You know that saying, “dress for the job you want, and not the job you have”? I’ve taken this adage and directed it towards food, “eat where you want to be, and not where you are.” Want to feel like you’re eating at an authentic “dai pai dong” in Hong Kong, hit up Sai Gwan in Chinatown, or a tiny little cevicheria on the beach of some sexy latin speaking country, try Ceviches. With the fucking weather we’ve had and going into our 8th month of winter, I needed something that would evoke feelings of being on a cobblestoned lined street kissed by an ocean breeze with smells of charcoal grills filling the air.
I recently hit up this Portuguese spot in St. Michel that grills up a storm and tantalizes the nose holes of locals within a three block radius. O Cantinho – which means “the corner” in Portuguese is aptly located on the corner of St. Michel and Jarry. In a neighbourhood that isn’t quite known for their bustling restaurant scene, this place holds it down and represents the multicultural neighbourhood with generous portions of simple and honest Portuguese cuisine.
Killing some time before I had to pick up my nephew from his hockey practice, I met a friend who lives in the neighbourhood for dinner. Surprisingly enough, she said that she’s walked past this place hundreds of times but never had the excuse to check it out – I was now the excuse.
We started with the fried calamari. Easily a portion for four, the generous appetizer was served with a mayo based spicy sauce and lemon wedges. The batter was light and wasn’t as crispy as I would have liked. It did however provide enough traction to be coated with the dipping sauce.
We split an order of half a chicken, ordered spicy. Split into pieces, the chicken was moist and smokey thanks to the awesome charred bits of skin. We asked for spicy, and the waiter presented the dish as “half chicken, spicy” but the heat of the spice was barely a tingle on a bunny rabbit’s tongue. I can eat spicy and maybe that was the variable in not being able to taste the heat in the sauce. Regardless, the aromatic vinegary hot sauce did cut through the chicken.
We couldn’t decide on which seafood plate to order, it was a toss up between the grilled octopus and the grilled giant shrimp. We did the only reasonable greedy thing to do; we ordered the fish and mixed seafood plate, which was basically everything from the seafood menu minus the bacalhau.
This plate was two grilled sardines, octopus, squid, clams, and fish of the day (which happened to be salmon.) Topped with a drizzle of olive oil and dressed with a tangy mix of tomatoes and onions complimented the the seafood. The seafood had the same “wok hei” as the chicken did having been grilled over hot coals – a hint of smokey goodness that lays these sea creatures to rest on the plate before I smash it against my face. The sardines are grilled whole so watch out for the bones. The octopus was amazing; light and tender and practically melted in your mouth. The “giant shrimp” was giant and we found that the squid was a nice addition to this plate as it’s not very common to see squid grilled whole – probably because they look like those things Will Smith killed in Independence day. The salmon was salmon and the clams were clams.
Despite our waiter’s “sense of humour” was sarcasm at its finest (or worst) and condescending – he gave me shit for asking for a straw which after 15 minutes into being seated, the joking around to break the ice had already worn off. The food was good and worth the money, despite the wise guy and attitude dryer than a summer day in Africa.