As with most people in Montreal, I was aware of the existence of the Newtown restaurant, and had even been a couple of times for an after work 5 à 7 (otherwise known as happy hour). However, when the chef of the Newtown, Martin Juneau, won the National Golden Plate award I was intrigued. However, I wasn’t intrigued enough to check it out until I saw a travelzoo coupon for a special deal there announced recently. 100$ for two amuses bouches, two appetizers, two mains, two desserts and three glasses of alcohol for two people seemed like a great deal, and an excuse to check out the restaurant and its award winning chef.
We had reserved for a sunny Thursday evening in early summer, so the first floor was filled with business men and women enjoying a loud, happy hour. We were directed to the restaurant on the second floor. We were seated first in the “lounge” area. I didn’t really understand the concept and asked to be seated at a table, I was told I would be escorted their for the main meal. So, we decided to have drinks while we waited. I had a bloody caesar, it was good though a little too spicy, as is often the case at restaurants. My boyfriend tried to order a “Ricard”, a type of pastis, but our waitress (who didn’t speak very well in French) brought him a Rickard’s red instead…. hmm, this wasn’t starting of so well!
Next, we were surprised while, still in the lounge area, our amuses-bouche arrived, and it was an aragula soup. Generally, amuses-bouches bring to mind small bite sized portions, not soup. Nevertheless, the soup was excellent, it was thick and creamy, and the aragula was well represented.
We were then escorted to our table. I didn’t quite understand the change of seating, especially since the restaurant was half empty, but I was still glad not to be eating in the lounge on the couch. Next, we had a choice of appetizers and mains from their regular menu. As an appetizer, I ordered the tuna salad with teriyaki sauce, tuna sashimi and fried onions while my boyfriend ordered the porkbelly with beet salad and caramelized pistachios. Note that they change the menu frequently, so these choices may no longer be available.
The tuna salad wasn’t great. The tuna had been shredded and had this strange, stringy texture. Maybe because of this, I found the tuna didn’t taste like anything, it was too bland. The taste that stood out from the plate was the teriyaki sauce and it completely overpowered this appetizer.
My boyfriend enjoyed his salad, but also found the salad dressing overpowering. Nevertheless, he liked the cold pork, beets and caramelized pecans. It was good, but nothing spectacular.
Next, I ordered the grilled catch of the day, served with lemon caper butter, braised fennel and sweet potato purée. The grilled catch ended up being salmon. The presentation was excellent, but the plate arrived cold. The fish was lukewarm, and the rest of the items were actually cold. So, even though the plate was good overall with the sweetness of the sweet potato purée blending well with the tartness of the fennel and the meaty texture of the esalmon, the fact that it was cold ruined it for me.
My boyfriend had ordered the grilled flanksteak with “pontneuf” fries and gremolata. My boyfriend enjoyed his meal, his wasn’t served cold ;) The meat was rare, as requested, and it was well accompanied with a cheesy sauce and some large fries.
Finally, for dessert, we enjoyed a chocolate mousse served with a chocolate crumble. While the presentation was again very nice, the spoon I was given didn’t fit the dessert dish, and I had to request a smaller spoon!
Despite this small setback, I enjoyed the dessert. I found it a little too chocolatey, luckily the chocolate crumble was quite salty helping to counterbalance the sweetness of the mousse.
So, all in all, I was disappointed with my experience at Newtown. What with the award-winning chef, and the high price (regularly, without a coupon) , I had been led to believe that this meal would wow me, and that wasn’t the case. Also, the service wasn’t what you would expect from a restaurant that’s trying to showcase its food. The waitresses were all very pretty in tight red dresses, but they were understaffed for the restaurant and were not used to serving wine or apéritif (hence the Rickard’s…) and did not speak French all that well. They seemed more like bar staff than actual waitstaff. What was interesting too was that we recognized the sommelier from Européa who seemed to be acting as manager for the restaurant on this busy Thursday night. When we spoke to him and mentioned that we recognized him, he promised us some dessert wine. We were pleased, but he never delivered, so it just added another disappointment, in an evening that had missed all my expectations so far.
In conclusion, this is a place to see and be seen, not for a culinary experience. I get the impression it’s a bit of a tourist trap on busy Crescent street, so I would avoid.
1476 Crescent Street, Montreal, Qc