“If someone would ask me, as a Montrealer, to associate myself with just one street, it would have to be St-Denis. That’s always been my street,” says Massimo Piedimonte, the chef and owner of Cabaret L’Enfer, the new Italian-French restaurant and fermented food destination that opened today (June 2) on the Plateau thoroughfare.
After hanging around St-Denis’ skate shops and record stores as a kid, living on its north end as an adult, and regularly using its bike path to get to work downtown at Maison Boulud, Piedimonte says the street seemed a fitting choice for the project.
“[The locale] had been empty since 2013, and it’s the only place where I’ve ever said to myself, ‘Now that would be a good spot to open a restaurant,” Piedimonte says of the space he’d frequently passed by, which previously belonged to Chuch Bistro, affiliated with Chuchai, the vegan Thai restaurant next door. “It ended up coincidently being the first place I was shown [to open the restaurant], and I always came back to it.”
Now, roughly two years since settling on the spot — and overcoming a slew of logistical nightmares, bureaucratic hurdles, and, of course, pandemic interruptions — the hotly anticipated project is all set to go.
Marrying Piedimonte’s French culinary training and Italian heritage, Cabaret L’Enfer’s menu currently features house-made burrata served with black currant oil; beef tartare with Carta Di Musica (traditional Sardinian crackers); and a handful of pasta dishes, including ravioli with lobster, fava beans, and raspberry leaves, and agnolotti with ricotta, hazelnuts, and asparagus. Leaning more French, there’s rabbit en croute and a morel pie.
Most of these dishes feature at least one fermented component, Piedimonte says, both a nod to his time at Copenhagen’s Noma and later Le Mousso and his commitment to the slow food movement. With some foresight, a restaurant can be serving ingredients that have been months — even years — in the making, he says. “Sometimes, you can develop flavours that are completely new. Other times you develop flavours that are similar to ones you grew up with. Either way, it’s a good time.”
For the beverage program, Piedimonte enlisted the help of Frédéric Létourneau. Meanwhile, Émile Archambault is the restaurant’s manager, and Glenn Hoffman is its co-owner.
At an intimate 27 seats, Piedimonte says the restaurant’s interior, designed by local firm XY Contemporary, is meant to be industrial and bare-bones but also “timeless and sexy.” Above all, he wanted a meticulously thought-out space in terms of functionality and environmental impact. “That way, if one day my children wanted to take over the restaurant, at least I could say I left it to them in the most sustainable way possible.”
But with his son only 6 years old and his daughter even younger at 3, that’s still a ways away. For now, Piedimonte is mainly just relieved to be back in the kitchen. “In the past two years, I’ve lost the biggest part of my identity. I’m a cook, more than anything else,” he says. “So, yeah, I’m so ready for this restaurant.”
Cabaret L’Enfer is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 6 to 11 p.m., at 4094 St-Denis Street.