Montrealers are starting to get spoiled vis-à-vis the food court experience.
First came TimeOut Market Montreal at Eaton Centre, featuring 16 eateries, three full bars, a cooking school, a demo kitchen and a shop brimming with goods and local artisans.
Now comes Le Cathcart Restaurants and Biergarten (www.lecathcart.com), a $1 billion investment from Ivanhoé Cambridge.
I was invited to both openings and to say I was impressed is an understatement.
Le Cathcart, located at the revitalized Place Ville Marie, includes three restaurants with table service, nine food kiosks and two cafés with a total of 1,000 seats and a Biergarten located under the PVM’s imposing 650 m2 (7,000 ft2) glass pavilion – an amazing architectural feat created by Sid Lee Architecture in collaboration with Menkès Shooner Dagenais LeTourneux Architectes. Designed as a public space bathed in light and vegetation, this indoor garden will offer a festive social experience where people can enjoy good food and drinks, quickly becoming a lively meeting place adapted to the ebb and flow of daily life and ideal for after-work get-togethers.
“When we were invited to completely rethink the Place Ville Marie food hall, grand architectural gestures had been evoked in order to give downtown residents and workers a new gathering space,” explained Alexandre Besnard a founding member of A5 Hospitality Group and creator of Cathcart Restaurants and Biergarten. “That’s what inspired us to create a warm and welcoming space where people would want to go back again and again, to take advantage of an enhanced, varied and affordable food and drink offering. This led us to seek out collaborators who could satisfy a wide range of discerning tastes with popular – yet accessible – concepts.”
I was among the lucky journalists to be part of a special tasting experience. Yes, we went to all 12 establishments and got to try some of their culinary delights. Here is a look what to expect:
LE BIERGARTEN (BEER, WINE, COCKTAILS, SAKE)
Located underneath the glass pavilion, LE BIERGARTEN provides a vast selection of microbrewery offerings carefully curated by beer expert Stéphane Pilon (founder of Vilains Brasseurs, Broken 7), a wine selection prepared by sommelier Marc-André Nadeau (Jatoba), and an array of sophisticated cocktails created by Daphnée Vary Deshaies (formerly of Foxy). Designed for groups of all sizes, the BIERGARTEN is touted as an ideal venue for happy hours and other types of gatherings, as the space can be reconfigured for any occasion (i.e. parties, weddings, conferences, etc.). A monthly entertainment calendar will be part of the agenda.
AKIO (JAPANESE CANTINA)
Japanese cantina AKIO serves meals inspired by Osaka street food, including a selection of sushi and charcoal-grilled brochettes. The concept is a collaboration between chefs Antonio Park (Park, Lavanderia, Flyjin, Kampai) Olivier Vigneault (Jatoba, Westwood Bar & Grill, ex-Yuzu). Park was on hand at the media tasting, wearing his trademark baseball hat. He told me that he named the place in honour of his favorite baseball player from Japan, Akio Ishii. He tapped veteran chef Carlos Gomez, most recently the chef at Jatuba, to head the kitchen. They showcased a delicious looking Bento Box. The sampling included some delicious Yakitore chicken wings,
PIZZA DEL FORNAIO (PIZZERIA)
PIZZA DEL FORNAIO (which translates as “baker’s pizza”), serves delectable Neopolitan-inspired pizzas from Italian chef Federico Bianchi (formerly of Bottega Pizzeria). The pizza I tried was thin and crispy.
The new brasserie MIRABEL serves simple, elegant, accessible fare morning, noon and night, with chef Nicholas Giambattisto of Chateauguay (formerly of Caffe Un Po’ Di Piu and Joe Beef, creating a menu inspired by French and Italian cuisines. We tried an item called Cavatella Maison –Duck Bolognaise, with pork and veal served with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.
DIRTY GREENS (SALADS & HEALTHY DELIGHTS)
The DIRTY GREENSkiosk offers delicious, hearty salads and other mouth-watering, healthy options. Chef Raegan Steinberg (Arthur Nosh Bar, ex-Joe Beef) is behind this concept, I tried the Asian Chicken Salad. I especially like the wontons.
PATZZI (ITALIAN SANDWICHES)
PATZZI takes gourmet Italian sandwiches to new heights, with a generous array of garnishes and an unexpected blend of flavours concocted by chefs ALEXANDRE COHEN and LUKA LECAVALIER (Arthur Nosh Bar). I tried the Grilled Cheese Corrozo, which melted in my mouth.
CHIKIN (KOREAN FRIED CHICKEN)
Chef Michael Lewis brings the Miami vibe to Montreal with his new Korean fried chicken kiosk CHIKIN. Chef Lewis’ Miami restaurant KYU is a James Beard Award-winner for Best New Restaurant, and it also made Bon Appétit magazine’s list of top 10 Miami health-food restaurants. I tried a crispy chicken sandwich – very good, but make sure you have a glass of water.
TULUM TAQUERIA (MEXICAN) & KARMA POKE (POKE BOWLS)
Owned by A5 Hospitality, these banners offer great burritos and appetizing Poke Bowls, one of which I tried.
UNIBURGER (HAMBURGERS, FRIES & MILKSHAKES)
Named Canada’s Best Burger by the website Big 7 Travel, UNIBURGER is Chef Younes Bengeloune’s take on the typical California burger, focusing on fresh, top-quality produce. This new counter comes on the heels of his two existing locations. I got to meet Younes and try one of his burgers for the very first time. Wow! I am coming back for sure.
OMNIVORE (LEBANESE-MONTREAL CUISINE)
OMNIVORE is known for its revamped Lebanese classics, including grilled meats, fresh salads and original sandwiches. Chefs Charbel Yazbeck and Akram Sleiman first introduced Omnivore in 2010, and the Le Cathcart kiosk marks their third location in the franchise. Try their sandwich, fattoush salad and homemade lemonade.
MON NAN (CHINESE CUISINE)
MON NAN is a Montreal institution in China Town helmed Joe Lee. The menu includes classic Chinese dishes, including the chef’s famous dumplings and glazed duck. I absolutely loved the extraordinary shrimps and white rice!
HÀ (SOUTH-EAST ASIAN CUISINE)
Restaurant HÀ is now a Montreal must, and this latest location includes its signature blend of Mr. Hà’s fiery Vietnamese cuisine and Chef Ross Louangsignotha’s Lao touch. The Cathcart kiosk is the chain’s third establishment, joining the Mont-Royal Ave. and McGill St. restaurants. Out for tasting was the Pad Thai Pork with sautéed shrimp,
CAFFÉ VELOCE (COFFEE, PASTRIES & ICE CREAM)
Le Cathcart also features two cafés, developed in partnership with chef and culinary stylist Blake Mackay (Di Stasio, Bouffe Style Blake). Just a look at the delicacies on display will make you very very hungry!
Le Cathcart’s opening hours are as follows:
Monday to Wednesday: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Thursday to Saturday: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Log on to www.lecathcart.com