Park Sushi – Westmount

So in celebration of finishing our exams, we decided to treat ourselves to one of the most talked about sushi restaurants in Montreal. It has been quoted by MANY as the “best sushi restaurant in Montrela”. Hence, we wanted to see how “good” it is. Equipped in our team were foodies T, M, K, a Japanese authentic A, and myself. M, A and myself have all been to Japan and definitely had the best sushi of our lives there. We were excited to be able to find a place that might be able to match the quality of sushi there.

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So we arrived, and I was honestly very nervous. After our last horrible experience at Maiko, we hoped this would not be a disappointment. We were seated promptly, as T made a reservation. The waitress was very friendly, not intrusive and quite detailed. She realized that some of us couldn’t see the cocktail menu as the menus are on the three walls of the restaurant, and the angling of our seat made it impossible to see. She then ran through the list very efficiently, highlighting key ingredients without any memory lapse. Amazing. She then proceeded to explain to us the main menu.

T had ordered the kimchi Caesar, which is a regular Caesar, with kimchi juices added, garnished with a few pieces of kimchi as well. I hadn’t tried it but she said ti was very tasty. The kimchi added an interesting twist to Caesar. I’m not a huge fan of Caesars, but if you are and like the taste of kimchi, this might be one amazing drink for you. The other drinks on the menu were quite interesting too. They had a Yuzu Gin and Tonic (I was extremely tempted), Lychee Mojito, just to name a couple. I love that they just put an extra ingredient to very basic and common drinks. They don’t overdo it with too many added ingredients, ending up with a nasty tasting concoction

We decided that we would just share the sushi sets and try how good their fish was. We settled for the Sashimi Moriawase (18 pcs, 5-6 types of different fish), the Nigiri Moriawase (12 pcs, 6 types of fish), the Seasonal Maki (8-9 pcs), and the Chef Special Maki (8-9 pcs). The exact menu changes as they will change up the types of fish served in accordance to market pricing, and what’s in season.

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Regrettably, I don’t remember all the fish that we were served, but it included Salmon, Tuna, Red Snapper, Albacore and Mackerel. This was for both the sashimi and the nigiri. The sashimi was served with three dipping sauces which were absolutely amazing. The first was a sesame carrot oil mixture, very thin and didn’t appeal too much to me. The second was the basil edamame, which was absolutely amazing. The third was a mixture of cilantro, celery and tomato, chopped up with some spices. This was also very good, slightly sour and had an interesting punch to it.

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The Nigiri was garnished with different types of ingredients, including Spanish Caviar, chives, green onion. Some were also very lightly drizzled with a sauce, making the flavours more interesting, as well as melding the garnishes with the fish. I’ve been to several “Japanese fusion” restaurants to this day, and this has definitely got to be the most well done combinations I’ve ever tasted.

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The Seasonal Maki was a massive roll filled with salmon, tuna, albacore tartare in the centre, wrapped with rice and then seaweed. On top, there was a seared piece of Eel, thoroughly marinated and some more garnishings. This was absolutely amazing, and was packed with rich flavours, and was my favourite dish.

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The Chef Special Maki was an even more elaborate roll, with the same tartare as the Seasonal Maki, but the garnishings were different. It came with seared albacore, drizzled with truffle oil, topped with a slice of jalepeno peppers and a dollop of carrot puree. It was served with spicy mayo next to it for you to indulge if you so please. To be honest I didn’t taste the truffle oil, but the carrot puree and the jalopeno was genius. The spiciness of the jalapeno worked with the tartare amazingly, and the carrot puree just added that lighter taste and texture to make it interesting. I didn’t taste much of the albacore though.

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As the night was winding down, we started craving for dessert. We had heard from our waitress that there was a hazelnut cake (this was part of their $75, 5-course tasting menu). We decided to hear what other desserts they had, which included a mousse pot, with lime yoghurt at the bottom, followed by poached persimmons and chocolate mousse, then topped with a chocolate brownie on top. It came in a cute mason jar. I didn’t order it because the lime yoghurt put me off, even though I was dying to try the persimmons. They also had Seaseme, Green Tea icecream, but I wasn’t interested. So I went for the hazelnut cake. It came with two pieces of cleanly poached pear (no sauce or reductions), and pear cream on top. To decorate the plate,  pear purée  and chocolate sauce, with a small sprinkling of roughly groundhazelnuts. The cake was very dense, yet retained a lot of moisture. M, who is a patisserie chef, was wary of this cake as they are usually dry, went with the mousse pot. However, even she was surprised at the texture of the cake. The pear cream on top had a slight saltiness to it, adding amazing complexity to the whole dish.

