The Dominion Square Taverne is an iconic establishment in downtown Montreal. In an effort to expand their horizons, the folks behind the Taverne took over the space next door and opened the Balsam Inn, a much-lauded icon-in-the-making in its own right. Last week, and friend and I stopped by the restaurant for the first time to see what all the fuss is about and here’s how the night went down. First of all, the space is beautiful which is why all the cool kids are going. Blending an air of warm, retro sophistication with a very trendy, relaxed-rustic bistro décor, Balsam Inn hits all the right notes. At night, the lighting is low enough to feel like its candle lit, setting an intimate, almost romantic atmosphere. The dining room isn’t huge which adds to the intimacy as well. As a lover of smaller, more creative and functional restaurants, this space is one of my favorites in the city. The food we tried was excellent. I can’t think of a single slip-up when it comes to the composition of each, expertly prepared plate. We tried several, made-to-share dishes including Hunters Sauce pasta, a chicken based, papardelle pasta dish, crunchy arancini, fried chicken and salad. The papardelle was perfectly savory with each piece of pasta covered in plenty of sauce. The chicken was crispy, piping hot and served on a bed of steamed cabbage. We were served a small bowl of arancini and the salad, for lack of better words was of the garden variety; a very simple salad. The cocktail list is also pretty extensive with some delicious choices, exclusive to Balsam. My only issue with Balsam Inn is that the portions are so minuscule you have to order twice as much food to feel full. It kind of undermines the made-to-share concept. No matter how tasty the food is, the portions are bit small for anyone looking for dinner at Balsam Inn. The concept is perfect if you are grabbing a snack before a 5a7 or you’ve left a movie feeling peck-ish, but if you’re hoping to fill your belly, you may leave Balsam feeling a little empty. This ends up making the restaurant a little too expensive for the portions they serve. Two skinny pieces of fried chicken (including a drumstick) are barely worth 13 dollars and those four arancini you get in a bowl do not add up to the total charged. Also, charging for flatbread and oil, no matter how fancy, feels a little cheap. As far as taste goes, Balsam Inn goes above and beyond to fit the bill. The food is delicious and the service we had was friendly, unobtrusive and very knowledgeable. I understand that we must pay the price for good food, but when I go out for a meal, there’s nothing worse than leaving a restaurant on empty. I will definitely be back to try more delicious food at Balsam Inn but I’ll now know to pack a granola bar in case of an emergency.
For more info dart over to their website.
Photography courtesy of Balsam Inn