On rare occasions, we appease our dear Sensei. Somehow, he handles the two of us quite well, and trust us… we put him through a lot. We argue with him, we don’t listen to him, we, in his opinion, fail as wing-women and sometimes, we call the police on him. But it’s only because we love him so very much and everyone knows that love hurts! So when he kept saying that he wanted to try Balsam Inn, we ignored him for awhile but finally we gave in because we love him so very much.
Diva #2 and Sensei headed towards Balsam Inn, the little sister of Dominion Square Tavern, on Metcalfe in downtown Montreal. The downtown core used to be a go-to for restaurants and has only recently had an influx of good places to eat. Slowly, the Golden Square Mile is reviving its glory days.
This is definitely the place to go for some great, unique cocktails. We had the White Negroni which packed a punch and is perfect to keep you warm on a cold winter night! The Crodino, is served with a small bottle of Crodino, an orange flavoured, non-alcoholic aperitif, so you could control how much to add to your drink. It’s like an adult version of Fanta, with a wedge of orange to add to the citrus flavour.
We opted to try the arancini and were treated to four appetizer sized balls of fried rice. We missed the usual Italian marinara sauce that comes with arancini. They were crunchy, salty and creamy and had no other filling other than rice and cheese.
The flat bread is all made by hand by the lovely gentleman manning the wood fired oven towards the back of the restaurant, in plain sight for everyone to see. He meticulously shapes the bread, cooks it on the fire and then tops it with the topping of your choice, which includes raw tomatoes, sliced prosciutto or marinated mushrooms. We chose the delicious looking marinated mushrooms! The bread was warm and fresh, and there was a generous amount of marinated mushrooms on top, although they were missing a little zing to them.
The beef tartare was fresh, with minimal toppings and seasoning. The few additions to the beef included baby romaine leaves and shavings of salty parmesan cheese. The minimalist approach allows you to taste the quality of the meat without any interference. Each bite was delicious, the parmesan enhancing the taste of the raw beef.
The hunter sauce papardelle is essentially pasta with a cacciatore sauce. Unfortunately, the pasta was undercooked but the sauce was delicious. The chicken was tender and the sauce had little bits of crispy chicken skin which not only added texture but a little saltiness. This added to the heartiness of the overall dish.
This dish surprised us. From the first bite of fish, the taste of lemon was dominant and we loved it. The fish was perfectly cooked and flaky. Diva #2 is Italian, so she appreciated that the fish was served with rapini. The rapini was cooked simply with garlic and golden raisins to offset the bitterness of the greens. A great combination!
At this point, we had moved on to wine and we were talking about Sensei’s upcoming trip to the Middle East and how the Divas didn’t want him to die because we’d be lost without him. And of course Diva #2 yelled at him because he simply refuses to put us in his will. This is why we have called the police on him; he is simply unreasonable!
Our waiter came back to ask us about dessert but the gluttonous side won over and we ordered the fried chicken because it looked too good to pass up. And we were right. Two pieces of perfectly fried chicken, a leg and a thigh, were served on leaves of cabbage. The chicken was juicy and tender, the skin was exceptionally crispy, and it wasn’t greasy at all. There was even a touch of sweetness to the chicken. A definite dish to order or return for!
The desserts were very good. We went with a traditional tiramisu which was very good. Creamy and light, you could definitely taste the espresso and alcohol absorbed by the cookies. It was served in a tea cup which made for a lovely presentation. The éclair lacked in presentation but that didn’t bother Diva #2 who loves anything with pistachios. Filled until the puff pastry was bursting, the filling was rich and creamy.
Though we give our beloved Sensei grey hair, which, by the way, we think makes him look more distinguished, he loves us and wouldn’t know what to do if we weren’t around! Balsam Inn is a place you can go for any occasion, whether it be girls night, a date or just for drinks, you can be sure the Divas will be back, enveloped in the warmth of the dark wood paneling and brass details!
Our Rating: Splendid
Tagged: 1237 Metcalfe, Arancini, Balsam Inn, Balsam Inn Montreal, Beef Tartare, Cocktails, Downtown Montreal, Flat Bread, Fried Chicken, golden square mile, H3B 2V5, Hunter Sauce Papardelle, Italian, Marinated Mushrooms, Montreal, Montreal Bar, Montreal Cocktails, Montreal Restaurant, Pistachio Éclair, Reservations Needed, Tiramisu, White Tuna Confit, Wood Burning Oven