Obviously, this is no Tsukiji Market, and we’re not being served purely the freshest fish, so don’t come in expecting that. However, they do a good job with trying to get the freshest fish they can, and create extremely interesting combinations, giving true meaning to fusion. I thoroughly enjoyed my whole experience there. Unlike most other places, which overdo the sauces and garnishings, completely masking any trace of the flavours of the fish, Park Sushi uses their additions wisely to complement the flavours of different fish. They understand the importance of getting fresh fish, and therefore did not have any set fish that’s always available on the menu.

As a note, They do omakase ($95) tasting menu which is more sushi-based than the #75 tasting menu. Both comes with soup, salad and a dessert, but the two mains are different.

I did think that they served the food a little slow, but we didn’t get any appetizers, which may have made a difference in the time we had to wait for our mains. The price is a little on the expensive side, but Montreal is not a city full of sushi options, so I’m definitely willing to pay this price. I ended up paying $50 after tax and tips, which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would’ve been. Finally, the service was quite good. It had the standards of a fine dining restaurant. They are very particular about the positioning of their bodies and limbs as they pour you water, and how they set the plates down. Obviously we moved it around to better suit our hungry needs, but you can see that they want you to enjoy the atmosphere and the mood. I absolutely loved that I never once felt rushed, or felt like I was kept waiting too long. The size of the restaurant and the layout allows the waiters and waitresses to be aware of all the customers easily

If you have a couple extra bucks to spend, and you’re a sushi lover, I do recommend this place. It has got to be the best sushi I’ve had in Montreal thus far. Our next adventure in this category will likely be Juni.

Service: 4/5
Food: 9.0/10
Atmosphere: chic, modern, fusion, rustic
Price: $40-60

Park Restaurant on Urbanspoon

~ kehwon

Dolcetto – Old Port

I called up a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time and we decided to come to Dolcetto. I had wanted to try this place on several occasions, having passed by it several times.

This restaurant does Italian-style tapas, which was something I hadn’t really tried before. I’m all for spanish tapas but was a little weary about Italian tapas…I do love my pastas!

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As a result of my craving for pasta, we ordered the Homemade Gnocchi with Truffle Cream. I have to say the look of this was not very good. It came in a dish of about 15-20 gnocchi’s , drenched in a thin truffle cream. It was very plain-looking and didn’t appeal too much to me. However, as soon as I bit into it, it was absolutely delicious! The gnocchi was of a soft, chewy, sticky consistency, and the potato mixture inside was surprisingly flavourful. The truffle cream provided that extra bit of flavour, and the fact that it was of a thin, almost soupy consistency made balance with the thick texture of the gnocchi. The spiciness of the pepper just peaked through and I kept wanting more.

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We also ordered the dish of the night, which is the Arancini with portobello mushrooms inside, topped with parmesan cheese and served with a tomato-based thin sauce that had a taste of tabasco sauce. Arancini are Italian-styled rice balls, and these were massive. I didn’t enjoy these very much, mostly because I didn’t like the sauce, but the arancini was too dry to eat by itself. The portabello mushrooms also didn’t add any significant amount of flavour to the dish, which was extremely disappointing.

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One of the main categories of dishes there was pizzas, so we ordered one. We went with the Bianca style pizza with squash, pancetta and mozzarella. Bianca pizzas are those without tomato sauce, just the pizza crust and cheese on top. The squash was sliced very thinly and seasoned with herbs. The pancetta is a type of bacon, adding just the right amount of meaty goodness to the pizza. The mozzarella was of a melted, creamier consistency. I thought this was quite well done. The portion size was perfect, and the mix of ingredients was also good. I like that they kept it simple, minimizing the number of ingredients they put onto each pizza, so I’d definitely recommend getting at least one of these!

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Finally, we had the veal cheek braised in red wine, which was coincidentally served with mashed squash. We were a little sad that we had squash in two dishes, but since both dishes were quite good, we enjoyed it. The veal cheek was tender, but was a little difficult to cut as they didn’t give us very good knives, and the piece was quite thick. There was some soft cartilage that was in there, which was a little annoying. Overall, I thought this dish was okay, but perhaps my expectations had been a little high. The flavour and texture is good, but it didn’t wow me.

I do have to say that their service is quite casual. As I walked in, the Hostess had wanted to leave the area even though she saw me coming, but since I had made eye contact with her, she had to stop half way and come back to greet me. I could totally see her thought process, where for a step and a half through her walk, she contemplated not greeting me right away. Furthermore, when I told her we had made reservations, she told me to just sit at “that middle table there”. There were two “middle tables”. She just pointed and then left to do something that I guessed was far more important.

Finally, I didn’t get any menus for at least 10 minutes. A little disappointed at that, but perhaps it’s because they want a more casual atmosphere. But in my opinion you can be casual without being cold and uncaring.

Service: 3/5
Food: 8.3/10
Atmosphere: cozy, casual, cute trinkets for decor
Price: $30-50
Dolcetto & Co. on Urbanspoon