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Too Many Identities?


The Pitch

Most restaurants are easily identifiable and fall within recognizable genres: Steakhouse, taco stand, pizzeria, shawarma joint, ramen bar, etc.  Others are not tied to a specific cuisine but rather a theme: market, local, seasonal, vegan, fusion, etc.  Tonight's protagonist goes even further, adopting a handful of concepts into one.

Situated right next to the beloved and popular Le Jellyfish – reviewed twice here – in  Old Montreal is its younger brother Pubjelly.  While the former provides an upscale, snazzy and trendy proposition revolving around both raw and charcoal-grilled foods, the newcomer – which shares partial ownership as the name implies – leans more casual and pub-ish – again as the name suggests.

For our dinner tonight, it was surprisingly easy to find a nearby parking spot in this normally-impossible area.  Perhaps with Canada Day and moving day right around the corner, folks had other things to do than going out for dinner on this Friday night.

tagged:  DITCH THE CAR

The Mood

Mood image

Upon approaching the patios of both Pubjelly and Le Jellyfish, we immediately noticed they were both packed.  Stepping inside the former, we were faced with a different story.  Not a single table was occupied in the spacious dining room; my wife and I would be the first to do so.  Once again it seems Canada and moving days are keeping people away from the nightlife scene.

As the weather outside cooled down, a handful of tables did fill up around us throughout the evening.  The dιcor inside does make use of a pub-like color palette thanks to dark wooden surfaces and leather seats, but the setting is swankier than that of a watering hole and is more akin to a gastropub.


The Food

Food Image

Although genre bending may be acceptable with limits, Pubjelly seems to have taken this to new heights.  From the oyster bar to the pizza oven inherited from La Pizzaiolle (its predecessor in the same locale), not to mention the menu's selection of raw items and market cuisine, there is a lot going on here.

For starters, we opted for tapas-style plates such as cauliflower tempura, which featured battered and fried buttery florets.  A seared zucchini order was lacklustre and needed more texture and zip, while a tuna pastrami dish worked thanks to its smokiness and accompanying pickles.

food image

For mains, we chose two different pizzas – which are Roman al taglio style – in two different sizes, which are served cut up into triangles.  A more lopsided experience I cannot think of.  A white pie with twelve-hour-braised beef shank, oyster mushrooms, caramelised onions, Boursin and bufala tasted like – frankly – nothing.  To make matters worse, it was baked to a hard, blackened crisp; so much that shards of it cut up my palate!

On the other hand, a mixed-mushroom pizza with bufala, mozzarella and tomato sauce was quite marvelous.  Cooked to a perfect firm-on-the-outside and soft-on-the-inside with a sweet and tangy sauce and a burst of ‘shroom flavour, I was left wondering how the same staff and oven can produce these two widely-divergent pizzas!


The Service

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The slow night – at least inside – meant we had the full attention of our waitress, who was cordial and helped us navigate and pick from the menu based on hunger level.  Alas it also meant that she was cut in mid-service, from which point we got a replacement.  Both were fine and efficient, but I would have liked to be asked how dinner went at some moment; I would have certainly pointed out that burnt pizza!

The Verdict

Verdict image

With so many descriptors to throw at Pubjelly – pub, raw bar, pizzeria, etc. – I am not quite sure how to properly assess it.  I frankly do not see it as a gastropub, much less a pub.  I need to see some form of "grub" on the menu whenever the word "pub" is thrown.  I can't call it a pizzeria either considering the rest of the menu which does not necessarily complement a pizza order.

I see Pubjelly as more of a chic wine or cocktail bar, where one goes for drinks and bites to share in a group.  That said, if I were in the mood to sip on a cocktail, consume dinner and have fun, I would just go next door to Le Jellyfish instead.  I may have to spend more, but I'm guaranteed a better meal, a fabulous time and an intact palate there.

tagged:  PLAN B.

Price per person:  $32.67

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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.

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