First off, we need to disclaim that we were absolutely spoiled at Grinder! The Divas first went to Grinder in April 2013 where we ordered their entire raw menu; tatakis, tartares and carpaccios. When Sweet Pea rekindled with an old friend and found out that he was the Executive Chef at Grinder, well we had to return and try his tasting menu. So Sweet Pea and Diva #1 went on a very rare solo dinner…but of course it didn’t stay solo for long! Little did we know that the Chef Adam Zaitouni was absolutely insane and that midway through the many courses we would be full and begging our waitress to stop bringing us food!
Grinder is a fabulous place; they have a private room upstairs and a wonderful terrace that is sealed in the colder months and will be opened in the summer. The vibe is chill, the bar is large and in the center of the restaurant and you can drop by for drinks if you aren’t in the mood for dinner. But trust us, the dinner is worth it! We had the tasting menu prepared by the Chef: each fabulous course was paired with wine, but everything that we had is available on their regular menu. On our previous visit we had indulged in their entire raw menu, so we were intrigued to try out their cooked menu.
We were pleasantly surprised to start with a trio of tartares. The tuna tartare was very fresh with a sesame and wasabi vinaigrette that was not heavy on the wasabi. The freshness of the fish was evident and the dollop of avocado purée was just enough to add to the tuna and not overpower it. The panko crumbs added a crispy texture and the lemon provided a citric balance. This was our favourite of the tartares that we had tried that night. Even the redness of the tuna was striking.
We also had the beef tartare which was prepared in the traditional French style with Dijon, capers, red onions, a little Tabasco, and a gherkin. It was very tasty; right away we noticed how well ground the meat was and we enjoyed it tremendously. The biggest surprise was the bison tartare, made with espresso butter to add some bitterness, orange brunoise, capers and chilli. We were quickly impressed. Usually when you have bison and beef tartare at the same time you can barely differentiate one from the other. This was not the case at Grinder; the bison tartare tasted very gamey. If you do not like game meat then this tartare is not for you but we found the taste to be quite remarkable. The taste of the bison was very robust, and even the colours of two red meat tartares differed, unfortunately sometimes they don’t.
Our tartare and shrimp course came with a sparkling wine called Marie & Thibault Cabrit La Roue Qui Tourne, Loire, Vin de France. Not fans of sparkling wine, we enjoyed it tremendously with our opening courses. We continued sipping this wine along with our next appetizer which was the grilled shrimp with Portuguese chorizo, capers and grenobloise sauce. A Grenobloise sauce is rarely seen on menus. It is a browned butter sauce that usually has parsley and capers in it. This one also had coriander which added freshness to the shrimp. A purée of carrots and cumin added a smooth texture and spiced element to the dish. It was definitely an interesting and unique combination of flavours and we would recommend this dish for any foodie who would like to challenge their palate. Little croutons adorned the dish, seemingly soaked in a pungent olive oil, yet somehow they kept their crunch; every bite added to the combination of flavours.
The salmon gravlax was freshly cubed in large pieces with a fingerling potato salad, rich with dill and pickles in between each piece of salmon. A beet purée was artistically spread in front of the salmon and creamy potato salad. Once again, the combination of flavours was masterfully done. Breadcrumbs of some sort were sprinkled on top of the meaty salmon, and we were reminded why we absolutely adored the raw menu at Grinder. We were poured a white 2011 Sao del Coster XII, Rias Baixas, Spain which brought out the flavour of the fish and went well with the lightness of the appetizer.
For some reason the Chef would not stop indulging us and a generous around of foie gras torchon arrived with grilled homemade brioche to add to the richness. Dollops of raspberry purée decorated the dish and added sweetness to the fattinessThe chef came out to talk to us and we gushed at everything that we had tried thus far. He explained that the raspberry purée was more of a raspberry liquid gel made with a seaweed emulsion than a typical purée. If that wasn’t enough, thinly sliced pieces of apples that were translucent also topped the foie gras. They were prepared sous vide style with tarragon; the apple slices were gummy-like in texture, almost like gummy bear candies. Some fleur de sel topped the foie gras and fresh watercress decorated the plate. Of course, the foie gras appetizer required its own wine, this time, we our dessert wine which brought out the flavour of the raspberry and apples. It was a 2012 Domaine des Sablonnettes Coteaux du Layon Fleur D’ Érables, from Loire, France.
We should admit that we are picky about our cod. One of our top dishes at Flyjin is a truffled miso cod, but once again, the executive chef at Grinder wowed us. This Japanese inspired cod dish wasalso miso crusted but it arrived in a ginger shitake broth with coriander and pickled onions. The moist fish came apart in the broth that was aromatic with the scent of shitake as the waitress placed it before us. This was quite an original manner of enjoying this fish in a broth. This is not something that we would have ordered at Grinder, it wouldn’t have jumped out at us on the menu but we are certainly glad that the Chef had added it to his tasting menu.
