Siblings. Love them and hate them at the same time. They do things that make you want to beat them with a stick and then do things that make you want to hug them and kiss them on the nose. That’s how we feel about P’tit Frère. And tonight, we were out to celebrate his day of birth!
Even though it was his birthday, the Divas had to choose the restaurant! Having grown up with Diva#1 he knows how to pick his battles and when it comes to food he wisely chooses to trust us. We were looking for something fun and laid back and found just that at Pintxo. Located on Roy street in the Plateau district, Pintxo is a small Basque tapas restaurant. The Basque region actually spans the border of Spain and France and the influence in their cuisine is evident. We use the words tapas and pintxos interchangeably in this post but pintxos are actually smaller than tapas, therefore you can order more!
On arrival, we were greeted by the warmth of the wood fireplace at the entrance, just across from the glass-enclosed wine cellar which can be seen wherever you’re sitting. Numerous accolades adorn the walls and big, canvas paintings hang in the dining room, the reds and yellows predominant.
The restaurant is split in two parts, one side being the bar and the other being the dining room. We were seated not even five minutes when the lights suddenly went out! The Divas were not planning for a romantic birthday dinner but had the lights not come back on, the Divas already had 3 other restaurant choices in the surrounding area as backup; we’re always prepared!
Nevertheless, the lights were soon back on and the Divas and company (including our beloved hungry Sweet Pea) could relax, knowing the kitchen was ready. That being said if they had asked us to leave Diva #1 was prepared to ask them to cook anyway since they probably (99% chance) have a gas stove top which is not dependent on electricity…never get in the way of a Diva craving!
We asked our waitress for a bottle of dry red wine and she came to our table with a Pittacum 2007 red from Bierzo, Spain. It went very well with our tapas (although the proper term is pintxos), it was dry, had a great aftertaste and we were soon on our second bottle.
Opening the menu, we saw that there were too many choices to choose from. The waitress suggested ordering 12 to 15 pintxos if we were splitting them amongst three people. Sweet Pea simply gave up when the Divas started listing every second dish! Diva #2 took out her phone and started writing down every item that Diva #1 mentioned in glee as she read the menu. Our list was long, we were hungry and we certainly did not want to share with the other more picky dinner guests. So the Divas and Sweet Pea ordered their own tapas, occasionally sharing with P’tit Frère when something was too delicious to let the birthday boy miss.
Our meal started with a strawberry and red pepper gazpacho, flecked with black pepper. Let’s be honest, our meal did not start with a gazpacho but our friend’s did, so we slowly stole his little bowl and ate the whole thing. It was refreshing and tasted like a spicy strawberry coulis. This was interesting because in between mouthfuls of sweetness you would enjoy the spiciness of a peppercorn. Sadly we do not have a picture… we ate it too fast and since we had technically stolen it there was no time for photography.
“Strawberry and sweet bell pepper gazpacho” 4$
We continued with a yellow beet tartare with smoked salmon and feta cheese. This was very fresh tasting and though the salmon was not the main ingredient of the dish, it would have been nice to have a few more pieces of the salmon mixed in. The feta did not particularly stand out either; we don’t even remember tasting it and good feta is a strong cheese.
They also had a salmon tartare but there was only one order of this left so we offered it to a friend of ours. It was tasty but we’ve had better elsewhere and we did not regret ignoring this dish. There was much better to come.
Up next, another tartare (how could we not order multiple tartares?!), this time, a Diva first, smoked duck tartare. A very interesting texture, the smokey flavour really came through and it is definitely worth ordering. This was almost pulled pork like and we would love to enjoy this in a sandwich stuffed with plenty of smoked duck meat.
P’tit Frère ordered the beef carpaccio with manchego cheese, it brings a tear to his sister’s eye that he so readily embraces raw food. The carpaccio was well seasoned and the cheese an original option, we’ve never seen manchego cheese on a menu but appreciate the Spanish influence.
The chorizo and grilled octopus soon arrived. The chorizo was crispy and flavourful and a bowl just of that would have been sufficient for the Divas. The octopus had a few tough pieces but it was very fresh. The chickpea purée looked unappetizing when it arrived but it was delicious and a nice combination with the octopus. We could not stop eating the marinated red onions tossed in a citrus vinaigrette, they were delicious with bread.
The next pintxo was a crab and shrimp stuffed piquillo pepper. The divas were somewhat disappointed with this because it was heavy on the salt, and a tiny unimpressive pintxo. The best part was sopping up the sauce with the bread! It was decent but not as phenomenal as it sounded. That being said, why were we only offered brown bread? Are we on a diet? NO! Next time we would have preferred some wonderful white bread.
The filet of Basque cod was also ordered by our friend, who graciously let us take a bite. The tomatoes in this dish were delicious and the sauce was wonderful, the pieces of cod melted in your mouth. The goat cheese with roasted cherry tomatoes was enjoyed by our dear friend Dr. Body Shots…yes she is a doctor and she does do body shots. Generous pieces of goat cheese and greens topped the fresh roasted tomatoes. A great vegetarian accompaniment to the many tapas that are heavy on the meat.
Next, we had the delicious goat cheese raviolis with duck stew. The filling was very smooth and the stew and gravy on top just added an extra dimension of flavour. The goat cheese was on the strong side, others may not like that but the Divas adored it. It was a pintxo that we wish existed as a main meal because we would have loved to eat it with a bottle of dry red wine. The duck stew was particularly tasty and a perfect combination with the goat cheese.
