Even though Montreal may be one of North America’s most diverse culinary cities, you won’t find much of that diversity in our downtown core. With the exception of a few widespread gems and a peppering of mega-chain restaurants, most of our culinary delights lay in neighborhoods likes Old Montreal, Mile-End, Griffintown and St. Henri. After a recent visit to Jatoba, a fantastic new Asian-inspired restaurant that sits a stone’s throw away from Square Phillips, I feel that we are starting to see an exciting return to our valuable core. Jatoba takes over the space that once housed the popular Phillips Lounge. After a massive restoration and revamping of the space, Jatoba is now open and ready to dazzle Montrealers and our visitors with a concept that takes our obsession with Asian food to new heights. With Chef Olivier Vigneault at the helm, he brings many years of experience to the kitchen, having cultivated his technique in no fewer than 5 astounding restaurants including Yuzu in his hometown of Quebec City and Marabout, Mizo, Kaizen and Park here in Montreal. As mentioned above, the owners of Jatoba labored heavily in restoring the space that now houses the restaurant. Conceived by Amlyne Phillips of La Chambre Design (suwu, le gros luxe etc), the restaurant’s masculinity is expressed through exposed brick, large luminescent windows, and exquisite crown moldings. While things elements make up the bones of the restaurant decorative brass metal shelving, a sleek marble bar, exotic plants and remarkable light fixtures gives life and balance to the space. The restaurant is creatively divided to provide depth and can seat 100 people. During the summer months a new terrace will allow a further 70 seats, almost doubling the surface. Those dining on the terrasse will also be treated to a show each night as they will have an excellent view into the kitchen as they chefs work to prepare the food that everyone will enjoy. Summer can’t come quick enough. During the media and concierge centered evening, we tasted a special menu featuring a few of the dishes that you can also now try at the restaurant. After starting the night off with a ginger infused cocktail, we took our seats and kicked things off with a heaping bowl of salted edamame and followed that up with some fresh yellow-fin tuna that was served with jalapeno infused Asian pears, crisp ogo nori and a clear soya sauce. The edamame was par for the course with fleur de sel and spices while the sweet zing of the soya sauce blended perfectly with the thinly sliced tuna and pear. The kitchen followed up with a beef tataki (pictured above), served with haricots, bitter peach, puffed quinoa, enokis and a sonomono sauce. The dish was flavorful, the beef wonderfully tender and the peach added a zest to the dish that tied to whole thing together. Next up came an assortment of dumplings (and one of my favorite servings of the night) including, beef, pork, eggplant and shrimp. The eggplant dumpling was fried while the others were served more traditionally. Each of the dumplings burst with distinct flavor though my favorites were the eggplant and the shrimp. I highly recommend trying the dumplings over and over again. After the dumplings we were served a traditional blackened cod, served with sake and sweet miso. The cod was a littler saltier than I was expecting but still perfectly cooked, falling apart at the touch of a fork. The kitchen also sent over a plate of grilled filet mignon, sesame asparagus carpaccio and a sweet kimchee emulsion. Fans of red meat will really enjoy sharpness of flavour this dish offers. The kimchee takes the tender meat to new heights. The last (non-dessert) dish of the evening was duck confit served on a bed of fried rice with chilies and Szechuan pepper. I’m a big fan of duck confit so I was disappointed when I tasted Jatoba’s and found it was a little dry. The flavouring was on point the chilies added a pop of flavor to the fried rice. For dessert we tried three different (delicious) dishes. We started with a sweet mango tartelette (pictured above) with meringue brulée and within minutes we were also digging into chocolate and pistachio Pokey infused, green tea makis. A surprising dessert that wasn’t too sweet. It was great blend of flavors that didn’t have one overpowering taste. Lastly, we tried a fantastic suki sandwich square filled with layers of marshmallow, dulce de leche and pecans that were sandwiched between browned butter blondies and French vanilla ice cream. As far as the desserts are concerned, that was my favorite. Jatoba is going to be a wonderful addition to Montreal’s fine dining mosaic of restaurants. It’s superb location will make it a great place for business lunches, informal 5a7 cocktails and dinner between friends or even something more intimate. The atmosphere is refined yet airy and plays into a new way of looking at what a fine dining experience can be made of. Jatoba will help set the standard for what comes next to heart of our city.
Photography courtesy of Patricia Brochu and Jatoba