1446 Peel St. (Between de Maisonneuve/Ste Catherine)
Telephone: (514) 848-0988
Cost: $ 111.73 (one-person tax & tip included
Chef Hats: 4.5
After 22 years in business Ferreira’s is still one of Montreal’s top dining spots. Opened in 1996, by Carlos Ferreira, it was one of the first fine dining establishments in Montreal where design and décor played a role and an integral part in a restaurant’s ambiance. It still retains some of its old charm with its ocean blue and yellow themes, its mosiac mural of heritage cracked plates, and yet today as always it is still considered to be more of a modern chic fine dining restaurant than an old school taverna.
I have been to Ferreira’s three times now since its opening I am averaging every seven years and each experience has been different every time. The menu and chefs have changed, the décor a little and yet it was on this occasion that I got to venture deeper into the restaurant, sit in back on the mezzanine level and discovered their open kitchen.The first time I visited Ferreira was for lunch with a friend not long after its opening. I ate my first Mahi Mahi on the terrasse, and till this day, the thought still makes my mouth water. The second time was a fiasco, not because of any fault of the restaurant but because of the company and the division the bill at the end of the evening. This time around the experience was so completely different and mature. I understand why people still choose to dine at Ferreira with so many good restaurants that permeate the Montreal landscape. It has aged well and matured and morphed into a doyenne like its fine wines.
Ferreira is not your typical chicken joint with roasted spicy chicken, side order of Piri Piri sauce or cod croquettes. It has never been. Instead their main goal and focus is serving the freshest fish and seafood with a definite Portuguese influence. That being said it is considered a fine dining establishment and prices are steep. Expect to pay well over $100 for a three-course meal and a glass of Douro. The crowd and ambiance are classy and the place draws all kinds of people, from foodies to tourists as well as the branché downtown crowd, if that still exists. Foremost, it remains as one of a few spots downtown that is hip and is frequented because you want to be seen dining at, all the while enjoying some fine good food.
Since 2014, João Dias has replaced Mario Tavares as chef and continues the tradition of bringing exceptionally delicious and beautiful plated presentations. Gone are the bowls of lupini beans amuse bouche set on the table at the beginning of the meal, the cod fish balls or the Chourico and shrimp style tapas. Much has been replaced with refined fish dishes and new creative presentations. Although cod, sardines and octopus still figure on the menu for those die-hard fans who find it hard to break from tradition. Their extensive wine selection still boasts some of the old favorites like Vino Verde, Douro and Porto by the glass at decent prices. Bottles may set you back a little more but worth trying is the superior wines of Douro from Mr. Ferreira’s own vineyard in Portugal.
Arriving at Ferreira late on a Saturday evening after beating traffic and circling to find parking, we found our dinner companions seated in back on the mezzanine level next to the open kitchen. I was in foodie heaven, we were next to the kitchen and I could enjoy watching the dynamics in the kitchen. Our menus were already on the table but we were one chair short, our waitress was kind enough to quickly accommodate us and set up another place immediately. We then quickly perused the menu and made our choice, as our friends were hungry.
I started with a glass of White Douro for $ 12.00 as the others already had their drinks. I ordered an entrée of Crispy Octopus to be shared with my dinning partner, also ordered was roasted grilled sardine filets and Lobster Bisque. The entrees took a while to arrive as service was slow. Some of our guests passed comments that they found the waitresses cold, unsmiling and not hospitable. I thought they were professional and serious. The place was busy and had a particular vibe as it began filling up with downtown revelers.
For our main meals many of us decided to go with the cod, which had two variations on the menu. The rest of the group ordered the Bouillabaisse and a Seafood Rice Casserole.
Our entrees arrived, the Crispy Octopus at $ 21.00 was divine, it had all the right textures and was not overcooked. It came served on a bed of black eyed pea hummus with scatters of shallots, pine nuts and topped with sea asparagus and drizzle of smoked paprika oil. The flavors were reminiscent of the ocean but not overly salty or fishy. Sheer perfection.
Lulu and Annie ordered the Roasted Sardine filets with sea salt and vegetable escabeche on olive bread for $ 12.00, which they found salty, but to be expected. Beautifully plated with the right combinations, this was a good start. Halfway through her entrée, Lulu passed the remanence of her dish to me. I welcomed and devoured the small morsels of delicious salty sardines. But I agree too much of it was overpowering and very salty in large portions. But then it comes with the territory.
For my main meal, I ordered the Seared Cod with mushroom and chourico feijoada for $ 38.00. The feijoada was served in a separate cocotte (bean pot) that was to be added to my plate as desired. The mushroom and chourico mix disappeared on the plate after the feijoada was added and was too little to really savor. As for the cabbage there was none to be seen as described. A little dab of tomato marmalade was barely visible. But what was lacking the cod made up for in tenderness and perfection. It was simply delicious. Although feijoada is a traditional Portuguese staple and side dish, the bean mixture did not do this dish any justice, something a little finer like seasonal vegetables would have been more apropos or even a variation of the feijoada would have been better. I found it too rustic. For the price of this dish I expected perfection all around, it was very steep for a slab of cod, fresh or otherwise.
Lulu ordered for her main meal the other cod dish on the menu, Porcini Crusted Black cod with Port wine sauce for $ 55.00, which I found way overpriced. The flavors were delicious, the black cod was also very tender and perfectly cooked, the port sauce was a good accompaniment, but I am not sure what made this dish overpriced by $ 17.00 at the least.
Two of our dinners had the Lobster soup flambéed with brandy, smoked almond cream, coriander sprout for $20.00 which they found to their liking and appetizing. I did not hear much else from them, but that could have also been the blaring music which now was making it difficult to talk to each other without practically yelling across the table. We kindly asked the waitress to lower the music.
As for the other main meals sampled, Annie and Danny had the Fish and Seafood “Bouillabaisse” for $ 39.00, which came served in a large Creuset and was more than ample enough for one sitting and enough to bring home. When asked how it tasted, a got a nod and an okay.
Mr. T the newest member to our team ordered the Seafood Rice Casserole for $ 40.00, which was again overpriced, but he enjoyed it immensely.
For dessert, I had my favorite Natas for $ 10.00 and an espresso. The Natas were served warm and sprinkled with icing sugar and rice pudding Ice cream and a
Lulu had the Crème Brûlée for $ 11.00 which was flavored with cinnamon & lemon, verbena and lime sorbet.
The rest of the table had reached their quota. Two hours later after completing our meal, I got the impression, no one wanted to stay. Was it the ambiance, the loud music or we just had run out of things to say? We came we conquered and ate, we paid our way and made it through the kitchen to say our Thank You and good byes. As I walked out the door and turned back to look around, I saw a mix of young and old and the music had now changed to lounge music. I came to the realization that Ferreira is a trendy downtown restaurant and on Saturday night it is more for the young than the mature dinners. What can I say, I must be getting old? Nonetheless, Ferreira is still going strong and is a good bet and a fantastic choice for fine Portuguese dining in Montreal, as there is no other like it. A must tries at least once in a lifetime, okay maybe a few times for a different experience every time.