When I first broke the news about a new Martin Juneau restaurant opening soon, I really didn’t expect it to be so popular! Everyone wanted to know about Pastaga, the new space that is part restaurant, part wine bar with a big chef table in the kitchen facing a giant flat screen (go Habs go!). I have since been back for dinner and I can assure you that is a lot of fun!
The restaurant takes a cue from the “apéro” (or apéritif) culture of the South of France, home of the famous anise-flavoured Ricard. The menu is varied and the dishes are apéritif size (a bit larger than tapas). Everything is made on the premises, including the bread and charcuterie. The prices of the dishes range from $13 to $16 and you need 3 or 4 of them, depending on how hungry you are.
We were there on a quiet night right before the holidays and sat in the front section at the beautiful hand-crafted tables. I ordered a custom-made pastis-based pink cocktail that was fresh and perfect as an apéro. I took a quick look at the dozen or so dishes on the menu but opted to have the chef send out whatever he wanted us to taste, omakase-style. The beautiful small plates started coming, and everything was well prepared and cooked to perfection, including the blood sausage tart, which is not something I am usually attracted to. The meal was a bit meat centric due to the fact that my dining companion doesn’t like fish, but you will find a few fish options as well as a couple of vegetarian options on the menu, including the silky goat cheese tortellini with butternut squash that we had.
The meal ended with two delicious desserts, the holiday-clad île flottante and the absolutely scrumptious carrot cake, which made it to the top 10 list of my favourite desserts of 2011. As if that wasn’t enough, lovely pastry chef Isabelle Leroux brought out a long wooden board laden with delightful homemade petits fours, from luscious maple pecan sucre à la crème to crispy chocolate-covered sponge toffee. What a sweet end to a delicious evening!
Pastaga is a great place to go for a drink and a nibble with friends, a full dinner or to watch the game while seated in the kitchen. It’s not a grand restaurant but it’s one where the food is solid, well made and fun. It’s also a place with great atmosphere and this neighbourhood (my neighbourhood) was in need of something like that. I have been lucky to get a taste of Juneau’s talent at a couple of his former establishments and even though he is not cooking at that same fine dining level at Pastaga, his food is still as delicious as ever.
Monday – Sunday 3:45pm – midnight
Saturday & Sunday: 10am – 2:30pm