As someone who loves to eat good food, I am sometimes limited in my budget for all of these culinary experiences. So, I am always anxious to try a BYOW restaurant that allows me to pinch my pennies a little. So, when I heard of a portuguese byow in St-Henri, I was anxious to try it. I reserved with some friends for a Saturday night at 7pm.
First off, I was a bit put off by the statement on the menu indicating that we should stay no more than 2 and a half hours at our table due to the popularity of the place. I understand restaurants with two sittings, one at 6pm and one at 9pm needing their customers to leave after 3 hours, but this wasn’t the case here, and I must admit, I found it a bit unwelcoming.
Nevertheless, I had decided I was going to keep an open mind. One thing I appreciated is we were served small plates with olives and broad beans before we ordered our meal. This was original and appreciated.
Next, the restaurant had a table d’hôte, but I wasn’t inspired, so, the whole table chose from the à la carte menu. I started off with an entrée of Pastéis de bacalhau, otherwise known as cod croquettes, served over a wakame salad with cilantro aioli. The cod croquettes were good, though nothing to write home about. The cod taste was slightly overpowered by the batter they were fried in, and the wakame salad, while good, was a strange combination with the cod croquettes. While both the croquettes and wakame salad were good individually, the mix of flavours just wasn’t working for me.
One of my friends had decided on three appetizers instead of a main because she couldn’t decide what she wanted. She chose the cod croquettes and two other appetizers. The second appetizer she chose was grilled chorizo on smoked paprika coleslaw. I didn’t get a chance to taste the meal, but she told me she was disappointed. She was expecting diced chorizo sausage, and instead got an entire chorizo sausage. She also felt the mix of the chorizo and coleslaw was not a good one.
The last appetizer she chose was the warmprosciutto wrapped brie on a tomato compote. This was another appetizer that fell flat. The tomato compote was too discreet, and the brie was overpowered by the prosciutto. Moreover, the prosciutto was too cooked and had a limp, fatty texture, which was unappealing.
Next, I had chosen as a main, seared scallops and giant shrimp with a smoked paprika and roasted red pepper emulsion,
served with tomato and olive risotto and vegetables. The dish was 28$ so my expectations were quite high. Well, I was severely disappointed when my plate arrived. Two scallops and two shrimp awaited me, and not big scallops, relatively small ones. Luckily, they were cooked to perfection, as were my measly two shrimp, though the “emulsion” they were served on was not an emulsion but simply a red pepper sauce, nothing special. This was served with a risotto which was terrible. Generally, I expect risotto to be rich and creamy with that wonderful parmesan taste. Here,all I could taste was the tomato and olive competing for each other and completely overpowering the dish, definitely not a good combination. It was served with some spinach and cabbage which had been roasted, but the overall taste was bland and not complementary.
Someone else in our group had ordered the grilled salmon with salsa verde served with rice and vegetables. She enjoyed her meal and said the salmon was cooked to perfection. Though their was nothing particulary original or special about the dish, it was well executed.
Someone else had ordered the chicken supreme with “piri-piri” sauce, served with roasted potatoes and vegetables. She liked her chicken but felt that the spinach and cabbage mix, same as the one that was served with my scallops, was strange.
Finally, another of my friends had ordered the pan seared veal bavette served with caper lemon cream sauce, mashed potatoes and vegetables. This was probably the best main, the veal was pink and tender, and the lemon & caper sauce was tasty. However, the same strange spinach and cabbage combo was served here too.
The salmon, veal and chicken portions were all quite large, and I was extremely disappointed with my puny scallops and shrimp serving. So, I was easily tempted when the waiter came by to meniton the desserts and offered a portugese egg tart, otherwise known as pastel de nata. The tarts were sweet and delicious and tasted like custard, and I was unable to finish both.
Some of the other dessert offerings included two different kinds of cheesecake. One was your classic cheesecake served with a raspberry sauce. It was good but nothing special.
Finally, the other cheesecake offered had some chocolate cookies in it. I tasted my friend’s portion, and while she thought it was perfect, I felt it was a sweetness overdose, with nothing to contrast the sugary sweet taste.
So, in conclusion, I was unimpressed with this restaurant. I felt that the meal choices were either too classic and uninspiring or either the product of some strange, uncomplementary mixes. Moreover, for a byow, it was lacking in the value for your money department.
However, I will say that the atmosphere was warm and inviting, decorated with local art. And, even if our waiter was not particularly friendly, five girls with five bottles of wine made for a good evening nonetheless, and we ended up spending 4 and a half hours there (2 hours past the recommended staying time!).
So, if I were you, I would stay away from this restaurant, there are much better byow offerings in Montreal.
Enjoy, bon apétit!