À Table: A man, a plan, a table

A man, a plan, a table

À Table: Manages to look modern and warm at the same time
Photo: Rachel Côté

Chef Mario Navarrete's bold approach and delicate touch are evident at À Table

Busted. I walked into À Table, the third restaurant opened by Mario Navarrete, and he exclaimed, “I know you!” I’m anonymous to the vast majority of restaurateurs, but I do know Navarrete. I just wasn’t expecting him to be at À Table cooking for lunch. After all, he could have been at Raza on Laurier, his upscale-Nuevo Latino place, or at Madre, his Latinate BYOB on Masson. Navarrete’s from Peru, a country known for its gastronomical finesse, and his natal ties are evident at his restaurants. As different as they are, at each chefs mix familiar French-based techniques with Latin flavours and ingredients.

À Table manages to look modern and warm at the same time. One long wall has ghostly imprints of spindly tree trunks in copper and silver that work nicely with the blond wood tables and comfortable black leather seats. Sunshine-coloured orchids on a side table against the opposite wall echo the yellowing leaves we can see outside the front window.

Navarrete’s night menu at À Table has obvious touches from his homeland – quinoa, guava sauce on duck confit, jicama with quail, veal cheeks with plantain purée, ceviche with sweet potato. His cooking is a balm for jaded Montreal taste buds.

I was there for the lunch special, and I’m quite sure the care Navarrete took with our meal was emblematic of the care he takes with everyone’s. It’s who he is. I started with a carrot-leek soup that was smooth and seasonally satisfying, and the tomatoes for my pal’s salad sang a late-summer tune.

My risotto, a lusty-rustic chorizo and squid dish, was somehow complex and fine, with a bit of spice shining through at the end. My friend’s steak bordelaise consisted of tangy slabs of beef offset nicely by the saltiness of the red-wine sauce, on top of creamily mashed potatoes.

For dessert, we shared yellow-fleshed plum compote topped with yogurt and lime mousse, though it was hard to pass up on the chocolate cake topped with dulce de leche.

As a chef, Navarette’s approach is bold, the results polished and wrought with a delicate touch. You can catch him at À Table for lunch, or at Raza for supper.

À Table
124 Fleury West, 514-439-1966
Lunch for two: $35-$40, not including tax/tip
www.groupemnjr.com

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