Speechless. A state not often associated with The Divas…just ask our Sensei! So rare in fact that we cannot think of another moment that we could say that a dinner was so exquisite that we were left in utter silence. Sitting at the counter at Park, with Chef Antonio Park in front of us, in his element working his magic, left us speechless. This was our second visit to Park and we assure you, it will not be our last.
When people meet us, they love us. This is still something our majestic Sensei is coming to grips with and such was the case when Diva #2 met blogger the Sassy Foodophile at Toqué for the Montreal en Lumière Veterans Brunch. Naturally, the topic of food came up and she suggested we go for dinner to Park. Diva #2 quickly texted Diva #1 and plans were made.
The Divas arrived fairly on time, well for us, and headed to the counter where Sensei and the Sassy Foodophile were waiting. Cocktails were ordered and we immediately made Sensei change seats so that the Divas could sit and eat together; an obedient man is a smart man! Sensei is often crabby and blames his mood swings on the Divas, but we just have so much love for him that it really isn’t fair. After hearing him gripe all night, while the Divas lathered him in affection, even Chef Park agreed that Sensei should be grateful to be seated with three beautiful women.
Our cocktails arrived. The Cucumbertini was fresh and heavy on pulpy cucumber and gin. The Kimchi Caesar was rimmed with coarse steak spice and just spicy enough to leave you wanting more. Both were lovely.
Chef Antonio Park and the Sassy Foodophile arranged for us to have the Omakase tasting menu. Omakase is a Japanese phrase that means “I’ll leave it to you” and we could not be in more capable hands with Chef Park. Our first of ten services was a surf and turf kimchi soup with enoki mushrooms and green onions. The broth was full of flavour, a bit spicy and incredibly delicious. We were off to a very impressive start. Is soup even supposed to taste this good? It certainly opened up our appetite for the next course.
Diva #1’s oldest friend, Bubbles, was celebrating her birthday with her boyfriend and came over to say hi. Throughout the night, Diva #1 would disappear to chit chat, eat food off of her plate, and at one point she even returned with sake. Bubbles is a fabulous gal, she bought Diva #1 her first cell phone in high school, came with her to get her first tattoo, has always lived a few blocks from her, even after they both moved, and has generally always been there for a dramatic phone call or girl emergency.
The next course was intense; a venison tataki seasoned with Japanese seven spice and served with slivers of radish and crème de foie gras. Absolutely heaven! The crème de foie gras, made in-house, was unbelievably creamy and smooth like butter, with a hint of smokiness. The Sassy Foodophile and Chef Park discussed how he made the crème de foie gras, he described the process as simple. The flavour was anything but simple! The venison was a deep red colour, barely seared on the outside, raw and cool on the inside. The sel de mer sprinkled on top tied everything together. A generous portion, Diva #1 was dumbfounded when Diva #2 gave her an extra piece of foie gras from her plate, she was stunned by the generosity that she would never be capable of returning, ha!
Next was the 8 piece nigiri plate which our Sensei said “not since Japan have I had fish this fresh and delicious!” We watched Chef Park prepare each nigiri rhythmically and with patience, each fresh piece of fish was richer and more unique than the last. Each nigiri was garnished with an element that enhanced the flavour but did not take away from the fresh fish taste. Toppings included wasabi, shishito pepper, jalapeno rings, Spanish caviar, chimichurri and more. Instructed to eat from the top right across, each fish was better than the next, ending with the strongest, which was the slightly seared salmon with a maple glaze. When the torch came out to lightly sear the salmon, we were mesmerized. Of course Diva #1 almost ate the nigiri in the wrong order but Diva #2 was there to instruct her and curb her gluttony… sorry Sensei, this is why we have to sit together!
Our cocktails finished, we moved on to wine and were happy to see one of our favourites, a Greek white wine by the name of Santorini Atlantis, which isn’t on many menus and is one of our favourite white wines. It paired perfectly with our side order of oysters. We spotted our favourites, Standish Shore, on the chalkboard menu but they had no more so we had two of the PEI variety. Served simply on ice with a wedge of lemon, one oyster was garnished with horseradish, the other with kimchi. They were fresh, meaty and satisfying.
