Westmount has often been a tough market to crack for higher-end restaurants. While longtimers such as Taverne sur le Square, Vago and PARK have secured a dependable clientele thanks to their reputation and excellence, others failed to attract the moneyed neighborhood over a prolonged period.
Central Brasserie, Lea, Parm, Kavos and Brasserie Lucille's only lasted a couple of years despite putting forth seriously-solid food. A more recent entrant is Balos, a Greek restaurant occupying a Sainte-Catherine Street corner, which is nearing the two-year mark. After a pleasing first dinner here last month, my wife and I decided to return with our kids to celebrate Mother's Day.
tagged: SUNDAY NIGHT
A habitually-busy spot, tonight was no exception. Even the street-side patio in front was nearly packed despite the cool evening weather. We were quite lucky to nab a table, given we only decided to go out that same morning and called in at the 11th hour – it took a little bit of convincing but we were accommodated.
Inside, large family gatherings of all ages filled the elegant space, which is highlighted by exposed brick walls and mosaic tiling. Navy blue accents are sprinkled throughout to add a Mediterranean touch. Patrons are predominantly Anglophone and well dressed, which comes as no surprise for Westmount.
Named after one of Crete's most iconic beaches, Balos pushes forth a menu covering everyone's favourite Hellenic dishes. From bright salads and mezes to grilled surf and turf paired with Greek and European wines (many available by the glass), the bountiful menu is hard to pick from.
Prices can be viewed as steep – $20+ for starters, $40+ for mains – but considering the generous portion sizes and going inflation rate, I believe those are acceptable. Our starters marveled, beginning with a bright Greek salad and giant white beans in a zesty tomato sauce, and ending with the best calamari I have had in a while.
We also had a pile of fried veggie – eggplant and zucchini – chips, but those were standard grade. Main dishes follow a simple flavor profile consisting of lemon and oil, but that's all you really need when the main ingredient – shrimp, scallop, chicken – is tender and grilled to perfection.
If I were to nitpick, I would argue that the banal plate presentations and basic side vegetables do not match the restaurant's refinement. Finally, for dessert, our loukoumades were commonplace and satisfying, while a baklava cheesecake was creative and splendid.
For our second go here, we were served by the same waitress again. We knew we were in for a treat, as we really appreciated her the first time around. Her caring, motherly nature combined with the flowers we were offered fit perfectly with Mother's Day. Pacing was done right with our starters arriving fast – good when you're hungry – while mains and desserts left some breathing room in between.
A word for "on top of the sea" in ancient Greek, Balos sure measures up to its name. Granted a couple of dishes could use some polishing up and a finishing touch, but the overall experience is excellent. From the posh background and classy vibe to the authentic Mediterranean food and convivial service, every mother in the house tonight must be more than pleased with the choice of restaurant.
Hopefully this upscale Westmount estiatorio reverses the trend and sticks around for years to come.
Price per person: $63.42
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.