Manitoba was one of the pioneer establishments to dare to settle in Mile-Ex. Today, there are many good places to eat and drink in the area (Bar Ciccheti, Taverne Atlantic, Chez Denise). For most of the pandemic, Manitoba has been on hiatus. Then, at the beginning of 2023, we learned of the end of this adventure and the start of a new one: that of Anemone, which takes up the locavore principles that made the mark of the previous address, but carried by a new guard with its own vision.
Minh Phat rose to prominence as the chef of the late Orange Rouge in Chinatown. He quickly rebounded by opening at the beginning of 2021, with his friends Alexandre Des Rosiers, Millie-Maude Des Granges and Tierry Justin, the Mui Mui, a friendly restaurant with cross-influences, mainly Asian. At Anemone, the quartet have teamed up with chef Mike Madokoro of the laid-back and festive Bar Suzanne, and Elena Racevičiūtė – Minh’s ally since the days of Orange Rouge – who handles the liquid program. The name Anemone, the emblem flower of Manitoba, is his idea. Moreover, Minh has just bought the old Café Coquetel in Villeray. In a few weeks, he will open a café-bar called Sae Low.
We are happy to find this beautiful space, which enjoys a green terrace hidden at the back – a terrace at the front will be added this weekend. My friend and I sit at the bar overlooking the open kitchen, where we can watch the cooks at work.
How would you describe Anemone’s cuisine? This is a great challenge of conciseness… There are Asian influences here and there, the use of various processing techniques – fermentation, marinades, ageing… -, audacity in the choice and marriage of ingredients (mostly local ) and flavors. Temaki rub shoulders with a dish of endives, wild plums and hibiscus, tuna bresaola, black cod with black bean and black walnut ragout.
From one dish to another, you sometimes even have the impression of not being in the same restaurant. But this great playground allows freedom of creation without borders. The Anemone flower may not be fully bloomed, but its budding is full of promise. One thing is sure, we don’t get bored at this table, even if the dishes that paraded in front of us were not all equal.
Temaki, for example, are nothing memorable. We dare some interesting combinations, such as prawns and fiddleheads, simply placed on sushi rice that lacks seasoning and a sheet of nori seaweed, but the whole thing seriously lacked punch, and especially interest.
This less convincing introduction is forgotten when a dish with finesse arises: grilled asparagus, garnished with thin slices of goat cheese cheddar, accompanied by a duxelle of marinated asparagus with their lamb bacon. What catches the taste buds is this irresistible little green juice, which catches our eye at the bottom of the plate. What’s the secret? A mixture of marinated fiddlehead juice, dill oil, fennel, answers our waitress. Truly successful!
We love the idea of turning bluefin tuna into a charcuterie – bresaola, normally made from beef. The very delicate fish is marinated in salt and spices, then macerated in red wine before being dried for two weeks. It works well and the (too?) small portion is quickly devoured, with its radicchio leaves for the bitterness, its homemade crisps for the texture, topped with a tonatto sauce made with candied red tuna and lemon. The bone marrow dish is very generous. We find more or less the same toppings as on our temaki – warm salad of Matane shrimp, marinated fiddleheads, plus a few daylily leaves – but their combination with the very fatty marrow and stuffed with collagen proves to be a success. With beautiful slices of homemade sourdough bread (toasted and rubbed with homemade candied lemon), we celebrate it and lick our fingers.
Biáng biáng noodles, a Chinese specialty shaped like a belt, are one of the stars of the menu. We hear the sound of fresh dough, beaten on the kitchen counter, at regular intervals. The long, wide, plump dough – just one – wraps around the plate, topped with a mixture of braised rabbit, Swiss chard, kimchi-ginger “sauerkraut” and a few slices of bird’s eye chili. It is both lively and fleshy, spicy and enveloping, sour and sweet. It’s hard not to succumb.
The dessert is another amazing success. Very light and fresh, more on the digestive side than sweet, it offers a buckwheat and caraway crumble, a caraway mousse, rhubarb two ways (poached and in chips), dill oil and fresh dill. A nice touch to end a meal full of surprises!
Sommelier Elena Racevičiūtė, supported by bartender Élodie Lavallée-Davis, offers great options for the thirsty. A short cocktail menu, which revisits certain classics with Anemone sauce (mojito, mai tai, “mamigroni”), allows you to whet your appetite. The wine list has several great references, natural or biodynamic wines from all horizons and many discoveries to be made – the staff is also very good advice on the matter. Our choice fell on the Roso from the organic estate Agricola Virà, located in the northwest of Sicily, a very juicy rosé, all in red fruits, based on Nero d’Avola.
It will cost you $27 for 3 temaki (or $36 for 4). Dishes range from $17 to $34. Cocktails run around $17 and wines by the glass start at $14.
Open Wednesday to Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Reservations recommended. The space is easily accessible to people with reduced mobility. A few vegetarian options are on the menu.