Helena, is a Portuguese restaurant located in the Old Montreal, right on McGill street. I’ve already heard a lot about the restaurant before the visit (I even have Chef/owner Helena Loureiro’s cookbook!), so I had a bit of expectations for it. As an avid seafood lover, my friends have been telling me how good their food are, and the fishes are very fresh. I’m glad that it’s one of the participated restaurants for MTL à Table, which finally allowed me to have the chance to try it out, and it didn’t disappoint.
I walk pass the restaurant all the time, but never look closely to the interior design. I’ve never been to Portugal, so I won’t be tell if the decor showcases the Portuguese culture, but it was definitely beautiful and modern. The orange wall gives a vibrant and passionate ambiance, and I loved the patterns on the ceiling where the light can stream through it. With an open kitchen, it was quite steamy in the beginning, but as soon as the dinner has begun, it was fine.
Mtl à Table takes place every year around late October to early November. It gives people a chance to discover new restaurants and/or visit old favourites at a reduced cost. This year, from November 3 to the 13th, there are 150 restaurants participating, and are offering set menus at 21$, 31$ or 41$ and some even have brunch!
I began the dinner with caldo verde. It’s a Portuguese soup that’s made with potatoes, chouriço, kale, and finished with drizzles of olive oil. The consistency of the soup was very close to potage, but a bit thinner. When I had the first sip, the flavor reminded me of miso soup! It was a very hearty soup to start off the night when it was so cold outside.
(I apologize for the quality of this photo) My friend had the garlic shrimps as her appetizer, which the shrimps are sited on a bed of risotto-liked rice. There was something very interesting about the rice. When we had it, there was something popping in the mouth! I think it was shrimp roes, but didn’t confirm with the restaurant. The shrimps were fresh and perfectly cooked as it was tender but springy.
For the main course, I opted for the fresh cod confit in olive oil with olives polenta and market’s vegetables on the side. It was delicious! The cod tasted more like sea bass to me. The fish was firm yet tender. I really liked the olive polenta. The fish can be quite bland (don’t get me wrong, I loved it), and the olive polenta was quite salty and sharp, which gave a punch of flavors to the tastebuds.
My friend had the pork filet with clams, which is served with baby potatoes in white wine sauce. This is also the dish that I was considering too. The pork filet was amazing!!!! It was surprisingly tender and juicy. The meat was still pinkish. Very flavorful. The clams were fresh too, but the taste of white wine was a bit too overpowering for me (My alcohol tolerance is quite low). I wish that they have this on their regular menu!
For dessert, my friend had the chocolate cake with blackberry sorbet and nuts. The portion is quite big for a dessert. I felt like it was enough for 2 people. The chocolate cake was a bit dry, but the blackberry sorbet was quite good! The acidity of the blackberry was nice after eating the pork, however, it was a bit creamier than regular sorbet. We thought that the cake would’ve been better if it was lava cake.
How can one leaves a Portuguese restaurant without having natas? These mini natas are maple-flavored. It was quite good! Interestingly, it was paired with a pepper-raspberry sauce on the side, which was quite odd, but interesting at the same time. It’s sweet and savory. I couldn’t help to dip my fork in it.
Overall, Helena definitely did not disappoint me after the raves from my friends! It was a busy night, but the services were still on point. It’s a perfect spot for any occasions, such as family gatherings, friends outing or even a casual date night.
438 McGill, Montreal, Canada
Tel: +1 (514) 878-1555 (Reservations strongly recommended)