The Montreal restaurant scene is notoriously short on refined or ambitious "ethnic" food, save for a few exceptions such as Su, Raza and Damas. Open just over a year ago, Mezcla seems to fill that hole, serving nuevo latino cuisine using "produits du terroir". Following Lesley Chesterman's positive review and a bit of social media buzz, we decided to check it out for ourselves.
Located on a quiet residential street at the Eastern edge of the Village, facing a playground, everything about Mezcla's situation and exterior screams "neighborhood restaurant" (hold your breath). The dimly-lit, minimally-decorated interior features a few large paintings and an open-concept kitchen. The dining room was about half full on a Thursday night, mostly with a middle-aged clientele.
As advertised, the menu features a selection of Latin dishes boasting local ingredients. We also saw a couple oddballs, such as a joue de boeuf façon bourguignonne, that didn't speak anything Latin to us. However, what really shocks you here is the pricing. With a few starters and mains breaking the $20 and $40 mark, respectively, the restaurant's "neighborhood" label is out the window!
"pieuvre d'Espagne, émulsion à l'olive noire de botija, cancha, coriandre, huile d'olive XO". Thinly sliced octopus drenched in a very interesting (although excessive) sauce which hits your senses from many directions. The brininess from the emulsified olives with toasted cancha and coriander work well with the succulent octopus and keep your taste buds excited.
"poisson & fruits de mer selon l'arrivage". The highlight of the evening! A generous portion of cut-up squid and fish swimming in a non-typical leche de tigre sauce, served with fried sweet potato and yuca shavings, canchas and white corn, all for garnish and texture. Excellent, but worth $24 for a starter? We're not so sure.
"fumé minute au bois de caryer, courge musquée, légumes du moment, cèpes, laque érable/gingembre/panka". The ribs are smoked right at your table under a glass dome. Their cooking and flavor were excellent, but we didn't find the accompanying bok choy and mushrooms a good match, not to mention that everything wasn't hot enough.
"aubergines, citron vert, coriandre, chili, fèves de lima". A generous piece of perfectly cooked halibut with a side of roasted eggplants. The whole dish worked well, but we did not find it to be spectacular, especially not at $41.
"dulce de leche al amarula, crumble/amandes, grué de cacao, caramel craquant". This was a very good end to our meal. The dulce de leche complemented the (caramelly) lucuma without overwhelming it, and the cocoa nibs and almond powder added a welcome texture.
Our waitress for the evening was friendly and knowledgeable, but really slow at first. It probably took us over half an hour before we were able to place our order. We also noticed the bar and kitchen staff having long discussions with a couple of the waiters right in the dining area. Not exactly appropriate in our opinion, but not something that completely ruined the experience either.
tagged: WHERE'S THE WAITER?
Our first time at Mezcla had its shares of ups and downs. Ultimately, what really stood out was our final bill. We may justify paying upwards of $100 per person before tip (no wine) for a ritzy setting or a world-class chef, and although the food tonight did show ambition and creativity, we did not feel the overall experience was worth the price tag. That being said, a second visit will be required to give a final verdict.
tagged: DESERVES A RETRY
Price per person: $59
"how spectacular can halibut be? did you have spectacular halibut before? If yes, where was that?"
"Halibut's hearty flaky texture and mild flavor makes it a great flavor vehicle for any dish; and at $41 we were expecting something somewhat spectacular!"
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.