Nestled between some old red brick townhouses on a tree lined street in the Plateau sits a small and intimate restaurant, where food is executed with simplicity and perfection – a combination that has become a rarity in the overly ambitious culinary scene.
Pintxo (peen-cho) goes beyond the tapas concept. A traditional form of Basque cuisine; pintxos are small samplings of elaborate culinary delights. Fish is typically the main attraction, but meats such as lamb and pork are also quite popular.
If you're one of the rare and the few who walk in and manage to get a table without a reservation, count yourself extremely lucky because spots fill up quickly; sometimes up to a week in advance. That being said, if you’re planning on having a birthday supper for a group of five of your loudest friends, this is not the place. Like the pint-sized plates on the table, you want to limit your party to a small size – a duo being the ideal.
Warm and inviting, this is not the icy and pretentious ambiance one usually sees in places of this gastronomic caliber. From the exposed brick walls to the wildly colorful paintings that line the dining room, this is minimalism and trendiness at its finest.
The menu stays within the same current and offers some simple and classic dishes with unexpected twists. Ultimately, every dish you have placed in front of you is full of familiar flavors but tempered in such a way as to throw you slightly off-guard. The strawberry and sweet pepper gazpacho for instance has the perfect amount of freshness and flavor one typically looks for in this type of soup – but the fruitiness of the strawberry catches you by surprise. From the cheerful color to perfectly sized portion, this pintxo is the perfect way to start your meal.
Other pintxo standouts were: the salmon tartar, garlic shrimp a la gitana, the Basque cod, and the figs stuffed with Serrano ham. An absolute must is the morcilla de Burgos- which features impeccably seasoned and smooth blood pudding and chorizo sausage. The grilled lobster tail was another scene-stealer and showcased how seafood truly stands as the restaurant’s strong point.
Typically one orders several pintxos followed by a main course – but given that the pintxos surpassed any main course that we sampled, we recommend skipping the mains altogether and simply ordering more appetizers. The mains that we sampled included the seared pork chop with grain mustard coating and the braised beef cheek. Both were quite average and slightly underwhelming in comparison to the pintxos. Be sure to choose some great wine samplings to match your choices of pintxos. The selection is vast and stays true to the region-specific cuisine.
The desserts are equally stunning and it is not recommended you leave your chair without ordering the Tarta de Santiago. Traditionally from northern Spain, this almond-rich cake is served warm and will melt in your mouth.
Voted as one of Canada’s best new restaurants in 2006 by En Route magazine, Pintxo is small but a definite standout in Montreal’s culinary circuit.