I realize that when I wrote restaurant reviews from my trip to Washington they were very well received and I enjoyed them as well. Up until now I have not done any reviews of restaurants in my home of Montreal. The reason is that, since I do not reveal my real name and I work in the industry, the reader would have no way of knowing whether I am actually promoting the restaurant I work for. However, there are so many wonderful restaurants here that I would like to share my opinions. Since I have no plans at present to disclose where I am actually working I have decided on the following protocol: I will not review any restaurant where I currently work or have worked in the past. With that out of the way, I will move on with my first review.
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This week, my mom was in town for a visit and we ate at Café Ferreira, an upscale Portuguese restaurant on Peel Street in downtown Montreal. I had eaten at Ferreira once before I moved to Montreal, five years ago. I was very impressed then, though I don’t fully remember what I ate, just that it was beautifully prepared and very busy (I had to have my meal at the bar).
Five years later, they are still packed pretty much all the time. We went on a Wednesday night, typically not a very busy night and they had no tables available (we did not have a reservation) and like the last time, they had space at the bar. I was skeptical about not having any tables as the restaurants was only about half full when we arrived, at about 6. However, within 20 minutes every single seat was full and shortly after that, all the seats at the bar were also occupied by diners (good thing we came early). Obviously reservations are a must just about any time.
The menu emphasizes fish and seafood, though apparently the chef is also renowned for his skill with grilled and roasted meats as well. I began with pan seared octopus with potato puree and my mom had the caldo verde, a traditional Portuguese kale soup. The octopus was perfectly cooked and amazingly tender, even the smaller thinner pieces of tentacles, a sign of great skill as octopus becomes tough and rubbery if even slightly overcooked. The potato puree had bits of cilantro inside, which served as a form of palate cleanser. Unfortunately the potato came out cold. I believe it was intended to be served warm rather than hot, but as we did have a bit of a wait, it may have been sitting a while. The soup was very nice, but the star of that dish was the small amount of Portuguese sausage that garnished the soup. Not sure if it was chorizo or linguica or some other sausage (I’m not as familiar with the different sausages as I should be) but the depth of flavour was amazing.
For mains, we both had fish and we both shared each dish. The two items we ordered were salt cod with caramelized onions and potato puree, and fresh black cod with porcini mushrooms and a port reduction. Black cod is also sometimes known by the names of Butterfish or Sablefish; it is very common in the Pacific Northwest. I was obviously inspired to try the salt cod because of my recent experiments with cooking it myself, about which I posted. The salt cod was prepared beautifully, with no discernable saltiness remaining. The fish, onions, potatoes and a light tomato sauce on top contributed to making a very comforting dish. A few olives of garnish added a little saltiness back in the dish, which I felt was a good choice. But the black cod was probably the better dish, as it was phenomenal. The cod was perfectly cooked, moist and almost creamy inside. The porcini mushrooms were a perfect match with the mild cod and the port sauce tied everything together. One note - my mother was not quite as impressed with the salt cod as I was, but primarily because she began by tasting the black cod dish, which was a much stronger flavour, while I did the opposite.
For dessert, I chose a warm fig tart with sweet potato ice cream and my mom had an almond tart with pear sorbet (it was listed on the menu as a poached pear). We also each had a glass of tawny port with dessert. The fig tart was amazing, with an intense taste of figs, and it also had some very tasty slices of dried fig with it. The ice cream was very good and complemented the tart. The almond tart was very good, though the pear sorbet could have had a more intense flavour.
The service was very pleasant, especially considering we were waited on by the bartender, who was obviously quite busy running the bar as well as serving all the dining customers at the bar. We did have to wait a while between courses, to the point where it became very noticeable. Still it was a very busy night, so the kitchen probably was somewhat backed up. At least the quality remained good.
One warning about this restaurant. Be prepared to drop quite a lot of money - the prices are very high. Most of the main courses are over $30CAD with some dishes over $40. I can understand why however. They use high end ingredients and where they don’t - as in the salt cod dish - the price is substantially lower. Also the portions are generous, so they are not gouging you with those high prices - it is simply what it costs to get this much food of this caliber. The wine list offers primarily Portuguese wines with several available by the glass. The wines can also get expensive but I find this is the case many places in Montreal. They are also open for lunch Monday to Friday and have a late night menu as well. Despite a few small mistakes, I very highly recommend this restaurant - if you can afford it.