It feels like Le Vin Papillon opened just yesterday and though the Divas kept saying that we would go, we never got around to it. We were deterred by the no reservation policy, and we often roam in large packs like wolves, so Le Vin Papillon with its 25 seats and no reservation policy never seemed right. Six months after its opening, Whitey told Diva #1 and Bellatrix that she needed “good” wine after meeting a stressful deadline at work. She suggested Le Vin Papillon, and Bellatrix and Diva #1 jumped at the opportunity to try this new wine bar with such an impressive reputation. After all, it was the latest love child in the Frederic Morin and David McMillan marriage, born after Joe Beef and Liverpool House.
We had never been to Liverpool House, and we had reviewed Joe Beef but it had had so much hype that we were left feeling deflated after our dinner there. Le Vin Papillon was recommended to us more quietly, with less fever than the screeching Joe Beef fans, and this intrigued us. Bellatrix and Diva #1 walked in on a Thursday night and were told that it would be a 45 minute wait. We were starving! Whitey was running late as always, so somehow Diva #1 convinced Bellatrix to wait and not run out of there in search for somewhere else.
Bellatrix hates no reservation policies, but Diva #1 felt that it would be worth the wait and thankfully it was. We awaited Whitey and our seat, and sipped at one of the few wines that they serve by the glass in their tiny little alcove style waiting area. We had the choice between two wines but chose the Spanish one, as per the recommendation of the in-house sommelier. Our waitress was more than understanding, especially because we had a barrage of questions about the menu, and we kept asking her the proverbial “are we there yet?” like the hangry irate children that we could be.
They ended up seating us in 25 minutes, instead of 45, and by the time we sat down we knew what we wanted to order because we had combed through the chalkboard menu. We are convinced that they eventually sat us down because they wanted to feed us, in case we ate one of their clients. We decided to start with the cheese platter where you could choose any 3 cheeses from their list. We all love cheese, but Bellatrix didn’t like goat’s milk cheese, Whitey didn’t like blue cheese, and Diva #1 wanted them all. Women! Le Vin Papillon’s menu is heavy on French cheeses which is simply perfection to our ears. The Cheddar D’ Avonlea was sharp and poignant, and the Mont D’ Or was recommended by our oh so patient waitress because of its brie-like consistency and likeness. The Ossau Iraty Munster was brought to us when we said surprise us with the last cheese, and it was delightful. Made from sheep’s milk, it is a medium-soft cheese that is velvety and rich. Le Roquefort Papillon was also recommended but the girls with Diva #1 didn’t go for it, but trust us, the Divas will be back to try it!
The cheese was served with honey toast which was reminiscent of Diva #1’s childhood when her grandma would toast rye bread with honey and serve it alongside Manouri, a ricotta-like Greek cheese. The toast with honey added a slight sweetness to the cheese and it was wonderful, especially when whole walnuts and almonds were served alongside a nut cracker. It added to the rusticity of the experience and cheese, nuts and wine are the food that is served in heaven… along with foie gras.
But what about our wine? After all Vin Papillon is not really a foodie’s restaurant, but a wine bar specializing in Old World wines. Sommelier Vanya Filipovic, a Joe Beef veteran, came to our table to help us choose our wine. We are not specialists in wine, we know what we like but little else and we rarely try to impress anyone with our knowledge of wines. We explained that we wanted something dry and full bodied that assaulted our mouth with flavour. We told her that we did not want to have to sell our belongings to pay for the bottle of wine and she laughed. She recommended the Vin de Pays de L’Hérault, Catherine Bernard, 2011 as a starter bottle. It was exactly what we wanted and later on in the night she came back to make sure that we were pleased. The Divas rarely comment on service, it is usually average, but our waitress and sommelier at Le Vin Papillon were absolutely fabulous and accommodating.
Diva #1 started her night with the parfait of rabbit liver that was nestled under a bunch of gougères, and alongside their house pickles. These little gherkins can also be ordered on their own. Gougères are baked pâte à choux rounds mixed with cheese and herbs. They are savory and a wonderful aspect of French cuisine. The parfait de foie de lapin was a large portion, the rabbit liver creamy and so gamey, and perfect with each little puff of pâte à choux. Thankfully, Whitey and Bellatrix don’t eat rabbit, so Diva #1 got to enjoy this small plate on her own. It was the perfect accompaniment to the sharp cheeses that were on the table, and our full bodied wine.
