A venerable addition to Little Burgundy’s carefully cultivated strip of big culinary players comes by way of David McMillan and Fred Morin, the celebrated chefs behind Joe Beef and Liverpool House who have been hailed by Montreal food critics and restaurant-goers for years. Le Vin Papillon, their new restaurant and winebar that opened a few months back (and just so happens to share its walls with one of my favourite local cafes, Lili + Oli) scores them a well-deserved hat trick for combining great atmosphere, food, and wine into one carefree, relaxed evening.
The beautiful new space, with a matte, slate splashed tint to its walls and a backsplash of subway tiles that score a long, intimate corridor, is designed with a certain ease that celebrates cozy, shoulder-to-shoulder conversation. The French market influence remains a markedly strong one in both the design (wall décor includes hanging garlic cloves and seasonal accoutrements, wood bins filled with baguettes and ripened vegetables...), and the food. Oh. <sigh> And the food. It. Is. So. Good. Hats off to chefs Marc-Olivier Frappier and Leigh Roper, who make trying many of these small plates an enduringly pleasurable (and occasionally bewildering) moment for one's palate. "What's in that?" you're tongue will ask your brain. "I don't know but its unbelievable!" your brain will answer.
When I came with my mother, we shared their buttered bourgots (and even though I usually dislike coiled gastropods, they were delicious) which came sizzling from a cast iron skillet, before we delved into their rotisserie cooked cauliflower, which was crisp and citrus on the outside and buttery rich and succulent on the inside. On another visit with friends, I nearly went apneic after a mouthful of their tender guinea hen, which was perfectly cooked with a sweet, tacky crust, and came with a side of refreshing corn relish.
On that same visit, after starters that included their Jambon Papillon and a great selection of cheeses, we went home very happy and wondering when the earliest acceptable time frame would be to suggest to go back ("If I say next week, does that make me boring?") My answer is no. And why? Well, their wine list is extensive enough to put any adventurous foodie through the paces without ever trying the same thing twice. And their sommeliers will show you that there is truly something for everyone (including my mom, who doesn't really like wine but whose enjoyable glass rendered her audacious enough to force the waitress to hold the wine bottle up so I could photo document its label and send it to her inbox...) Montrealers: Get your phone cameras ready. Enjoy.
Note: Le Vin Papillon is no reservations, so go early, and enjoy. ;)