Around since 2011, the Ryu brand followed an atypical, slow journey toward expansion. What started as a trendy, Japanese tapas operation on Laurier – reviewed here – turned into a mini empire of quick, casual outposts in Laval, downtown and Trudeau airport.
While the inaugural location folded last year, a new addition joined the fray this August on the corner of Sainte-Catherine Street West and Westmount's posh Greene Avenue.
The narrow, window-overloaded space which last housed a jewelry store has been beautifully redone using white oak tones and matching stone. The mood was quiet with a mid-full dining room; ironically for Anglo Westmount, the crowd was heavy on French-from-France types. In terms of the level of comfort, the interior was cold beyond enjoyment – perhaps the high ceilings and abundance of glass are to blame?
A significant departure from the initial Laurier location's inventive/fusion proposition, the newcomer sticks closer to sushi tradition with a focus on sustainable sourcing. A short selection of starters is followed by a nice variety of nigiri, sashimi and maki – classics and specialties – available à la carte or omakase (chef's selection).
The sushi put forth was beautifully plated in the middle of the table and prepared in a way to let the ingredients shine. The freshness and quality are there, but come at a premium; with a sizeable proportion of 2-piece nigiris or 6-piece makis exceeding $15, your meal will cost you!
What I thought would be a busy night judging from OpenTable's limited availabilities proved wrong, as several tables were free when my wife and I arrived just shy of 8PM – the cold weather is sometimes to blame for no-shows. As such, our request to change our initial, draft-exposed table by the entrance was duly accommodated.
And while the cold was still felt in our new location, the staff did their best to turn the heating up upon request. Asides from our first round of drinks taking too long to arrive – perhaps due to the table change – everything else went smoothly as far as our waiter was concerned.
I normally do not look for animal or ecological responsibility when picking my restaurants; but when married with a good product, it is something I can get on board with. Dinner at Ryu tonight checked a lot of those boxes; attractive space, ethical sourcing, fresh sushi…
With the Westmount eatery's doubling as a daytime matcha bar and the coming return of the Laurier location, the Ryu banner seems to be in full expansion mode. So while the mercury was not rising fast enough tonight, the empire appears to be on fire right now.
Price per person: $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.