Step Into my Day

November 22nd, 2012

Ermitage

Despite being of Russian origin, I’ll typically forgo Russian cuisine in lieu of something more exotic – be it sushi or fajitas. But on this cold November evening, I found myself at Restaurant Ermitage yearning for a taste of home.

Newly located steps below St-Joseph’s Oratory on rue Cote-des-Neiges, the restaurant continues to charm its customers with European vibe (just as it did in the previous Queen-Mary location) since opening its doors in 1998. Ex-Soviets come here for a taste of nostalgia, locals come for a bite of something new and me, I’m exploring my origins.

Ermitage’s décor doesn’t leave you guessing of its nature: burgundy drapes clothe the windows, kitschy chandeliers hang on the ceiling and Russian music plays in the background…

As Monsieur and I sit down, warm bread made in-house is brought to the table. We study the menu where classics like borshcht soup, Olivier salad, chicken Kiev or vareniki with mushrooms (a Eastern-European take on dumplings) are found along with an elaborate mix of french: Rossini tenderloin steak with foie gras and chanterelles or duck magret with orange sauce

An impressive 9 types of vodka grace the drinks menu (in adition to some reds, some whites and a bigger selection of stronger spirits).

We settle on the degustation menu: a varied selection of appetizers, one main meal for two and dessert. Being inescapably a conoisseur of Ruski fares, I find the degustation option inviting (and illustrative !) for anyone new to Russian cuisine. First come mini-blinis with a generous portion of fresh salmon caviar. The waitress offers me sour-cream, and I know well not to decline.

Then comes a fish platter: a trio of salmon, sturgeon and eel – 3 pieces each – sprinkled with a red-coloured fish pepper. Some are more to my liking than others, but once again, the freshness prevails. Our last appetizer held a lovely name: “Trip to Russia” platter: a voyage of beef pelmeni, mushroom vareniki, one pirozhok with meat and one with cabbage. “Everything’s made on location” claims the waitress of the boiled and baked staple-foods. This platter, in my silly opinion, is to Russian cuisine what pizza is to Italian cuisine. Despite being simple food, it is well executed: the “dumplings” aren’t over-cooked, they have a buttery taste and married with sour cream, they are delicious.

And then, the highlight of the night is served. A “trou-normand” – sorbet to kill the previous flavours and prepare for the main meal – infused with VODKA.

The main meal continues in the same direction. We chose beef Stroganoff, and it was served with grilled peppers, zucchini, potatoes and brocoli. I was surprised the portion was not what I expected, in other words, it was not too big. The meat was delicate, swimming in a creamy sauce with a strong hint of white mushrooms.

For dessert, blinchiki stuffed with cottage cheese and raisins, and served with strawberry coulis. At first I hesitated (I’m not exactly cottage cheese’s biggest fan) but after a bite, I noticed the cheesy flavour wasn’t empowering. It was actually light and sweet, perfect with a touch of whip cream and mint. Tea was served and our evening was coming to an end.

For a first time visit, I walked out pleasantly surprised. The food didn’t disappoint, if not all the contrary, the service was warm, the prices decent. Now all I need is to bring my non-Russian friends here to show them the varied gourmet facets of my motherland.

Ermitage Restaurant & Traiteur on Urbanspoon

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