Even though they’re fans of elaborate tasting menus and clever wine pairings, neither Lauren Kastner nor Kaylee Fishman have ever really felt at ease seated at one of the city’s high-end establishments. So, when the best friends decided to open their own restaurant on a southern stretch of St-Laurent Boulevard, they knew they wanted to preserve certain elements of the fine dining experience — but transpose them to a less formal setting.
Once open (in June, if coronavirus restrictions slacken in time), restaurant 1583 will host one group of up to 12 diners per night for what the pair hopes more closely approximates an intimate, no-rules dinner party in an artsy loft, than a white tablecloth evening in a pristinely manicured Old Montreal haunt.
“This is the kind of space for someone who doesn’t necessarily feel like they belong in a fine dining restaurant, but would appreciate its food. I’m an elbows-on-the-table kind of person, and I don’t really know how to properly use a fork and knife, so it never was the right situation for me,” Kastner, who will be handling the front of house, says.
As a patron, Fishman may not gravitate toward fine dining establishments either, but she has worked in the kitchens of several, including Old Montreal mainstay Le Club Chasse et Pêche and now-defunct, though memorably refined Hvor. After having executed the visions of other chefs for years, she says she’s eager to take the reins, serving up what she describes as “a big family dinner, but in a very upscale fine dining way.” For Fishman, family-infused fare largely translates to the Jewish flavours of her childhood, though the Canadian and Nordic kitchens in which she earned her stripes inevitably filter through.
1583’s tasting menu will change regularly, according to seasonal shifts, the vagaries of local produce, and Fishman’s instincts, but to start she’s proposing a multi-course sequence including dishes like egg drop soup freckled with matzah chips; pierogi filled with lamb, crème fraiche, and apple; a deconstructed fondue with rapini and Manchego; and for dessert, a whoopie pie made with dark chocolate, tobacco cream, and berry jelly. Wine pairings are available, as are cocktails served before and after dinner in a dedicated bar area.
Kastner and Fishman have spent months renovating the space themselves, in hopes that it’ll project a 1970s punk, do-it-yourself aesthetic. That’s interspersed with the works of contemporary Montreal artists, including Trevor Yardley-Jones and Maia Faddoul, as well as objects, like vintage Montreal concert posters, left behind by one of the space’s prior occupants: Dutchy’s Record Cave.
The pair had been working on the space, nestled above bar Pamplemousse on the eastern edge of Quartier des Spectacles, for nearly three months before learning that it had once “been a hub for the city’s underground punk scene,” Kastner says, explaining that Dutchy’s sold records and show tickets, and was a regular set for music videos of the era. “We definitely felt like it was kismet that we happened to find this spot.”
However, at $225 a head (without the alcohol), 1583’s dinner parties certainly aren’t for everyone. Though steep, the price tag does deliver more — namely, a private space and a dedicated chef for an entire evening — than it might at one of the city’s other fine dining establishments. Plus, emerging from months of confinement, diners may take more easily to the idea of dining out with friends, if it means not having to contend with the proximity of strangers doing the same. And in this case, they won’t be turned away for arriving in their sweats.
1583, located at 1583 St-Laurent, is currently accepting reservations for groups of 8 to 12, starting on June 3, pending government coronavirus regulations.