Diva#1 grew up in Ville St-Laurent where she attended both elementary and high school. It comes as no surprise that she can admit to knowing a lot of people in this borough. Growing up here as kids meant that we had certain places to hang out. Le Crystal Reception Hall was one of them, where all the delicious looking young men in high school worked, and every St-Laurent girl crashed at least one wedding, or showed up to meet them late at night after their shift. Diva #1 has been to Le Crystal countless times for weddings, corporate functions, and even her ten year high school reunion. But she had never been to their restaurant, Vino Rosso, located at the front of the hall. What sort of St-Laurent girl is she?
On the other hand, Diva #2 never had much to do with Ville St-Laurent until she met Diva #1 and her group of friends… now she spends more days and nights than she would like to admit in this famed borough at various house parties, lamb roasts, can anyone say Paulo and Suzanne’s?
The Divas came to Vino Rosso with a group of Diva #1’s St-Laurent guys (affectionately called St-Lau) after both recommendations from friends and family alike. Halls usually have a bad reputation when it comes to their food but Le Crystal is the exception, it is known as one of the halls with more gourmet Italian fare. Even Bellatrix’s Mate, a recurrent DJ at Le Crystal has only positive things to say about the place.
We didn’t sit on their terrace but we went out for air later on in the night. Before we even ordered, toasted focaccia bread drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, and served with both olives and pickled hot peppers arrived. It was divine, the bread was absolutely delicious and the hot peppers were the perfect pairing, but the Divas tend to love the spicier things in life.
“Amarone Valpolicella, Luigi Righetti”
We started with a fabulous Amarone Valpolicella wine, recommended to us while we were there. Amarone wine is made of partially dried grapes, if you’re like the Divas and like a pungent dry wine, then this is the red wine for you. It is a more bitter wine but definitely now one of our favourites amongst the Valpolicella wines, and it was paired perfectly with everything that we ordered.
We told the guys that we were with to take care of our order; they had been to Vino Rosso before therefore they were the resident foodie experts. We started with the antipasto Vino Rosso platter made up of prosciutto with melon, creamy mozzarella di bufala with tomatoes and basil, grilled vegetables, including delectable oyster mushrooms, fried calamari with marinara sauce, and grilled octopus tossed with parsley. Everything was fresh and the perfect mix of cold antipasti and hot, the freshness of the mozzarella di bufala and prosciutto was paired well with the fried calamari and grilled octopus and vegetables.
But one antipasto platter was seemingly not enough… after all, we do love to eat. Our second platter was the seafood antipasto platter with scallops, shrimps, grilled calamari, which is a Diva favourite, and more of that fabulous grilled octopus. The scallops were grilled to perfection, as were the shrimp; we fell in love. The grilled calamari was our personal favourite, on a bed of arugula it was fabulous with lemon and was the epitome of summer. We definitely prefer grilled calamari over fried, you taste the squid more and it reminds the Divas of summers in Greece and Italy.
We were feverishly recommended the tuna tartare; fresh red tuna, thickly cubed and seasoned lightly to optimize the flavour of the tuna. Served with a side of avocado it was nice to have the tuna tartare separate from the avocado so that you can control how much avocado you wanted to add to each bite. A side of arugula was the perfect accompaniment to this tartare and the baguette crisps were also drizzled with olive oil. It was a very fresh appetizer that arrived with a lemon wedge; lemon is the dressing to Mediterranean cuisine.
All Table D’Hôte mains are served with a house salad, soup or mussels. We were told to order the mussels which were tossed in a marinara sauce and cooked to perfection. Offering mussels as part of a Table D’Hôte menu along with the usual soup or salad was a nice change from the norm. The risotto with smoked salmon was a simple dish tossed with parmesan, it could have been creamier but it was meant to be a lighter plate. The Arborio rice was cooked al dente and the salmon was plentiful. The entire dish tasted smoked because of the mix of the warm risotto with the colder smoked salmon, an interesting combination.
