Another year has passed and more mixed emotions surface. What an extraordinary year it has been for newcomers in Montreal’s culinary world. A greater number of restaurants, however the same amount of customers; a difficult reality for existing restaurants. Over the last year, many great locations have sadly closed their doors. In hopes that 2016 will be a successful one for the countless delicious addresses in Montreal, we’re already witnessing a wave of brand new openings, some seemingly very promising.
Located on the newly renamed Robert-Bourassa Boulevard, EAST Pan Asia, by the Satori Group (Satori Sushi Bar, Siam), has just recently opened in the Renaissance Hotel. Discreet from outside, yet impressive inside. When walking in, the modern and refined decor inspires charm and elegance and immediately transports us to their Asian inspired culinary world. To my surprise, the restaurant is not as busy as expected on a Friday night. However, taking into account their location and considering that they are completely surrounded by offices, their peak must be during lunch. The dining room is pleasantly arranged allowing certain tables to enjoy an intimate atmosphere, despite the magnitude of the restaurant.
Our waiter politely greets us and proceeds to present the menu, explaining every segment with ease and fluidity. I am surprised to see that the staff is so knowledgeable considering their very recent opening. Congrats Hugo! We start with a few house cocktails, each of them incorporating Asian ingredients. The menu presents a wide selection, from various Asian countries. Looking over the items on the menu feels like a journey through Asia. They offer many classics with a twist, staying authentic nonetheless. Evidently, the menu contains a majority of appetizers, thus favouring sharing during potential Happy Hours around their beautiful and imposing central bar.
We decide to select items from various sections of the menu, therefore making sure we’ll taste as many different cuisines as possible. We start out with the Tori Gyoza, chicken Dim Sums, a dish originally from China. I’ve eaten gyozas in numerous locations around the city and to be honest, they’re usually all pretty similar. EAST’s gyozas are similar to what I’ve had in the past, yet enhanced by a delicious ginger sauce. The star of the dish is by far the side of watercress salad. The mix of textures is impeccable; the hot and tender gyozas alongside the fresh and crispy watercress salad.
Then comes the beef tataki. Served with a ponzu sauce and pickled daikon, this dish overflows with flavour. The beautiful plating is worthy of a fine-dining restaurant. Finally, our last appetizer, the pork Bao. Also commonly called Baozi, this typically Chinese dish is essentially a stuffed ball of dough. However, there is nothing simple about EAST’s braised pork Bao. The dough is warm and soft and lightly sweet and it’s stuffing is full of flavour and texture. The pork’s natural flavours are deliciously elevated by the sweetness of the dough and the sourness of the green mustard cabbage. Luckily, there are only two Baos per portion because surely I would have eaten a whole lot more.
With that good a start, the bar is set high for the mains. Firstly, a classic Thaï dish, the beef Panang curry. The beef is perfectly tender, melting right in your mouth. And what can I say about the coconut curry sauce… I could eat it with anything! Delicious! Then come the spicy tartare makis made with hamachi, salmon and sea bass tartare. A traditional Japanese dish with a twist, meticulously assembled with a presentation worthy of Antonio Park. This dish can also be ordered as an appetizer, but beware, the roll is huge! Finally, the Singapore chicken and rice. A very simple dish in its composition, yet it makes its mark due to the flawless execution. The chicken, cooked sous vide, is lightly seasoned and the rice is cooked in the chicken broth. This dishes’ personality lies in its three delicious sauces (served on the side): ginger hoisin, ginger red pepper and ginger green pepper. Wow! Just the right amount of kick. This dish owes its success to the simplicity of the ingredients. Less is definitely more.
My friends and I leave EAST happy, full and satisfied to know that finally, a newbie restaurant has mastered the art of fusion cuisine. A great start for EAST and its passionate and professional staff. Hoping they will know how to lure in the surrounding clientele, whilst keeping the bar high as at the start.