MTL à Table Edition – Sa-Fran Bistro & Sushi Bar

Sa-Fran - MTL à Table

November 7, 2014

in Food, Mile-end/Plateau Mont-Royal, Reviews, Sponsored

Without a doubt, this year’s edition of MTL à Table honestly stretched right across the city. With over 140 restaurants participating in this restaurant week featuring amazing table d’hôte specials at $19, $29 or $39, it’s nearly impossible to find something you don’t like. I had the opportunity to check out one of Montreal’s more interesting restaurants offering a unique dining concept. I was a guest of Tourism Montreal’s invited to discover Sa-Fran Bistro & Sushi Bar.

Located on St.Denis, the new newly opened restaurant is co-owned and co-headed by Chefs François Leleu and Chef Satoshi Matsumoto – Chef Matsumoto formerly of Jun-I. Two friends who each shared a passion of food in their respective fields (one from a classic French cuisine, and the other from a traditional Japanese culinary background, decided to put their names and enthusiasm for food to open Sa-Fran Bistro & Sushi Bar.

The MTL à Table menu was three services, each with a choice of either the French or Japanese side of the menu. For starters, a lobster bisque with garlic croutons. The soup was rich in flavour, however, thin in texture. I found it to be luke-warm and attributed this to the swirl of creme fraiche for cooling down the bowl. The slices of garlic-rubbed baguette was nice.

Marinated trout “à la japonaise”, arugula, creme fraiche drizzled in a shiso pesto, garnished with rice chips. This starter was very light. The fish was reminiscent of a cured fish especially with the velvet coat of cream. The bitterness of arugula definitely heightened the perfume of shiso. Both starters were light and attacked the senses whetting your appetite.

One of the mains was the “Chef’s creation”; a plate of 15 pieces of sashimi, nigiri and maki. A modest mix of various fresh fish – tuna, white tuna, salmon, scallop, sweet shrimp, seared salmon, and fresh sea snail and a maki roll of grilled eel, tobiko and avocado. The rice was seasoned nicely, sweet with a slight tang of rice vinegar. The quality was great, but I would like to come back to really get into the sushi menu – alas, the concept of MTL à Table at work – I got a small glimpse of the menu and it piqued my interest.

The other option for the main was duck confit with caramelized onions, served on potato purée with jus au porto garnished with alfalfa and fried taro chip. The duck was sweet from the combination of caramelized onions and the port sauce. The sprouts helped mellow out the sweetness of the duck; although hearty in flavour, it was a bit overpowered by the sauce that was almost caramel-like. The duck dish was served with a side of roasted carrots and beets.

Dessert was a puff-pastry pear tart with caramel sauce. We received this deliciously hot out of the oven. The pears were tender and sweet and the pastry was unbelievably flaky and delicate. We devoured it before it even know that it was a tart.

White chocolate, green tea mousse served with a pear compote and warm sesame cracker. The mousse was luscious and decadent to the point where you would let it linger just a bit longer in your mouth before swallowing. The smokey sesame cracker was complimented the sweetness of the pear and silkiness of the mousse.

Billed as a “bistro AND sushi bar”, I was a bit confused going in; was it fusion? Was it a restaurant that was trying to drive in two types of clientele – people who like French cuisine and those who like Japanese? After the gracious Chef Matsumoto walked the tables to check on his guests, I asked about the concept of the restaurant. He explained that it was basically two different restaurants in the same space; it was not in fact fusion in terms of food, but “fusion” in the sense that both Japanese and French food will be presented on the table. He said the food itself will never cross paths. I’m glad as I’m not too excited to see the hokey idea of duck confit nigiri or sashimi style duck magret. However subtle nods to each other were made in the details of each dish.

I guess in a way these two types of cuisine would function under the same roof. In some ways they are similar and mimic one another, both Japanese and French cuisine focus on attention to detail. Very refined techniques in preparation, from braising to the way the fish is cut, there is a certain discipline involved. With culinary roots that run so deep, the French and Japanese realms of gastronomy are unparalleled thanks to the recognition of pride and tradition.

This is the last weekend to catch some of the awesome meals being served at MTL à Table!

For more info on Montreal’s restaurant week MTL à Table, make reservations and see a complete list of participating restaurants check out:

Sa-Fran Bistro & Sushi Bar
3979 Saint Denis St
(514) 439-9964
Sa-Fran Bistro & Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

This meal was paid for by Tourism Montreal, however, thoughts and opinions are my own.

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