Productive Montreal restaurateur Thomas Vernis plans to open a new Little Burgundy eatery later this month. Mignon will be devoted to a single rendition of the meat-and-potatoes template — his favourite: steak frites.
"It's going to be a one-dish type of restaurant where really that's all we do," Vernis, owner of Old Montreal establishments like supper club Santos and newly opened wine bar Pastek, tells Eater.
Vernis describes Mignon (French for "cute" and presumably also a nod to the cut of meat) as a "small neighbourhood steakhouse" with an incredibly concise menu: a three-course table d'hôte featuring the Parisian bistro staple — traditionally a dish of grilled entrecôte (a boneless cut from the rib area), crisp French fries, and a smooth signature sauce — plus soup or salad to start and a dessert to close it all off.
"That's the formula," Vernis says. "And it's basically one of my favourite concepts in the world."
But having tapped Patrick Marion as Mignon's executive chef, Vernis says diners can look forward to some creative add-ons in the form of weekly, rotating appetizers. The Noma-trained chef, who's also held stints at farm-to-table restaurant Fauna in Ottawa and, recently, at 212 in Old Montreal, is also developing a vegetarian steak alternative. (Details on its composition aren't available just yet.)
On the drinks side, there'll be some '90s-era cocktails, including old favourites like the espresso martini, which is seemingly having a resurgence. "When I used to go out at 18, it was the late '90s. And that's what you would have — lychee martinis, apple martinis, cosmopolitans — all of that classic Sex and the City stuff. It's all coming back hard now," Vernis says.
Vernis says the idea to open an intimate neighbourhood steakhouse had been on his mind for a decade or so, but the recent closure of his favourite downtown steakhouse, 29-year-old L'Entrecôte Saint-Jean, was the catalyst he needed to get it off the ground. "I'd been going there since I was a kid, and then it was suddenly just not around anymore," he says. (The city lost another heavy-hitting steakhouse, Moishes, last year — though its owner promises a comeback. Meanwhile, arguably Montreal's most extravagant steakhouse, La Queue de Cheval, has been closed for renovations for over a year.)
"When you say 'steakhouse,' people imagine places like La Queue de Cheval — over-the-top, opulent, leather banquettes, and waiters trying to sell you $100 shrimps. But no, that's not what I want to do here," Vernis says.
His vision is for something less grand (Mignon is a 30-seater), less expensive (its table d'hôte comes in at just under $50), and overall a little softer, more restrained in look and feel.
Designer Amlyne Phillips has made over the former restaurant Meloche 27 space — on an already pretty carnivorous stretch of Notre-Dame that includes Joe Beef and Liverpool House — for the project. Her design trades in the typical leather seating for some covered in plush red velvet and opts for checkered flooring that projects intimate French bistro vibes. It's all punctuated by chic marble tabletops and a large, striking painting — a replica of Rembrandt's The Jewish Bride — encased in an ornate gilded frame. Eschewing certain steakhouse trappings, it turns out, doesn't have to mean sacrificing all sense of luxury.
Mignon is slated to open at 2523 Notre-Dame Street West in mid-November.