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Rib ‘N Reef’s Peter Katsoudas marks his 70th birthday in style

    Rib ‘N Reef
    Peter and Antonella Katsoudas at the beautiful entrance to the restaurant.

    There are a select few standout steakhouses in Montreal, but the one that should be regarded as a  model of consistency and continued excellence belongs to Rib ‘N Reef on Decarie Boulevard under the ownership of Peter Katsoudas.

    On May 30, Katsoudas celebrated his 70th birthday and the 32nd anniversary since he purchased the establishment with a VIP cocktail party on the classy rooftop terrasse. With his wife Antonella – a partner in life and business –  and key staff members by his side, Katsoudas was in fine form and expressed pride about the reputation he has built for the brand over the past three decades.

    My family and I had never experienced the terrasse here before. It can seat between 60 and 75 people, is completely covered and has electronically shaded blinds.  The ambiance at this spot is absolutely fabulous!

    Rib ‘N Reef
    The beautiful rooftop terrasse.

     “Class” is the word here, from the moment you valet park your vehicle.  The restaurant first opened in 1960. But as someone who has been fortunate enough to frequent this place for many of its years, it was only when Katsoudas stepped in did business really take off. He undertook a major remodeling of the facility in 1999 and then again in 2007 by adding a cigar lounge and a rooftop terrasse. Then, in  2016, the main entrance was redone. Next on the agenda will be the addition of a carport to receive his guests, something which will be well appreciated when it rains or snows.

    Watch my video interview with Peter and Antonella:

    A lifetime in restaurants for Koutsoudas

    General Manager Abou Hamad oversees a  full-time staff of 85 people. Born in Greece, Katsoudas was seven years old when he came to Montreal with his parents and two sisters. Even back then, he says, he knew his future was in the culinary business. “We had family members who owned restaurants,”  he noted. “I got to hang out there and I liked it. While I attended school  I worked at restaurants to earn some cash.” 

    And so it would be for Katsoudas, as he completed his studies at Bancroft Elementary School and Rosemount High School.  In fact, his plan was to enroll in university and study to become a lawyer. But one fateful visit to Palais Mina, a pizza parlor at Jean-Talon and St. Michel, changed his life forever.

    “I was 19 years old and when I went to make my order I asked the owners if they were willing to sell the business,” Katsoudas says. “As I waited for the pizza to be ready, I started to negotiate. Now I had no money, but I negotiated for a price of $16,000, including $5,000 down. I raced home to tell my dad who wanted to know what happened to my wish to go to university. ‘Dad,’ I said. ‘You are going to make the pizza dough and I will make the real dough.’ He loaned me $2,500. A family member matched that and the rest was financed.”

    Rib ‘N Reef
    Here is what the entrance looked like in 1960.

    The venture was a success. Katsoudas sold it three years later. He subsequently established a restaurant in Laval and then took a gamble and purchased a dining establishment called Restaurant Lamarche, in the heart of the French-speaking community. “During the first 45 days, I found out that the whole neighbourhood was boycotting the restaurant because of someone stressing that an “Anglo” had taken over this place known for its shepherd’s pie and tourtiere,
    Katsoudas recalls. “I finally tracked this person down. I spoke to him in good French and told him how I was Greek, not Anglo. It cleared things up and in no time at all the place was booming.”

    Katsoudas’ next stop was Duluth Avenue, just as it was becoming a hotbed for Greek “Bring Your Own Wine”  establishments.  In fact, he was one of the pioneers along with then-city councilor Sid Stevens in having the cobblestone street established for Duluth. While his Restaurant La Terrace Duluth did well enough, there was too much of the same thing. Eventually, he switched gears and converted the restaurant to an Italian eatery called Bellinis. Within six months it had a steady and loyal clientele.

    Purchasing Rib ‘N Reef

    In 1991, growing restless and looking for a new challenge, Katsoudas bought the Rib ‘N Reef from David Stendell and Morty Fruchter.

    Featuring two dining rooms,  one seating 100  people and the other accommodating 60,  there is also an award-winning wine cellar with its own distinct dining room for up to 30 people surrounded by more than 8,000 bottles of wine aging.  After a meal cigar aficionados can enjoy a stogie and a single malt scotch in a private lounge. It is equipped with a state-of-the-art air filtration system, satellite TV, full bar service and wireless Internet access. Then there is the rooftop terrace for those summer days and evenings when you want to dine al fresco.

    A meal fit for a King or Queen

    Rib ‘N Reef
    The popular rib steak.

    The service is impeccable here. No sooner are you seated than a bread basket, bread sticks, pickles and coleslaw arrive at the table? Katsoudas, his managers and the sommelier circle the restaurant regularly and make sure all of the customers are happy. Rib ‘N Reef is known for serving the finest grilled dry-aged meats, fresh fish and seafood from around the globe and premium wines in Montreal. There is a custom butchery on the premises.  

