I need to start this review with a slight empathetic caveat. Having been totally immersed in the restaurant business for many years I know only too well how challenging it is to prepare and put out food with a full house of diners that continues to refill over the evening, especially when operating out of a very small kitchen.
Emiliano’s is a relative newcomer to the burgeoning number of Mexican restaurants in this city. Tacos and burritos are now almost as prolific as poutines.
Emiliano’s proudly purports to offer a more authentic and creative Mexican dining experience and perusing their menu could easily back this up. However, the night we were there there were definitely some problems with the dishes we sampled.
Located in Old Montreal the decor and ambiance at Emiliano’s is most certainly ultra modern. Dining is on two floors. The main floor features a large sit up bar stocked with an impressive variety of imported tequilas and a small open kitchen at the rear of the restaurant. It exudes a lively relaxed vibe with the only nod to its Mexican theme coming from an impressive portrait of its namesake Emiliano Zapata on the stairwell’s exposed brick wall.
Service is friendly , prompt and efficient with a few annoying misses here and there( we were never offered water and had to cope with small cocktail napkins instead of linen napkins that were served to tables around us}.
Following a questionable trend in restaurants today, there was an in house DJ pumping out top hits (none of them Mexican)at deafening decibel levels, completely obliterating any attempt at conversation.
The menu at Emiliano’s offers a wide variety of Mexican favorites, among them new takes on Guacamole, Ceviches, Tartares, Tacos, Tamales, Quesadillas, Enchiladas and a small selection of specialty dishes like Chicken with Mole and a Whole Roasted Fish.
As mentioned, the description of each dish promised a new and creative approach to this sunny and boldly flavored cuisine. My hopes were high!
For starters we chose their Guacamole with Spicy Crab ($14) and the Del Muelle Fish Tacos ($14)
The guacamole, served in my preferred chunky style, was fresh and well seasoned. Unfortunately its topping of Alaskan snow crab was not in the least bit spicy and its mixture had been left sitting too long on top of the guacamole resulting in an unsightly pool of liquid settling around the guacamole below.
The three fish tacos assembled in small flour tortillas were superb, freshly battered crisp morsels of fish garnished with avocado, roasted cipollini onions, jalapenos, shredded lettuce all drizzled with an intoxicating cilantro mayonnaise and a self administered squirt of fresh lime…Yum!
For main courses we chose Chicken with Mole ($23) and the Roasted Filet Mignon ($29)
This, unfortunately, is where the wheels came off. The chicken with mole was a definite disappointment. The chicken breast was a overcooked and dry and the mole did not live up to its iconic reputation. Mole, unquestionably one of the most complex sauces in any cuisine. traditionally includes over 20 ingredients (fruits, nuts, chilies, spices and chocolate} and making it is a time consuming labor of love. Unfortunately the mole I tasted bore none of these exotic flavors. It was bland. The accompanying small tian of pineapple corn yellow rice didn’t fair much better. The rice was over cooked resulting in an unappealing mushy and oily texture and my serving sported only one visible kernel of corn.
The roasted filet mignon didn’t fair much better. Although cooked to the desired medium, it was a bit dry and not as tender as one would expect. It was however creatively served atop a crisply fried croquette of black beans (a nice touch) and was garnished with a tasty mixed relish of cactus, cipollini onions and roasted banana peppers.
We accompanied our meal with a light and fruity bottle of Chilean red wine: Arboleda Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($50)
We left without dessert.
The menu at Emiliano’s does indeed promise a new approach to the more urbane Mexican food we are used to and, given past reviews, perhaps they have succeeded . Not on the night we ate there. In the restaurant business there is no room for “off nights”. Consistency must be the hallmark at every turn.
Our meal, including four cocktails, wine and taxes, came to $195.
260 Notre Dame West
Mon – Fri 11h30 – 15h30
Mon – Wed 16h30 – 23h00
Thurs – Sat 16h30 – 24h00