The Divas were feeling a bit nostalgic. Our very first review as food bloggers was for L’Orignal restaurant back in 2012, we were inexperienced but we had an insatiable appetite and love of writing. Two years later, it only seemed fitting that we should celebrate Diva #1’s birthday, back where it all began. Before we arrived for our reservation, we gathered at Diva #1’s apartment for the usual coiffing and pre-drinks. The usual gang was there, Sweet Pea, Vegan Vixen and her sister, Sensei, Bellatrix, a cousin, and The Artist, all lovingly showing up to celebrate Diva #1’s day of birth.
Located in Old Montreal on Saint Alexis, L’Orignal has been open since 2008 and conveys the feeling of being in a chalet while in the heart of the city. We knew that we wouldn’t be bored with their menu, they have a reputation for being fabulous.
Whitey also joined in on the celebrations and the mood was already geared for a memorable night! Even Diva #2 and Bellatrix were playing nice, a true birthday miracle for Diva #1. Bloody Caesars that came with two oysters were ordered and the wine menu was quickly studied. Our waitress warned us that they were short staffed on this night and she was also acting as the bartender. Of course, we started with a dozen oysters, half Raspberry Point and the other half Tavern oysters. Plump and full of flavour, Sweet Pea was nervous to try one because she doesn’t usually like the plumper variety of oysters but even she agreed that they were absolutely divine.
Our waitress told us of 10 different specials of the night and we all placed our order, choosing dishes from their regular menu and the specials. The Divas, Sweet Pea and dear Sensei decided to order multiple dishes and share.
We started with the bison tartare which was served with several condiments that were not mixed into the tartare but piled separately on the very generous portion of bison. These toppings included Middle Eastern adornments such as pine nuts, herbs, a cheesy creamy dip, and a spicy salsa; all of which made for a new taste with every bite. It felt like we were eating a variety of bison tartars, as opposed to one. The meat itself was fresh and also served with plenty of baguette crisps.
We also indulged in the baked beef bone marrow, as if there was a doubt, the second we saw it on the menu we all knew that we were ordering it. Although poor Sensei never got to try any because when the plate arrived in front of him we devoured it. The marrow was plentiful and salty and gelatinous and simply melted when it hit the tongue. Sensei would have loved it. Another generous amount, simply writing about it made us crave it right away
The foie gras was served in a jar with brioche and popcorn. The popcorn added a fun element to the dish and the smooth foie gras paired perfectly on the soft brioche bread. The foie gras was prepared torchon style, the brioche added a sweetness to offset the saltiness offered by the fleur de sel sprinkled onto the foie gras. The child in all of us was ecstatic to see the addition of popcorn with foie gras, the Divas and Sweet Pea all have a love of homemade buttery popcorn that cannot be explained.
The duck smoked meat was delicious and tasted exactly like a smoked meat sandwich, well actually it was better. One of the cousin’s was brave enough to come out with 8 women, and Sensei, a seasoned veteran, and he tentatively recommended this dish. We were floored, it was fabulous and an original dish. Served with pickles and a small salad, the meat was tender, had a deep red colour and a rich flavour. Corn topped the duck meat and it will be near impossible to return to regular smoked meat after trying this juicy and succulent piece of duck. Definitely one of our favourites, and there were pickles, Diva #1 loves a good pickle!
The last appetizer was the “moose knuckles”, Sweet Pea insisted that we order it and she doesn’t demand often. Moose Knuckles are homemade fried cheeseballs, served with a sweet and tart apple ketchup. Crispy on the outside, the interior was perfectly melted, and the cheese was simply bursting out of its shell. The photo does not do this dish justice, it was quite remarkable.
Throughout the night, we were loud. After all, if you seat that many ethnic people at one table, quiet is not an option. Even Whitey was soon gesturing aggressively and yelling like the ethnic within. We were slightly inappropriate and we are positive that our waitress heard more than she should have and we can only hope that everyone was generous with their tip at the end of the night! And poor, poor Sensei was beaten by the women at the table after voicing his opinion on men’s expectations of women in the bedroom. But we were 8 women… and the cousin was hoping to get lucky that night so even he couldn’t side with Sensei!
After our talk of one night stands, blow jobs, and general bad decisions, most involving some sort of sexual endeavour, we looked over and noticed a travesty. Whitey and Vegan Vixen were eating salads… at L’ Orignal, a haven of meaty happiness and fabulous delicacies. The Divas have dabbled in salad before, but they aren’t our main squeeze. The green salad had kale, clearly Vegan Vixen was obliged to get it, it was tossed with green grapes, green beans, lentils and toasted pumpkin seeds. It was good… for a kale salad. Whitey’s was more impressive. It was a Brussels sprouts Caesar with a delicious creamy dressing and plenty of bacon and parmesan. But really, how are we friends with these people?
