The usual formula for food service in a restaurant is being turned on its head by some of the city’s most exciting young food innovators, who are turning out insanely delicious dishes on the top floor of the SAT (Société des arts technologique), the Main’s most avant-garde music and arts venue. Not only will the small plates blow your mind, but, because the SAT is funded from the public purse and the concept is a “not-for-profit” restaurant, they won’t blow your wallet. Which means you get some of the best food in town, in a stylish environment with a great view (the summer patio is going to be epic) and cozy, festival atmosphere at rock-bottom prices…
When you hear the word “Foodlab”, you might naturally think of something sci-fi: Full, nutritious meals deposited in tablets from a machine in the Starship Enterprise onto a brushed-steel lab counter, to be eaten with futuristic postmodern chopsticks. Or worse, what soylent green is made of. But the good news is that Montreal’s newly-opened Foodlab is a “lab” only in the sense that they are open to experimentation and innovation—there’s nothing cold or clinical (or even weird and lab-tasting) about the food.
“[The name] goes with a lot of the other projects at the SAT: the Living Lab, Meta Lab, etc. It is kind of a working name which stuck,” says Michelle Marek, 36, one of Foodlab’s two chefs, who are starting their soon-to-be-legendary kitchen with two secondhand home stoves, which adds a sort of homey, mad-scientist vibe to the place.
Marek (check out An Endless Banquet, the blog she co-writes) and Seth Gabrielese, 33, hail from Laloux up the street, where she was pastry chef and he was chef de cuisine. They made the move to open Foodlab as a “leap of faith,” says Gabrielese, and because they were ready to try something truly community-minded while also having full rein on concept and menu innovation. In the future, they plan to host all sorts of awesome events—chef demos, workshops, vintner’s lunches- the sky’s the limit.
In the meantime, however, they’re keeping it simple with weekly theme menus—last week’s visit was just in time for the Vienna menu (which included their take on mushroom strudel, lardon-and-cheese spatzle, Hungarian goulash and Marek’s heavenly sachertorte). Past themes include Autumn Veg, American Thanksgiving, and The Hunt, and Marek hints that upcoming themes may include smorgasbord, Vietnam, winemakers lunch, Moscow…
This coming weekend promises to be particularly delicious, with Marek and Gabielese fashioning a traditional central-European Wintermarket menu: homemade sausage with homemade sauerkraut, goulash, soups of all kinds and tourtiere. Sweets will be cookies, panforte, possible a cake or two, and possibly kugelhopf, washed down with mulled wine a-plenty. This spread is part of Souk@SAT, a forward-thinking holiday market at the SAT that runs all weekend.
Foodlab is open Wednesday-Saturday, 5pm-8pm.