    We were a party of three at our table. We started off with some wine. I opted for a glass of Cava sparkling wine.

    As we perused the menu, we focused on the appetizers and stopped at 12 delicious shucked oysters while one of the servers Raphael prepared some extraordinary salmon tartare right at our table. It was a work of art.

    For the main course, we shared a 34-ounce Porterhouse steak, cooked to perfection medium rare, with rice pilaf and sautéed mushrooms.  We saved some room for dessert, enjoying the decadent chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream.  

    Rib ‘N Reef cake
    Chocolate cake for dessert.

    “We do not dabble in haute cuisine,” says Katsoudas. “Our focus is meticulous cuisine. For decades we have been known for consistency in terms of the quality of our product. Excellent service has been the cornerstone of our success.”

    Steak, filet mignon and prime rib, imported from the United States and aged here, are generally the most popular items. But the lobster and fresh fish selections are well-reviewed as well.  

    Entrees include soups such as homemade lobster bisque with chunks of lobster, homemade New England clam chowder, and French onion soup with grated Parmesan and Emmental cheese. The steakhouse restaurant also serves a variety of salads including the signature Caesar salad prepared at your table, Greek Village salad, arugula salad, chopped beef tomato salad and crunchy iceberg wedge salad

    Only the highest beef quality is selected and cut daily by the in-house butcher. Meat aged a minimum of 28 days on the premises and grilled at high temperatures.   Beef is properly aged on premises for optimal tenderness and flavor and done so in two ways  -the traditional wet-aging and the “Old World” dry-aging. Seafood is wild or sustainably harvested  

    On the grill menu, this Montreal steakhouse restaurant boasts a wide variety of beef dishes approved by the USDA, ranging from rib steak – P.K.’s cut or junior, to sirloin – New York cut or junior, and even pepper steak (served with a pepper sauce flambéed at the table), as well as the famously delicious filet mignon and mignonette, the T-Bone, the chateaubriand, milk-fed veal chops, double-cut lamb chops, the parmigiana veal cutlet, and the excellent Manchon des Voltigeurs chicken breast.  There are also amazingly tasty sauces to accompany their cuts of beef so that every bite is pleasurable. These include flambéed pepper, mushroom or béarnaise, herb butter, Gorgonzola, or even truffle.

    Rib ‘N Reef fish
    Fresh fish is also on the menu.

    The vegetables and sides served with main courses also include fresh rapini and sautéed fresh rapini with onion, fresh broccoli, fresh baby spinach in olive oil and garlic or cream, fresh asparagus au gratin, fresh grilled vegetables, Mac & Cheese, as well as onion rings with aioli sauce. There is a variety of potato sides such as steak-cut fries, an oven-baked potato, or even mashed potatoes with roasted garlic or poutine with flambéed pepper gravy.  

    If seafood is on your wish list,  enjoy the giant shrimp cocktail with its tasty house sauce. There is also smoked salmon and other dishes on the menu (depending on the availability of the fresh fish selected), traditional steak tartare and Beluga caviar are just a few of the exquisite dishes. The layered seafood platter is a great item for four to six people, combining items from the lobster restaurant with those from the seafood restaurant. In fact, this dish includes oysters, shrimp, snow crab claws, crab pieces, lobster claws and tails, and scallops. I have ordered this on previous visits.

    Rib ‘N Reef
    One of the servers, Rafael, prepares some salmon tartare at the table.

    The Rib’N Reef seafood restaurant’s kitchen also prepares delicious grilled giant shrimp marinated in herbs and garlic, crab cakes in Chef’s original sauce, lightly-seasoned fried calamari, grilled octopus served with red onions and extra virgin olive oil, chorizo sausage, oven-baked Rockefeller oysters absolutely rich with flavour, and sirloin sliders. As for the seafood restaurant’s hot dishes, you can try the grilled giant shrimp, fried calamari, Rockefeller oysters, grilled octopus and grilled vegetables.

    The Rib’N Reef fish restaurant serves, among other things, halibut filet, Atlantic salmon filet and seared tuna steak in a sesame crust. The choice of fresh fish largely depends on market availability. Fish is always cooked over charcoal with pure olive oil, and it is garnished with freshly squeezed lemon juice and capers.

    Katsoudas is proud of his record as a boss. There is a very low turnover rate for his staff of 70. “They are like family to me,” he says. “I can’t do this without them.”

    Rib ‘n Reef is open for lunch, afternoon meals and dinner. Reservations are recommended.  Call 514-735-1601 or log on to www.ribnreef.com.

    #MikeCohen #MtlRestoRap #RibNReef #PeterKatsoudas

    Mike Cohen

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