Following the departure of head chef Anita Feng, Denise owners Khoa Le and Menaic Raoul are shuttering the restaurant in order to renovate and re-open it as a natural wine bar.
Feng, who took over Denise’s kitchen in May of 2019 and pivoted the menu toward Sichuan offerings, is headed to China for a six-month trip to learn the ropes of Chinese cuisine. While plans for the forthcoming wine bar remain in flux, Raoul says Feng’s departure was a sign to the owners that it was time to move on to a new concept.
“We really wanted to be a more natural wine driven, but then when Anita Feng came into our lives a year ago we said, ‘okay, let’s stay a restaurant,’” Raoul told Eater Montreal Wednesday. “Now that she’s leaving we’re sad, but we took that chance to change the concept completely.”
“A natural wine bar was what we wanted to do since the beginning,” Raoul says.
While plans for the new bar — including name, menu, and decor — are not yet set in stone, Raoul and Le are aiming for an April 1 opening date. They plan to spend the coming months renovating the space to orient around a U-shaped bar.
The duo are also planning to take on several new partners for the venture, and while Raoul remains tight-lipped about who they are until the papers are signed and sealed, she stresses that they are “super inspiring people who are already in the (food) scene” in Montreal. “We’re happy to have them on board,” she says.
Café Denise opened in December of 2017 and served Park-Ex third-wave and Vietnamese coffee, banh mi, and light Vietnamese fare for over three years. It quickly became a local favourite, garnering positive reviews (including from former Montreal Gazette food columnist Lesley Chesterman, who called it a “hot ticket” in 2018.)