Restaurants are popping up in a trending frenzy along Notre Dame street in Griffintown. It was all kick started by David MacMillan and Fredric Morin when they opened up the then non descript and out of the way Joe Beef which has since gone on to unbridled fame and was recently selected as one the world’s best restaurants.
One the relative newcomers to the street is Chez Sophie, a home away from home for chef, co owner and Lebanese born Sophie Tabet. Chez Sophie’s ambiance can best be described as modern chic with its wood topped tables adorned with woven bamboo place mats and artful ‘shell’ inspired serving plates. There is a small sit up bar adjacent to the semi open kitchen and a romantic tree lined terrace at the back of the narrow restaurant.
We were there on a balmy mid week night and the restaurant was packed.
The menu at Chez Sophie is a market orientated mix of French and Italian inspired dishes and not by any means your run of the mill presentations. These are artful and complex combinations.
There are ten choices of appetizers, all enticing and making a choice very difficult.
We were four so we decided on a cross section, allowing us to sample as many as possible. We chose the Crispy Shrimp Rolls with Basil Mango Dip and Green Salad ($14), Lobster Salad, Avocado Mousseline, Mango Salsa ($18) and the Salmon Tartar, Sesame Vinaigrette, Wakame Seaweed ($16).
The shrimp rolls consisted of four fresh shrimp wrapped in filo dough and fried to a wonderful crunchy texture with absolutely no trace of oil. The crisp texture of the pastry, when combined with the perfectly cooked and tender shrimp and its sweet mango basil dip was music to my taste buds. The chunky lobster salad was presented as a ‘tian’ topped with a light and creamy avocado mousseline and a bright fresh mango salsa, a perfect combination of flavors and textures…divine!
The salmon tartar was equally very fresh and creamy. With its garnish of slivered white pickled ginger and wakame seaweed it ranked up there with some of the best tartars I have had in quite some time.
Main courses at Chez Sophie are divided into three sections: Primi Patti (Pasta and Risotto), Sea and Earth. With three choices in each, we once again chose a variety: Roasted Scallops, Asparagus and Black Truffle Risotto ($36), Glazed Black Cod, Cauliflower Mousseline, Daikon Confit and Lime Foam (($40) and Chilean Sea Bass Marinated with Lemon, Oyster and Scallop Tartar and Iodized Spinach Foam ($36).
The scallops and black truffle risotto was superb. The scallops were beautifully seared and caramelized and the risotto, one of the more challenging dishes to serve in a restaurant environment, was perfectly cooked with its iconic creamy texture and al dente Arborio rice.
The black cod, glazed I believe in miso, was perfectly cooked and sitting atop a luxurious mousseline of cauliflower it melted in the mouth. The garnish of daikon confit was unique and new to me.
Our final choice of Chilean sea bass was equally well cooked and paired with a tartar or ceviche of diced scallops and fresh oysters was simple, but delicious. The only jarring aspect of this dish, in my opinion, was the slightly garish neon green tinge to the iodized spinach foam…a very stark white on green combination!
We accompanied our meal with a dry, but fruity wine from the Veneto region of Italy: Cantina Bugliosi Il Desperato (2013) ($55)
The desserts at Chez Sophie are not to be missed and definitely deserve their place as ‘stars’ on the menu.
Someone has a serious sweet tooth in the kitchen!
The choices are mouthwatering, but we unabashedly settled on three of the most sinful: Surprise au chocolat ($12), Milfeuille a la pistache, glace au chocolat noir ($12) and Pain perdu, caramel au beurre sale, glace a la vanille, noix de pacanes ($14).
The chocolate surprise was a scoop of rich chocolate ice cream encased in a thin orb shaped salted chocolate crumb crust that seductively melted and exposed the ice cream within when covered with the accompanying warm and silky chocolate sauce….OMG!
The milfeuille consisted of three layers of crisp baked filo pastry each filled with a pistachio flavored pastry cream and topped with a scoop of dark chocolate ice cream…yum!
Our final choice of pain perdu was probably the star and a far cry from its literal translation of ‘lost bread’. It consisted of a thick slice of brioche fried a la French toast and drizzled with one of my favorite sauces, a creamy and rich salted caramel. Topped with its scoop of vanilla ice cream and roasted pecan powder it was lapped it up in no time.
Emerging from this divine cloud of absolute sweetness it was a good thing none of us was insulin dependent!
Service throughout our meal was polished, professional and friendly, all under the keen eye of sommelier and husband to the chef Marco Marangi.
You can see from this review that the prices at Chez Sophie are definitely edging towards the upper scale, but with dishes prepared and plated like this and with the superior quality of ingredients used they more than justify this bit of occasional culinary indulgence. Each dish we had bore true witness to the passion and love for food displayed by its talented chef.
I can’t wait to return and sample more of this chef’s ‘passion on a plate’, thank you Sophie Tabet!
Our meal for four came to (including cocktails, wine and taxes) $355.
1974 Notre Dame St West
Tues – Fri 11h30 – 14h30, 17h30 – 22h30
Saturday 17h30 – 22h30
Reservations: 438 380-2365