Restaurant Les Pyrénées
320 Saint-Paul St West/ rue St-Pierre
Phone: (514) 842-5566
Cost: $ 139.30
Chef Hats: 3.5
Restaurant Les Pyrenees, in Old Montreal marked its 15th year anniversary last year, amid a big fanfare event honoring their 15 years of service and fine reviews honoring its hospitality. For some of us it has flown under the radar for many years and is virtually obscure. For many Montreal foodies, Les Pyrenees, sounds like a tourist trap and before we venture to its tables, we would rather try something else that is buzz worthy.
For those who don’t know restaurant Les Pyrénées, it serves traditional Basque & Catalan dishes located on a stretch of St. Paul street that is somewhat of a party scene. But this restaurant has marked itself as a top destination in Old Montreal to have great Spanish Catalonian food. To this effect, it delivers not only some perfectly Basque and Catalan cuisine but also some local favorite dishes, putting emphasizes on Quebec and Canadian produce in a chic modern setting that is trés avant garde et branché. It has to be when it is located a hop skip away from places the likes of Verses, in the Nelligan Hotel, Méchant Boeuf, Santos, Mangiafoco and the Saint Sulpice Hotel and many more.
The restaurant does not show any signs of aging and is pleasing on the eyes and the senses. Modern chic with a mix of black leather chairs and wooden tables, exposed brick and whitewashed walls, large mirrors, well stocked wine closet and a splash of writing in French above its kitchen door, gives the impression you have entered a little bistro in South West France. Its plate presentations are masterfully plated, showcasing Quebec fresh market cuisine and at the forefront of each creations, fine meats and fish that permeate each dish.
Les Pyrenees has something for every discerning palate. From gazpacho to fish soup, vegetarian dishes to Catalan Paella, seafood and lamb. Everything is carefully chosen to encompass, two continents. The mix is eclectic, French, Spanish and Canadian dishes like Angus beef from Alberta, lamb from Quebec region of Charlevoix, to Cassoulet à la Toulousaine and many more regional Basque dishes. Many items listed on their menu are gluten free and a whole section is dedicated to vegetarians. Their wine list has lots of good inexpensive Spanish and French wines listed at reasonable prices by the bottle or by the glass.
We fell onto Les Pyrennes, when my dining partner suggested she was in the mood for Spanish food, a quick search recommended a few restaurants in Montreal, most of which I had been to and wished not to return. When Les Pyrenees turned up, a remembered it has come recommended by a Latina friend who had been there a few years back and was surprised at how much she enjoyed it. Sounding too touristy for me, I placed it on the back burner till tonight. One thing about me, I like Old Montreal, when all the tourists have left, the streets have gone cold and you can see the first snowfall shimmer against the mid-century looking street lamps. Then, alone in my city, I fall in love with it all over again. It was a special occasion worth celebrating and we headed out on a warm summer night in August to crazy tourist filled street of St. Paul. One good thing, I managed to find street parking one block away, what luck! It was going to be a good night as this is a rarity.
We did make reservations and managed to get a seat by the open windows in the corner. On this quiet early evening meal, this was a good snag, we could people watch and the street noise was still at a minimum. But as the night progressed it grew louder, indifferent to the noise level at this point, we focused on the task at hand by perusing the menu and ordering two glasses of rose wine.
Our hostess was sweet and hospitable, and very welcoming, she brought us the menus and explained a few things, then handed us over to a waiter, who started making some very weird jokes that bordered crass and very uncouth. He then disappeared into the night never to return. Maybe he had smoked too much pot, if that is possible. Nonetheless, we ignored his comments, not to spoil our mood and continued on.
We received two glasses of rose, Roseline wine from South East France for $ 9.50 a glass, that paired well with the salmon tartar, and we received a meshed basket filled with freshly sliced French baguette which we swallowed up.
We decided to share an entrée of salmon tartar for $ 12.95, it came served with a small green salad, that was perfectly light and refreshing on a hot summer day. The salmon tartar was also very fresh, but lacked a little kick, it could have used a little spicing up. I ordered a Pave of Atlantic Salmon for $ 32.95 that came served with a pesto sauce, not my favorite, but it was flavorful and the salmon was perfectly cooked, with a side medley of roasted yellow peppers, green string beans and cherry tomatoes on a puree of sweet potatoes that were delicious.
The Catalan Paella for $ 36.95 was the way to go. A perfect blend of seafood and saffron rice that was rich and filling. It had generous portions of fish, clams, mussels. My dining partner loved it, especially since it was the first time she had paella and had been dying to try it.
We decided not to have dessert, as we wanted to finish off our wine in peace and head out on this lovely night. By now, the street had become very noisy with loud party revelers yelling as they passed the window, it was annoying to the senses, especially after a good relaxing meal. Our waiter was no were nowhere in sight, and it felt like eons before we could flag down someone. Almost 45 minutes later our tab showed up.
Would I recommend Les Pyrenees, for the price and quality? Honestly, I found it a little steep, at $ 32.95 for a piece of Salmon which I could have had elsewhere for almost 30% less, it seemed like a rip off. Especially since these were more like USD prices in a Canadian city. There are no ifs or buts here, it does cater to the tourists.
The ambiance is great for those who want to party on a warm summer night in Old Montreal or on a quiet winter night for that matter. Great for the ego and imagination sitting by street level in a swanky restaurant or so to speak, to watch people go by and imagine you are in the Cote of France basking in all its glory. But I not only go for the food, and a well rounded experience, but service too. There was a ‘je ne sais quoi’ about Les Pyrénées that just threw me off. The service was less than optimal, even if previous reviews were good, as special events do not count as everyone is on their best behavior, today there was a total lack of service and professionalism. For this die- hard Montreal foodie, it is a big faux-pas. There are better places around Old Montreal to have a great dinner and be wowed by original food presentations and more than excellent service. Place this at the bottom of your list, like I did for so many years.