A couple of months ago S Cuisine and Bar quietly opened just below street level in one of Marché Bonsecour’s coveted addresses on St. Paul. In a neighbourhood like Old Montreal, which is teeming with restaurants and an active nightlife scene, S isn’t too worried about being the quiet guy on the block. This new restaurant’s voice will be the food that’s expertly prepared and served. In any restaurant food quality is paramount and here the flavour speaks for itself. You might think I’ve given it all away with so much praise in the first paragraph but don’t be fooled; the best is yet to come.
At a select media event a little over a week ago we were invited to try a selection of the food that chef Steve Priest has dreamt up with his team and I’m convinced you’ll want to read to the end. The night started off with a cocktail and oysters on the street level terrasse where we gathered to watch passers by run, walk and drive past on the cobblestone road. The terrasse is functional most of the year with heaters to keep us warm and a wide awning to keep the scorching sunrays away. The night was calm and the rain was holding off long enough for us to gather up our things and head inside. Down a few steps we entered the dining room that felt both warm and inviting. I hadn’t been to the restaurant that previously occupied the space so I’m not sure how much renovation was required but the wooden walls to the left of the stairs and the large central bar caught my eye right away. There is also a wall of exposed stone that has seen the space change hands over time while another wall is decorated with a strange medieval mural that stands out against the rest of the decor. The bar is stocked with a wonderful selection of scotch, private wine imports and of course the bubbles we can’t seem to live without. For the tasting we wisely stuck to wine. Once seated the food started rolling out and we began with a delicious salmon tartar, which came adorned with quail eggs, mixed greens and a tangy lemon aioli. The salmon was finely diced and at the perfect temperature. Next we sampled the popcorn shrimp that was coated with sesame seeds and panko and served with a zesty buffalo mayo and popcorn. We could have eaten a barrel full of those but no sooner had we popped the last shrimp than the next plate was on it’s way to our table. For our fourth helping we were severed a salt roasted beet salad with strawberries, goat cheese, hazelnuts and a fig balsamic vinaigrette. The meal was perfectly balanced, not too tart or salty. After the salad the busy wait staff brought out a round dish of pan seared gnocchi with fresh lobster and bright green peas in a white wine and cream sauce that like the shrimp from earlier, disappeared way too fast. For the last two courses we were treated to an amazing couple of dishes. The first to come out was a braised short rib in a porto jus and served with a watercress, radish salad and shallots. Most of our eyes widened when we saw the last course of the evening come our way. Some couldn’t believe there was still food coming out of the kitchen while people like me saw the duck confit wings wrapped in green garnish and swore to my pants that I wouldn’t let them burst. Duck confit is one of my absolute favorite dishes and S Cuisine and Bar didn’t fail to impress. The wings were served on house waffles with pan seared fois gras and blueberry jam. I love smaller media events like these because the focus is squarely placed on the food.
A restaurant’s décor and service is only enough to get people in the door, the food has to be the anchor that keeps people coming back again and again. They wisely didn’t serve us everything on the menu, which now means this writer will have to go back again for more. There’s nothing better than word of mouth for a smaller restaurant like S Cuisine and Bar and they will have no trouble spreading the word. If you are looking for good food and a muted yet distinct atmosphere then these guys have you covered.
Photo credit: David Major-Lapierre