"We're in the juice!," confirms the chef at Hvor, a buzzy new restaurant in white-hot Griffintown, in between consultations with suppliers shuttling in and out of his kitchen. "But I feel good. We officially open May 20, and we're excited." It's an auspicious time for S'Arto Chartier-Otis to unveil what will be, in all likelihood, the fullest expression of his culinary credo and chops to date. The chef previously made a name for himself at Soubois, Balnea Spa, Les Enfants Terribles, and the Saint-Sulpice and Saint-James hotels. There was a formative trip to Japan, too, followed by a tour of duty under Antonio Park at his eponymous restaurant in Westmount. Now, at Hvor, Chartier-Otis is in charge.
"The formula will be pretty wide open and free to start," the chef remarks. "The menu has not been completely finalized but it will be a dégustation, with three or five services, some extra surprises, and optional wine pairings. We'll offer a vegetarian option too, for the three-course menu." Chartier-Otis expects prices to start somewhere in the $45 and $60 range, respectively.
Hvor was designed by Atelier Lovasi, the Montreal firm responsible for SuWu, Apt. 200, Antidote, Rosemont's Randolph pub, and all three Fabrique à Boire locations. The dining room seats 75, with space for eight at the bar. A chef's table situated in the restaurant's terrasse-garden ("That was a challenge to build, to be honest," Chartier-Otis confesses) will serve custom menus for groups. While Hvor's kitchen will underscore vegetables, from the garden and otherwise, Chartier-Otis wants to refrain from imposing anything too dogmatic. His evolving menus will highlight healthy, seasonal ingredients, he affirms, but pigeonholing the restaurant as strictly locavore, or anything else for that matter, would be a mistake.
"I don't want to restrict myself. If we can get beautiful fish from Japan, we will," says Chartier-Otis. "I respect the locavore philosophy, but at my core I'm a cook. The goal is to make customers happy. At Balnea I had to adapt to a lot of constraints. Hvor will be like Balnea 2.0, with more freedom. Even if the name references Nordic [Hvor is "where" in Danish], we won't be boxed in by that. It's not like we're trying to copy Noma and Fäviken."
Status: Hvor, 1414 Notre-Dame Ouest, (514) 937-2001, opens May 20.