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Cava

Montreal

 

 

The owner: Costas Spiliadis

 

What's always in his fridge: Feta cheese. You can do so many things with it, from omelettes to salads to spinach pies.

 

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Photo caption: Cava’s double-cut rib-eye with grilled vegetables in a sharing dish.

 

As king of the sea-worshipping Milos empire, Montreal’s Costas Spiliadis is possibly the last restaurateur anyone expected would head inland. Then again, Greece isn’t all shoreline. And if Cava is anomalous in being a Greek steakhouse, it’s also a showcase for the country’s mainland cuisine. The square and subdued room – floor tiles were salvaged from a local church – is elegantly out of step with the bustling Mile End bagel shops outside the door. The old-school tablecloths, the radar-sensitive service (in jeans and white Cons, mind you) and even the organic Kansas beef dry-aged on site are anticipated at this peak price point. What’s less anticipated is the playfulness. Here come doll-size gyros, every element miniaturized: paper-thin pita, cherry tomatoes, strip of sirloin, smear of tzatziki. What’s a street snack like you doing in a place like this?

 

Meals are a play of lights and darks. A chubby rib-eye comes with fries cooked in olive oil – the new Hellenic health food. A salad of crunchy white cabbage and dill hides morsels of citrus and Stilton beneath its fronds. A fragrant veal and orzo casserole is slow-cooked in an earthenware giouvetsi that suggests ancient Athens. Cava is a Greek cellar at heart (the bar menu includes those mini gyros), and its rarefied wine list (featuring bottles imported by Spiliadis’ son George) makes the evening flow. “You can really smell the cherries, right?” says our beaming waiter about an agiorgitiko from Mount Pangeon. Finding cherries again in the dessert, with deliciously unsweet fritters and mastic-resin ice cream, brings closure.

 

Cava

5551, av. du Parc, Montréal

514-273-7772

 

 

 

10

Le Quartier Général

Montreal

 

The chef: Olivier Racicot

Dish that deserves reinventing: The hot chicken sandwich. Especially the canned peas on top.

 

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Photo caption: The grilled octopus with edamame at Quartier Général.

 

You’ll be forgiven for asking your waiter to repeat himself. Le Quartier Général is loud in the way that high-ceilinged bistros can be – a bring-your-own-bottle policy only drives the decibels up. Fortunately, you’ll enjoy hearing the food descriptions twice. Yes, that’s right, the Stanstead rabbit loin is stuffed with rabbit confit and rabbit chorizo – three ways in one. Suckling pig encased in the faintest of phyllo comes on black quinoa, the goth version of the grain. Food here is, above all, pretty: Snails look like dark rosebuds nestled next to Bayonne ham. Grilled octopus, shelled edamame and goat milk yogurt is a play of pastels, but deep-fried capers crack under the teeth – chef Olivier Racicot may catch your eye across the din to see if you noticed. If desserts like cheesecake riff on the ’80s, consider that Montreal’s BYOB scene was stuck in the late ’90s until now. Le Quartier Général just played it forward.

 

Le Quartier Général,

1251, rue Gilford, Montréal,

514-658-1839,

lequartiergeneral.ca

 

(Courtesy of enRoute Magazine)

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