Argentina has been at the top of my list of destinations to visit for so long, it’s hard to remember exactly when the obsession started. It must have something to do with the incredible nightlife, rich linguistic heritage and stunning coastlines. Yet this Latin nation has more to offer than sultry summer air and attractive people– its cultural wealth ranges from the arts all the way to a recent explosion on the global culinary stage.
Buenos Aires, the capital of South America’s second largest country, is largely responsible for putting Argentinean cuisine on the map, and has emerged in a sweet spot on the outskirts of the Old Port of Montreal. Having recently celebrated its first anniversary, L’Atelier d’Argentine continues to thrive in its environment. Its alluring character offers a particular taste of the southern hemisphere that has had people flocking to this hotspot for over a year– and don’t expect them to stop anytime soon.
The dining rooms of this 100-person capacity restaurant are both chic and elegant, catering to an older, or at least more professional crowd. The dark contours and mirror-panelled walls suit the infusion of amber paint and fireplaces carefully dispersed throughout the dining area.
A lounge is nestled in the far corner of the restaurant, just next to the bar, which lets customers relax with a few drinks either before or after their meal. L’Atelier d’Argentine also hosts a DJ three nights a week (Thurs-Sat), and while the season may be over, their terrace adds a nice touch to the city’s old passageways.
Greeted by the staff upon entering, we were shown to our seats and almost immediately served with two house cocktails, namely a Pisco Sour and a Kiwipirinha ($11 each). One point needed to make right up front– the service was impeccable all night long, as multiple servers went above and beyond to help us throughout the meal. Truly a job well done that made this experience that much more enjoyable.
We started our first course with an order of the Cuarteto Empanadas ($13), a plate of four baked dumplings stuffed with an assorted combination of beef, cheese, and onions. The empanadas were the perfect start to the meal and a great accompaniment to the cocktails– the first sign that we were in for nothing but good things ahead.
The other appetizers included a delicious green gazpacho ($8), made with cucumber and mint salad, and a mixed quinoa salad ($9) with crisp cucumber, grape tomato, celery, and cremini mushrooms.
The final dish before the mains arrived was the Terrina de Pulpo (octopus terrine, arugula, chipotle flakes, lime, olive oil – $14), one of their house specialties, which was lightly cooked and drizzled with all the right seasonings. The appetizers were served with a single glass of a crisp and fruity Masi Tupungato Passo Blanco 2012, which complemented our summery starters very well.
And then… the mains. The Merzula Negra (pan seared Chilean seabass, ripe mango, roasted bell pepper & arugula salad – $26) and the gigantic Ojo de Bife rib eye steak ($34), grilled with chimichurri & criolla sauce, were served together on a wooden cutting board.
Let me tell you– these photos don’t do these servings justice. Well presented, colourful and aromatic, we wasted no time digging into these… and left absolutely nothing behind.
Despite being absolutely stuffed, we ordered not one, not two, but three desserts to round off the meal. We started with a peach sorbet, followed by the Terere ($5), a mate infused pana cotta with blueberries and a dulce de leche cookie, and a Peras en Compota (Torrontes poached pears, mascarpone crema, vanilla syrup, blue cheese – $8). Our one regret was being too full to polish these off as well!
A word of advice: save room for dessert!
To cut to the chase– L’Atelier d’Argentine made quite an impression. There’s so much happening here, and so much on the menu, that it would take more than a handful of visits just to graze the staff’s recommendations.
Highly worthy of mention is their specials, which cleverly manage to cater to every type of socialite in the city. During happy hour (5-8pm), grab any drink for just $6, or hurry over for lunch (11:30am-2:30pm), where they guarantee you two courses in just 30 minutes, for only 20 bucks! Otherwise, check out their “Bloody Maria Brunch” every Saturday and Sunday (10:30am-4:00pm) with all-you-can-drink for only $19.
As if that wasn’t enough, they’ve got something for the night owls– after all, do as they do in Buenos Aires, right? From Tuesday – Saturday, book a table after 10:30pm and enjoy a starter and a main for just $22.50 before heading out for a night in Old Montreal. And if you’re really feeling like a boss, you and 5 of your closest amigos can reserve the “Table du Chef”, landing you a private space in the kitchen for a special six-course service, including wine, prepared by none other than world-renowned and internationally acclaimed Argentinean chef Natalia Machado.
We may not get to see Argentina just yet, but we may have found the closest thing to the beaches of Buenos Aires. This gem just off the beaten path of Rue Saint Paul has everything you need for a 5-à-7, private event, or just a great night out in MTL. It’s true what they say– the European swag in both of these beautiful cities draws envy the world over… and what a sexy couple Buenos Aires and Montreal turned out to be.