Presbyteries just aren’t what they used to be! And the Promenades Cathédrale have been shaking since the arrival of Giovanni Apollo and Jean-Michel Bardet, the likeable epicures manning the pots at Apollo’s new downtown location.
Although listed as part of the city’s architectural heritage, the building, which the Cathedral abandoned, had long since been deserted by its flock. People would hurry past it, lacking any desire to enter inside and confess their sins. This magnificent building was crumbling quietly into oblivion, well on its way to becoming a ruin.That was until the arrival of Giovanni Apollo in his nice blue overalls, a pick in one hand and a hammer in the other, accompanied by a few blasters, to turn this building inside out. The house was scrupulously emptied of every last scrap, scrubbed clean and reconstructed from top to bottom. Every aspect was redesigned with the hope of raising the spirits of its customers. Apollo’s decor draws on the style and design of its previous location; it’s chic and tasteful, with a few splurges here and there. Apollo is Neapolitan after all!
There’s talk of culinary arabesques . . .
In terms of elevation, the chef and his accomplice know all the tricks of the trade and serve up amusing culinary arabesques. At lunchtime or in the evening, the temptations are huge and you get a feeling that these good people are doing everything they can to incite you to commit the sin of gluttony! On sunny days, the beautiful terrasse that lies in the shadow of the Cathedral is heaving with people and the lunches tend to last ‘til all eternity. When the temperatures cool, the men in black—modern cooks wear black these days—ensure that your table is abundantly stocked so that you can taste each and every one of their culinary delights. At lunchtime, for those with smaller appetites: compressed melon, bluefin tuna tataki, poppy mayonnaise and zucchini spaghetti with lime, or Asian-style salmon tartar and pear and sesame noodle salad. And for the sinners who have given up on trying to be good : roasted sea bass fillet, yuzu carrot mousseline, steamed rice with soya fish stock, or barbecued pork short ribs, roasted potatoes and citrus salad. The dishes are meticulous, both in terms of their presentation and composition, leaving you to believe that somebody in this presbytery has been devoutly praying to St. Lawrence, the patron saint of cooks and bakers. In the evening, the chefs offer different variations on the themes of air ( Northern ), earth ( on that night it was vealo or sea (in this case, scallops ).
Of course there is that perfect appetizer, slipped under your chaste eyes, that will awaken the beast in you : “gnocchi in parmesan cream and spicy hollandaise sauce with green olives and truffles.” In less time than it takes to inwardly recite an act of contrition, the plate is practically licked clean. We are ready to go to hell for the sake of gastronomy. The temptation goes on; “shrimp risotto with white asparagus and passion fruit juice,” bursting with flavour and sensuality; and the fresh tuna salad, which I would suggest you avoid, because if you’re going to sin, you might as well do it properly. Then comes a variation on veal, with four sins in one:
- Loin of veal with white pepper sour cream sauce, pine nuts and a parmesan- and sage-filled eggplant wrap;
- glazed veal sweetbread with lemon, Royal of peas and carrot purée;
- braised veal cheeks and gratin dauphinois; and
- veal kidneys in old-fashioned mustard sauce with shallots, arugula and hazelnuts.
The result? Mouth-watering aromas, alluring textures, impeccable cooking techniques. You walk out of there in a state of pure bliss. What’s more, in his infinite kindness, Apollo offers bottles of wine at ridiculously low prices. Here you can find some divine wines at government-regulated prices, at not-so-steep prices and sometimes—which is nothing short of a miracle—at knocked-down prices! As the evening draws to a close, you may find yourself sinning once more by delightedly tucking into one of their moist rum babas that they douse generously in alcohol, or an éclair delicately prepared by the pastry chef, a dessert so wonderful that the chef will carry it to your table and place it before you with a devilish grin.
Apollo et Traiteur, 1333, University Street, Montreal Phone: 514 274-0153 www.apolloglobe.com
BY JEAN-PHILIPPE TASTET
This article is from our magazine
MONTRÉAL CENTRE_VILLE / Volume 5 numéro 4 / Hiver 2011