As the next plate was placed in front of us, the aroma was intoxicating. We were treated to sustainable wild BC halibut. It was seared on one side to create a crispy crust which added flavour to the intensely white fish which was extremely tender. It sat on a bed of fennel salad with cipollini onions adding a little bit of sweetness. A black garlic purée was also painted on the plate.
The next dish was pure extravagance. Served in a cold, white bowl, a generous amount of BC uni sat in a thick pool of sweet onion and carrot purée, with basil and micro sorrel leaves. Visually, the dish was bright and inviting. And after one bite, we were happy, after two and three bites we had no issues with dying and allowing this to be our last meal. The uni blended into the onion and carrot purée-like sauce, and it was not overly sweet. It was absolutely lovely that the texture of the sauce matched the texture of the uni. It was almost foie gras like in its creaminess.
We watched as Chef Park prepared the next dish and though we were definitely feeling full, when the sashimi dish was placed in front of us, we devoured it. Bright orange Chinook Salmon decorated with Japanese mint, Yellowtail belly, and wild sea bass topped with a slice of crunchy baby truffle peach, acupunctured red snapper and silver eye sea bream all served in a tosazu sauce. Sounds like a mouthful? It truly was. The fish was fresh, the sauce didn’t mask any flavours but added a full mouth feel and overall, it was filling. The sauce tasted a bit like truffle oil but Chef Park has a way with creating unique flavours so we wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t even any truffle oil in the dish.
Between each dish, we chatted and tortured our dear Sensei, saying inappropriate things, teasing him about his many issues. We think the Chef may have overheard us, but we are sure that the couple sitting next to us definitely overheard us, they gave us a few questioning looks. We watched Chef Park continue preparing with finesse. He handed us our next plate over the glass divide and our mouths started watering.
Seared foie gras was wrapped with a shiso leaf, with drops of wasabi and edamame purée. Chef Park told us to pour the Japanese plum sauce as a topping and eat. We did as instructed and the taste was divine! The foie gras was salty, caramelized and crispy, the sauce matched perfectly, of course, and though we were full, we could have eaten so many more.
We were getting quiet, a fact that our fantastic waitress noticed and that our Sensei relished. The food coma was slowly kicking in. We were really too full, but then we saw the next dish and somehow we found room for more. Chef Park described it as a 45-day aged Angus beef, spiced with Joe Beef steak spice and garnished with chimichurri, shallots, Kimchi and coriander sprouts. The meat was bursting with flavour, spiced perfectly and the crispy shallot, dot of Kimchi and chimichurri sauce worked flawlessly together. It was absolutely fantastic!
We ended the Omakase tasting menu with dessert. Diva #2 loves anything with pistachios so when we were presented with pistachio cake, she was already happy. A dense but moist cake sat on diced pineapple flavoured with vanilla; the cake was topped with a gelée of coconut milk, chocolate mousse and spun sugar. Everything worked well together and the raspberry purée brightened each bite. More importantly the cake was very light to offset the heaviness of the rich meal, we don’t know how we ate it but somehow we found more room.
Our night at Park was unbelievable. The company was splendid and the experience of sitting in front of Chef Park, who effortlessly created the Omakase menu right in front of us, was priceless. While Montreal may not be on par with the likes of New York and Japan when it comes to sushi, Chef Park is definitely doing his part to put the city on the map, all while creating a well-deserved stellar reputation in the process. The Divas cannot wait to return, it truly was a remarkable experience!
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
Tagged: 378 Victoria Ave, Antonio Park, Asian, Black Angus Beef, Chalkboard Menu, Chimichurri, Fish, foie gras, H3Z 2N4, Japanese, Japanese Kimchi, Kimchi, Korean, Late Night, Lunch Menu, Maki, Montreal, Montreal Food, Montreal Sushi, Nigiri, Omakase Menu, oysters, Park, Park Montreal, Park Montreal Restaurant, Park Restaurant, Park Westmount, Red Snapper, Reservations Needed, Salmon, Sashimi, Sea Bream, Sushi, Tasting Menu, Uni, Venison, Victoria Park, Westmount, Wild Striped Bass, wine, Yellowtail Belly