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Bundle Up for an Outdoor Winter Dining Experience Inspired by Après-Ski

Starting January 20, Montreal diners can head to Quartier des Spectacles for chefs Paul Toussaint and Massimo Piedimonte’s new Cinquième Vague pop-up

four men standing in line Cinquième Vague/Supplied

A crisp new sit-down dining option is headed to Quartier des Spectacles — diners just need to bundle up for it.

Ten picnic tables and a series of heaters are being set up on the terrasse of downtown pan-Caribbean food spot Kamúy, where, starting Thursday, January 20, a new winter dining pop-up, called Cinquième Vague (“fifth wave” in French), will launch with outdoor table service.

The project comes from a group of industry vets, including Kamúy chef-owner Paul Toussaint, chef Massimo Piedimonte (formerly of Le Mousso and of the much-anticipated Cabaret L’enfer on St-Denis), as well as sommeliers and drink experts Xavier Richard-Paquet and Joris Gutierrez-Garcia, both bringing years of experience at some of the city’s top restaurants.

The menu, featuring a mix of Caribbean and Italian dishes (reflecting the culinary traditions typically spotlighted by its chefs), will change weekly, with something special planned for Black History Month in February and local food festival Montréal en Lumière. For now, diners can expect everything from accras (cod fritters) and jerk chicken to tortellini en brodo and homemade burrata, plus s’mores for dessert. For drinks, think mulled wine and spiced hot chocolate — in a nod to the après ski tradition.

“We know that people love the winter and still want to go outside,” Toussaint says. “We see people still coming to Quartier des Spectacles to enjoy all the structures and all the art. So we thought, ‘Why not create something where they can stop to eat or drink, while respecting all the regulations?’”

Restaurants in Quebec have been mandated to close their indoor dining rooms since December 31, 2021, but Toussaint says he’s inquired about an outdoor dining set-up — that checks vaccine passports, appropriately distances tables, and respects all other health and safety measures — and has been given the go-ahead. “They don’t want people sitting inside, but they never really talked about it for outside, because they probably didn’t think anybody would do it,” he says, laughing.

Another crucial element has made it so that Cinquième Vague may see the light of day. Kamúy’s terrasse doesn’t spill onto the sidewalk or street, meaning it doesn’t require a city permit to operate, Toussaint explains. (Depending on the neighbourhood, terrasse season typically stretches from April to October.)

Toussaint says that flipping to takeout wasn’t a viable option for his young restaurant, based on his less-than-stellar experience with it last fall. “Doing takeout downtown just doesn’t seem to work. Maybe there aren’t enough people. I think it probably works better in residential areas, but not over here,” he says.

But that’s not his only hurdle: Having opened during the pandemic — in August 2020, to be exact — Toussaint says his restaurant still doesn’t qualify for any federal or provincial aid during lockdowns. “I love this industry, and I’ve been open for almost two years with Kamúy, but you tell me I can’t access the subvention? It’s like I’m not part of the industry. I have people who work for me; what will I do for my staff? I understood it when I first opened. It was my responsibility. But now?”

If Toussaint had been able to plan ahead for the current closure, he says the situation wouldn’t be so grim. But with the typically bustling holiday dining season cut short and the absence of government support, he says this fifth wave of the pandemic called for some extra creativity: “All I can really do is keep trying to come up with something new.”

Cinquième Vague will run Thursdays to Sundays, from January 20 to March 5, at 1485 Jeanne-Mance Street.