good are spot on and while there are dishes that still need a little work. They are still finding their legs and I’m sure that with a little time they will impress us on all counts. They want to introduce Montreal to a more refined Mexican experience. I am all for any experience that takes us out of our comfort zone and I encourage them to keep pushing their boundaries.
For more on Emiliano’s, visit their website here.
Image credit: Monique Simon