The roasted cauliflower had been recommended by everyone who had been to Le Vin Papillon. Who would have thought that cauliflower could be fun? Roasted and crispy on the outside but not overcooked when cut open, the cauliflower was lemony and fresh. It was served with caramelized onions, capers and salty crispy chicken skin. We did not even realize that chicken skin was topping this dish until we asked our waitress for the secret salty ingredient. We were impressed by the way Le Vin Papillon took unconventional side dishes and made them unique, and if you look at the menu you will see other vegetables and less trendy items being made into small plates. There was no tartare, foie gras or other more typical tapas dishes on their menu. Instead there was rapini, beans, and brussel sprouts, all made in intriguing ways.
Our next small plate was the ham with butter on a soft bun. With the meat slicer sitting on top of the bar, the ham was a must. If such a small kitchen and bar takes the space to place a large meat slicer on its bar, you know that there is a reason. Thinly sliced flavourful ham sat on top of lightly toasted fresh poppy seed buns. The meat was covered in a mild but plentiful butter sauce that was a lighter mayonnaise, but do not picture the overpowering taste of mayonnaise; it was in fact more butter than that. Eaten with a fork and knife, this small plate took a school child’s ham-sandwich to the next level. Though we find it odd that Le Vin Papillon did not have a charcuterie plate to go with its cheese and wine, the ham won us over.
Last but not least, Bellatrix could not resist ordering the potatoes. Small potatoes smashed in olive oil with plenty of red and white caramelized onions and garlic made up this dish. The juicy sauce was well seasoned and pungent. Once again, perfect when enjoyed with wine. It is hard to rave about potatoes but these melted in your mouth. The night wore on, Sommelier Vanya Filipovic came back to now recommend a new bottle of wine, richer and more full bodied than the last, it was a Côtes du Rhônes, Domaine Trapadis, 2011. It was delicious and even more of an assault on our mouth than the last one, just the way we like our wine, and maybe our men. We were joined by one of Whitey’s male companions and spent the night sharing odd stories and traumatizing Bellatrix with our candor.
Vin Papillon is the perfect place to stop for a small plate with a bottle of wine between friends. Other menu items that made us salivate but that we were too full to enjoy included the stuffed onion and Greek mushrooms. The restaurant is very vegetarian friendly, with many of their dishes not containing any meat at all, but the vegetable dishes are cooked and seasoned in unique ways.
Whitey and Bellatrix were aggravated that the restaurant asked if they could have the table when we had paid but were still chatting. Diva #1 felt bad for the hangry people waiting because that was her a few hours before, we too were hoping that someone would leave so that we could have our turn at this fabulous wine bar. We left and went to see Ms. Garde Manger and her monsieur at Burgundy Lion, just across the street. A completely different atmosphere that was a lot of fun, but made Diva #1 think fondly and appreciate the finer things in life, and that is what you can find at Le Vin Papillion.
Our Rating: Splendid
Tagged: 2519 Notre Dame, Almonds, Bar, Bar Snacks, Chalkboard Menu, Cheddar, Cheese, Curds, David McMillan, Foie de Lapin, Fred Morin, French, French Cheese, Griffintown, Gruyère, H3J 1N4, Ham, Honey Toast, Joe Beef, Le Vin Papillon, Le Vin Papillon Griffintown, Le Vin Papillon Montreal, Le Vin Papillon Notre Dame, Leigh Roper, Little Burgundy, Liverpool House, Marc-Olivier Frappier, Montreal, Montreal Restaurant, Munster, Mushrooms, No Reservations, Notre-Dame, Nuts, Pickles, Rabbit, Rapini, Restaurant, roasted cauliflower, Roquefort, Shrimp, Small-plate cuisine, Sommelier, Sommelier Vanya Filipovic, Splendid, Stuffed Onions, Sud-Ouest, tapas, Vanya Filipovic, Vin Papillon, Walnuts, wine, Wine & Cheese, Wine Bar