McGill Street in the Old Port hosts some of the Divas’ favourite restaurants. We were not familiar with Helena but the idea of Portuguese tapas intrigued us. We were not even waiting for five minutes that the floor manager brought us glasses of white port while our table was being prepped.
Beautiful and modern, the restaurant had a majestic blue cut out faux ceiling where you could see the light behind it streaming through. A beautiful glass wine display was across from the bar, and large ceramic dishes decorated another wall. We went to Helena with Zeus, Vegan Vixen, Sweet Pea and a Greek disciple of the mighty Zeus.
The service was impeccable and we do not usually comment on service. Our waitress, Erica, was phenomenal, funny and helpful and we had a great time with her. Vegan Vixen got to know the manager and kept going on cigarette breaks with him in the back, though our waitress later told us that he doesn’t even smoke. We were probably the loudest and most inappropriate table there and I assure you that we were the drunkest. Once again, Mr. Wonderful sadly could not make it, but he chose a fabulous restaurant so we forgive him.
That day at work, Zeus had gotten excited when he saw Helena’s menu. So he did his favourite thing, he ordered the entire tapas menu, minus whatever they did not have that night. We didn’t ask anyone else at the table what they wanted for dinner; even Vegan Vixen had to deal with our insanity, despite her imaginary dietary restrictions.
Before our meal our waitress brought us bread and a spicy butter, as well as extra virgin olive oil for dipping our bread. The Portuguese olives arrived with sun dried tomatoes and lupini beans, they were amazing. We started off our meal with a variety of cocktails, many shots and some refreshing dry white wine. When Zeus is around we always order shots and leave a restaurant a little more disheveled than when we walked in.
Our first tapas was composed of delicious cod fritters with a spicy piri piri aioli sauce. These six croquettes were delicious and salty, perfectly paired with the spicy aioli sauce. Vegan Vixen was very happy to start the night with these. When they arrived and everyone asked what they were, she joyfully exclaimed “who cares, they’re fritters!” They were not overly fried and we gobbled them up.
Our second tapas was a grilled asparagus salad with serrano, almonds and São Jorge cheese. The Divas had never tried São Jorge cheese and it was delicious. The asparagus was perfectly cooked and tender. We first saw the serrano next to the meat slicer by the bar; each piece of serrano was freshly sliced before being placed on our salad. The salad came with these two little mysterious fried treats, there were two so the Divas ate them but we have no idea what they were. Whatever those little pieces were, they added a nice crunch to the refreshing salad.
If you are going to go to a Portuguese restaurant, you have to order some chorizo, also known as chouriço. We ordered the mixed chouriço platter that came with sautéed spinach and some interesting seeds of sorts. There were different kinds of chouriço, which all tasted slightly different and made for an interesting platter. Zeus and his disciple enjoyed this plate. We were feeling good (aka tipsy) so we began re-enacting Diva #2’s birthday by singing her Happy Birthday in French and Greek… another video was made and she should be overjoyed that she can say that she has been sung Happy Birthday in Polish, Arabic, Italian, Greek, English and French.
When the foie gras terrine with a fig and porto chutney arrived, served with two slices of grilled baguette, Diva #1 was in heaven. Vegan Vixen was convinced that the terrine was cheese until we told her mid-chew that it was foie gras. For a vegetarian, she is often caught with all sorts of meat in her mouth. The fig chutney was perfection when paired with the foie gras terrine that had pieces of pistachios in it. Vegan Vixen claims that she thought that the terrine was a type of cheese but at this point she should just give up the vegetable facade and embrace her love of meat, even extra unethical meat like foie gras.
The Divas had never tried sardine tartare before. It was served in a little sardine can so we were already in love with the presentation. Sardines are very fishy tasting so this was not our favourite but if you are a lover of sardines then this is the dish for you. It was fresh tasting and came with some arugula and roasted red peppers on the side. The tartare itself was dressed with oil and was tossed with green onions, once again it is not a comment on the dish but our own tastes that made this our least favourite tapas.
The stuffed squids were spicy and covered in a tomato sauce. They were stuffed with a type of meat, which tasted like chorizo, and they were delicious. There were only two per order but they were large and we devoured them quickly. Zeus’ disciple barely got a sniff before we gulped up these delicious stuffed squids and then used the bread to enjoy the spicy sauce. The Divas do not like to share, particularly when something is especially tasty.
