Montréal Plaza: Small Plates and Duck Breast

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What happens when the former chef de cuisine of Toqué! strews his beautiful mixes of ingredients, colours and flavours over tabletops in Little Italy?

This:

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A lot of black truffles, crispy puffed rice and duck fat.

And the best part? About a third of small plates, daily changing menu (some regulars stick around) is gluten free and dairy free!

Above, that’s a super rich and creamy polenta with toasted brioche and blood sausage. Below, a cauliflower and mushroom salad:

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The server even went and wrote down all the dishes I could have (many of which could be adjusted without wrecking the dish), which was above and beyond. These included:

  • the smashed potatoes
  • the Arctic char
  • the yakitori
  • the fish of the day
  • the striped bass and razor clam specials
  • the charcuterie
  • the pork brochette
  • the Meat of the Day for 2 (today’s was duck breast and confit heart)

In fact, our server is what made the meal awesome. It would have been very good without her, but she pushed it over the top with her knowledge of the menus – including the craft beer and natural wine lists – as well as her relaxed-but-pro attitude and always being around when we needed her.

Her face was even more ashen than mine when she found out the kitchen had sent out the cauliflower salad with cheese by accident and rushed back to get a replacement. And while I was confused as to why the first would have crisped rice on top (think a play on the rice krispies that a lot of sushi places use instead of tempura in their rolls), the simple mix of parsley with lemon, olive oil, mandoline-sliced fresh button mushrooms and cauliflower was super tasty. It was also the simplest and most generous dish of the night, and something I recreated at home the following week.

Next, a tower of beets, green apple, sprouts and ash. Besides looking pretty, that beet gel is a great combo with the tangy apple.

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But those dishes weren’t the stars. These were:

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Duck, chicken, beef, octopus yakitori with kimchi

Sorry for the completely awful photo, but these are the yakitori skewers: chicken, duck heart, beef, octopus and something else I’m forgetting(?) on a bed of kimchi and Boston lettuce. Across the table is the cavatelli with black truffles. The meat was all tender, so I’m guessing it’s cooked separately and then skewered – a theory that was reinforced when those same super tender duck hearts showed up on the large $52 Meat for Two platter of duck fat-cooked duck breast (the Toqué! way) with a side of polenta.

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I didn’t eat this, but I’m pretty sure it’s the venison tartare

There are a couple tartares on the menu. Clearly the meat is super high quality, but it’s the reinvention of the accompaniments that sets these apart: more crispy rice, pungent herbs and dollops of mayo around the dish.
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These smashed, fried potatoes were tasty, because any potato that’s smashed and fried should be (the smashing gives it more little contours for the oil to make crispy during the fry, hence more delicious crispy bits). Think of it as breading without the breading. A whole bowl of these is a heavy start to the meal, so it’s best to share.

Other Highlights of Montreal Plaza:

  • The whimsical décor: an upside-down house as a chandelier above an elevated round table looking over the open kitchen
  • Banquette seating near the pastry counter
  • Different seating areas that feel like rooms in a house but are actually all part of the open layout
  • Your grandmother’s china set, crystal glasses and cutlery
  • White linens topped by white paper for a mix of class and permission to be messy
  • How there’s always something to see around you, from other people to the chefs to the dishes
  • Food comes fast. They’ve got the small plates assembly down
  • You can order just three dishes and be completely full. Two if you order the meat to share
  • The dessert list, where you can choose a couple pastries or jellies or macarons or treats and combine them on a single platter. Or order à la carte creations.

Downsides of Mtl Plaza:

  • It was super rich. After the potatoes and yakitori, I could only manage a couple slices of duck breast. It didn’t taste like it was greasy from everything having been cooked in duck fat, but my stomach said stop. And for once, I had to listen.
  • I don’t know if I should be complaining about this, but ingredients showing up on multiple dishes: those rice krispies, the duck hearts, some of the gels and plate garnishes. I know some people don’t like that. I didn’t have too much of anything, but I was less excited by more crispy rice pieces and duck hearts the second time around.
  • That kitchen mess-up with the dairy and the disappearing rice krispies on the second version of the cauliflower salad. As a diner, you don’t know if it was the kitchen or the server’s fault, even though our server clearly checked on everything I could eat before ordering. It also makes me wonder if the krispies weren’t gluten free the first time since they weren’t on the second version, or if the kitchen got the no-dairy right the second time but forgot to sub out the gluten with rice krispies.

All that to say, I loved eating here but didn’t feel awesome when I left, whether from duck fat over-indulgence or dairy/gluten. But would I come back? Yes, definitely, when I have a bit of money to spend on quality food and want some artistry in my meal and more visual stimulation than Aura.

Montréal Plaza
Address: 6230 rue St-Hubert
Phone: 514-903-6230
Hours: Daily for supper
Price: ~$80 per person with a glass of wine or dessert plus tax and tip

 

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