Finding good Spanish food in Montreal is quite tricky. There are a few solid places, but it’s not as though there are a ton to choose from. Not to mention their menus tend to look like they were born from the same family– paella, chorizo, fried squid, paella, croquetas, paella…
You get the picture.
For these reasons, I was glad to hear the Spanish restaurant Pintxo was among the restaurants participating in this year’s TASTE MTL. Having never been (but having heard many good things), I was eager to try this little spot, housed in a brick building on Roy Street, a couple of blocks from St-Denis. While they normally specialize in the Basque version of tapas (called pintxos), for TASTE MTL, they were showcasing a $39 menu comprised of an entrée, a main and a dessert, with two options for each.
To take advantage of the selection, my dining companion and I decided to order opposite dishes, sharing bites of each. For the starters, we had tempura oysters on the half-shell and marinated half-quail with pickled onions, braised carrots and brussel sprouts.
The oysters were both crispy and melt-in-your-mouth, served on cauliflower purée with diced lardons and micro-sprouts. The light crunch of the tempura worked perfectly with the soft interior and the creaminess of the purée. The sprouts were a welcome addition, offering a pretty splash of colour and taming the overall richness of the dish.
The quail and braised veg were a riff off a Spanish escabeche, where vinegar is used to flavour the food to give it some zing. While it leaned on the heavy side for an entrée, it was a flavourful, comforting dish.
For the mains, we had black cod with clams, green beans and mashed potatoes, and pork loin with sherry sauce, sautéed spinach and celeriac purée. The cod, both mild and beautifully cooked, was served with salsa verde, a mixture of garlic and fresh herbs that brightened up the simple flavours of the fish and added a slightly spicy hum to the whole dish.
The pork loin, also cooked to perfection, was tender and pink, coated in a peppery five-spice rub. We happily sopped up every last drop of that luscious sherry sauce that came alongside it, even breaking off a nearby piece of bread to finish off the job.
By this point (and after several sips of wine), we were feeling quite content and full. But since there’s always room for dessert, we “sacrificed” ourselves and ordered both: an almond cake with maple ice cream and an apple dessert with pastry cream on top of puff pastry. While they were each delicious, I was partial to the almond cake. It was dense, warm, sweet and filled with toasted nuts– an ideal sponge for soaking up the last bit of melted ice cream on the bottom of the plate.
While Pintxo offers something a bit more upscale than the offerings at your regular tapas bar, the vibe is not the least bit pretentious. The service is friendly and the atmosphere is laid-back– it’s the perfect spot for unwinding with friends after a long work week, or for an intimate dinner with your beloved. After a couple glasses of wine in the candlelight, you just might begin to forget about the cool November winds outside and start to think you’re on vacation in the Basque Country…
Taste MTL runs until November 11th. Click here for more information.
Written by: Julia Dawson - juliachewsthefat