Chef Erin Mahoney intended to open her first restaurant in the spring, but like many others was sidelined by the pandemic. However, this weekend, after months of preparation (and years of research and recipe testing), restaurant Joon began serving Caspian- and South Caucasus-inspired cuisine at its location in Little Italy’s north end.
“We threw open the doors with a special kind of joy that was only stronger after having had to wait because of COVID. We thank all of you who were a part of our first weekend! We’re doing it all again next week,” reads a post on the restaurant’s Instagram page.
Mahoney previously held stints at La Bête à Pain, Le St. Urbain and Impasto, the last of which is owned by prominent Little Italy chefs Michele Forgione and Stefano Faita, who along with her husband, marketing exec Ilya Daftari, are partners at Joon.
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We threw open the doors with a special kind of joy that was only stronger after having had to wait because of COVID. We thank all of you who were a part of our first weekend! We’re doing it all again next week. #restojoon #iranianfood #persian #georgia #armenian #montréal #petiteitalie #petiteitaliemtl @micheleforgione
Adhering to social distancing directives, the 2,100-square-foot space – design by Ménard Dworkind – sits a decent 30 to 34 people. “I felt a little sheepish when I started renting it. I was like, ‘Wow girl, for a first restaurant, you got really lucky.’ And then COVID happened and I was like, ‘Wow girl, you really are lucky because we have a lot of room to spread out,” Mahoney told Eater prior to the opening.
While Joon’s seasonal menu will be changing frequently, at this weekend’s soft opening, Mahoney served pork kebab marinated in pomegranate juice, trout encrusted with tarragon and lavash (a traditional thin flatbread), chicken with safran and yogurt, and some smaller veggie dishes similarly slathered in herbs and spices characteristic of the Caspian and South Caucasus regions.
“Initially, it was going to be an Iranian concept because my partner is Iranian, and I wanted to bring something to the Montreal food scene that was lacking,” Mahoney recalls, acknowledging, however, that there are a few little-known Iranian spots that focus on kebab and rice in Montreal’s NDG area.
As she delved into the history of Iranian cuisine and those from neighbouring countries like Georgia and Armenia, she encountered similarities in flavour profiles, owing to their shared terroir.
“I decided I really wanted to be able to combine the different flavours,” Mahoney says. “Not being of those cultures gave me a bit of freedom to experiment and interpret them, but mostly to pay homage in a huge way, because for me that’s what it’s about. More than anything else, it’s about respecting those cultures and doing them justice.”
Joon is open at 7130 St Laurent, Wednesday to Sunday, from 5:30 to 10 p.m.