[Izakaya: Iwashi] Salmon Tataki Perfection

IMG_1171 Montreal, Saturday, early afternoon.

Mission of the day: make a dinner reservation for two. Shouldn’t be too complicated, it was only 2pm after all.

I’d had my share of fried food for the week, so I wanted something a bit more refined, but not pretentious. An izakaya sounded like the perfect in-between – Japanese bites in a casual setting.

Turns out the entire city had the same idea and somehow managed to clog the reservation lists of all the izakayas downtown before me (don’t you all have something else to do on St-Patricks eve?!). Actually, that’s not true. One establishment had an opening for two, at the bar… for 10pm.

Pondering over the possibility of switching to a different regional type of appetizers, it suddenly occurred to me that somewhere, in the far land of the Mile-End, a café had brought a Torontonian chef to bring life to a nightly izakaya. It’s name? Café Sardine during the day, Iwashi at night.

I checked their Facebook page.

Most recent post: 15 minutes ago. It said: we now take reservations for our 2 services. Sugoi!

At 9pm, J & I stepped into a small establishment with a lot of character. One bar, an open kitchen in the back and about 10 high tables, all occupied. We were seated within a dozen minutes and started deliberating over the salivating menu. We opted for 4 plates to share, a Sake mule cocktail for him (sake, vodka, ginger syrup), and a glass of Bourgogne from La soeur cadette for me.

IMG_1125IMG_1132IMG_1123 First came the salmon Tataki. Oh… OH! Perfectly marinated, it was seared just enough to give the fish body on the outside while keeping it tenderly raw in the inside. There is no other way to describe it; the Tataki was simply divine.

IMG_1136IMG_1137IMG_1127 That was followed by the grilled octopus, a special of the day. Seated on a bed of frayed carrots – gratiné – (uh-huh), the octopus was crunchy and a pleasure to nibble. The biggest punch came however from the homemade bacon that ornamented the plate. Deceivingly unassuming in appearance, the slices of meat were fatty like there was no tomorrow and equally decadent. 

IMG_1139 Third came the chawanmushi, an egg custard dish steamed in a Japanese teacup. I wasn’t sold on it but J insisted that we order it. Thank God he did because the dish was quite a sensorial experience. The custard had all the grandeur of the shiitake mushrooms, was soft in texture, and dissolved in my mouth. If only it didn’t have cubed chicken pieces at the bottom. They came as a bit of an abrupt contrast to the smooth flow of the dish.

IMG_1142 Finally came J’s much anticipated chicken, fried karaage style and accompanied by a flavorsome garlic sauce.

IMG_1146IMG_1147 We were more than satisfied with the food we had, but couldn’t ignore our batsubara – our extra-stomach for dessert. We each ordered the house crème brûlée. Matcha flavored, it was the indulgent dessert it was supposed to be, although the caramelized top was slightly too thick.

All in all, an incredible evening of deliciousness. Arigato Gozaimasu to you, Iwashi! I will definitely be back and tell the world how much of a perfect spot you are, to catch up with an old friend, or have a first date. Actually, let me do that now. Pressing ‘’published’’.

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Iwashi at Café Sardine on Urbanspoon

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