Montreal Oysterfest means the end of summer, it is the last of the fabulous Montreal festivals and it means the beginning of fall weather. Every September, Daniel Notkin allows us to say goodbye to summer with a bang. celebrating summer in his festival devoted to oysters, drinking, and fabulous Montreal restaurants. It is no wonder that Montreal Oysterfest has been going strong for 6 years. The Divas first went to Oysterfest last year where we had an amazing time, drinking and eating all the oysters that we could find, read about it HERE.
If you want to read the nitty gritty about getting tickets, the Open Pier Foundation for aquatic sustainability, in which all the proceeds are donated, and other details, check out our pre-Oysterfest info HERE. But all that is blah blah blah, what we want to talk about is the food and the fabulous time that we had at this year’s festival. The Divas, Sweet Pea, P’tit Soeur, sweet majestic Sensei and the duo behind Day Jobs and the Nightlife started the Oysterfest day with a complimentary glass of wine and chat with the girls of Rose PR.
Like last year, Montreal Oysterfest was held at Terrasses Bonsecours Island, and the island was full of people eating, drinking and participating in the competitions. Once again La Boite Aux Huîtres had an oyster booth, larger than last year. We returned to this booth many times throughout the day to satisfy our oyster craving. Sadly at the end of the evening they were running low on oysters and we were getting a savage look in our eyes at the news.
We saw some restaurant booths from last year and some new contenders that had recently sprouted onto the Montreal restaurant scene. Anabel was one of the places that we have been meaning to go to but summers in Montreal are busy. Their fried gnocchi with a truffle sauce was mouth-watering. After tasting their gnocchi our curiosity was piqued and we moved Anabel to the top of our list of go-to-restaurants in the near future.
Once again Burgundy Lion was supplying the more traditional cocktails of the night but the Divas went in search of Nectar & Mixologie which had made some absolutely fabulous cocktails the year before. This year the mixologists were offering three types of mojitos: traditional, berry or mango. The berry mojito was a touch sweet but all of them packed quite a punch and the bartenders could not be accused of skimping out on the alcohol,they were more than generous!
Kyo and Bevo were back again with more delightful choices. Kyo was offering steamed buns with either shrimp or pork. The Divas opted for pork and were reminded why we love Kyo. Bevo had their usual large red meat slicer, and as Diva #1 was eying the grand machine, the guy manning the Bevo booth offered her a truffled peach. It was divine, the taste of truffles apparent and the tiny un-ripened peach held the perfect crunch.
Of course we simply had to try out the lobster at Notkins, the soon to open restaurant from the founder of Oysterfest, Daniel Notkin. The lobster was luscious especially when coupled with a homemade habanero sauce that the Divas later bought two bottles of for home. That same sauce was offered as an oyster topping at La Boite Aux Huîtres. The lobster was nicely cracked for us to try to eat as lady-like as possible and the sauce was spicy and oh so tasty.
Another new kid on the block is Slang, a BBQ joint that has been turning some heads. We tried their sweet and sour ribs that were tangy and plentiful; they came served on a bed of vinegary coleslaw. Delicious and finger licking good, the Divas were impressed with this new BBQ joint that we have yet to try. Also at Slang was a watermelon and Chartreuse cocktail that we returned for multiple times, it was refreshing, strong and everything that the Divas wanted in a summer cocktail. We would also like men that are strong and refreshingly new but they have yet to surface!
Worshipers of Chef Antonio Park, we were giddy with excitement when we saw that this year Park Restaurant had a booth. A charcoal BBQ was cooking Korean chicken that was spiced to perfection. Only Chef Antonio Park can make something as simple as chicken taste so damn good. Be sure to check up on his upcoming Korean BBQ restaurant, Lavanderia, opening up in the near future, we are sure that the crowds will be going wild!
A little depressed, we soon learnt that this year our beloved Bloody Caesars were being served for Vestal Virgins with no alcohol but instead with a little sausage. This displeased us greatly, Bloody Caesars are to oysters, as peanut butter is to jelly, so they cannot be separated. A Bloody Caesar without vodka is like sex without an orgasm, sure it feels good but something is missing. That’s it, NEXT YEAR WE ARE BRINGING OUR FLASKS!!! Of course this did not stop us from getting a few Bloody Caesars, and if you moseyed along to the bartenders at Burgundy Lion, you could add a shot for a price.
We saw Chef Olivier Perret from the Renoir in the Sofitel Hotel. We were served his gazpacho which was incredible, it was already Diva #1’s favourite soup, but Chef Olivier added another dimension to the soup. The gazpacho was served with mini meaty sandwiches packed into the puff pastry tubes that are usually reserved for éclairs. Dipping them into the gazpacho was simply fabulous!
Bishop & Bagg also had a grill going but we didn’t try their fare. P’tit Soeur wisely got some fish n’ chips with tartar sauce from Brit & Chips, in the neighbouring booth. We were happy, slowly getting stuffed and quite pleased with the food booths. Sensei at this point had to go and in a rare moment of affection gave the remainder of his Oysterfest dollars to the Divas; he really does love us!!!! This just meant more alcohol and oysters for us.
The shucking competition was another fabulous success. Fun and light hearted, oyster lovers united and shucked if only for the title of “best shucker.” Remember that this is all for a good cause folks so there is no money to be won, just the title! One lovely lady with a tank top that promised that she shucked like a champ, let her hair loose by removing her shucker out of her locks, and shucked on. Diva #1 was quite smug, she had her own shucker in her purse in case she got hold of a case of oysters and needed to shuck quickly to feed her friends before Daniel Notkin & Co. caught on and took them away.
