Few restaurants possess that rare ability to transport their patrons through both space and time. Tucked away on a small street linking The Bay's flagship store and Quartier des Spectacles is Café Parvis, known precisely for its instagrammable, retro decor.
I have visited this café several times over its six-year life span; eventually it became my go-to spot for a dinner ahead of a show at Places-des-Arts. Tonight would be different however; as I randomly dropped by with my wife and kids on this Sunday evening.
tagged: SUNDAY NIGHT
Parvis is a French word referring to an enclosed area next to a cathedral, which makes perfect sense considering this eatery faces the back of St. James United Church. Designed by none other than Zébulon Perron, the vintage interior portrays a unique charm thanks to dangling plants, a thick marble bar, wooden china cabinets and purposefully-unfinished walls.
While Sunday can be a slow night for some restaurants, Parvis' main dining area was booked solid with a hip, young crowd. Some couples even had to share their larger tables with others, which I am certain Health Canada would frown upon given the current COVID-19 situation!
Café Parvis' nighttime menu consists of three sections with a handful of options each. Starters are followed by sophisticated salads, available in three portion sizes. Next up, the pičce de résistance, is the list of pizzas which can be best described as experimental.
Save for the red and white margherita, there is nothing typically Italian here. The pies draw on various influences, such as an avocado-sour cream option or another one with cream of mushroom and Portobello – in previous years I ordered a curry beef pizza!
The results are somewhat mixed. On the negative side, my mezcal Bloody Mary was garnished with the worst, slimiest kimchi I have ever had. Next up, a chicken pizza with way too much poultry going on – roasted chicken, chicken velouté, fried chicken skin! – was topped with a mountain of raw, chopped cabbage; I'm not sure who on my table thought this would be a good pie!
Things get better; two salads were busy but worked well while a red velvet cheesecake satisfied. Two great appetizers consisted of an uber-melty parmesan croquette and a beautiful play on charcuterie using cured fish instead of cold cuts. Last but not least, a braised beef pizza showcased Parvis' excellent crispy, thin crust and was topped with an unusual but awesome Middle-Eastern-evoking blend of thyme, lentils and labneh.
"tomato juice, kimchi, pickles"
"romesco, peppers, arugula"
"dried albacore, smoked salmon"
"squash, tofu, coriander, ancho dressing"
"bulgur, beets, cucumber, sunflower, lemon, mint"
"garlic oil, sesame, thyme, carrot & lentil salsa, labneh, pumpkin seeds"
"chicken velouté, leek, cabbage, celery, fried chicken skin"
tagged: GOOD FOR SHARING
A trio of young waiters were in charge of the front of the house tonight. Ours had that dry, nonchalant demeanor one often finds at cool, trendy spots. While pacing was good with our plates, I cannot say the same for drinks. Our initial round took quite long to arrive and our waiter was hard to chase down for seconds.
Open from morning to late at night, Café Parvis is a great option for a coffee, a drink, a snack or a full meal. This is reminiscent of European cafés frequented by patrons during all hours of the day. With the recently-added co-working spaces upstairs, the café-and-more's versatility went up another notch.
And while I did list a handful of gripes during my dinner, Parvis is still my favorite stop in the area for a shopping break or a pre-show bite. The atypical pizzas are a hit-or-miss; but when they're a hit, they're quite something. For that reason, in addition to the space's visual appeal, I am always looking forward to coming back.
Price per person: $32.50
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.