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Petit Treehouse: The appetite of Sauron

The appetite of Sauron

Saucy sashimi set to a groovy beat
Photo: Joseph Yarmush

Petit Treehouse has plentiful goods for folks with a bad sushi hobbit, er, habit

Another Japanese joint has sprouted on St-Laurent Boulevard where Soto once was. Petit Treehouse is named for head chef Tri Du, formerly of Kaizen and Treehouse in Westmount. From Vietmam, with a shock of blond hair, Tri can be found bustling behind the counter at this new showcase resto.

From 5 to 7 p.m., prices are two-for-one at the downstairs Lambas Lounge. Those willing to eat an early dinner (or just want post-work nibblies with cocktails) can feast upon Japanese-style delectables for what may be the best deal in town.

The lounge has cube leather stools and like-sized tables. I found it soothing to look over a level room, although awkward to stoop to eat (I imagine that’s to lure serious diners upstairs to the more traditional – and full price – room).

At the back of the lounge stands the Eye of Sauron. A huge backlit onyx panel gives off an otherworldly, Rorschach-blot glow. My lanky Japanophile friend and I sat with our backs against it, warmed by the light and nudged by the groovy bass line thump of the music. We looked fabulous backlit, said the third party.

We ordered like drunken salarymen, eager to try the goods. You’ll be stuffed, our waitress forewarned. We happily imagined a tsunami of sushi.

Lambas, the "magical food of the elves: the next generation of sushi" proclaimed the menu. How could we resist? Lord of the Rings isn’t just for geeks anymore if elfin sustenance can be found on the lower Main. Pick your stuffing to be wrapped in translucent rice crêpes – like a Vietnamese roll – with sweet potato, a hint of mint, and spice. Dip in the citrony house sauce and you’ve got a winner. "Now we can hunt Orcs for three days," my LOTR fan said.

The sushi platter was a mix of exciting maki and plain nigiri sushi – I liked the Blue Note roll with tuna and mango – but the tempura in the Rainbow spider crab roll wasn’t so crisp, and some of the nigiri fish wasn’t fresh. Hmmn. Even early in the week and for the two-for-one special, I’d expect better.

Our waitress had talked up the Ontario-raised Kobe beef. The beasts are fed only grains and barley, no grass. It may not be healthy for the cow, she noted, but it sure tastes good. (Strictly speaking, Japanese Kobe beef comes from the Wagyu breed of cattle, which are massaged and fed beer.) Richly marbled with unsaturated fat, Kobe is said to be healthier than most meat, but I wouldn’t tout it over a broccoli spear. We tried it in tofu pizza pocket-like things. The meat was soft, sweet, juicy and gently flavoured, lightly spiced. Beautiful.

And oysters Tri-afeller? These were a version of the famed Rockefeller bivalves and boast slivers of spinach in custard with miso glazed from broiling. Transcendent, and at six for $12, heaven.

The Rainbow New Style sashimi was thin slices of salmon and tuna flesh that had been charred ever so slightly on the outside, drenched with lovely lemony dressing and sprinkled with crunchy sweet potato crisps. "Soaking sushi in sauce is frowned upon," said the Japan expert as he lunged for the last bit of salmon, "but I think it’s a wonderful idea."

The dessert menu looked like a wedding invitation designed by Ralph Steadman. As alluring as the soufflés, sorbets and ginger caramel cream on almond cookies sounded, our bellies were as taut as a Kodo drum. Although disappointed by the piscine off notes, I would return in a heartbeat to sample Tri’s innovative fare at these prices.

Petit Treehouse
Lambas Lounge
3527 St-Laurent; 845-7557
Dinner for two (at two-for-one) not including tax or tip: $35-$50

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  • by Ronny Pangia - July 8, 2004, 10:27 pm

    What truly fascinates me about sushi is that you will always get a vivid reaction from people eating the famed Japanese culinary delight. I do not know of many people being indifferent towards sushi: either you LOVE it or HATE it. I for one belong to the former category and Maeve does a smashing job with the critique. Not only does it describe what is offered to you food-wise but it truly sets the tone for the experience a person will enjoy at the Treehouse – even more so than in the other critiques I have read. This place feels almost zen-like!

    Anyhow, I will jot down the address and check out this place soon as it sounds like quite a date place.

  • by Carmela Sicurella - July 10, 2004, 7:55 am

    I went to the Petit Treehouse in April of this year with some friends and I just loved the place because they serve the best sushi in town. I have to agree with Ronny Pangia that with sushi you either love it or you hate it. Not only is the sushi good but also I love their deserts especially when I tried the caramel ice cream on almond cookies. The Petit Treehouse is a little expensive but you’re buying fine cuisines from a master chef who knows how to make some excellent sushi. So I recommend that you go to The Petit Treehouse some time this summer because you will not regret it.

