Disclaimer: This meal was comped.
Of all the continents, Africa has the least representation in the Montreal dining scene – not counting Australia. With a stronger showing for Northern African restaurants, the city has lately seen a modest influx in Sub-Saharan cuisines.
On this blog you will find reviews of Le Uptown and Maquis Yasolo, and today I will be adding to this list. Open since last year is Platana, where I was invited to sample some West African specialties on this Saturday night.
It took me all of five seconds to remember I had set foot at Platana's address before. Back in 2014, I was invited to a wine bar by the name of Anabel – which did not make it past the following year – at the very same spot. The new tenants took the wise decision of keeping the décor intact; its classical French charm is attractive and in perfect condition.
Underneath the speakers blasting fun afrobeats was a young crowd entirely made up of black couples – apart from my table and the one neighboring it. A good sign! After all, there is no better endorsement for a restaurant than the support of its own ethnic community.
Run by a couple with each half hailing from Madagascar and Côte d'Ivoire, Platana's offering focuses on the latter's cuisine. Although not exclusively vegan, the restaurant does promote Afro-veganism in addition to animal-centric dishes. The menu is misleading at first and gives one an impression of fast food due to its iconography, photos of soda cans and terse-to-non-existent dish descriptions.
Thankfully, this was a lesson to not judge a book by its cover – or a restaurant by its menu! Leaving the choice of dishes to our hosts, we got started with a trio of fried finger foods. Galettes "jaune jaune" avec maca consisted of golf-ball-sized fritters accompanied by vermicelli, an interesting and fun combo. Following those were excellent, crisp, African variants of spring rolls served with a sour vinaigrette.
Next up were gbofloto – how cool is that name? – which are mini fried beignets. Although not considered dessert per se, they came with a saucer of sugar if needed. With or without, I found them dense and forgettable.
The pièce de resistance was a wooden board of grilled meats with accoutrements. The chicken, lamb and fish were all a tad dry, although full of fragrance and flavour. The accompanying tomato sauce, hot sauce and tomato/onion salad livened things up and went exceptionally well with the fried rice and acheke – a granulated cassava couscous of sorts.
The new wave of African restaurants, of which Platana is a part, can only be a boon for a city lacking in this genre. Myself, I have barely had any exposure to the continent's Central and Western cuisines prior to the last two years. As such, my critique is one of an inexperienced outsider.
From my standpoint, I found the food here tasty and exotic; if in need of a little precision. If I do return, I will be sure to explore the more adventurous side of the menu, featuring awesome names such as foufou, yassa, tchep and kedjenou!
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.