Type of cuisine: Contemporary Cosmopolitan cuisine (Informal/Casual)
Date and time of the events: May 28th 17:30
Addr: 645 Rue Wellington, Montréal, QC H3C
Phone: (514) 394-3444
IMPORTANT: They have two dining areas, a fine dining area as well as another part of the restaurant that they call ‘Bar Mercuri, the former obviously focusing on elaborate meals while the latter covering more casual fares (for eg, bistrot type). Current review is about the casual dining section.
One day after sampling their fine dining offerings (reviewed here), I went back to try the informal/casual part of the establishment (Bar Mercuri).
The dishes have less ingredients than their counterparts of the fine dining area (for eg, a listing of 4,5 ingredients as opposed to 8 or 9 for the formal fares). As it’s common nowadays at plenty of restaurants (L’Astrance, Eleven Madison Park) , you just see a listing of ingredients and the kitchen crafts a dish around them.
Tartare of tuna, grapefruit, jalapeno $16 was enjoyable and refreshingly different from its classic versions. Sometimes I hear people stating that a ‘dish tastes of its season’ and upon eating what they are talking about I still would not get what they mean, but had someone told me that this tartare ‘tasted of spring’ I’d concede that they are right. I can’t recall having sampled in Montreal a tartare this much entrenched behind seasonality, with such fun aromatic lightness, reminiscent of anything that’s on its way of blooming (main characteristic of spring). For eg, the fresh acidity that was hitting my palate is of the sort that would come from a young lemon, growing up (blooming ;p). Last evening, the grapefruit clashed on my dish of crab but on this evening it combined so well with the tuna. The quality tuna did benefit from a judicious dimension of heat provided by the jalapeno, the seasoning flawless. I tend to be partial to bold/meaty/richly seasoned tartares, consequently my rating here seems not too high, but this tartare showcased a witty /lovely sense of seasonality that plenty of restaurants in town do not take time to focus on. I’d close my eyes, combine both the tuna and the grapefruit into one bite, engulf it and the next thing I’d be tempted to do would be to scream SPRING! Nice 6/10
Octopus, potatoes, mustard seed, parsley $16- This was a very simple dish (basically grilled octopus and potatoes), which is normal as we are in a casual dining context, and yet not many kitchen brigades are doing it this right: the octopus retaining enough firmness, a reminder of the natural condition of the seafood, its marine freshness vibrant and appetizingly enhanced by nice grilling flavour. The seasoning exciting. 7/10
Pork loin milanese, chinese broccoli, panko, marinated carrot, onions, papaya salad $23 – Again, a straightforward fare as expected in a casual dining context. The Pork loin milanese done exactly as it should, which is the classic way (except that they did add a bit of sesame seeds to the coating) , featuring proper crispy texture on the outside, the inside tender, the sourcing of the pork exemplary. They should mention the level of spiciness of the papaya salad, though, as the salad was super spicy. All in all, a classic simple casual dish done well and that they’ve thoughtfully enhance with interesting accompaniments. Those folks are really serious about the quality of their ingredient: even the papaya was of superb quality. 7/10
Pros: Delivered as advertised, which means casual /informal cosmopolitan food. And delivered as it should. Done well, with top quality ingredients.
Cons: They like the ‘tapas’ theme which consists of offering several plates at the same time. It’s a fun idea but when you are alone, it’s not practical as the food gets obviously cold. Anyways, that was not a problem as they were really accomodating, but really, keep the ‘multiple-courses at once’ principle for couples or groups only.
Overall food rating: 7/10 By Montreal informal / casual dining standards, which means a meal of good standard.
Conclusion: It is refreshingly different from the hordes of Mtl bistrots that keep doing the same stuff over and over. It’s the advantage of a Chef with a broader vision of the world of food. You ‘travel’ through his dishes.
What I think, weeks later: Successful contemporary casual dining offerings. Chef Joe Mercuri mixing his base in Italian cookery with twists from all around the world. As ever with food, the more you know, the more accurate you are in your appreciation of the food, so a better understanding of casual mediterranean flavors will bring you a long way. Doing the same with other International casual fares will serve you even be better.