We decided to share everything; the ravioli was the Divas’ favourite dish of the night. Ravioli stuffed with lobster tossed in a creamy vodka sauce garnished with caviar made for an absolutely mouthwatering dish. The creamy sauce was divine, and we later used the focaccia to enjoy the remaining sauce, a la scarpetta. The lobster ravioli was marvelous, generously stuffed, and the lobster flavour was very apparent even through the strong sauce. The caviar simply added to the opulence of the dish, and added another fishy element that went with the lobster and cream sauce.
Were we full, moderately so, but we challenged the guys… it didn’t make sense that the women were encouraging them to eat more. We really do love food! The owner came to see us and told us about some house favourites that are not on the regular menu but can be ordered if you know who to ask. This intrigued us and when the homemade gnocchi with tomato sauce and basil, the simplest yet most complex of Italian dishes arrived at the table, we were quite pleased that we knew the right people at Vino Rosso. Made with potatoes, the gnocchi were fluffy little delights that we quickly devoured. In some restaurants, the potato gnocchi are heavy but these were surprisingly light, similar to those made with ricotta and, dare we say, maybe better than some we’ve had at better known establishments…
As per Italian feasting tradition, after the primi comes the secondi, which is traditionally a meat dish. In our case we were recommended the special of the night which was a braised rabbit dish made in the oven with white wine and rosemary. Rabbit is a tender meat that when slow cooked properly in the right sauce can make even the most stringent animal rights activist forsake their beliefs to try this succulent meat. Vino Rosso truly impressed the Divas, this braised rabbit was incomparable to most rabbit dishes that the Divas have tasted, the meat was tender and melted in your mouth whereas the marinade and sauce should be eaten with a spoon. This is the moment where both Divas looked at each other wondering why we hadn’t eaten here before? Especially Diva #1 who was from Ville St-Laurent…we really need to get better organized.
We were stuffed but the description of the grilled meaty New Zealand lamb chops was too delectable to pass up. The lamb chops were cooked medium-rare, just the way we like them, the fat was almost caramelized, making it sweet and crispy. The chops had those perfect grill marks giving it that distinct charred flavour. We tried to be lady-like and eat them with our fork and knife, but we were soon eating with our hands, the only true way to enjoy lamb chops. If pictures are worth a thousand words, just look at the lamb chops and judge for yourself before going to Vino Rosso and tasting them.
We were full but sold on the homemade tiramisu that came in a martini glass. Diva #1 isn’t a fan of tiramisu but as she took a bite and looked at Diva #2, Diva #2 reminded her that “this is homemade tiramisu; no one can say that they don’t like this.” And she was right! The presentation was lovely, the taste incredible and a generous amount of espresso and mascarpone filled the martini glass. We also ordered the caramel apple cheesecake which was lovely but nothing beats that damn tiramisu.
We were pleasantly stuffed and we ended our night by sharing stories of the antics from our youth, many of which revolved around Ville St-Laurent. But let’s leave those rated R stories for a different type of article. Check out Vino Rosso for the Italian dining experience, everyone knows Le Crystal reception hall, it is about time that they get to know the restaurant as well. The Divas will definitely be back, and not only to cause trouble 😉
Our Rating: Splendid
Tagged: 5291 Henri Bourassa West, Antipasto, Bruno Varano, Calamari, Focaccia, Gnocchi, H4R 1B7, Henri-Bourassa, Italian, Lamb Chops, Le Crystal Montreal, Lobster Ravioli, Michel Cobetto, Montreal, Montreal Food, Montreal Restaurant, Mozzarella di bufala, Octopus, Osso Buco, Pasta, Private Dining, Rabbit, Risotto, Scallops, Seafood, Shrimp, St-Laurent, Table d’hôte, terrace, Tuna Tartare, Vino Rosso, Vino Rosso Henri-Bourassa, Vino Rosso Le Crystal, Vino Rosso Montreal, Vino Rosso St-Laurent, wine