56 Avenue Laurier O. / Ave de l’Esplanade
Telephone : (514) 276-5864
Cost:$ 134.48 ( 2 persons including tax & tip)
Chef Hats: 4.5
Restaurant Jun-I located on Laurier Avenue in Outremont is home to one of this city’s best and top Japanese sushi chefs, Chef Junichi Ikematsu. Born in Kyoto Japan, his love of cooking brought him to Montreal at the age of 17, where he continues to lead as one of the top three sushi chefs in the city. Some of us may remember him as the Executive Chef at Soto on St.Laurent Boulevard, where he manned the kitchen for many years, bringing us his wonderful creations and master skill of sushi making and fine Japanese cuisine. After the closure of Soto in 2005, he decided to open his own place with his namesake and has garnished wonderful reviews for over 12 years.
Restaurant Jun-I is not only very popular with the French Outremont crowd but with all nationalities and sushi lovers from all over the city who come to sample his classic Japanese sushi at its best; it was becoming that his dishes also incorporate and showcase some local Quebec products.
I have to admit what brought me to Jun-I this evening was pure curiosity. I have eaten in many Japanese and Sushi places in Montreal over the last 10 years, thanks to my daughter who is impassioned with Japanese culture and when I ask “what you would like to eat” her first choice is always Asian.
Over the years I have always heard a whisper of sorts when it comes to chefs who are doing great things in the city. Montreal, one can say compared to other metropolitan cities has a shortage of great and famous sushi chefs. There are many that are good, but I can only think of three that everyone talks about and that come to mind who have garnished a big reputations ; Antonio Park, Chef Tri from Kaizen and Tri Express and Nozomu Takeuchi’s of Nozy and of course Juni as everyone knows him by.
It was only befitting that I finally try Jun-I to see what it was all about. What makes or breaks a restaurant for me is not only the food which it first and foremost, but the overall experience. Décor, service, originality, creativeness and professionalism are very important and I base my reviews on if all of these criteria’s are met. Chef Junichi and the staff hit all the marks this evening on all levels. Therefore I highly recommend the place.
From reservations to end of the meal, hospitality and professionalism were at the forefront. Reservation went without a glitch even though we teetered with the amount of people attending. Final count we had to remove a few places because of last minute no shows and there were no qualms about it. The chef graciously greeted me personally, service went without a glitch and we were not asked to leave because we had exceeded the allotted time for the first service. Our dessert course was not cut short because there was a line up at the door, nor we were rushed to leave and could not complete our meal.
We arrived early and found parking right in front on the street, we walked in and found the décor to be simple, clean and not busy on the eyes. Simplicity at its best, set up like most traditional Japanese style eateries, with light colored wooden tables and chairs and an angular sushi bar (which is the best seat in the house). The décor is minimalistic, yet warm. A nod from the chef and some chit chat with our server and we were on our way to a great meal.
I started my evening with a glass of Bourgogne Vezelay wine for $ 13.00, I wanted something light and crisp this evening and was not much in the drinking mood. A few people in our dining group ordered sake to share. Restaurant Jun-I is known to have some of the best affordable and original sakés that pair well with their meals and it is worthwhile to go this route. I highly recommend this too.
For entrees we started with a phletora of items, being a big group. Some took the tasting menu at $85.00 which gave them a great sampling of chef Juni favorites.
I started with the Shika Ika for $21.00, one of the dishes on the menu that blended local Quebec products done in a Japanese style. The entrée consisted of a thinly sliced raw Venison Tataki, with pan-seared squid, onions, crispy nori and garnished with mesclun salad diabolique. The dish was a perfect starter and absolutely delicious, the venison was not at all gamey and well cured. The salty nori, onions and squid complimented the venison by adding flavor and texture to the dish. The bitter salad further enhanced adding an additional kick to the dish.
Along with the Shika Ika we shared a Kaiso Trio salad to refresh the palate for $9.00. The Kaiso was a mix of Wakame, Tosaka and Ogonori seaweed with a shiso dressing. I loved the presentation and an explanation ensued to inform about the different salads and their names. Set out nicely on a long plate, the seaweed was shaped in shredded mounds that we were able to pick up with our chopsticks and sample one of each. Although the portions were small it was suffice as a palate cleanser and it did not taste fishy or overpowering.
For my main meal I had the Spicy Kani Age sushi platter for $15.00. Five pieces of warm maki made with soft shelled crab, deep fried in Cajun spices, with avocado, cucumber centers and served with a caramel soya. Served warm, it was a pleasant surprise and at first I thought it was chicken. Very original in taste the maki’s were a perfect blend of spice and sweetness. I loved this dish and could have had more.
Also shared was the Gindara, cooked marinated black cod, in miso-yuzu, dashi and tomato fish stock, candied cherry tomatoes, edamame, salmon roe, and seaweed for $ 22.00, a tender morsel of flaky cod that just melted in your mouth.
We also shared between the table a Geinmaicha which consisted of a sampling of five plain sushi`s (without rice) of super fresh organic salmon, red tallow tail tuna, sea bass, arctic char and a scallop served with four different sauces. All the fish sampled were really fresh and even tastier especially when dipped in the various sauces which added either a light salty flavor or sweetness and enhanced the flavor of the raw fish.
For the rest of table they sampled the Dancing Unagi-$ 12.00 with-Red tuna, eel, tobiko, cucumber, avocado, the
B-52 – for $10,00, Red tuna, with spicy mayonnaise and avocado and the Arc-en-Ciel for $12,00$ which consisted of Crab avocado, cucumber, variety of other fish. All was to everyone liking and no complaints.
Two of our dinners sampled the tasting menu and found it to be a little expensive.
For dessert, I ended my meal with the Sawayaka -$12.00, a light dessert that tasted like a pancotta center thinly sliced blend of oranges, grapefruit and frozen cherry tomatoes, strawberry sherbet, topped with green tea sherbet dabs of whipped cream and flowers. Purely refreshingly cool on the palate and a good way to end the meal on a hot summer evening.
Two other desserts were sampled the choco brulee ,which was a slab of thick chocolate mousse cake with sour cream frosting and ice cream quenelles for $ 12.00 and another dessert which consisted of flan with sour cream quenelles, white chocolate shavings and a crunchy mix of nougat and nuts for $ 13.00.
We were enjoying the meal so much we forgot we passed our 2 hour mark. I was waiting for the waiter to pull my dessert from under my eyes and say we had to leave, but it did not happen. Instead he came around and asked if we wanted anything else and asked if we enjoyed our meal. We stayed passed 9 pm having more tea and lingered talking about the great meal we just had and the great service. When it was time to leave we paid and sat outside talking some more, about the evening and where we wanted to go next, till it got too late we had to go home.
A perfect evening, Thank You Chef Junichi for making our dinner a successful event, for all your hospitality and great service a very memorable evening indeed.