When I was looking for restaurants that my wife Jun and I would visit in Montreal on a recent weekend trip, I naturally wanted to find a place that is unique to the city’s dining scene. Due to the limited number of stays, I need to make sure I hit all the right restaurants. I randomly looked up on Google any best Canadian restaurant websites, and found that a place called Montreal Plaza consistently came up in these lists. I asked my friend’s girlfriend (both were traveling with us), a French Canadian from Quebec, if she had heard of the restaurant, she said no, which made me both excited and nervous. After walking around the city on a freezing Saturday afternoon we showed up at Montreal Plaza not expecting what the meal would be like. The first impression of the restaurant was somewhat bizarre. The décor looked like a copycat of one of the branches of The Smith in Manhattan, and the dining scene was chaotic too, with a birthday celebration happening at a table nearby with Star Wars music. On our table, Jun was greeted by a Muppet doll from Sesame Street. For all these quirks, is Montreal Plaza to be taken seriously? My best meal during the trip in Montreal (and Jun agrees) happened at this restaurant.
Interestingly, the co-chefs of Montreal Plaza came from Toqué which Jun and I had just visited the previous night. Compared to the classical approach of Toqué, however, there was no particular culinary boundary at Montreal Plaza. The daily changing menu doesn’t have the lavish descriptions of each dish the way Toqué presented to us (in French). A lot of the dishes listed one element, followed by a question mark to suggest that the kitchen is not afraid to put different ingredients together in a way that is completely unexpected. Take, for instance, veal heart. It came with calamari underneath shredded vegetables, and you have to actually scoop up from the bottom to dig up the heart, which I gladly did after realizing how delicious this dish was. Lamb tartare, with a Lebanese twist using raw kibbeh, was also quite outstanding in its texture, while Jerusalem artichoke and cheese would be a great hearty dish to have for a winter meal.
For a more traditionally French take on the menu, by all means order veal blanquette that was rich without overpowering my taste bud. What would go into yakitori at Montreal Plaza? Beef bacon and duck heart that was smoky and quite deliciously seasoned on the outside. Complement this dish with Brussels sprouts and you have one powerful combination of meat and vegetable that would be hard to resist. For desserts, carrot cake for two was delightful, as was the poached pear, but I couldn’t stop thinking about each bite of decadent sucre a la crème block that would probably get me to sugar overdose if I had too much of it. Overall, I was highly impressed with the unpredictable ingenuity of the kitchen’s approach effortlessly blending different ingredients, techniques and culinary traditions.
Montreal Plaza is a popular restaurant in the city so booking in advance is always recommended. There is full bar with some potent cocktails that will keep you warm on a brutal winter night. As noted above, the restaurant’s dining environment is disarmingly casual and makes you feel like you are eating at a boring chain restaurant, but don’t let its scenery fool you that way. That boisterous atmosphere perhaps epitomizes Montreal Plaza’s approach to cooking: there is no set rule or order, just a lively experiment with food for something refreshingly unique in a city’s dining scene already saturated with traditional and modern Quebec/French cuisine. I’m not sure when I will visit Montreal again, but would really love to visit Montreal Plaza again to see what will be on the menu next time. It’s a good bet that what I see in the menu at that time will not look anything like what was on the menu on my visit.
KenScale: 8.5/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.5/10)
- Creativity: 9.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 6230 St Hubert Street, Montreal, Quebec H2S 2M2, Canada
Telephone: (514) 903-6230