High ceilings, tall windows overlooking McGill Ave perfect for people watching and meat hanging in the front window. What more could the Divas ask for on a Thursday night?!
The Divas made their way to Hotel St. Paul in the Old Port, where our table at Hambar was waiting. Vegan Vixen joined us, knowing full-well where we were eating. Yet she came to another restaurant with meat in its name. The Divas are becoming suspicious of her behaviour but we’re glad she can be her true self around us … carnivorous!
As our table was not ready, we were seated at the bar and what an impressive bar it was! Bottles till the ceiling; it boasts a large variety of vodkas, gins and whiskeys. Soon after, Zeus and Hera joined us for some shots and we were whisked away to our table shortly after.
Conveniently, we were seated at an elevated corner banquette, with a perfect view of the street and the prosciuttos hanging in the window. Funnily enough, Vegan Vixen looked very much at ease. And the Divas couldn’t help but smile at the sight of two shiny, red meat slicers at the back of the restaurant, with jars of marinated vegetables behind them, stacked high to the ceiling. Diva #1’s kitchen is filled with red appliances and she considered taking one of these meat slicers home.
Hambar is known for its ham (big surprise), so we absolutely had to order the charcuterie plate. We ordered the small platter but were surprised at the amount of food it had. Filled with delicious marinated vegetables, we were treated to pâté, rillettes, cheese, cured meats and hams. The liver pate was creamy, the porchetta was to die for, the chorizo was perfectly spiced and salami was lovely. Zeus even bought a pound of chorizo at the end of the night, to take home and enjoy slowly, although he finished it in two days. There were also two types of ham on the wooden cutting board engraved with the Hambar logo; prosciutto and Serrano. Both equally melt-in-your-mouth delicious!
The cheese on the platter complimented the salty meats and the marinated vegetables were done in-house. This generous portion came with toasted baguette slices. The Divas also tried head cheese for the first time. It was wrapped in nori, sushi-style and was just delicious. For those of you that aren’t foodies… head cheese has nothing to do with cheese. Just like sweet breads is not a sweet bun bought at your local bakery … sometimes we hate people. Most people wouldn’t try headcheese but it’s hard to go wrong when you cure meat out of some of the most tender parts of an animal!
One can easily make a meal out of the platter and you can be sure the Divas are already planning to go back for a bottle of wine and the larger platter which is not just bigger, but includes more variety and Iberico ham.
Next up, we started ordering the appetizers since the charcuterie plate was just a petit amuse bouche to start our night. Hera ordered the beef tartare. The Divas for once were not in the mood for tartare but it was actually very good, flavourful and it was cut up more finely than what we’ve had in the past. It was the only tartare option on the menu and they did a damn good job with it.
Of course, Vegan Vixen kept playing the “vegetarian” card and ordered the gnocchi with wild mushrooms and prosciutto – but without the prosciutto. The Divas almost fainted but she’s our friend and we’ll punish her accordingly in due time. The dish was fantastic; the large portion of gnocchi was made up of small-sized gnocchis that were light and tasty with plenty of mushrooms. The sauce was lick-the-dish worthy and adding the prosciutto would have only made the dish even more delicious. It is wonderful seeing a pasta dish as an appetizer; the Divas love pasta!
Diva #2 ordered the grilled octopus and calamari and we have no regrets. Grilled to perfection, the only complaint is that the chorizo could have been cut into smaller pieces. The white beans which served as a bed were cassoulet-like and were enhanced by the spicy oil. Another large, impressive appetizer.
Diva #1 ordered the waygu tongue after it was pointed out to her by Diva #2. And she’s glad she did. Though a smaller portion, it was delicious and tender, served simply with bread and exquisite fried capers. Up until that night, Diva #1 had only had goat’s tongue and she insists that, hands down, she’d choose the waygu over the goat any day. But she won’t let her Greek relatives hear that. And yes, the Divas even got Vegan Vixen to try some tongue! Vegan Vixen loves a little tongue…
With all these great appetizers, one had to fall short and it was the arctic char gravlax. Maybe we’re used to having salmon gravlax, full of deep flavour but this one seemed too light for our liking. We aren’t sure if the arctic char is too weak of a tasting dish to cure gravlax-style or if Hambar just missed the boat on this one, either way, this appetizer did not particularly stand out.
Our mains were next and we have to admit, they were all great. Like she did for her appetizer, Vegan Vixen once again chose to pretend that she was a vegetarian and ordered the squash ravioli. The dish was delicious, garnished with greens and paper-thin radishes which added a peppery kick. The armillary mushrooms (which we had never tried before) were plentiful but perhaps the ravioli should have been filled with a little pancetta to add a salty dimension. A suggestion made by Vegan Vixen herself, scout’s honour!
The Divas love duck so Diva #2 took one for the team. Cooked perfectly, tender, the fat cap was rendered down just enough but crispy at the same time and the sauce was incredible. The eggplant caviar was like having a caponata relish which was nice and you had the tiniest hint of spice from the chorizo emulsion, a meat that is quickly becoming a Diva favourite!
A Flintstone sized veal rib could only be fit for Zeus! Covered in BBQ sauce which did not overpower the taste of the veal, the meat was so tender it fell off the bone, leaving it clean! One thing that left the Divas perplexed was the lonely leaf of romaine that it was served on … still not sure what purpose it served. If the dish came with root vegetables as the menu stated, no one cared because this dish is ordered for the succulent meat.
Though we’ll put anything in our mouth, we’re not big fans of pork chops. However, Hera’s choice of main dish was surprising. It was very tender, still a little pink and very moist. A far cry from the dry tasteless pork chops we’re used to. Hambar makes all forms of pork fabulous!
On the advice of the waiter, Diva #1 ordered the scallops and did not regret listening to someone else’s opinion (which doesn’t happen very often!). The scallops were tender, the smoke penetrated the flesh, and there were tons of crisped prosciutto shards on top of the soft scallops. The accompanied cauliflower puree was creamy and amazing.
Believe it or not, we still had room for dessert! Though we were informed that they had run out of the quince tart that we had our eye on, we had two lovely desserts, the bombolini and the ricotta cannoli; Diva #2 was happy to end the night on an Italian note. The bombolini, delicious little doughnuts, were served warm and coated in sugar. Accompanied by espresso panna cotta which stood out, it was a nice cool contrast to the warm doughy goodness.
Our second dessert was equally delicious. If you love lemon, this cannoli is the one for you as the lemon cream was very tasty and tangy. The ricotta was light and was a great way to end our meal.
Though fairly new, Hambar is definitely a Montreal restaurant to visit. The appetizers are generous, the mains are filling and the desserts are satisfying. If that wasn’t enough, you’ll be spoiled by their wine list, flawlessly assembled by famed sommelier Philippe Poitras. Every Monday, Hambar offers prosciutto with any cocktail as an amuse bouche. And guests of the adjoining Hotel St. Paul can also enjoy room service from their menu.
You can be sure the Divas will be back to Hambar. Hanging meat is always an open invitation for a satisfying night out, Diva-style!
Tagged: Bar, Brunch, Charcuterie, Chorizo, Duck, Ham, Hambar, Happy Hour, Hotel St-Paul, Iberico Ham, Liver Pâté, McGill, Montreal, Old Montreal, oysters, Philippe Poitras, Pork Chop, Preserves, Private Rooms, Prosciutto, Rabbit, Reservations Needed, Rib Steak, Salami, Scallops, Serrano Ham, Splendid, Tongue, Wagyu, wine