By Annick Gagnon
Maybe you believe you know everything about Portuguese cuisine, well think again, because Restaurant Helena will pleasantly surprise you. Whether it’s in the quality of the service, amazing fusion of flavours or the distinguished decor, this place won’t leave you cold.
Helena Loureiro, chef and owner, opened her first restaurant in 2003 on Boulevard Saint-Laurent, called Portus Calle. Inspired by this valuable experience and her extensive gastronomic history in Portugal, she brings a distinguished and feminine touch to Helena. White linen placemats, upscale dishes and embroidered linen bags to serve the bread: no detail is left out.
We were finally enjoying a warm, sunny evening in Montreal and the summer weather was putting everyone in a joyful mood. Going out to celebrate with friends and eat fine Mediterranean food was the perfect end to a perfect day. Located on McGill Street, near the river, restaurant Helena has a huge bay window that lets the sunlight in. With its high ceiling made of gorgeous openwork and the omnipresent white with touches of bright yellow and cobalt blue, it feels like you’re sitting in a chic vacation villa.
Our waiter explains the concept of menu and makes a few suggestions. We have the choice between a la carte meals, a wide variety of petiscos (tapas) or the tasting menu. The latter is available in three variants: a chef’s selection of petiscos which you can also have with fish of the day and/or meat. The four of us decide to pick several different petiscos and create our own little buffet.
The wine list is well conceived and offers a wide selection for all tastes and budgets. Since it proposes several privately imported wines, we are guided by the butler who recommends two different Portuguese white wines, which will go well with our fish and seafood dinner. We are all very satisfied with his choices and it doesn’t take us long to finish both bottles.
The waiters follow an ideal rhythm for the service, which gives us plenty of time to enjoy each dish, without crowding the table. To note: a dish that was a bit too salty for our taste was kindly replaced by another one. We really appreciated this professionalism: bravo!
Our top favorite of the evening was undoubtedly the asparagus salad, strongly suggested by our waiter, served into thin strips with Serrano and Sao Jorge cheese. It’s so delicious that we decide to order a second serving!
The tasting continues with flawlessly seared scallops, with a touch of foie gras and corn puree and stuffed squid, which are tender and tasty.
The girls’ favorite is the Alaskan crab salad, fresh and delicate. As for the guys, they definitely fell in love with the chorizo platter, served on a bed of sautéed spinach. The generous pieces of sausage are tasty with well balanced spices. For lovers of traditional Portuguese cuisine from the sea, the salty cod Carpaccio with julienned Granny Smith apples and apple cider is really refreshing.
For the finale, we receive the grilled octopus, a Portuguese classic, on a bed of red bell peppers and tomatoes and the grilled blood pudding with a pineapple salsa. Both dishes are a great ending to this remarkable meal!
Helena restaurant has nothing to envy from others: impeccable and professional service, quality ingredients and creative Portuguese cuisine. We adored our visit, which will certainly not be our last!
438, McGill Street, Montreal