3669 Boulevard St Jean / Blue Haven
Dollard-des Ormeaux Québec
Cuisine: Cajun Fusion
Cost: $ 132.00 Tax and tip
Chef Hats: 4
Bistro Nolah is the closest thing you will come to eating Cajun food in Montreal and one of the best things that has happened in terms of restaurant scenes in the West Island since 2012. It is a quaint little restaurant with a very quiet terrace, romantic atmosphere, exceptional food and very hospitable service. Located in Dollard des Ormeaux, it not only serves the local community but also those coming from all the rest of the island who appreciates down home southern food.
Bistro Nolah serves Cajun dishes with a twist; the plates are fused with local Quebec market products. Do not expect 100% proof Cajun/Creole at Bistro Nolah. You will also find on their menu such items as Steak frites, Duck Confit and Braised Short Ribs for those discerning palates. All dishes are beautifully presented, in a delicate manner with subtle flavors of Cajun themes, mixed in with fresh local Quebec products. Nothing is too spicy.
The meals I sampled were a real pleasure to the palate, but you have to appreciate this type of food. The reason I am saying this is from personal experience. Mainly, I know that Cajun food it not a favorite or even popular with the Montrealers. I used to give cooking courses and when looking for students, only handfuls were interested. For years I spoke of Cajun food to deaf ears, but never really took off in Montreal. I remember in the 80’s going to Cajun House downtown on a date, although a popular place and packed to the brim, the food was 911 mega hot, so spicy were the dishes, I started to have an allergic reaction to the spice and thought my guts would bust. Maybe this is how people all thought of Cajun food, too hot & spicy for them, so they stayed away
A few years later The Cajun House closed down for lack of interest and customers. At the Cajun House I got a taste of my first Shrimp étouffée. Some years later, La Louisanne on Sherbrooke opened up, it has been around for a while now, but it was never taken off as a real Cajun hot spot. I always saw it as just another bar and hangout for the locals. I heard that some chefs in the city were cooking hints of Cajun food here and there on their menus. But never a full blown menu is Montreal ever going to be ready for real Cajun food I thought.
I was introduced to Paul Prudhomme’s cookbook ‘’Louisiana Kitchen ‘’ shortly after my dinner at The Cajun House in the 80”s and I fell in love with Cajun cuisine. So much, that in 2010 I visited New Orleans ate at K Paul’s and took cooking classes at NOCE. Life has never been the same; I have become a Cajun Snob. My expertise became anything Cajun and I sold buckets of Chicken Creole and dumpling soup.
So you could imagine my skepticism when I heard Bistro Nolah had opened in The West Island. I shied away for three years for various reasons but mostly because I lack confidence in the West Island food scene and believing that it was not going to be much different from my many of the other experience I had with Cajun food in this city. Dismissing it because I thought wouldn’t last. I was totally wrong.
But it was during a Zomato meet up in spring that Bistro Nolah came up in the conversation and was strongly recommended to me by Genevieve via the Montreal Maven during our dinner. Trusting in one of my fellow foodie’s recommendations, then it must be good, so it was warranted a try.
Opened in Winter 2012, Bistro Nolah is co owned by Chef Richard Taitt (Auberge Willow’s Inn, Bistro on the Avenue and Rest Cajun Blues in Ste Anne de Bellevue) and chef Chris Eamer ( Willows Inn, Auberge des Gallants , Mimosa Cafe.) Their team is completed by Pastry Chef Isabelle Plourde. They bring lots of authentic Southern flavors and experience to the table.
One night, tired and not wanting to drive back into town, I made reservations for us to have a quiet dinner at Bistro Nolah. As we approached the gated wrought iron and brick arbor I liked what they had done with the space that previously house Momesso Cafe. The inside of the restaurant is a small nicely decorated space with dark wooden tables, chairs and flooring. The walls painted a burnt yellow like the Louisiana sun displays decor of musical jazz instruments and wall art. The terrace is spacious and privately gated with cedars and greenery. It sits on a quiet angle of a residential street, hidden a little from the traffic on St Jean’s boulevard. This is where we chose to sit on this warm summer evening with the sounds of jazz playing in the background.
We were given our menus and wine list. The wine choices are very reasonable and fair. We started with a bottle of Californian-Woodbridge Merlot 2013 from Robert Mondavi winery at $ 35.00, at a descent price.
For starters we were brought a two hush puppies amuse bouche from our more than hospitable and affable waiter Matthew. These were the perfect starters and a great entrance and introduction to this type of cuisine. Deep fried rounds of cornmeal on an aioli sauce. They were crispy and perfectly moist on the inside, with a slight hint of Cajun spice to accentuate the flavors of southern food.
Next I ordered an entree of Louisiana crab cakes $ 7.00 my next favorite thing in Cajun cooking along with beignets. Also a very flavourful mix of deep fried rounds of crabmeat, served with a medley of corn aioli sauce and chives. Rolled in cornmeal, so exterior was extra crispy and interior bursting with flavors of hot paprika and cayenne.
Frenchie ordered a cream of celery root soup -$8.00, which is his favorite. Served in a square bowl, with drizzle of olive oil and chopped chives. Perfect consistency and packed with flavors. For his main meal, he ordered the Braised Short Ribs -$26.00 with mashed potatoes puree and julienned parsnips and beets.
The ribs were fall off the bone, the sauce and jus, sitting atop some olive oil made it perfect for dipping.
I ordered the special on the menu that evening Southern Fried chicken with Nolah BBQ Sauce-$ 25.00.
It came with two pieces of fried chicken, homemade BBQ sauce, Mac n cheese and the house coleslaw. Southerners are known for their fried chicken, made in the simplest method, always perfectly crisp.
The chicken was a little overdone on the outside, but still moist. What threw this dish over the top was the homemade barbeque sauce, packed with flavor, a little sweet with a little acidic hints of vinegar and lots of spice and very tasty. I kept dipping the white chicken pieces in it. The Mac N cheese served in a small ramekin was really creamy with cheese. Very soothing and comforting even in the heat. The coleslaw was too chunky and lacked flavor.
Being full with all the food, we skipped out on the dessert, but vowed to return to try other items on their menu as they all looked equally good. The hospitality was just as sweet as Southern Ice tea and the overall feeling was very comforting. We were going to make Bistro Nolah our home in the future.