Diva #1 and Sweet Pea spend most of September, all of October and sometimes parts of August planning Halloween and our annual party. This year’s theme was 1920s Burlesque. After a tiring night of scouting the dollar store, three Halloween stores in Montreal and Omer de Serres, we decided that we needed a bite to eat. The Divas had long since crossed off Café Sardine from their wishlist because we thought that it was just a little sandwich place: nothing Diva-esque, and not worth our much coveted Thursday nights. Diva #1 and Sweet Pea had nothing to lose, plus it was a Friday, so we suffered from no guilt that we had wasted a Thursday night.
On Café Sardine’s website site they advertise that they are a café by day and restaurant by night, which explains why we went there thinking that it was a sandwich place. They advertise that they only use fresh local Quebec produce like flowers, wild fruits, marinated herbs, roots and forest mushrooms. Café Sardine also boasts buying their coffee from little coffee producers, their cocktail menu is accented by local products and their wine list is biodynamic (whatever that means) and natural.
Okay blah blah blah…. this is all nice and chatty but we walked into this TINY little restaurant, opened the menu and right away said….THANK GOD WE DID NOT GO ON A THURSDAY. We were confused because we were expecting a sandwich hotspot / café, but instead the menu was filled with tapas, and the atmosphere was trendy with plenty of good looking people sipping their cocktails and looking….well….cool. Our waiter explained that the lunch menu is more sandwich oriented and they specialize in these fantastic doughnuts that both the waiter and other reviewers have raved about. Sadly, they did not have any at dinner!
When we say that this restaurant is not Thursday night material we mean that their menu is so tiny that the Divas and their assortment of hungry friends would have to order the menu twice over. There were only 12 tapas on the entire menu (and 2 dessert tapas), and our waiter recommended ordering 4-6 for two people…imagine if we were the usual gang of four to six people, we would have to order the same dish multiple times instead of trying out new things. This idea does not appeal to the Divas.
The cocktail menu looked fabulous so we did not opt for the traditional wine but some fun cocktails instead. Sweet Pea ordered the Bees Knees because she could not resist the idea of trying pollen in a cocktail, and Diva #1 could not say no to a drink with grilled lemon in her bourbon. The drinks were wonderful, tasty and original, and the Whisky Smash was particularly strong.
The menu was on a paper and the waiter handed us a pencil so that we marked a 1, 2, 3, etc next to each tapas to denote the amount we wanted. This was cute and we began choosing our tapas. We decided on four tapas since we were not particularly hungry; once again we are so happy that we did not come here on a Thursday when we are usually unstable and hungry after a long week at work. We started with a baguette served with tomatoes which the waiter explained was similar to a mild bruschetta. The tomatoes were at room temperature (refrigerating tomatoes just destroys their taste) and the olive oil was a perfect addition to this simple bread dish.
Sweet Pea does not like mushrooms, which is unfortunate because there was a phenomenal tapas with wild mushrooms on the menu, but alas Diva #1 had to sacrifice. That being said, since befriending Diva #1, Sweet Pea has been repeatedly fed duck, oysters, lobster, tartare, deer, horse, innards by Diva #1’s grandmother, small fish that you eat whole by Diva #1’s father, and any other exotic fare that Diva #1 can get her hands on. I suppose Sweet Pea is doing her best… We ordered the caramelized squash with hazelnut butter, lemon and herbs. What an amazing combination of flavours. The squash was caramelized like a crème brulée and we were soon wondering if we should have ordered two. This tapas was on the small side, especially in comparison to a certain Spanish tapas haunt that the Divas have frequented, so we expected a larger portion. That being said the taste was phenomenal and the butternut squash was smooth and not chunky.
Unfortunately we waited a long time for the rest of our food, and we waited…. The restaurant is tiny so the wait was frustrating but what could we do? Up came our next tapas: bison with figs, mâche, cranberry, and something that translates as camelina… we still do not know what that is. The bison meat was rare, the figs added sweetness and the cranberries bitterness. This was a great appetizer that would be even better as a main dish served with a side of potatoes or root vegetables.
Our last tapas was the piglet served with ground cherries, marjoram, cranberries and fennel. This was another amazing incorporation of flavours that could only be a mix of the chef’s genius and the local produce that Café Sardine advertises as part of their mantra. Every tapas that we tried at Café Sardine was mouth watering but the problem is the limitations of their menu and the size of the tapas dishes themselves.
Last but not least we ordered dessert, the dessert was an apple turnover in puff pastry with sarsaparilla, stout, coriander and honey. The dessert was tasty but the honey (which seemed like a great addition), did not enhance the dessert, it took something away. The main tapas were much more original than this dessert which seemed plain in comparison.
Diva #1 and Sweet Pea ordered themselves espressos and cappuccinos, and were excited to try their famous coffee. Ironically, though they are known for their coffee, their coffee had a weird aftertaste and we did not even finish it. Perhaps it was too much chicory? Either way, the espresso and cappuccino were not enjoyable. So in the end Café Sardine was average. The food was amazing, our mouths watered at every bite and we excitedly awaited the next tapas after each addition. On the other hand, the menu was tiny, as were the portions and we could not imagine returning on a Thursday night, when we are more than two people and where we enjoy ordering a variety of tastes all night long. Perhaps if you are 2-3 people and you want to grab a quick drink and share 2-3 tapas then it will be lovely, but it is not a place that you go to enjoy an elaborate supper…and the Divas love elaborate.
Our Rating: Average
Tagged: Average, Biodynamic, Bison, Café Sardine, Cocktails, Coffee, Doughnuts, Fairmount, French, Local Produce, Lunch Menu, Market, Mile End, Montreal, Organic, Phil and Sebastian, Plateau, Pork, Quebec, sandwich, tapas, wine