Sadly the Bloody Caesar competition, which we simply adored last year, was moved into the evening. This year each contender had been asked to make their own clamato juice but we were boozy and tired and went home before it began. We had been at the festival since it began so we missed it, but we didn’t mind because we witnessed this year’s newest competition: the plating competition. Danny Smiles from Le Bremner, Antonio Park from Park Restaurant, Emma Cardarelli from Nora Gray, Jason Nagy from Méchant Boeuf, and others, were all part of this new Montreal Oysterfest competition.
It was simple, Daniel Notkin provided each chef with approximately 500$ worth of seafood. When the competition was to begin, each chef had to run to the center table and grab as many subsidiary ingredients as possible i.e. limes, lettuce, hot sauce, etc. Each chef had already arrived with their own knives and their own custom serving platter. In a set period of time they had to create the most beautiful seafood arrangement.
Judges would vote as to what was the number one seafood platter. And because Daniel Notkin is all about aquatic sustainability and fundraising, onlookers were asked to bid on the different seafood platters to enjoy on site. Things got rather crazy, but as if there was a doubt, Chef Antonio Park won the plating competition for his seafood platter. It was almost too beautiful to eat… almost… that man can make a watercress leaf look appetizing!
Of course Danny Smiles received loads of love from the crowd, as did his playful sous chef from the Crown Salts family. The lucky kids who placed a bid on the S.S.Bremner also received a blow up glove flipping the bird to the crowd, hot sauces and other delights in their boat. Too bad Danny Smiles didn’t come with his seafood platter; a few women in the crowd would have paid much more for an evening with this chef, miam miam!
Daniel Notkin’s mom was near the Divas, she even chastised us for blocking her view, haha! Emma Cardarelli, in her rustic fashion, prepared her seafood platter in baskets, going for the more country-girl look associated with her restaurant Nora Gray. Everything looked delicious and the Divas even considered grabbing a basket and running away, since Nora Gray’s provided the most easily transportable (or easily thieved) seafood platter.
Chef Jason Nagy, famous for his #ShuckMe hashtag, has been entertaining and shucking for quite some time. Often seen behind the raw bar at Méchant Boeuf, he not only participated in the shucking competition but also the plating competition where he took a simple but effective approach to his seafood platter.
The day was turning into evening and the Divas were surveying the scene to see what they should spend their last few Oysterfest dollars on. Léché Desserts was an option, as was Monkland Tavern and their lettuce taco. The options were endless as this was the year with the most food booths than ever before.
The long line at Communion had us intrigued so we decided to wait to see what for the fuss was all about. Communion also provided you with oysters but with a salmon tartare topping and a beer. We gave away our beers to our friends at Day Jobs and the Nightlife, and we ate our oysters which were not worth the wait. The tartare was a touch too fishy and you lost the flavour of the oyster with such a strong topping, we were not impressed.Sel Gras had a lobster roll, the perfect seafood treat to eat alongside your oysters but it was a little too creamy and soggy for our liking. Mind you we went to Sel Gras at the end of the day and the rolls were pre wrapped, so we are giving this amazing restaurant the benefit of the doubt. Ryu also had a lettuce taco that we wish we could describe, but P’tit Soeur had two and refused to share! They looked delightful, with a creamy sauce on top of the deep fried little balls. What a brat she is!
The Divas chose to use their last few tickets on a pulled pork slider with a scoop of chili from Zee’s Catering. The little slider was flavourful and stuffed with ingredients making it a fabulous last bite of the night. We were quite impressed, and we had only eaten here because we were looking for food when many booths had already closed. What a lovely surprise!
Dessert was exquisite, a peach tart from Maison Christian Faure, words do not express how delicious this tart was. Wasps surrounded the large tart stretched out on the Maison Christian Faure food booth, we were tentative at first but after tasting the sweet peach tart we were ecstatic. There may not be a bakery in Montreal that is closer to a pastry stop in Paris than this little spot.
We roamed around some more, checking out Industria’s booth, another new Montreal restaurant, and Houston. Our group tried almost all of the food booths and even when we didn’t taste something it was fun to watch the food getting prepped and the crowd eating everything.
Another successful Montreal Oysterfest has come and gone, our only complaint was that there was no booze in our Bloody Caesars, there was a shortage of oysters at the end, and the Caesar competition was so late in the day that we missed it. In all, a perfect end to summer. The best part? Though we have to wait an entire year for next year’s Oysterfest, the brains behind this bivalve festival are opening Notkins Oyster Bar in the near future. We can’t wait!!!
Tagged: 6th Annual Montreal Oysterfest, Anabel Bar & Vin, Antonio Park, Bevo, Bloody Caesar, Boîte aux Huitres, Bremner, Brit & Chips, Burgundy Lion, Chef Olivier Perret, Crown Salts, Daniel Notkin, Daniel Notkin Oysters, Danny Smiles, Danny Smiles Bremner, Emma Cardarelli, Jason Nagy, Kyo, Le Slang, Léché Desserts, Lobster, Maison Christian Faure, Méchant Boeuf, Montreal, Montreal Event, Montreal Festival, Montreal Oysterfest, Montreal Restaurant, MTL, Nectar & Mixologie, Nora Gray, Notkins, Notkins Montreal Oysterfest, Notkins Oyster Bar, Old Montreal, Old Port, Old Port Fishing Company, Open Pier Foundation, Oyster Shucking, Oysterfest, oysters, Park Restaurant, Plating Competition, Renoir, Ryu, Shucking, Shucking Competition, Taverne Monkland, Terrasses Bonsecours, Terrasses Bonsecours Island