Several of the mains grabbed our attention but we couldn’t pass up the rabbit cavatelli. Served with plenty of mushrooms, the rabbit meat was beyond tender and rich. The cavatelli were cooked perfectly al dente and the poached egg added to the lusciousness of the dish once it was broken into. An absolute gem of a dish! And Diva #1 even turned to Diva #2 and confirmed “L’Orignal is still Always on Thursdays!” You win L’ Orignal, you definitely win!
Perhaps it was the festivities of the soirée but Diva #1 will not soon forget the bonding that she witnessed between Diva # 2 and Bellatrix. Chatting like friends, as opposed to the usual glares between arch nemeses, Diva #1 felt absolutely spoiled.
Soon our whole sea bass with grilled oysters for two arrived. A wonderfully large plate filled by this aromatic fish arrived at the table. The sea bass was char grilled which added a whole other dimension of flavour. The skin was crispy and the flesh was tender and fell apart at the touch of the fork. The grilled oysters were dressed with pesto and still held their briny flavour. It was served with asparagus, green beans and fiddleheads, all cooked perfectly, well-seasoned, and simply deific. A pool of sauce lay under the fish, it simply enhanced the dish, we aren’t even sure what type of sauce it was because it was just mild enough to enrich, and not overpower the meatiness of the sea bass.
Both The Artist and the cousin ordered the lamb shank. It was cooked perfectly and very tender, it melted in your mouth. The Parpadelle was homemade and that phenomenal yellow colour that only appears when the pasta is at its freshest. It was also served with broccoli made three ways, puréed, roasted and a third that neither of them remembers. It was an incredulous dish!
At this point we were drinking heavily, wine was flowing, chatter was getting louder and we were quickly thankful that we were the only table sitting in this more secluded part of L’ Orignal. It is like they knew that we would get obnoxious at one point in the night. Chalk it up to the beginning of another hazy summer with The Divas!
Vegan Vixen and her sister ordered the other sea bass dish but for one, we think we made the better choice. This sea bass was simpler, served with a herb sauce with greens, roasted red peppers and a frothed almond milk sauce. It was very good but incomparable to our whole sea bass that was as majestic as our Sensei and Vegan Vixen’s cat Booger. We do not label things as majestic without conferencing with each other first!
Of course dessert was a must but when our waitress arrived to tell us the list, no one really heard the full list, but somehow we ordered two and sang a less than stellar drunkenly off-tune rendition of happy birthday to Diva #1, whom we encouraged to try and blow out the sparkler candle. Which she did… and then died of embarrassment at the idiocy of the attempt.
The apple crisp was light and fresh, with a creamy concoction involved. But the deconstructed s’more won us over. Dark chocolate, graham crumbs and a mound of softened marshmallows, it was a child’s dessert made for adults, or adult children, as Whitey calls us, and it left us all feeling giddy.
As the night was coming to an end, we were making plans on where to go next to continue the party. We ended up at Garde Manger and met up with more friends including another cousin and Mr. Sheffield, what a darling! We also ran into Ms. Garde Manger’s man who kindly bought some of us shots, which simply set us over the edge. We doled out advice to an unsuspecting groom-to-be at his bachelor party, by describing the perils of marriage and we prematurely mourned the loss of his fun sex life and foreplay, post marriage. Hopefully he shows up at the altar after all! We lost Vegan Vixen briefly and Diva #1 emotionally abused Sweet Pea by putting her in an awkward yet amusing situation. It was clear that Diva #1’s birthday was an absolute success! She was surrounded by her closest friends, frenemies made peace, amazing food was aplenty, endless cocktails and wine surrounded us, and she got to torture her bestie, what more could she ask for? Happy Birthday Diva #1, xoxo.
Our Rating: Always on Thursday
Tagged: 479 St-Alexis, Apple Crisp, Bison Tartar, Bone Marrow, Braised Lamb Shank, Cocktails, Deconstructed S’more, Duck Smoked Meat, foie gras, Game Meat, H2Y 2N7, L'Orignal, L'Orignal St-Alexis, L’Orignal Montreal, Late Night Montreal, Montreal Food, Montreal Restaurant, Moose Knuckles, Old Montreal, Old Montreal Restaurant, Old Port, oysters, Rabbit Cavatelli, Reservations Needed, Sea Bass, St-Alexis, Venison, wine