Red and purple-hued marinated berries and root vegetables glisten in big jars over the stove at Anemone, the new Mile-Ex restaurant of triumvirate Minh Phat Tu (chef and owner of Mui Mui), Mike Madokoro (chef of Bar Suzanne), and Elena Racevičiūtė Ouellette (sommelier and co-owner at Mui Mui). Previously the home of Manitoba, the jars (some of which came from the former restaurant, too) announce a homey warmth to the 50-seat bistro, and a comforting sense of déjà vu when crossing the threshold.
There’s pride in those preserved vegetables and fruits, and in sourcing locally as they did at Manitoba. “We’re definitely doing wild and foraged, and with more of an Asian thing than our other places,” says Madokoro. The chefs, both keeping their other projects running simultaneously to Anemone, are keen to share their forays into preservation methods, particularly koji rice fermentation, Madokoro’s current passion. While the team is deeply influenced by their Asian heritage and work experience, Anemone “is certainly not Asian cuisine, but it’s not NOT Asian cuisine, either,” he said.
Madokoro, Racevičiūtė Ouellette, and Tu all refer to the spirit of collaboration they bring to this project. All major decisions have been made by consensus, and they are committed to keeping it that way.
Anemone’s menu will change seasonally, though at this time of year there’s not as much variety as in the spring and summer. Currently on the menu there’s a trio of nori-wrapped temaki, featuring arctic char and red caviar; beef, oysters, and chips; and mixed mushrooms with garlic purée. Madokoro intends to always have crudo on the menu as a “bright and light early hit”: right now it’s fluke, complemented with honeycrisp apple. Duck magret (prepared with that koji) is served with beets, chestnuts, and tarragon; confit leeks are paired with horseradish and watercress, and mussels with celeriac and crème fraiche. Tu is excited about the Korean-style gnocchi-shaped rice cakes he’s preparing, with a squash-based XO sauce and sunflower seeds. Cold-weather desserts, created by Manitoba’s previous pastry chef Arnaud Rosboch, reflect what’s in season: tarte tatin with nori caramel and oats, and a crème of cranberry, cranberry tuile and buckwheat and rose vinegar.
Named for the provincial flower of Manitoba and an homage to Racevičiūtė’s Ouellette’s late father’s Manitoban roots, family and cooperation are central to the co-owners’ approach. “It’s important that the kitchen and dining room get along as a big team. When that goes well, it really shows in the service,” says Tu.
Anemone’s open kitchen is one way the restaurant showcases the team, especially when you can see the chefs slapping and stretching Shaanxi-style biáng biáng noodles, currently on the menu with braised rabbit, Swiss chard, and a ginger relish. “It’s easier to appreciate what you’re eating when you can see it being made,” Racevičiūtė Ouellette says.
Natural wines and cocktails with local ingredients complement the menu. Racevičiūtė Ouellette, a recent Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ) sommelier graduate, says she’s starting simple, to see what works — “maybe some less funky stuff.” On the spirits side, a squash cocktail with rum and sage is on offer, and a varation on a paper plane featuring Charlevoix’s iconic Menaud camerise (haskap) gin.
Madokoro, Tu, and Racevičiūtė Ouellette have a palpable delight in working together at Anemone, and an eagerness to share the flavourful dishes their collaboration brings to diners. “There are so many places in Montreal making delicious food, with a delicious wine program and delicious cocktail menus. For us, the way to stand apart is our personality and sharing,” says Madokoro. “That’s what we want this project to say.”
Anemone, 271 Rue Saint-Zotique O, Montréal, QC H2V 1A4