Of all the elegant restaurants in Montreal, the XO Restaurant is probably the most opulent and the most romantic. Newly renovated, it retains the all the majestic charm of turn-of-the century British architecture. Even though the restaurant is literally steeped in history, the cuisine is quite contemporary.
If you check out the slideshow, you can see how the luxurious ambiance would make the perfect spot for a romantic dinner or for an adventurous gastronomic experience.
In fact, one could even call it daring to the point of audacious and the man in charge of this diverse, elaborate, challenging menu is Michele. If the name sounds familiar, his brother, Joe Mercuri, is also a chef and the man behind the menu at the highly acclaimed restaurant, Bronte. I guess we could say that a talent for inventive cuisine seems to be in the genes.
Hailing from the same family, they both share the same attention to detail, particularly in their original presentation style and assembly of textures. Michele Mercuri offers a huge variety of food on his menu, from pigeon to butternut squash ice cream. He also likes to buy locally grown products and uses original, unusual produce in his cooking such as baby turnips and mizuna (a kind of peppery-flavoured green, similar to mustard greens or arugula).
For your romantic dinner, don’t waste time deciding what to order. Let the chef’s choice help you make a decision and try the six-course tasting menu, which changes according to his mood. It will give you more time to canoodle with your sweetie and it truly is an incredible gastronomic experience.
Here’s a rundown of what I tried:
• First of all, I had an appetizer in the form of a soup, with potato spuma, oysters, tamarind purée and Canadian caviar.
• The second dish was a divine salad of Key West shrimp, calamari, radish, fennel, yogurt and ginger spuma, served with a show-stopping blood orange granité. The entire dish was like a flavour explosion in my mouth.
• Next came the cod confit with seared foie gras, matsutake mushrooms, and a delightful corn mousse, which was paired with an excellent Marsannay 2005 du Domaine Bart.
• For me, the most stellar dish had to be the seared scallops and the rabbit. In fact, I think this the best rabbit I have ever eaten. Stuffed with sweetbreads, foie gras and oyster mushrooms, the combination simply melted in my mouth, while retaining its texture — absolutely outstanding!
• For the more adventurous, the next dish was pigeon (yes, that’s right, pigeon) served with escargots (you bet, I mean snails), Chinese artichokes and braised chicory. As you can see in the slideshow, he doesn’t attempt to disguise the pigeon — this chef is not afraid of making a statement!
• Finally, in a nod to the popularity of energy bars, he concocted a chocolate bar, served with caramelized banana, finely crushed peanuts and a quinoa soufflé, along with that gorgeous butternut squash ice cream I mentioned earlier.
Yes, if your sweetheart is a real foodie, then a romantic dinner at XO restaurant should definitely be on the top of your ‘to do’ list. If you really want to splash out, splurge on a room at the newly renovated St. James Hotel, one of Montreal’s most luxurious boutique hotels. This is where all the superstars stay whenever they pass through town — it’s a mandatory stop for Madonna, the Rolling Stones, and even Bono and the members of U2 !
355 St. Jacques W. Montreal, QC H2Y 1N9, (514) 841-3111 Toll free number: 1-866-841-3111
Open everyday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Dress code: chic
Reservations are highly recommended
3-course tasting menu (before tip, taxes and alcohol): $65
6-course tasting menu (before tip taxes and alcohol): $98