Food as a Rock Show: The New Nouveau Palais
Unassuming, unpretentious, and nestled in the heart of Mile End on the corner of Parc and Bernard, the Nouveau Palais has re-opened its doors, offering to a new generation delicious food, fun events, and a welcoming atmosphere that just makes you want to come back again and again (and one more time for a piece of that scrumptious pie).
Some people see Mile End as the centre of the action these days, at times exuding a "so hip it hurts" attitude. The new Nouveau Palais, however, provides a breath of fresh air in this respect; this Palace has the "hip" down pat, but has left the "hurt" at the door. They've kept the simple diner dÃ©cor of booths and bar stools and have an accessible menu, but the food is anything but run of the mill. The Nouveau Palais team is committed to creating well-executed plates made of fresh food, but served without the posh attitude. There's a certain familiarity to some menu items (for example, matzah ball soup, a classic BLT, burgers, and cookies and milk for dessert) while others are more adventurous (the breaded eggplant hoagie, for instance, or the sweet potato pie). But the care that's put into its creation - along with the skilful expertise of the kitchen team - is part of what makes eating at the Nouveau Palais a treat.
The food itself? If the pictures aren't making your mouth water already, then a short description will: a grilled cheese sandwich with perfectly caramelized onions, traditional pea soup with fresh herbs and a fat piece of bacon floating on top, a hot beef sandwich with a kick that you can't quite identify, but that the staff will happily tell you about if asked. Seafood from PEI, eggplant parmigiano inspired by Italy, and mac and cheese from your fondest childhood memories. And that's not even getting into the brunch options - flapjacks, granola, steak and eggs. Word on the street is that there's even a few berries left from the chef's own garden, being whipped into tasty muffins.
In chef/owner Gita Seaton's description, the whole restaurant is an exciting project, and the food is no exception. "It's like a Jewish country girl married a southern Baptist," she says, talking about the hybrid style of food she creates. She's no stranger to the world of good cuisine, having trained in Spain, Italy, and Japan, as well as being one of the creative minds behind Reservoir. Bringing these experiences to the Nouveau Palais, she describes this restaurant as a project that is playful, inventive, and fun. They appeal to all kinds of clientele, from families, locals, and regulars for lunch, brunch, and supper. It's also a gathering place for the after-work crowd; though the kitchen closes at midnight, the Grumman '78 crew turns the Nouveau Palais into a late-night taquerÃa until the early hours of the morning. It helps, of course, that they have a full liquor license - and I've been told that co-owner Jacques Seguin makes a mean cocktail.
Along with Seaton and Seguin, co-owners include Mary Martha Campbell, Bernadette Houde, and Penny Pattison. Looking to redefine the space as a neighbourhood meeting place, they're putting on events like Oyster Boiiiii (described as "another epic oyster night") and A Valentine's Sausage Party on Feb. 15. At this restaurant, food is a rock show, especially when you have Mark and Stefanie making your posters.
Typical diner coffee mug, typical diner counter, exceptionally atypical coffee
The non-octogenarian readers in the crowd might not know that this neighbourhood landmark has been around since the Great Depression, first as a candy store and then a traditional diner. In fact, the owners have applied to have the sign classified as an historical piece; the 1970s language police had the diner's former owners change the sign from "The New Palace" to what it is now, making it an integral (and interesting) part of Montreal history.
Midnight Poutine readers might be somewhat distraught that the Nouveau Palais no longer serves poutine, but you will be comforted - and perhaps delighted - once you try the cheese fries. The Palace folks figure you can get cheese curds, fries and gravy anywhere in this city, but can you get a delicious burger on a specially-made bun with secret ingredients? You'll have to ask them next time you're there...
Gita Seaton with Luca, a taxidermied fox given to the Nouveau Palais as a gift by their butcher, Luca
Located at 281 Bernard West (corner Parc), the Nouveau Palais is open for weekday lunch (Wednesday-Friday), weekend brunch, and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, as well as a bar that's always open, and late-night weekend tacos. Check out their website for special events, including tonight's Oyster Boiiiii.
Photography by Chase Moser