Once again Calvin did not steer us wrong when he recommended Tapeo. We checked out their website before we called to make a reservation (we couldn’t just trust him blindly) and we were quickly impressed by the fact that they had pictures for each tapas on their menu. The menu items sound misleadingly plain, but if you look through the images you will soon see that “poélée de champignons” is more than just sautéed mushrooms and “pétoncle au lardon” makes it impossible for other restaurants to sell scallops wrapped in bacon.
We arrived at the restaurant and it was packed; this fairly large restaurant was pretty busy on a Thursday night and people kept coming in throughout the evening. We were asked to wait while our table was cleared and the waiter offered us a seat at the bar and gave us a menu to look through. We chose to remain in the entranceway which was intricately designed and separate from the dining area. The restaurant even had its own matchbooks which you do not see anymore; very old school.
We got to our table and ordered our drinks; the waiter was very helpful and told us that any cocktail can be made. The menu warned the clients that only one bill will be made, though some people are turned off by this caveat, the Divas tend to ask for one bill, so we did not mind.
By then our friend Bellatrix had joined us and we decided to order some wine. We ordered the Gran Coronas Penedes 2008 (Miguel Torres) which was great to see on the menu because it is one of our favourite wines. The Divas and Bellatrix have spent many lovely nights at Diva #1’s apartment drinking lots of Torres wine and bitching. For you sommelier readers, Tapeo also carries a good amount of private imports.
Our meal started with two lovely little tapas on the house. Slices of hardboiled egg topped with anchovies and a vinaigrette, simple, not overly salty, with a good amount of acidity. We were also brought some crispy potatoes that were a cross between chips and French fries and we quickly devoured them.
Our waiter then brought us our bread which he replenished all night without being asked. And we needed lots of bread because some of these tapas had the most delectable sauces that we just could not waste.
We started to order a multitude of dishes, but our waiter kindly told us to start with a few and then see if we wanted more. I think that our gluttony scared him! We started off with the fish tapas of the day which we were told was mussels. “Mussels” is not descriptive enough to describe this combination of flavours. The mussels were cooked in a light brandy and cream sauce with torn basil leaves and tomatoes. The sauce was not heavy, perfect for sopping up with bread, and the dish itself was larger than we expected for a tapas. The mussels were very fresh tasting, plump, meaty and their taste was not overpowered by the sauce. Great dish!!
Our next tapas that arrived was a dish that was simply described as beef tartare. The Divas love raw food and tend to order whatever is uncooked on a menu. Diva #1 had a bad cold and was hoping that she would be able to taste the mild dish and was happy to note that it was so well seasoned and spicy that she had no trouble at all. The tartare was topped with deep fried crispy alfalfa sprouts and the tartare itself was mixed with julienned potatoes that were fried to a crispy consistency. This was not your typical French tartare dish, it had flair and a Spanish influence with the piri-piri hot peppers. The Divas were wowed and for once…silent.
Along with our tartare, we opted for the second raw item on the menu, the pork carpaccio. However, it was not as impressive as the tartare. The pork was tasty but the chunks of roasted almonds, the tomato confit, the greens and the parmigiano on top of the pork truly overpowered the dish. It was good, but not exceptional, and the pork did not really come through.
Next came the sautéed oyster mushrooms. The table next to us had ordered them and exclaimed that they were delicious. After inspecting their dish and eavesdropping on their conversation (I think they were on a first date), we decided to trust in these honest looking people. When we tasted it, we wondered aloud how could something so simple taste ridiculously good? Thinly sliced king oyster mushrooms were tossed in a rich creamy sauce that we later found out was made with Canastan cream sherry. We say “goodness” because we cannot comprehend what made that damn sauce so f***ing delicious! The dish was served with a poached egg that once broken into, the mushrooms and sauce richened the already perfect sauce. A lot of bread dipping and drooling was involved.
Our wonderful mushrooms came at the same time as the bacon wrapped scallops. The scallops tasted smoky and were drizzled with a slightly sweet sauce. The Divas must have had bacon wrapped scallops at least 10 times in their wonderful lives but this dish was a twist on the traditional concept. The scallops were cooked to perfection and the sauce did not take away from the taste of the seafood.
Bellatrix wanted to order the meatballs, Diva #1 generally finds meatballs rather boring but she conceded. The meatballs were tender in a well spiced tomato sauce that had a hint of cheese. Typically a boring dish, the meatballs did not disappoint but they were still, well…meatballs. Bellatrix was happy and the sauce was exquisite so the Divas could not complain.
At the same time as the meatballs, the truffled cod and artichokes arrived. This dish was also served with a rich sauce but you could not really taste the cod, nor the truffles. The sauce was too overpowering for this weak fish. The sauce went well with the artichokes in the dish but it was too rich for the fish. A soft boiled egg topped this dish, and once again, the sauce and artichokes went well with the egg but we could barely taste the cod and definitely not the truffles.
If there was one thing that truly impressed us with Tapeo is that they always served a perfect amount of scallops, meatballs, etc. The waiter explained to us that if the tapas are meant to have two of something he will give us three, since we were three people (like the scallops). If a dish like the meatballs was meant to have four, he will ask us if we would like to have six meatballs or stick with four. Our waiter was very accommodating and it made our experience all the better.
Though we were stuffed, and still wanted to try more tapas, we opted for dessert or they would have had to roll us out of there. Churros are a traditional Spanish dessert so we had to order it at Tapeo. The exterior was crunchy and the inside fluffy. The churros were not overly sweet and they were served with a jar of dark chocolate ganache that was perfect to dip your churros in. There was so much ganache that when we were done our churros we started dipping our spoons in it.
Our second dessert was the nougat that was made up of a crunchy bottom and a dark chocolate fudge layer on top. It was very rich, which definitely made it something to share; we could not imagine eating such a rich dessert without the help of our hungry friend Bellatrix.
Tapeo also boasts a lunchtime special of the daily tapa, soup of the day, mix salad and either the plate of the day, catch of the day or paella for 18$. For our next visit we are dying to try the grilled octopus, gazpacho (which is sadly not on their winter menu), fideos and the paella à la Tapeo. Just go see the individual pictures on their website and you too will soon be making your own list:
The Chef of Tapeo, Marie-Fleur St-Pierre, recently came out with a cook book called Les tapas de Marie-Fleur and a new TV show. The cookbook is only available in French but it has recipes for most of the tapas served at Tapeo. She is also teaching tapas classes at Les Touilleurs in Montreal, but sadly they are already full. She seems to be a rising celebrity chef in Montreal and will soon be competing with the more well known Picard and Hughes.
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
Tagged: 511 Rue Villeray, Always on Thursdays, Bar, Bar à Tapas, Carpaccio, Churros, Cocktails, Cod, Cookbook, Eggs, Fideos, Gazpacho, H2R 1H5, Marie-Fleur St-Pierre, Montreal, Oyster Mushrooms, Paella, Private Imports, Reservations Needed, Scallops, Spain, Spanish, tapas, Tapeo, Tapeo Marie Fleur St Pierre, Tapeo Montreal, Tapeo Villeray, Tartare, Villeray, wine