My first meal when visiting Montreal was a Japanese restaurant called Park located about a twenty-minute cab ride from downtown, in the Westmount area of Montreal at 378 Victoria Avenue by Sherbrooke Street.
I kept hearing that Chef Antonio Park has taken Montreal’s sushi scene up a notch. It was rated 19th best restaurant in Canada’s top 100 restaurants in 2016. I had to try it, so off we went right from the airport with high expectations. The restaurant is located in an industrial loft space, with high cement ceilings and crystal chandeliers. There is a small patio out front and a big picture window with large banquette tables looking out. There are two bars, one for drinks and one for sushi. There is funky music playing and a cool vibe. The chef was raised by Korean parents in Argentina. Further, he lived in Brazil and Paraguay before moving to Canada. He also spent three years studying cooking in Japan, and was a judge on Chopped Canada. The chef pairs Japanese cuisine with Korean and South American flavours. The restaurant prides itself on using pure, sustainable and ultra fresh ingredients.
For me, the restaurant was hit and miss, and more on the miss side of things. The rolls were beautiful looking, but not at all traditional. They try to impress you with exotic ingredients, but I did not think the rolls themselves were representative of culinary greatness. In fact, they did not showcase the chef’s skills. I hear the restaurant is a real, “boys club”, and if you are a friend of the chef he will create masterpieces for you if he so desires. We went for the Omakase experience as it is usually the ultimate experience when eating at a Japanese restaurant, so we were left with our meal in the hands of the sous chef, as Antonio was nowhere to be found. I found it so unusual to find huge boards served to us of pretty, but mediocre rolls. Who can eat so much at lunch? Usually, an Omakase meal is served with small bites of the chef’s specialities that showcases their creativeness and technique. Instead, we were served huge courses. I think a big part of a good roll should be that it contains properly cooked, seasoned rice. The rice was not very good – separated instead of sticky, and not a good balance of seasoning. I kept hearing how the chef imports the freshest fish directly from Japan and all over the world. I did not find mind blowing or silky smooth fish. As a matter of fact we dined the same day at Toque for dinner and we could really taste the difference. Toque’s scallops and tuna fish were of exceptional quality. The fact that this restaurant got a rating of 19 out of 100 for Canada’s Best Restaurants is ridiculous to me. I can name at least five restaurants in Toronto that immediately come to mind that are far superior. For instance, Sushi Kaji, Yasu, and Shoushin are at a much higher level. Ja Bistro and Miku are also superior.
I am sure Montreal has better than what was offered here. The best part of the meal was a raw salmon dish served on a black squid ink sauce. It was nicely seasoned. In fact, the best part of the meal were the sashimi dishes. Our sashimi course was served with wonderful sauce. Still, on my visit, all the rolls, although nicely presented, they tasted unimpressive. The Omakase starts at $55 a lunch. As we went for the sushi Omakase, the price was $70 per person.
Our favourite course was actually the dessert. It was more of a French pastry rather than anything I ever had in a Japanese restaurant.
On another note, the restrooms are located in the office building next door and are not in great shape.
The restaurant is open for lunch, brunch and dinner.
Is it worth a special trip for tourists? No.