A number of relatively new, and somewhat notable, Montreal restaurants are technically not restaurants at all, but bars. Don't bring your kids to Notkins, Ludger, or Jatoba folks; these places are strictly 18 and over (summer terrasses excepted). Appearances can be deceiving. These establishments often market themselves as straight-up restaurants, when in fact, they hold proverbial "tavernes, bars et boîtes de nuit" permits.
Soubois, the buzzing downtown supper club from principals Francine Brûlé (Les Enfants Terribles), son Alexandre Brosseau, Jean-Philippe Haddad, Christopher Karambatsos, and Thomas Hatzithomas, is such a place. Depending on your interests, and, your age perhaps, Soubois is either the raucous, after-party den where Diplo threw down after Madonna's recent Bell Centre residency, or the wild-edible-focused restaurant where two talented chefs, Guillaume Daly and S’arto Chartier-Otis, hold court. Jean-Philippe Tastet, the critic for Le Devoir, does well to hide his disdain for the former today. If he goes easy on Soubois for its nightly, Mr. Hyde-like club metamorphosis, it's precisely because of Daly's and Chartier-Otis's efforts in the kitchen. Soubois, simply, puts the supper in supper club.
Or the lunch, as it were. Tastet much prefers Soubois's enchanted, underground forest inspired confines weekdays at noon. A far more tranquil, and amenable ambiance in which to admire dishes like minestrone with wild parsnip, and masala grissini, or a buratina, with roasted vegetables, wild anchoiade, and brioche. A foie gras mousse with sea buckthorns, honey, and a few smart dots of mustard is "un tableau parfait, pour les yeux autant que pour les papilles."
Larger plates shine as well. Char with fried lichen, butternut squash, and yogurt makes for an elegant marriage, and a generous lamb parmentier, served with potato purée and wild mushrooms, gloriously bucks the small plate trend. Tastet's lunch ends very well, thanks to pastry chef Phoutalack Sayouth's playful Ferrero Rocher riff. On the food front then, Soubois succeeds. But Tastet concludes his review with this (translated) caveat: "Lunchtimes at this address are quiet, delicious, and dignified. In the evening you will go to Soubois if you like a noisy party, the roar of cascading laughter at tables where people translate their joy in being there into overflowing decibel levels."