A new daytime dining spot has made its way to the southern stretch of the Plateau: Osmo x Marusan, a Japanese restaurant and coffeeshop. It’s based out of Sherbrooke Street startup incubator Notman House owned by the Osmo Foundation.
Once home to Café OSMO, the new project hangs on to part of the name as a means of “honouring what they’ve done so far with the space, while adding our culture to it,” David Schmidt, one segment of the triad on board as the cafe’s new operators, tells Eater. “It may sound like a pop-up, but it isn’t. It’s permanent.”
Completing the trio are Hideyuki Imaizumi and Sébastien D. Langlois, who together with Schmidt form the team behind Chinatown Japanese snack bar Fleurs et Cadeaux, which opened last fall. For this current venture, Imaizumi resurrects the name that graced his defunct Old Montreal haunt Marusan, one of a few places in the once-tourist-driven area where you could procure reasonably priced lunch, and also hunker down for a sake-fuelled 5 à 7, as vinyl freely whirled in the background.
Imaizumi reprises certain other elements of the former Marusan, notably the audiophile focus and the curries — at the moment, there’s a mushroom option and a deep-fried shrimp one in a lobster bisque sauce. New to the menu are Japanese sandos, including the katsu (pork cutlet, 30-day-aged Worcestershire, bonito mustard, and cabbage) and the tamago, filled with eggs two ways — soft-boiled and in salad form, with a tsukuri black vinegar folded in. Onigiri (triangular steamed rice patties swathed in nori) and hefty salads will eventually join the line-up.
Chef Kohko Hasegawa wields experience from previously working alongside Hiroshi Kitano at the notable Bistro Otto, and in Vancouver at the popular Stem Japanese Eatery. The cafe will also have specialty coffees and teas, and sweets from Pain D’Épices duo, Noémie Cohen and Alisha Sequeira, who’ve relocated their independent cake shop (orders can be placed via their Instagram page) to the Osmo x Marusan space, while also supplying it with pastries, cakes, black sesame cheesecake, and a particularly striking grapefruit and matcha babka. Osmo x Marusan was large enough to retrofit a new pastry kitchen to accommodate the pair — a move, Schmidt says, is indicative of the restaurateurs’ vision for an all-around more collaborative setup.
Schmidt hopes to have the chance to host pop-ups of local artists and community members in the cafe, especially in the summer, when serviceable indoor and outdoor space combine for a ballpark 6,000 square feet. “The whole point with this project is for it to be one big open-ended social club,” Schmidt says.
After all, the space is quite literally woven into the surrounds, nestled between the two heritage buildings (the Notman House and former St. Margaret’s Hospital) that make up the startup hub. It was in 2014 that Sid Lee Architecture built the café and building connector, whose commanding concrete surfaces and almost otherworldly skylights are together “very much an ode to 1960’s brutalism,” Schmidt says. “It almost resembles a Montreal metro station, you know?”
In the days of its predecessor Café Osmo, turquoise Acapulco chairs and wood surfaces served to offset the austerity of the space, but with Osmo x Marusan designers MDT Mobilier leaned further into it, with additional monochromatic surfaces (save for some red chairs) and clean-cut furniture that says functional co-working space, more than beach-side resort.
But it isn’t all work and no play at Osmo x Marusan. They’ve got a slick selection of natural wines and sakes — via their side venture Chinatown Cavistes — and on Thursday to Sunday nights all summer a Nicaraguan-style barbecue pop-up called Espadon from John Mike Leblond and Jessica Midlash. (Locals may recognize the name from a prior summer stint at Bar Kabinet on Laurier.) The set-up is biergarten-esque, with a counter service, picnic tables, and not one, but two, terrasses where to hang — plus a bocce court that’s incoming.
Come fall, though, Espadon will have to wind down the outdoorsy affair, and Osmo x Marusan will instead stay open past sundown, with an expanded menu befitting the Japanese snack bar, Schmidt says, it’s destined to become.
Osmo x Marusan is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 51 Sherbrooke Street West, and as Espadon on Thursday to Sunday evenings, 4 to 11 p.m.