The Divas kept hearing things such as “mind blowing” and “breathtaking” about Park restaurant in Westmount on Victoria. The Divas love sushi and when Diva #1 heard that the Executive Chef Antonio Park had worked at Kaizen, one of her favourite sushi restaurants, she became even more interested. In May, P’tit Frère hungrily returned from his geological camping trip in the Utah and Nevada desert, tired of eating over a camp fire and out of a cooler, he knew that he wanted good food. Not exactly what the Divas consider a vacation, Diva #1 abided by her little brother’s wishes as we are always eager for a unique culinary experience.
Diva #1 and P’tit Frère went to Park for a sibling soirée, we only work together, play on the same soccer team, hang out with the same friends and live a floor apart… we needed more bonding time. P’tit Frère loves sushi, so much so that he prefers sashimi to maki because he loves experiencing the taste of the fish. Actually, during our dinner, he informed Diva #1 that in Japan they eat their nigiri upside down, with the rice on top and the fish directly on your tongue. He was told that this is the correct way of enjoying nigiri. Sheesh Diva #1 caught herself wondering when her little brother became such a connoisseur, but she followed his advice and it only enhanced their experience at restaurantPark.
We knew we wanted to start with white wine to enjoy with all of the fish, and we happily noticed a Diva-favourite on the wine list, the Santorini Atlantis, Domaine Argyros, (45$). The Divas love Greek white wines because they are not weak and have a poignant after taste. This set the tone for a great night! Park restaurant came highly recommended; the fresh fish is flown in several times during the week, much of it from Japan. The waitress explained what came with their popular tasting menu (75$) or we could order from the chalkboard menu. Park restaurant does not have an à la carte sushi menu, it is not that type of restaurant and the nigiri, sashimi and makis are simply the chef’s creation. No kamikaze and California rolls here, and good riddance!
Though items on the chalkboard menu looked interesting, their tasting menu sounded impressive so we both ordered it. Of course we wanted to add more sushi to the nigiri that was on its way, so we added the “seasonal maki” that was listed on the chalkboard menu. Our waitress explained how our order of maki would be incorporated in the tasting menu, which was perfect because it was flawlessly placed in the sequence of things and not just thrown in at the beginning or the end of the meal.
The first course was a shell fish broth with king clam, noodles and green onions. It looks plain in the photo because how exciting can a soup look but I assure you that it was the perfect start to our meal. This soup was aromatic and the broth rich with its seafood taste. This little appetizer opened up our appetites and we were quiet while enjoying it, eagerly awaiting what was to come. To be fair we were also eavesdropping on the first date between an older gentleman and his very young lady and their discussion about her cat… this kept us quiet, giggling and gossiping in Greek.
Our next appetizer was delicious sweet prawns with a ragout. The presentation was impeccable; the prawns were spilling out of the bowl with some greens. The kimchi and green bean ragout was delicious and we were trying to identify all of the unique ingredients but we couldn’t. The prawns were sweet and served whole; perhaps for the squeamish this is too much but Diva #1 loved the rawness of the presentation. The hollandaise foie gras sauce, which sounds overpowering and oh so French, was subtle. There was just a hint because such a rich sauce could have masked all other ingredients. It is said that Chef Antonio Park creates Korean and Japanese dishes with a French flair, and this one was certainly an example of that.
Next up was the incorporation of our side order of maki that we had ordered to compliment the tasting menu. This is not the type of sushi that you eat with wasabi and soy sauce, actually there was none of the sushi-staples in sight nor did we miss them. Our waitress had explained the maki and we were licking our lips in delight: yellowtail tuna, Albacore tuna and salmon with avocado, cucumber and a truffle sauce. Each unique maki, 8-10 in all, looked artistically crafted and perfectly shaped with the perfect amount of sauce on top. The maki pieces actually looked square instead of round, but enough about the presentation, it is the taste that wowed us. The truffle sauce was distributed on each piece and the perfect amount to enhance the taste but not overshadow the delicious fish. We were provided with ginger for a palate cleanser and we soon decided to split up the nigiris and makis and eat two nigiris for every maki; we are very systematic.
The nigiri that were served at the same time was explained by our waitress as being 12 pieces, 6 different fish with their own unique sauce on the traditional tiny bed of rice. Not too sticky, the rice was the perfect amount and each fish and its unique sauce was more delicious than the last. At this point Diva #1 was in foodie heaven and took down the names of all the fish but could not hope to remember the varied sauces topping each piece. The different fishes were wild Japanese sea bass, red snapper, salmon, butterfly fish, Japanese Wild Flounder that was topped with a Japanese green pepper and yellow fin tuna. The fresh taste of the fish is incomparable to any other raw fish. Some were topped with something as simple as a chive and other times a little Park concoction, either way, each piece of nigiri was spectacular.
At this point we were quite full and wondering what the sashimi would taste like, gluttons that we are, we wanted to order more but we had not even had our main dish. As the waitress topped off our wine glasses, Diva #1 answered that “my brother and I love everything,” lest she get any ideas that this was a date… and our final dish arrived. The seared scallops with sweet potato purée tossed with ice wine vinegar and served with radish carpaccio and fennel were exquisite. The dish tasted a bit like pho, very similar to Vietnamese cuisine, it was unique and flavourful. Decorated with an edible flower, (well we ate it so we hope that it is edible) and greens, this was the perfect end to our meal at Park. The scallops were lightly seared, almost raw in the center, the sweet potato purée was rich and creamy and the radishes were cut so thinly that they were translucent. We were so full yet so amazed at the combination of simple ingredients that made up this dish. Chef Antonio Park truly ended things with a bang!
I think P’tit Frère says it best, you can add foie gras or truffle shavings to anything and make it delicious but that isn’t necessarily impressive. It is when you take common ingredients and combine them to make unique experiences for your pallet that you truly appreciate a chef’s talent, and Chef Antonio Park does just that.
We were full and dessert was still on its way. This last part of the tasting menu was described by our waitress as a refreshing dessert, which was perfect to end our meal. There were different types of ice granita served in a little bowl, our waitress told us that it was apple, lavender, mango, pineapple and strawberry ice granita topped with strawberries and citrus, and an amazing red bean purée. Red bean desserts are often seen in Asian cultures, and here the red bean was wonderful when coupled with the iced granita and fresh fruit. As fresh as their fish, the fruit was sweet and bursting with flavour, each bite of dessert was an experience for the tongue.
P’tit Frère surprised Diva #1 by paying for the bill as a birthday gift since he was away on the actual day; always the perfect gentleman. We had spent a few hours at Park, enjoying the food slowly while loosening our belt buckles. As we were leaving we could see Chef Antonio Park through the open kitchen, meticulously preparing every dish, truly an inspiration to any chef. The Divas are not well versed in Japanese cuisine, but the consensus seems to be that anyone would be hard pressed to find a better Japanese inspired restaurant in Montreal, and we could not agree more.
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
Tagged: 378 Ave Victoria, Antonio Park, Asian, Black Angus, Brunch, Butterfly Sebring, Chalkboard Menu, Fish, Granita, H3Z 2N4, Japanese, Japanese Flounder, Kimchi, Korean, Late Night, Lunch Menu, Maki, Montreal, Montreal Food, Montreal Sushi, Nigiri, Organic, Park, Park Lunch, Park Montreal, Park Montreal Restaurant, Park Restaurant, Park Westmount, Prawns, Private Imports, Red Bean, Reservations Needed, Sashimi, Scallops, Surf and Turf, Sushi, Tasting Menu, Teriyaki, Victoria, Victoria Park, Westmount, Wild Japanese Sea Bass, wine