MONTREAL, Canada – What happens if you make an equation combining a Montrealer of Moroccan descent with a love for Japanese food and a flair for the club scene? Well, one thing is sure, it means that there is sushi in Montreal. If you’re not sure about what else might be in the books, you can simply head to Ryu to see the results.
The restaurant’s been open for almost four years now, and the recipe’s not changed very much since. “We’re simply getting better at what we do”, says David Dayan, owner. There were a couple of tweaks here and there: “All our classics are staying the same (“club ryu”, black cod miso, hamachi jalapeño) but we are adding a more traditional approach with large selection nigiri and sashimi”, explains Mr Dayan. However the changes have been quite small, since the restaurant’s success speaks for itself.
The space is quite small and, as usual on the Thursday of our visit, the place is very busy. A large group is constantly standing and sitting, eating and taking shots; electronic music is playing and the cooking staff is obviously busy, keeping up with the pace of the patrons. Two of the four walls are covered with a large art piece, a dragon – Ryu means dragon in Japanese – created by local artists Thomas Csano and Carlito Delgacio.
Ryu, sushi in Montreal – The meal
Just like in most Japanese restaurants, the first course is a large bowl of edamame. In this case, the beans are pan-fried in sesame oil and salted.
Mr Dayan is quick to offer a couple of Asian whiskies to taste before the meal begins: first, a Taiwanese bottle: Kavalan, an award-winning single malt; then, for comparison, the Nikka 17 years, which has just received the prestigious title of World’s Best Blended Malt for the second time at the World Whiskies Awards 2014. What a way to begin a meal!
Following the edamame, a quick and easy introduction into the world of Ryu food: shrimp popcorn with Sriracha and an aioli. It’s a quick snack, good with a drink, and definitely not a sign of the things to come.
Mr Dayan welcomes guest after guest and takes care of his customers, then comes back just in time for the next course. Things get serious quickly. We’re presented with a dish that will be on the menu in the next few days: a pan-seared scallop is topped with a mandoline-slice of black truffle and oven-roasted proscuitto. Luxury in a bite.
Then, one of the specialities of the restaurant: jalapeño hamachi is soaked in a homemade ponzu sauce.
Tuna two ways is next: a maki made of tuna tartare inside and a slice of tuna outside, held together by a single layer of rice and a thin sheet of nori.
We’re also offered a few nigris: a couple of tunas, a sockeye salmon, a striped jack (quite rare in Montreal), a wonderful mackerel and the showstopper, the close-your-eyes-and-enjoy, the breathe-in-breathe-out-swallow sea urchin.
All the while we’re eating, people are coming in and out, hands are being shaken, conversations turn to screams, and the electronic music is getting louder, and everyone seems to get in the fast-paced groove that Ryu throws at its customers.
Mr Dayan’s tapping out, he’s had enough food, but we’re still offered an extra dish: a salamander-grilled sea bass with an edamame purée and cherry-tomatoes. The fish is tasty and crispy, and the lime-soy dipping sauce mixes perfectly with the purée.
At this point, there are more people drinking than eating, some are heading to the club, well fed, having acquired the necessary energy to make it one to remember, because after so many luxurious foods and drinks, one can’t help but feel blessed, like the night’s there for the taking.
288, Laurier Ouest