The subject of tonight's review is widely considered one of the best Italian restaurants in town; a scouring of the web places Nora Gray in the top three. Founded by a trio of Liverpool House alumni exactly a decade ago – and situated on a retail-scarce stretch of Saint-Jacques road – this ristorante caught the Griffintown restaurant wave early on.
A dinner here circa 2015 put Nora in the "gray" area for me – no pun intended; the food was good, but not top-three material. I am a bigger fan of the trio's second operation: Saint-Henri's stellar pizzeria Elena – reviewed last spring. As such, I figured I would revisit the beloved Nora Gray for some takeout on this Thursday night.
Named after two of the owners' grandmothers, Nora Gray appropriately proposes a homey, rural yet soigné version of Italian cuisine. Under the current COVID-19 climate, the restaurant was redone as a cantina, open for takeout from Thursday through to Sunday evenings.
Food orders can be supplemented with a selection of jarred pantry items or a bottle from the restaurant's celebrated wine collection, which leans natural and European. So how did the food fare tonight? Starters were not without fault: a winter salad played nicely with textures but came with a boring dressing, while a minestrone traveled poorly with the veggies absorbing all the broth.
As for our mains, two homemade pasta dishes; those were terrific. A garganelli with braised rabbit and turnips was particularly rich and decadent. Unfortunately, portions are small given the price; individual dishes are not that pricey, but your total will add up if you're worried about satiety.
One of the draws at both Nora Gray and Elena is a fun and hip yet casual atmosphere like no other. There is a palpable coolness and exuberance shared among owner, staff member and patron alike – which almost makes me wish I worked there!
Alas, none of that applies to takeout; which is not the restaurant's fault obviously, but it still takes away from the whole experience. In the end, this modern Italian eatery pushes comforting, grandma-worthy classics; but given the reputation and price point, I was expecting perfection.
tagged: PLAN B.
Price per person: $41.25
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.