I had heard a lot about the restaurant Icehouse, via various blogs and on the quebec television show “guide resto voir”. I had seen how they “dumped” your food on your table with no plates or utensils, so I had an idea of the type of simple place it was going to be. So, when a friend suggested we go, I was excited. We arrived at 7:00pm on a Saturday. The restaurant is minuscule, with only about 15 places inside, and about 20 more on the terrace. The terrace is separated from the restaurant by a type of garage door with windows. On this early May evening, the door to the terrace was open and several patrons inside were wearing their jackets. We luckily didn’t have to wait long for a table, only about 10 minutes. We were seated on the terrace on a minuscule table made of three slats, and sat on narrow (and sometimes wobbly) benches with no backs. But, this type of picnic table décor went with the no frills, Texan ambiance, so I was ready and looking forward to the experience.
I started off with a glass of bourbon laced lemonade as did another of my friends, while my other friend took a beer. He was quite disappointed by the limited selection, but settled on a pint of Creemore Springs. My lemonade was delicious, the tangy taste of the lemonade combined with the sweetness and kick of the bourbon was perfect, this is definitely a combination I will try at home this summer! I was pleasantly suprised, and was looking forward to some Texan “comfort food” to go with it.
Next, we decided to start with some appetizers, we chose the popcorn shrimp and sweet potato tater-tots. This is where things started to go downhill. The shrimp were very small, deep fried in a spicy batter. However, the shrimp were too small to be deep fried, and the taste of the shrimp was overpowered. Also, they were drizzled in red wine vinegar, which did not go well, according to me, with the spicy taste of the batter, and left an unpleasant, vinegary taste. One of my friends disagreed, and thought it went well with the spicy batter though, so we did not agree on this appetizer.
Also at this time, it was getting quite cold so the door separating the terrace from the restaurant was closed, which unfortunately did not help the atmosphere, making us feel slightly isolate. To counter the cold, the staff turned on some patio heaters on the terrace. Unfortunately, the terrace temperature was very uneven. One of my friends had their jacket on, while the other had the heater behind her and was sweating profusely due to the closeness of the heater, so we were not at our most comfortable.
The tater tots were served next. The portion, like that of the shrimp, was quite small. The tater tots were made up of a mixture of onions and sweet potatoes, but the taste of the onions overpowered the subtle sweet potato taste. These were not particulary delicious, and with only 5 tater tots in the portion, we were not impressed.
Next we ordered our main meals. I chose the oyster po-boy sandwich, one of my friends ordered the lobster burrito and finally another chose the pulled pork taco.
The oyster po-boy was served in a hamburger bun, with mayonnaise and lettuce and filled with fried oysters. It was okay, nothing special. The grainy texture of the oysters was strange in a sandwich, and there was nothing special about the choice of ingredients nor their quality.
One of my friends had taken the pulled pork taco. It came with a strange assortment of ingredients: pickled watermelon, chicharrón (pork rinds), caramelized pecans, and of course pulled pork. This was a strange combination, the pulled pork was very tender, and on its own was quite good. The pickled watermelon did not taste very much like watermelon, it had the texture of a melon, but with the vinegary taste reminiscent of the pickled turnip you find at Amir; the fact that it was pickled completely overcame any watermelon taste so that it was unrecognizable. The caramelized pecans were delicious on their own as well, crunchy and sweet. The Icehouse also makes, on site, their own tacos, so they have a very distinctive, authentic taste to them due to the fact that they use traditional corn flower. Personally, I don’t like the taste of corn tortillas, and I felt it was the most prominent taste that stayed in my mouth when tasting the taco, but this is a personal prejudice, not specific to the icehouse. The Chicharrón were terrible, I love “les oreilles de criss” as they’re commonly known in quebec, but these were dry and stale and frankly, disgusting; they completely ruined the taco for me. All in all, this was a terrible plate, with some good elements indivually, but which together, made no sense and were not complementary. My friend did not finish her taco and left half of it on her plate, uneaten.
Finally, my other friend had taken the lobster burrito. This was the best meal of the three. It was more traditional, with lobster, black bean paste, pico de gallo, sour cream and grated cheese. The pieces of lobster were large and generous, and the taste was very good. Though, again, nothing special, just a good burrito.
Still hungry after her unfinished pulled pork taco, my friend suggested we try a dessert, so we decided to try the deep-fried apple pie.
It was the only dish served with utensils, but it was also a disappointment. There was too much batter, and the fact that it was fried added nothing to the dish. The batter was not salty to create a salty-sweet effect, so the overall effect was boring, and my friend even mentioned that it tasted like the apple strudel you buy at mcdonald’s.
So, in conclusion, I felt the icehouse was greatly overrated! The food was mediocre, and not worthy of all the hype it’s been getting. The bourbon lemonade and interesting décor of the restaurant, and the quaint terrace, could make this a nice place to have a quiet drink amongst friends in the summer, but there are better places to eat comfort food in Montreal, with better bang for your buck!
51 Roy Street East, Montreal H2W 2S3