Tokyo trained Chef Nozomu Takeuchi, has worked for a while at several great restaurants in North America, with a stint at restaurant Miso, before deciding to open his own neighborhood / unassuming eatery Nozy (Addr:3568, rue Notre-Dame Ouest Montéal, Québec ; Phone: 438-386-9797 URL: http://www.restaurantnozy.ca) . The restaurant has two seatings at dinner time.
This was the conclusion to my short recent journey into Montreal’s Japanese-style dining scene. My previous reviews were based on what the local experts were raving about (Jun I, Park and Sushi Yumi, aka “the big gunz” according to the experts) . For the last stop of this journey, I left the local experts behind and I went my way. A huge risk, because it is never a good idea to part ways with the experts, especially when you are just a poor lonesome anonymous normal diner like me, right? You are right…LMFAOL!
I went for the omakase. But here, omakase is not just a branding…or a trendy word … as sadly used, with not much inspiration, by some of the top gunz in town. At $60, this is the cheapest omakase of this quality in town. Ensure, though, that you do understand that this omakase is not offered to you one course at a time. Instead you are served several dishes at a time as clearly mentioned on their web site (they serve teishoku style food).
Salmon served different ways (as a tartare, served raw, tataki style, with salmon roe atop), on a bed of rice. For me, great cooking is the ability to deliver enticing traditional flavors, no matter the presentation. Here, they shared my views, not on paper, but on the …palate! The tartare dazzled (10/10), the raw salmon was good (7/10). Delicious, inspired, whatever the words … it dazzled in mouth!
Beef tataki, ponzu/daikon vinaigrette. Excellent beef, which consistency is kept slightly firmer than what western ppl tend to prefer, but firm or tender has nothing to do with what is right or wrong. It is a matter of preference. 7.5/10
In the middle, fatty tuna/albacore/Japanese snapper 6/10 – the fish is of good quality (I liked the fresh quality of the fish that was on display and asked my waitress where the fish came from. She said it’s flown in from Japan, Canada and east coast U.S) , but I have to admit that I am picky with fish and this was the only time I thought the big gunz did better (for eg, better knife skills). That said, the big gunz like park, jun i and sushi yumi are either dedicated sushiyas (jun i and sushi yumi) or, in the case of park, reknowned for their sushi. By contrast, Nozy is not a sushiya, thus I am not expecting Nozy to showcase perfect knife skills, etc. Still, the big gunz can…. sleep away…as Nozy did far better when I am eyeing at the “big picture” (the overall food performance).
Good fresh wakame salad with the genuine flavors of Japan at the forefront 7/10,
They did present the two sets of assortments in a bento box. One part of the box concealed the previously food items. The other part had:
Black cod/miso (tasty, the classic recipe is applied not just properly but with flavors that shine 8/10), braised pork belly which showcased the homey look and dazzling comforting taste of mom-and-pop cooking (and that is a compliment) 9/10, delicious karaage (fried chicken) with a great crisp 7/10 – All in all, this was an excellent display of genuine Japanese flavors.
I skipped dessert as the dessert of the day, crepe caramel, did not interest me.
Pros: It has been a while that I haven’t felt so close to Japan..right here in Mtl! Right now, Nozy has a bigger variety of ingredients and far superior cooking at …. far less $$$ than at the supposedly “BIG GuNZ” in town.
Overall food rating : 8/10 On the culinary front, Nozy blew Jun I/Park/Sushi Yumi away. Whether those restaurants are serving the exact same type of dishes or not, that is irrelevant as I am talking about the culinary skills here. The same Japanese-inspired cooking skills that Nozy shares with the above mentioned top gunz in town. Because Nozy is not trading on the local upscale Japanese-style foodie scene (it is a neighborhood unassuming eatery, no frills, it does not have the fine dining ambitions of Park or Jun I), there is no online buzz about it. But I bet they could not careless: the tiny restaurant was full of very happy diners while I was there and their food sends the supposedly top gunz in town…to the wall of shame! I loved Nozy. It is not Tokyo nor NYC level, but it is, right now, the best Japanese spot in town. No plan is full proof (directed to you, you the supposedly big gunz in town) as Nozy has demonstrated! It was refreshing to see a Chef working seriously without the need to wait after a poster diner (some cooks in town show up only when a celebrity or a food journalist has snatched a seat), it was refreshing to eat food that did not taste like a business model (meaning replicated, copied for the sole sake of making a buck), it was, for me, refreshing ..finally, to refrain from sticking to descriptions such as “ok”, and “correct” ;). I just hope they never change under the pressure of success (a trend in Montreal).
What I think days later: As long as they can cope properly with success (because, success they will have, that is for sure, if of course, they keep the cooking performance this great ), Nozy will continue to be one serious destination for your fix of Japanese food in Montreal. I maintain what I wrote in the review of Park: for sushi, go to NYC. As long as our top local sushiyas can’t figure out a way to be consistently fine and get better, go to NYC! But for non sushi items and genuine Japanese flavors, Montreal is surprisingly not doing that bad at all (Of course it is not NYC level, let alone Tokyo level), but Japanese cooking in Montreal (we’ll get to that soon – Now that I know what I needed to know about the top pics of our local experts, I will focus on what the normal diner that I am …thinks about the true gems of Japanese cooking in Montreal) is, slowly, doing better than what it used to, and there is better than the “top choices” of the local medias / local experts. According to the local experts, Nozy is either “charming” (thanks, but that does not tell me what to expect on the culinary front) or a “safe bet” (safe way of staying safe, thanks for that, but I expect the local expert to tell me a bit more than than). Whoa! Lol. We, true foodies, won’t miss the experts, trust me …