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Restaurant Review: The Plateau’s “Portus Calle”

From the artful presentation to quality ingredients, Portus Calle brought tapas to a whole new level. This Portuguese restaurant, nestled near Rachel and St. Laurent, has been in Montreal for ten years and I really hope it sticks around. Chef Helena Loureiro knows what she is doing.

The place wasn’t very busy and probably looked as such because it's quite large inside with room for over a hundred people, and not to mention, it was a rainy Tuesday evening. I have read that this Plateau gem is loud and lively on a Saturday night. It's a nice change from Montreal’s typical tiny bistros where tables are lined up only inches apart. With the candlelight, an ornate wine cellar and space for privacy, this is definitely on my list of romantic Montreal restaurants. Judging by the decor and ambiance, I was expecting a traditional Portuguese meal with the staple Mediterranean fish and meat dishes. Much to my surprise the tapas had a new-age fusion look and taste. The chef played with colour, texture, and shape for each dish, creating impressive art that with equally impressive taste.

We were first served with bread housed in a small cloth drawstring bag—a truly unique idea.  Looking down the menu, it was obvious that each dish was well thought out and highly original.  The flavour combinations were spot-on and the variety was endless, with meals divided into warm plates, cold plates, seafood, and meat. We conservatively ordered four dishes opting to order more if we were still hungry. That’s always a challenge with tapas, as sizes range from enough to fill two people to barely a spoonful.  We chomped on olives and bread, waiting in anticipation for what was to come.

The first dish was a poached egg and pancetta on a bed of asparagus. The egg was topped with queijo fresco, a traditional Portuguese soft cheese that has a slightly sweet taste.  Following last week's review of L'Orignal, it's clear that eggs are the new gourmet "it" ingredient. All the flavours worked well together and the cheese was definitely the standout ingredient of the dish.

We were then served the seared scallops with bacon. The thin crispy bacon was artfully balanced atop each scallop, making it look more like a sculpture than a meal.  As it was placed on the table, the server snuck his arm out and poured a creamed corn sauce beside the juicy scallops. Ten points for execution. As I expected, the dish tasted superb. However, it’s really difficult to make scallops with bacon taste horrible. It is scallops and bacon after all.

I have had octopus hot, cold, grilled, upside-down and sideways, yet Loureiro still managed to serve me an original creation as another fish sculpture was placed on the table. The grilled octopus was marinated with onions and red peppers. This fish – cephalopod if you will – tends to be quite mild and a flavourful marinade will do it justice. Across from it on the wood plank was a white bean and chickpea puree that wasn't your average hummus. The octopus was tender, but I would have preferred the skin to be left on – yes, suction cups and all, which have a great texture when grilled.

The Alaskan gravlax cod was topped with morels and chorizo chips. Once again, a well-planned combination created a melt-in-your mouth dish, the crunchy chorizo chips pairing well with the soft cod. All around were mango and green pea purees that were creatively splashed around the dish. They tasted even better than they looked and added what was needed to the savory fish and sausage. The cod was nicely marinated in olive oil, thinly sliced and wasn’t too salty.

Marrying great taste with the art of food presentation, Portus Calle is definitely among the Montreal’s top tapas restaurants in my books. If you have the luxury to indulge (maybe when your parents visit town), try the chef’s tasting menu which is sure to be full of bite-sized surprises.

 

Images contributed by the author.

Katrina served as the Campus Correspondent of Her Campus McGill from 2013-2015.  With a love of writing, fashion, and fitness, she spent a lot of her time exploring Montréal to find great things around campus and in the city to share with the Her Campus readers. Twitter @KatrinaKairys.Awarded 1st place for "On Campus Publicity" for My Campus Chapter Awards 2014Awarded Her Campus "Gold Chapter Level" 2013Awarded Her Campus "Platinum Chapter Level" 2014
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