In Montreal, almost every type off food imaginable has a week or two dedicated to having us run around the city, trying the food that each participating restaurant has created for the special occasion. Tomorrow brings a close to the 10 days of Tartare Fest. This was the inaugural year for the festival that brought together more than 20 restaurants in the greater Montreal area.
The concept is pretty simple. Each of the restaurants prepared a tartare or two for the festival and paired it with a cocktail, a beer or a delicious glass of wine. Last Friday I took to the streets with my friends, Vincent, Véronique and Caroline for our Tartareathon. We visited three different downtown restaurants to try what they had been serving for Tartare Fest since September 15th.
We began our Tartareathon by warming up at La Société on de la Montagne. It’s always such a pleasure to sit for dinner at La Société. The decor and the service is outstanding and the food has never been better since chef Gilles Tolen took over the kitchen earlier this year. The classic beef tartare but with a “surf and turf” twist. It was well presented and remained simple in both its texture and flavouring but came topped with a fresh oyster. For someone like myself, who still learning to love tartare, this was a great blend of coarsely cut beef, spices and sauce. I devoured it.
Because we gab way too much, we lost track of time and had to sprint to our next location. As we approached Ariel on Drummond, we discovered that none of us had heard of the restaurant before. When we finally arrived it hit me that I’ve walked passed Ariel dozens of time but I’ve never been in. The four of us were in awe as we entered one of the best kept secrets in Montreal. The decor is elegant yet eclectic and even features an interior courtyard. Dan, the restaurants owner was on hand and although he wasn’t expecting us, he took to the kitchen to whip us up a couple of tartares. The waiter prepared two different cocktails for us to try. We sipped on both a beet juice and gin cocktail and their variation of a Caesar. After a few minutes Dan returned to our table with both a beef and a swordfish tartare. The beef tartare was finely ground and paired perfectly with the peppery crostini accompaniment. The real star of the show was the swordfish. It was fresh, blended with corn and spices, topped with arugula and fennel and sat on fine slivers of zesty lemon marmalade. It may have been one of the best tartare I have ever eaten.
Hoping to pace ourselves and we approached the finish line of our Tartareathon, we moved the next leg of our race, Thursday’s on Crescent. It’s been a while since I was on Crescent on a Friday night. It’s still as wild and crazy as ever. Heading upstairs to the third floor Bistro of Thursday’s you’d swear you were on a quiet street in Paris. Leaving behind the riff-raff of the street behind we took to our table and began our third meal of the evening. Again, because when we get together at a table we end up talking way too much, we showed up almost 45 minutes late for our reservation. The staff were gracious with us as we chose what we wanted to try. I chose the beef with a red wine pairing while everyone else when with the salmon and white. Thursday’s certainly had the most elaborate table with salad, fries, tartare and wine taking up all the space. The food was great, the tartare was spot on and because the restaurant was near closing, the quiet vibe for a late Friday night was the best way to end the night.
For more on Tartare Fest, visit their website here.