Disclaimer: This meal was comped.
We've always felt it was a daunting task to open a new restaurant at a location where several predecessors closed. The folks over at the Tom Nacos Group don't seem to share our trepidation, opening L'Atelier d'Argentine in Old Montreal, at the corner that last housed DNA and California Dream before it. Tonight we accepted an invitation from the owners to dine at their latest joint and review it (honestly, of course).
L'Atelier d'Argentine is another example of a spot trying to fill the Montreal gap of trendy/modern "ethnic" joints. The large interior is broken down into two separate areas, each with its own bar. The sleek, modern design is enhanced with an assortment of eye-catching props such as a 360º fireplace and beautiful chandeliers.
As expected from an Argentinian restaurant, the menu features a prominent beef section of all cuts and sizes, as well as an interesting cocktail selection. The Caipirinha/cachaça (sugarcane liquor) cocktails drew our attention in particular. We quickly ordered a couple of those while we let our hostess take care of choosing our food for us.
"Fontina, caramelized onion. Smoked ham, bacon, provolone. Hand carved beef, smoked paprika. Sweet yellow corn.". Four empanadas with a flaky dough that just melts in your mouth. The corn and cheese empanadas had a mild earthy sweetness, while the ham and beef (best of the four) ones were slightly smoky.
"short fin corvina, red onion, lime, olive oil, smoked chipotle flakes, yellow bell pepper, avocado salad". Excellent flavour combination. The rich avocados against the lime juice and the crunchy homemade waffle chips really made the dish. The corvina wasn't spectacular but it added a needed brininess to round off everything.
"chilled summer gazpacho, cucumber & mint salad". A tomato-less gazpacho with a sweet cucumber/melon base and refreshing mint. Cilantro added a citrusy twist that we enjoyed. The soup worked well as a palate cleanser before our main dish and might be a good appetizer on a hot, sunny day.
"Pan seared Chilean seabass, mango, roasted bell pepper & arugula. Grilled hanger steak with chimichurri & criolla sauce.". The fish was perfectly cooked, and together with the mango, peppery arugula and sweet mellow pepper, played a great symphony. The steak had a delicious caramelized crust with a perfect medium-rare temperature. The beefy flavour worked well with the chimichurri, but was perfect with the acidity and freshness of the salsa criolla.
"watercress and basil salad, Reggiano". We would describe this as a fancy Caesar salad. Fresh peppery watercress, slightly anise-y basil, and creamy Reggiano combined for a clean fresh taste.
"potato and goat cheese gratin". There was no extra richness or tanginess from the goat cheese and had they not told us it was used, we would not know it. It was a standard issue mash to us.
"dulce de leche stuffed crepes, honey roasted walnuts, sugar burnt bananas, almond crusted vanilla glace". We are not usually dessert people but we can say this was one not to be forgotten. The thin crepes wrapped around bananas and an abundance of dulce de leche were decadent and not overly sweet. The vanilla ice cream (a separate dessert actually) with crunchy almonds was divine, especially with the crepes.
Given the invitation, we can only assume that the people at L'Atelier d'Argentine were putting their best foot forward to impress us, which they did. The food offering was definitely enjoyable, be it for the emblematic "asado", the seafood dishes or the fabulous dessert we sampled. As is our custom, we will have to come back for a second, unannounced visit before we can give our final verdict.
tagged: DESERVES A RETRY
Price per person: $40.50
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.