As we sat at our table at the posh Europea, the other night, a friend turned to me and asked: “I wonder if it will be enough if I start with the gaspacho and have the mushroom pasta as a main course….”, to which I immediately answered: “Trust me, it will be more than enough, you have no idea what surprises you’ll get along the way…”.
I’d say it’s those surprises, in fact, that keep bringing me back to Europea, one of Montreal’s top tables. Whether you order a tasting menu or only an appetizer and a main, you’ll always be treated to several little amuse bouches in between courses, which are not only delicious but also quite fun.
That night, for example, things started off with a whimsical “lollipop” of a creamy, herb-laden cheese sandwiched between two round parmesan crisps.
Before our appetizers even hit the table, another little teaser arrived, in a funky espresso cup: “cappucino” of lobster and truffle, a.k.a. lobster bisque with foamy top.
When, at last, the appetizers arrived, it was fun to take in all the oohs and ahhs: my Brazilian friends hadn’t really expected our dinner to be so…. how shall I put it…. gastronomically refined.
I ordered the bison tartare not only because I’d had it before and knew how perfectly they serve it, but also to show the others, who were in Montreal for the first time, what bison meat looked like:
In keeping with the gamey theme, the carefully diced and seasoned meat was paired with a couple of raw slices of Québec venison, carpaccio style. Delish.
The only other dish that looked even better than mine wasn’t exactly a dish: Maysa had the great idea of ordering a tasting of Quebec artisanal cheeses as a starter. Her plate drew envious stares not only from myself (a confessed cheesaholic) but everyone else at the table. Her fave: the oh-so-creamy Riopelle, a triple crème with a buttery mouthfeel. Yum.
And then…. more surprises! A warm, millky cream served in an eggshell, which reminded me of eggnog. Not my favourite, I confess – blame it on my parents forcing me to down the stuff when I was a kid!
But wait… there was more! Moments later they brought us, in shot glasses, prosciutto with melon sorbet – talk about a classic pairing! – and, for dramatic effect, some Port in a pipette, meant to be drizzled over the whole ensemble. Cute idea.
By that point, nobody was actually hungry, yet we were excited all the same when the main courses arrived. Guess who ordered the most interesting of them all? Moi!
Knowing how phenomenal Eumatimi beef tastes – it’s produced near Montreal, organically – I ordered the “short ribs of Eumatimi beef, crispy galette of root vegetables, braised cipollini onions, sweet and sour BBQ”. If it sounds fancy, it sure looked it, too: the smokiness was actually visible, as the white fumes appeared trapped in a glass dome.
Once the dome was lifted, a seductive aroma of smoky, beefy goodness was released. And yes, it tasted as good as it looked: tender and perfectly seasoned.
We somehow found room and appetite to soldier on: the mignardises were simply too good to passs up on.
My fave: a lemony white chocolate cube on a stick. Fun!
Next up, some of the best macarrons I’ve tasted in Montreal. And a mini pistachio cake.
And… “haute” cotton candy!
At which point our waiter comes over and asks: “Are you ready to choose your desserts?”
We all looked at each other in disbelief. Surely, he had to be kidding!
But no, it wasn’t a joke…
We asked for just coffee and the check, and got ready to leave, and then…. out came the waiters again, with little sweet treats in cellophane bags, one for each: little meringues speckled with nuts. Needless to say, at that point the whole table was floored. The guy sitting across from me, who’s not exactly a foodie, said that was the best restaurant he’d ever been to. No kidding. I eat out too often and therefore am a bit jaded, so I couldn’t make such a bold statement, but truth is, whenever I have out-of-towners visitting whom I want to impress, I always know where to call… Enough said.
1227 Rue de la Montagne tel. (514) 398-9229, www.europea.ca/