The owners of Griffintown culinary hot spot Le Fantôme are planning to open a new restaurant in Old Montreal this spring, and it’s going to be a much larger affair than their petite William Street haunt.
Principals Kabir Kapoor and Jason Morris will be opening in a prime location on McGill Street, on the same block as Graziella, Ikanos, and Restaurant Hà — the name is Pastel, and it will make over a space that previously housed a Java U café.
Kapoor tells Eater that the much larger space will allow the kitchen to keep up the highly creative dishes that have wowed diners since 2015 in Griffintown, with Morris again heading up the kitchen (as executive chef).
“We discovered that we were changing our menu every week because these guys in the kitchen were so excited. We did about 500 items a year and people would love the fact that it was very innovative.”
“But it was getting a little overwhelming...you can’t even move when there’s ten people in here so we decided to create a kind of research and development space.”
He calls it “the complete yin to the yang of Fantôme” — while the original is cozy with its candlelit dining room, Pastel will seat a tidy 75 diners in a grander space with high ceilings and an airy design with light pastel colours, wheats, teaks, beiges, and light pinks, although Kapoor notes that it’ll still have a degree of intimacy.
The kitchen set-up should be cut out for experimentation (Kapoor describes it as a kind of “food lab”) — the Pastel crew has enlisted commercial kitchen company Jade to put together a suite along the lines of certain Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, allowing Morris and his dual chefs de cuisine Daiki Wajima and Louie Deligianis to further the playful experiments they’ve honed in Griffintown, where dishes like the foie gras peanut butter-jelly sandwich, celery root lasagne, and deconstructed tartares titillated all four of Montreal’s critics at the time.
“But it will have much more of an intellectual or artistic side to it...it’s not necessarily the place where you go if you want a big steak and a glass of red wine, we want people to think about the food they’re eating and look at it in a different way,” says Kapoor.
Kapoor adds that despite the creative rigour, it should be a little more accessible than La Fantôme, which became somewhat of a special occasional restaurant over time, doing only a tasting menu (although it has just re-introduced à la carte options) — Pastel will do à la carte, and will also do a noon-hour table d’hôte, given the bigger lunch scene in the area.
Wine will also be a focus with Fantôme sommelier Caroline Rossignol taking charge — Kapoor promises a wine list with minimal mark-ups that can help educate customers on wine, using producers who “respect the grape”. Fantôme bartender Kailee Keefe will create a cocktail list with an eye to pre-meal aperitifs before diners shift into wine; beer offerings will be smaller but will include private imports such as Italian beers from Nazionale, in larger bottles.
Expect Pastel to open in April — more details will come closer to the opening.