Agrikol

Since its opening over a year ago, Beer Guy and I have been curious to check out this Haitian restaurant, co-owned by Regine and Win of Arcade Fire (the concert last week at the Bell Centre was terrific by the way, great energy!)

We walked right by the restaurant. We backtracked and stepped inside what looked like a haunted house from the outside. We were greeted by a gorgeous interior, complete with enormous chandelier!

We were led upstairs to extra seating space as the main downstairs area was packed, even thought it was Monday night. Our waitress was bubbly and welcoming and reminded me of Genevieve Borne, the 1980s VJ of Musiqueplus fame (Xennials will know who I am talking about).

We started with drinks. I asked for something light and refreshing and was recommended the ‘mant’, I’m guessing a play on the word “menthe”. Delicious. I could have had 2…or 3…or 4 but alas I am a light weight.

The menu is pescatarian friendly, with some vegetarian options. I was impressed by their choice of menu items and found it hard to narrow it down but we figured it out with the help of our waitress.

I’m familiar with accras as deep fried fish fritters but the option on the menu was vegetarian. They are described as haitian donuts, but they remind me of falafel. They were well seasoned and we loved the outer crunch. The highlight of this dish was the home-made mayonnaise that accompanied the accras. I couldn’t convince them to give me the recipe.

We also ordered the ceviche. I almost fell off my chair with this dish. Creamy from the coconut milk and bright from the tartness, it was topped with perfectly fried, crunchy onions. They were very generous with the amount of seafood in the dish. Also, the seafood was marinated to perfection, not rubbery at all. Fried plantains accompanied the ceviche. They were overly dense, I was hoping they’d be lighter.

Next, we needed a salad to cut through the richness. The avocado salad was impressive, to say the least. Normally when I order avocado with my food, I’m lucky if I get a quarter piece. We were blessed with mounds and mounds of it, topped with a perfectly balanced vinaigrette. The highlight of this salad was the little bits of crunch provided by the fried beets and puffed rice sprinkled on top. I’m sad I couldn’t capture a good photo but a photo wouldn’t have done it justice anyhow.

To end the meal, we ordered lambi with rice. Don’t be fooled, this is not a cutesy word for lamb. Lambi is conch.  Remember those huge spiral shaped shells we used to hold up to our ears to hear the ocean when we were kids? The mollusk was cooked in a beautiful curry. Ask Beer Guy, I am rarely impressed by Montreal curries but this one was out of this world. I couldn’t tell what spices they used but I can say that the island vibe was alive in this dish! Bravo!

Overall, I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you are looking for something a little different. They offer great, authentic Haitian food. If you enjoy a fun island vibe (who doesn’t?), then this is the place for you. The restaurant is also very affordable, and the portions are large. I give Agrikol two thumbs and two big toes up!

Agrikol.com

Plane ticket to Vancouver or Dinner at Park

For our week off from work, we decided on a staycation. We figured there’s so many things to enjoy in Montreal, why not just stay here. We chose dinner at Park as our extravagant indulgence. This was our se
cond time here. Why? Because I couldn’t go another day looking at those beautiful sashimi platters on my Facebook feed. I had to tick this one off my bucket list.

We were seated at the bar and greeted by a moustachioed gentleman. What a moustache it was, twisted and tweaked with care. We explained exactly why we were there, he listened and light hearted jokes ensued, always a sign of good things to come.

Sitting at the bar is a must. We watched the sushi chefs techniques: how to cut fish, assemble and roll. It was like attending a sushi class as a bonus to our dinner.

Obviously, we ordered the ultimate sashimi platter, omakase style (chef’s choice). It took us 3 hours to eat this beauty, which consisted of fresh, sustainable fishes including salmon, king crab, sea urchin, toro (fatty tuna belly), seared tuna, and snapper, acupunctured for tenderness. $125 per person with the toro. All the fish is line-caught.

The salmon was buttery. One of my favourites. The king crab was probably an acquired taste. Tough little pieces of white flesh. One of the chefs eagerly asked if we liked it, explaining to us that this was the most expensive piece on the platter. I was too shy to say I didn’t like it. It tasted a bit fishy and the rubberiness was odd. Matt loved the sea urchin. We stepped on a family of them once in Mexico. The pain that ensued is akin to lighting your feet on fire, which makes me not feel bad for eating them. I got over my squeamish side regarding the urchin as soon as I tasted the flavour combinations. Really inspiring. The caviar with its saltiness was a nice touch. Apparently some specimens are flown in directly from Japan. I’m guessing the tuna. I don’t normally like tuna but I am now a convert. The tuna with spices seared around the edges was juicy and delicious, not dry at all. I gulped those down pretty quickly. The toro was succulent and beautiful. Also one of my favorites.

The pickled veggies were a nice accompaniment. I wished there were more. We barely touched the sauces they provided, except for the chimichurri to dip the seared tuna. While they were delicious accompaniments, we found the best partner to be the soy sauce and fresh wasabi. It took us 3 hours to eat this beautiful masterpiece.

Considering Park is an established restaurant in Montréal, run by renowned chef Antonio Park, it’s no surprise that our evening was exquisite. Eating the fresh sashimi was like devouring a piece of art. Great service and entertaining sushi chefs made this night complete. Next time, I think we should order a smaller platter!

Beer Guy Recommendation: Go with a Japanese beer. The Japanese have a fine tradition of brewing light lagers such as Asahi or Sapporo. They do a fine job of complementing sashimi’s tastes and textures.