Feb 25, 2012

Park restaurant on Victoria Avenue in Westmount: top-notch sushi and much more

by Alexandra Forbes

I, as many natives of São Paulo, seem to think I'm from one of the best sushi towns in the world. 

In other words, I'm a sushi snob. And sushi snob doesn't even explain it: I'm a Japanese food snob. I just can't understand why there's hardly any decent Japanese food in Montréal, other than the fact that.... well... there just aren't that many Japanese immigrants or descendants around, relatively speaking.

Having said that, I am THRILLED that Park restaurant opened only a few blocks away from my place, in Westmount. Antonio, the chef-owner, is not Japanese at all. He grew up in Paraguay and has Korean ancestry. No matter: he knows his fish better than 99% of the dudes cooking Asian stuff in this town. 

Antonio Park was previously the chef at Kaizen restaurant, but I don't even like mentioning Kaizen, as I have nothing positive to say about the place, where the owner(s) clearly doesn't care much about service, and there's lots of gringo-style rolls on the menu. 

Chef Park is now on his own, and... am I ever glad!

What a relief it is to be able to say I can now easily go out for good sushi. 

And yes, it is that good: you'll have to take my word for it. Of course I'm not talking about that North American crap full of mayo, fake crab, Rice Krispies and that sauce-that-masks-all-evils, "hot sauce". Yuck. I mean delectable niguiri: rice, good-quality fish cut the right way, period.

But make no mistake: this place isn't just about sushi. 

I had an amazing tataki of Kobe-style beef that left me wanting more... And miso soup made from a bouillon of lobster shells, not just the usual hot water with a bit of miso and tofu thrown in.

Bibimbap Rice

There's also a killer bibimbap rice (a Korean specialty), and seared tuna on a purée of squash, etc. I hate the term pan-Asian so I'll avoid it, but the fact is you can't pigeonhole the cuisine. A bit of this, a bit of that. All of it pretty damn good.

Oh, and did I mention the maître d'/manager comes from Le 357C, the poshest private club in town? Yep, he's made the move... 

This may not be the fanciest restaurant, but I assure you: Antonio knows his raw fish better than 99% of the dudes cooking Asian stuff in this town, and he's got a top-notch maître d' running the show.  Winning combination, no?

tel. (514) 750-7534
378 avenue Victoria

A big p.s.: seems like there's another new kid on the block worthy of note, according to today's review by The Gazette's Lesley Chesterman: Zen Ya. Can't wait to try it.


  1. Zen Ya has been there many years.

  2. Tried Park restaurant, really bad experience! It was Friday night, but it was not busy. My friend and I waited for long to get our entree which was a sashimi combination. The taste was ok. Then it was our main dish which was a paella fish and beef. The portion was very very small. The beef was not tender at all. The worst part was the seafood paella which was very saulty. Since we were very hungry, we kept eating it. But the rice was not cooked right as well, it was very hard. The dish tasted more salty after a few bites. When the waitress came over asking us how everything was. We told her. She said she would tell the kitchen. After a long while she came back said the kitchen said that was the way it was. We did not know what to say. Later the manager came said the same thing, and said he could offer a dessert or coffe. I told my friend to have a dessert since he was very hungry. Then we waited waited a good long while and nobody came to say anything to us, plus the waiters and waitresses were standing there doing not much. Finally we ran out of our Patience so we asked the manager for our bill and I added how long we had to waited for our dessert. He said two mins. Then the dessert came which I believe it was cooked before. I really don't understand why it took them more than 15 mins to bring the dessert. And the manager said to us next time we should have let him know right from the beginning if we found something wrong about the dishes. I said we told the waitress. And he said we should have told him! So I guess we should not have been nice and should not have tried to bear with the salty dish. And we should have asked the manager To serve us. Anyway it is a good experience at all. The food is not good, the service is bad and is extremely slow! After a $100 worth of meal, we were upset and hungry.

  3. Alexandra,
    may I ask you: are you an advertiser for all those restaurants. I am asking because your texts are always written in an advertising style. As if all those restaurants are pitch perfect. I know you won't publish this comment, which is another problem that most people find bizarre with your blog. What is the agenda?

  4. I ate at Kaizen many times before and after Antonio's left, their food and service are still amazing. I ate at Park's last week, and he charged me $125 Per person for the same food that he used to charge me $75 at Kaizen and I heard the same comments from other people. Will I go back? No way.....Btw, the gringo's makis that you mentioned were there too when Antonio was there and he must create some of them too, he was their Executive Chef anyway.