Along with this delectable tapas came the ragout of snails with wild mushrooms and parsley oil. Just the right amount of salt, the dish was another hit, very hearty and earthy. The parsley oil added a new flavour to the snails that the French (and the Divas) traditionally enjoy with garlic butter. The snails tasted fresh and the mushrooms had the same texture and enhanced the dish.
We also indulged in the mushroom caps stuffed with duck confit which can only be described as mouthwatering. All of Pinxto’s warm tapas were particularly impressive. If you come here, avoid the traditional tartares and other more expected dishes, and dip into the unique combinations that Pinxto offers because you will only be impressed by the combination of flavours that has you yearning for more. It was hard not to order two of the same pintxos but we were curious to try new combinations.
We were torn between ordering the foie gras torchon or the seared foie gras. We went with the warm seared foie gras on a bed of lentils. We were impressed with the size of the foie gras for the price and the texture was creamy and cooked to perfection. We were so impressed and we don’t know how we managed to be so kind, but we even let P’tit Frère try a few bites, we suppose we felt generous because it was his birthday. Definitely worth ordering again! The lentils were boring and were disregarded; perhaps this would be better on a bed of arugula or a brioche.
Next up, every animal in the forest was on our table!
We were really surprised with the rabbit leg confit which was both a large portion and served with marinated mushrooms. This was nearing the end of our dinner so we were rather full but really enjoyed this fatty tender dish. The skin was crispy and the meat moist but the marinated mushrooms were a bit too vinegary and did not add to the confit’s flavours.
If Diva #2 sees a small bird on a menu, you know it’s going to end up on the table! So the half quail was a given. The Divas found it a bit salty for their taste and it was a bit on the small side but still cooked well. A quail is already a very small bird so cutting it in half was overkill, especially when served with the much larger rabbit leg. The pasta was tasty and its sauce was made with the juices of the quail, but we cannot say that the smoked ham really stood out. Actually we don’t remember it at all. Another friend ordered the scrambled eggs with Basque cod, this is the second tapas that we had with the Basque cod and it was delightful!
You would think that we were done? But for girls, we can sure eat a lot and hey, it was P’tit Frère’s birthday so we had to treat ourselves and him to a splendid evening. The beef cheeks with mustard mash were succulent and the mashed potatoes were very different and wonderful. We’ve told people before that the cheek on any animal is one of the most tender parts, but no one listens. And we’re fine with that, be squeamish, it just means more for us! We were a bit hesitant that it was not the traditional veal cheeks (which are even more tender) but they were cooked to perfection. You really tasted the mustard in the mashed potatoes which sounds odd but was amazing.
The Venison medallion arrived with a butternut squash purée and really taught us what a piece of meat should be! Cooked to perfection, tender, the natural juice mixed with the squash puree streaked on the dish, we were soon fighting over the last piece. Thankfully they did not even ask us how we would like the venison cooked. Let’s be honest, if you’re not enjoying a piece of meat as succulent as venison medium-rare to rare, well, you may as well go to Subway and order their steak sub and call it a night.
The bison rib was a large piece of meat and was so well-cooked that it simply fell off the bone with ease. The homemade BBQ sauce was a little spicy but it gave it a bit of a kick, maybe white people would have wanted it milder but we are ethnics and loved it! The quinoa salad was also a spicy addition and added to the rib meat.
If this was not enough, the black (blood) puddings arrived to the table. A definite star of the night was the blood pudding with apple chutney. Served in an edible cup, the blood pudding was simply divine and the chutney added a nice touch of sweetness. A good amount of blood pudding was provided and we were already very full but we could not stop eating.
P’tit Frère also ordered a blood pudding but he tried one that was served with grilled chorizo. We had tried Pinxto’s chorizo in another tapas dish and coupled with the blood pudding it made for a delicious smokey combination that was different than our sweeter apple chutney with blood pudding. Yes, some of our friends grimaced at the idea of eating blood, but once again, we scoffed at the philistines (P’tit Frère hates philistines) and enjoyed both dishes immensely.
Definitely feeling full, we could not pass up dessert. After all, a birthday would not be complete without some sweets! We tried three desserts, the cheesecake, nougat and almond cake. The almond cake was served warm and draped in caramel sauce. Gooey and sweet, it hit the spot. The caramel sauce was not overly sweet so you still tasted the cake underneath and the toasted almonds on top. It was definitely the favourite amongst the desserts that we tried.
The nougat was a decent dessert but we have had better nougat elsewhere so we would not necessarily order this again. The cheesecake was also tasty and very presentable, but once again, it did not necessarily stand out as a particularly original dessert.
In the end, we hope that P’tit Frère had a wonderful birthday and has already given us the go-ahead to plan his next one (at gunpoint)! The Divas had a great night and tried some truly original dishes and combinations that they had never considered an option. Let’s face it, duck confit, tartare, foie gras, octopus, chorizo etc are all staples in Montreal’s high end restaurants, it is hard to be impressed anymore, but at Pinxto, Chef Alonso Ortiz captivated us. Pintxo also has some main meals that are larger versions of their tapas and some new options but if you are going to go to Pintxo, you have to go … well for the pintxos.
Happy birthday P’tit Frère, the Divas love you!
Our Rating: Splendid
Tagged: Alonso Ortiz, Basque, Basque Cod, Beef Cheeks, Bison, Black Pudding, Blood Pudding, Carpaccio, Chorizo, Cod, Duck Confit, foie gras, Gazpacho, Goat Cheese, Montreal, Mushrooms, Octopus, Pintxo, Plateau, Private Imports, Quail, Rabbit Confit, Reservations Needed, Roy, Santiago, Smoked Duck Tartare, Snails, Spanish, Splendid, tapas, Tartare, Venison, wine