If I have to pick a food trend that we have already seen some of and will continue to notice, it’s diminutive restaurants that specialize in one (or two) dishes. Montreal’s Japanese restaurant NOREN is such a place. The tiny Japanese establishment located on the west side of Rachel Street in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood only serves a handful of dishes.
The light-filled dining room holds 10 stools only, half of which wrap around the bar that spreads along one of the walls. Behind the counter is where the action is. Co-owners and partners in life Élyse Garand and Hidenori Tsuda share the cooking tasks while Élyse also takes care of the service. The menu is written on a floor to ceiling blackboard and the decor is minimalist yet punctuated by elements that hold the attention, such as the bright orange vintage TV.
Noren specializes in Japanese street food and snacks. Two specialties have a permanent spot on the menu: takoyakis and okonomiyakis. Takoyakis are ball shaped pieces of dough cooked in a special pan and traditionally stuffed with a chunk of octopus. The serving of half a dozen balls is then topped with a couple of sauces and a handful of bonito flakes that dance on the plate as a reaction to the heat. It’s really quite mesmerizing and the takoyakis are delicious. I first tasted takoyakis at a food festival in Montreal a few years ago and fell in love with the delicious snack. They’re hard to find in Montreal so I was happy to see them on Noren’s menu which also serves a vegetarian version of the bites.
Okonomiyakis are savoury Japanese pancakes and the Noren version is topped with pork and shiitake mushrooms. It’s so satisfying and delicious and a tad addictive. You’ve been warned!
In addition to these two specialties, Noren also serves miso soup, a salad, edamame and a weekly dish which happened to be a hearty, dark and rich Japanese beef stew served with a side of white rice when I was there last.
The ambiance at Noren is as special as the food. The size of the restaurant and the friendly, laid-back service create a cozy ambiance that will make this spot your new favourite snack bar or lunch place. Give it a try, I guarantee you’ll love it!
77 Rachel West, Montreal
+1 514 397 1141
Wednesday: 11:30am – 4pm
Thursday & Friday: 11:30am – 3pm & 5pm – 9pm
Saturday: 5:30pm – 9pm
Sunday: 12pm – 4pm