Earlier this year, a fire made Plateau newcomer Kiffin “that restaurant that was only open for a week” — now after months of work on the restaurant’s St-Denis brownstone, it makes a comeback this weekend.
Under founder Natasha Alani, Kiffin has been doing budget-conscious food and catering in Montreal since 2015, and in April she opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant for the first time. But a fire in a yoga studio above Kiffin knocked it out again (at the time, Alani said she was “shell-shocked”), and repairs took nearly six months.
“It was genuinely heartbreaking and it took so long, I genuinely trusted it would take just a few weeks,” she says.
But it’s still the same Kiffin — partly. Alani runs it partly as a restaurant, partly as a social enterprise; not quite a charity, but a socially-conscious business. Alani tells Eater that staff receive bonuses and will share in profits. There’s also an eye to sustainability, with menus designed to minimize food waste, and kitchen staff explicitly tasked with finding ways to eliminate that.
That consciousness runs through to the menu, too: making good nutritious food that’s affordable is a goal for Kiffin too.
“We find that the people who work the hardest and with the most labour-intensive jobs have the lowest [level] of access to food,” says Alani.
That plays out in menu items like a mac and cheese with smelt, a small and sustainably-caught fish, often served fried.
“It’s really high in vitamins and nutrients but it’s a fraction of the price of shrimp which is what people normally put on the menu.”
These various goals don’t mean that culinary quality is sacrificed, though: Alani’s partner Aaron Fetherston is serving as the chef, and has classical training from Portland, Oregon’s Cordon Bleu, and at well-liked San Francisco area restaurants such as The Square and The Hog’s Apothecary.
Fetherston’s menu is leaning towards comfort food (with a whole page for fancy mac and cheeses) for dinner; brunch service is also part of the revived Kiffin, starting with a lighthearted pyjama brunch to celebrate the reopening this weekend (November 18).
“Let’s laugh in the face of fate, I don’t want people to be sitting alone at the tables, they’re encouraged to wear silly pyjamas,” laughs Alani.
Beyond the services, the colourful new Kiffin (complete with bamboo floors) also includes a rentable event space; an off-street terrasse and possibly cooking classes are in the works.
The reopening brunch is by reservation only; for future weekends and dinners, walk-ins are completely welcome.
STATUS — Kiffin reopens Saturday November 18 for brunch at 3439 St-Denis. It will be open 3 p.m. to midnight Tuesday to Friday and for Saturday and Sunday brunches.