Montreal’s popular foodie event Montréal à Table is now underway until November 16th. Montréal à table takes place in more than 175 restaurants across Montreal and features gourmet menus at insanely affordable prices. The purpose is to attract customers during a low season for restaurateurs, all while taking great care in featuring Québec products.
Most of Montreal’s gourmet restaurants take part in Montréal à Table, which unfortunately all get booked very quickly. I say dare to visit smaller, under the radar venues that don’t usually make it onto your radar.
For example, I approached the 6th edition of Montréal à Table with a theme: izakaya, a trendy Japanese cuisine almost nonexistent in my hometown of Québec City. I chose Kyo Bar Japonais in the Old Port of Montreal (inspired by my stay at Place d’Armes hotel) and opted for the highly recommended Ichi Go Ichi E on the Plateau.
711 Côte de la Place d’Armes, H2Y 2X6
Located in the basement of the Place d’Armes hotel, Kyo is part tavern, part bar with a lively atmosphere. Its long central tables attract happy hour customers including neighbouring workers and world travellers.
Unlike some restaurants participating in the Montréal à Table event, the house doesn’t oblige the table to eat the same menu. I’ll come back to it later, since it was the case at my second choice, Ichi Go Ichi E.
The regular menu features traditional izakaya dishes like yakitori, sushi and tempura fried everything. For 31$, my partner and I shared a chicken lettuce wrap with marinated daikon, a Japanese curry poutine and a black sesame cake dusted with matcha powder.
The poutine is presented in a small cast-iron skillet looking like chicken curry. A thick slice of potato laid at the bottom with sweet cheese curds slowly melting in the curry sauce. Shaved potato and green onions topped it all. Though well executed and truly aromatic, the poutine was clearly an Indian inspiration, a deceptiononmy behalf since I chose a Japanese restaurant. The thick slice of potato felt thrown in there for no reason; two extra pieces of chicken would have been better.
We added a Hamachi bibimbap and Tempura moriawase to our meal. Moriawase is a Japanese word meaning “a mix of something from nature” that featured two pieces of shrimp, two asparagus, two slices of red peppers and two slices of satsumaimo, a Japanese sweet potato.
Hamachi is a yellow tail tuna-like fish, the most popular fish used for sushi in Québec. A bibimbap, a popular Korean fried rice dish, is served at Kyo in a hot stone bowl with vegetables, kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage) and an egg yolk. Mixed in with the Gochujang sauce (Korean chili paste), the rice caramelized into crunchy flakes of spicy bitter goodness washed away beautifully with a shot of Tokusen Masumi Honjozo Ginjo sake from Miyasaka Brewing in Japan.
Including service, a sake tasting (4) and a pint of beer, the bill came out to 132$.
Ichi Go Ichi E
360, rue Rachel E, H2W 1E9
Ichi Go Ichi E is in the heart of the Plateau Mont-Royal, a bobo part of Montreal that I don’t particularly appreciate for dining out. The Plateau features too many overly arrogant restaurants that attract overly conceited customers. I’m more of a Mile-End and Rosemont-Petite-Patrie kind of girl.
From the street, Ichi Go Ichi E had a line-up where about a dozen people waited for ramen. Reservations are not taken for ramen, only for groups or the izakaya experience.
Inside, I noticed three different vibes/sections within the restaurant, including a reception room on the second floor for larger groups/private evenings.
My partner and I sat next to the kitchen in the back section of the restaurant. Best table in the house to get a feel for all the action emanating from service and kitchen, though much more relaxed than what we experienced the night before at Kyo. The decor is Zen with incredibly high ceilings with no windows. We sat on wooden stools with low back rests that were, nonetheless, rather comfortable.
If you visit Ichi Go Ichi E during the Montréal à Table event, everyone sitting at your table must eat from that selected menu. I didn’t see it as a contraint, considering the five-course Montréal à Table experience presents two dish options per course. Of these dishes, only two were exclusive to Montréal à Table. All others are available on the regular menu. The price of the menu is 41$ for four dishes (on the website) that turned out to be five dishes once at the restaurant.
Five minutes after our order, dishes started incoming at a pace I had rarely experienced in a restaurant. First, tofu with slices of smoked Oka cheese and yuzu miso sauce. Then tempura fried burdock roots dressed in Montreal steak spice. Burdock was a first for both of us! It has a root vegetable-like taste with an incredibly fibrous texture. The sweet spicy mayo properly washed the fry and Montreal steak spices from my mouth.
Then came delicate slices of melt-in-my-mouth duck breasts presented in a smoke-filled glass resting on fermented yuzu gravy. Big WOW on the presentation! Then came my favourite dish of all, a miso marinated wild black cod with wasabi Swiss chard. A texture like no other that, to the eye, felt undercooked. Every flake of fish felt both sweet, salty, spicy and sour as it delicately dissolved onto my tongue. The bitterness of the Swiss chard blended perfectly with the very small, but incredibly genuine concoction of wasabi.
Then came two versions of soft yet chewy Udon noodles. These were not mentioned on the menu featured on the Montréal à Table website. Udon noodles have a sort of tapioca texture, but with more resistance. The mushroom version stood out, especially due to the use of a spicy Mentsuyu sauce (soy sauce, sake, mirin sauce, kombu, and dried bonito flakes -also known as Katsuobushi) that cut into the chewiness, while complimenting the mushrooms. The colza added a splash of butter on the palate. WOW!
For dessert, apple crumble with berries and homemade ice cream, and Riviera milk pudding with a part mousse, part flan texture decorated with whipped cream and pumpkin seeds.
With two pints of beer, a cocktail and service, the bill came out to 117$. A highly recommended experience.