929 Mt. Royal E. (Metro Mt. Royal)
Mon. - Fri. Noon to Midnight; Sat. - Sun. 11:30 AM to Midnight. All Major cards. Tel.: 526-5043
Gemellis in the Misto.
There, now that I've got that out of the way, let's see where we are: it's that trendy/seedy kind of block that's so typical of the Plateau Mont-Royal. Here, a dishevelled homeless man shuffles past a lithe, practically skipping young woman sidewalk-dragging Aldo bags. There, a sex-accessories place sidles up to a trendy sushi/grill. In this mixed milieu is Misto, whose very name means "mixed," "medley," or "mongrel," depending on whose dictionary you're using.
From the outside, it's a pretty typical Montreal St-Laurent/Plateau-type place, with the usual retracting façade hiding a somewhat dim interior. But this is the interior that was in the running in a Quebec design competition, fashioned by locals Plouk Design.
It's Futurama Retro, brushed aluminum rocket-ship-hull lights sprouting from a sweeping blue sculpture above the bar, which itself sprawls brassily under tubularly organic light fixtures that hang precariously from the ceiling. Someone went overboard on the "concept" thing here, as they seemed to have run out of ideas for the opposite wall, which is merely red brick and walnut panels, or the furniture, which is fairly ordinary tavern fare.
No matter, because it's the food we're here for: a focused menu of focaccias, pastas (pennes, tagliatellinis, fusillis and those endangered gemellis) and calzones with a California feelin'. There is no food item here more than $12.75. There is a separate wine list, which I did not peruse, and a fair selection of champagnes and cocktails.
Bread from Boulangerie Marguerita (on Clark St.) is a crusty Italian sourdough and is served with a plate of olive oil sprinkled with balsamic vinegar. This by itself is a good reason to get up in the morning.
The Carpaccio of Beef and Parmesan ($10.00) was served on a wide plate replete with paper-thin, falling-apart slices of raw beef under a layer of shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and decorated with dandelion leaves and giant capers in an olive-oil marinade. Very good indeed. I'm told it's one of the house favourites.
An order of Trinette Carbonara au Poulet turned out to be twisted fettucine as a bed for marinated chicken, cream sauce, pancetta, shallots and garlic which was amusingly (and perhaps hazardously) topped with half an eggshell filled with a raw egg yolk. "It'll cook in the pasta," snickered someone, possibly in revenge for the previous night somewhere else when he'd had a similar item and I'd said the same thing. Damn Sam 'n' Ella and down the hatch, as they say.
A Linguini au Poulet Fumé ($12.00) was studded with pieces of chicken redolent of wood-smoke and was jazzed up with snow peas, sundried tomato and peppers. In both pasta dishes, the pasta was perfectly al dente and the plates were decorated with artful squiggles of basil mayonnaise and red pepper purée. It wasn't only Plouk who went to design school here.
A Calzone (kind of like an inside-out pizza) with marinated chicken, onions, peppers, olives, diced tomatoes and mozarella cheese ($10.75) was big enough for two. Apprehensive of getting a mouthful of scalding filler, I approached it with caution. I needn't have worriedit was lukewarm. However, it was cheesy and studded with little olive salt-explosions and came with its own little spicy side of tomato sauce.
The dessert menu features biscotti, sorbets and fruits, among other things; mine was a TiraMisto ($5.00), a creamy concoction of mascarpone mousse, coffee genoise, chocolate and sambucca. It was a smooth accompaniment to a good espresso.
While there's no table d'hôte at dinner, the lunch menu featured several pasta and calzone items from the dinner menu, with a soup or salad and coffee or tea, at reduced prices, none over $11.00. Service was brisk, attentive and professional, except for that curious Montreal reluctance to pick up the check.
All in all, Misto is a good, satisfying contemporary Italian experience for a reasonable price. You can safely tell your next date to play Misto for you. Reviewed by Nick Robinson