Through the good shots and, sometimes, the not so good, our restaurant critics tell you about their experience, introduce the team in the dining room and in the kitchen, while explaining what motivated the choice of the restaurant. This week: the “bring your own wine” restaurant O’Thym.
Posted at 11:00 a.m.
Why talk about it?
O’Thym opened its doors 17 years ago. A longevity to underline in an environment in which several companies do not pass the milestone of five years. You can bring your alcohol there, which contributes to the success of the place, but it would be unfair to reduce it to that. Over the years, the restaurant has continually improved. Today, a 100% local menu is served there.
Who are they ?
For the record, Nadine Tessier used to work as a waitress at the former restaurant Les Héritiers, in the Plateau Mont-Royal. Noé Lainesse was first a diver there then, after taking his course at the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ), became the head of the establishment. The co-owner, Pierre Roy, then owned other “bring your own wine” restaurants (Prunelle, Les Infidèles), with various partners. This one, Marc-André Paradis (Les Canailles, Gaston) as well as Nadine and Noé opened O’Thym. For a few years, these last two had been leading the boat alone. In 2021, Kevin Duguay joined them.
It’s a busy Saturday night at O’Thym in early April. The busiest since reopening, confirm the owners when we caught up with them again a week later. In short, the room is full, the atmosphere is lively and things are going full steam ahead. As there is a second service at 9 p.m. and it is already past 6:30 p.m., no time to waste! Our waitress, kind but in a hurry, quickly explains the daily specials.
That evening, the slate is presented in two parts: starters and main courses (since our visit, the menu is now divided into three sections: vegetables, starters and main courses). There is a salad of smoked carrots and mozzarella, black garlic cavatelli, fried smelt, pan-fried scallops, lamb, mushroom tartlet, snow crab…
Market cuisine is obviously in the spotlight here. In 2015, the chef eliminated products and ingredients from elsewhere on his menu. Today, everything on his table is 100% local, and comes mainly from small producers and artisans.
Result: local meats (mainly lamb and duck, worked in whole carcasses to reduce losses), fish products from Quebec and the Maritimes, walnut oil, mushrooms, turnips, black radish, yellow peas, sea buckthorn , sweet clover, cranberry and fleur de sel from the St. Lawrence.
The chef does not stop there: he uses wild spices (wild caraway, Dunes pepper, agastache…), makes his own miso and koji as well as his lactofermentations. Appreciate the creativity and hard work that go into creating these dishes.
Was everything absolutely spot on on the plate? Not quite.
The duck heart tartare was tasty, textured, well balanced with its different components: marinated mustard seeds, confit egg yolk, brown butter Jerusalem artichoke and tempura crumble.
The maitake mushroom tartlet topped with fried onions from my vis-à-vis was fine, but the dough was a bit overcooked and the whole thing a little dry, despite the garlic yogurt rosettes all around it. A little smoothness would have been welcome.
The main course of vegetables, with its large slice of pan-fried celeriac, lobster mushrooms and seaweed, bathed in a tasty homemade miso broth and accompanied by kimchi chips, is a fine example of the mastery offered by the cuisine. Vegetarians will be particularly happy here.
The plentiful plate of Arctic char offers an interesting blend of flavors and textures: mashed turnip, pan-fried spinach, Roma beans, marinated oyster mushrooms… The skin of the fish, on the other hand, was not grilled enough, a little soft, victim of too rapid cooking.
For dessert, a few choices for those with a sweet tooth, such as the classic crème brûlée, here at Coureur des Bois, which was very successful. More inventive and frankly interesting, the koji cake, with diplomate cream, sunflower praline, sea buckthorn gel, Saint-Laurent fleur de sel and sumac, offers a nice game around sweet and savory.
The experience was not perfect, but this restaurant is still worth the detour, if only for the highly convincing 100% local experience that is put forward there.
In our glass
As stated, the property operates on a “bring your own wine” basis. It is therefore an opportunity to take beautiful bottles out of your cellar, without leaving your shirt there. The place always has a mocktail on the menu, and offers some refreshments, like kombucha.
Good to know
Several vegetarian choices (some of which can be adapted for vegans) are on the menu. As the chef does not use flour to make his bases, most of the plates (except the homemade pasta dishes, for example) are gluten-free.
Vegetable dishes range from $12 to $16; starters range from $13 to $26 and main dishes range from $35 to $40. A “to share” section offers oysters from the Maritimes ($18 for 6), a platter of foie gras torchon and cold meats ($22), fries ($6)… There is even a Norman hole made up of lemon sorbet. sea buckthorn and Quebec vodka ($9) for those with too full a stomach.
O’Thym is open from Wednesday to Sunday and operates with a two-course formula (6 p.m. and 9 p.m.) on Fridays and Saturdays. The place always offers a take-out menu, to be ordered the same day before 4 p.m. In the dining room, reservations are strongly recommended.
1112 De Maisonneuve Boulevard East, Montreal