The scallops were the success of the night. They were so good that we ordered two more orders before the end of our meal. Sometimes we can get a little out of control. Pan seared scallops topped with foie gras and bacon marmalade with a hollandaise style sauce made up our favourite tapas. The scallops were so fresh we believe that Chef Helena herself must have fished them that morning. The subtle foie gras made them creamy and the sauce under the scallops was decadent. Once again, poor poor Vegan Vixen did not realize that what made these scallops absolutely fabulous was the addition of foie gras. So she ate them all night and only found out the next day that she had enjoyed foie gras and bacon marmalade. Poor poor Vegan Vixen! Though in her weak defense, we were well into bottle number 2 and shot number 3 by this time.
The sardine filets were once again too strong for our taste. The sardines were rolled up in a red pepper sauce that was wonderful. The taste of sardines was too overbearing for our liking and we would not order this appetizer again. It came two per order so we had to cut this flaky fish so that we could share it. It was topped with an olive tapenade that cut the fishy flavour, along with the sauce underneath the sardine rolls but,once again, sardines are not our favourite fish. Unfortunately, we only discovered our disdain towards sardines after ordering two dishes of it.
The squid and octopus salad was heavenly. The octopus was grilled and the squid expertly fried so as not to be too greasy. The seafood sat on a bed of greens and tomatoes with a leek vinaigrette. The flavours amalgamated together expertly and we truly enjoyed this dish. Helena’s was generous on the squid and octopus and it made for a large tapas.
At this point we were feeling feisty and decided to call our sweet Sensei in an attempt to lure him out. He was leaving for Toronto in the morning but we missed him so we called him and passed the phone to everyone (including the disciple who did not know him) to send him good wishes and love. He threatened to redirect our website to porn, a common (empty) threat by our dear Sensei, and we wished him farewell on his travels.
During our call, the black pudding and pineapple had arrived and we were digging in. Served with blueberries and pineapple, this charred black pudding was delicious for those with big enough cojones to try it. Sadly most of our table chose to avoid this peculiar dish but it was their loss because the black pudding was wonderful when coupled with the sweet fruit. The Divas were impressed.
The pork cheeks were also phenomenal, particularly the sauce with apples and a beet puree. The braised pork cheeks just melted in your mouth and the green apples added tartness. Had we not been full, Diva #1 would have insisted that we ordered a second plate of the braised pork cheeks. We were getting louder and louder, we had drunk too much, and we were sending inappropriate texts to all the men we were sleeping with or wanted to sleep with. We were generally amusing ourselves with our stories and antics, we are not sure how the other patrons of the restaurant felt about us.
Since we were already out of control, we told our waitress to just order all of the desserts in one large platter. The guys didn’t want dessert, Sweet Pea kept telling us to relax because we weren’t going to finish it, Vegan Vixen disappeared for another long cigarette break and the Divas just waved their arms, shooing the waitress away and begging her to bring all of the desserts. The dessert plate was out of this world, we had natas, churros with a chocolate sauce for dipping, chocolate mousse on a cookie, doughnuts, fruit and other little Portuguese delights that we loved but cannot name. It was definitely one of the more impressive dessert platters that we have ever had. Sweet Pea loves dark cocoa and was particularly thrilled with the desserts with chocolate; she just cannot get enough of dark chocolate.
Just because we had moved on to dessert did not mean that we were going to stop drinking. Zeus ordered more shots, the restaurants treated us to a few and we continued our inappropriate conversations and lewd interchanges. We left feeling very pleased to have chosen Helena on this Thursday night. Next time we would like to return and try their mains such as pig confit, cornish hen, duck confit, etc. Zeus went home with Diva #2 to finish what they started long ago (much to everyone’s delight) and Sweet Pea drove Vegan Vixen and Diva #1 home while confessing to her love of the darkest of dark chocolates. Poor little Zeus’ disciple went home on his own; we aren’t really sure what he thought of his first night out with the Divas but all men who come out with us tend to leave a little worse for wear.
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
Tagged: 438 McGill Ave, Always on Thursdays, Bar, Black Pudding, Chorizo, Chouriço, Clams, Cocktails, Cod, Cornish hen, Duck Confit, foie gras, H2Y 2G5, Helena, Helena Loureiro, Helena McGill Ave, Helena Montreal, Helena Old Montreal, Lamb, McGill, Montreal, Montreal Restaurant, Octopus, Old Montreal, Old Port, Petiscos, Pig Confit, Pork Cheeks, Portuguese, Reservations Needed, Sardines, Sardines Tartare, Scallops, Seafood Stew, Senegal Shrimp, Squid, tapas, Tartare, wine