“I’ve got new place opening up soon.”
“Right there. I want a place where I can walk over, drink good wine, eat well, and not care about reservations.”
“Sounds awesome. I’ll definitely be there.”
That’s pretty much how my short conversation went with Dave McMillan a few months ago while standing in front of Liverpool House. Maybe not word-for-word, but it’s close. Once in a while, I have those sort of small talk moments with him at the same spot. I really enjoy it albeit for a few brief moments, but I don’t like to take up too much if his time, since I know he bounces between his famous restaurants, Joe Beef and Liverpool House. Now there’s a third place to discuss: Le Vin Papillon.
Once again, Dave and Fred Morin are doing what they do best, and that’s simply what they want. If you’ve never had their food, you should know what they want is good. You want what they like. You need it. They take their food and especially their wine seriously. It’s no secret their restaurants are the hottest and most difficult tickets to get in town for good reason. They’re fantastic. Trust me, I’m not over-hyping it for you. Part of what makes everything so good, is Dave and Fred. If you’ve ever read or seen an interview with them, you know they’re entertaining and good at what they do. At Le Vin Papillon, their influential cuisine and wine selections are in the hands of people they’ve trusted for years. Chef de cuisine, Marc-Olivier Frappier, struts his culinary stuff while the charming and sweet Vanya Filipovic suggests perfect wines to complement the food and your mood. Vanya has been in this restaurant family since the beginning, and Marc-Olivier is no stranger as well.
Vin Papillon is resides in the former location of the charming Saint-Henri general store, Fait Ici. This quaint, 20 to 25-seat (excluding the 18 or so seats on the terrasse), vegetable-centric restaurant is welcoming from the moment you walk in. A little table tucked into the front corner closest to the window on the left is where the seating begins. The right side is lined with wooden boxes filled with artichokes, red peppers, red potatoes, fresh nuts still in their shell, and much more. I assume this array of vegetables changes throughout the season. Hanging above are strands of chili peppers, dried oregano, braids of garlic, a couple pots, and a bird house. Ahhh the “Joe Beef” charm. As your eyes make your way down that side, the food and wine begin. The bottles of wine served by the glass sit in a wide silver bowl, followed by some baked goods, small towers of cheese, other bottles of alcohol, and a shiny red meat slicer.
It was a relatively warm evening on the adorable terrasse, and I was in the mood to sip on a good bottle of red as well as something refreshing and cool. Alas! Vanya’s brain and charm to the rescue. A suggestion of a wonderful Beaujolais did the trick. This crisp red wine is meant to be served chilled and should be treated like white wine, which it was. I wish I took a picture of the bottle, so I can show off the label and maybe get it from the SAQ so they can continue to monopolize my alcohol budget. When you go there, get whatever wine your heart desires.
Like I mentioned before, the menu at Le Vin Papillon is vegetable-centric, meaning most of the menu involves vegetables, which constantly changes with the season. There’s a couple meat dishes, but I had veggies on my mind. Also, the plates are meant to be shared so please do. My dining companion and I began with padrones bravas, a take on the classic Spanish tapas dish, patatas bravas. Morsels of fried yukon potatoes and little sweet peppers called padrones, are drizzled with a classic Romesco sauce and and garlic aoli. A great balance of flavors between the salty potatoes, sweet sauces, and tanginess of the peppers. Divine. Next, we had a dish simply named “ricotta and peas”. A seriously generous dollop of creamy ricotta surrounded by fresh peas, arugula, mint and grilled bread. What an unbelievably fresh dish. Spreading the soft ricotta on the crunchy bread provided pure pleasure. Love this.
Next came grilled baby leeks with roasted corn, cilantro and olive oil. The sweet, charred members of the onion family behaved like noodles in a pasta dish. The sweetness of the corn and smokey flavor of the leeks with a pepped up a hint of cilantro made this the favorite of the night. The roasted cauliflower came as a strong recommendation from our waitress. My initial thought was “what in the world can you do to roasted cauliflower”? Well, how about adding lemon zest, capers, and bits of crispy chicken skin! That sounds good! The sweet taste of roasted cauliflower was perfectly complemented by the salty flavors of the chicken skin and briny capers. Seriously, how can that be bad?
For dessert, the blueberry baba turned out to be an excellent choice yet again. Little donut-like morsels soaked in rum, topped with blueberries, and fresh whipped cream. A sweet ending to an enjoyable meal.
Le Vin Papillon is a true testament to the expertise of Dave McMillan and Fred Morin in the restaurant industry, let along the Montreal food scene. They’ve not only found loyal friends along the way, such as Vanya and Marc-Olivier, but also the rest of the friendly and helpful staff, exemplify the best this row of restaurants has to offer. It’s fun, intimate, and delicious. If a good bottle or glass of wine as well as something really good to eat is what you’re looking for, then Le Vin Papillon is the answer. Look no further.