When one talks about dining in Montreal, we rarely talk about the downtown core as a big part of that. We talk a lot about Mile End, Old Montreal, Little Italy, Notre-Dame Street in the Sud Ouest…. but downtown isn’t as hyped. Part of it may be perception, part of it may be people not wanting to head downtown proper. Either way, there are definitely places worth checking out that are more than simply overpriced fare for the business crowd. One of these is Jatoba. Located in Phillips Square, Jatoba is a project headed by chef Olivier Vigneault, previously a sous-chef for Antonio Park (also a partner in this venture). For the event of my sister’s birthday, there was a request to come check in this place out as a family outing.
The space, conceived by La Chambre Design, is a beautiful combination of the old brownstone structure with some more modern touches. I love how they incorporate the brick facades all around the different rooms and make them focal points. The lighting is ample but slightly dimmed to create a nice intimate feel. Lots of wood warms up the space and the kitchen is exposed in the big backroom. The other big element is the use of tons of plant life to incorporate some nature into the space. The whole of the restaurant feels very warm and cozy. A perfect vibe for a relaxed evening dinner.
Jatoba has a pretty good cocktail menu and wine list. I started with a Lavender May – Lot 40, lavender and calico syrup, fresh lime juice, egg white, rhubarb bitters. I love egg white cocktails so this was an easy sell for me. Not too floral with a nice touch of both sweet and sour. The frothy texture of the egg white added some body to it as well. As for the wine, for the purpose of full disclosure, I know the sommelier of Jatoba – an old high school friend – so with his advice, we were treated to a lovely French Patrimonio that we had never heard of. Just the fact he got my parents to like a French wine is worth very high praise. Thanks Marc-Andre!
Food-wise, given the pedigree of the chef, you can imagine that the menu is Asian-inspired fusion fare. As a group of 5, we were able to share numerous items. First up, I can never say no to a bowl of edamame with yusuf powder, nanami togarashi and fleur de sel. Always love that salty kick.
We also tried the Brussel sprout chips with spices. Very thinly sliced and fried up, I personally loved the slightly bitter notes from the sprouts and the crunch that came from frying them.
Next up, we went for some dumplings. We tried three varieties – the Gyoza (pork, shrimp, chinese chives, spicy samba oelek soy and chinese vinegar), the Tori (chicken, napa cabbage, braised shiitakes, leek and sonomono sauce) and the Ha Gao (shrimp, green onion and red wine tobiko). All excellent – very flavourful with the subtle hints of the extra ingredients above the primary proteins. Kind of made me crave some true Dim Sum at that point….
My girlfriend and I felt like a soup so we shared the lemongrass soup – lemongrass and coconut cream, shrimp, lobster, tomatoes, thai basil, green onions and bamboo. A lovely well balanced soup. The lemongrass was strong but the sweetness of the coconut cream softened it slightly and created a super silky texture. The addition of shrimp and lobster gave it some more heft and the tomatoes brought some freshness and tanginess. One of the best soups I’ve had in a while.
As a rice dish, we went with the fried rice with duck confit which included an egg, vegetable medley, yukon gold chips, green onions, micro coriander and enoki mushrooms. Very generous portion of rice and lovely flavours all around. The rice had the crunch of a fried rice with some earthy notes. The addition of the duck confit provided a nice rich and fatty contrast to the rest of the rice dish.
Next up was sushi time. We went with The Roll – atlantic salmon, spicy hamachi, avocado, cucumber, tempura flakes, sweet soy and yusuf yogourt. A more upscale version of a classic “Kamikaze” roll and excellent all around. Key differentiation was the use of less of the binding elements like the tempura and more emphasis of the freshness of the salmon. The fish was beautiful and came through clearly within the roll. No hiding of the fish here. The tempura brought a touch of crunch and I liked the touch of sweet creaminess coming from the yogourt.
The final savoury dish we tried was the 1855 Beef Tataki seared with sesame oil, mini green beans with cider vinegar, dwarf truffle peaches, black quinoa soufflé and sonomono sauce. Beautiful elegant dish – the beef was sliced beautifully thin and super tender. The addition elements simply play to augment the natural flavours of the beef.
For dessert, we got the Chocolate Bomb and the Japanese cheesecake. The bomb – a combination of black and white triple chocolate brownie with hazelnut praline, dark chocolate and hazelnut truffle, dark chocolate mousse, marbled chocolate sphere and milk chocolate sauce – was a chocolate overload in all the best ways possible. I loved the different uses of texture and flavours within all the chocolate. The cheesecake served with maple spongy candy and black sesame ice cream was excellent texture-wise. Nice and creamy. The black sesame ice cream was not my thing but a cool pairing to the inherent richness and creaminess of the cake.
Jatoba was a lovely night out – wonderful drinks, awesome service and good food. Worked out perfectly as a celebration for my sister’s birthday so when you are thinking about dining out in Montreal, don’t forgot about the business district of our city, it is equally worth of your attention for a good night out!
1184 Place Phillips
514 871 1184