We had to try one of Chef Stephen’s restaurants before leaving this glorious city, after spending a bit of time with him and learning about his straightforward, traditional, Italian-tinged approach to cuisine. His Taverne sur le Square was the only one of the two open. Our choice was made.
The restaurant, at 1 Westmount Square, is on the ground floor of a building designed by German-American architect Mies Van de Rohe. We found an ideal table for people-watching, ordered the only Canadian wine on the list, and began filling our bellies with one of the most delightful six-course meals we’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
First course: Raw Massachusetts oysters, certainly less fatty and more flavorful than our Tomales Bay ones. Half a dozen didn’t feel like enough. I could have had 3 dozen. They were wonderfully fleshy with just enough salinity and silky texture.
Second: Market salad with endives, apples, golden beets, Brussels sprouts, sprinkled with pumpkin seeds.
Third: House-smoked salmon with cream cheese, green onion, picked red onions, and fried capers.
Fourth: Moroccan-inspired sea bass served over a bed of cauliflower mousseline with a charred tomato puree, black olive garnished couscous, chickpea-tomato-celery concassé, and caramel à l’ail.
Fifth: M. Cheesemonger chose the beef dish with broccoli and more of that delicious cauliflower mousseline, while I settled on the day’s veal chop special, served with anchovy grilled escarole, leek-sunchoke puree, and an additional veal meatball on the side.
Sixth: Dessert was a mini Philly cheesecake drizzled with maple syrup caramel.
Amazingly, M. Cheesemonger and I finished everything. Maybe it wasn’t so amazing, given how exquisite each dish—each ingredient in each dish—was. This is really how I love my cuisine. There were no funky gimmicks, no pretentiousness, no theatrics. The experience was 100% focused on the food. It’s as though Chef Stephen’s team brought every element of every dish to some perfect state, combined those elements together in some unspeakably perfect harmony, and presented that ensemble to the table. Every dish was finely executed with subtlety, finesse, and elegance. The entire meal was extraordinary, from oysters to cheesecake. Each bite was a moment I wanted to savor and make last just a little bit longer.
Maybe by writing this post I did manage to make the meal last a little more. If you find yourself in Montreal, I highly recommend you reserve a table here for lunch or dinner. It’s appropriate for a special evening out; you won’t regret it.
Thank you, thank you, Chef Stephen, for sharing your kitchen with us during our visit! You did a fantastic job showcasing your beautiful city to us travelers! I do hope we can come back when it’s warm and sunny!
Taverne sur le Square: 1, Carré Westmount, Montreal, QC H3Z 2P9, Canada
Taverne Monkland: 5555 Avenue de Monkland, Montréal, QC H4A 1E1, Canada