***Sadly this Restaurant is Closed***
When we found out that Adam Zaitouni, the former executive chef at Grinder, was the new chef at Vicolo, we knew that we were going to be in for a treat. Sweet Pea and Diva #1 were invited for a soft opening of sorts, a nice dinner for two before the hustle and bustle of their anticipated media event. The restaurant is rather large and we fear that it will be difficult to fill. In general, we are fans of smaller restaurants, but after sampling their Italian menu, we are confident that anyone going to Vicolo for dinner will be back soon after.
The décor is warm, with leather banquettes and chairs, comforting lighting and a nice big bar at one end of the restaurant. We started with a roasted butternut squash soup, already a Sweet Pea favourite, we were quite eager to see how Chef Adam Zaitouni was going to enhance it. This thick roasted butternut squash soup had hints of orange zest and the brown butter added the perfect aftertaste. The whipped mascarpone lay in a dollop in the middle of the bowl, sprinkled with diced Granny Smith apples; it added a creamy and tart element to this hearty soup. We didn’t think that soup could taste this good! They also served it in shooter glasses a their official media event, so we were lucky enough to try it twice.
We were spoiled; the chef brought us almost every course himself and described the ingredients and the preparation making up the dish. You can tell that Chef Adam Zaitouni loves what he does, it comes out in the way he talks about his dishes and how they taste. The deconstructed Caesar salad had a romaine heart, smoked speck made into homemade high-end bacon bits and black croutons made with squid ink. The croutons had a salty element from the squid ink, and the Caesar dressing was made with yogurt which made it nice and thick. A generous amount of parmigiano shavings topped this salad.
More and more frequently we have been seeing burrata on Italian restaurant menus. We love this cheese! Once again, Vicolo took it to the next level by serving it with grilled country bread, sundried tomatoes, an olive tapenade, pickled mushrooms, fresh tomatoes and arugula. The burrata was served rather originally with the olive tapenade being the very enjoyable dominant flavour.
The beef carpaccio at Vicolo is reminiscent of Chef Adam Zaitouni’s delicious carpaccio dishes at Grinder. The carpaccio at Vicolo is prepared with black truffle, runny quail eggs, parmigiano, pine nuts and a buttermilk dressing. Once again squid ink croutons added a nice salty, yet crunchy element to this dish. The black truffle was made into a cream, and the beef carpaccio was fresh and thinly sliced, as it should be.
The last of our appetizers was the grilled octopus cooked sous vide for 6 hours. Diva #1 is an octopus-snob, she has had amazing grilled octopus at Montreal restaurants and in Greece. Usually when she sees octopus on a menu she avoids it. Vicolo steered away from the more traditional grilled Mediterranean octopus by first cooking it sous vide style. Topped with a parsley pesto, fingerling potatoes, lightly pickled Lebanese cucumbers, red onions and olive oil, this octopus dish had a slight Middle Eastern taste.
In traditional Italian fashion, we enjoyed a few primi before our secondi. Linguine alle vongole is an old Italian favourite, popular in yesteryears, you don’t often see this pasta dish at new Italian restaurants. The clams were fresh, the linguine al dente and the sauce perfectly buttery and rich. Made with white wine and tons of butter, the pasta was topped with fresh cracked black pepper, fresh diced tomatoes and a touch of parsley. We would come back just to order this dish again!
After trying a perfected classic like linguine alle vongole, we were expecting another traditional pasta dish. Expect the unexpected at Vicolo! The next pasta dish was our favourite of the night; Sweet Pea and Diva #1 were silent while devouring it. Ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach was covered in a decant blue cheese sauce. Crumbled blue cheese also lay on top of this dish, as well as compressed pear and cranberries poached in simple syrup for sweetness. Walnuts added a textural element; duck confit added pleasure for your mouth and if that wasn’t enough, dehydrated duck fat added a crispy and salty topping. Words do not describe the journey of flavours that each bite brought us through.
Our last primi was a wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil, another Italian cuisine favourite. The taste of black truffle was evident, and the risotto itself was made with veal stock, and topped with parmigiano, arugula and a slice of smoky speck. The Chef knew we wanted to try as many dishes as possible, so he made the portions accordingly for sharing so that we tried a few bites of everything. Nevertheless we begged him to only bring us one secondi, we were simply too stuffed.
Our secondi was a whole Cornish hen on a bed of barley with carrots, broccoli and tarragon. It arrived theatrically with a sprig of burning rosemary sticking out of it, the aroma making us salivate. We were too full to enjoy the entire bird, but each bite we had was juicy and lemony, the skin being particularly flavourful with the taste of fresh tarragon and rosemary.
We were unfortunately too full for dessert, but we are eager to return to Vicolo and try some of their other dishes. It was a wonderful culinary experience that any foodie will be happy to embark on. After enjoying our dinner we spread the word about the upcoming media event in the following weeks. Diva #1 and Sweet Pea were quite pleased to return with Diva #2, the boys from Day Jobs and the Nightlife, our sweet Sensei from Montreal Breakfast Review, Rambo, Whitey, Tanya-Kay and Female Department – a mix of local Montreal talent and friends.
Words don’t describe the impressive table of Italian cheeses and charcuterie. Overflowing with plenty of cured meats like bresaola, prosciutto, salumetti, soppressata and more, an abundance of cheeses, bread, olives and fruits and nuts, it was truly a feast any Italian family would be proud of!
The formaggi and salumi table was actually a full 360 degrees of goodies. Grapes, figs, honeycomb, olives and other accompaniments were scattered around and ready to be enjoyed with the Italian cheeses and cured meats. Cocktails and wine were candidly flowing and everyone fell in love with Vicolo, the way Sweet Pea and Diva #1 knew they would after their first visit.
A dessert board was brought out, filled with three different choices, none of which are your traditional Italian fare. The sucre à la crème was rich and creamy, the dense brownies covered in chocolate was decadent, and the chocolate covered marshmallows will make you forget childhood favourites like Whip Its!
The Golden Square Mile lacks innovative restaurants; Vicolo will be a lovely addition to their restaurant scene. Chef Adam Zaitouni is creating quite a name for himself in Montreal, and we are quite happy to be going along for the ride.
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
Tagged: 1424 René Lévesque, Adam Zaitouni, Beef Carpaccio, Burrata, Charcuterie, Cheese, Cornish hen, Downtown Montreal, Duck Confit, Grilled Octopus, H3G 1T7, Italian, Italian Restaurant, Linguine Vongole, Montreal, Montreal Italian Restaurant, Montreal Restaurant, Vicolo, Vicolo Montreal, Wild Mushroom Risotto