I had heard about the opening of Pastaga several months ago and, intrigued, suffered the delay as the restaurant was constructed. When you learn that Martin Juneau and Louis Philippe Breton have reconvened to open a restaurant, after all, your curiosity is going to be piqued. This gastronomic duo has worked together for at least 15 years in various Montreal kitchens. The name of the restaurant actually has no connection to pasta, but to pastis, an anise-flavoured French liqueur and apéritif that is featured at the bar.
STYLE, DECOR AND AMBIANCE
The restaurant has set up shop in the site of the former Apollo Restaurant on Boulevard St. Laurent, halfway between Little Italy and the miles end. Le Pastaga’s concept is similar to that of the late Montée de Lait, namely: to offer small dishes and tapas-size entrées designed for sharing among the guests. This arrangement also makes it possible to order food according to one’s own individual level of hunger. Several tables and chairs were recovered from the previous restaurant and are scattered throughout the revised space. The differently styled and coloured furniture lends a unique cachet to the place, as does the beaded curtain that divides the room into two. The kitchen is open and separated from the dining room by a large window that allows observers a rare access. You can even reserve a seat at the big table that’s actually situated in the kitchen to see the chefs and dishwasher at work. There’s also a TV for watching the big game while enjoying your meal in the kitchen — a rare treat in Montreal. The clientele is made up of people in their thirties who clearly possess a keen interest in following Montreal’s various restaurant trends. Couples and groups of businessfolk were in numerous supply during our visit.
According to a prominent display in its front window, Le Pastaga serves natural wines that are unfilteredand and contain a lot less sulfite than a typical vino. All of the bottles are private imports and, lest you still find yourself suffering confusion, a sommelier is on hand to make suggestions. We chose a rosé from the Languedoc Rousillon called Galéjade, our first experience with a natural wine. Blurred in the bottle, the wine was outstanding and and proved a suitable accompaniment to all of our dishes, including the cheese. All wines are decanted so they arrive at their best. Remarkably, all of the servers (including, naturally, the sommelier) tasted the wine after opening to ensure its quality.
To start, we were disappointed that the bread — deliciously baked on site — was not brought to the table automatically. Knowing that we were going to eat small portions, we decided to order two meats to sustain us. The smoked bison was just right and tender. The meat was simply sliced and arranged roughly on a small plate that was adorned with house pickles and two slices of mustard-streaked rye bread. My guest ordered the suckling pig lacquered chest with brown sugar on a pancake of parsnip. The pork was crispy and tasty and not weighed down under so much sugar that it risked overpowering the entire dish. The parsnip cake was simply gorgeous and melted in your mouth. We had more wine to drink but were still hungry, so we ordered four Quebec dheeses. A beautiful plate arrived up done up with goat cheese, and raw and pasteurized milk. The cheeses were accompanied by a little jar of citrus sauce and a handful of strips of bread. To finish the meal, we were surprised by the sommelier with the baseball cap who brought us a beautiful board of desserts decked out with macaroons, truffles, palmier and home-made whippets. He made this pleasant delivery, along with two cups of steaming espresso, to apologize for a misunderstanding surrounding our reservation. All is now forgiven.
Apart from our reservation having gotten misplaced, the experience at Le Pastaga was exemplary. The service was courteous, friendly and professional and the sommelier always ensured that everything went well across the room and bar.
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