  • by Marc Bedard - July 12, 2004, 12:31 pm

    Thank heaven we finally have a great sushi restaurant on the main. just in time for a summer of sushi and skanks. just as good as kaizen with great service and excellent cuisine. i will certainly be a regular here.

  • by Anastasia Valentina - July 12, 2004, 12:45 pm

    I have tried Sushi in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, New York, Orlando, Vancouver, and Toronto but none of them have a great taste like the one in Le Petit Treehouse and Kaizen. I thought in the first place that sushi all taste the same, not until I tried the one at Le Petit Treehouse and Kaizen. BRAVO!

  • by Michael Howard - July 12, 2004, 8:08 pm

    I came across Petit Treehouse during Montreal’s Formula One fever -event on the main this
    june…walked on to their terrace for a beer and a snack…and wow what a surprise the absolute best sushi i have ever tasted..great appetizers like alaskan black cod..tuna tataki.
    and the lambas sushi maki is the most sensual food that has ever graced my lips.. then hidden away behind the terrace i discovered their lambas sake lounge with the “happy hour”
    2 for one specials..i have been back what seems to be almost everyday..i have experianced kobe steak…tantalizing gyoza(dumblings)..new style shashimi…a super selection of different flavours and styles of cold sakes..great music it now feels more like home than my own living room ..oh oh it is almost five o’clock i gonna reserve on line with them @www.70sushi.com…how civilized can it get!!

  • by Pedro Eggers - July 13, 2004, 5:09 pm

    A restaurant is only as good as its chef.

    That is the golden rule.

    You can botch the service, utterly destroy the decor and ambiance of a place and you can even overprice the platters to death but nothing can kill a restaurant faster than a rotten chef.

    This is not a problem that PETIT TREEHOUSE is soon to have. No, indeed not.

    Head chef Tri Du, formerly of Kaizen and Treehouse in Westmount, has never failed to turn a place around. Even if you didn’t know who he was (yeah, like any of us really ever bother to ask who the chef is anyways once we’ve gorged ourselves and paid the bill…) there is no denying that he added something to each of his previous haunts.

    If you’ve been to Kaizen lately you can tell that something is different. It’s slight and not strictly of the bad, just different. That something is Tri Du.

    So if you’re feeling homesick whenever you’re dining at his old haunts…now you know where to go.

    And by the way, the service, decor and price of PETIT TREEHOUSE are quite good too.

  • by Quynh Nguyen - July 17, 2004, 12:05 am

    a few friends and i went to check out the 2-for-1 specials upon reading this review… having sampled the fare at kaizen i had my hopes up… though the sushi was good, it was by no means spectacular, and despite being 2 for 1, the meal ended up being pretty expensive for what we got. the decor was nice and the experience overall was enjoyable, but considering the sheer volume of sushi places in montreal i didn’t find it offered much to distinguish itself.

    also: charging $8 for sapporos brewed in guelph by sleemans was not impressive.

  • by Selena Lobo - July 21, 2004, 12:32 pm

    I went from not being a fan of sushi to absolutely loving it. Now I can have it all the time. Sushi is definitely an acquired taste but I suggest for first timers you should try the maki rolls and once you like that you can move on to sushi and sashimi.

    I am always looking for another place to go after work and a 5 a 7 that has prices that are two-for-one I will be a regular at the downstairs Lambas Lounge.

    It is great to sit down with a drink and a bunch of finger foods. Whether you indulge in sushi or the oysters, you are in heaven.

    Tri Du has worked his magic again now on St. Laurent street.

  • by Ellen Reid - September 17, 2004, 8:20 pm

    Is it just me or are there maybe (dare I say it?) TOO MANY sushi places in Montreal?? Don’t get me wrong, I love to munch on some raw fish every now and then, and what with all the iron in the seaweed, protein and Omega 3 in the fish, it is one hell of a healthy food choice (actually, eating too much sushi can sometimes give you the squits coz your body quite simply cannot process all the minerals ingested in large quantites of nori).
    However, a good addition to the sushi restuarants in always welcoming, as there are some very bad and mediocre ones around. I haven’t yet been to Petit Treehouse but have wandered by it many times and gazed longing at their beautiful looking lounge and drooled a little over their menu. The fact that they’re trying something a little bit different is great, an to encourage them in this endeavour I intend to dine there ASAP!

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