586 Rue Villeray/ rue St. Gérard
Phone: (514) 277-3339
Cost: $ 97.50 one person, tax, tip included
Chef Hats: 4.5
If you are looking for a fantastic little charming French BYOB place to dine at Restaurant Tandem maybe the place for you. Located in the Villeray district, it is not just a local restaurant that meets all the criteria for a fine dining experience, it is a notch above the rest. These days, a good bring your own wine restaurant is a rarity. We can only count a dozen BYOB restaurants in Montreal that cater to foodies. Of course, you can always go the casual cheap route of Greek brochetterie’s and less than mediocre Italian food; as those are still readily found. But if you have a finer palate, these types of restos may just not make the cut. They never do in my book.
Instead, Tandem will inspire you. A true neighborhood gem, it opened in 2011 and remains in semi obscurity to many Montreal diners, who do not care to venture off the unbeaten path. Who wants to dine in Villeray, it seems so boring, there are so many fun, good and cool restaurants in Old Montreal and Griffintown? Yes, but sometimes you just want to go to a quiet low-key place, in a neighborhood that is not often frequented and maybe closer to home. It may be one of the reasons, the locals want to keep a secret. Nothing is more disappointing when looking for a desperate night out to dine at your favorite place and it is all booked up.
Tandem’s inception began with real life partners Chef Pascal Turgeon and Ericka Soleilhac, nine years ago. It was as fantastic back then as it is today. This foodie has been there numerous times over the years and can vouch that it never disappoints. For a small restaurant Tandem is the epitome of restaurant professionalism. Their mission has not wavered over the years and continues to serve nothing but awe-inspiring market cuisine, beautiful plate presentations and plethora of discovery menus. A true foodie paradise, they have built quite a loyal cult following, and not just locally as people come from afar. Also don’t let the BYOB appellation fool you, it is not cheap. Reservations are also a must and should be booked well in advance for this 34-seat restaurant, as it fills up quickly.
Tandem’s à la carte menu is displayed on a blackboard on the wall on west side of the room. It can be the cheaper route to go if you are not willing to spend lots of money. But the best way to benefit from all the good food at this restaurant is definitely one of the discovery menus. It gives you chance to sample all the creative food this chef has to offer. They have a pick of various discovery menus, starting at 3, 7, or 9 courses. The cost of the discovery menu at 3 courses starts at $39.00 and can go up to $100, depending on your choice. You can eat very well, for $39.00 all depending on your appetite. Portions are not large. Some of the more elaborate dishes have a surcharge, and if you’re up for a slab of foie gras on your main course, expect to pay an extra $15.00. The dishes for the discovery menus are not listed, once chosen the rest is a surprise and left strictly to the discretion of the chef. The waitress will tell you basically what they comprise of and ask if you have any food allergies.
Our dining group this evening decided to go with the discovery menu, at $75.00. A consensus had to be reached to make sure we all agreed, as everyone at the table has to take the same thing. If you feel this is up-selling, you may be right. But it is the way most finer dining establishments are going these days and the cost of business.
We started our meal with an amuse bouche pumpkin puree, a light thick puree of seasonal squash, topped with a pumpkin seed crumble, a pave and microgreens served in a glass. A good starter sampler of seasonal market produce. A very simple yet yummy amuse bouche.
For our first appetizer we received a trio of Accras de Morue, fried cod balls served in a shot glass with a spicy lime aioli sauce, and a sashimi of trout on a crostino and a salmon tartar on a rice crisp. All were very tasty, well-seasoned and flavorful for small morsels.
Our second appetizer were two ravioli or dumplings filled with lobster and fine herbs, in a sage butter topped with oyster mushrooms and microgreens. These were as equally delicious and very delicate to the palate. Done perfectly.
One of our mains was Pan- seared Tuna with sautéed green onions, mushrooms and greens, done almost rare, the way it should be cooked, otherwise it would be too tough. The tuna was very fresh and not fishy tasting, loved the way the green onions brought out the flavors. The mushrooms and microgreens were a refreshing touch and complimented the meal. Loved the woodsy taste of the mushrooms.
As a palate cleanser we received a plain ice sherbet with what I believe was passion fruit infusion bordering on the citrusy side, I could not tell what was in the syringe. But loved the idea, super cool almost medicinal. A shot of originality.
Next, we received Smoked Lamb Medallions with pan seared foie gras, which came to the table in a dome glass cover and unveiled to quite a show. The dish contained some harvest vegetables, baby onions, mushroom, and a galette aspic of meats. Loved this dish, the meat was tender and the flavors out of this world. The smokiness added to a whole other level.
For dessert, we received a decadent chocolaty mousse silky creamy slice of cake with chocolate ice cream quenelles and raspberry compote. Heavenly.
What more can I say. Tandem really out did itself and has brought BYOB dining to another level. Everything was delicious and a real discovery. Kudos to the chef and to Erika the hostess who has not lost her touch for fine hospitality after all these years.
My only complaint, and this can be taken as an Anglo rant. The waitress asked if we wanted the descriptions of the dishes in French or English when she heard us talking. Quite frankly, I found this a little passé, especially coming from such a great restaurant. But it goes with the neighborhood mentality, as by now it only serves as a reminder of Quebec’s two solitude. I thought we were over that, I guess not! So, I said” English”. I love to watch people squirm. Although I did get a slap on the wrist from the person sitting next to me. Heck that is just me before eating all that good food. J’aime brasser les choses et pas seulement ma nourriture.