If there’s one restaurant that has mastered the small plate, it’s Montréal Plaza. I’m not sure if the owners are trying to be ironic by opening a restaurant in Plaza St Hubert amongst the wedding dresses and anime stores, but I’m happy to say that it works. The restaurant is a lot bigger than I was expecting, with a green house nestled in the middle. The kitsch items hanging from the ceiling work well with the architecture of the space.
We began the meal with drinks. I had a refreshing Quebec white wine, prepared in house. Beer Guy had a ‘4 surfeurs de l’Apocalypso’ by Trou du Diable, a fruity IPA. We ordered the night special, raw scallop with strawberries. It wasn’t a strong start. I liked the taste of the chives and crispy bulgur, and the texture of the scallops’ was nice, however the vinaigrette overpowered the sweetness of the scallops.
We were really excited about the stuffed zucchini flowers. A second waiter appeared with the dish and his description as he placed it on the table indicated the presence of rabbit despite being very clear to the first waiter that we did not eat meat. Luckily, he got the hint as to our displeasure, apologized profusely and turned things around quickly with his charm. We just couldn’t stay mad.
We were brought the Food Chain salad, a beautiful composition of radishes, asparagus, bok choy, red onion, and flax seeds. I felt healthier just looking at it. It was a pleasant interlude before our next dish, the artic char tartar. The crunch of puffed grains lifted the monotony of the bitter greens. Underneath the salad were little jewels of soft, succulent fish. It was a nice change from the usual salmon or tuna.
The next dish was unforgettable. Do you remember those snails drowning in garlic butter, circa 1990? Now picture an elevated version of that: miso butter whelks with milk brioche. It was a spectacular combination of warm, savoury, spicy, tart and rich. The whelks were mixed with carrots, garlic, chives, and maybe parsnips. A word of advice, keep a piece of brioche for the end, to sop up all the left over juices.
If that wasn’t enough, next up was the “Tomato+Shrimp”. This was the replacement they recommended to make up for the rabbit meat in our zucchini flowers. This dish was a piece of art: it was shaped playfully into a colourful, bright burger. My knife sliced through this masterpiece like butter. The blanched tomato was succulent, the shrimp, salty and creamy. The combination of textures, saltiness, and temperature made this dish one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. It will be hard to top this one.
To end the night, they very graciously made us our own dessert, a combination of house-made blueberry, strawberry and rhubarb sorbet. It was obvious the sorbets were made with fresh and and not frozen fruit. I especially liked it because it wasn’t over sweetened with powdered sugar, and balanced well with the tartness. I couldn’t get over the pairing with tarragon-it worked so well!
I’m not surprised that Montréal Plaza made it to #31 on Canada’s Top 100 list. They managed to wow me despite a shaky start. I would very highly recommend it, even if it means spending a little extra, if only to try the whelks and the tomato+shrimp.
Beer Guy Pro Tip: Go with the 4 surfeurs de l’apocalypso. It had a sweet aroma of malt, citrus/mango fruit, hops and caramel. It poured a slightly hazy golden colour with medium off-white head. Its flavour delivered on the smell with a medium sweet malt. The complex flavours included fruit, spice, caramel, grass, with the citrus hops offering grapefruit with peel. It was a little dry to the tongue and finished on a slight bitter note. It paired very well with this pescatarian meal.