Jatoba, the dynamic, Asian-fusion restaurant that counts Antonio Park as a menu consultant, has hit it off with yet another food critic. Today's Le Devoir review comes on the heels of a nod from enRoute as part of that magazine's annual Canada's Best New Restaurants feature. (Other Montreal-area restaurants on the long-list include Pizzeria GEMA, Lavanderia, Salmigondis, and La Table des Gourmets.)
Of the downtown restaurant, a Kelly Ripa favourite, Jean-Philippe Tastet writes: "De temps en temps, il faut sortir dans des endroits chics." And, with that, Tastet considers the laundry list of supper club-like hallmarks principals Marco Benatar (Flyjin), Alexandre Besnar, Patrick Hétu (A5 Management), and Nicolas Urli (Hà, Flyjin), have taken pains to affix: dapper valet; extravagant décor; beautiful hostesses ("toutes plus jolies les unes que les autres"); thumping soundtrack; killer terrasse. Most importantly, the critic observes, Jatoba has a bona fide chef in the kitchen in the person of Olivier Vigneault.
There's some classic Tastet wit, and snark, on display at the outset of the food commentary; the critic writes that if you're like him, you'll spend a lot of time on Google at Jatoba. Management seems to assume that everyone knows what 'nanami togarashi' is (spoiler: it's a common Japanese spice mixture). But the food, once you know what it is, is good. Vigneault's eggplant and shiitake gyozas convince Tastet that "quelqu’un, ici, travaille très bien en cuisine." Two styles of tofu, cold and crispy, are equally delicious. As for Jatoba's take on seaweed salad, the critic cannot recommend it enough. A beef tataki is so-so but grilled organic chicken with sesame, shishito, green onions, grilled Chinese eggplant, and soy chicken stock, excites. A dish of kampachi (a game fish in the same family as yellowtail and amberjack) has a lot of elements on the plate; too many perhaps, "mais beaucoup de plaisir à déguster." Fat scallops suffer from superfluous accompaniments as well, though Tastet is grateful for the piggish extra bites of foie.
Seated on Jatoba's handsome, covered terrasse, the critic's final verdict is worth a translation: "The hubbub that reigns inside confirms that this house is a place of revelry. Let us rejoice."