Early last year, notable chef Joe Mercuri opened his eponymous restaurant on the western fringes of Old Montreal. This would mark the end of Joe's hiatus following the surprising closure of his acclaimed, enRoute 2004 winner Bronte. After driving around in pursuit of a parking spot for what felt like an eternity, we finally took advantage of the much-needed valet service before walking in for our first visit here.
tagged: DITCH THE CAR
Mercuri comprises two sections with distinct menus; upon clearing the stairs at the front, a fine dining room lies to your right and a bar area ahead. We opted for the latter, and were pleased to see the famed chef on duty (a rarity among peers); plating and dishing at the wood/charcoal oven taking center stage in the trendy, dimly-lit space blasting uptempo tunes to the ears of the uber-hip young crowd.
tagged: SEE & BE SEEN
The Italian "based" menu simply lists ingredients and leaves preparation up to the chef (as is the trend in recent years). It consists of various market fresh items and a (most likely) grilled protein, which means the menu changes often.
"coffee, capers, fingerling potatoes". A simple, perfectly grilled octopus that had a subtle charcoal taste and floral hints of coriander seed. The potatoes were nicely cooked and the capers added some tang; but we were left looking for the coffee flavor that was supposed to be the base for the sauce.
"potato purée, truffle fonduta". Mozzarella di Bufala, when fresh, soft and moist (which was the case), doesn't require much on the side to shine. That is precisely what bothered us here; the purée and fondue didn't work. The mixture was too warm for the cheese, and could have used a spoon it was so "soupy".
"on the bone, piri piri, farro, roasted carrots". We rarely order chicken at a restaurant but boy were we glad we did. This bird was a BEAST; half a flame-broiled chicken cut in large chunks with perfect juiciness and heat. Once again there was a cutlery issue as the meager knife on the table just couldn't cut it (pun intended).
"fingerling potatoes, oyster mushroom, swiss chard". You can't go to a fire pit and not try steak when on hand! The meat was deliciously beefy and cooked to perfection, picking up great flavors from the flame. We did not appreciate, however, receiving it already sliced; and we wished there were more mushrooms on the plate.
"buttermilk ice cream, whipped maple, pecan". The ingredients here combined for a wonderful, just sweet enough dessert. The textures were also spot on with the soft, rich ice cream against the crunchy pecans; although we found the waffle a little too hard and crunchy for our taste.
While our waiter was courteous and very helpful when asked for suggestions, we had an issue with his timing. It took him a while to get our first round of drinks in, although he managed to keep them coming later. We also had to remind him of our coffee which arrived a little late after dessert.
Without being fans of the aforementioned Bronte, chef Mercuri's reputation had much to do with raising our expectations. While we found small fault with the food and service, the overall proposition was solid as anticipated. Between its one-of-a-kind fire pit and smart setting, there is no denying that Mercuri has turned up the heat in Old Montreal. Our curiosity to try the fine dining side has been piqued.
tagged: DESERVES A RETRY
Price per person: $54.50
"Great review, great restaurant.
This review is spot-on. It helped us pick the perfect location for my wife's birthday occasion. 514eats website is really easy to use and allowed me to very quickly find the just the right place. Picking a restaurant has never been so easy!
As mentioned in the review - "ditch the car"! And expect the menu to vary.
Thanks again for the great write-up and for helping us out!
Keep up the good work!"
"Thank you "Casual", we appreciate the kind words. Keep coming back :)"
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.