I knew I arrived at Pastel restaurant when I saw the sign outside stuffed with oversized pastel coloured chalk. Pastel opened in Old Montréal in 2018 and is already listed as #22 on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurant list. Located at 124 McGill street, in a steel beamed Old Montreal space, there are two distinct dining areas. The front of the house separates the back of the house by a bar/open kitchen. I enjoyed sitting up front and watching the chefs burst with creativity. There are brick walls with random smudges of chalk, a result of a staff art project, where you can test your inner Picasso and draw on the wall at the entrance. Eames style chairs line the bar, where two pink ones pop out. Rose blush tablecloths adorn the tables, and earth toned ceramic dishes designed by chef Morris and made by his mother. The room is bright, due to windows at either end, with high ceilings, brick walls and a cool vibe feeling.
The restaurant was created by chef Jason Morris and manager Kabir Kappor. But, Covid changed things and chef Jason decided to re-evaluate his life, and left the restaurant to make ceramics, c’est la vie. From our experience you would never know he was not there. Perhaps the sous chef has taken over cooking. Kabir Kappor is still running things. Our 8-course tasting meal was a refined, globally inspired menu using Japanese techniques. The dishes were intricate and Instagram worthy. You can order a la carte or a tasting menu. Showcasing seasonal Canadian and specifically Quebec products, each dish had an innovative, original and somewhat artistic presentation.
Our meal began with an amuses of oyster with grilled cucumber and yuzu gel. Then a foie gras dipped in a raspberry and prune gel, and a cantaloupe with white foam of Bayonne crumble. We were off to an excellent start. Our first course was heirloom tomatoes from a local farm, dehydrated tomatillo chips, mustard sorbet and roasted tomato jus with diced tomatillo. Course two was a sea foam made with a cream of seafood juice, and seared scallop, mussels, clams and sea asparagus. Course three was lobster with raspberry and mascarpone raviolis in a creamy lobster bisque. Course four, a halibut confit in black citrus oil, seabuck thorn gel, and purple radishes, all topped with a hazelnut butter. Course five, a grilled sirloin with green beans cooked ā plancha, smoked eel of beef jus with fresh thyme. Course six was a sorbet, with pine oil and blueberry vinegar. Course seven, a green pea sweet mousse, with green peas sorbet, yuzu gel, dark chocolate crumble, and basil oil. And finally, our last course was a smoked hay crémeux, dark chocolate crémeux, white chocolate crémeux, buckwheat crumble and smoked hay ice cream. As you can see the kitchen takes risks with a cornucopia of flavours and textures and is masterful in their ambitious execution.
The staff was delightful to interact with and were accommodating to any dislikes or food allergies. Each dish was impressive, and the combinations had modern twists with winning results. They serve wines from around the world. There is an optional wine pairing menu, but we opted for wine by the glass and were introduced to some interesting choices. This is upscale dining in a casual, modern environment. Get ready to enjoy a gastronomic experience and some splendid cooking.
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