A little over a year ago Helena Loureiro and the team behind PortusCalle uprooted their restaurant, which had been located in the micro-neighbourhood of Little Portugal on the Plateau, and migrated south to Old Montreal. Taking over the revolving restaurant that sits atop the EVO student residence (formerly the Delta Hotel) Portus 360 is a restaurant that rises to new heights, taking customers on a slow 360 degree tour of the city while serving authentic Portuguese cuisine.
Helena Loureiro is no stranger to the restaurant business. While running PortusCalle from 2003 she opened the successful Helena in 2012 and now sits atop the world as head chef at Portus 360. Moving Portus off Saint-Laurent on the Plateau wasn’t an easy decision to make. A few years ago a project aimed at repairing the street and widening the sidewalks laid waste to the Main and many business closed or moved out of the area. With the majority of foot traffic moving to Mile-End and Griffintown, Helena began prepping PortusCalle for a migration of its very own.
Transforming the space and opening Portus 360 was a massive undertaking for the entire team but the results are profoundly positive. The space’s colour palette is muted, the floor is made to look like cobblestone and a few nods to Portugal’s history with fishing are dotted throughout the restaurant. The focus, no matter what you do in a space like this, is the view. A visit to Portus 360 reveals a stunning 360 degree, panoramic view of the city. Montreal is a beautiful city and that beauty is the star of the show at Portus 360; almost.
The real star of the show is the food. My dining partner and I were treated to a six course tasting menu with wine paring. For someone like myself who is still hesitant about seafood I knew I was in good hands. We started our meal with a trio of appetizers including a delicious swordfish tartare (I thought the seasoning was spot on but David would like to have tried the dish served to taste the fish’s natural flavour), sesame encrusted tuna tataki and crab rillettes on crostini. Both the crab and the tuna were fresh and flavourful but the tuna came out a clear winner. There may have been a little too much sauce in the crab. We were also served a wonderfully zesty asparagus salad with candied nuts and prosciutto.
The second dish we tried was a seared scallop served in a sweet corn emulsion and topped with a thin slice of chorizo. The scallop was perfectly cooked with a crisp crust on top. The emulsion paired well with the scallop and the chorizo was a nice touch. The third dish, a series of cod fishcakes, came out almost simultaneously. The cakes were crusted with a golden batter and cod on the inside was piping hot and well-seasoned. The fishcakes were accompanied by a “mild” hot sauce that I will warn you is hotter than you might expect. It was one of my favorite dishes of the evening.
We continued our meal with a wonderfully grilled octopus served on a savoury bacon and potato puree. The puree was a perfect accompaniment, adding a smoky flavour to the octopus. The octopus was grilled in a way that really brought out the flavour and the texture was perfect. I highly recommend trying this.
Grilled shrimp were the fifth dish we tried and the meat shrimp came covered in buttery sauce that was drizzled over each of the shrimp on our plate. The sauce was lightly spicy and once again the food was grilled to perfection. There’s nothing better than knowing the appliances you cook with and the kitchen at Portus 360 know their grill. For our last dish we were served a main course portion of lamb shanks. For me there are two types of lamb, one that tastes awful and the other that is of much higher quality. The lamb at Portus 360 is some of the best I’ve ever eaten (though one of my pieces was slightly undercooked) and it was served on a bed of warm mashed potatoes.
Of course you can’t finish a meal like that without a little dessert. We were served a platter of small deserts including natas, a jar of tile (creamed meringue), coulis and crumble. The platter was dotted with berries, chocolate cream stuffed profiteroles and more crumble.
The service was outstanding. We were warmly greeted by a team of waiters who explained each dish. They were led by our main waitress who was approachable and attentive. At the beginning of the meal Helena herself took a moment to visit our table and warmly wish us a good meal. From A to Z, Portus 360 defied our expectations and proved that being around for more than 10 years requires a foundation built on quality and no matter where in the city they would have moved, their fans would have followed.
Image credit: David Major-Lapierre