We have long had an appreciation for chef Junichi's work dating from his Soto days well over a decade ago. As for the eponymous Jun I, which we haven't been to in years, our consensus is that the sushi offering fared much better than the more inventive fusion side. What brought us here tonight was a one-time collaboration with chef Nick Hodge from Icehouse, our favorite casual eatery in town.
The event spanned two services on a Sunday night, at 6:30PM and 9:30PM. Our evening started a little sour as we showed up for the later sitting and were made to wait a while for our table, while other diners that came in after us were seated immediately. We also had to wait what felt like an eternity before finally seeing our waiter at around 10PM…
The $75 "Kyoto vs Austin" menu listed seven courses, with each chef alternating a course, to finally unite for the dessert finale. Instead of dishes clearly identifiable as either Japanese or Texan, each course actually combined elements and ingredients from both cuisines.
"with lemon, M. Legault cucumbers & strawberries, umeboshi-buttermilk vinaigrette & wasabi Fritos". Tasted as good as it looked, a delight for all senses really. Strong flavour from the kohada (a herring family fish) was contrasted with sweetness, tanginess, and freshness; while the Fritos added a necessary crunch to make this delicious dish complete.
"Pigeonneaux Turlo porc consommé, freshwater shrimp gelé & freshwater shrimp". The shrimp was sweet and delicate; and while the consommé was flavourful, it was standard issue and not too exciting. The choice of spoon also made it somewhat difficult to get enough of it.
"Barbequed Kamouraska eel tostada with nori". The sweet eel was certainly a welcome change from your regular tostada. However, we found the nori flavour absent and could have done without it.
"a) tai kobujime, maple syrup sauce, dashi, eggplant, shitake, b) hotate pogo, umeshiso, Cajun spice, beet salad, c) satsuma taco, grouper, yuzu salsa". The star here was the tai, a cured fish served in dashi that was subtly flavoured with maple syrup, and a burst of umami from the eggplant and mushrooms.
"with kombu, green beans, organic shiitake, fish sauce caramel & shiso chimichurri". The shiso worked wonders in this zesty chimichurri that brought life to the rich smoked brisket. We also loved the deep earthiness of the shiitakes.
Keeping it simple and letting the fresh fish shine through: sweet BBQ eel, a bold mackerel as well as the lighter Spanish version. The toro maki was as expected: rich, melt-in-your-mouth fatty texture.
"a) sopapillas, satsuma pudding, QC honey, sesame, roasted marshmallow, b) hojicha tea mousse & genoise, green tea meringue, peach & pear compote, ginger bavarois". Both desserts did not appeal to us. We are not fans of green tea or meringues, and our first experience with satsuma (a citrus fruit) was not an enjoyable one.
tagged: TASTING MENU
"Preferential treatment" would sum up our impression of the service tonight. Between the episode at the door we alluded to above and our waiter handing out our dishes hurriedly while taking his time to explain every detail to the neighboring tables, we were almost wondering if we did something wrong to deserve this. We actually recall the complete opposite from the same waiter years ago.
tagged: ARE YOU IN A HURRY?
As big Nick Hodge fans, tonight we got what we came for; a more upscale version of Icehouse spiced up by Junichi's creative, exotic side. The problems with the service notwithstanding, we were treated to an unusual fusion of styles, producing what we can best describe as the dinner version of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill movies, what with the samurai sword-wielding cowboys in the American desert!
Price per person: $75
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.