Montreal Oysterfest is always our favourite summer festival, but it’s also the last of the summer festivals, so it’s rather bittersweet! Montreal Oysterfest began in 2009 in a parking lot in Old Montreal, has and has since evolved into an international festival, bringing in oyster shuckers and oyster aficionados from around the world. Throughout the years more restaurants and bars added booths to the festival and the competition grew more firece. Daniel Notkin is the founder, MC and face of the event, along with his sister Joanna Notkin!
This year Montreal Oysterfest went old school, a nod to the legends who supported them from the beginning. Back in a parking lot, at La Gare Viger, it wasn’t as grand as other years, there were not as many restaurants or well known Montreal chefs in the competitions, it was meant to be a throwback. Some proceeds are donated to the World Wildlife Fund Canada, making this event a feast for a good cause!
As always, the oysters are from the Old Port Fishing Company, and this year there was quite the selection to choose from with two booths with different oysters. And if you know the Divas you know that we adore La Boîte aux Huîtres in the Jean Talon Market, they were milling around and talking to everyone about oysters and even handing out a few oyster freebies! After all, Montreal Oysterfest is all about the oysters…
The way that Montreal Oysterfest works is that you pay a 25$ entrance fee and then buy oysterfest dollars. Every ticket is worth 3$ and most restaurants charge between 2-3 tickets per dish. There are different combinations and deals, including a VIP tent. You can also pay for entrance and buy tickets on site if you see that you’re going through them faster than expected. Trust us, we did! If you want to read about the preamble to Montreal Oysterfest click HERE for more information, Montreall.com has you covered.
Our dream was to join the amateur shucking competition, the top 2 of that competition would move on to the pro competition. Diva #1 had no dreams about winning, but she felt like her friends would have had a good laugh. She usually shucks for pleasure, never speed! She arrived with her shucker in her purse but it was not meant to be, she slept in after a particularly wild boozy night and didn’t make it in time to register. At least the Sun God was there to wow the crowds!
In all honesty we don’t know how we made it to Montreal Oysterfest this year, we were hungover and on minimal sleep. But our group of women is tough, as well as unstable, and likely alcoholics so we started our morning with a Bloody Caesar and some hashbrowns to coat the stomach, and drank a few more Bloody Caesars from the Philémon Bar booth. Oysters and Bloody Caesars are a classic combo, better than PB&J! If you know the Divas, you know that Bloody Caesars are our favourite cocktail and we loved the spicy green bean that came with every Caesar!
Although there weren’t as many restaurant booths as previous years, we found a few favourites like La Bêtise. They had a few options, including fancied up oysters, but we opted for the salmon tartare with spicy mayo, rice crispies for a change of texture, shallots, caviar, avocado and a citrus sauce. It was a nice amount of salmon tartare which is one of the dishes that La Bêtise is known for!
No Name Catering had a fabulous little fried gnocchi booth. These guys are illusive, not only have we never heard of them but we couldn’t find them on any of the usual social channels. It’s too bad because their fried gnocchi booth was a real treat, you had the choice between tomato basil gnocchi with a fried oyster, fried chicken skin with a fried oyster, which we tasted and was heavenly, and the one that we fell in love with, lobster bisque and cheese curds with a fried oyster.
Tomahawk is a popular group that owns Santos, Dolcetto & co, and Tommy Café, amongst other Montreal restaurants and bars. We adored their braised lamb taco with pickled onions, cabbage and a chipotle sauce that was finger licking good. Besides the oysters, and the Bloody Caesars, this was our favourite little bite at this year’s Montreal Oysterfest.
We’ve been at war with Burger Bar for quite some time due to the fact that they cannot handle a negative review and are known for slandering and sending their minions to troll anyone who tries. But the Divas aren’t ladies who hold a grudge, although we also never back down from a fight, so we were willing to give them another chance. If they read this they may show up with their pitchforks and torches to take us down! Burger Bar your sliders were tasty, we were particularly impressed that the patty was cooked to medium, not overcooked at all, carry on old friend!
The seafood plating competition is one of our favourite Montreal Oysterfest competitions! Montreal chefs compete against the clock to make the most palatable seafood platters. The platters later get auctioned off to the highest bidder, and the proceeds go to the charity of the chef’s choosing. This is the prettiest and most fun competition because you get to see what chefs do best, make dishes both beautiful and delicious. Seafood plating is no joke!
Lili. Co won the seafood plating competition, La Bêtise was also a contender, among others. We were happy to hear that Montreal Oyster King, Chef Jason Nagy, won the pro shucking competition, unfortunately we were too boozy to attend. Known for his “shuck me” slogan, Montreal Oysterfest wouldn’t be the same without him! Danny Smiles and Chuck Hughes of the Crown Salts group, and Antonio Park of Park Restaurant were sadly missing this year. All these guys are the seafood kings of Montreal, but they didn’t have booths at the festival, nor did they participate in any of the competitions! Why oh Why?
Oddly Lucille’s Oyster Dive didn’t have a booth, nor did any of the Antonopoulos restaurants which includes Kyo Bar Japonais, Bevo, Brasserie 701 (formerly known as Suite 701), amongst others – they usually have quite a presence at Montreal Oysterfest. Perhaps most surprising is why Notkins didn’t have a restaurant booth, Daniel Notkin is the founder and face of the event!
We were disappointed that we couldn’t find the usual delicious lobster rolls, or even the usual oysterfest half lobsters or lobster boil at any of the booths! This year’s Montreal Oysterfest was all about tacos, and there were plenty to choose from at the various booths. Emiliano’s wowed us with their breaded fish taco with jalapeno lime mayo, roasted cipollini onions and lettuce. The Divas love spicy food, and these tacos came two per order, and we assure you that they were seriously spicy!
Taqueria Arturo had a fabulous steak taco and true to their cuisine, Ryu had a salmon poke bowl that was refreshing on a hot summer day, but served with a little too much rice for our liking. Kinka Izakaya had a booth with spicy garlic ramen and gyoza, if it was just a little colder we would have definitely ordered a nice bowl of ramen. And if you needed some instant energy before continuing your day of boozing and slurping oysters, fabulous Café Olimpico had a coffee tent to satisfy that craving.
Montreal Oysterfest is always a good time, and though we didn’t see the usual familiar faces and restaurant booths, we still had a fabulous end of summer party. This year Montreal Oysterfest was a tribute to the legends, made to be smaller and more intimate and back in an Old Montreal parking lot, which is where it all started!
Tagged: Burger Bar Montreal, Daniel Notkin, Emiliano’s Montreal, Jason Nagy, La Bêtise Montreal, La Boîtes aux Huîtres Montreal, La Gare Viger, Montreal Event, Montreal oyster shucking competition, Montreal Oysterfest, Montreal Oysters, oysters, Philemon Montreal, Plating Competition, Salmon Tartare, Seafood, seafood plating competition, Shuck Me, Shucking Competition, Tacos, Tomahawk Montreal