The restaurant that took the place of Old Montreal's troubled Casa de Mateo gets a strong look from the critic for La Presse this week. It's the first review for Venice, the Venice, California inspired spot from Charles Manceau, the man who gave Griffintown Nini Meatball House. With its lineup of smoothies, tacos, salads, smoothies, chia puddings, and totally on-trend poke, the makeover of what had become a stale Mexican concept seems particularly well-placed to satisfy Marie-Claude Lortie. The critic has, in the past, advocated for lighter, healthier fare, and smaller portions, and is a self-professed fan of Mandy's Salad Bar. Venice fits right in with that sensibility, and the restaurant duly strikes a chord with the columnist.
Lortie samples much of the menu over the course of three visits. Venice's food isn't revolutionary or avant-garde, but the likes of edamame with lime sour cream, guacamole, and three types of tacos — turbot, chicken, pulled pork — are all fresh and tasty. Salads and a tuna poke bowl, while decent, both lack zest, Lortie observes. Maybe try the kitchen's take on avocado toast, with poached egg and fresh coriander, instead. It's the critic's favourite dish on the menu.
Venice's smoothies also win Lortie over, notably a creamy mash-up of banana, kale, and green tea. "Bref, Venice est un restaurant chouette qui répond bien aux modes et à la demande du jour. Pourquoi pas ?," Lortie concludes. Why not indeed. Though some of the food could be "plus parfumés, plus relevés," the critic will be back.