ManAboutMTL

MTL Resto - Ikanos

Open around Grand Prix weekend, Ikanos quickly started surfacing among foodie insider circles, but without a lot of the press buzz t...


Open around Grand Prix weekend, Ikanos quickly started surfacing among foodie insider circles, but without a lot of the press buzz that usually accompanies a new place on the scene; we were at once intrigued, and so wasted no time in arranging a chef tasting one recent Friday night. Fast forward through our experience that evening, and we’re confident it won’t be much longer before it’s one of Old MTL’s toughest tables to snag.


Located on McGill Street’s ever-expanding 'restaurant row', it distinguishes itself by offering a welcome twist on the city’s classic (and predictable) psarotaverna (translated to 'fish tavern', i.e. Montreal's typical Greek restaurant) menu of fried calamari, saganaki,and tzatziki. Billing itself as ‘contemporary Mediterranean with Greek influence’, we learned it is by the same team as the former Plateau resto, Tasso bar a mezze.



The long, narrow room feels warm (not easy to achieve with this kind of space), with a bar separating the front and back sections, and a style we describe as organic, updated industrial trendy with a hint of nautical.

With the front part filling the night we were there, the two of us opted for the quieter bar seating close to the kitchen. Particularly for a blind tasting, it’s something we do (and suggest our readers do!) to maximize interaction with the staff and facilitate sharing and comparing. As an aside, a lot of restaurants offer bar seating either in front of an open kitchen or the actual bar, but there is only a handful where it truly enhances the experience. This is one of them. 


Start by perusing the cocktail menu, but don’t miss the Aphrodite (vodka, Chambord, eau de fraise, sparkling wine, and strawberry sugar), or the Betty Boop (Jim Beam Bourbon and black cherry liqueur and cherry bitters). Both were fresh-flavored and nicely opened our appetite for what was to come.


First up was the citrus cured hirame fl­uke with lobster roe, lemon mint yogurt, and pettinicchi lemon oil. Rich an buttery, the fish was well balanced with freshness of the yogurt and tartness of the lemon. Served with a chardonnay, this plate had ‘winner’ written all over it.


Our next course was the house’s Greek salad, grilled octopus, and gigantic Josper grilled shrimp. Probably the most traditional dishes of the evening, the salad was superb and the seafood perfectly cooked and succulent, with nothing more than a squirt of lemon required. As we learned, a ‘Josper’ is a specific type of charcoal oven, a novelty in North America, which produces a unique, robust flavour, and maximum tenderness as it slow cooks food over firewood.


Continuing with seafood we next had the seared scallops, foie gras terrine, peas and apricot, pea purée. The scallops had just caramelized enough on the outside, while remaining fork tender, and were well balanced with the rich foie gras, and bright pea purée – not to mention a nice touch introducing a French element to the meal!


Our next plate, seared red snapper and orange braised fennel ravioli with a saffron fi­sh fumet scored a bit less than the rest. Although the ravioli were a tad chewy, the fish was flaky and delicate and the fumet (or light fish stock) nuanced in flavour.


Just when we thought we were done like, well, dinner, out came the white butter lobster tail with rabbit ballotine, white asparagus, morrels, terragon cream, and polenta. While a rich dish overall, not to mention a first time seeing lobster and rabbit together, the textures and consistency were all spot on, and the kitchen once again flexed its considerable talent by introducing a few Italian elements. Bravissimo!


Needless to say we finished off every plate until we had to tell them to stop; true confessions are that we never made it to dessert! As for service, props have to go out to the entire staff for top-tier attention throughout, especially chef Constant Mentzas who regularly checked on us to see how things were going. What a difference when you KNOW the room you’re in is on top of their entire operation.


As we left we noted an attractive framed display of various fishhooks by the entrance, and thought about how it perfectly conveyed Ikanos’ spirit; nothing cliché or over the top, but instead well-executed, original, clean, simple, and fresh. All in all our #1 spot thus far in 2014!


IKANOS
112, McGill Street, Montreal
(514) 842-0867

D.G.

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