(Formerly Les Deux Singes de Montarvie)
176 Saint Viateur West Street/Esplanade
Phone: (514) 278-6854
Cost: $ 103.21
Chef Hats: 4.5
Ile Flottante located in Mile End has garnished fav reviews from the onset, formerly called Les Deux Singes de Montarvie, everyone has seen its meteoric rise on Trip Advisor to number # 1 for many years. Started by Chef /owner Sean Murray Smith and Nada Abou Younes circa 2006, thirteen years later it still holds true to its basic formula, with some variances only to its menu and size of the premise. Packed nightly, the clientele ranges from local thirtysomethings to an older clientele that truly appreciate fine cuisine. It would be wrong to say that Ile Flottante is pretentious or too branché, they are very hospitable and the mood is totally relaxed. The food is out of this world, original in concept, with beautifully presentations that are skillfully mastered and gorgeous to the eye. A little expensive, for the typical diner who wants to get a cheap eat. Ile Flottante is tasting menu only, there is no a la carte menu or paper menu at all. You are given three options, depending on your budget which sets the price range. The tasting menu starts at $50, $70 and $90 for a seven-course meal. Everything else is a surprise and left to your imagination. The waiter explains your dish as it is set before you.
Ile Flottante is not a dessert place, contrary to what the name means. Although you can sometimes find it on the menu. The name of French origin, is a dessert shaped like a floating island made of merengue and English custard. The name came about after renovation in 2018. The restaurant was totally revamped and extended, and renamed after Ile St Helene, which looks like a floating island and has a special childhood significance to the owners. The design rather contemporary was refreshed with wooden floors, dark walls and furniture overtones subdued lighting and encased glass bar and open kitchen. The theme was inspired by glass pyramid of the Canadian Pavilion at Montreal’s Expo ’67, it ends here. Not kitschy in any way or reminiscent of the 60’s, it is all purely modern. The ambiance is cool and chic, the atmosphere is relaxed. The menu changes almost monthly and seasonally and if you are a foodie, you will love this place.
I visited Ile Flottante at the end of April with my girlfriend Lulu, who tries to go monthly to experience their eclectic menu of seasonal local produce. It is a feast for the senses and the eyes. The night we visited, we went with the five-course meal and a glass of bio-organic orange wine for $15.00.
We started our meal with an amuse -Bouche that came served atop a ceramic tureen. A little tart made with spelt and Nordic shrimp in an aioli sauce with three beans peas and fava beans and chickpeas. The idea was ingenious and different, the little tart was delicious. It does not end there, once eaten, we opened the tureen to discover, a puree of green bean soup, and a sherbet infused with infusion of celery and fennel and drizzle of mint oil. A pleasure to the senses and a wonderful start.
The second dish was a pave of Smoked eggplant terrine, with tomato, parsley, layered with slices of Zachary Cloutier sheep cheese (from the Eastern Townships), a hollandaise sauce, topped with fried basil and drizzle of olive oil. An original ingenious variation of eggplant parmesan. Beautifully mastered and totally savoury.
Thirdly we sampled a salad of caramelized endives, poached pear, grilled oyster mushroom made with a lingonberry vinaigrette, toasted sunflower seeds; and a dab of crème fraiche with dehydrated balsam fir and pansies for garnish. Lingonberries are edible fruit from a short evergreen shrub in the heath family that bears edible fruit, native to boreal forest and Arctic tundra throughout the Northern Hemisphere from Eurasia to North America. Lingonberries are picked in the wild and used to accompany a variety of dishes in Northern Scandinavia and Russia, now we can find them in Canada. Another hit, this dish was a mix of freshness, bittersweet and a complete delight.
The fourth dish was a huge disappointment and not edible, a bed of Dupuy lentils and rice, topped with marinated pork belly cooked sous vide, spinach, and poached leeks, in came in a sauce made with fresh artichoke, dill oil, topped with an egg, and a scatter of microgreens. We took a few bites, both Lulu and I agreed that the flavors were off. The smell in itself was not to our liking. A cross between musty and stinky feet, after a few bites it was repugnant. The texture of the pork belly was also not a good match, the dish was pushed aside.
The fifth dish was a trio of Barbeque Black Cod with wild onion pesto, a beurre blanc sauce infused with lime juice, an avocado tartar with a drizzle of jalapeno oil, and a mini sampler of microgreens, broccolini and lettuce. The Black Cod was tender and perfectly cooked, the tartar was also to our liking and very flavorful. I loved the hint of spice in the avocado tartar and the salad was also a good combination and a great way to refresh the palate.
For Dessert we received four maple shaped biscuits on clove infused snow, a mix between ice crystals made of pear poached in syrup and buttermilk sherbet, two of the cookies were made with maple meringue, and the other two were regular thin wafer maple cookies. So cute and so apropos to complete our Montreal dinner. Who would have thought those Trip Adviser reviews are actually true.
I strongly recommend Ile Flottante, I was pleasantly surprised. Usually, I like to know ahead about the menu before ordering, thus, it is why I am not a big fan of discovery type restaurants. Aside from that one dish, everything else was exceptional in every way. I bet they are no longer serving the pork belly dish.