    Did you try Juni for decent Japanese food?

    I think it's not good to review a restaurant or food based on your personal closeness to the chef. This review is more an advertising to me than a review.

  5. Hi Anonymous, yes, I've been many times to Jun-I. I think it's good. Not great, but good. And very not Japanese! As for Park (which doesn't pretend to be Japanese), since writing the post above, I went back about 4 times (I live very close...). The service leaves quite a bit to be desired but I stand by my comments about the food. Still think it's great. And if Antonio made "gringo rolls" when he was at Kaizen, maybe it's because he was a paid employee? Don't know how much freedom he had to ban such things. Last but not least, I'm sorry you think this post sounded like advertising. It reflects my impressions, and, in this case, they were very positive. Having said that, I did find out that the great maitre d'/manager has left, so maybe that has a bit to do with the faults with the service lately.

  6. As for the comments from Anonymous reader #2, I must ask: why the heck did you order paella at an Asian-style restaurant, where the chef is Peruvian-Korean?! My dad always said: in Rome, do as the Romans. I'm not surprised that your paella wasn't good...

    1. Counter-question.. why is paella even on the menu, if the chef is Peruvian-Korean, and doesn't make it very well? Especially at a higher-end restaurant. That is really not an excuse for poorly-executed cuisine.

      Also, yeah, Zen Ya has been around for years and years. I find its sushi uninspired and overpriced, but its main meals are very tasty. However, I vastly prefer Takara, for sushi and for mains.

    2. Correction: Argentinian-Korean.....

  7. Well I lived in Japan for 10 years and I can tell you there is very little in Montreal in terms of authentic Japanese food. The only places that come close are Furusato, Imadake, Jun-i, and maybe Mikado. If you want real Japanese food, just get on a place to Narita! The crappiest corner sushi joint in Tokyo blows everything here out of the water. Cheers, Tim

  8. I tried Park restaurant after reading your review and what a let-down.
    How can you rate this restaurant so highly??

    I had the “menu dégustation” and the worst part of the experience was the sushi: rice quality, texture, taste, quantity and fish taste & freshness all questionable or off. The best part was a tie between the friendly service and the cold Sapporo on tap but you can get this in many restaurants – I’ll stick with Imadake for the simple & fun authentic Japanese pub experience.

    I lived in Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo, for a few years and I can assure you that what they serve at Park is nothing like the real thing and it is far from an interesting or tasty variation like, for example, what Tetsuya’s offers in Sydney.

    In my humble opinion the Montreal chef that delivers the best high-end sushi experience is Jun-Ichi san at Jun-i. Sitting at the bar reminds me of many good nights spent sharing a beer with great Japanese chefs while tasting exceptional & refined sushi in un-pretentious yet incredibly sophisticated sushi bars on Kotto-Dori. I recommend the experience.


  9. OMG! What a terrible experience! Horrible service...we asked 3 times for water and as many times for a spoon before getting up and getting it ourselves!!! The food was astronomically overpriced...$19.00 for a plate of lettuce and a small pile of grated carrots and 2 sliced strawberries. The big deal was that they served it on a rectangular plate a la "The Dollar Store" with three small bowls of dressing to chose from, one of which was lousy, one of which was mediocre and only one of which was good. The filet was tasty but WAY over priced and the one sushi roll we ordered was good. The "Bibimbob", however was inedable, horrible, tasteless. FEH. Will we go back?? Never! My advice is to just don't bother going or maybe try lunch if you're really desperate to be overcharged for only passable food.

  10. What a lousy experience! Terrible service. REALLY terrible. Slow AND rude. WAY over priced for merely passable food.
    Actually the salad was SO wrong we felt like it was "the Emperors New Clothes" in salad! A small pile of lettuce on one end of the plate, a small pile of grated carrots(!) and 2 sliced strawberries with tiny amounts of a couple of other things (daikon radish(?) and three little bowls of dressing one of which was really bad, one of which was not so good and the third one which was not bad for $19.00. Ridiculous!!
    Bibimbob...no! This was tasteless and did not resemble any form of that dish.
    The filet was good but WAY overpriced and the sushi roll was very good, but it was the only light in the whole dim, unimpressive diing experience. If you feel compelled to have mediocre, overpriced food, i suggest you go for lunch. We'll never go back!