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L'Atelier D'Argentine

As a meat lover, any cuisine involving grilled delicious meats is one I approve of.  Argentinian, Brazilian, Greek and Portuguese are just a few types of cuisines whose grilling styles I really enjoy, so when I was invited to meet Chef Natalia at L'Atelier d'Argentine, I jumped at the opportunity.  

I love Old Montreal, but parking is such a pain.  We had 7:15pm reservations on a Wednesday night and it only took 45 minutes to find a parking spot - kill me please!  As we were seated, I noticed how uncomfortable the seating was.  We had a corner table with one chair, a one-person beach couch and one short chair-stool.  I really like the decor of the restaurant but couldn't understand why the designer had chosen such uncomfortable seating.  Each chair only had one arm-rest, you kind of had to lean to one side to be comfortable - a bit weird to say the least.  The staff are very attentive and we were immediately offered a cocktail.  I decided to try the strawberry caipirinha, my friend had the Pisco sour and my other friend had a mojito.  Both the Pisco sour and the mojito were absolutely delicious, I found my caipirinha to be a bit bitter at first but left a delicious aftertaste.  I should note that all their cocktails invloving fruit are made with fresh never frozen fruits and berries.  

Since Chef Natalia knew I was coming, she graciously sent us out a "cuarteto" empanadas to munch on while we glanced over the menu.  I was very excited as I love empanadas and Chef Natalia's stood up to my favourite ones from this little Cuban coffee shop in South Beach.  The first empanada I tried was filled with ham and cheese.  I believe the cheese was provolone and it was absolutely delicious.  The empanada dough was flaky and perfectly crisp.  The onion and cheese one was really good too, sweet onion flavour with a well balance cheese ratio, this was a favourite with both my friends.  The corn empanada was my favourite and I wished there were five more on the plate.  The sweet corn flavour was absolutely perfect wrapped in the flaky dough.  The last empanada was spicy beef.  I liked it, but for some reason it did not stand up to the others on the plate.  

Before we even finished scrolling through the menu, Alexandre, the "Maitre d'Hotel" and resident Sommelier,  offered us an option of a tasting menu so that we could sample a few of Chef Natalia's treats. We all agreed and we were immediately served a deliciously flavoured Chardonnay from Argentina in anticipation of our appetizers.  

Three plates of appetizers arrived fairly quickly at our table.  Crudo de Corvina, Bunuelo de Espinaca, and last but not least the Provoleta.  I started on the Crudo de Corvina, a thinly sliced white fish drizzled with lime juice, just before serving, and topped with a delicious avocado salad, sliced cherry tomatoes, smoked chipotle flakes, maldon salt and olive oil.  This dish was absolutely perfect.  We all loved this dish and ate every last bite.  The citrus of the lime was present in every bite and the delicious avocado salad was a perfect compliment to the lightly flavoured fish.  the homemade waffle chips, or thinly sliced waffle fries added the perfect contrast of texture to the dish.  I cannot think of enough words to describe the yumminess of this delicate yet flavourful dish - needless to say we almost fought over the last bite!       

Next we sampled the Bunuelo de Espinaca.  Both my dining partners loved this dish, I however found them flavourless.  The exterior had a delicious crunch to it but the center was a bit pasty and tasteless, the dijon  mustard was the only flavour I tasted while sampling this appetizer. Needless to say the dijon was spicy and delicious, just the way it should be.       

The last appetizer we were served I thought was going to be my favourite.  A fried flattened ball of provolone cheese, how could I not love this dish?  It was good, not gooey melted like I imagined it, but crisp on the outside with a thick and chewy center.  I like that they torched the cheese and gave the exterior a crunch, but after a few bites, my stomach could not handle the heaviness anymore.  

Our plates were cleared and so were our empty wine glasses.  We were then served two red wines, one a Shiraz for my fish eating friend and the other a Cabernet Sauvignon for the two meat eaters at the table.  Both wines were delicious and complimented their respective dishes perfectly.  As we sampled the wine, a beautiful plate of Chilean Sea bass arrived. Pan seared and served with a fresh mango and red pepper salsa atop a bed of arugula, this Sea bass dish was presented beautifully.  The fish was cooked perfectly and searing the fish left a beautiful crisp and delicious exterior crust.   The flavour however was a bit bland and lacking something.  The mango salsa on top barely had any flavour and the fish was a bit oily. I wished there was more of a citrus or mango flavour to compliment the properly cooked fish.  

The meat eaters, myself included, were served a beautiful chopping block of grilled bavette, short ribs, carrots and Italian broccoli.  I dug right into the bavette and boy oh boy was it good.  The tender meat was grilled to a perfect medium rare and flavoured oh so beautifully.  The short ribs were also cooked to a medium rare and flavoured deliciously.  The only issue we had with the short ribs was the amount of fat on them.  We hardly had any meat on the ribs but managed a few delicious bites.  Traditionally, Argentinians eat their meat with two sauces; a chimichurri sauce made from parsley, garlic, onions, oregano, oil and vinegar, and a criolla sauce made with tomatoes, red peppers, oil, vinegar and onions.  Both sauced were absolutely delicious and I couldn't chose which I liked best.  I literally kept alternating sauces the entire meal.  

The carrots served with the meat were a hit!  So tender, sweet and smokey, we could not stop eating them!  The broccolli was good to, but nowhere near as good as the carrots.  

After eating as much meat as I could possibly fit into my growing belly, it was time for dessert.  First came the dessert wine, the only wine of the night not from Argentina.  Alexandre explained that he preferred this Chilean dessert wine over the Argentinian options as it has a better taste and compliments the dessert properly.  Then came an oversized plate of desserts. First up was the flan; A delicious vanilla flavoured flan with a caramel drizzle.  I like flans normally and liked this ones flavour, but found the texture to be too thick and very heavy.  We all agreed that this was our least favourite dessert on the plate.

Next up was the Panqueques, dulce de leche stuffed crepes served with a delicious milk semifreddo.  Normally the Chef serves the Panquques stuffed with burnt bananas, but since I am a joker (or a complete mental case as some would say) I cleverly made a joke at the beginning of the meal that I will eat almost anything but bananas.  Chef Natalia was kind enough to switch up the filling and threw in some delicious raspberries instead of yucky bananas - best idea ever! This dish was so good Ihave no words to describe it. All three of us fought over every bite.  We scraped the plate clean - so good!  the Semifreddo was also delicious and complimented the Panqueques perfectly.  A delicious subtle vanilla flavour that's just a creamy as ice cream but a bit lighter as it is a milk based ice cream.  

The last dessert was an individual goat cheese cake with a cocoa crumb base and quince marinated in a vanilla syrup.  This was a dessert for me as I am not a huge sweets lover and this dessert is a bit on the savory side.  The goat cheese is not as smooth and creamy like a normal cream cheese cheesecake would  be but I really enjoyed the texture and everything about this dessert.

Bread basket - Delicious fresh baked rolls and fontina cheese and tapioca mini breads - absolutely delicious!

Throughout our entire dinner my friends and I noticed all the other tables of people and they all seemed to be really enjoying their meals. The table next to us was a rowdy middle-aged bunch who could not stop ranting and raving about the meal they had been served - they also stole a menu from our table!  


Dinner at L'Atelier d'Argentine was great, and getting to meet Chef Natalie afterwards was great too!  We really enjoyed ourselves and I for one cannot wait to go back and try out their brunch menu!

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