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.
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?
Park: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.