The Tandoori halibut arrived drizzled with a tandoori sauce, traditional in Indian cuisine. The tandoori glaze was divine and not overly spiced; the delicate taste of the halibut was still prevalent in every bite. A ginger yogurt was dolloped on top of the tandoori halibut which added creaminess to the dish. The fish lay on a bed of cauliflower couscous with almonds, grapes, fresh bell peppers and hints of tarragon. Another unique way to enjoy fish. Once again, we probably would not have ordered this dish, but Grinder has certainly taught us to leave our comfort zone and experiment. With both the miso cod and halibut we were given a phenomenal white wine, Diva #1’s favourite of the night, a 2008 Grand Signature Rouge Costières de Nimes Domaine Rapatel from Rhone, France.
At this time the boys showed up; they are the male version of Diva #1 and Sweet Pea who are like sisters and are inseparable. These boys are a little more homoerotic than their female counterpart, but our love is the same. They were having a “date” night together and who better to call than the two girls who were likely together somewhere in the city. They joined us and we were grateful because we barely finished all the food with their help, imagine without it?
The beef short ribs were braised and tender. The espresso butter in the sauce added a touch of bitterness. A pickled red onion salad with warm wilted watercress topped the short rib. It could have been a touch more salted but when you took each bite of meat with the accompanied horse radish cream purée, you were assaulted with flavour. The short rib sat in an au jus sauce, thin but instantly thickened as the horse radish cream melted into the warm dish. With our short ribs and subsequent lamb shank dish, we were brought a 2010 Cascina La Barbatella Ruanera red wine from Italy. Clearly at this time we were a little tipsy, especially because when the boys came they ordered their own bottle of wine and we helped them polish that off too.
The lamb shank was braised for 12 hours, topped with a mild garlic emulsion and tossed in Brussel sprouts and butternut squash pieces. If we were not in a restaurant, Diva #1 would have sucked the bone marrow out of the lamb bone, but she kept it classy so that Sweet Pea didn’t die of embarrassment. Almonds added a wonderful crunch and flavour to this dish and the meat simply fell off the bone with the slightest tug of one’s fork. We were in heaven!
Unfortunately, even with the help of the guys, we were so full that we begged our waitress to tell the Chef to forsake the last dish. Even though the thought of filet Mignon with mushrooms and a spice rub with bone marrow made our loins burn, we were entering into a food coma without hope of reprieve, though Diva #2 always says a food coma is the optimal way to die happy.
Even though we did not try the last main dish as part of our elaborate tasting menu, two desserts arrived. The first being a chocolate mousse pastry on a chocolate crust. Expertly decorated, the chocolate mousse arrived with a dark chocolate glaze decorating the layered mousse on a bed of chocolate sauce with nutty aspects incorporated into the dish. This was by far the favourite dessert of the two; it made the thought of death by chocolate seem more than just rich chocolate but different textures and types of chocolate all incorporated into one dessert. Our dessert wine was fabulous. We are not experts on wine but we enjoyed all the pairings that were offered to us by the sommelier. Our last wine was a 2011 Domaine les Terres de Fagayra Maury ‘Fagayra Rouge’ dessert wine from Languedoc-Roussillon, France.
Our second dessert was a peanut sponge cake. Diva #1 dislikes peanuts, they are her least favourite nut. The sponge cake was fluffy, the icing creamy and not overly sweet and the candied peanuts decoratively topping the cake were actually quite tasty. A fruity preserve that tasted a bit like caramel decorated the plate and was well paired with the sponge cake. Chef Adam Zaitouni said that this dessert was his take on the classic PB&J. More peanuts were tossed onto the dessert and though Diva #1 still isn’t fond of peanuts, this was a fun dish.
The guys continued their date night elsewhere, and Diva #1 and Sweet Pea went to pick up Vegan Vixen from Old Montreal to take her to the Plateau to meet who she was hoping would become a spring fling. So off we went to meet her Frenchman, whom she had found on Tinder, and of course we were there as wing women, bodyguards, emotional support, designated drivers, and, because girls like to travel in packs… like wolves. Let’s just say that it was a night of #tinderlove for Vegan Vixen, and she crawled into work the next day a little worse for wear and proudly, as she constantly reminds us, covered in bruises. Our work there was done, and Diva #1 and Sweet Pea went home discussing our fabulous dinner at Grinder Viandes & Vins.
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
Tagged: 1708 Notre-Dame, Adam Zaitouni, Bar, Beef Short Ribs, Carpaccio, Griffintown, Griffintown Restaurants, Grilled Shrimp, Grinder, Grinder Montreal, Grinder Notre-Dame, Grinder Tasting Menu, Grinder Viandes & Vins, H3J 1M3, Lamb Shank, Miso Cod, Montreal, Montreal Food, Montreal Restaurant, Montreal Terrace, Notre-Dame, Private Room, Salmon Gravlax, Tandoori Halibut, Tartare, Tasting Menu, Tataki, wine