Chef Martin Juneau has quietly opened up a second location of his reputed restaurant Pastaga, with one big change — it’s in a food court.
Bearing the same name, it appears to be the crowning jewel of the Rockland Centre’s majorly overhauled dining options.
The mall, on the northern edge of Town of Mount Royal (TMR) undertook a $10 million renovation to its food court over the last couple of years, effectively wiping it clean and re-populating it. The new court, branded La Cuisine, clearly aims to be more luxurious, shying away from chainy, bain-marie heavy options that often populate malls (perhaps most notably in the various Underground City food courts in downtown Montreal). While there’s still an A&W and Thai Express, other fancier tenants have arrived both inside the food court and elsewhere in the mall. They include Mile End salad bar Liv, pizzerias No 900 and Baccaro, and food truck Duck Truck.
Given its environment, the Rockland Pastaga will obviously depart from the Little Italy original to some degree. In promotional copy, Juneau is touted as saying it “will feature some of the same products and producers, but with a simpler, more efficient approach.” Read: it’s retooled for a fast-casual food court setting, although with no menu posted online and relatively minimal promotion on social media, it’s difficult to deduce exactly what is on the menu (Eater has reached out for a copy).
This is Juneau’s second recent new project — he opened up café-lunch service Tricot Principal in a commercial building on St-Urbain in late 2018 — and it’s his first notable project outside of the Little Italy area, where his other establishments like wine bar Cul-Sec have been centred.
Juneau and co-owner Louis-Philippe Breton aren’t the first local restaurateurs to attempt to take a relatively formal concept to a mall setting. Just last week, Normand Laprise and Christine Lamarche of Toqué took their bistro Brasserie T to South Shore megacomplex Dix30, although they kept the same trappings as the Place-des-Arts original, and the restaurant has its own independent space.
One of the earliest to do it was Mile End sushi spot Ryu — its owners closed its sit-down restaurant on Laurier to focus on a more casual food court set-up a few years ago (that Laurier location has since reopened).
As was noted with Brasserie T, these kinds of expansions can be seen in two ways — on the positive side, it represents restaurateurs and chefs trying to branch out to new audiences and go beyond the standard, restaurant-heavy inner city neighbourhoods. But it can also be seen as these restaurateurs pivoting to a corporate environment that may prioritize profits over all — that said, it seems that they have substantial autonomy to run such restaurants as they wish.
Presumably, time will tell whether Laprise, Juneau, and others will make mall dining a far more palatable idea — or whether the hyper-commercial mall microcosm will drag them down.
STATUS — Pastaga is open in the Rockland Centre from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.