In a competitive market like the hospitality and restaurant industry, companies are always trying to find ways to differentiate themselves and separate their brand from the pack. From restaurants that incorporate bacon into all their dishes, to places that strictly make poutines, the Montreal restaurant scene has it all. I recently had the opportunity to check out the hip and trendy restaurant Ê.A.T (Être Avec Toi) the new restaurant (space previously occupied by Otto) located at the swanky W hotel. This unique eatery is an amalgamation of restaurant (by hospitality group bpc,) art gallery and exhibition space (curated by MassivArt.)
The menu at Ê.A.T is heavy in seafood with an emphasis on their gargantuan seafood platters. As much as my heart skips a beat at the mere mention of “seafood tower”, I was in the mood for something more prepared. When you’re told the menu is all about seafood, a variety of fresh shellfish delicately balanced atop crushed ice is always great, but isn’t a testament to kitchen talent of Executive Chef Sébastien Giannini and team, more than it is a praise to a reputable fish monger providing quality product.
The Red snapper ceviche was a nod to both the kitchen and supplier. Large slices of tender white fish topped with shaved radish and purple cauliflower, confit lemon and garnished in micro-greens. Each bite was bright in citrus that brought out the natural sweetness of the fish, but I found the heavy-handed shavings of the pungent radish overpowering for my taste. It was almost too pretty to eat… almost.
Any seafood restaurant is going to have a salmon dish of some kind. Why? Because it’s basic and will comfort the most timid of seafood eaters. I would regard it as a “base” in which a seafood menu is built upon. This expertly pan-seared salmon “à la plancha” was not much to look at but was served exactly the way I like it; skin-on. The meaty fish flaked off effortlessly and the skin shattered under the fork. The warm juice from the roasted lemon brightened up each bite and cut through the “vierge” sauce of olives, cherry tomatoes and basil.
The accompaniment to the fish was Ê.A.T’s popular roasted cauliflower side dish – served with almonds, raisins on top of a silky smooth cauliflower purée, garnished with a curry aioli and fried caperberries. A great side, I highly recommend it. Although I didn’t try any of their other sides, I doubt the mashed potatoes, heirloom carrots or caesar salad would be life altering.
So when a restaurant who prides themselves on their seafood offers a burger on their menu, I order it, naturally. I’m not talking about some bullshit tuna burger or vegetarian for for portobello burger. Angus beef, bacon, black beer cheddar, lettuce, tomato and sweet onion butter. One of the most fucking solid burgers I’ve had in a very long time.
North of pink, but I ain’t mad. The burger was juicy and full of flavour. I would have preferred iceberg lettuce for a bigger, fresher crunch, but the romaine did the job. Please god, anything but mesclun… vile weeds.
We got the homemade fluffy beignets that were served with raspberry compote purée and a cup of melted semi-sweet chocolate. The server told me I was the first person he’d ever saw drink the rest of the chocolate from the cup after the beignets were done.
The decor is bold and brazen and is a great fit for the W hotel brand. As I ate my dinner something didn’t sit right with me, it wasn’t the food, it was the art. I couldn’t help but feel like I was in some four-hour night class in the Concordia Visual Arts building or in one of New York’s hottest underground night clubs where you’ll find lights, psychos, Furbies, screaming babies in Mozart wigs, sunburned drifters with soap sud beards. The juxtaposed refined dining menu contrasted by the graffiti murals and canvased paintings was successful in creating an experience for me. Even though I would be uncomfortable and feel anxious knowing I’d be staring down Beethoven for the duration of my meal, the experience in itself manifested into a live performance piece fitting for this environment. THAT is what I think is the essence of Ê.A.T, the experience, the combination of food, atmosphere and company you’re in.
être avec toi – ê.a.t.